In a diverse weekend of racing, juvenile performances from Ireland to California and turf races from France to the backwoods of Kentucky helped shape the year-end title matches now less than two months away.
With the Nov. 5-6 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs well in view, not to mention the Arc weekend in Paris and the late-season Asian showdowns, the preliminary rounds are starting to become telling.
Al Khali rated behind the leaders in Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park, overcame some traffic problems to get room on the outside in the final furlong and surged to the front, winning by a neck over the odds-on favorite, Winchester. Simmard was another head back in third. Al Khali, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro ridgling, ran the 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf course in 2:15.23. Jockey Alan Garcia quoted trainer Bill Mott as saying: "'Wherever you're comfortable, whatever you feel, wherever you want to be, it's your decision.' He was sitting perfectly. He was going slow, then he went faster to get me out into a better spot and after that, my horse was the best." When he got clear, Garcia said, "I knew I had a lot of time." Al Khali came into the race off a third-place finish in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga. Before that, he won an optional claimer at Belmont on July 8.
Rezif shot by 10-year-old sentimental favorite Cloudy's Knight leaving the second turn of Kentucky Downs' turf and drew off smartly to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Cloudy's Knight, the favorite, held second, 5 lengths better than Free Fighter. Rezif, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Distant View gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Formal Affair, got the 1 1/2 miles over the undulating course in 2:44.74 with Greta Kuntzweiler up. "We're done for the year," said winning owner/trainer Matthew Jacobson. "We're going to put him away and we'll start back up again in the spring." Cloudy's Knight, coming off an injury that earlier was expected to end his career, was ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr. at the European-style course near the Kentucky-Tennessee border.
Sans Frontieres overcame deep and testing turf at the Curragh on Saturday to win the Irish Field St. Leger by 3/4 length over Profound Beauty. Flying Cross was 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Sans Frontieres, a 4-year-old, Galileo colt, got the 1 3/4 mile in 3:10.36 on going officially classified "soft." Barry Simpson, racing manager for winning owner Sir Robert Ogden, told Racing Post he will "now seriously consider the Melbourne Cup, as he should get better ground there. He'll definitely stay in training next year." Trainer Dermott Weld said Flying Cross also is under consideration for Down Under, though no decision has been taken. Sans Frontieres scored his third Group victory and first Group 1.
Filly & Mare Turf
Defending Filly & Mare Turf champion Midday prepped for a return engagement with a 3/4-length victory Sunday in the Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp. After tracking the pace under Tom Queally, the 4-year-old Oasis Dream filly caught pacesetting Plumania in the final yards. Sarafina, the favorite, settled for third. Sariska, last year's European champion 3-year-old filly, refused to leave the gate for the second straight race and was retired. Trainer Henry Cecil noted Midday now has won five straight Group 1 races "and she goes to the Breeders' Cup now. That will freshen her up and she has beaten a good field today," he told the Racing Post.
Never Retreat did just the opposite of retreat in Saturdy's $50,000 Kentucky Cup Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs, rallying from near the back of the pack to win by 1/2 length over Seniga, who led briefly in the long stretch. Lady's Laughter finished third. Never Retreat, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Smart Strike mare, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:46.18 under Eduardo Perez for Team Block.
Dancing Raven pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 La Prevoyante Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine, took over from pace-setting Attitude Included and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Jacally finished third. Dancing Raven, a daughter of Tomahawk, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.07 with Chantal Sutherland up. Trained by Mike Doyle, Dancing Raven, unraced at 2, evened a head-to-head rivalry with Jacally at two wins each. She nosed out the daughter of Bold to win a 7-furlong race over the Woodbine all-weather track July 1. "She just seems to have matured a bit," Doyle said. "She's grown up. She's starting to put things together in the morning. Week in, week out, she's getting better."
Due Date stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Dash at Kentucky Downs, came four-wide through the stretch and was up to win by 1 length over Amazing Results. Classical Closing circled six-wide to snatch third. Due Date, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of El Prado, finished the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:16.41 with Tony Farina up.
J P's Gusto won Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity almost for fun, dueling his way to the lead entering the stretch and drawing clear thereafter to score by 4 1/2 lengths over Jaycito. Riveting Reason and Indian Winter dead-heated for third and fourth. J P's Gusto, toting Patrick Valenzuela, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.95, picking up the fourth stakes win of his young career. His only loss was in his debut, a Hollywood Park maiden effort. "This was his best effort," said winning trainer David Hofmans. "I think the mile and a sixteenth (of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile) is within his reach, mainly because of his attitude. He's very smart and he waits for the rider to give him his cues." Valenzuela agreed the Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal ridgling can go farther. "At the end, I think I still had a little bit more in the tank," the rider said. "If a horse had come up next to me, I think I'm still the winner. Can he go on? I think so. And I sure hope so." J P'S Gusto was purchased at the 2009 September yearling sale for $52,000. Wednesday's purse share pushed his earnings to $337,360.
Major Gain rallied from well back in the field in Saturday's $100,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park and was up late to win by 1 length over the favorite, Rough Sailing. Caleb's Posse finished third. Major Gain, a Kentucky-bred More Than Ready colt, finished the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.36 under Junior Alvarado. Major Gain was making just his second career start, following a second-place finish while racing greenly last time. "I had my eye on this colt," said winning trainer Wayne Catalano. "We thought he could win this race all along. He's been working very well and Junior rode a great race. Everything worked out great for us. We had a nice trip against some nice young horses and it worked out." Catalano said Sunday morning the colt came out of the race well and, asked about his next start, said, "We don't know that yet. But we hope that the Breeders' Cup is a possibility down the line."
Bear's Future tracked the pace in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Swynford Stakes at Woobine, closed the margin leaving the turn and drew off after a brief stretch duel to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Something Extra, who had none. Whippit finished third. Bear's Future, a Kentucky-bred Rockport Harbor colt, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.58 with Gary Olguin in the irons. The victory was his second in as many starts for trainer Reade Baker. "He's always been laid back," Baker said. "He'll do anything you ask." Baker said he plans to stretch the colt out to 1 1/16 miles for the Grey Stakes "and see if we can't go to the big dance with him," the trainer said, alluding to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Acaffella tracked the pace through the early furlongs of Saturday's $50,000 Angel Island Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, worked his way to the lead turning for home and was much the best in the stretch, winning off by 6 lengths. Moment of Weakness was best of the rest, a neck in front of King Cola.
What About Ruby dueled his way to the lead in Sunday's $70,000 Hillsdale Stakes for Indiana-breds at Hoosier Park, then drew off solidly to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Bellamy Jones. Ellenberger Park was third. What About Ruby, a Johannesburg filly running against males, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.6 under Jamie Theriot.
In Ireland, Pathfork upset a solid field, including heavy favorite Zoffany, in Saturday's Group 1 Vincent O'Brien National Stakes at the Curragh. Pathfork made the early going under Fran Berry, surrendered the lead midway and reasserted himself in the final quarter mile. Casamento, briefly the leader, continued to battle and finished just a head behind Pathfork with Zoffany third, 5 lengths farther back. The 7 furlongs went in 1:27.95. Pathfork, a Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor colt, remains undefeated in three starts for trainer Jessica Harrington and an American-based ownership group.
Wonderlandbynight came from near the back of the pack to win Saturday's $100,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park, drawing clear late to score by 2 1/2 lengths and preserving her undefeated record in four starts. Jordy Y also ran well late to take second, a neck ahead of Third Chance. The favorite, Honey Chile, finished fourth. Wonderlandbynight, an Illinois-bred Sky Mesa filly out of the Gulch mare Onemiracleatatime, ran the 1 mile in 1:36.65 with E.T. Baird up. The Lassie was the second straight stakes for Wonderlandbynight. She won the $150,000 Ontario Debutante at 6 1/2 furlongs at Woodbine in her last start but Baird said there were no concerns about the added distance. "She's a real versatile filly" he said. Winning trainer Michael Reavis said Sunday he is "looking at three possible races for her next start." One, he indicated, is the Darley Alcibiades on Oct. 8 at Keeneland. And, he added, "She would have to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup, but we haven't ruled it out yet. These people (her owners) don't have to worry about money."
Perfectly Candid circled to the lead four-wide and went on to win Saturday's $70,000 City of Anderson Stakes for Indiana-bred fillies by 1 3/4 lengths over Dreamin Big. Wind Energy finished third. Perfectly Candid, a daughter of Pleasantly Perfect, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.6 with Leandro Goncalves up.
Gato Go Win rallied outside pacesetting Spaniard in the stretch run of Wednesday's $75,000 Pirate's Bounty Stakes at Del Mar and got by to win by 1/2 length. Truest Legend was third and last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, Dancing in Silks, finished fourth as the favorite. Dancing in Silks had been sidelined since late February. Gato Go Win, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred City Place colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.76 with Rafael Bejarano up.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Informed Decision, defending champion in the Filly & Mare Sprint, was roughed up at the start of Saturday's $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters' Stakes for fillies and mares, trailed the field into the turn but then circled the field seven-wide in time to win by a head. Dubai Majesty also moved from the back of the pack just inside the winner and just missed. Sweet Lorena finished third at a good price. Informed Decision, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Monarchos mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track under Julien Leparoux in 1:15.62. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said he did not see the bumping at the start and was concerned that Informed Decision was last early. "After I talked to Julien and found out what happened, I felt better," he said. He added he's still not sure which Breeders' Cup race his mare will tackle and planned to "wait until after this race and make a plan … Perhaps a race between." She was coming off a sixth-place-finish in the Ballerina at Saratoga.
Secret Gypsy was boxed in through much of Saturday's $150,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park, got through on the inside at the top of the stretch and quickly went clear, winning by 1 length over Ivory Empress. Mindy Sue finished third. Secret Gypsy, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sea of Secrets mare, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.23 under Jamie Theriot. It was her third straight win, following a score in the Honorable Miss at Saratoga a month ago. "It looks like our next stop will be the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint," said winning trainer Ronny Werner.
Eldaafer raced to the lead with 3 furlongs to go in Saturday's $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship and held on to win by 1/2 length over Falling Knife. Atoned finished third. Eldaafer, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy gelding, ran the 1 1/2 miles on the all-weather track in 2:32.55 with Jon Court in the irons. He now has eight wins from 23 career starts. The race was a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Marathon. "He broke real sharp and Jon did exactly what we asked him to -- get him off the rail and take him back a little bit," said winning trainer Diane Alvarado. "He just sat and waited and relaxed perfectly for him. It worked out great. He finished up good, and he shipped good."
Geyego stalked the pace in Friday's $250,000 Presque Isle Mile at Presque Isle Downs, then surged to the lead and got clear when asked by jockey Alan Garcia and won off by a comfortable 2 lengths over Successful Dan. Stunning Stag finished third. Geyego, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Gilded Time, owned by Godolphin, finished in 1:34.9 on the all-weather track.
In other weekend racing:
Philadelphia Park (Parx Racing)
Movin' Out pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 PHBA Classic for state-breds, took over the lead entering the stretch and drew off to win by a comfortable 3 3/4 lengths over Smalltownman. Tejanos Eliminator finished third. Movin' Out, a 5-year-old Diamond gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.6 with Stewart Elliott aboard.
Noble Maz led all the way to a 1-length score over Looky Here in Saturday's $100,000 Mrs. Penny Stakes for Pennslyvania-bred distaffers. Try and Catch Me finished third. Noble Maz, a 4-year-old Storm Boot filly got the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.49 seconds under Elliott.
Zoeling closed determinedly through the stretch run to win Saturday's $100,000 Mr. Jenny Handicap for state-breds by 3/4 length over pacesetter El Churruca. Thorny was third. Zoeling, a 7-year-old Favorite Trick gelding, got the 5 furlongs on the grass in 57.44 with Florent Geroux riding.
Jemilyn pressed the pace in Saturday's $150,000 PHBA Distaff for state-breds, then took command in the stretch, drawing clear quickly to win by 4 lengths. Lovelier finished second and Coastal Solace finished third. Jemilyn, a 5-year-old daughter of Good and Tough, raced the 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:45.23 with Abel Mariano in the irons.
Uncle T Seven saved ground into the turn in Sunday's $100,000 Ashley T. Cole Handicap for New York-breds, got out for racing room under Julien Leparoux and rallied smartly to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Pocket Cowboys. Gimme Credit was third as the narrow favorite. Uncle T. Seven, a 4-year-old Freud colt, finished the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:49.88.
Edgewater outfinished Alma d'Oro to win Saturday's $75,000 DTHA Governors' Day Stakes by a neck. Doc's Friend was home third. Edgewater, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Lion Heart gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.12 with Rosie Napravnik in the irons.
Domestic Bliss led from gate to wire in Saturday's $75,000 George Rosenberger Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares, crossing the finish line 1 1/4 lengths better than Aquitaine. The favorite, Bambera, settled for third. Domestic Bliss, a 4-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred Domestic Dispute filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.51 with Jose Caraballo up.
River Echo took charge in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Premiere Cup Handicap and went on to post the upset win, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of E Z Dreamer. Salt Alert was third. The favorite, Greeley's Conquest, faded to finish fourth and Jonesboro got home last of six. River Echo, a 6-year-old, California-bred Swiss Yodler gelding, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.29 over a fast track. Alejandro Medellin had the mount.
U R All That I Am detoured off the "A" circuit to easily pick up the winner's share of Saturday's $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes for Californina-bred fillies and mares. Leading all the way, the 4-year-old Valid Wager filly traveled the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.83 with Martin Pedroza riding. Initial Impression was second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Party With Brando.
Subsidized drew off in the stretch like an odds-on favorite should in Thursday's $50,000 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 5 3/4 lengths over Folk Dancer. True Religion was home third. Subsidized, a Kentucky-bred Ghostzapper filly, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.79 with Martin Pedroza up.
Pinal pressed the pace in Friday's $50,000 Jim Kostoff Stakes for 3-year-olds, rallied to the lead with less than a furlong left and won by 1/2 length over late-running Bench the Judge. The early leader, Danzip, held third. Pinal, an Arizona-bred Rocky Bar gelding, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:23.26 with Alonzo Quinonez in the irons.
Via Veneto stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Bangles and Beads Stakes for fillies and mares, went to the lead with a sixteenth to run and won by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Terrify. Lauren C finished third. Via Veneto, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Orientate filly, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18 under Martin Pedroza.
Eye of Taurus ran by pacesetting Giant Mover in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Revidere Stakes, going on to win by 1 length over that rival. It was 7 3/4 lengths farther back to Talkin About Love in third. Eye of Taurus, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Aldebaran filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.23 with Eddie Castro in the irons.
Etched battled down the stretch with Chirac before edging away late to post a 1-length victory in Sunday's $60,000 Formal Gold Stakes. Sir Whimsey and Secret Getaway completed the order of finish. Etched, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Forestry colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.03. Alan Garcia rode for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner/breeder Darley Stable.
News and Notes
The National Turf Writers Association will honor retired jockey Richard Migliore, veteran Chicago turf writer Neil Milbert and equine rescue/retirement home Old Friends at its annual dinner in Louisville, Nov. 3. "The Mig" rode 4,450 winners and was outstanding apprentice jockey in 1981. He will receive the "Mr. Fitz" award, presented to the individual or group typifying the spirit of horse racing. Old Friends will accept the Joe Palmer Award, presented for meritorious service to racing. The Georgetown, Ky., and Greenfield, N.Y., home is the only rescue and retirement facility that accepts pensioned stallions. It currently is home to more than 100 horses. Milbert, a former director of the NTWA and Chicago Tribune turf writer and sportswriter (1968-2008), will receive the Walter Haight Award. Named for the former Washington Post Turf writer and columnist, the Haight Award is presented annually for excellence in Turf writing.