Big purses don't guarantee crowded fields as the Pennsylvania Derby's $1 million purse and the $500,000 offered at the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs proved.
Despite the gaudy prizes, the weekend fields were a bit short and the races failed to attract the proven leaders in the 3-year-old division.
Still, you never know. Saturday's winner in Pennsylvania, the interestingly named Morning Line, has been progressing steadily and certainly has all the pedigree any horse could ever want. Under the direction of trainer Nick Zito, he could prove to be any kind.
Morning Line, a Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt out of the A.P. Indy mare Indian Snow, led much of the way, gave up the lead briefly and came again to win by a neck over First Dude, who was blocked during part of the stretch run. A Little Warm finished third as only seven horses faced the starter.
First Dude has won only one race but finished second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont, Haskell and Travers. A Little Warm won the Jim Dandy and finished fifth in the Travers.
Morning Line, meanwhile, raced once last November, then was put away until May. In four races this year, he posted two wins and two seconds, the latest in a Saratoga allowance where he earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure. Oddly for a race worth $1 million, Morning Line was the only starter of the seven who won his last previous race.
Olin Gentry, head of Thoroughbred Legends Stable, which owns Morning Line, said the Pennsylvania Derby result shows "we got a really nice horse" for $700,000 at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. "It validates what Nick's been thinking all along," he added. "He thought he was a top horse from the start. We're really excited."
Zito, who has fought every battle in this year's 3-year-old wars with little to show for the effort, said he will consider moving Morning Line along to the Classic if things break right.
In the Super Derby, Apart sat comfortably off the pace until jockey Jesse Campbell set him down for the drive. At that point, the Kentucky-bred Flatter colt responded gamely, went by the leaders and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Distorted Economy got first run at the pace in the stretch and led briefly, then held on for second, 1 length in front of the favorite, Hurricane Ike.
Apart, an Adele Dilschneider homebred, came into the race off a victory in the Super Derby Prelude over the same surface. He completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.31.
Campbell, who also rode Apart in the Prelude, said he told trainer Al Stall Jr. he thought the colt had an excellent chance in the big race, especially against the expected second-tier competition.
"He ran a tremendous race that day," Campbell said of the Prelude. "I couldn't wait to get back on him. I wanted to see if I could see the difference after the race and before the race. Right then, I knew unless they shipped in one of the top horses in the country, we had a shot."
Stall indicated Apart will head for Keeneland and a start in the Fayette on Hallowe'en Eve.
Other Classic-related developments:
-- Stately Victor, upset winner of the Blue Grass at Keeneland this spring, returned to the winner's circle Saturday after the $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Derby at Woodbine. The Ghostzapper colt, obviously relishing his return to a synthetic track after detours to Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Colonial Downs, stalked the pace and drew off in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths. So Elite and Hotep completed the triactor and the favorite, Big Red Mike, finished a fading sixth. "After the Bluegrass, it was such a huge turnaround in form that we had to believe that Polytrack made a significant difference in his performance there," winning trainer Michael Maker said. Reflecting on his colt's tough campaign after the Keeneland triumph, he added, "We've ducked no one and it's nice to come up here and get a win."
-- Travers Stakes winner Afleet Express is done for the year. While training for the Oct. 2 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, the colt suffered a slight tear in a left suspensory, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. Jerkens said the injury is not career-threatening and that Afleet Alex now will be pointed to a 4-year-old campaign, starting in Florida.
-- Training issues also have sidelined -- at least temporarily -- the undefeated Trickmeister. The winner of four straight, including an 11 1/4-length romp in the Pleasant Colony at Saratoga, was to have tackled the Pennsylvania Derby. But trainer Rick Dutrow said he determined something was troubling the colt after a Wednesday workout at Belmont. Dutrow said Trickmeister will have a bone scan to see what's what.
Other weekend races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs:
Biofuel, the odds-on favorite, ran to her notices in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine. After a slow start, the Kentucky-bred Stormin Fever filly tracked the pace, went to a full-out drive turning for home and advanced steadily to win by 2 lengths over Kitty in a Tizzy. Bubble Gum finished third. Biofuel, with Eurico Da Silva up, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.39. The Selene was her fourth stakes win of the year and likely earned her the Sovereign Award as Canada's top sophomore filly. It may not, however, get her to Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. "It's going to be up to the owner," winning trainer Reade Baker said. "Rachel Alexandra, Blind Luck. Zenyatta may even be there. I think that's too much of a task for a 3-year-old. As a 4-year-old, she would be perfect."
Grand Rapport rallied through the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park, catching Workin for Hops in the final strides to win by 1/2 length. Stormy Lord was another 1/2 length behind. Grand Rapport, a Kentucky-bred Grand Reward gelding, got the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.77 with Ramon Dominguez up. He now has three wins from six starts. "I was little worried about the slow early fractions, but it looked like he was well within himself," winning trainer Gary Contessa said. "Plus, we had Ramon, who knows this course as good anybody. Once we made the turn for home and we started moving, I felt good. I have to talk to Mr. (owner Earle) Mack, but right now I think we are looking at the Hollywood Derby for his next start."
Presious Passion, second behind Conduit in last year's Turf, returned from a four-month layoff to finish a disappointing fourth in an optional claimer on Wednesday at Delaware Park. The 4-year-old Orientate colt finished up the track in the Dubai Sheema Classic back in March, then seventh in the Monmouth Park Stakes in June, prompting the layoff. Trainer Mary Hartmann said Wednesday's performance really didn't answer any questions since her colt "looks like he needed this race."
Scalo posted his first Group 1 victory in Sunday's Preis von Europa at Cologne, Germany, offering promise that he could be a force internationally as a 4-year-old. With Olivier Peslier up, Scalo bettered last year's German Oaks winner Night Magic in the stretch run, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. The win was his second straight, following a Group 2 event at Deauville. Earlier, he was unplaced in a pair of German events. Trainer Andreas Wohler noted the Lando colt could start in the Canadian International at Woodbine. "But more than likely, that is it for the season," he told Racing Post. "He will stay in training."
Filly & Mare Turf
Mekong Melody tracked the pace into the far turn in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Flaming Page Stakes at Woodbine, surged to a lead in the stretch and coasted home to win by 3/4 length, ridden out by Patrick Husbands. Happy Clapper was second, followed by Liberally. Mekong Melody, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Cape Cross mare, got the "about" 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:31.26. She also won the race last year.
The Breeders' Cup Mile got even more contentious Saturday as Poet's Voice, with Frankie Dettori up, came from last to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Poet's Voice caught Rip Van Winkle in the final strides, winning by a nose. Red Jazz was third. Poet's Voice, a Godolphin Stable home-bred son of Dubawi, improved his record to four wins from 10 starts and earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" program. Winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said he told Dettori "to drop him in behind … to get him relaxed as the horse has a brilliant turn of foot." He added, "The target now is the Breeders' Cup Mile." That race is shaping up as one of the most interesting on the two-day program, with the likes of Goldikova, Rip Van Winkle, Able One, Court Vision, Gio Ponti and Makfi potential contenders.
Rose Catherine set a pressured pace in Saturday's $200,000 Turf Amazon Handicap for fillies and mares at Philadelphia Park, opened up a daylight lead in the stretch run and held well to win by 1 3/4 lengths over West Ocean. Canadian Ballet finished third. Rose Catherine, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Speightstown, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.46 seconds with Javier Castellano up. Todd Pletcher saddled the exacta.
Hay List, moving up the class scale, won Friday night's Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley in Australia despite a slight hesitation at the break. With Glyn Schofield in the irons, Hay List quickly went to the front, shook off a challenge from Reward For Effort and won by 2 1/2 lengths, finishing the 1,200 meters in 1:09.94. The victory was worth a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" program but trainer John McNair indicated the 5-year-old son of Statue of Liberty is more likely to remain Down Under. Hay list has won 11 of his 13 career starts.
Filly & Mare Sprint
A pair of long shots, My Jen and Moontune Missy, duked it out down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park with My Jen finally prevailing by a head. Sara Louise was third with a late run while the favorite, Rapport, faded from the lead to finish sixth. My Jen, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Fusaichi Pegasus filly, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.13 with Julien Leparoux up. The Gallant Bloom was My Jen's second race following a seven-month layoff. In her return engagement she finished second to Rapport in the Victory Ride at Saratoga Aug. 28. The victory provided an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint through the Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" program. "We'll see," winning trainer Eddie Kenneally said. "It's a 3-year-old filly running against older horses. But she did it today." Kenneally also trains Filly & Mare Sprint hopeful Warbling. "Who knows?" he shrugged. "Maybe they'll both run."
Sweet Ducky dueled his way to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Garden State Stakes at Monmouth Park and, once there, wasn't giving up. After opening up a small lead in the lane, the Kentucky-bred Pulpit colt held on to score by a half length over Curlinello. The favorite, Astrology, finished third. Sweet Ducky, with Joe Bravo in the irons, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:39.83. It was his second win from three starts. "I give all the credit to (trainer) Kelly Breen," Bravo said. "He's just a talented horse. The pace was pretty slow, and he was able to stay close and finish well. He had his ears up and was enjoying himself."
Ribo Bobo stalked the pace in Saturday's $85,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes at Calder Race Course, took charge on the turn and held off Swift Warrior at the end to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Rough'n Royal, the favorite, finished third. Ribo Bobo, a Florida-bred Louis Quatorze gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:46.63 with Eduardo Nunez in the irons. "I think the two turns helped," winning trainer Manuel Azpurua said. "I don't know how far he'll go. He's not eligible for the (Florida) Stallion Stakes, so we'll look around to see what's next, but there will be plenty of opportunities ahead."
Poseidon's Warrior stuck a trident into seven rivals in Sunday's $165,000 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity, drawing off down the lane to win by 7 lengths over Value Added Tax. Printing Press was third. The favorite, Bait Out the Cat, struggled home seventh. Poseidon's Warrior, a Maryland-bred Speightstown colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.55 with Frankie Pennington up.
Loranger Native shot to the lead on the outside turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes for state-breds at Louisiana Downs, hit another gear and won off by 8 1/4 lengths over Amanecer de Oro. Pocketknife finished third. Loranger Native, a Good and Tough colt out of the Gate Dancer mare Native Gate Dancer, ran 7 furlongs for jockey Richard Eramia in 1:24.11.
Glint took charge in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial at Presque Isle Downs and went on to win by 3 lengths over pacesetting favorite King Samurai. Wide Receiver finished third. Glint, a Kentucky-bred Sharp Humor colt, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.94 under Daniel Centeno.
Soaring Native battled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 My Dandy Texas Stallion Stakes, then held sway, winning by 2 lengths over Tamtastic. Hidden Recipe was third. Soaring Native, a Texas-bred Early Flyer colt, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.49 with Jansen Melancon aboard.
Couldabenthewhisky stalked the pace in Sunday's $75,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs, shot to the lead in the stretch and poured it on, winning by 5 lengths over Seattle Sniper. Jebrica finished third. Couldabenthewhisky, a Washington-bred Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:42 3/5 under Gallyn Mitchell.
Too Much Dirt rallied from near the back of the pack to win Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Ascot Graduation Stakes at Hastings Racecourse by 2 1/2 lengths over Stormy Canuck. Final Flair was third. Too Much Dirt, a British Columbia-bred Mass Market colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.30 with Russell Baze up.
Frankel romped to a 10-lengths victory in Saturday's Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot in England. The Galileo colt, trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Tom Queally, left four challengers far in his wake in the final quarter mile and finished the mile in 1:41.73. He is, obviously, named for the late American trainer, Bobby Frankel, who passed away last November. The Royal Lodge win earned Frankel a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf through the "Win and You're In" program. Cecil said if the colt runs again this year, it will be in Great Britain.
Dreamsrunwild got the best of a wild, five-horse finish at the end of Saturday's $100,000 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs. After tracking the pace, Dreamsrunwild engaged the leaders through the stretch run and prevailed by a head over Aces N Kings. It was another nose back to Unbridled Sheriff, a neck to Majestic Knight and a head to El Grayling. Dreamsrunwild, an Offlee Wild colt from the Tiznow mare Pitchatotaltizzy, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.43 with Iram Diego in the irons.
Blue Eyed Sweetie was quickly out front in Saturday's $85,000 Brave Raj Stakes at Calder Race Course and easily bested nine rivals, coasting home first by 1 1/4 lengths over Besto Grande. Media Bias finished third and that's a fact. Blue Eyed Sweetie, a Florida-bred daughter of West Acre out of the De Niro mare Brown Eyed Woman, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a good main track in 1:46.47 with Manoel Cruz in the irons. "I really didn't want her on the lead and be hooked all the way on this dead racetrack," winning trainer Kathleen O'Connell said. "But she's a big, long-striding filly and that's how it turned out. I think she ran a tremendous race." She said Blue Eyed Sweetie will go on to the final division of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Oct. 16.
Soundwave rallied three-wide to the lead entering the stretch in Sunday's $165,000 Monmouth Park NATC Futurity, then easily cleared the field and went on to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Lady Malkin was second with Overseas Market third. The favorite, Unbridled Praise, checked in fourth. Soundwave, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Friends Lake, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.07 with Terry Thompson aboard.
Do Dat Blues had her rivals doin' does blues after Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes for state-breds at Louisiana Downs. A Lydgate filly out of the Rubiano mare Severus, Do Dat Blues stalked the pace into the stretch, then opened up when asked and won by 6 1/4 lengths. Reyina was second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Dancefromthegitgo. Do Dat Blues, with Richard Eramia at the controls, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.78.
It's Me Mom dominated Saturday's $100,000 Presque Isle Debutante, leading throughout by a wide margin and winning by 6 3/4 lengths. Interrogate was the best of the rest and Dust and Diamonds finished third. It's Me Mom, a Florida-bred Put It Back filly, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.72 with Willie Martinez aboard.
Pigtails rallied to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Fantasy Stakes at Hastings Racecourse and went on to post the upset by 2 1/2 lengths over Embankment. The odds-on favorite, Overvalued, finished third. Pigtails, a British Columbia-bred Stephanotis filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.52 with Isaias Cardenas in the irons.
Fastation was part of a five-filly cavalry charge at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Darby's Daughter Texas Stallion Stakes, but then quickly separated herself from the pack, opened a daylight lead and got home first, 1 1/2 lengths better than Roundabout Lass. Fastation's entrymate, Gray Cat, finished third and Tellittomestraight completed the trifecta. Fastation, a Texas-bred daughter of Valid Expectations, was clocked in 1:11.17 with Shaun Bridgmohan up.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
White Moonstone rallied from the back of the pack to post a neck victory in Saturday's Meon Valley Stud Fillies' Mile at Ascot in England, earning an automatic entry to the Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" program. With Frankie Dettori up, the Dynaformer filly remained undefeated in four starts and finished in 1:42.75. Together was second and Theyskens' Theory finished third. White Moonstone is expected to be put away now for next year.
Jazzy Jessie stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs, came around her rivals at the top of the stretch and finished full of run, scoring by 3/4 length over Tiger Girl. Accept settled for third. Jazzy Jessie, a Kentucky-bred Stormy Atlantic filly out of the Thunder Gulch mare Thunder Warmth, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.51 with Richard Eramia up.
In other weekend racing:
Majesticality rallied from the clouds to post a 40-1 upset victory in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Derby, beating Crew Leader by a half length. The favorite, Cherokee Notion, had seized the lead early in the stretch run but couldn't maintain the advantage, finishing third. Majesticality, a British Columbia-bred Finality gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:50.80 with Richard Hamel aboard.
Zenovit stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 British Columbia Oaks, took the lead in the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Wando Woman. Finality Philly was third. Zenovit, a Washington-bred Private Gold filly, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.88 with Keven Krigger in the irons.
Calder Race Course
El Kingdom drew off in the stretch run to win Saturday's $65,000 Needles Stakes for 3-year-olds by 5 1/4 lengths over Bernie the Maestro. Tannersville was third while the favorite, Bim Bam, finished fifth with a wide trip from the No. 11 gate. El Kingdom, a Kentucky-bred El Prado colt from the Dynaformer mare Rabiadella, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a good main track in 1:47.01 after the event was moved off the grass.
Successful Song pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Judy's Red Shoes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then drew off in the stretch, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Rare Bit. Musical Romance was third, a length better than heavy favorite Trip for A.J. Successful Song, a Florida-bred Successful Appeal miss, got the 1 1/16 miles on a good main track in 1:47.59. The event came off the grass.
Riversrunrylee led all the way to a 3 1/4-length victory over Sincero in Saturday's $55,000 Joeyblueeyes Stakes. Causeway's Kin finished third. Riversrunrylee, a Florida-bred Outflanker gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a good track in 1:44.16 under Carlos Olivero.
Presque Isle Downs
Miss Blakely rallied past pacesetting Hooh Why in a long stretch drive at the end of Saturday's $100,000 H.B.P.A. Stakes for fillies and mares and prevailed by a half length. Unforgotten finished third. Miss Blakely, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred Smart Strike filly out of the Rahy mare A Bit Special, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on the all-weather track in 1:40.94 with Daniel Centeno up.
Exclusive Scheme stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 John Hettinger Stakes for New York-bred distaffers, took over around the turn and held well to win by 1 length over Frivolous Buck. Akilina finished third. The odds-on favorite, You Go West Girl, ran from last to take fourth. Exclusive Scheme, a 4-year-old Saarland filly, ran 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:49.14 with Ramon Dominguez at the reins.
Our Khrysty had to weave her way through traffic in Sunday's $70,000 Nellie Bly Stakes for fillies and mares, then drew clear when she saw daylight and won by 4 1/4 lengths. Banker's Buy was second and the favorite, McVictory, finished third. Our Khrysty, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Newfoundland filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.10, also with Dominguez aboard.
Briecat got the jump on three rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Las Madrinas Handicap for fillies and mares and held the lead all the way to the wire, scoring by 3 1/4 lengths over Madel. Dance to My Tune was third as the odds-on favorite. Value Stream completed the order of finish. Briecat, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Adcat mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.06 with Alonso Quinonez up.
Bench the Judge pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Pomona Derby, took over when asked by jockey Martin Pedroza and drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Pico Pico was second and Gallant Gent finished third. Bench the Judge, a Kentucky-bred Benchmark colt, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.92.
Cayambe led all the way in Sunday's $75,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Handicap, then held on at the end in a three-way photo. Quindici Man came from well back to just miss by a neck. Red Door Drive, part of the favored entry, finished third. Cayambe, a 6-year-old, California-bred Helmsman gelding, got the "about" 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.36 for jockey Alonso Quinonez.
Mogumbo Cat caught Sprightly Star in the final jumps to win Saturday's $50,000 Unbridled Handicap by a head. Deputiformer finished third. Mogumbo Cat, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Van Nistelrooy gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.48 with Patrick Valenzuela riding.
Tortuga Straits caught pacesetting favorite Foreign Production late in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Temperence Hill Stakes, winning by a half length. Sweetsouthernmoon rallied from last to finish third. Torguga Straits, a 6-year-old, Louisiana-bred Gold Tribute gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.43 with Donald Simington in the irons.
Vickies In Town got a clear lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 River Cities Stakes for fillies and mares, then was all out to hang on by a neck over Category Seven. Token Diva finished third. Vickies In Town, a 5-year-old, Louisiana-bred Leestown mare, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.75 under Simington.
News and notes:
British racing venues have announced a new series, including their biggest days and festivals and culminating in a six-race showdown worth more than $20 million on Oct. 15, 2011, at Ascot Racecourse. The scheduling puts the event two weeks after the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp and about two weeks before the 2011 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. Included on the road to the finals will be the Guineas Festival at Newmarket, the Epsom Derby, Royal Ascot, the July Festival at Newmarket, Glorious Goodwood, the Ebor Festival in August at York and the Doncaster St. Leger.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club, building on experience gained during the Bejing Olympics, has created a new equestrian venue for the upcoming Asian Games at Conghua and plans to reposition the venue as a racehorse training center. The club says the new facility will address the capacity restraints of the current Sha Tin facilities and permit the start of a "comprehensive refurbishment" of the Sha Tin infrastructure, "upgrading them to world-class standards."