With less than a month until the Breeders' Cup, weekend races across the country put a few more pieces in place for the big events -- and not always the pieces everyone expected.
Upsets in both Kentucky and California could complicate the makeup of the field for some of the races in the Breeders' Cup World Championships to be run Nov. 5-6 at Churchill Downs.
Acoma settled off the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland, swung four-wide when asked by jockey Alan Garcia, and rallied to win by a half length at odds of nearly 24-1. Milwaukee Appeal was second, also at double-digit mutuels, and the favorite, Milwaukee Appeal, got home third. Rinterval, who threw a scare into Zenyatta two races back, finished sixth after leading through the early furlongs. Acoma, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Empire Maker mare, finished 9 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:48.77. Although the race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, trainer David Carroll was looking in another direction. "Possibly this could be her last race," he said. "She's been a great filly for us. This is her first Grade I and my first Grade I." Saturday's purse also pushed her career earnings over the $1 million mark.
No Such Word had no problems in Sunday's $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, rallying to the lead in the stretch and drawing off to win by 6 1/2 lengths. American Story finished second with Speedacious third. No Such Word, a Kentucky-bred Canadian Frontier filly, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43.24 with Terry Thompson riding. She picked up her sixth win from 14 career starts.
Kaweah Princess raced mid-pack through the early furlongs in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Ballerina Stakes for fillies and mares at Hastings Park, got to the front three-wide entering the stretch and won off by 2 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Summer Song, was second with Blue Sky Holiday third. Kaweah Princess, a Kentucky-bred Soto filly, got the 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:50.53 with Pedro Alvarado up.
Etched got first run on the leaders in Saturday's $300,000 Monmouth Cup at Monmouth Park, seized the lead in the stretch and held off the odds-on favorite, Musket Man, to win by a neck. Chirac was third. Etched, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Forestry out of the Breeders' Cup winner Unbridled Elaine, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.31. The Darley Stable home-bred now has won seven of nine career starts, including back-to-back runnings of this event, previously known as the Meadowlands Cup. "This horse seems like he's getting better and better," winning jockey Eddie Castro said. "He put in a nice kick when I asked him. He fought back and didn't want to let (Musket Man) go by us." Eibar Coa, who rode Musket Man, said, "He's always been a horse who gets a little confused when he doesn't have a target. I told the connections I wouldn't be afraid to go to the Breeders' Cup. All he needs is a horse to run at."
Pleasant Prince drew off in the stretch to win Sunday's $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park by 4 lengths over Timely Pursuit. Stachys finished third. Pleasant Prince, coming off a victory in the Ohio Derby, ran Saturday's 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.81 under jockey Joel Rosario. Wesley Ward trains the Florida-bred Indy King colt, who won for the third time in 13 career starts. "I had an outside post position and I just stayed there the whole way," Rosario said. "I wanted to make sure he was clear and wasn't bothered. I decided to make my move in the turn, it seemed like the speed horse was continuing to run in the stretch. I made my move a little early to get his momentum moving into the stretch."
Prince Will I Am raced last until the turn in Saturday's $250,000 Jamaica Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, swung six-wide under Jose Lescano and flew home, passing them all and winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Citrus Kid, the pacesetter, held on for the place, a half length ahead of Beaux Choix. The favorite, Krypton, faded to finish ninth. Prince Will I Am, a Kentucky-bred Victory Gallop ridgling, ran the 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:50.04. Winning trainer Michelle Nihei said the owners "are contemplating still looking at the Breeders' Cup as an option … . He is not nominated. We're looking at the mile and a half (Breeders' Cup Turf) and we're also looking at the Marathon for the mile and five eighths on the dirt because he doesn't really seem to mind surface changes."
Yankee Fourtune led from "go to whoa" in Saturday's $100,000 Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Park, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths over Mr. Mardi Gras. Asphalt was third. Yankee Fourtune, a Kentucky-bred Yankee Gentleman gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.28 with Victor Santiago in the irons for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. He now has won four of five lifetime starts. "The first time I rode him," Santiago said, "I told Kiaran that he was a really nice horse. The second time I rode him, I told him I had never been on a horse as nice as this one. I knew from the beginning that he was something special."
Gio Ponti ralled from near the back of the field to win Saturday's $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland by a length, ridden out by jockey Ramon Dominguez. Society's Chairman followed the winner with Courageous Cat third. Gio Ponti, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Tale of the Cat, finished in 1:35.06. The victory, backing up his second in the Arlington Million in his last start at 1 1/4 mile -- not to mention his second to Zenyatta in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic on the Santa Anita all-weather, gives trainer Christophe Clement all kinds of options in selecting a Breeders' Cup race. "It's a pretty good problem to have," Clement said. "I'm sure the owner will have an answer for me tomorrow or the next day." Since finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup this March, Gio Ponti has posted two seconds and two wins back in the States.
Proviso took her time early under Mike Smith in Saturday's $400,000 Abu Dhabi First Lady Stakes at Keeneland, accelerated nicely through the stretch to win by a half length over C.S. Silk. Gotta Have Her was a nose farther back in third and a neck in front of Fantasia. Proviso, a 5-year-old, British-bred Dansili mare, got the mile on firm turf in 1:34.81, picking up her fourth straight graded stakes win. Garrett O'Rourke of Juddmonte Farms, owner/breeder of Proviso, said, he wondered if Smith "was having some flashbacks to riding Zenyatta last week … at the sixteenth pole, I didn't think she was going to get there." Asked about potentially facing two-time defending champion Goldikova in the Mile, he added, "She ran against Goldikova in France and wasn't able to handle her then. It's a year later. It's our home turf. I don't know." Winning trainer Bill Mott was a little more optimistic: "We're in with a big chance to go there. I guess we'll talk to the connections and get that figured out."
Liberian Freighter steamed down the lane in Saturday's $150,000 Oak Tree Mile at Hollywood Park, passed the early leaders and got home first by a nose at 22-1 odds. Colgan's Chip was second and Tropic Storm finished third. Sidney's Candy, who would have been the favorite, was a late scratch. The favorite, Victor's Cry, ran evenly to finish fifth, causing some losers' crying. Liberian Freighter, a 5-year-old, California-bred Bertrando gelding, was clocked in 1:33.24 over firm turf with Martin Garcia up. "It set up well and he relaxed well," winning trainer Neil Drysdale said. "It was set up with the two speed horses in front of him, and he ran a blinder. He ran very well." Drysdale said Liberian Freighter will sail next in the Cal Cup Mile on Oct. 30.
Schramsberg came from the clouds to nip pacesetting long shot Kate's Main Man at the wire in Sunday's $150,000 Remington Green at Remington Park. Strike Again was just another head back in third and a neck in front of the favorite, Category Seven. Schramsberg, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Storm Cat colt out of the fabled race mare Serena's Song, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.18 with Ramsey Zimmerman in the irons.
Wise Dan stalked the pace in Friday's $175,000 Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, saw the favorite, Hollywood Hit, surge to the lead in the stretch, then kicked in late to win by a half length despite drifting late. Hollywood Hit saved second, 3 lengths better than Warrior's Reward. Wise Dan, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Wiseman's Ferry gelding, negotiated the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.20 with Rafael Berarano in the irons. It was his third win in just four career starts. "I didn't know if he was going to be seasoned enough against these older horses," winning trainer Charles Lopresti said. "I knew once he got to where he was mowing them down, I knew he had the momentum and he was going to run good then."
Smiling Tiger pressed the pace in Saturday's $250,000 Ancient Title at Hollywood Park, got to the lead with less than a furlong to run and hung on gamely to beat an onrushing Supreme Summit by a half length. E Z's Gentleman was third as the favorite. Smiling Tiger, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Hold That Tiger colt, completed the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.37 with Russell Baze up. He earned an automatic berth to the Breeders' Cup Sprint through the "Win and You're In" program. "This is a very nice colt," Baze said. "He ran a gutty and determined race. I think he's got big things in front of him. He's a three quarter-mile kind of horse and we figured out a little bit more how to handle him in a race. I think we kind of ticked him off with the way we were handling him in his races."
Bank Merger and Rule By Night hooked up in a stretch duel in Saturday's $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at Parx Racing with Bank Merger finally prevailing by a neck. Partyallnightlong finished third. Bank Merger, a Kentucky-bred Consolidator colt, owned and bred by Darley Stable, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.31 under Stewart Elliott. Kiaran McLaughlin trains the colt, who was making just his fourth career start. He came into the race off a second-place finish in the King's Bishop at Saratoga.
Silver Timber started well back in Saturday's $100,000 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, came around rivals four-wide on the turn and was up in the late going to beat pacesetter Central City by a half length. Due Date was third, another head back. The favorite, California Flag, contested the early lead but faded badly and finished last of 11. Silver Timber, a 7-year-old, New York-bred Prime Timber gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.30 with Julien Leparoux up. Asked about Silver Timber's chances in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs, trainer Chad Brown said, "He has the (course) record over there, he set this spring. And we'll be at equal weight. I think he's going to be double-tough."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Dubai Majesty stalked the pace set by Old Time Religion in Saturday's $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland, got rolling in the stretch and went on to win by three-quarters of a length over that rival. The favorite, Informed Decision, had some traffic excuses but was running well at the end to finish third. Dubai Majesty, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Essence of Dubai mare, finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.81 for jockey Jamie Theriot. "She's been really better the last couple of months than she's been in the last two years," winning trainer Bret Calhoun said. "She's blossomed here lately, and we had a lot of confidence coming in today." Informed Decision's trainer, Jonathan Sheppard, said he was pleased with his mare's performance. "We knew it might be a bit short for her. Her best distance seems to be 6 1/2 or 7 furlongs but she was running well at the end and this was a nice setup for the Breeders' Cup."
Uncle Mo lived up to his notices as one of the favorites for the Juvenile with a workmanlike rout of five rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Champagne Stakes at Bemont Park. Quickly on a close lead under jockey John Velazquez, the Kentucky-bred Indian Charlie colt quickly extended his advantage once he hit the stretch and won unchallenged, by 4 3/4 lengths. Mountain Town finished second, 9 3/4 lengths in front of I'm Steppin' It Up. Uncle Mo ran the mile on a fast track in 1:34.51. "The sky is the limit," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said about Uncle Mo. "I don't see how a horse could start a career more impressively than he has. His maiden was as good as I've seen, and then to come back and run 1:34 2/5 in the Champagne is unbelievable. His times have been exceptionally fast. He gets stronger as he goes along. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile would be the obvious goal."
J.B.'s Thunder led all the way to a 4-length upset victory in Saturday's $400,000 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Santiva rallied from far back to finish second, a nose in front of Wilcox Inn. The favorite, Major Gain, couldn't mount the needed stretch rally and settled for fifth. J.B.'s Thunder, a Kentucky-bred Thunder Gulch colt, got the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:44.12 under Shaun Brigdmohan. He now has won both career starts, the first victory coming at Saratoga. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup but winning trainer Al Stall Jr. did not sound enthused. "We'll probably go to Fair Grounds and point for the Delta Jackpot (Nov. 20 at Delta Downs) or the Lecomte (Jan. 22 at Fair Ground)," he said, adding the Breeders' Cup Juvenile "is very much 50-50 at best."
Rush Now won Saturday's $75,000 Dover Stakes at Delaware Park in front-running style, getting home first by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:44.15. Chipshot, the favorite, finished second, 5 1/4 lengths better than Congo. Rush Now, a Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt, was unplaced in a 6-furlong maiden event at Saratoga, then broke his maiden by 13 3/4 lengths going long at Delaware. Brian Hernandez Jr. had the mount for trainer Anthony Dutrow.
Blue Laser did his best running in the stretch and went on to upset Sunday's $225,000 (Canadian) Grey Stakes at Woodbine, winning by a half length over Rockin Heat. Classic Legacy was third and the favorite, Bear's Future, faded to finish sixth. Blue Laser, a Kentucky-bred Bluegrass Cat colt, finished the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:45.78 with Corey Fraser in the irons. It was his second win in three starts. "When we first got him, I communicated to Elliott Walden (of owner/breeder Winstar Farm), that I thought Blue Laser was a 'boy.' But I think he's becoming a 'man'," winning trainer Mark Casse said. "He's shown a lot of determination in his last two races ... This is a very important win for them. He's by Bluegrass Cat, their freshman sire."
Su Casa G Casa led all the way to a 4 1/4-lengths victory in Friday's $50,000 Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park. Smiles Ahead and Beyond de Buy completed the tri. Su Casa G Casa, a Louisiana-bred During colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.15 with Carlos Gonzalez up for trainer Brett Calhoun.
Bond James Bond dueled his way to the lead in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Canadian Juvenile at Northlands Park, opened a cozy lead and coasted home first, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Freedoms Traveller. Shackles N Chains finished third. Bond James Bond, an Alberta-bred Old Topper gelding, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:41 2/5 under Rico Walcott.
Rogue Romance rallied from last of 12 to win Sunday's $100,000 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland by 2 1/2 lengths over Cozy Kitten. Ocasta finished third. Rogue Romance, a Kentucky-bred Smarty Jones colt, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:43.76 with Julien Leparoux up. He now has two wins from three starts.
Wickedly Perfect, the favorite, was as good as perfect on opening day at Keeneland, jumping right to the front in the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes, shaking off a challenge and coasting home first by 2 lengths over Harlan's Ruby. Jordy Y finished third. Wickedly Perfect, a Florida-bred Congrats filly, got the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:46.26 with Rafael Bejarano up. She now has three wins from four starts and earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup. "She always trained like a filly that wanted to run long," winning trainer Doug O'Neill said. "That's why we put blinkers on her in her very first start. She's shown amazing speed in all her races, but she's always acted like a filly that would want to go a distance of ground."
A Z Warrior pressed the pace in Saturday' $300,000 Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park, surged to the lead when asked by jockey Alan Garcia and got clear in the lane to win by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, R Heat Lightning. Joyful Victory was a happy third. A Z Warrior, a Kentucky-bred Bernardini filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:35.68. Brad Weisbord, finance and racing manager for Zayat Stables, winning owner of A Z Warrior, asked about plans, said, "We leave these decisions up to Mr. Baffert. But he's been saying all along that she's a dirt filly. We think this filly is special and we look forward to running her in the Breeders' Cup."
Wyomia went right to the front in Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine and easily held off the odds-on favorite, Delightful Mary, to win by 2 3/4 lengths. It was a long way back from there to Poof Too in third. Wyomia, a Kentucky-bred Vindication filly from the Kingmambo mare Beyond the Sun, got the 1 1/16 mile on the all-weather track in 1:43.92 with Emile Ramsammy riding. Wyomia launched her career in a 7-furlong turf race Aug. 28 at Woodbine, finishing fifth. "She probably handles both surfaces very well," winning trainer Daniel Vella said. "Her first start, she just needed a race. She was looking around. She's showed her class since then." Asked about a potential trip to the Breeders' Cup, he said. "That's a little too far ahead for me to think about right now. We really haven't made any plans yet."
All About Allie took charge in the stretch run in Sunday's $50,000 E.L. Gaylord Memorial Stakes at Remington Park and won off by 4 lengths over Blushing Sis. Roundabout Lass finished third. All About Allie, an Arkansas-bred Storm and a Half filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.23 with Shane Laviolette in the irons.
In other weekend racing:
Alywyn stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Duchess of York Stakes for fillies and mares, surged to the lead in the stretch and held off long shot London Lass to win by a neck. Lemon Pepper finished third. Alywyn, a 4-year-old, California-bred Benchmark filly, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:46 2/5 with Rico Walcott handling the reins.
Little Nick rallied smartly through the stretch to upset Sunday's $70,000 Basket Weave Stakes, beating Super Chunky by 1 3/4 lengths. Mikoshi finished third. Little Nick, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Tiger Ride gelding, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.04 for jockey Mike Luzzi.
Senor Rojo stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Premier's Handicap, worked his way to the lead late and won by three-quarters of a length over Ganbei. Beale Street finished third. Senor Rojo, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Out of Place gelding, ran the1 3/8 mile on a "good" track in 2:17.30 with Richard Hamel up.
Burg Burg was up in the final yards to win Sunday's $55,000 Swingtime Stakes for fillies and mares by a half length over pacesetting Briecat. Value Stream finished third. Burg Burg, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Johanesburg filly, finished the mile on firm turf in 1:34.78 for jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Double Espresso charged from last to win Sunday's $50,000 Flashy Lady Stakes for fillies and mares by a half length over Vertical Vision. Aegean finished third. Double Espresso, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.26.
News and notes:
The International Federation of Horseracing has agreed to the Hong Kong Jockey Club's proposal that the races formerly known as the Cathay Pacific international trials should be upgraded to international Group 2 status. Previously, the three races were Hong Kong Group 2 events. The events will be credited with international Group 2 status from this season and will be known as the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint, the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile and the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Cup. "We hope and believe that the recognition of their new status will lead to the strengthening of the Turf World Championships sponsored by Cathay Pacific run at our international meeting in December," said William A Nader, executive director of racing of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.