While most of the racing world was focused on the forthcoming pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup World Championships, there were a few graded stakes and a pair of state-bred festivals during the weekend to keep handicapping skills sharp.
This week's announcement will give players a first look at -- among other things -- who will try to deny Zenyatta her 20th straight victory in the $5 million Classic and who will try to prevent Goldikova from winning an unprecedented third straight Turf Mile.
Even with the pre-entries, however, the fields won't be completely set since some owners and trainers have announced they will cross-enter their horses in more than one event to see how the competition shakes out.
And in Hong Kong, the Jockey Club announced a stellar lineup of early entries for the Dec. 12 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races. The prospective fields represent racing venues from around the world and all of the major international owners.
Meanwhile, for those still looking to swell the bankroll for the big day, weekend racing included:
The few, the bold who had the trifecta in Saturday's $250,000 Lexus Raven Run Stakes for 3-year-old fillies certainly will be playing with found money for a while. Hilda's Passion posted a mild upset win, taking an early lead and gamely holding safe 73-1 longshot Decelerator to win by 3/4 length. Tremendamente Loca, at 42-1, completed the tri, which returned $20,408 for a $2 investment – before the unfair IRS cut, of course. The lukewarm favorite, Beautician, finished 11th in a field of 13. Hilda's Passion, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Canadian Frontier, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.37 with Corie Laniere in the irons. "It was a perfect trip," Lanerie said. He added his instructions were "to just get her out of the gate and stay out of her way and just be a good passenger. She did everything on her own. I called on her at the top of the lane and she went on and ran a great race."
Casablanca Smile shocked no one with a 7-lengths victory in Sunday's $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes for fillies and mares. Sent off as the favorite, the 4-year-old, Chilean-bred Ocean Terrace filly was quickly in front, dictated a leisurely pace and had plenty left at the end. Sweet and Flawless was second with Speak Easy Gal third. Casablanca Smile ran the 12 furlongs on firm turf in 2:33.70 with Javier Castellano handling the reins. It was her first win in four tries in the United States. "We've run her three times and she's run great all three times," said Robbie Medina, assistant to winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "But today she settled a lot better than she has in her previous races."
Fugitive Angel rallied from far back in a big field to win Friday's $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, getting clear late to score by 3 3/4 lengths over pacesetting longshot Ice Mist. No Explaining was third. Fugitive Angel, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Alphabet Soup, covered the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.10 under Rosie Napravnik. "She broke a little slow and she was very relaxed, which is the objective with her, and she was ready when I called on her," Napravnik said. "She finished very strong."
Brass Hat broke last of 12 in Thursday's $100,000 Sycamore Stakes, moved up between horses around the turn and rallied outside down the stretch to win by 1 length over Southern Anthem. Musketier, the favorite, was up for third. With Calvin Borel up, Brass Hat ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:30.73. Brass Hat is a 9-year-old, Kentucky-bred Prized gelding. "This is his home crowd," winning trainer William "Buff" Bradley said about Brass Hat, a homebred owned by his father, Fred Bradley, a former Kentucky state senator. "My dad really wanted to win this one here at Keeneland today. We've been coming here for a lot of years and it is fun to win a big race like that here."
In one of the few weekend races that still might reverberate to the Breeders' Cup, Premier Pegasus shot quickly to the lead in Saturday's $55,000 Jack Goodman Stakes for 2-year-olds, turned back a challenge from McKenzies Way at the top of the lane and went on to beat that rival by 1 3/4 lengths, remaining undefeated. Clubhouse Ride finished third. Premier Pegasus, a Kentucky-bred Fusaichi Pegasus colt out of the Summer Squall mare Squall Linda, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.62 with Alonso Quinonez up. "He had a little ankle problem in September so I gave him some time off," said winning trainer Myung Kwon Cho. "This horse might go next in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Maybe. I'm not sure yet.
Gone Rebel blazed to the lead in Sunday's $55,000 Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, opened a comfortable lead and held on at the end to win by 3/4 length over the odds-on favorite, Tales In Excess. Pleasing Sunrise was third. Gone Rebel, a Louisiana-bred Macabe filly out of the Honour and Glory mare Rebel Gal, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.38 for jockey Patrick Valenzuela. "She's just a beautiful, athletic and talented filly," said winning trainer Vladimir Cerin. "She's a Louisiana-bred and there's a race for Louisiana-breds (Nov. 20 -- the $250,000 Louisiana Jewel at Delta Downs) going 1 mile. Hopefully against Louisiana-breds she can get the mile. Patrick's good at relaxing them."
Sweet Ducky dueled to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Seton Hall University Stake for 2-year-olds, then drew off to win by 4 lengths over the favorite, Curlinello. Printing Press was home third. Sweet Ducky, a Kentucky-bred Pulpit colt, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.62. "I think even more impressive than his race today is the way he's maturing," said winning jockey Joe Bravo. "He's always had the talent, but now he's starting to learn the game. He's such a big animal, I think the two turns has really helped him as well." Winning trainer Kelly Breen said Sweet Ducky "needed a little seasoning and Joe just said today he's learning." Breen said the next dance on Sweet Ducky's card will be the $1 million Delta Jackpot Nov. 20 at Delta Downs.
R Boy Bill justified his even-money favorite status in Saturday's $75,000 El Jovan Stakes for 3-year-olds, drawing out to a big lead in the stretch and coasting home first, 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Col. Wright. Road Hawk finished third. R Boy Bill, a Florida-bred Peace Rules gelding, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.34 with Jeffrey Sanchez up.
Tiger Girl was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $75,000 M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes for juvenile fillies and got clear in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Patty's Pride was second with Jazzy Jessy third. Tiger Girl, a Louisiana-bred Hold That Tiger filly, finished the grassy 1 mile in 1:34.75 under Donald Simington.
Saturday was New York Showcase Day, featuring steeds bred in the Empire State.
General Maximus prompted the pace in the $125,000 Hudson Stakes at 6 furlongs, got by Be Bullish into the stretch and won off by 1 1/2 lengths over that foe. Raynick's Jet was third and the favorite, Endless Circle, faded badly to finish sixth. General Maximus, a 3-year-old Freud colt, finished in 1:08.84 under Javier Castellano.
Sentimental Lass led all the way in the $100,000 Maid of the Mist for 2-year-old fillies, holding gamely through the stretch to win by 1 length over Saltamontes. Floating Alone finished third. A Freud filly, Sentimental Lass ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.64 with Rajiv Maragh up.
Pocket Cowboys sat just off the pace in the $125,000 Mohawk Stakes at 9 furlongs on the grass, rallied through the stretch to pass pacesetting Straight Story and won by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Kutais was third. Pocket Cowboys, a 4-year old Wild Event gelding out of the Thunder Puddles mare Lotsa Sprinkles, got the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:48.88 with Edgar Prado riding.
Bandbox rallied from far back to win the $100,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Luxury Appeal. Crea's Law finished third. Bandbox, a Tapit colt, got the 7 furlongs in 1:24.28 under Ramon Dominguez. Trained by Rodney Jenkins for Hillwood Stable, Bandbox is pointing toward the $1 million Delta Jackpot Nov. 20 at Delta Downs.
Meese Rocks led most of the way to a 2 1/4-lengths victory over R Betty Graybull in the $125,000 Iroquois Stakes for fillies and mares. My Dinah finished third. Meese Rocks, with Dominguez up, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:23.64. She is a 5-year-old Rock and Roll mare.
You Go West Girl raced last of 10 early in the $125,000 Ticonderoga Stakes for fillies and mares at 9 furlongs on the grass, came six-wide into the stretch and was along in time to win by 2 lengths over pacesetting Chorus Music. Exclusive Scheme, always close, finished third. You Go West Girl, a 6-year-old Mr. Greeley mare, finished in 1:49.32 with Jose Lezcano up.
Friend or Foe jumped right to the lead in the $200,000 Empire Classic, cruised along at a respectable pace and then drew off to win by 5 lengths. Icabad Crane, who lunged at the start, hit the gate and trailed the field into the stretch, rallied to finish second, 3/4 lengths ahead of Wishful Tomcat. Friend or Foe, a 3-year-old Friends Lake colt, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:46.94 with Alex Solis in the irons. "If he stays healthy, I think he's got a real nice future," said winning trainer John Kimmel. "He's capable of running with any kind."
In other action at Belmont:
Admiral Alex had 'em all the way in Sunday's $70,000 Arts and Letters Stakes for 3-year-olds, getting clear at the end to win by 4 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Our Dark Knight. Keep Me Informed was third. Admiral Alex, a Kentucky-bred Afleet Alex colt, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.67 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
Arson Squad rallied from behind the quick pace set by Our Edge to win Sunday's $70,000 Mighty Forum Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Our Edge barely edged Ea for third, holding on by a nose. Arson Squad, a 7-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred Brahms gelding, ran 1 mile on the fast main track in 1:35.27 for Ramon Dominguez.
Friday night was Oklahoma Classics at Remington, for horses bred in the Sooner State.
Miss Kipling stalked the pace in the $125,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, rallied to the lead in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Whenislifeaholiday. Miss Kipling, a Kipling filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.72. In the $85,000 Juvenile for 2-year-old colts and geldings, Smiles Ahead took charge in the lane and won by 1 length over Catabout in 1:10.64.
She's All In was all gone in the stretch run of the $135,000 Distaff, winning by 11 lengths over Approved Bluff. Okie Blonde finished third. She's All In, a 3-year-old Include filly, got the 1 mile and 70 yards on the sloppy track in 1:42.35. In the $122,000 Filly & Mare Turf, Skedee stalked the pace, then got by to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Scarlet Thread. Going Okie and In the Band dead-heated for third and fourth. Skedee, a 5-year-old Sefapiano mare, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:31.00.
Specialfite dueled down the land with Steal Your Face in the $113,000 Sprint, prevailing by a nose. Okie Time was third. Specialfite, a 6-year-old Fistfite gelding, ran the 6 furlongs in the slop in 1:10.48. In the $114,000 Filly Sprint, Shotgun Gulch rallied between rivals from well back to win by a neck over Vertical Vision with Miss Natalie third. Shotgun Gulch, a 3-year-old Thunder Gulch filly, finished in 1:10.02.
Strategic Leader moved quickly to a pace-stalking position from well outside in the $138,000 Turf Stakes, edged closer nearing the stretch turn and accelerated through the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Okietate. In Case of Fire was third. Strategic Leader, a 7-year-old Strategic Mission gelding, ran the 1 mile on yielding turf in 1:38.57 with Benny Landeros up.
J J's Indy led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths win in the $167,000 Classic. The odds-on favorite, Pleasant Storm, finished third. J J's Indy, a 4-year-old Indy Talent gelding, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy track in 1:44.57 with Dale Cordova riding.
Love That Dance stalked the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for fillies and mares, surged to the lead in the stretch and drew clear, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Jehan. Veuve carved out the early pace and held on for third. Love That Dance, a 4-year-old, New Jersey-bred Not For Love filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.30 with Elvis Trujillo in the irons.
Tiz Miz Sue rallied from last of six to win Wednesday's $50,000 Polly's Jet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 4 1/4 lengths over Quiet Giant. Ms Vanezza finished third. Tiz Miz Sue, a Kentucky-bred Tiznow filly, covered the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:44.05 under Rosie Napravnik.
Inglorious, making her first start, rallied like a pro from the back of the field to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Fanfreluche Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies. At the wire, the Hennessy filly was drawing off to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Dreamy Moonlite. Weekend Romance was third and the favorite, Medabuck, faded steadily to finish last of five. Inglorious, with Chantal Sutherland in the irons, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.00.
Rahy's Attorney led the way in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Bunty Lawless Stakes for Ontario-sired horses, extending the margin at the end to win by a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths. Sand Cove chased all the way but failed to keep pace in the lane and settled for second, 2 lengths in front of Guipago. Rahy's Attorney, a 6-year-old Crown Attorney gelding, cruised the 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.36 with Slade Callaghan up.
Sugar Again came four-wide around her rivals into the turn in Wednesday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ruling Angel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and was up in time, winning by 1/2 length over Barracks Road. Fantastic Cousin finished third. Sugar Again, a Pennsylvania-bred Syncline filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.99 with Luis Contreras riding.
Lovely Leeann rallied along the inside down the stretch to win Saturday's $88,000 Indiana Stallion Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, A Little Order. Cindy Sweet Cindy finished third. Lovely Leeann, a daughter of Black Moonshine, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13 3/5 under Orlando Mojica.
Short Sale rallied by pacesetting Rumors Everywhere in the stretch drive to win Sunday's $70,000 Crown Ambassador Stakes for Indiana-bred 2-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths. Rumors Everywhere held second, 3/4 length ahead of I See a Shark. Short Sale, a Presidential Order gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:13 3/5 with Mojica riding.
Pulgarcito pressed the pace in Sunday's $55,000 Governor's Cup for 2-year-olds, got to the fore when asked by jockey Ken Tohill and raced clear of the field in the stretch, winning by 2 lengths over Race for Jake. Jam'n Jackson finished third. Pulgarcito, a Florida-bred Greatness gelding out of the Storm Cat mare Cat Attack, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.84.
There were 208 international entries, including 65 international Group 1 winners, for the Hong Kong Cup, Vase, Mile and Sprint. Among the entries are Goldikova, Dubussy, Apapane, Snow Fairy, Cape Blanco, Rocket Man and Starspangledbanner. Local favorite Good Ba Ba will try to win the Mile for the fourth consecutive year. Vision d' Etat is entered to defend his title in the Cup. Owners represented on the list include essentially all the major international names from Europe, the Middle East, Japan, the United States and Australia. "There is a wonderful balance at play," said HKJC Executive Director of Racing William A. Nader, "with the great depth of overseas challengers from across the world taking on the best of Hong Kong's relatively small horse population. It will once again prove to be one of the world's great racing occasions."