A tasty menu of big races for 2-year-olds highlighted a Thanksgiving weekend stuffed full of graded stakes action.
From California through Kentucky and Toronto and on to New York, early prospects for the 2011 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks were scrapping for a piece of the graded stakes earnings pie.
Santiva got the jump on favorite Astrology in the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs and held on gamely to win by a half length. Major Gain made some major gain in the late going to miss by another head under the wire. Santiva, a Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway colt out of the Smarten mare Slide, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.31 for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. It was his first win in four starts, coming after a second-place finish in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Asked if Santiva might be Kentucky Derby material, winning trainer Eddie Kenneally said, "Oh sure. He's got the pedigree. There's all the stamina in the world in his pedigree. He's got the profile for the race here in May." Kenneally said Santiva will winter and prep in Florida.
To Honor and Serve served notice he will be reckoned with as a 3-year-old by easily winning Saturday's $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct. Away alertly, the Kentucky-bred Bernardini colt quickly struck the lead, opened up a daylight margin and won by 2 lengths under jockey John Velazquez. Mucho Macho Man and Mountain Town completed the trifecta. To Honor and Serve ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.03. Winning trainer Bill Mott said he would rather have had To Honor and Serve come from off the pace as a lesson after a 4-length, gate-to-wire win in the Nashua earlier in the month. "I think they gain a little more from it, and it's nice to have something to run at," Mott said. "It would have been nice to see him to have to pass somebody. But that's just the way the race turned out … . As with any horse like him, we'll nominate him for everything in case there's a hiccup anywhere." Velazquez said the colt. "hasn't put it all together yet. It was a good effort."
Comma to the Top went right to the front in Saturday's $100,000 Generous Stakes on the grass at Hollywood Park, bounced along in good order under Corey Nakatani and had enough left to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Moment of Weakness. Surrey Star got home third. Comma to the Top, a Florida-bred Bwana Charlie gelding, got the mile on firm going in 1:34.77. Winning trainer Peter Miller said Comma to the Top's immediate future is on the main track. "He's going to the (Cash Call) Futurity (Dec. 18) but turf is a nice option for next year and things like that," Miller said. "I didn't want to train him for six weeks up to the Futurity." Nakatani said the winner has "that natural high cruising speed and that's what makes him a dangerous horse. We're going to have a lot of fun with him."
Tiz Blessed took charge in the stretch run to win Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at Woodbine by 5 1/2 lengths. Moonshine Mullin was best of the rest with Silverleo third and the favorite, Bear's Future, settling for fourth. Tiz Blessed, a Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt out of the Hennessey mare Starboard Stinger, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.23 under Patrick Husbands. It was his second win in three career starts and his first try in a stakes event and first over a synthetic surface.
Pender Harbour had to rally seven-wide to reach contention in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired juveniles at Woodbine. But once in the clear, jockey Slade Callaghan had no trouble booting the Philanthropist colt home. At the end, he was 2 1/2 lengths clear of the place horse, Hippolytus. Ojibway Signal finished third. Pender Harbour ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.60, scoring his second straight win. "You hate to give up ground, but he's a strong horse," said winning trainer Mike De Paulo. "It's a good thing he dragged Slade along and we got the cash. He's been a good horse. No complaints at all."
Der Meister was the man in Saturday's $75,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes for state-breds at Parx Racing, leading from the beginning and winning off by 2 3/4 lengths. The Out of Place colt, ridden by Jose Flores, covered the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.04. Running Tap and Lucky Lewis filled out the trifecta.
Kathmanbleu, bouncing back from a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, drew off in the stretch Saturday in the $150,000 Golden Rod Stakes on the main track at Churchill Downs, winning by 8 1/2 lengths over Missyoulikecrazy. Suave Voir Faire finished third. Kathmanbleu, with Julien Leparoux up, raced in third position until the stretch turn, then quickly settled matters when straightened out for the drive. The Kentucky-bred Bluegrass Cat filly got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.48. "She is now a big-time Oaks prospect," winning trainer Ken McPeek said. "At this point, we will take her to Gulfstream for the winter and take it one day at a time. She probably won't run until late February or early March. I like to have two races in them before the Oaks."
Dixie City was equally impressive in the $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct, leading as much as 6 lengths early in the stretch run and winning by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Believe in A.P. Tap For Luck finished third. Dixie City, a Virginia-bred daughter of Dixie Union, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.84 under Jose Lezcano. "I didn't think the distance was much of an issue as she's bred to go long," winning trainer Tony Dutrow said. "She had running on her mind, and they let her set a nice, easy pace. I left the race in Jose's hands. I didn't know what would happen as these fillies were going two turns." Dixie City has won three of her last four starts.
Neversaidiwassweet had a bit of a rough start in Sunday's $100,000 Miesque Stakes, saved ground while advancing into striking position on the backstretch, found running room on the outside in the stretch and outfinished Holiday for Kitten to win by a half length. The favorite, Cloneylass, finished third. Neversaidiwassweet, a Maryland-bred Eurosilver filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:35.88 with Rafael Bejarano riding for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. "She didn't show me any speed today because she broke really, really slow," Bejarano said. "I had to change my game plan because I thought I was going to be on the lead easy." Hollendorfer said Bejarano made the right decision to bide his time after the bad break. He said Neversaidiwassweet probably is done for the year.
In an early prep for the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, Flash Mash continued her progress with a 10 1/4-lengths victory in an entry-level allowance event at the New Orleans oval. The Smarty Jones filly, in from a win at Keeneland, needed no encouragement from jockey Jamie Theriot. Asked what's next, trainer Mike Stidham said, "We're not in any hurry, let's put it that way. We're certainly going to point her to the big 3-year-old filly races so we're not in any hurry to run her back in a 'two-other-than.'"
Haimish Hy rallied from last, outfinished Sebastian Flyte in the final sixteenth and upset Sunday's $250,000 Hollywood Derby by a neck. Juniper Pass, another late runner, was just another head behind in third. Haimish Hy, a Kentucky-bred Ecton Park colt, got the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.20 with Garret Gomez on the reins. The victory was the third in four turf races for the one-time northern California claimer. "I knew the pace wasn't going to be real strong," said Gomez, "and I thought I would play it by ear and stay inside for as long as I could. He really wasn't all that comfortable down there, so I swung him out turning for home and moved him from behind those horses. His heart got big on him and he came home really well for us."
Victor's Cry led a trio of upsetters under the wire in Saturday's $250,000 Citation Handicap. After laying far off the early pace, jockey Victor Espinoza had to urge Victor's Cry between horses in the stretch run to get him home first, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Proudinsky. Meteore was third, a nose farther back and just a head in front of the favorite, Court Vision, who bobbled at the start. Victor's Cry, a 5-year-old, Virginia-bred Street Cry ridgling, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:39.86. "I didn't want to get stopped under any circumstances because he's such a big horse," Espinoza said. "Turning for home I was just waiting. There was just enough room to get through and when I turned him loose, he had a really strong kick."
Gypsy's Warning circled three-wide into the stretch in Friday's $250,000 Matriarch Stakes, collared the leaders in the final sixteenth and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Wasted Tears. Go Forth North was third while the favorite, Special Duty, trailed the field all the way 'round. Gypsy's Warning, a 5-year-old, South Africa-bred Mogok mare, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.01 with Joel Rosario riding. It was her second win in five tries in the United States and made her a Grade 1winner both here and in her native land. "I didn't really take her back," Rosario said. "I just let her relax and get comfortable. She seemed like she was going to be a little rank, but she settled herself down. When I asked her to go, she really kicked."
Cost of Freedom had 'em all the way in Thursday's $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes, making all the going and winning by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths. Gato Go Win rallied outside rivals in the lane to gain second and Scenic Blast was third with a late move. Cost of Freedom, a 7-year-old, California-bred Cee's Tizzy gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.46 with Joe Talamo up. "What's nice is that we've had him long enough that he feels like family," said winning trainer John Sadler. "So it's a good time to win on Thanksgiving."
In Friday's $55,000 Raise Your Skirts Stakes, Reba Is Tops came out on top, 1 1/4 lengths better than Pink Diamond. Waveline was third. Reba Is Tops, a 6-year-old, Washington-bred He's Tops mare, ran 6 furlongs in firm going in 1:09.06 with Patrick Valenzuela at the reins.
Dance With Gable led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Sunday's $75,000 Wild Harmony Stakes. The favorite, Afleet Ruler, was second and My Summer Slew finished third. Dance With Gable, a 6-year-old, California-bred Dance Floor gelding, got the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.48 with Joe Talamo aboard.
Jersey Town battled through the final furlong with Haynesfield in Saturday's $250,000 Hill 'N' Dale Cigar Mile, exchanging the lead before finally prevailing by a head in a major upset. Girolamo was third and the favorite, Bribon, checked in fourth. Jersey Town, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt, finished in 1:34.43 over a fast track with Cornelio Velazquez riding. The winner went off at odds of nearly 35-1, the longest shot on the board. "It was a miracle," exulted winning trainer Barclay Tagg. "What was he, 34-1? I liked him, I just didn't think the race would come up that tough. Mr. Fipke (owner Charles E.) had him out west, and wanted to go to the Breeders' Cup. I talked him out of that, and said the Cigar Mile would be a lot easier, and it's still a Grade 1. Then the race came up so tough, and I thought we made a mistake." Tagg said Jersey Town will remain in training "for a little bit."
No Such Word came down the stretch four-abreast before finally drawing clear to win Saturday's $250,000 Gazelle for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths over early leader Awesome Maria. Seeking the Title finished third. No Such Word, a Kentucky-bred Canadian Frontier filly, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:51.05 with Terry Thompson in the irons. It was her third consecutive stakes victory, including a 6 1/2-lengths victory in her last outing, the Remington Park Oaks. "That was the way we planned it, to win, absolutely!" said winning trainer Cindy Jones. "She had been training so awesome into this race. The last race at Remington, Terry said she didn't get out of a fast gallop and came out of the race so good. It looked like she was galloping down the backside and when he asked her to go, it was all over."
Endless Circle had to check sharply while rallying in the stretch but still went on to win Thursday's $100,000 Fall Highweight Handicap by 2 lengths over Jack On the Rocks. Wildcat Frankie led much of the way and held on for third. Go Go Shoot, who prompted the pace, stumbled and fell about the 3 1/16 pole, causing the traffic that affected the winner. Both horse and rider left the track under their own power. Endless Circle, a 6-year-old, New York-bred Precise End horse, got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.79, carrying 129 pounds, including Edgar Prado. Claimed in April for $14,000 by trainer Rudy Rodriguez, Endless Circle went on to win four of his next five starts, including a pair of minor stakes. "He's a horse who's been very good to us," Rodriguez said.
Spacy Tracy came around the stretch turn along the rail in Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap, found herself blocked and had to wait almost until the furlong marker before jockey Jeremy Rose could get outside for room. Once there, 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Awesome Again mare responded, jetting off to win by 3/4 length over Our Khrysty. Qualia led the way and held on for third. Spacy Tracy ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.28, picking up her third straight win. "The trip was pretty much perfect, other than that I had to wait a lot longer than I wanted to," said Rose. "She really rated well and responded perfectly. She's coming into her own and every race she's been getting better and faster."
Ruffino pressed the pace in Thursday's $60,000 Tinchen's Prince Stakes for New York-breds, took a narrow lead turning for home and held gamely to win by a neck over an onrushing Icabad Crane. Mine Over Matter was just another neck back in third. The favorite, Wishful Tomcat, led early and held third. Ruffino, a 7-year-old Raffie's Majesty gelding, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.98 with Mike Luzzi up. Check the Equibase chart footnotes for a masterpiece of race writing!
Sal the Barber pitched to the inside around the turn in Friday's $60,000 Three Coins Up Stakes and brushed back pacesetting Followmyfootsteps in the final steps to win by a head. Nicantor, Barbaro's full brother, was always close but settled for third. Sal the Barber, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Alphabet Soup colt, got the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:44.61 with Cornelio Velazquez riding.
Giant Oak got the win in Friday's $500,000 Clark Handicap thanks to a stewards' decision after finishing a head behind the favorite, Successful Dan. The ruling was that Successful Dan was a bit too aggressive in creating running room past Redding Colliery at the top of the lane. Redding Colliery, who finished third, was promoted to second and Successful Dan was placed third. Giant Oak, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred Giant's Causeway colt, meanwhile, had rallied five-wide around the leaders and had dead aim on Successful Dan in the final sixteenth, falling just short. The 9 furlongs on a fast track took 1:50.82. Shaun Bridgmohan rode Giant Oak while Julien Leparoux had his hands full the entire race aboard an eager Successful Dan. Rosie Napravnik, who has had mounts all the length of the Illinois-Mississippi River system in the past few days, rode Redding Colliery. "I was right outside of it all. I saw what was happening," Bridgmohan said. "I thought both horses ran hard to the wire. It was all out of my hands. I was hoping I got put up … If he shows up and gives it to you there is no telling how much talent this horse has."
Dundalk Dust rallied from last of six to run away with Thursday's $150,000 Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares, winning by 2 lengths over High Quail. Striking Dancer was third. Dundalk Dancer, a 3-year-old, Illinois-bred Military filly, got the 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:53.37 also with Bridgmohan in the irons. "I was a little concerned with her in the first turn because she dropped back and I thought she wasn't handling the track," said winning trainer Chris Block. "But you could see in the far turn she gathered momentum and I felt real good from that point on."
The wins in the Clark and Falls City gave Block three stakes wins at the Churchill Downs meet – all with Illinois-breds. "It's awful sweet to have these guys come down here and run as good as they have," said Block, long a fixture on the Chicago circuit.
Golden Gate Fields
Cigar Man laid well off a moderate early pace in Friday's $100,000 All American Stakes, came out for room entering the lane and just outfinished Hot Chacao to win by a head. Out Nautique led the way and held on for third. Cigar Man, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Drewman gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.78 under Juan Hernandez.
Antioch Diamond was quickly on the lead in Friday's $50,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for Oklahoma-breds, opened a big margin and coasted home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Specialfite. The favorite, Steal Your Face, finished third. Antioch Diamond, a 5-year-old Deodar gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.48 with Ramsey Zimmerman up.
She's All In was ridden out at the end of Friday's $50,000 Ladies on the Lawn Stakes for state-breds, 2 1/2 lengths in front of the field. Skedee was second and Going Okie was third. She's All In, a 3-year-old Include filly, was clocked in 1:31.29 for 7 furlongs of firm turf with Luis Quinonez in the irons.
Mambo Galliano waited behind the leaders in Thursday's $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, circled his rivals when asked by jockey James Graham inside the quarter pole, then drew clear and won by 4 lengths. Sweetsouthernmoon was second, a nose better than Cool Bullet. Mambo Galliano, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Black Mambo gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56. "He's been working up to this one, and we got some lovely little splits to set off of before he took off," Graham said. "Hopefully, he'll keep improving off of this one."
Hallway beamed up from the middle of the pack to win Friday's $60,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes for Louisiana-breds, beating early leader Chief Jay by 1 length. The favorite, Desert Wheat, finished third. Hallway, a 6-year-old son of Graeme Hall, got the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.89 with Jaime Theriot in the irons.
Hayley's Halo overhauled pacesetting Petition the Lady in the late going to win Saturday's $55,000 Zia Park Distaff by a neck. No Other Tone was third. Hayley's Halo, a 3-year-old, California-bred Sea of Secrets filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.99 under Alejandro Medellein. The winning time was just 39/100 second off the track record.
Buena Vista surged to the lead with a furlong to run in Sunday's Japan Cup and went on to cross the finish line first by 1 3/4 lengths. But, after 24 minutes of deliberation, the stewards ruled the 4-year-old filly had interfered with Rose Kingdom early in the stretch run and reversed the order of finish. The unpopular decision at least wasn't costly as the two top finishers share the same ownership. But even winning trainer Kojiro Hashiguchi, who was given his first victory in the Japan Cup, said, "It leaves a bad taste in my mouth." Rose Kingdom's rider, Yutaka Take, said he had good position as the field turned for home. "Then, we had a nice clear path going up the hill and just when we were about to hit the accelerator, we were bumped two or three times from the outside and the inside. In any case, he finished strongly." Victoire Pisa finished in third place with Jaguar Mail and Pelusa fourth and fifth. France's Cirrus des Aigle, in ninth place, was the best finisher among overseas contenders. Ireland's Joshua Tree finished in 10th place.
News and Notes: Zenyatta will make her final public appearance in California during a special celebration Sunday, Dec. 5 at Hollywood Park. The 6-year-old Street Cry mare, who finished her career with 19 wins in 20 starts and more than $7.3 million in earnings, will visit the paddock after the sixth race, then parade in front of the grandstand and clubhouse. On Monday, she will depart for Lane's End Farm to begin producing Zenyettas.