Snow Fairy, the British-based multiple Oaks winner and budding international star, brought to mind the exploits of Ouija Board and even Zenyatta in winning Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup.
Like Zenyatta, the British-based filly swept wide from the back of the field to win the Cup -- by a neck. And since she is returning to training next year, she summons memories of Quija Board, the outstanding mare who terrorized international competition for years, including a victory in the Hong Kong Vase as well as two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
A pair of local runners, Irian and Packing Winner, finished second and third in Sunday's Cup. But none could stand before the 3-year-old filly who now has won Group 1 events in England, Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong.
With Ryan Moore up for trainer Ed Dunlop, Snow Fairy was held up in the second half of the 13-horse field contesting the 2,000-meter event. It was not until the leaders straightened out into the stretch run that Moore got to work on his filly and she responded sharply.
Moving on the outside, Snow Fairy quickly moved to the leaders and, with a final surge, made the lead in the final yards. Irian, the winner of the local prep for this race, was second with a late run of his own. Packing Winner, leader at midstretch, held on along the rail to just beat defending champion Vision d'Etat for third.
The race, over good turf, was clocked in 2:02.96.
"At the top of the bend, I thought I had no chance," Moore said. "She's very special. You won't find too many fillies who'll do what she did today."
Snow Fairy, an Irish-bred daughter of Intikhab, ends her year with five wins from seven starts. The victories include the Epsom and Irish Oaks and the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto. She won the Irish Oaks by 8 lengths and the Japanese race by 4.
Along with miler Goldikova, Snow Fairy now is at the apex of world-class fillies and mares. Dunlop said she will remain in training and he hopes to bring her back for another try at the Cup next December.
"She's not the biggest filly in the world," he said, "but she has the biggest heart."
Dunlop knows as he also trained Ouija Board, among other greats.
Snow Fairy was the favorite in the Cup but the French contingent led by Vision d'Etat looked strongest of all. In addition to the defending champ, the French group included multiple winners Reggane, Planteur and Stacelita. None figured in the key parts of the race, however.
The Cup capped a truly international day of racing at Sha Tin Racecourse in the New Territories.
Beauty Flash stepped up to win the Mile for the home team after pre-race favorite Able One was scratched at the gate. J J The Jet Plane, from South Africa, won a tight victory over Singapore-based Rocket Man in the Sprint. And Mastery, from the powerful Godolphin Racing operation in Dubai, powered to victory in the Vase.
Beauty Flash won a slow running of Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile, holding off French representative Royal Bench at the end.
The race was thrown into a bit of confusion as the favorite, Able One, was scratched just before loading into the starting gate. Able One had suffered an eye injury earlier in the week but the late scratch, which cost the Hong Kong Jockey Club upwards of HK$30 million in refunded bets, resulted from the horse warming up poorly.
Beauty Flash, a 5-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding based in Hong Kong, had struggled here and in Japan since winning the Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile in January. In Sunday's race, jockey Gerald Mosse stayed just off a slow pace, produced his horse turning for home and seemed a clear winning in the final 100 meters.
At the end, however, Royal Bench, who raced last before the turn, came charging on the outside and fell just short of catching the winner. Another French runner, Sahpresa, finished third. A Shin Forward, representing Japan, dead-heated with yet another French representative, Rajsaman, for fourth and fifth.
The 1 mile over good turf was clocked in 1:34.79 -- slower than the standard for Sha Tin Race Course.
"We took a good start and, even though I couldn't lead, I was happy to be camped on the speed," Mosse said. "The more I asked of him, the more he gave."
Paco Boy, making his last start after a stellar campaign in Europe and a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, was unable to keep up from an outside post position and finished last of 13. "That wasn't him," said rider Ryan Moore.
J J The Jet Plane, representing South Africa, won a tight stretch battle with Singapore's Rocket Man in Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint.
In a race usually dominated by the home team, Hong Kong's favorite and last year's winner, Sacred Kingdom, could do no better than third behind the invaders.
J J The Jet Plane, with Piere Styrdom up, raced just off the early pace. As the field straightened into the stretch, he and Rocket Man moved together toward the front and battled to the wire. The margin was a short head, with Sacred Kingdom 3/4 length farther back and the 1,200 meters was clocked in 1:08.84.
"When we eased out on straightening, I was happy to go after Rocket Man because I didn't want him to get away," Styrdom said. "My bloke gave me everything and we got there on the line."
"What can I say?" lamented Rocket Man's rider, Felix Coetzee. "We just have to accept it. Thought we had it but he's run so well again."
It was a storybook end to an unusual two-year stretch for the South African runner. Sent to England in 2009, he struggled against top company. Finally, he returned to South Africa this year, where he quickly rebounded, winning a pair of local Group 1 events.
The 6-year-old gelding came into Sunday's event with the question mark of whether he could carry his home form anywhere overseas.
Rocket Man, perhaps the best horse ever in Singapore, finished second to Kinsale King in this year's Dubai Golden Shaheen and had dead-heated for the win in the local prep for this race.
Mastery jumped to the top tier of international racing with an easy win in Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase.
With jockey Frankie Dettori riding, Mastery was always prominent as long-shot Mighty High showed the way in the 2,400-meter event. Around the stretch turn, Dettori stepped on the gas and Mastery responded immediately, surging to the lead and winning by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths in 2:27.69.
Redwood, trained in England and recently raced in the top events in Canada, ran well late to take second. The favorite, Americain, winner of the Melbourne Cup, fell short with his rally and settled for third.
"He was traveling so well coming into the straight," Dettori said. "When I eased him out, I knew he was going so well that he would outsprint all of them."
Mastery, the only runner on the day's card for Dubai-based Godolphin Racing, is a 4-year-old, British-bred son of Sulamani. He finished fifth in this year's Dubai World Cup, then third in the Group 3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket. In his last outing, the Floodlit Stakes over the all-weather track at Kempton, he won in a dead heat with Dansili Dancer.
For his career, the Saeed bin Suroor-trained colt now has five wins from 13 starts.
In weekend racing back in the United States:
Grant Jack led a parade of long shots under the wire in Saturday night's $250,000 Springboard Mile, generating a pari-mutuel payoff almost equal to that awarded his owners. A Kentucky-bred Harlan's Holiday colt out of the St. Jovite mare Dream Away, Grant Jack stalked the pace set by Brickyard Fast, rallied three-wide when asked and scored by 1 length. Brickyard Fast held second, a head in front of Aces and Kings. The favorite, Caleb's Posse, finished seventh and the winners generated a $2 superfecta payout of $104,293.20 although any winners apparently had it for a dime. Grant Jack ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.98.
Positive Response responded immediately at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, surging to a comfortable lead and drawing off smartly at the end to win by 6 lengths over Grand Maneuver. King Cola was third while the favorite, Luckarack, saved ground near the rear and stayed there, finishing next-to-last of eight. Positive Response, a Florida-bred Pomeroy gelding out of the Farma Way mare Lisa's Approval, got the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.75 with Julien Couton in the irons.
After racing well off the pace, Table Games came four-wide around rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity for state-breds and poked a nose in front of Domain's Rap to post the mild upset win. The favorite, Next Kitten, held the lead early in the stretch run but faded to finish third. Table Games, a Hold That Tiger gelding out of the Prospectors Gamble mare Lady Dealer, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.8 with Eusibio Razo Jr. riding. "Table Games ran his heart out," said winning trainer Chris Block. "He looked like he struggled with the mud early on. He's a gutty horse … Even at the eighth pole I didn't think he was going to get there. But he just continued to go on."
Su Casa G Casa justified his favorite's status in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile for state-breds at the Fair Grounds, tracking the early pace before asserting himself and winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Toro Bravo was second and Fort Hood finished third. Su Casa G Casa, a During colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.86 with Carlos Gonzalez up. "I thought he was the fastest horse but I didn't want him to go too fast and take a chance that he'd get burned out," said winning trainer Bret Calhoun. "Carlos did a good job the first three-eighths of a mile settling him in and the race went like we had hoped."
Turbulent Descent stalked the pace in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Hollywood Starlet at Hollywood Park, eased out for room in the stretch and drew off under a hand ride to score by 1 1/4 lengths over long-shot Big Tiz. Tell a Kelly was third. Turbulent Descent, a Florida-bred Congrats filly out of the Forestry mare Roger's Sue, finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.18 for jockey David Flores, remaining undefeated in three trips to the track. "I wasn't going to take any chances and I would have hit her, but it was not needed," said Flores. "I just hand rode her all the way out. I just showed her the whip. It was a little more like a test today, but she won just the same. I am a little excited and a little relieved." Winning trainer Mike Puype said the filly will get a few months off before starting her 3-year-old campaign. "She's got a great, promising future," he said.
Love's Reason rated behind the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship for state-breds, advanced nicely in the final furlongs and at the end got off to a 2 1/4-lengths victory. Oriental Cruise cruised on the lead until she was overtaken by the winner but held second, 1/2 length ahead of Side By Side. Love's Reason, a Not For Love filly out of the Sky Classic mare Elaines Reason, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:33.88 with Travis Dunkelberger in the irons.
Reyina led all the way and turned back all challenges en route to an upset victory in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie for state-breds at Fair Grounds. At the wire, jockey Jamie Theriot had Reyina's nose in front of Sweet Ruston. Tensas Punch was third and Lawyer Tiffany finished fourth. Reyina, a Mr. John filly out of the A.P. Indy mare Feminine Heart, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.23. Winning trainer Tony Richey said his advice to Theriot "was to ride her. She'll do what she wants to do. She ran super. She ran great."
Temecula Creek attended the pace in Tuesday's $75,000 Valley Forge Stakes, eased to the outside in the stretch and won going away. One Ocean Drive set a pressured pace and held on for second, 2 1/2 lengths behind the winner and 1 1/2 lengths in front of Indianski. Temecula Creek, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred son of Gulch, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.82 under Cornelio Velasquez.
More Than a Reason rallied from last of six to post a big upset in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Queens County Handicap, outfinishing Stormy's Majesty by a head. Arson Squad was just another neck back in third as the odds-on favorite. More Than a Reason, let go at odds of 19-1, ran the 1 3/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:5769. Eddie Castro rode the 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of More Than Ready for trainer Randi Persaud. "I was supposed to run him last Sunday for the optional claim," Persaud said. "But I just skipped it. I was shooting straight for this race. I claimed him for $15,000. You've got to be in it to win it. He's going to have a break now."
Quiet Giant pressed the pace in Sunday's $60,000 Cheap Seats Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got by pacesetting Malibu Legacy turning for home and spurted clear, winning by 8 3/4 lengths. Malibu Legacy held second, 2 lengths ahead of Indian Burn. Quiet Giant, a Virginia-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway, finished the 1 mile over the sloppy inner track in 1:38.46 with John Velazquez aboard.
Calder Race Course
Tackleberry survived pace pressure on the lead all the way in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Fred W. Hooper Handicap, then held off the late surge of Dream Maestro to win by a desperate nose. Mambo Meister was third, 3 lengths back, as the favorite. Tackleberry, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred Montbrook gelding and not to be confused with Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase starter Jakkalberry, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:54.42 for jockey Javier Santiago.
Ultra Blend rallied three-wide into the lane in Sunday's $75,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for California-bred fillies and mares, jumped to the lead and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Word Association. Warren's Jitterbug finished third. Ultra Blend, a 4-year-old daughter of Richly Blended, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:29.76 with Joel Rosario in the irons. Winning trainer Art Sherman said he probably will point Ultra Blend to the Sunshine Millions Distaff at Santa Anita or the Filly and Mare Sprint at Gulfstream Park.
Cost of Freedom essentially got a paid workout in Saturday's $55,000 Miles Tyson Stakes, leading all the way to obliterate a trio of rivals. At the wire, jockey Joe Talamo had Cost of Freedom well in hand and 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Quick Enough. Square Deal and El Scorpio completed the order of finish. Cost of Freedom, a 7-year-old, California-bred Cee's Tizzy gelding, finished the 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 56.14 seconds.
Cali Baby broke next-to-last of a dozen in Sunday's $120,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap for state-bred distaffers, circled six-wide when asked on the turn and advanced steadily through the stretch, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Happy Me. The early leader, Glory Be Mine, finished third. Cali Baby, a 4-year-old Thatsusintheolebean filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track for jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr. in 1:10.04.
Chuchuluco got the better of a stretch duel with pacesetting favorite Smash Dancer in Sunday's $120,000 Johnie L. Jamison Stakes for state-breds, scoring by 1 length. Romeos Wilson finished third. Chuchuloco, a 3-year-old Devon Lane gelding, finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.56 with Justin Shepherd aboard.
Ducky Drake rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $50,000 KLAQ Handicap by 1/2 length over Tactful. Kineticat Yankee finished third as the favorite. Ducky Drake, an 8-year-old, California-bred Benchmark gelding, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.31 under jockey Miguel Hernandez.
Tampa Bay Downs
Suzzona kicked off the Gulf Coast track's stakes program by keying a healthy trifecta in Saturday's $75,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares. After tracking the pace, jockey Hector Ramos found Suzzona boxed in early in the stretch run, finally got out for running room and was along in time to win by 1/2 length. Longshots Trippi's Sailor and Tremendamente completed the $3,362.20 tri payout. Suzzona, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by The Name's Jimmy, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.83 seconds.
Kiss Mine got outside her rivals turning for home in Saturday's $50,000 My Charmer Stakes, rallied quickly to the lead and opened out to a 1 1/2-lengths victory. Costal Solace made most of the going and held on for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of My Baby Baby. Kiss Mine, a cleverly named 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mineshaft filly out of the Kris S. mare Kiss the Devil, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:48.65 with Greta Kuntzweiler up.
In Louisiana Champions Day races other than the juveniles:
Star Guitar, to the surprise of none, easily ran off with the $150,000 Classic, toying with five rivals before putting paid to all of them in the straight, winning by 4 lengths for his second straight win in the event and fourth on Champions Day programs. Snug was second with Eighth At Citypark third. Star Guitar, a 5-year-old son of Quiet American, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.12 with Robby Albarado handling the reins for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Ladyzarbridge led all the way to upset the $100,000 Ladies, winning easily at the end by 2 1/4 lengths over Superior Storm. The favorite, Little Polka Dot, weakened late after challenging and finished third. Ladyzarbridge, a 3-year-old Zarbyev filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on main track in 1:45.81 with Rosie Napravnik aboard.
Flashy Wise Cat flashed from the back of a 10-horse field to win the $100,000 Sprint by 3 3/4 lengths over pacesetting My Star Runner. Foreign Production got home third. Flashy Wise Cat, a 5-year-old son of Catastrophe, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.58 with Kerwin Clark up.
Cajun Conference overcame a bad start in the $100,000 Ladies Sprint, hustled into contention and finally drew off in the lane to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Good Human Bean. Cherry Forever was third. Cajun Conference, a 4-year-old Gold Tribute filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.45 for jockey Miguel Mena.
Snakebite Kit led all the way to a 1 3/4-lengths victory in the $100,000 Turf Handicap. Kissimmee Kyle tracked the winner but lacked the needed rally and finished second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Hallway. Snakebite Kit, a 4-year-old Sky Classic gelding, ran the "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.13 with Rosie Napravnik riding.