As all thoroughbreds prepared to celebrate their official birthday on New Year's Day, a few were taking their last shot as 2-year-olds in races across the country.
The weekend also featured some early tests -- including the year's first derby and oaks -- for the newly turned 3-year-olds.
Silver Medallion got the first run on the leaders in Friday's $75,000 Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds at Santa Anita, opened a nice advantage and held off the odds-on favorite, Ten Devils, to win by a half length. Moment of Weakness came from last of eight to finish third. Silver Medallion, a Kentucky-bred Badge of Silver colt out of the Stalwart mare Another Vegetarian, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:35.67 under Garrett Gomez. Steve Asmussen trains the colt.
At Sunland Park in New Mexico, Jannas Pride battled from behind through a mix of rain and snow to win Thursday's $120,000 Red Hedeman Stakes for state-bred juveniles by 1 1/2 lengths. A pair of long shots, Deity and Desert Gulch, completed the trifecta. Jannas Pride, a Desert God colt out of the Candi's Gold mare Janna, won the mile on a fast track in 1:40.33 with Juan Ochoa in the irons.
Way down yonder in New Orleans, Populist Politics closed well to beat the favorite, Toro Bravo, by 1 3/4 lengths in Friday's $50,000 Louisiana Futurity for state-breds at Fair Grounds. The trailblazer, Pale Blazer, held on for third. Populist Politics, a Don't Get Mad colt out of the Souvenir Copy mare Cedar Summer, ran the 6 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:12.72. Richard Eramia had the ride. Winning trainer Tom Amoss said if his colt shows the ability to stretch out, the March 25 Crescent City Derby might be a "logical place to go."
Tales In Excess tracked the pace set by Wave of Applause in Friday's $75,000 Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita, then just put her nose in front under the wire. Recipient was 1 1/2 lengths back in third at a good price. Tales In Excess, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tale of the Cat out of the In Excess mare Excess's Best, got the mile on firm turf in 1:36.23 for jockey Joel Rosario. Jerry Hollendorfer conditions the filly.
Sweet Ruston pressed the pace early in Friday's $50,000 Louisiana Futurity for state-breds at Fair Grounds, then drew off smartly in the lane to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Illustrious Dream. Take Me Home Too had the early advantage and salvaged third. Sweet Ruston, with Corey Lanerie in the irons for trainer Mike Burgess, ran 6 muddy furlongs in 1:12.92. She is a Lydgate filly out of the Bold Ruckus mare Carenage. Asked if Sweet Ruston, who has never been farther than 6 furlongs, would be pointed toward a start at two turns in her future, winning trainer Mike Burgess said, "She's very fast away from the gate but I don't see anything that would stop this filly from stretching out." He said he is eyeing the Crescent City Oaks on March 25.
In other racing:
Calder Race Course
The year's first derby, Saturday's $100,000 Tropical Park Derby, produced a minor upset with King Congie rallying in the final 16th to best pacesetting Private Prize by a half length. The favorite, Swift Warrior, wasn't quite swift enough and finished third, lacking a late bid. King Congie, a Kentucky-bred Badge of Silver colt, finished the 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:49.46 with Javier Castellano at the controls. "In his first start," winning trainer Tom Albertrani said, "he ran into Uncle Mo and looked like he was going up to the lead at one point in the race before he stopped. Then we came back in another sprint and didn't get the result we were hoping for. That's when we went to the turf for his last start and obviously that's worked out well. We'll keep him on turf now and point for the races at Gulfstream." This race is noted as Barbaro's first start as a 3-year-old.
The $65,000 Tropical Park Oaks went to Dynamic Holiday, who rallied three-wide to the late lead and held on by a nose over A Brilliant Idea. The favorite, Triune, finished another 1 1/2 lengths back in third after leading early in the stretch run. Dynamic Holiday, a Pennsylvania-bred Harlan's Holiday filly out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, got the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:43.89 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. "She put it together today and looks like it could be onward and upward for her from here," said David Rock, assistant to winning trainer Graham Motion.
Changing Times bided her time early in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III La Prevoyante Handicap, then surged three-wide to the lead and easily drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Casablanca Skies was best of the rest, with Tarrip third. Changing Skies, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred Sadler's Wells mare, ran the 12 furlongs on good turf in 2:27.91 with Kent Desormeaux up. "They left there running the first part of it and went the early fractions kind of quick," Desormeaux said. "I didn't want to get caught up in that so I let my mare settle back and she responded exactly the way I needed her to."
Toocleverforwords won a hot stretch battle with Joanie's Catch in Saturday's $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares, winning by a length with a late surge. Striking Dancer was well back in third and the favorite, Funny Moon, finished last of 11. Toocleverforwords, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Arch mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.39 for jockey Luis Saez.
Golden Gate Fields
Lilacs and Lace stalked the pace set by Cathy's Crunches in Saturday's $100,000 California Oaks, took over halfway down the stretch and prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths. Sister Glady Oh La finished third. Lilacs and Lace, a Kentucky-bred Flower Alley filly out of the Seattle Slew mare Refinement, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.32 with Russell Baze in the irons.
Spring Style pressed the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Robert J. Frankel Memorial, got the lead turning for home and held off a late bid from odds-on favorite Harmonious to win by a nose. Go Forth North and Power of Voodoo completed the order of finish. Beverly D. winner Eclair de Lune was a late scratch. Spring Style, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred Pivotal mare, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.08. Garrett Gomez rode. "She can get a little lazy if she's up front on her own," winning trainer Ben Cecil said. "So I told Garrett, 'Just sit right off somebody if you can,' and he rode her perfect."
Dilemma rallied from mid-pack in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Daytona Stakes and got clear late to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Quick Enough. The favorite, Regally Ready, could do no better than third. Dilemma, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Grand Slam, got the "about' 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.28, also with Gomez up. "When I got him outside," Gomez said, "he came home well and finished really good. He's 7, and hopefully coming into his prime now, but apparently he hasn't lost a step."
Unzip Me zipped right to the lead in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Monrovia Stakes for fillies and mares and maintained the advantage to the wire, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Broken Dreams. Reba Is Tops finished third. Unzip Me, a 5-year-old, California-bred City Zip mare who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in her previous start, got the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside course in 1:12.72 with Rafael Bejarano riding. "She ended up having a great trip," winning trainer Marty Jones said. "She got a nice, easy lead like she likes and did her thing. Once she gets out of there and gets going, she's something special."
Avie's Tale hit her best gear in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Blushing K.D. Handicap, quickly circling the field and drawing clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Single Solution followed the winner and finished second while Mizzcan'tbewrong contested the pace, then held on for third. Avie's Tale, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tale of the Cat mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.81 with Rosie Napravnik up.
Max Me Out stalked the pace in Friday's $60,000 Woodchopper Stakes for 3-year-olds, engaged pacesetting Royal Express early in the stretch run and finally got clear, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Royal Express held on for second, 2 lengths better than odds-on favorite Red Strike. Max Me Out, a Florida-bred Max's Pal gelding, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a muddy track in 1:45.19 with Jamie Theriot in the irons. The race originally was carded for a mile on the grass.
Monzon rallied from last to first to win Saturday's $65,000 Count Fleet Stakes for newly turned 3-year-olds, scoring by a length over J J's Lucky Train. Pants On Fire made the early lead and faded to finish third. Monzon, a Maryland-bred Thunder Gulch gelding, ran the mile and 70 yards on the fast inner track in 1:42.42 under Edgar Prado.
Breathoffreshheir went to the lead after a half mile of Sunday's $65,000 Ruthless Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and finished well, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Status Pending. Sweet Susan finished third. Breathoffreshheir, a New Jersey-bred Wildcat Heir filly out of the Appealing Skiier mare Uphill Skier, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.30 with Carlos Marquez Jr. up.
Nicole H came through in the stretch drive of Saturday's $65,000 Interborough Handicap for fillies and mares after patient early handling by jockey Ramon Dominguez. When asked, the odds-on favorite charged by the leaders with about a furlong to run and won off by 2 1/2 lengths. Meese Rocks finished second with Purrfect Bluff third. Graham Ross's favorite, Bob's Dylan, finished fourth. Nicole H, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mr. Greeley filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.71.
Preachintothedevil ran by pacesetting Eminent Tale in the late going of Saturday's $60,000 Champagneforashley Stakes for New York-bred, 3-year-olds and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. The favorite, Sky Music, finished third. Preachintothedevil, a Pulpit colt, ran the mile and 70 yards in 1:43.48 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
Icabad Crane waited off the pace until the stretch run in Friday's $65,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for New York-breds, then quickly found the front and held on to win by a half length. Manteca showed the way and finished second, 2 3/4 lengths better than Mine Over Matter. Icabad Crane, a 5-year-old Jump Start gelding out of the Rahy mare Adorahy, got the 1 1/16 miles over the fast inner track in 1:44.48 with Rajiv Maragh up.
Western Prospector came five-wide into the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes, quickly cleared his rivals and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over River Bear. The favorite, Tend, was third with a belated run. Western Prospector, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred West Acre gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.58 with Ben Creed riding.
Tampa Bay Downs
Stormy Publisher set a pressured pace in Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on through the stretch to win by a nose over late-running favorite My Irish Girl. Choragus was only a neck farther back in third. Stormy Publisher, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred Bernstein mare, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.71 with Frederic Lenclud in the irons.
Relatorre worked his way to the lead in Friday's $25,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes for 3-year-olds, opened a daylight lead turning for home and went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Michael the Man. Slew's Approval finished third. Relatorre, a California-bred Redattore gelding, traveled 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:44.08 with Chris Landeros in the irons.
Desert Gamble started near the back of a 12-horse field in Sunday's $100,000 Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap for New Mexico-breds, had to circle seven-wide to get clear turning for home and still had enough gas to catch Lefty Who, who had a big lead at mid-stretch. At the end, Desert Gamble won by a neck with Spinning Touch third. Desert Gamble, a 6-year-old Desert God gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.27 with Justin Shepherd up.