The weather may be cold up north but the Kentucky Derby competition is heating up nicely down south and out west.
And one of the new hot ones is named Soldat.
Soldat ran well on the grass as a 2-year-old, including a solid second to Pluck in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. Friday, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin gave him a try on the main course in the featured Gulfstream Park allowance race.
"We decided some time ago that, despite how well he did on turf last year, we didn't want to wait until October to find out if he was as good on dirt," McLaughlin said. "They are only 3-year-olds once."
Soldat made the most of the opportunity, winning by 10 3/4 lengths and finishing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.22 over a sloppy track. Cool Blue Red Hot pressed the pace into the stretch, then faded to finish an irrelevant second. Beamer was third.
Soldat, a Kentucky-bred son of War Front out of the Coronado's Quest mare Le Relais, was ridden by Alan Garcia.
McLaughlin said Soldat probably will make his next start in the Grade III Fountain of Youth on Feb. 26.
"There still may be some question of how he handles a fast track, although I'm not really that concerned the way he has trained," McLaughlin said. "And now we know the distance isn't a problem."
Trainer Nick Zito, citing the sloppy track, scratched one of his early Derby hopefuls, Dialed In. Zito said Dialed In may have to target Gulfstream's Grade III Holy Bull on Jan. 30.
"It's not what I wanted to do, but it looks like that's what we're going to do," he said. "I'll try to get another race, but if not, we'll go to the Holy Bull."
Elsewhere amongst the sophomores:
-- Wilkinson skimmed the rail in Saturday's $75,000, Grade III Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, getting by pacesetting New York invader Pants On Fire in the final yards to win by a head. Action Ready was 5 lengths farther back in third. The favorite, Justin Philip, faded in the lane to finish last of five. Wilkinson, a Kentucky-bred colt by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Afternoon Deelites mare Tasha's Delight, ran 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:40.97, picking up his second win in five starts. Winning trainer Neil Howard, asked about the Louisiana Derby, said, "I think all of us with these 3-year-olds are thinking about those races. If the colt keeps doing well I am sure we would like to. I'd say we are pointing to it but I will talk with (the owner) and we'll figure out what we want to do."
-- Indian Winter rallied three-wide into the lane and went onto upset Monday's $65,000 San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita, winning by 1/2 length over front-running City Cool. Sinai finished third. Indian Winter, a Kentucky-bred Indian Charlie colt out of the Dixieland Band mare Backroom Blues, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.23 with Martin Pedroza up. Dan Ward, assistant to winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, noted Indian Winter beat Jacito -- later the winner of the Grade I Norfolk Stakes, early in his 2-year-old campaign before a disappointing performance in the Del Mar Futurity in September. "We ran him back kind of quick (in the Futurity) and he had trouble on the backside and it was kind of disappointing," Ward said. "But then we gave him time and it paid off today. I hope he can go a little longer."
-- Fort Hughes went smartly to the lead in Monday's $65,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct, drifted out toward the middle of the track down the backstretch but recovered to mount a winning stretch drive, finishing 4 3/4 length in front at the end. Royal Courier was second and Rift finished third. Fort Hughes, a Kentucky-bred Henny Hughes colt out of the Roar mare Forty Greeta, got the 6 furlongs on a fast inner track in 1:08.33 with Eddie Castro up.
-- Beau Wizer dueled with favorite Russian Lane into the stretch in Saturday's $120,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap for New Mexico-breds at Sunland Park, put away that rival and held off It's Tera at the end to win by a neck. Capitol Guy finished third while Russian Lane folded late, getting home seventh of nine starters. Beau Wizer, a Premeditation gelding out of the Beau Genius mare Miss Einstein, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.53 with Casey Lambert up. Winning trainer Ray Ashford Jr. said shortening up Beau Wizer to sprint distance after a seventh-place finish at a mile last time out may have made a difference.
-- Aces N Kings made all the going in Saturday's $50,000 Groovy Stakes for Texas-breds at Sam Houston Race Park and held off Tamtastic at the end by a half length. Mr. Woodrow was third, another half length in arrears. Aces N Kings, a Jet Phone gelding out of the Wayne's Crane mare Pure Mischief, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.11 with Eguard Tejera up.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Kathmanblu rated confidently off the pace in Saturday' $100,000 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park, kicked into gear when asked by jockey Julien Leparoux and won going away by 1 1/4 lengths over Excited. Nina Fever and Holidaysatthefarm dead-heated for third and fourth, 11 lengths farther back. Kathmanblu, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last fall, finished the 1-mile Sweetest Chant in 1:39.14 over turf rated "good." Winning trainer Kenny McPeek said Leparoux reported Kathmanblu "was struggling with the turf. But she's just that good. She's doing so well right now. That's the last time you'll see her on turf, for a while at least. I want to run her in a two-turn race (on the main track) sometime in February someplace. Unfortunately, there isn't race for her at Gulfstream on that schedule, so we'll probably look at a race at Oaklawn or Fair Grounds. We'll nominate to the Gulfstream Oaks (April 2), but several of the owners are from Lexington so the Ashland at Keeneland is another option for her final race before the (Kentucky) Oaks." In addition to her good showing in the Breeders' Cup, Kathmanblu, a Bluegrass Cat filly out of the Devil's Bag mare Abba Gold, won the Golden Rod at Churchill Downs by 8 1/2 lengths. The placing judges earned their keep as there also was a dead-heat for sixth and seventh in the Sweetest Chant.
-- Bouquet Booth showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds, hanging on at the end to score by a neck over Daisy Devine. Little Miss Holly finished third. Bouquet Booth, a Kentucky-bred Flower Alley filly out of the Loup Sauvage mare Toll Order, got the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:41.24. "Our main goal is the (Kentucky) Oaks in May at Churchill in (the owners') hometown," winning trainer Steve Margolis said. "We don't want to make any decisions right now. There is the Fair Grounds Oaks, which is our main (local) goal."
-- Angelica Zapata got the jump on her rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes, opening a big lead and coasting home first by 5 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Golden Phoenix. Bach Hamilton finished third. Angelica Zapata, a Kentucky-bred Sharp Humor filly out of the Evansville Slew mare Two Dot Slew, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.51 with Ben Creed in the irons. Angelica Zapata finished third in the Gowell Stakes in December, the first of three winter stakes for fillies leading to the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks in March, which is a prep for the Kentucky Oaks. Asked if Angelica Zapata would return for the third Bourbonette prep, the 1-mile Valdale in February, trainer Ron Pellegrini said, "We'll just play it by ear. But we think she has some ability, so we'll see."
-- Angel at Home won a prolonged stretch drive in Sunday's $50,000 El Paso Times Handicap at Sunland Park, finishing a neck in front of Paloma Mesa. R Bling, the early leader, finished third. Angel at Home, a Texas-bred Seeking a Home filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.33 with Enrique Gomez handling the reins.
-- Playgirl Prospect staked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes for Texas-breds at Sam Houston Race Park, then poked her nose in front of pacesetting Patty's Pride at the wire. Intimidating Woman, who intimidated the leader most of the way, faded late to finish another 3 lengths back in third. Playgirl Prospect, a Running Stag filly out of the Pursuit of Love mare Golden Dayjur, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:25.32 with rising star Lindy Wade in the irons.
In other racing:
Lucky Nine kicked into gear like a Forumla One race car halfway down the stretch run in Sunday's HK$8 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile, quickly striking the lead and then holding on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over a late-running Xtension. The 1,600 meters went in 1:34.25 over "good" going. What's more, Lucky Nine's jockey, Brett Prebble, said his mount "was really saving energy" at points during the race, promising more for the future. "This is a very exciting horse," winning trainer Caspar Fownes said. "He's certainly an international Group 1 horse of the future. It's very good for Hong Kong racing that we've got a horse like this around." Lucky Nine was stepping up to 1,600 meters from sprint distances and Fownes had touted him as a miler. The next two races in the local series for 4-year-olds are the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Cup on Feb. 20 and the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on March 20. Lucky Nine, Xtension and Sunday's third-place finisher, Treasure Lands, all could factor in those races.
(By Richard Gross)
Aspectoflove held on by a short head to win the $200,000 Cape Verdi (UAE-G2) filly and mare turf feature for Godolphin at Meydan Thursday. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Danetime avenged her second-place finish in last year's Cape Verdi and will seek to even last year's score in the Balanchine where she also placed last year. "She is an improved filly after a good campaign in Europe," winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. "We will bring her back for the Balanchine." Ireland's Thai Haku and South Africa's River Jetez both closed quickly to finish within a length of the winner.
The race brought a second double to Godolphin, bin Suroor and jockey Frankie Dettori. They also took the $150,000 Al Sarab Trophy handicap at 9 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather Tapeta with Spring of Fame.
Trainer Mike de Kock also scored a double on the evening with retained jockey Richard Hills in the green silks of Sheik Hamdan. South Africa's Zanzamar took the 7-furlong 2000 Guineas Trial, a race won last year by de Kock with Musir. This was Hills's first mount for de Kock.
Solid Choice won earlier for de Kock in the 7-furlong Marsala Trophy opener with Christophe Soumillon aboard.
In other races, Irish-bred Happy Dubai held on by a half length over countryman Monsieur Joe and American invader Everyday Heroes to snatch the $150,000 Al Hadeerah Trophy on the turf while Richard Hills enjoyed his second win in the irons with a 1 1/2-lengths win on Derbaas to take the $120,000 Falcon Lounge Trophy over Brazilian runner Here To Win. Irish-bred French Derby hopeful Simon de Montfort won his first Dubai start at 1 1/4 miles to capture the $120,000 Al Forsan Trophy on the turf by a half length over Once More Dubai to close the seven-race card.
Gran Estrano rallied from a pace-stalking position in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap, surged to the lead in the stretch and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths. Dubious Miss had a shot but was outfinished and Joinem found a late rally to finish third. Gran Estrano, an 8-year-old, Argentine-bred son of Lucky Roberto, finished "about" 1 1/16 miles over a yielding turf course in 1:46.04. "He settled in a good spot," winning rider Rosie Napravnik said. "I didn't think we were going too slow to make up any ground and he's just a great horse to ride and a very cool ride and fired when I asked him."
Wild About Marie had the lead throughout Saturday's $60,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial for fillies and mares, turning back several challenges and holding off Chantilly Nayla at the end by a neck. Mimi's Bling was third. Wild About Marie, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Wildcat Heir filly, finished "about" 5 1/2 furlongs of yielding turf in 1:05.49 under Richard Eramia.
Early Return got the early lead in Saturday's $60,000 F.W. Gaudin Memorial and made the advantage hold up, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Mambo Galliano. Grand Cru and Sweetsouthernmoon completed the order of finish. Early Return, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Carson City gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.51 with Shaun Brigdmohan at the controls.
Recapturetheglory finally did it for owners Louis Roussel and Ronnie Lamarque, charging to a big lead at the top of the lane in Saturday's $60,000 Louisiana Handicap and holding off Apart at the end to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Country Flavor finished third. Recapturetheglory, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Cherokee Run, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.41 under Jamie Theriot. Lemarque joked: "Louie kinda lays in the stall with him at night. He sleeps with him. He really has a pillow and really has been getting that rapport with the horse."
Calibrachoa fought through the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Toboggan Stakes, got to the front in the final 16th and prevailed by a half length over Independence War. Temecula Creek finished third. Calibrachoa, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Southern Image colt, picked up his third straight win, getting the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:09.74 with Ramon Dominguez in the irons. "Turning for home inside the sixteenth pole, I really have to give my horse a lot of credit," said winning jockey Ramon Dominguez. "I thought that I was beat. I felt like I was all out and that they were closing on me, but when my horse felt the horse on the inside (Independence War), he went on again and showed a lot of courage."
Satan's Quick Chick broke last of six in Saturday's $75,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares, advanced around the stretch turn and got home 3/4 length ahead of She's All In. Stage Magic made the early going and finished third. Satan's Quick Chick, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sky Mesa mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on a "good" track in 1:48.00 with Michael Baze riding.
Stephanie Got Even collared front-running Cosmo Girl in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 American Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by a length. Cosmo Girl held second with Vertical Vision third. The favorite, Decelerator, decelerated in the stretch run and faded to finish second-last of nine. Stephanie Got Even, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Stephen Got Even, ran the 6 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:12.18 with Ernesto Oro aboard.
Caleb's Posse emerged from dense fog to win Monday's $100,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds by 2 3/4 lengths over Dreaminofthewin. Bluegrass Bull was third and the favorite, Kentucky-bred Posse colt out of the Slewacide mare Abbey's Missy, ran the mile on a "good" track in 1:43.07 with Eddie Razo Jr. up.
Euroears was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes, opened a comfortable lead and coasted home first, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Captain Cherokee. The odds-on favorite, Smiling Tiger, ran third all the way. Euroears, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Langfurh, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.23 with Mike Smith up. Smith said he gave credit to winning trainer Bob Baffert. "He told me to take it to them and put him on the lead. Fortunately, I broke well, but I had to kind of put him there. Once I got him going, he was just cruising."
It Tiz rallied wide into the lane in Sunday's $75,000 Megahertz Stakes for fillies and mares and got by the leaders to win by a half length. Lilly Fa Pootz was second and Burg Berg finished third. The favorite, Éclair de Lune, broke slowly and finished fourth. It Tiz, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tiznow filly, got the mile on firm turf in 1:34.83 under David Flores.
Bourbon Bay sat just off the pace in Monday's $150,000, Grade II San Marcos Stakes, came to challenge Champ Pegasus for the lead in the stretch run, got by and won by 1 3/4 lengths. Champ Pegasus held second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Sebastian Flyte. Bourbon Bay, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Sligo Bay, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:00.03. "As soon as I got the opportunity, I tried to get the first jump in the stretch and just let my horse go," winning rider Rafael Bejarano said. "My horse ran a really good race."
Bloemer Girl led virtually all the way in Saturday's $75,000 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies down the hillside turf course, winning by 1/2 length over Cloneylass. Wallstreeter was third and Scantily Clad finished fourth. Bloemer Girl, a California-bred Bertrando filly, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:13.75 with Victor Espinoza riding.
Stradivinski pressed the pace in Sunday's $60,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint, forged to the lead early in the stretch run and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths. Great Attack finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Ahvee's Destiny. Stradivinski, an 8-year-old, Florida-bred Stravinski gelding, ran the 5 furlongs on "good" turf in 56.69 seconds with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
Sam Houston Race Park
Taptam maintained an easy lead on an easy pace throughout Saturday's $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes for state-breds, easily cruising home first by 4 1/2 lengths over Quiet Again. Mile Marker was third in the 1 1/16-mile event, clocked in 1:44.77 over a fast track. Taptam is a 5-year-old Pleasant Tap mare.
Potosina came way wide to circle all four of her rivals into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Nellie Morse Stakes, then drew off sharply to win by 4 1/2 lengths at odds of 11-1. Music Please was second with the favorite, McVictory, fading from the pace to finish third. Potosina, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Cactus Ridge filly, ran a mile on a fast track in 1:40.86 under Sheldon Russell.
Laysh Laysh Laysh laid off the pace in Monday's $50,000 Native Dancer Stakes, came out well wide into the stretch and rallied to win by 2 1/2 lengths. No Advantage had the lead early in the stretch run and held second, a neck better than Global Force. Laysh Laysh Laysh, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Why Why Why ridgeling, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:37.45 under Erick Rodriguez.
News and notes:
Miesque, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1987 and again in 1988, was euthanized due to the maladies of old age on Thursday at Lane's End Farm. With Freddie Head riding, Miesque won the 1987 Mile at Hollywood Park with a neat rail move. A year later at Churchill Downs, she circled the leaders to complete the first back-to-back wins in Breeders' Cup history. As brilliant as she was on the track in both Europe and the United States, the French filly made her lasting mark in the breeding shed, producing a string of stakes winners and both sires and dams of winners. Her family tree includes Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid, Henrythenavigator and Rumplestiltskin, among many others. She was 27.
A native Illinoisan, a few months after moving to the West Coast, was heard to say, "I'll believe any sentence that begins with the words, "In California, they …" Well, here's another one. Apparently "gourmet food trucks" are a hot fad in California and Santa Anita is getting on the bandwagon for next weekend's Sunshine Millions. A fleet of 20 gourmet food trucks "will introduce the truck phenomenon to our fans," said Santa Anita Vice President of Marketing Allen Gutterman. "We'll have over 20 trucks in the east infield serving just about anything you might want to eat. We're going to have Cantor's Deli, Border Grill, Rajin Cajun, South Philly Experience, Don Chow Tacos, The Grilled Cheese Truck and a lot more." Oh, after you get on the grounds, it's $5 extra admission to access the food truck area.
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