The parade of upsets continued in Kentucky Derby preps during the weekend while, in Hong Kong, local domination marched on Monday's Champions Mile.
The two final prep races for the Kentucky Derby continued the winter- and spring-long trend of failed favorites and unlikely upsetters.
In Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, it was Derby Kitten circling the leaders into the stretch, then drawing off to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Prime Cut finished second, Casper's Touch third and the favorite, Silver Medallion, fourth.
Derby Kitten, another in the small herd of Kitten's Joy offspring owned and bred by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.03 with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
Derby Kitten, one of three "Kittens" who won for the Ramseys on the card, was making his first start in a stakes and first on an artificial surface. He went off at odds of 9-1.
"We circled the field but we saved ground on the second turn," Leparoux said. "We had a good trip. I had a lot of horse and I knew I was going to get there."
It was the second win in nine career starts for Derby Kitten.
"He's been his own worst enemy," said winning trainer Mike Maker. "Glad to see he's maturing." Despite the name, Ken Ramsey said he and trainer Mike Maker are considering the Preakness as the next start for Derby Kitten, who is unlikely to have enough graded stakes earnings to make the Run for the Roses even if his connections should be so inclined.
In the $150,000, Grade II Jerome Stakes at Aqueduct, it was Adios Charlie posting the upset. After contending for a good part of the race, the Indian Charlie colt fell back on the turn, then unleashed an impressive second effort to take the lead and win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Astrology was second and Justin Phillip, who seemed to have the race in hand at the top of the lane, settled for third. Adios Charlie finished the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:36.81 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.
Adios Charlie's 2-year-old campaign was cut short by injury. He now has won both his starts as a 3-year-old but Derby thoughts are not in the head of trainer Stanley Hough.
"I didn't nominate him to the Triple Crown," Hough said. "But obviously the Preakness is a thought. There are a lot of options for 3-year-olds. We'll try to make the right decision. Obviously he's got some talent and hopefully he'll move forward."
Also on the Kentucky Derby trail:
-- To the surprise of none, trainer Bob Baffert has officially ruled Jaycito out of the Run for the Roses. The colt missed the Santa Anita Derby with a bruised foot, which has not responded quickly. "He's moving forward and the foot is finally healing," Baffert said Sunday. "But there is no way I can have him ready to be competitive enough to win the Derby." Owner Ahmed Zayat said the Belmont now is the immediate goal for Jaycito.
In other weekend racing:
The Champions Mile was first opened to international competition in 2005 but you'd never know it by looking at a list of the winners. For the seventh straight year, the race went to a local runner on Monday as Xtension put in a late bid to score by 1/2 length over fellow Hong Kong runner Lucky Nine. The best the foreigners could do was a third-place finish by Musir, handled by South African trainer Mike de Kock. Xtension, with Darren Beadman up, saved all the ground in mid-pack through the early furlongs, came out about two paths around the turn and had the best kick of all through the straight. Lucky Nine, who got the better of Xtension in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile in January, looked as if he had a chance in the final 100 meters but couldn't find the last bit of kick. "He's a lovely horse," Beadman said of Xtension. "He had a nice run and came out in the stretch." Among the other foreign-based runners, Royal Bench found trouble in the stretch run and couldn't reach contention, getting home 11th, while Dubai Duty Free winner Presvis started last and was unable to make up the difference, finishing sixth while running shorter than his preferred trip. The Champions Mile, sponsored for the first time by BMW, went in a relatively slow 1:34.71. While the world has had little success in coming to Hong Kong for the Champions Mile, Hong Kong may be on the cusp of taking its case to the rest of the world's milers as Xtension's trainer, John Moore said he is considering taking the horse to Royal Ascot. "Taking on horses like Canford Cliffs and Goldikova might be a tall order," Moore said. "But it's the mystique of the event." And, he said, he will talk to owner Steven Lo Kit Sing about the Cox Plate in October before returning home to contest the Hong Kong Sprint in December. "We will do what John says," a smiling owner replied.
Dick Turpin overcame some traffic trouble to easily capture Saturday's Group 2 Bet365 Mile at Sandown, getting home first by 2 1/4 lengths. Cityscape was the best of the rest with Dream Eater third. The 1 mile over good going was clocked in 1:42.91. Trainer Richard Hannon now as won the race three straight times – the past two runnings with Paco Boy. Winning rider Richard Hughes said Dick Turpin is on the upswing after playing second fiddle last year to stablemate
Orfevre had to work through traffic at the top of the stretch in Sunday's Japanese 2000 Guineas at Tokyo Race Course but, once clear, was the easy winner, besting favorite Sadamu Patek by 3 lengths. Danon Ballade was third. Orfevre, with Kenichi Ikeoze up, ran the "about" 1 1/4 miles on the grass in 2:00.60. The Stay Gold colt now has won three of his seven career starts. The race was postponed by a week and moved from Nakayama as a result of last month's earthquake and tsunami.
Grand Vent rallied to the lead a furlong out in Sunday's Group 2 Prix Noailles at Longchamp and went on to win by 1/2 length over Durer. Touz Prince was third and the co-favorite, Moonyr, finished last. Grand Vent, a son of Shirocco, picked up his second win and first stakes triumph from five starts and now is a candidate for the French Derby on June 5.
Lone Star Park
Thiskyhasnolimit trailed the field through much of Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Texas Mile, came around the leaders heading for home and ground out a 1/2-length win over pacesetter Gladding. Dreaminofthewin settled for the show dough. Thiskyhasnolimit, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sky Mesa colt, finished in 1:37.28 with Justin Shepherd aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen. "We had a perfect trip on the outside and I had plenty of horse to do whatever I wanted with," Shepherd said.
Baltimore Bob pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge, got the lead turning for home and held off Alwayswithapproval late to win by 3/4 length. McKenna's Justice was a head farther back in third with a wide trip. Baltimore Bob, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred son of Malibu Moon, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.95 with Cliff Berry in the irons.
Sheer Beauty led the way in Saturday's $50,000 Irving Distaff, then drew clear in the stretch run to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Slide On Bye. The Cat Who finished third. Sheer Beauty, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mizzen Mast filly, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.47 for jockey Jon Court.
Wildcat Marie led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Whimsical Stakes for fillies and mares. Ariana D rallied to take second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of the favorite, Indian Apple Is. Wildcat Marie, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Wildcat Heir, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:09.11 with Tyler Pizarro riding. It was her sixth win in the last seven starts. Pizarro said he and trainer Martin Drexler "talked at the beginning and we knew she'd break sharply. She usually does and we just wanted to make sure she had enough turning for home. She's just an awesome filly."
Exhi went right to the lead in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Ben Ali Stakes and never looked back, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Dean's Kitten. Mister Marti was third. Exhi, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Maria's Mon colt, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.14 under Javier Castellano. "It was one of those rare occasions when things worked out the way you want it,"said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "The race shaped up just the way it looked on paper. We were able to get the pace we wanted. It was just another big effort from him." Pletcher said he plans to keep Exhi on artificial surfaces, perhaps at Woodbine.
Holiday for Kitten set a pressured pace in Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares, then held gamely at the end to win by 1/2 length over Wild About Marie. Speedacious applied pressure through the early furlongs and held on for third. Holiday for Kitten, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Kitten's Joy filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather surface in 1:02.78 under Juan Delgado. "This horse is nominated for Royal Ascot," said owner Ken Ramsey. "And since she ran big today, we're going to England. It'll be probably the second-best thing after the Royal Wedding."
Embur's Song led all the way in Friday's $125,000 Hillard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes for fillies and mares, holding on at the wire by a neck over Check the Label. Washington Bridge and It's Tea Time dead-heated for third and fourth. Embur's Song, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred Unbridled's Song filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:41.62 with John Velazquez up.
They ran 1-2-3-4 all the way in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Inglewood Handicap, with Liberian Freighter chugging along on the lead and holding at the end to win by 1/2 length over Ryehill Dreamer. The Usual Q T and Jeranimo also could not improve on their third and fourth positions, completing the order of finish. Liberian Freighter, a 6-year-old, California-bred Bertrando gelding, completed the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:39.70 with Martin Garcia riding. The victory reprised his front-running win in the Arcadia Stakes 15 days earlier. "This horse just loves to run," Garcia said. "He's such a nice horse. If there was more speed, I would have taken him back. I won the Oak Tree Mile with him from 6 lengths back. He likes this course a lot."
Nahem raced behind the speed in Saturday's $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds, advanced between horses through the stretch and was up at the wire to score by a head over Woodmans Luck. Thirtyfirststreet finished third. Nahem, a Bertrando gelding, got the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:52.20 with Victor Espinoza at the controls for trainer Patrick Gallagher. "About 10 yards before the wire, my horse switched to the wrong lead and I thought at that moment it might have cost me the race," Espinoza said. "This horse is not that easy to ride. He's still learning and a little bit immature."
Ultra Blend came from near the back of the pack to win Saturday's $125,000 B. Thoughtful Stakes for state-bred distaffers by 1 length over Lady Railrider. West Ruler finished third. Ultra Blend, a 5-year-old Richly Blended mare, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:30.40 under Joel Rosario. Art Sherman conditions the winner.
Amazombie led the way in Saturday's $125,000 Tiznow Stakes for Cal-breds, then edged clear in the stretch run to win by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths over Quick Enough. Mobilized came from last of 11 to finish third. Amazombie, a 5-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, finished 7 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:29.06 with Rosario up. Winning trainer Bill Spawr said Amazombie is more tractable now. "Before we gelded him, it would take about four of us to saddle him," Spawr said. "He just gets better and better. Right now, we'll just enjoy this and give him a little bit of a break."
Miles Rules led all the way in Saturday's $125,000 Melair Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies, then just held on late to win by a nose over long shot Screaming Regal. Warren't Flyer threatened by flattened out to take third. Miles Rules, a Tribal Rule filly, ran 1 1/6 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.09 with Rosario in the irons. "I broke a little slow and I sent her because I wanted to take the lead," said Rosario. "That's the way she runs. She was pulling a little, but not too bad. She was fighting to the end, but just got a little tired. It was her first time going long. I think she'll do better next time."
Warren's Knockout came from last of eight to win Saturday's $70,000 Grey Memo Stakes for state-breds in a four-way blanket finish. Sammy's a Runnin', Master Chef and Liberal Arts completed the superfecta, each separated by a neck. Warren's Knockout, a 3-year-old Stormed colt, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.63 with Victor Espinoza up.
Going for a Spin came spinning out of the turn in chase of pacesetting Zenidekka in Saturday's $70,000 Warren's Thoroughbreds Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, got by and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Zenidekka, the longest-shot on the tote board, held second and Queenie Marini was third. Going for a Spin, a 3-year-old Ministers Wild Cat filly, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.97 under Rafael Bejarano.
Hawthorne Race Course
Saturday was Illinois Champions Day with six races for Land of Lincoln-bred horses and a rare sun shining on the suburban Chicago oval. Days of rain earlier in the week forced all the events to the main track but there were no scratches from the large and competitive fields.
Catalina Way opened a big lead in the Peach of It Handicap for fillies and mares and held well to win by 2 1/2 lengths over America's Blossom with Pathway third and the favorite, Jitterbug Blues, fourth. Catalina Way, a 5-year-old Congaree mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:45.50 with Eddie Perez up.
Luck With a Kiss held on at the end of the Land of Lincoln Stakes for 3-year-olds to score a 1/2-length victory over Tapilu. Dance for Paco finished third. Luck With a Kiss, a Trust N Luck gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.27 with Tim Thornton at the reins.
Mighty Rule outfinished favorite River Bear by a nose to win the Robert Molaro Handicap. Royal Express led briefly and held on for third. Mighty Rule, an 8-year-old Gilded Time gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.05 with Junior Alvarado up.
Cruise prompted the pace in the Governor's Lady Handicap for fillies and mares, got by and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Wild Hope was up late for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of early leader Kathleen L. Cruise, a 5-year-old Posse mare, cruised the 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.31 under Alvarado.
Our Lady in Red attended the pace in the Pretty Jenny Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took the lead in the lane and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Third Chance. Missjeanlouise finished third. Our Lady in Red, a daughter of Pioneering, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:10.31 for jockey Julio Felix.
Denham overhauled pacesetter Hydro Power in the late going in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap and drew clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that foe. Racing Bran was a head further back in third and the favorite, He's Bonafide, got home sixth. Denham, a 5-year-old Unreal Zeal gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.16 for Felix.
Baltimore Belle stalked the pace four-wide in Saturday's $65,000 Dahlia Stakes for fillies and mares, then drew clear in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Weeper. Volare Cantare was well back in third. Baltimore Belle, a 4-year-old, Maryland-bred daughter of Bowman's Band, got the 1 1/16 miles on a good main track in 1:46.69 under Julien Pimentel. The race had been carded for 1 mile on the grass. "We had a really good trip," said Pimentel. "They were going really slow in front but I was able to just keep it together and when I asked her to run she kept digging."
Arcadian led all the way to a 3 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $60,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds. Sheriff Cogburn was a gritty second, a neck in front of Moonbie. Sharp Dude completed the order of finish. Arcadian, a Kentucky-bred Songandaprayer gelding, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.77 with Glen Corbett in the irons.
Will Rogers Downs
Handicappers must have taken the day off as Slewmaster, at odds of nearly 40-1, led all the way to an 8 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $54,000 Oklahoma Stallion Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings. The Dance Master gelding, with Adrian Ramos in the irons, was never challenged and completed the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:40.60.
In the $53,000 filly and mare division, Gotagogotagogotago got going late and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Sooner Luck. Thisladyisadiamond finished third. Gotagogotagogotago, a Kipling filly, ran the sloppy 1 mile in 1:42.01 with Floyd Wethey Jr. up.
Golden Gate Fields
U R All That I Am stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Work the Crowd Stakes for California-bred distaffers, was set down to the drive in the stretch and prevailed by 1 length over the pacesetting favorite, Antares World. Ms. G. I. Jane finished third. U R All That I Am, a 5-year-old Valid Wager mare, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.87 with Kevin Krigger in the irons.
Hastings Race Course
Classic Alley Kat had 'em all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Brighthouse Belles Stakes for fillies and mares, getting well clear late to win by 5 3/4 lengths over long shot Notoriously. Wind Storm finished third. Classic Alley Kat, a 5-year-old, British Columbia-bred Katahaula mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.01 under Keveh Nicholls.
Shivers Me caught pacesetter All Man in deep stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Inaugural Handicap by a neck. Vamoose came from near the back of the field to finish third, just another neck in arrears. Shivers Me, a 5-year-old, Idaho-bred son of Coastal Voyage, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.47 with Vernon Scantling riding.
La Sorpresa rallied to the lead four-wide turning for home in Sunday's $85,000 Russell and Hellen Foutz Distaff Handicap for New Mexico-breds and easily cleared, going on to win by 4 lengths over Fan's Cat. Jengoneby was third. La Sorpresa, a 6-year-old Valet Man mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:18.39 with Alejandro Medellin in the irons.