Again, there will be no Triple Crown this year. But three weeks down the road, there could be an intriguing renewal of the Belmont Stakes involving many of the best from the Kentucky Derby and Saturday's Preakness.
Shackleford's game stretch run in the $1 million Preakness denied Derby winner Animal Kingdom his chance at a Triple Crown by a half length. But by Sunday, the trainers of both horses were at least entertaining the possibility of a rematch in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont on June 11.
Animal Kingdom fell victim in the Preakness to a bad break from an outside gate, the unusual-for-him experience of dirt in his face and a wide trip into the stretch. At the wire, jockey John Velazquez had him moving well but ran out of room.
Shackleford, meanwhile, ran close to the lead, took over turning for home and had enough left at the end to deal with the Derby winner on his outside and Astrology, who finished third with an inside bid.
Winning trainer Dale Romans sent Shackleford back to his Churchill Downs base while already pondering the Belmont. "I want to go over him a couple of days there and then make a decision" about the Belmont, he said.
Echoing the feeling of most racing fans, he added, "I think it would be great if we could develop a little bit of a rivalry in the 3-year-old division. I think these 3-year-olds are better than most people realize."
He added, "If he trains like he did going into the Derby, I don't know why we would pass [on the Belmon]. I think it's better than 50-50."
Animal Kingdom's trainer, Graham Motion, said he and Barry Irwin, who controls the owning syndicate, would "love to do the Belmont. But we've got to give him a week to see how he bounces out of this. He's had two very tough races now and he's a lightly raced, relatively inexperienced horse. We just want to give him a chance to give us a chance to evaluate him to see how he's doing. But we would love to do it."
Other potential contestants in the Belmont include Mucho Macho Man, who lost a shoe in the Preakness before finishing sixth; Dialed In, who has yet to justify trainer Nick Zito's expressions of faith; and Irish-based Master of Hounds, who skipped the Preakness after making an excellent late run in the Derby.
Mucho Macho Man's trainer, Kathy Ritvo, noting her horse also lost a shoe in the Louisiana Derby, said, "He's got to be doing something. I haven't had a horse pull a shoe for three or four years and now I've got two in three races." About the Belmont, she said, "We're on. I think it's his kind of track and his kind of race. We just have to see how he comes out of this race."
Dialed In, eighth in the Derby and fourth Saturday, has had two tough efforts. Asked about the Belmont, Zito said Sunday, "You think about it, but it's too early to tell."
Astrology, who finished third Saturday, isn't likely to start in the Belmont. Trainer Steve Asmussen instead has Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro prepping for the longer race.
Master of Hounds returned to Ireland after the Derby and would have to ship back for the Belmont.
In other weekend racing:
Gitano Hernando, owned by Chechnyan President Ramzan Kadyrov and ridden by Australian-based jockey Glyn Schofield, won Sunday's Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup at Kranji by a half length over River Jetez. Iran and Waikato dead-heated for third and fourth. Gitano Hernando, who came into the race off disappointments in the Dubai World Cup and the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Hong Kong, finished the 2,000 meters in 2:03.93. Trainer Herman Brown explained why Schofield had Gitano Hernando nearer to the lead on Sunday than in Dubai or Hong Kong. "On a track like Kranji, which is a bit sharp for him, we decided to go for a change of tactics as we didn't have a chance if we came from behind," Brown said. "I also told Glyn to ride him more positive at the start. Just keep him going, try and get some pace and settle him as early as possible. Glyn couldn't have ridden him better." California Memory, a closer in his bold Hong Kong runs, uncharacteristically led the way in the Singapore Cup, with Gitano Hernandez close in pursuit. Gitano Hernandez then got first run into the lead and made that advantage stand up. California Memory faded to finish eighth and Presvis was a disappointing 10th. Brown said the winner will return to England while the rest of the year's campaign is decided. "He's a possibility of going to Melbourne for the Cup later in the year, but that is still a long way off," the conditioner added.
Rocket Man, the local star, not only won Sunday's Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint after two years of finishing second -- he also thrashed the past two year's winners in the process. Traveling just off the lead, Rocket Man responded instantly when asked by jockey Felix Coetzee entering the stretch and Rocket Man lived up to his name, quickly opening 2 lengths on the field. Éclair Fastpass was second, 4 3/4 lengths back, with Perfect Pins making it a home-team trifecta. The last two winners, Sacred Kingdom and Green Birdie, finished sixth and seventh. But Rocket Man, after years of disappointments, now clearly has attained international stardom, first with his victory in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai on World Cup night, then on the biggest night on his local scene. Owner Fred Crabbia, choked with emotion, said, "This is my proudest moment in racing. I thought the Dubai race was the best night of my life, but this is 20 times better." Now 16-for-20, with four seconds, Rocket Man's future is of international interest. "He's obviously older and getting stronger," said trainer Patrick Shaw. "I'll see how he pulls up but there are a few options overseas we are already considering," said Shaw. "The July Cup at Newmarket is one, Japan and Australia further down the road." He also threw down the gauntlet to the connections of unbeaten and top-ranked Australian mare Black Caviar. "They can bring her wherever they want. We're happy to take her on. Tell them that," Shaw said. "I've seen her and she is a great mare. But Rocket Man is better than she is."
So You Think moved into the top ranks of contenders for the upcoming classics with a 4 1/2-length victory Sunday in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. Trained by Aidan O'Brien, the son of High Chaparral now is headed to the Prince of Wales's at Royal Ascot. But bookmakers already were ratcheting down his odds for the likes of the King George and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Winning rider Ryan Moore told Racing Post, "So You Think has a big, long stride that covers the same amount of ground most horses would take two strides to cover. He traveled very well and was impressive when I asked him to go on."
Roderick O'Connor got the jump on the field in Saturday's Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh and held off Dubawi Gold in the late going. With son Joseph O'Brien up for father Aidan O'Brien, Roderick O'Connor survived not only the late effort of the favorite but also a steady rain. Dubawi Gold was coming off a second-place finish behind Frankel in the English 2,000 Guineas and trainer Richard Hannon questioned the decision of jockey Richard Hughes to take the colt back out at the start. Oracle, also trained by O'Brien, got home third.
Misty For Me captured Sunday's Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh, narrowly beating stablemate Together. Laughing Lashes was third. The victory for trainer Aidan O'Brien avenged Misty For Me's disappointing performance in the English 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket and renewed interest in the Galileo filly for the Oaks. O'Brien, however, said the Prix Diane at Chantilly on June 13 remains an option. He said Together is headed for the Coronation Stakes.
Goldikova picked up where she left off. The three-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile kicked off her 2011 campaign with a narrow but effective win Sunday over Cirrus des Aigles in the Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp in Paris. Rajsaman was third and Byword fifth. Dick Turpin was a major disappointment, finishing last of nine. Trainer Freddy Head noted that, while Goldikova won by just a neck, she was racing 9 furlongs, beyond her comfort zone. He said this year's campaign, like last year's, will include a midsummer break before preps in France and a try for a record fourth straight Breeders' Cup triumph. Last year, she also contested the Queene Anne at Royal Ascot -- a highly anticipated meeting of milers this year. But Head did not say Goldikova is a definite go for that race.
Royal Delta sat well off a contested early pace in Friday's $250,000, Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got her bid in gear with a furlong to run and easily cleared the field. In the final 16th, the Kentucky-bred Empire Maker filly held well, scoring by 2 1/2 lengths over Buster's Ready. Hot Summer finished third. Royal Delta, with Jose Lezcano up, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.60. "With the pace up front, when I asked her, she gave me the run I needed to go," Lezcano said. "I was surprised at the pace, and knew we had a good shot. We had plenty." Winning trainer Bill Mott said, "We thought she was a nice filly early on, but soon realized she was a little better than we thought. She just keeps improving … . She's becoming a little more professional. She just keeps coming and coming." He said he will aim for the Mother Goose on June 25 at Belmont Park.
Paddy O'Prado, making his first start since finishing fifth in last fall's storied Breeders' Cup Classic, gutted out a 1 1/2-lengths win over pacesetting Baryshnikov in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Dixie Stakes. After tracking the tepid early pace, jockey Kent Desormeaux said Paddy O'Prado wide around the field entering the stretch and, with some urging the 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred El Prado colt responded. Bim Bam ran from last of seven to salvage third. Paddy O'Prado, primarily a turf runner last year, covered the 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:53.56. "He's amazing," winning trainer Dale Romans said. "It makes no difference -- Grade 1 race on Poly, the Classic on dirt, multiple-stakes wins on turf -- he's just a phenomenal horse. This is the start of a great year, I hope." Romans said Sunday Paddy O'Prado, a prospect for the Arlington Million, appeared to have suffered a bruised right front foot during the Dixie but did not indicate the injury is serious.
Super Espresso waited behind a pace duel in Saturday' $100,000, Grade III Allaire DuPont Stakes for fillies and mares, caught the leaders a furlong out and edged clear, winning by 3/4 of a length. Payton d'Oro led briefly and held on for second and the favorite, Life at Ten, finished third, 8 1/2 lengths farther back. Super Espresso, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.85. Todd Pletcher trains for owner Bobby Flay and Ramon Dominguez had the mount.
Vengeful Wildcat and Chipshot dueled the whole way around in Saturday's $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-olds before Vengeful Wildcat crossed the wire a neck to the good. Road Ready was 2 lengths farther back in third. Vengeful Wildcat, a Kentucky-bred Vindication colt, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.52 with Carlos Marquez Jr. up.
Chinglish saved ground into the turn in Saturday's $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes for 3-year-olds, came out for room when asked by jockey John Velazquez, and roared home first by 2 3/4 lengths. Humble and Hungry pressed the pace, led briefly and finished second while Master Dunker came from last of nine to complete the trifecta. Chinglish, a Kentucky-bred War Front colt, competed the mile on "good" turf in 1:40.05.
Ventana was on the lead but under pressure most of the way in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Maryland Sprint Handicap before reporting home first, a neck in front of Immortal Eyes. China was far back in third. Ventana, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Toccet, ran 6 furlongs on the fast track in 1:09.88 with Martin Garcia up for trainer Bob Baffert.
No Explaining took charge in the stretch run to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Gallorette Handicap for distaffers by a length. Desert Sage and Dyna Waltz dead-heated for second and third, with the favorite, Shared Account, settling for fourth. No Explaining, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Azamour filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:46.65 for jockey John Velazquez.
Apart drew even with pacesetting Colizeo turning for home in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III William Donald Schaefer Memorial Handicap, then won the sprint to the wire by a neck. Icabad Crane rallied from last of six to finish third. Apart, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Flatter colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:43.70 with Garrett Gomez in the irons for trainer Al Stall Jr.
Ben's Cat rallied from last of three to win Friday's $50,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint by 2 lengths over Local Celebrity. Super Chunky finished third. Ben's Cat, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred Parker's Storm Cat gelding, ran the 5 furlongs on yielding turf in 59.71 seconds with Jeremy Rose aboard.
R Holiday Mood stalked the pace in Friday's $50,000 Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took the lead with a furlong to run and was all-out to win by a neck over the late-running Strike the Moon. Bold Affair was third. R Holliday Mood, a Florida-bred Trippi filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.12 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Suzzona move to the lead at the top of the stretch in Friday's $50,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares and held off Supreme at the end to win by a neck. Rose Catherine was well back in third. Suzzona, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by The Name's Jimmy, ran 5 furlongs on the yielding turf in 1:00.41 with Jeremy Rose riding.
Excited stalked the pace, saving ground, until the stretch turn in Friday's $50,000 Hilltop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then quickly went to the front and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Pink Pallet was second with Blushandbashful third. Excited, with JohnVelazquez up, got the 1 1/16 miles on yielding going in 1:49.48. The winner is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Giant's Causeway.
Awesome Maria tracked Absinthe Minded into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Shuvee Handicap for fillies and mares, then was up in the final yards to win by a head. Happy Week finished third but was set down to fourth for stretch interference, promoting Spa City Princess to show money. Awesome Maria, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Maria's Mon filly, went to the post as the odds-on favorite and finished the mile on the fast track in 1:35.19 under Javier Castellano. Jonathan Thomas, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, said the race "set up the way we expected on paper. But we didn't expect the dog fight that ensued. It was a great race, and she showed a lot of grit. She's a tough filly, and we have a lot of faith in her."
Fastest Magician, a 22-1 long shot, conjured first place from last in Sunday's $60,000 A Gift Stakes for 3-year-olds. After trailing the field, the Kentucky-bred Johannesburg gelding split rivals to get to the lead with a furlong left and held on to score by a length over the odds-on favorite, Longhunter. Batter Up finished third. Fastest Magician, with Jose Lezcano up, ran 7 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:25.84.
Boisterous outlasted the favorite, Grassy, to in Sunday's $60,000 Three Coins Up Stakes by 3/4 of a length. Kindergarten Kid was third. Boisterous, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor colt, ran 1 1/4 miles on the yielding inner turf course in 2:06.99 with John Velazquez handling the reins.
St. Trinians rallied to the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Milady Handicap for fillies and mares and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths. However, the stewards then demoted her to fourth for drifting in during that stretch effort and impeding rivals. That elevated Ultra Blend, who finished 1 1/4 lengths back, to first. American Story and She's Cheeky were placed second and third. The 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track was clocked in 1:43.07 Ultra Blend, a 5-year-old, California-bred Richly Blended mare, was ridden by David Flores. Joe Talamo rode St. Trinians. "She came over a little bit," Talamo said. "But right when I felt her leaning in, I grabbed her right away. I don't think she deserved to be disqualified. The outcome should have stayed the same. What can you do?" Trainer Art Sherman said the graded stakes win is doubly important as Ultra Blend is due to be bred to Big Brown next spring.
May Day Rose came around the leaders to the front turning for home in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and extended her margin through the lane to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Big Tiz and Pedaltothemedal finished second and third. May Day Rose, a Florida-bred filly by Rockport Harbor, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.26 with Joel Rosario up for trainer Bob Baffert. Winning owner Kaleem Shah said, "It's up to Bob what to do with her next. All I ask him is to tell me where and when."
Logical Single tracked the pace in Sunday's $70,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, moved to the lead in mid-stretch and held on well to win by a half length over Lady Railrider. The early leader, Jax El, finished third. Logical Single, a 4-year-old Singletary filly out of the Dynaformer mare Zoelu, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.56 with Chantal Sutherland up.
Queen'splatekitten bided his time in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Marine Stakes, came three-wide around the early leaders on the turn and quickly got clear to win by 3 lengths, cementing his case for Queen's Plate favoritism. Walker's Landing was second, a neck in front of Oh Canada. Queen'splatekitten, an Ontario-bred Kitten's Joy colt out of the Wild Again mare Iteration, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.53 for jockey Eurico Da Silva. Queen'splatekitten was last seen finishing seventh in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. "He's more mature now," said da Silva, who won the last two runnings of the Plate with Eye of the Leopard and Big Red Mike. "He's there for the business. When I took him to the gate, his mind was set to get the job done." The two remaining major preps for the June 26, $1 million Queen's Plate are the Plate Trial on June 5 and the Victoria Park Stakes on June 12. The last horse to win both the Marine and the Queen's Plate was Wando, who went on to win the Canadian Triple Crown in 2003.
Paso Doble raced close to the pace until the turn in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) New Providence Stakes for Ontario-breds, took charge and won by a length over Dancingall Theway in an all-ballroom exacta. Don's Folly was third. Paso Doble, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Bold n' Flashy gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.18 with Patrick Husbands up.
Successful Mission had all of that in Saturday's $75,000 Elkwood Stakes, leading quickly and extending the advantage at every call to a 7 1/4-length victory. Hockley finished best of the rest with Not Abroad third. Successful Mission, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Successful Appeal gelding, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:35.01 with Charles Lopez up. The race was taken off the turf with four scratches resulting.
Rush Now rushed right to the lead in Sunday's $75,000 Spend a Buck Stakes for 3-year-olds and never let up, eventually winning unchallenged by 4 1/4 lengths. Uncle Otto was second, with Malibu Glow third. Rush Now, a Kentucky-bred Tiznow colt, got the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:40.67 with Joe Bravo in the irons.
Workin For Hops raced with the second flight through the early stages of Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Hanshin Handicap, advanced when asked by jockey James Graham and shook loose in the stretch, winning off by 3 lengths. Pacific Ocean was second, 1/2 length in front of Havelock. Workin For Hops, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred City Zip gelding, ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:34.55. His two previous stakes wins at Arlington were over the lawn but Graham said Workin For Hops "loved" the Polytrack. "He got over it great," he rider said. "I had a lot of horse. He won so easy today that it wasn't even funny. At the half-mile pole I said, 'They ain't gonna beat him today.'"
Calder Race Course
Romacaca led all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Sara's Success Handicap, edging clear at the end to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Trip for A.J. Performing finished third. Romacaca, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Running Stag mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.33 with Jesus Rios handling the reins.
Musical Romance closed a big gap to pace-setting favorite Bella Moneta in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Ema Bovary Stakes, then put her nose in front under the wire. Indulgence came from last of six to finish third in the 5 1/2-furlong race over firm turf, timed in 1:05.57. Juan Leyva had the mount on Musical Romance.
Snow Fall rallied around the leaders into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Pike Creek Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew off smartly to win by 3 3/4 lengths over pacesetting Dream. The favorite, Dance Quietly, and Amusing completed the order of finish. Snow Fall, a Kentucky-bred daughter of War Front, ran the mile on the fast main track in 1:36.22 with Rosie Napravnik up. The race originally was carded for 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass and the shift occasioned seven scratches.
Classic Alley Kat led from the start in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Senate Appointee Stakes for fillies and mares and accelerated to the wire, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Tierra Del Feugo. Wind Storm ran third. Classic Alley Kat, a 5-year-old, British Columbia-bred mare by Katahaula County, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.40 with Mario Gutierrez in the irons.
Ginger Added stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Bob Bryant Stakes for Iowa-bred 3-year-old fillies, dueled her way to the lead in deep stretch and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Someplace else gave way grudgingly and held second, 5 lengths ahead of Launch Light Lady. Ginger Added, a daughter of Added Edge, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.96 with Glenn Corbett riding.
Dynamic Within had to work for the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Gray's Lake Stakes for Iowa-bred 3-year-olds. But, once he got there, the Dehere colt extended the advantage through the stretch to post a 2 3/4-lengths victory. Father Wayne was second and See Me Now finished third. Dynamic Within, with Alex Birzer in the irons, finished 6 furlongs in 1:10.89.
Presque Isle Downs
Gator Bay was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Presidentialaffair Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds, cruised along at a good clip under Erick Rodriguez and got home first by a length over Whistle Pig. Zoeling was third. Gator Bay, a 4-year-old Gators N Bears gelding, finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.42.
Fugitive Angel rallied from last of seven to win Saturday's $75,000 Ambassador of Luck Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares by a length. Looky Here finished second and Hygh Jacque was home third. Fugitive Angel, a 4-year-old Alphabet Soup filly, was clocked in 1:11.13 under Mario Pino.
Forest Mouse dueled his way to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 SunRay Park & Casino Handicap for 3-year-olds, then gradually eased away from seven rivals to win by 3 lengths. Trouble Rules finished second with Trustee Tom third. Forest Mouse, a Kentucky-bred Teton Forest colt, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:37.99 with Perry Whetstone up.
Noosa Beach came around the early leaders four-wide to take the advantage in Sunday's $50,000 Governor's Handicap, then held well to beat Assessment by a length under the wire. Tequila Gold finished third. Noosa Beach, a 5-year-old, Washington-bred Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.27. Gallyn Mitchell rode.
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