Those sorting out likely horses for November's Breeders' Cup Classic can move the residents of trainer Bob Baffert's stable up a couple notches.
In a big weekend of racing from coast to coast, Baffert saddled First Dude and Game On Dude to a 1-2 finish in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, relegating favorite Twirling Candy to show money.
Admittedly, it was close.
Game On Dude, under Chantal Sutherland, made all the going into the stretch. At that point, both First Dude and Twirling Candy came calling and the threesome battled to the wire with the final margins just a nose and a neck. Setsuko finished fourth.
First Dude, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Stephen Got Even, finished the 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:01.57 with Martin Garcia handling the reins. It was First Dude's third win in four starts since moving to the Baffert shedrow.
"When they hit the wire, I knew I'd won it," the silver-haired trainer said. "I just didn't know which one. I was hoping for a dead heat. That would have been really cool. They both could have gotten a "Win and You're In" and really bust out the Breeders' Cup.
"I didn't know what I was going to do with him," Baffert said of First Dude. "But now I can take him to Del Mar and run him in the Pacific Classic."
John Sadler, trainer of Twirling Candy, said, "It looked like today he had a perfect trip and just didn't have an excuse, so maybe we'll look at the distance."
Other races that might impact the Breeders' Cup World Championship races Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs:
Baffert settled for second and third in Saturday's supporting feature at Hollywood, the $150,000, Grade II Swaps Stakes for 3-year-olds. Dreamy Kid, saddled by Neil Drysdale, came from last of five to odds-on favorite Coil in the final yards by a head. Uncle Sam finished third. Dreamy Kid, dispatched at odds of 19-1 in the five-horse field, completed the 9 furlongs in 1:50.43 with Joe Talamo riding. "He's a nice, developing 3-year-old," Drysdale said of Dreamy Kid, a Kentucky-bred son of Lemon Drop Kid. "Why did we jump him up and run here instead of an allowance race? We worked him the other day in blinkers and it made a huge difference." Baffert, meanwhile, said Coil will head east with the Haskell or the Jim Dandy in his plans.
Rattlesnake Bridge stumbled at the start of Saturday's $150,000 Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park, rated off the pace and was just up after a long drive to win by a nose over All of the Above. Little Drama finished third. Rattlesnake Bridge, a Kentucky-bred Tapit colt, completed 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.71 with Eddie Castro up. "It was a great performance," winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "He stumbled a little coming out of the gate and I actually thought he'd be a little further back with them going 22 3/5 for the first quarter." Asked about a potential return trip in three weeks' time for the $1 million Haskell Invitational, McLaughlin said, "We'll talk it over. But we'd love to come back for the Haskell."
St. John's River ran last through most of Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park, suddenly kicked into gear around the turn and swept five-wide around the field, eventually winning by a head in the final jumps. Strike the Moon led most of the way and held a comfortable lead at the top of the lane, then held second. All For Thee finished third. St. John's River, a Kentucky-bred Include filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.30 with Jose Lezcano up, picking up her first graded stakes win. "I have had two [heart] bypasses and I thought I was going to need a third," winning trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. said. "I thought she was going to win the race, but I was concerned about this short stretch because she does not start getting running until the last eighth of a mile. With a little luck she would have won her last two races. My next stop is the Alabama at Saratoga."
Cape Blanco took the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $600,000, Grade I Man o' War at Belmont Park and rather easily held safe the late-running favorite, Gio Ponti. At the wire, Cape Blanco was 2 1/4 lengths up, with Boisterous third. Cape Blanco, with Jamie Spencer up for his first American start, ran the 1 3/8 miles on the "good" inner turf course in 2:14.06. It was the 4-year-old Galileo colt's first win from four starts this year in top international company. "We always like to support American racing," said Charlie O'Connor of Ashford Stud, representing the winning owners. "We thought his horse would suit the race. He proved we were right. The distance probably suited him … . He's back to his best form." That form was good enough last year for wins in the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes.
Tajaaweed tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Arlington Handicap, swept to the lead around the outside early in the stretch run and proved best in the late going, beating long shot Mister Mardi Gras by 1 1/2 lengths. Dean's Kitten and Free Fighter was third and fourth, two necks farther back. Interaction, making his first start since finishing up the track in the Dubai City of Gold at Meydan in early March, finished up the track again and the other foreign entrant, German-based Sanagas, finished seventh. Tajaaweed, a 6-year-old son of Dynaformer, got the 1 1/4 miles over firm turf in the final local prep for the Arlington Million in 2:01.83 under James Graham. Tajaaweed finished third in last year's Arlington Handicap and sixth in last year's Million. "We decided to stop on him last winter, turn him out, point for this race and the Million," winning trainer Dan Peitz said. "Nine months later, here we are and we're on our way to the Million."
One race earlier at Arlington, Willcox Inn stalked the pace early in the $200,000, Grade II American Derby, swept to the lead when asked by rider Robby Albarado and cruised home first by a comfortable 4 lengths. (Fours were wild as Wilcox Inn provided the middle of a 4-4-4 stakes Pick Three). The Kentucky-bred Harlan's Holiday colt, earlier in the season victorious in the Arlington Classic, covered Saturday's 1 3/16 miles on firm going in 1:54.56. "The horse that was on the front stopped really abruptly midway up the backside, so we kind of inherited the lead," said Albarado. "We were being pressed from the outside so I kind of expedited it from there but he was doing it well within himself and content doing it and he showed it finishing to the wire." Winning trainer Mike Stidham said Sunday Willcox Inn's performance spoke for itself. "I don't need to say much. I knew before he ran what I hoped he'd do, and he did exactly what I hoped, and he came out of the race in great shape. We're looking forward to running in the Secretariat."
Filly & Mare Turf
Fantasia raced back of the pace through the early furlongs of Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park, worked into contention entering the stretch and wore down the competition to win by a length. Romin Robin was a long shot second with My Baby Baby third. The favorite, Wasted Tears, led much of the way but faded to finish fifth. Fantasia, a 5-year-old, British-bred Sadler's Wells mare, ran 1 3/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:53.82. "I knew I needed to be a little closer, so I moved up a bit without using too much horse, and when I asked her she ran great," winning rider Rajiv Maragh said. The Modesty is the primary local prep for the Beverly D., filly/mare companion to the Arlington Million and winning trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Sunday that race is in his plans. "Of course, we realize that the Beverly D. will be a big step up for us," Sheppard said. "But after the way she ran yesterday, we're looking forward to it."
Saturday at Delaware Park, "nothing early was a 'real cool hand' as the winners of all three stakes came from last to score their victories. None came from further back than Cheetah in the $200,000, Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial. The 4-year-old, British-bred Tiger Hill filly started last of 12, found running room along the inside turning for home and passed them all, then showed her heels, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Bubbly Jane was second and Dyna Waltz third. With Jose Lezcano up, Cheetah ran the 11 furlongs on "good" going in 2:13.13. Cheetah, trained by Christophe Clement, won for the fourth time in nine starts and picked up her first graded stakes victory. "Mr. Clement told me let her break and rate her where you can," Lezcano said. "In the stretch she had a fabulous kick and she is a very nice filly. At the quarter pole, everybody was looking a spot but I had so much horse, I had to wait for the right moment to be clear. She was very impressive."
Never Retreat pressed the pace in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Dance Smartly Stakes at Woodbine, got by the tiring early leader and held off the favorite, Bay to Bay, by 1 1/4 lengths with the help of a little traffic early in the stretch run. Mekong Melody ran evenly to finish third. Never Retreat, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Smart Strike mare, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.48 with Shaun Bridgmohan up. The winner is owned by Chicago-based Team Block and trained by Chris Block. "She's such an honest filly and she broke sharply and wanted to put herself in the game," Bridgmohan said. "She's an old pro. She does everything right and I just felt I was a winner because she was so comfortable at every point that I just let her do her thing."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Sassy Image rallied from last of 10 and outlasted Musical Romance in the final yards to win Saturday's $350,000, Grade I Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder by a neck. Indulgence got home third. Sassy Image, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Broken Vow filly, finished the 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:11.61 for jockey Mike Smith. She now has three straight wins, all in graded stakes, following victories in the Humana Distaff and the Winning Colors, both at Churchill Downs. Overall, she has won half her 14 lifetime starts. Winning trainer Dale Romans said Smith reported Sassy Image wasn't handling the track well early in the race. "Considering that she didn't like the track, it might have been her most impressive race ever," Romans said. "We came here because the timing for this one after her last race was perfect and then to go to the [Aug. 27] Ballerina at Saratoga for her next start. Then it's back home to Churchill for the Breeders' Cup."
Devilish Lady took a big step up in class in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Azalea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Calder Race Course, stalking the pace before taking over on the turn, then holding off White Merlot at the end by a head. My Pal Chrisy was third at a big price, well in front of the favorite, May Day Rose. Devilish Lady, a Florida-bred daughter of Sweetsouthernsaint, ran the 6 furlongs on a good main track in 1:11.70 under Daniel Centeno. She had been racing in minor stakes at Tampa Bay and Calder and the Azalea was her first graded stakes win. Winning trainer Antonio Sano, who claimed Devilish Lady for $16,000 last September, said she will continue "going short, no longer than seven furlongs. For now, she'll get a short rest while we think about her campaign. We'll consider going to Saratoga."
Giant Ryan got by pacesetting Irrefutable in the final strides to win Saturday's $350,000, Grade II Smile Sprint Stakes at Calder, chalking up his fifth straight win in the process. The favorite, Noble's Promise, finished strongly but settled for third. Giant Ryan, a 5-year-old, New York-bred son of Freud, got the 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:11.34 under Cornelio Velasquez. After starting the year poorly at Gulfstream Park, Giant Ryan blossomed against state-breds in New York and now has won seven of 13 lifetime starts. He earned a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" program. Shivananda Parboo, the winning owner and son of trainer Bisnath Parboo, said Giant Ryan went back to New York to beat state-breds to restore his confidence. "If he's all right, the main target would be the [Oct. 1] Vosburgh at Belmont Park, possibly with a race here before that if we can get one suitable," he added. "If not, we might look somewhere else. If things went well in the Vosburgh and after, then we'd go to the Breeders' Cup.
Indiano stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Carry Back Stakes at Calder, got by the leaders three-wide heading for home and cruised across the wire first by 3 lengths. Smash was second and Cal Nation third. Indiano, a Kentucky-bred Indian Charlie colt who started his career in Panama, got the 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:10.60 with Luis Saez in the irons. Trainer Marty Wolfson said he believes Indiano can get a mile under the right conditions. "The one time we tried him at a mile I don't think it was the distance, but more that he just didn't care for the track," the trainer said. "I still think he'll handle up to a one-turn mile … . I'll probably take him to Saratoga for something next."
Beware the Devil might be one for the rest of the juvenile crop to beware. The Devil His Due gelding romped in Friday's $100,000 Iowa Stallion Futurity, showing his heels to a mostly unraced field of nine rivals and winning by 10 1/4 lengths. A Little Edgy was along for second and the odds-on favorite, Kip's Mescalero, settled for third after taking a brief lead on the turn. Beware the Devil, an Iowa bred out of the Evansville Slew mare Slew Peggy Slew, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.02 with Alex Birzer up. "From early on, everybody said this was going to be a good horse," said owner Don Schrage. "In his first race, he stumbled out of the gate but he finished second. In this race, he showed his true self. He's going to be a good horse."
Sword Trick was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Texas Stallion Stakes and never looked back, winning off by 8 1/2 lengths. Boca Bay was best of the rest and Swass Like Me got home third. Sword Trick, an Early Flyer gelding out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.55.
Sherman Bartlebort led all the way to a 2 1/4-length victory over Galex in Saturday's $50,000 Everett Nevin Alameda County Stakes at Pleasanton. Mighty Monsoon finished third. Sherman Bartlebort, a California-bred Tannersmyman gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.31. Francisco Duran rode for trainer Robert Hess Sr.
Because you never know where a good one will pop up, don't overlook Claresmiezie, who destroyed five opponents Saturday at Hastings Racecourse, leading by as much as a dozen lengths before coasting home first by 8. Sunnyside Gal was second and it was another 7 lengths back to Eleadora in third. Claresmiezie, a Kentucky-bred Forestry filly out of the Deputy Minister mare Deputy of Wood, certainly has the genes to be good. She ran Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong Lassie Stakes over a fast track in 1:17 with Pedro Alvarado up. Any takers?
And speaking of eye-popping wins, Motega shot from the gate like a bullet in Sunday's $50,000 Hoover Stakes for 2-year-old Ohio-breds at River Downs, hit another couple gears in the stretch and won by 17 lengths. Not an Altar Boy was second and Midnight Vader finished third. Motega went off as the favorite after a victory at Mountaineer in his previous start and ran Sunday's 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.18 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons. Motega is Yonaguska filly out of the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Crypto.
Miss Lederhosen polka-ed her way by pacesetting favorite Nothinbettertodo in the final jumps of Saturday's $100,000 Texas Stallion Stakes at Lone Star Park, winning by a head. Im a Bear finished third. Miss Lederhosen, a Valid Expectation filly out of the Pentelicus mare Crimson Socks, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.70 under Gerard Melancon.
In other weekend racing:
Timepiece, often a bridesmaid earlier in her career, landed Group 1 success in Friday's Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, passing the early pace in the late going and then holding off highly regarded Sahpresa by 1 1/4 lengths at the finish. Timepiece was eighth in last year's Investec Oaks and since had won three listed events. Winning trainer Sir Henry Cecil said the Oaks was too much, too soon for the Zamindar filly. "She is a very good filly but didn't stay in the Oaks," Sir Henry said. "She has a lot of ability and the stiff mile suited ... . We will have a think about what to do -- she is a Group 1 winner now. She will get a mile and a quarter but a mile and one furlong is probably her best trip. But there are not too many races over that trip."
Timepiece, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, finished the mile in 1:41.06 under Tom Queally. Among the disappointments in the Falmouth, restricted to fillies 3 and older, were Memory, who missed the break, and River Jetez, who finished fifth.
Dream Ahead had a bit of work to find running room late in Saturday's Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket but when jockey Hayley Turner patiently found room the 3-year-old Diktat colt went about his business and got home first, a half length to the good of Bated Breath. Hitchens was third. Diktat ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.66 as Turner became the first woman jockey to win a British Group 1 race other than in a dead heat. She inherited the mount from William Buick, who was required to ride at York. "I wasn't complaining and it has played into my hands," the 28-year-old rider said. Winning trainer David Simcock said Dream Ahead has shown he can't stay any distance of ground. "This was the first real target for 3-year-olds over 6 furlongs," he said, "and it is relief that it has come off ... . The plan next would be to go to the Prix Maurice de Gheest."
Bingo had all the squares covered in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Damsel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies foaled in Ontario. With Luis Contreras up, the Bernstein filly was out front by a comfortable margin as the field turned into the stretch and she glided home a 2-length winner over odds-on favorite Roxy Gap. Isabella Bay placed third. Bingo covered the mile on firm turf in 1:34.86.
Awesome Bet came from last of nine to win Saturday's $100,000 Barbaro Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over J.W. Blue. Meistersinger finished third. Awesome Bet, a Kentucky-bred Awesome Again colt, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:40.37. Kent Desormeaux had the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Quebrada Shiner got by the leader with a 16th left to run in Saturday's $60,000 Caress Stakes for fillies and mares and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Much Rejoicing also ran well late to take second by a neck over the pacesetting favorite, Rose Catherine. Quebrada Shiner, a 6-year-old, Argentine-bred mare by Indygo Shiner, ran 6 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:09.10 with Ramon Dominguez riding.
Beau Choix, with Ramon Dominguez up, picked the rail over the outside in the stretch run of Thursday's $60,000 Rob N Gin Stakes, got a lead and fended off Pocket Cowboys at the end to win by a nose. Boots Ahead got home third. Beau Choix, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:39.58.
Jardim rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win Wednesday's $100,000 Golden Bear Stakes by a half length over Country Flavor. Gautier came from well back to take third and the favorite, Thiskyhasnolimit, finished fifth with no late bid. Jardim, a 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred son of Ski Champ, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.19 for jockey Marlon St. Julien.
Slew City boy edged past pacesetting favorite Buster Rose in the final strides to win Wednesday's $88,000 Governor's Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds by a head. Purely Amateur finished third. Slew City Boy, a Slew City Slew gelding, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:39.53 with Azael De Leon up.
Princess Gone Wild stalked the pace in Tuesday's $88,000 Indiana First Lady Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, got to the lead in the lane and held off a late stampede for the win. Dreamin Big missed by a head, Down on Copperline was another head back in third and just a neck in front of the favorite, What About Ruby. Princess Gone Wild, a daughter of Wild Zone, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:38.79 with Rodney Prescott up.
Presque Isle Downs
Embur's Song, the prohibitive favorite, led all the way in Tuesday's $100,000 Windward Stakes for fillies and mares but had all she could do to hold at the end, winning by a nose over Zaphyra. Regina Twain was well back in third. Embur's Song, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred Unbridled's Song filly, got the mile on the all-weather track in 1:39.15 with Patrick Husbands up.
Terriffico split rivals in deep stretch and put a neck in front under the wire to win Friday's $75,000 Leemat Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds. Ryan's Gift was second with Pocket Patch third. Terriffico, a 6-year-old son of Mr. Greeley, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.40 with Willie Martinez in the irons.
Malibu Win dueled down the lane with Fugitive Angel in Friday's $75,000 Northern Fling Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and survived at the end by a neck. You Need Me finished third. Malibu Win, a 5-year-old Malibu Moon mare, ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.04 with Martinez up again.
Ginger Added pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Iowa Stallion Stakes for Iowa-bred 3-year-olds, cleared and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Lucky Daz finished second and Launch Light Lady was third. Ginger Added, a daughter of Added Edge, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:45.73 with Glenn Corbett up for trainer Dick Clark.
Sayif shot out to a good early lead in Saturday's $75,000 Battlefield Stakes and held on late to win by a length over Yummy With Butter. Monument Hill finished third. Sayif, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred horse by Kheleyf, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.40 with Channing Hill in the irons.
Maple Forest raced up close early in Sunday's $75,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, came to the lead entering the stretch and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over Moonlit Malibu. Bold Affair was third. Maple Forest, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Forestry, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.36 with Joe Bravo up.
Perfect Officer caught pacesetting favorite Varsity in the final strides of Sunday's $67,200 Wolf Hill Stakes, winning by a head. Ju Jitsu Jax finished third. Perfect Officer, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Officer gelding, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.93 with Kendrick Carmouche riding.
Attitude E Racer set a pressured pace in Tuesday's $85,000 Dine Stakes for New Mexico-bred, 3-year-old colts and geldings, got clear and then held on late to win by a neck over Numberoneson. River Grade Trick finished third. Attitude E Racer, a Desert God gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.97 with Carlos Madeira up.
Calder Race Course
Callmethesqueeze squeezed by pacesetter Prize Informant in the final furlong of Saturday's $55,000 Sweettrickydancer Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then battled to the wire before scoring by a nose. El Bendinat was far back in third. Callmethesqueeze, a Florida-bred Awesome Again filly, ran the mile on the "good" main track in 1:40.60 with Jose Alvarez up. The race was taken off the turf.
Lone Star Park
Skip a Smile rallied five-wide into the stretch and was up to win by a half length in Saturday's $75,000 Assault Stakes for Texas-breds. The favorite, Lydia's Last Step, led until the final steps of the race and finished second and Coyote finished third. Skip a Smile, a 4-year-old Skip Away gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.52 with Luis Quinonez aboard.
Joy's Paradise made all the going in Saturday's $50,000 Valor Farm Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares and held at the end to win by 3/4 of a length over She's a Bond Girl. Zippy Wager, at 24-1 odds, validated her name for show bettors, returning $9.20. Joy's Paradise, a 4-year-old Taste of Paradise filly, was clocked in 1:10.64 for 6 furlongs on a fast main strip.
Summer Song drew off in the stretch run to win Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) John Patrick Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 1/2 lengths over Miss Victoriana. The favorite, Alywyn, finished third. Summer Song, with Fernando Perez up, got the mile on a sloppy track in 1:37 3/5. She is a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sunday Break mare.
Embellished caught Maegans Princesses in the late going of Saturday's $50,000 Chariot Chaser Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and edged clear to win by a half length. Spirited Winner finished a spirited third. Embellished, a Kentucky-bred Bellamy Road filly, completed 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12 under Heribert Martinez.
Freedoms Traveler rallied from well back to win Saturday's $50,000 Ky Alta Handicap for 3-year-olds by a neck over Boomtown Brat with Call Me Later checking in third. Freedoms Traveler, an Alberta-bred Peacenfreedom gelding, was clocked in 1:38 4/5 for the sloppy mile. Rafael Zenteno had the ride.
Excessive Passion dueled his way to the front in Sunday's $50,000 Sam J. Whiting Memorial Handicap and held nicely to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Rooster City Scofield Barracks finished third. Excessive Passion, a 4-year-old, Cal-bred Vronsky colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.80 with Frank Alvarado up.