Turf showdowns highlighted weekend racing from England to Canada, Chicago and California, with an exciting detour to the main track at Saratoga Springs.
Some of Europe's top mid-distance runners comprised a small field in Saturday's Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
Nathaniel dueled with Debussy through the early furlongs, then drew off to a handy lead when urged by jockey William Buick and held off Workforce in the late going to win by 2 3/4 lengths. St. Nicholas Abbey was third and Debussy faded to a distant fourth-place finish.
Godolphin's Rewilding, winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Prince of Wales' Stakes this year, broke his left front cannon bone 2 furlongs out and was euthanized.
Nathaniel, a son of Galileo and the only 3-year-old in the race, matched strides with 2010 Arlington Million winner Debussy through a relaxed half mile. The pair quickened the pace with a mile to run before Nathanial shot to the lead entering the straight. Workforce, winner of the Investec Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last year, gave chase but drifted sharply left in the late going and couldn't make up the needed ground.
Nathaniel, who was supplemented to the race Monday at a cost of 75,000 pounds, finished in 2:35.07 over going rated soft.
"To finish in front of a horse like Workforce is everything," winning trainer John Gosden said. "He sets the standard. He is an Arc winner, a Derby winner and a phenomenal horse. I think we'll go straight to the Arc now and maybe just have a racecourse gallop somewhere in between ... . He'll be an exciting horse next season."
Gosden, who helped attend to the fatally injured Rewilding, said, "It's the extraordinary thing about this -- when they break a leg like that it is as though nature anesthetizes them and he actually had a bite of grass. They would feel more with a cut."
The King George was only one of several turf matches on the schedule for the weekend.
Acclamation led throughout in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar, kicking clear at the end to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Jeranimo ran second all the way and the favorite, Caracortado, came out for running room in the stretch, made up a little ground and settled for third. Acclamation, a 5-year-old, California-bred son of Unusual Heat, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.99 with Joel Rosario in the irons. Winning trainer Don Warren said Rosario "gave him the perfect ride. He broke a little slow, but he made the lead easy. I like to see him cruising on an easy lead and I always like to see a horse slip away on the last turn like he did. Just done to perfection." He said Acclamation, who is acclimated to longer distances, will stretch back out to 11 furlongs for the Del Mar Handicap Aug. 28.
Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap was moved off the Arlington Park turf after torrential rains Friday night. That made no difference to Free Fighter, who rallied three-wide into the stretch and quickly kicked clear to post a 2-length upset. Winchester came from far back to finish second as the favorite and Proceed Bee was third. Free Fighter, a 6-year-old, Illinois-bred Out of Place gelding who won the same race two years ago for different owners, ran the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 1:31.98. "I planned to let him sit comfortably wherever he was and sit off the speed a little bit," winning rider Tim Thornton said. "It worked out perfectly. I was able to sit on the fence all the way around there and save all the ground." Liam Kelly, assistant to Winchester's trainer, Christophe Clement, said jockey Cornelio Velasquez reported, "He's a different horse on the grass. When they took off the grass we were thinking of scratching. He'd never run on it before, and nothing against the other horses but it didn't look the strongest field. We had to take the chance."
Windward Islands stalked the pace in Sunday's $300,000, Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine, came to pacesetting Fifty Proof with a furlong to run and prevailed by 3/4 of a length over that rival. Hailstone, always close to the lead, stuck around to finish third, a neck farther back. Windward Islands, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred Cozzene gelding, finished 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:49.82 with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons. Wilson said Windward Islands bumped pretty soundly with Fifty Proof leaving the gate. After that, "my guy got his feet together, found his composure, and got into a nice settled spot. As we turned for home, he just had a nice angled-out position and he just powered home."
Back in England, Twice Over, dropping to a Group 2 event after disappointing in the Lockinge Stakes and the Prince of Wales's, drove to a 1 1/4-length win Saturday in the Sky Bet York Stakes at York. Trainer Sir Henry Cecil said he was looking to boost his charge's confidence with a win. Twice Over got the 10 1/2 furlongs in 2:09.99 over good going with Ransom Note second and Dominant third. Tazeez finished seventh. Ransom Note and Tazeez are both under consideration for the Aug. 13 Arlington Million.
Other races with potential impact on year-end championships, including the Breeders' Cup World Championships in November at Churchill Downs:
Filly & Mare Turf
Just In Time was just that in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, zipping by pacesetting favorite Mizdirection in the late going and running on to a 1 1/4-length victory over that rival. Celestial Kitten was well back in third. Just In Time, a British-bred Noverre filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.66 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. It was her second win in five starts since shipping from England. She's just improved every day and now she's completely happy," winning trainer Simon Callaghan said. "I know she was 12-1 on the odds (actually, 11-1) but we've always thought this filly is very, very powerful and for the first time she got relaxed today."
Overdriven shifted into overdrive in the stretch run of Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga and dusted a quintet of rivals, winning by 4 lengths. Power World was second with Jack's In the Deck third. Overdriven, a Tale of the Cat colt out of the French Deputy mare Air France, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.60 with John Velazquez aboard, backing up a maiden win at Belmont July 1 that earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. "Uncle Mo a year ago was a maiden," said Todd Pletcher, who trains both Uncle Mo and Overdriven for owner Mike Repole. "He was a month away from debuting but we knew he was a pretty special colt at this point. (Overdriven) is 2-for-2 now and he's obviously a very mature 2-year-old, physically and mentally, precocious and gifted with some natural talent." Pletcher said the Three Chimneys Hopeful on Sept. 5 is the logical next step for Overdriven. Repole added: "Last year, Uncle Mo was the best 2-year-old in the country and as of July 24, Overdriven is the best 2-year-old in the country … . This is the best place in the country. Saratoga is the Fenway Park of horse racing." Uncle Mo, by the way, is back in training.
She Digs Me ran by pacesetting Gentlemens Code in the stretch run of Sunday's $70,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park and drew off to win by 2 lengths over that rival. Team Six was in the mix early but faded to finish third. She Digs Me, a Kentucky-bred Henny Hughes colt out of the Valid Expectations mare Stage Stop, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.95 for jockey Elvis Trujillo.
Georgie's Angel let a long shot set a suicidal pace in Friday's $100,000, Grade III Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga, came out professionally to work to the lead at the top of the stretch and held well in the final furlong to win by 1 1/2 lengths over True Feelings. Force de La Nature finished third. Georgie's Angel, the favorite, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.68 with John Velazquez aboard. She is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Bellamy Road, from the Dynaformer mare Lalka. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Georgie's Angel "broke well, but we anticipated a little bit of speed inside us, and the best thing is when you have an outside post like that it gives you some options. Johnny rode a perfect race." He said the 7-furlong, Grade 1 Spinaway Sept. 4 "is the logical thing" for the filly's next start.
Heleonor Rugby came from a close last of four to win Friday's $100,000 CTBA Stakes for California-breds at Del Mar. Willa B Awesome was second, 1 1/4 lengths back and Roar Baby Roar and Evelyn Trouble completed the order of finish. Heleonor Rugby is a daughter of Tribal Rule, out of the In Excess mare Eleanor Rose. She ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:05.25 with Christian Santiago Reyes up. It was the filly's second win in four starts. "She is young but she is still learning," said winning trainer A.C. Avila.
Motega, the prohibitive favorite, ran to her notices in Saturday's $50,000 Ta Dah Stakes for Ohio-breds at River Downs, pressing the pace before taking over in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Operation Bling was best of the rest with Mamooguska third. Motega, a daughter of Yonaguska out of the Crafty Prospector mare Crafty Crypto, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:08.39 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons.
My Miss Aurelia won the first juvenile event of the season at Saratoga Friday, getting by Delightful Magic late to win by a length in. "She's a quality filly," trainer Steve Asmussen said of the daughter of Smart Strike. "We had high hopes for her going over there and I thought she ran really well." He said the Adirondack on Aug. 14 or the Spinaway might be the next engagement for My Miss Aurelia.
Jackson Bend, winless since taking five straight at Calder Race Course two years ago, rallied through the stretch to post a 2 1/2-length upset win in Friday's $75,000 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga. Hamazing Destiny was second and Escrow Kid third. Here Comes Ben finished fourth and the favorite, Aikenite, settled for fifth with a wide trip. Jackson Bend, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Hear No Evil colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.91 with Corey Nakatani up. Nick Zito trains for owner Bob LaPenta. "He's a top horse, and I can't be happier for the horse," Zito said. "We'll either pick the [Sept. 3] Forego, which is seven-eighths of a mile, or something else. Bob wants to run in the Breeders' Cup [Dirt] Mile."
Mambo Meister danced down the Calder Race Course straight in Sunday's $50,000 Primal Stakes, easily distancing a trio of rivals and crossing the line 11 lengths in front. Wingedlie was best of the rest, with Hear Ye Hear Ye and Dinner in Odem completing the order of finish. Mambo Meister, the prohibitive favorite, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.17 with Fernando Jara up.
In other racing:
Mr. Commons tracked most of the field early in Wednesday's $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds, rallied four-wide into the lane and got clear late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Burns trailed the winner from the back of the pack to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Extensive. Mr. Commons, a Kentucky-bred Artie Schiller colt, got the mile on firm turf in 1:34.96 with Mike Smith up. He was rebounding from an eighth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes. "He's a very versatile horse and he's run well on the dirt," winning trainer John Shirreffs said. "But he was outstanding on the grass when he broke his maiden [Jan. 15 at Santa Anita], so we wanted to go back to something we knew he would like."
Norvsky rallied from well back to win Sunday's $100,000 California Dreamin' Handicap for state-breds by 1 1/4 lengths. Tamarack Smarty edged early leader Lucky Primo by a nose for second. Norvsky, a 5-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.96 for jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Andina won a three-way photo in Saturday's money-restricted $85,000 Osunitas Stakes, getting the nod by a head over Wild Mia and another nose over the favorite, City to City. Andina, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Singspiel filly out of the Rahy mare Fragrant Oasis, stalked the pace until the stretch run, then finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.07 for jockey Garrett Gomez.
In Sunday's $75,000 Irish Linnet Stakes for state-bred distaffers, Chorus Music got to the front in the stretch run after a wide trip and outran Gitchee Goomie to win by a half length. Frivolous Buck also ran well late to finish third, another head in arrears. Chorus Music, a 6-year-old Strategic Mission mare, got the mile on the firm inner turf in 1:35.87 under Javier Castellano.
Hollywood Hit stalked a quick pace in Wednesday's $150,000 (Canadian) Bold Venture Stakes, surged to a clear lead at the top of the lane and held off Signature Red in the late going to win by 3/4 of a length. Riding the River floated home third. Hollywood Hit, a 5-year-old, Oklahoma-bred Cactus Ridge gelding, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:14.76 with James McAleney up. The time was just 0.22 second off the track record.
Weekend Romance opened a daylight lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Passing Mood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then held off Sinister Quill in the late going to win by a half length. Medabuck was up for third. Weekend Romance, an Ontario-bred Old Forester filly, ran the 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.79 under Luis Contreras.
Embur's Song led from the early stages of Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Matron and got home first by 3/4 of a length over Ariana D. Biofuel finished third. Embur's Song, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred daughter of Unbridled's Song, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.39 with Patrick Husbands up.
Worldly took over in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap, pulling away at the end to win by 4 lengths over Red Lead. Black Hills finished third and the favorite, Stachys, was fourth, lacking any punch in the stretch. Worldly, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy colt, ran the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.11 with Terry Thompson in the irons. "I was shopping around for a spot and this looked like a good opportunity," winning trainer Paul McGee said. "I felt like he could get the mile and a quarter because of his breeding and it worked out just the way we drew it up … , He's got some class, but I think he's better this year than last year," McGee added. "He's matured. I think that's kind of an A.P. Indy thing, they mature a little bit later."
Calder Race Course
Sweet Repent had nothing to apologize for after Saturday's $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap for fillies and mares. The 5-year-old, Florida-bred Repent mare rallied four-wide to get by pacesetting Diosa Indian in the stretch run and went on to win by a length over that rival. Tesoro de Amor finished third. Sweet Repent, with Fernando Jara handling the reins, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.80. It was her third consecutive win and 10th from 17 starts. "They didn't make it easy for her with the slow pace and being hung out wide," said winning trainer Dave Braddy. "You have to be concerned, but she overcame it."
Pinch Pie stalked the pace in Sunday's $70,000 Desert Vixen Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got through to the lead along the rail and worked clear in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Oak Marsh. Glore Racer came from well back to finish third at a big price. Pinch Pie, a Kentucky-bred Victory Gallop filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.28 with Jeremy Rose up. The race was pushed back a day when extreme heat forced the cancellation of Saturday's card.
Abuela fought for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes for fillies and mares, got there after a half mile and held on to win by a length over Angelica Zapata. The favorite, Kiss Mine, finished third. Abuela, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.46 with Jon Court in the irons.
Professor Pollard hooked up in a stretch duel with Footprint in Friday's $50,000 (Canadian) Don Fleming Handicap and got home first by a neck. It was 2 1/4 lengths farther back to Andiotis in third. Professor Pollard, a 4-year-old, Alberta-bred Pollard's Vision gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:49 with Rico Walcott aboard.
Back in business after a prolonged state government shutdown, the Minnesota oval had a pair of $50,000 stakes on the Sunday schedule.
In the 1-mile Dean Kutz Stakes for 3-year-olds on the grass, Wild Jacob stalked the pace, advanced to the lead in the lane and won off by 2 1/4 lengths over Fairing. Cactus Son finished third. Wild Jacob, a Maryland-bred Eurosilver gelding, finished in 1:35.46 with Ry Eikleberry up.
And in the grassy, 1 1/16-mile Blair's Cove Stakes for Minnesota-bred colts and geldings, Tubby Time wore down pacesetting Mack's Blackhawk in the lane and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Bizet missed second by just a nose. Tubby Time, a 5-year-old Devil His Due gelding, was clocked in 1:42.90 with Derek Bell in the irons.
Noosa Beach challenged pacesetting Winning Machine through the stretch run in Sunday's $50,000 Mount Rainier Handicap, then eased out to win by a half length. Assessment was third. Noosa Beach, a 5-year-old, Washington-bred Harbor the Gold gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.13 with Gallyn Mitchell in charge.
Schramsberg put in his bid turning for home in Sunday's $50,000 Omaha Stakes, turned back a couple of challenges and held on to win by a head over Tenth Power. Sacred Ground came from last of eight to finish third. Schramsberg is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred horse whose career has not quite lived up to his breeding. The chestnut is a son of Storm Cat out of Serena's Song. He finished Sunday's mile on a fast track in 1:39 1/5 with Ken Tohill in the irons.