Arlington Park's International Festival of Racing certainly lived up to its name Saturday, with globe trotters dominating all three races over the track's rain-softened turf.
In the 29th running of the Grade I Arlington Million, Cape Blanco got first run at the leaders, opened up a good advantage at mid-stretch and easily held off his old rival, Gio Ponti, to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Dean's Kitten salvaged a bit of pride for the home team by finishing third.
Cape Blanco, who bested Geo Ponti by nearly the same margin in their last race, the Man o' War at Belmont Park, ran Saturday's 1 1/4 mile over yielding turf in 2:05.39 with Jamie Spencer up for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
The pair also met in the Dubai World Cup in March, where Cape Blanco finished fourth and Gio Ponti fifth.
In the Million, Geo Ponti endured an inside trip until jockey Ramon Dominguez was finally able to get him room at mid-stretch, by which time it was too late. Cape Blanco, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Galileo colt, got to the early leaders with a three-wide move entering the stretch and had clear sailing thereafter.
"There are very few horses that have the will to win like he has," Spencer said of Cape Blanco. "The more you ask from him, the more you get from him. He had loads left in the end."
Dominguez added, "The winner had first run on us and you have to give him credit, we were second best today." He said of Gio Ponti, "If you put him in striking range too soon, he is going to go too early and it takes him out of his game."
Gio Ponti won the Million in 2009, finished second to Debussy in last year's Million, then was second to Goldikova in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Mile. There already is discussion of shortening the 6-year old Tale of the Cat horse up in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland or the Woodbine Mile for another try at the shorter race in November.
Cape Blanco earned a guaranteed berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf through the "Win and You're In" program. Asked about that, Alex Cole, representing part of the ownership team, said, "You'd have to, wouldn't you?" But he added trainer Aidan O'Brien, who did not travel to Chicago for the International Festival, will have the final say.
In the $400,000, Grade I Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds over the Arlington lawn, Irish Derby winner Treasure Beach attended the pace set by French-based Ziyarid, then steadily closed the gap through the lane, getting up at the end to win by a neck. Again, the Americans settled for third, this time thanks to Banned, runner-up in the Virginia Derby in his last outing. Banned got home 1 1/2 lengths further in arrears with American Derby winner Willcox Inn settling for fourth.
Treasure Beach, like Cape Blanco a Galileo colt, ran the 1 1/4 miles in 2:03.91. "He wasn't doing much," winning jockey Colm O'Donoghue said. "He was finding it quite easy in the homestretch. He just kept plugging on for me. He's very adaptable and can go on any ground."
Charlie O'Connor, representing the ownership group and trainer Aidan O'Brien, added O'Donoghue "gave him a brilliant ride and thank God that he did. Colm and Aidan were pretty confident coming over so when the two of them are confident you have to be pretty happy."
In addition to his victory in the Irish Derby, Treasure Beach this year also has landed a Group 3 event at Chester and was second in the Epsom Derby.
In Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Sword Dancer Stakes at Saratoga, Winchester came running down the outside in the final furlong, got by pacesetting Rahy's Attorney and went on to win by 3/4 of a length over that rival. Al Khali ran evenly to finish third. United Nations winner Teaks North was third with a troubled trip and the favorite, Boisterous, who was coming off a third-place finished behind Cape Blanco and Gio Ponti in the Man o' War, settled for fifth Saturday. Winchester, a 6-year-old, Virginia-bred son of Theatrical, ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.74 with Cornelio Velazquez in the irons and had to survive an objection before the race was posted official. Winchester finished fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, then ran poorly in Hong Kong before taking an extended break. He returned with a second-place finish three weeks ago in the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington Park where the race came off the turf. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said he thought about the Arlington Million but realized owners Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone "were flying in for the race and I just thought I've always been to the Million for the last two or three years and I thought it made sense to stay behind for once."
Filly & Mare Turf
In Arlington's third Grade I event, the $750,000, Grade I Beverly D. for fillies and mares, French-based Stacelita tracked the pace made by Dubawi Heights, got through to challenge the leaders entering the stretch and edged clear late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Dubawi Heights held second, a head in front of South African world traveler River Jetez, who made up a lot of ground in the lane over the soggy track. Stacelita, a 5-year-old, French-bred Monsun mare, got the 1 3/16 miles over yielding turf in 1:57.57 with Ramon Dominguez for trainer Chad Brown. It was her second start in the United States, following a third-place finish behind Teaks North in the United Nations at Monmouth Park last month. She earlier raced in France, England and in Hong Kong, where she got home a close eighth behind Snow Fairy in last December's Hong Kong Cup. "I had an absolutely wonderful trip," Dominguez said. "I was able to sit right off the leader. Nice and relaxed. Comfortable fractions. Turning for home, once I found a seam on the rail I had to go for it and she reached for it great." Winning owner Martin Schwartz, who picked up his third Beverly D. trophy after Gorella in 2006 and Angara in 2005, added, "Stacelita and Chad Brown are both fantastic. Stacelita has been a magnificent animal since I first saw her and Chad has been a magnificent animal since I first saw him." The Beverly D. is a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup and Schwartz said that will be the goal for Stacelita.
Cozi Rosie pulled a mild upset in Sunday's $250,000, Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar. After saving ground into the stretch turn, the 4-year-old, Pleasantly Perfect filly found room on the inside, got through and went on to win by a half length over Malibu Pier. The early leader, Wasted Tears, finished third and the favorite, Harmonious, made a belated bid from the rear of the field to finish fourth. Cozi Rosie, with Garrett Gomez aboard, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.69. She picked up her fifth win from 13 career starts. "She's really good filly, in good form and we're really excited," winning trainer John Sadler said. "And we were happy to see Dubawi Heights run well in Chicago yesterday. These California fillies are pretty close and that's good for the division. We'll probably go next in the Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita, and hopefully after that we'll be on to Kentucky" for the Breeders' Cup.
Big Blue Kitten stalked the pace in Friday's $150,000, Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga, took over in the lane and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Perregaux was best of the rest with Humble and Hungry third. The favorite, Street Game, faded badly and finished last. Big Blue Kitten, a Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey homebred Kitten's Joy colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a firm inner turf course in 1:42.91 with John Velazquez aboard. "We've offered this horse for a claiming price three times and no one claimed him," Kenneth Ramsey said. "No more claimers!"
Burns, with Patrick Valenzuela up, outsprinted Lil Bit O'Fun to the wire in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds, winning by a neck. Thirtyfirststreet, the early leader, finished third, another half length in arrears. The favorite, Midnight Interlude, settled for fourth. Burns, a California-bred Unusual Heat gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.36. Burns came into the race off a second-place finish behind Mr. Commons in the Oceanside Stakes on opening day. "This is a horse that is only going to get better and better," said winning trainer Barry Abrams, who is recovering from throat surgery. "I was coming all the way," he added when asked about his attendance.
Unzip Me rallied by pacesetting Separate Forest in the stretch run of Friday's $115,000 Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar and won by a half length over that rival. Givine finished third. Unzip Me, a 5-year-old, California-bred City Zip mare, completed 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.60 seconds with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. The victory snapped a two-race losing streak for Unzip Me, who was third running against males in last year's Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. Winning Trainer Marty Jones said the day after the Daisycutter, "She looks all right this morning. Now we'll try to find the best route to the Breeders' Cup."
Suzzona kicked by pacesetting Outpost in the late going of Saturday's $67,750 Candy Éclair Stakes at Monmouth Park and won off by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. Silver Rock finished third. Suzzona, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by The Name's Jimmy, finished the "about" 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:02.07. "The trip worked out perfect," winning rider Julian Pimentel said. "Three horses went out to the front and I was able to sit right behind them. When it was time for her to go, she took off." The Candy Éclair was the fourth win in six starts this year for Suzzona.
Savvy Supreme got to the front early in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Monmouth Oaks and held off the favorite, Miss Valentine, to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Withgreatpleasure was well back in third. Savvy Supreme, a Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.27. "We had the perfect trip," winning rider Elvis Trujillo said. "I was able to sit just off the speed duel. She shied away from the left-hand whip, so I switched over to the right down the stretch. She was impressive today."
Star Guitar needed only minor encouragement from jockey Gerard Melancon to shoot by the leaders in Saturday's $125,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs and go on to win by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths over Sweetsouthernmoon. Crystal Moment completed the trifecta. Star Guitar, a 6-year-old, Louisiana-bred son of Quiet American, finished the mile on a fast track in 1:38.15.
Indian Assault inherited the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Lafayette Stakes at Evangeline Downs when Swass Like Me bolted on the first turn. With Kerwin Clark up, Indian Assault then opened up on the four remaining contenders, drawing off at the end to win by 5 lengths over the favorite, E Valentino. Whiskey Double was third. Indian Assault, a Florida-bred colt by Indian Ocean out of the Skip Trial mare See My Agent, ran the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.78.
Twelve Hundred, in from Arlington Park for trainer Jimmy DiVito, dominated Saturday's $60,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile. The Illinois-bred Cape Town gelding, with Francisco Giles riding, went right to the front from the inside post position and extended his advantage throughout, winning by 8 lengths. Let's Get Crackin was the best of the rest, with King Coral third. Twelve Hundred finished in 1:39.41 over a fast track, picking up his second win in as many starts. A claim of foul by the rider of Let's Get Crackin was not allowed.
Arlington Park invader Hogy ran down Squid in the late going in Sunday's $50,000 Brian Barenscheer Stakes for 2-year-olds at Canterbury Park, winning by 3/4 length. It was another 8 3/4 lengths back to Grand Forest in third. Hogy, a Kentucky-bred Offlee Wild gelding out of the Petionville mare Floy, got the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.36 with Florent Geroux in the irons. He picked up his third win in as many tries and his first on a dirt track. Winning trainer Joel Berndt said he is considering the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity as the gelding's next start.
Longview Drive drove clear in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Cavonnier Juvenile at Santa Rosa winning by 5 1/2 lengths over Call Me Kelly. Marshall Marini finished third. Longview Drive, a Kentucky-bred Pulpit colt out of the Wild Again mare Wild Vision, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.42 with Russell Baze handling the reins.
My Miss Aurelia, the odds-on favorite, had all she could handle with Millionreasonswhy in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga, battling down the lane before winning by a neck. It was another 14 3/4 lengths back to Bellacourt in third. New Wave and Anna Sophia completed the order of finish. My Miss Aurelia, a Kentucky-bred Smart Strike filly out of the Sea of Secrets mare My Miss Storm Cat, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.01 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. "She ran a really tough race. Very proud of her," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. "She definitely earned it. I think she showed a lot, coming off one 5 1/2-furlong maiden race to fight like that to the wire, especially with the way the race set up. She was challenged the whole way, and it's very nice to have a filly as good as she is." He said he is eyeing the Grade I Spinaway on Sept. 4.
Tu Endie Wei prompted the pace in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine, opened up to take the lead in the stretch and survived a late run by Northern Passion to win by a half length. Runfor Ro led early and held third. Tu Endie Wei, a Kentucky-bred Johar filly out of the Indian Charlie mare Ms. Cornstalk, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.53 with James McAleney aboard for trainer Reade Baker. The Brereton Jones homebred now is 2-for-2. "There were anxious moments and she was pretty keyed up," Jones said after the Debutante. "She's got this tremendous ability and this tremendous heart and that's a great combination."
Seal Cove came around the leaders on the final turn in Monday's $78,000 Gleaming Stakes for 3-year-olds and drew clear smartly to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Canaveral. The early leader, Eternal Ruler, finished third. Seal Cove, a Kentucky-bred Strong Hope colt, ran the 1 3/16 miles on yielding turf in 2:01.75 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Emerald Beach surged to the lead early in the stretch run in Wednesday's $79,000 Signature Stallion Waya Stakes, then held off Senada at the end to win by a neck. Dyani finished third. Emerald Beach, a 5-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred Maria's Mon mare, covered the 1 1/2 miles on the "good" inner turf track in 2:30.86 under Alex Solis.
Cascadilla Falls got clear on the turn in Thursday's $76,000 Lucy Scribner Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, opened a good lead and survived the late run of Funny Sunny to win by a head. Sunlight Sonata was third. Cascadilla Falls, a Kentucky-bred E Dubai filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.34 with John Velazquez up.
Hessonite was along just in time to defeat Freud's Honor by a head in Thursday's $100,000 New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds, with Majestic Raffy third. Hessonite, a Freud filly, ran the mile on the firm inner turf in 1:37.61 for jockey Ramon Dominguez.
Chiloquin led all the way in Wednesday's $100,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old, turned back a challenge early in the stretch and got home first, a half length better than Luckarack. The favorite, Bench Points, finished third. Chiloquin, a Tribal Rule gelding out of the Desert Mirage mare Zzyzzx Road, got the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.45 with Martin Pedroza up.
Impossible Time rallied from well back in a big field to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares by 2 lengths over Dancing Raven. Megavella was third at a big price and Nicola's Nickers completed the Superfecta. Impossible Time, a 6-year-old Not Impossible mare, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.15 with Jesse Campbell in the irons.
Riley Ripasso came from the middle of the pack to take the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) With Approval Stakes for Ontario-breds, then held off the favorite, Hotep, in the final strides to win by a neck. Woodburne finished third. Riley Ripasso, a 4-year-old Johannesburg colt, finished the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:48.38 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Paso Doble came wide for running room entering the stretch in Wednesday's $125,000 (Canadian) Shepperton Stakes for progeny of eligible, Ontario-based stallions, drove clear and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Race For Gold. Arepeatee finished third. Paso Doble, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Bold n' Flashy gelding, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.75 with Patrick Husbands up.
Presque Isle Downs
Lucky Lewis rallied from mid-pack to win Friday's $75,000 Lil E. Tee Handicap for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds by a half length over Beatnik. Kyma was third. Lucky Lewis, a Forest Camp gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:47.21 under Pablo Morales.
Prize Winner stalked the pace in Friday's $75,000 Malvern Rose Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, hit the front at the quarter pole and won by 1 length over Lenape Rim. Military Wife finished third. Prize winner, a daughter of Pure Prize, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather surface in 1:45.68 with Huber Villa-Gomez up.
Saturday's International Festival of Racing got a little icing on the "international" part of that cake when Santina Dond rallied from mid-pack to win the $65,000 Hatoof Stakes for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile on the yielding turf. Santina Dond, who who by a neck over Happy Choice, started her career in Poland and is trained by Gennadi Dorochenko for owner Vladamir Kazakov. The Kentucky-bred El Prado colt won her first two starts in Poland and the Hatoof was her fourth victory in eight tries in the United States. She finished the mile in 1:39.62 with Carlos Castro riding.
Tazz ran by pacesetting Exchanging Kisses in the late going of Friday's $60,000 Illinois Owners Stakes and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Cool C Note got home third, a neck farther back. Tazz, a 5-year-old, Illinois-bred Roar of the Tiger gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:44.37 under Seth Martinez.
In Friday's $60,000 Illinois Owners Stakes for fillies and mares, Hooh Why stayed close to the pace, rallied to the lead and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over odds-on favorite Askbut I Won'ttell. Peyote Patty finished third. Hooh Why, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred Cloud Hopping mare, finished the 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:44.28 with Jozbin Santana aboard.
Groupie Doll rallied from a pace-stalking position to upset Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Gardenia Stakes for fillies and mares, finishing 3 lengths better than Secret File. Stage Magic finished third and the favorite, Tidal Pool, faded from the lead to get home fifth. Groupie Doll, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Bowman's Band filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:37.37 with Greta Kuntzweiler in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Flatter This outfinished favorite Tannersville to win Saturday's $55,000 Band Is Passing Stakes by a half length with Wingedlie third. The 1 1/16-mile race, originally carded for the turf, was clocked in 1:47.91 over the fast main track. Flatter This, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Flatter colt, was ridden by Luis Saez.
Black Tie Benny, carrying on the Midwestern tradition of grandsire Black Tie Affair, led all the way to a 3-length victory over Desert Alley in Saturday's $60,000 Minnesota Derby for state-bred colts and geldings. With Martin Escobar in the irons, the City Place colt, out of the Black Tie Affair mare Black Tie Royalty, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.97 on a fast track. Victory Sled finished third.
Bert'slittlesister got to the front after a half mile in Saturday's $60,000 Minnesota Oaks for state-breds, cleared and then held on to win by a head over odds-on favorite Polar Plunge. Grace of Greatness finished third. Bert'slittlesister, a daughter of Tahkodha Hills, got the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:45.31 with Dean Butler riding.
Wild Jacob overhauled pacesetting El Poppie in the stretch run to win Sunday's $50,000 John Bullit Stakes by a length. Edgerin J finished third and the favorite, Stachys, got home fourth. Wild Jacob, a 3-year-old, Maryland-bred Eurosilver gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.05 with Ry Eikleberry up.
Down Town Allen led all the way to a 5-lengths upset win in Saturday's $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for West Virgina-bred fillies and mares. Nature's Annuity was the best of the rest, with Beware of the Bop third and the heavy favorite, Aspenglow, fading to get home a well-beaten fifth. Down Town Allen, a 4-year-old Windsor Castle filly, finished the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.93 with Mathew McGowan in the irons. Bridge-jumper money on Aspenglow inflated the show payoffs dramatically.
Jebrica came running down the stretch to win Sunday's $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby by 2 3/4 lengths over Couldabenthewhisky. Winter Warlock finished third. Jebrica, a Washington-bred Liberty Gold gelding, finished the 9 furlongs in 1:48.17 under Pedro Terrero.
Class Included surged to a daylight lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $65,000 Washington Oaks, then survived the late run of longshot Playful Argument to win by a neck. Soul in One finished third. Class Included, a Kentucky-bred Include filly, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.76 with Leslie Mawing riding.
Mr. Candy Bar gave the long shot players a sweet reward after Saturday's $50,000 Robert Dupret Derby as the Kentucky-bred Candy Ride colt came from off the pace to nip Cody Peak by a neck and the favorite, Life Is a Rock, by another head. With William Antongiorgi III riding, Mr. Candy Bar finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.21.
Toccet To Me battled through the stretch before prevailing by a neck over the favorite, Hezamazing, in Sunday's $50,000 Arapahoe Park Classic. Joe Carl finished third. Toccet To Me, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Toccet gelding, went to the post a 16-1 long shot and ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.16 with Kelly Bridges in the irons.
Northern Causeway set a pressured pace in Sunday's $75,000 Richmond Derby Trial, then survived at the end, beating the favorite, Commander, by a neck. Arraignment was third. Northern Causeway, a Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway colt out of the Silver Deputy mare Getaway Girl, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.01 with William Antongiorgi III up.
News and notes:
The American Graded Stakes Committee, following the lead of Breeders' Cup, has announced it will institute a pilot program in 2012 banning race-day medication in graded 2-year-old stakes. The policy, targeting mainly the anti-bleeding medication Salix, will be re-evaluated after the year. Forty-nine stakes for 2-year-olds have been assigned graded status for next year.
Breeders' Cup made it official this week -- the 2012 World Championships are headed back to Santa Anita after a two-year stay at Churchill Downs. Santa Anita also hosted the event in 2008 and 2009 and Belmont Park had expected to be considered for next year's running of the two-day event.
The Jockey Club announced Sunday it will underwrite a television series on horse racing, designed to help educate the public about the sport and reverse declines in its popularity. The plan is part of a larger overall response to a report commissioned last year from McKinsey and Co. consultants. Details of the television deal remain to be worked out but sources said it could be anything from a racing-related reality show to a series of recaps of actual races.