In a "now you see them, now you don't" year for 3-year-olds, To Honor and Serve is the latest re-entrant into the picture for year-end glory.
The opportunity is certainly there.
The Kentucky Derby winner is out for the year with an injury. Last year's juvenile champion missed the derby and is just now making a comeback from a liver ailment. And another of the new leaders in the division is a fizzle from the Triple Crown trail.
Now comes To Honor and Serve, who stalked the pace in Saturday's $1 million, Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing, then easily drew off in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Another of the enigmatic sophomores, Ruler On Ice, ran well in deep stretch to finish second with Rattlesnake Bridge settling for third.
To Honor and Serve, a Kentucky-bred Bernardini colt, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.34 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. He had looked like a force early in the Triple Crown wars, winning the Nashua and the Remsen in New York. But then he was a well-beaten third in both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby and was put away by trainer Bill Mott, not returning to action until the Saratoga meeting.
Ruler On Ice, meanwhile, won the Belmont Stakes, looking like a potential powerhouse, but then appeared to be going the wrong way, finishing third in the Haskell and fourth in the Travers. And Rattlesnake Bridge languished until June, then started to pick things up in a campaign that led him to a good second-place showing in the Travers.
Mott said To Honor and Serve "seems to be rounding into a sort of maturity" at mid-season. The Breeders' Cup Classic, he said, might fit right into that schedule.
The aptly named Derby Kitten rallied through the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Ontario Derby at Woodbine and was up in time to win by a half length over Hippolytus. The favorite, Moonshine Mullin, was another neck back in third. Derby Kitten, a Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey homebred Kitten's Joy colt out of the Menifee mare Blush, finished the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.32 with Mike Smith riding. Smith said Derby Kitten seemed "a bit warm" after saddling. But, "once the doors opened, he put me right in the race and it was just a matter of finding a place to go."
Other races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Championships Nov. 4-5 at Churchill Downs:
La Gran Bailadora, a "horse for the course," rallied from last of seven to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Distorted Humor Kentucky Cup Distaff by a length over Bella Medaglia. Miss Mine finished third and the favorite, Upperline, never fired and finished last. La Gran Bailadora, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Afleet Alex filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.90 with Corey Lanerie aboard. She now has won four of 10 starts at Turfway, with another second and third for those efforts. Overall, she is 5-for-19.
Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds came off the turf, with the seven resulting scratches including the likely favorite, Wilcox Inn. Of those left, I'm Steppin' It Up led all the way to post a minor upset, holding off the favorite, King Congie, by 2 lengths at the wire. Fire With Fire finished third. I'm Steppin' It Up, a Florida-bred Congrats colt, ran the 9 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:50.50 with Jeremy Rose in the irons. "He is nice and he has been good, but he has just been growing up," said trainer Tony Pecoraro, who picked up his 1,000th career training win. "I am not sure where we are going next, but he is a Florida-bred so we would like to aim for the Sunshine Millions, but I am not sure where we are going to go from here."
Royal Currier upset Saturday's $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at Parx Racing, taking the early lead and making it stand up. At the end, the 13-1 shot was 3 3/4 lengths ahead of the favorite, Poseidon's Warrior, with Indiano third. Royal Currier, a Florida-bred Red Bullet gelding, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in course-record time of 1:07.51 with Stewart Elliott up.
Matthewsburg rallied to the lead as the field turned for home in Saturday's $100,000 Speightstown Kentucky Cup Sprint at Turfway Park and quickly pulled clear, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Philippe. Will's Wildcat was third and the favorite, Cal Nation, got home sixth after a tardy start. Matthewsburg, a 3-year-old, Kentucky-bred Ghostzapper colt out of the A.P. Indy mare Romantic Comedy, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.28 with Victor Lebron in the irons. It was his third win from 10 starts and first stakes victory.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Pomeroy's Pistol pressed the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Foxwoods Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, then quickly drew off to win by 4 lengths in a minor upset. Tamarind Hall was best of the rest with Lovely Lil third. The favorite, Tar Heel Mom, didn't fire and finished fifth. Pomeroy's Pistol, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred Pomeroy filly, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:16.60 with Javier Castellano aboard. Owner/trainer Amy Tarrant said the Breeders' Cup is on the agenda. "We're very excited about it," she said, "and now she is going to go home (to Monmouth Park) for a nice rest and we're going to be looking towards the Breeders' Cup for her."
Future Prospect set a pressured pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II WinStar Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park, then held on to beat General Quarters by 3/4 of a length. Demarcation was third as the three longest shots in the eight-horse field comprised the $3,328.20 trifecta. Future Prospect, the star of 76-year-old owner-trainer Dodson H. Skaggs's one-horse stable, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.71 under Edgar Prado. The 7-year-old, New York-bred Freud gelding has been nursed patiently back to action after being out for a year and a half with a serious injury. He now has four straight wins. Although he was dispatched at 18-1 odds, Skaggs said, "I liked my horse. I did." Now, he said, "I don't really know" what's next. "We'll wait and see how he comes back." He did note that Churchill Downs, site of this year's Breeders' Cup, is well within driving distance of his northern Kentucky home. "I like to sleep in my own bed at night," he allowed.
Hansen ran his way into Breeders' Cup contention with a dominating victory in Saturday's $100,000 Bluegrass Cat Kentucky Cup Juvenile. The almost-white colt, by Tapit out of the Sir Cat mare Stormy Sunday, led all the way and won by 13 1/4 lengths. Fine was second and Downtown Driggs finished third. It was Hansen's second start and second win and his owner, Kendall E. Hansen, said he now will seek the best way to the big race. "If the Breeders' Cup committee will let us in without any graded earnings, we'll go right to that race," he said. "If not, we'll run at Keeneland." He said he would prefer to train the colt up to the Breeders' Cup "to keep him safe. He runs good fresh." Mike Maker trains Hansen and Victor Lebron rode him over 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.83.
Saturday's Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket turned up a potential Breeders' Cup Juvenile contender in Daddy Long Legs, who made all the going and won off by 3 1/4 lengths. Tenth Star and Wrote finished second and third, completing a sweep for Ballydoyle. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said he is considering the Racing Post Trophy and the Breeders' Cup for Daddy Long Legs, a son of Scat Daddy.
Hunt Crossing pressed the pace in Saturday's $132,362 NATC Futurity at Monmouth Park, took the lead at the top of the stretch and zoomed off to win by 3 lengths over Dangerous Trick. Managed Account finished third. Hunt Crossing, a Kentucky-bred Corinthian colt out of the Silver Deputy mare Silver Lace, finished the 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.51 under jockey Elvis Trujillo.
Sword Trick carved up the competition with ease in Saturday's $100,000 My Dandy Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park, kicking clear in the lane to win by 13 1/4 lengths. Jones Focus was the best of the rest with Field Goal worth three. Sword Trick, an Early Flyer gelding out of the Hadif mare Hadif Cat, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.43.
Validfromthegitgo had to wait behind horses on the turn in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes at Louisiana Downs but once he got through, he accelerated nicely for jockey Jansen Melancon and went on to win by a length over pacesetter Masculino. The Easyfromthegitgo gelding, out of the Sky Classic mare Killistos, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.79.
Talk to My Lawyer took the early lead in Sunday's $65,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs, took back midway through the race and came again to win by a neck over Havanna Red. Leadership finished third. Talk to My Lawyer, a Washington-bred filly by Lawyer Ron running against colts, got the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:44.26 with Leslie Marwing up.
In the "there is some justice" category, first-time starter Gemologist dominated the final race Saturday at Turfway Park, battling for the lead and then distancing the field in the stretch to win by 5 lengths over Fifty Five South. Gemologist, a Tiznow colt out of the Mr. Prospector mare Crystal Shard, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.12. The "justice?" Gemologist is owned by WinStar Farms, whose sponsorship enabled the resurrection of Turfway's Kentucky Cup races. Tiznow stands at WinStar.
Charming Vixen pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Tiznow Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park, shook clear and won off by 3 1/2 lengths. Heated Debate came from off the pace to finish second and Spring Eclipse rallied to finish third. Charming Vixen, a Kentucky-bred Bernstein filly out of the Honour and Glory mare Sadler's Charm, ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:40.77 with Calvin Borel up. The morning-line favorite, Flashy Lassie, was an early scratch.
My Due Process dueled for the lead along the rail in Saturday's $122,718 NATC Futurity at Monmouth Park, shook loose in the stretch and got home first by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Singlet. Fiftyfour Forever finished third. My Due Process, a Kentucky-bred Henny Hughes filly out of the Crafty Prospector mare Easy Action, ran the 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:11.19 with Manoel Cruz up for trainer Dale Romans.
Foreign Girl, the prohibitive, odds-on favorite, ran to her notices in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes at Louisiana Downs, taking the lead in the stretch and drawing clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Rain Town. Another Nitty finished third. Foreign Girl, a daughter of Run Production out of the Zarbyev mare Foreign Envoy, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.84 with Elvis Perrodin up.
Cowgirl N Up led all the way to an upset win in Saturday's $100,000 Darby's Daughter Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park, holding off the favorite, Nothinbettertodo, by a half length. Im a Bear finished third. Cowgirl N Up, a daughter of My Golden Song, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:12.22.
Sahpresa, invading from France, became the first horse to win the Sun Chariot Stakes three times as she captured Saturday's Group 1 renewal at Newmarket by a length over Chachamaidee. Strawberrydaiquiri finished third. The 6-year-old Sahm mare covered the mile on good to firm going in 1:37.60 with Christophe Lemaire up. Trainer Rod Collet indicated Sahpresa might try the Mile Championship next.
Lightening Pearl drew clear of the field with 2 furlongs to run in Saturday's Group 1 Jaguar Cars Cheveley Park Stakes, then held off Sunday Times to win by a half length. Angels Will Fall finished third. The previously undefeated favorite, Best Terms, settled for fifth. She finished the 6 furlongs on good to firm turf in 1:11.23 and trainer Ger Lyons said she may be put away for the season with an eye on next year's Guineas.
Smart Sting dueled with Anne's Beauty through the early furlongs of Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian), Grade III Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then drew away and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths over that rival. The odds-on favorite, Queen's Plate winner Inglorious, finished a neck farther back in third in her second straight loss following a sixth-place finish in the Alabama at Saratoga. Smart Sting, a Kentucky-bred Smart Strike filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.73 with Eurico Da Silva up. She now has three wins from seven starts. "I said to Eurico in the paddock before the race to just let her run her race," winning trainer Roger Attfield said. "Whatever happens, just let her run, and he gave her a great ride. The filly has a big future."
Sunday's $100,000 Flaming Page Stakes for fillies and mares came off the turf but no harm done to the favorite, Honimiere, who led throughout and won by 7 1/2 lengths. Oregon Lady was second and Happy Clapper finished third. Honimiere, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Fasliyev mare, ran 1 1/2 miles on the all-weather track in 2:31.25 with Da Silva up.
Go Unbridled rallied from last of six to win Sunday's $100,000 John Hettinger Stakes for New York-bred distaffers by 1 1/2 lengths over Spa City Princess. Rogue's Jewel finished third in the 9-furlong event, which was taken off the turf. Go Unbridled, a 4-year-old Unbridled Jet filly, was clocked in 1:51.33 with Ramon Dominguez aboard.
Johannesburg Smile rated outside rivals in Saturday's $60,000 Noble Nashua Stakes for New York-breds, swept to the lead at the top of the lane and won off by 2 3/4 lengths over Socialsaul. Mineovermatter finished third. Johnannesburg Smile, a 4-year-old Johannesburg colt, got the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:43.41 with Javier Castellano riding.
Boots Ahead collared pacesetting Followmyfootsteps in the late going of Friday's $60,000 Third Martini Stakes, going on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Radical Sabbatical was third. Boots Ahead, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Storm Boot gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the soft inner turf course in 1:54.40 with Eddie Castro in the irons.
Calder Race Course
My Pal Chrisy rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $75,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares as the longest shot on the mutuel board. Successful Song was second, Diosa Indian third and the favorite, Trip for A.J., finished fourth. My Pal Chrisy, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred Alex's Pal filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.38 with Luca Panici in the irons.
Bessie M rallied from well back to win Saturday's $55,000 Dolly Jo Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths over Afleet Lass. Max Speed finished third and the favorite, Jehan, finished fourth. Bessie M, a 3-year-old, Medalist filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.81 with Daniel Centeno in the irons.
Gunfighter had all guns blazing in Saturday's $75,000 Roanoke Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds, opening a daylight lead in the stretch and winning off by 3 3/4 lengths, geared down at the end. Layers was second and Winchell was far back in third. Gunfighter, an Iron Deputy gelding, covered the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:44.32 with Garrett Gomez riding.
Atticus Jack led all the way in Sunday's $75,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Handicap, then survived the late run of Norvsky to win by 3/4 of a length. El Gato Malo finished third. Atticus Jack, a 5-year-old, California-bred Atticus gelding, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.04 with Agapito Delgadillo aboard.
Great Warrior overhauled pacesetting favorite Uncle Sam early in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Pomona Derby and went on to win by 4 lengths. Uncle Sam held second, a head better than Aqua Fever. Great Warrior, a Brazilian-bred son of Leroidesanimaux, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.26 under Omar Berrio.
Pure Class won a stretch battle with fellow long shot Always in Style to take Saturday's $50,000 Las Madrinas Stakes for fillies and mares by a half length. Miss Pleasant finished third and the favorite, Downhill Diva, setted for sixth. Pure Class, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Purge filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.95 for jockey Anne Sanguineti.
Chalula One got first run to the lead in Friday's $50,000 Bangles and Beads Stakes for fillies and mares and made the advantage stand up, beating the late-running favorite Halfaponderosa by 1 3/4 lengths. Came West finished third. Chalula One, a 5-year-old, California-bred Bertrando mare, got the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.80 with Martin Pedroza up.
Carbonite got clear of the field halfway through Wednesday's $50,000 Governor's Cup and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Details R Sketchy. Earnednevergiven earned third-place money. Carbonite, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Aldebaran gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.25 with Christian Santiago Reyes up.
Amanecer de Oro dueled to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 A.L. "Red" Erwin Sales Graduate Stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds, got a comfortable advantage and then held on to win by a half length over Expressiano. Tricky and Quick finished third. Amanecer de Oro, an Afternoon Deelites colt, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:37.25 with John Jacinto in the irons.
Tough Issie came from near the back of the 11-horse field to win Saturday's $150,000 Elge Rasberry Sales Graduate Stakes for 3-year-old, state-bred fillies by 5 lengths over Miss Macabe. Patter Flatter was third under the wire. Tough Issie, a daughter of Good and Tough, ran the grassy mile in 1:39.28.
Tricky Suspect ran away from seven rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Razorback Futurity for Arkansas-breds, winning by 9 1/2 lengths over Simply Scandalous. The Primary Suspect gelding, out of the Clever Trick mare Great Trick, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.60, picking up his second straight win.
First-time starter Spadra caught pacesetting favorite Primarily Payton in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Lady Razorback Futurity for Arkansas-breds and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. The Wildcat Shoes filly ran 6 furlongs in 1:13.07.
Jenna's Miracle exchanged the lead with Attitude E Racer during the running of Saturday's $50,000 New Mexico State Fair Breeders' Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, then was up late to win by a head over that rival. Running Squall was a non-threatening third. Jenna's Miracle, a Silver Season colt, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.31 with Miguel Hernandez up.
Honshu City upset Sunday's $50,000 George Maloof Futurity for New Mexico-bred juveniles, winning by a neck over the favorite, Boy Ego. Russianontherail finished third. Honshu City, a Fusaichi Zenon colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.29 under Don Frazier.
Roll Bloomers Roll rolled down the stretch to a 1 1/4-length victory in Sunday's $50,000 Dessie & Fern Sawyer Futurity for state-bred 2-year-old fillies. Last Dance was second with My Kinda Pretty third. Roll Bloomers Roll, a Roll Hennessey Roll filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.25 with Don Frazier in the irons.
Quiet Again stalked the pace in Sunday's $40,000 New Mexico State Fair Handicap, then went by and on to win by a half length. Infinite Resource also did his best running late to take second and Fox in the House finished third. Quiet Again, a 6-year-old, Texas-bred Real Quiet gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.43 with Ken Tohill up.
Antioch Diamond dueled to the lead in Friday's $50,000 Remington Park Turf Sprint and went on to win by a length over Conkigo. Her Man was third. Antioch Diamond, a 6-year-old, Oklahoma-bred Deodar gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.97 seconds.
Silk Spinner cleared the field in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 African Prince Stakes for 3-year-old Massachusetts-bred and went on to win by 3 lengths over Gold Star Dancer. Silks Solitude finished third. Silk Spinner, a Silk Broker colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:14.51 with Gary Wales riding.