On-track action took a back seat to anticipation this weekend with the Breeders' Cup fields to be announced Monday and the Melbourne Cup set for Tuesday.
Many of the Breeders' Cup races need fine-tuning, with some key horses pre-entered for more than one race. Once the fields are set and post positions drawn, the serious handicapping can get under way.
Decent weather is forecast for the 15 Breeders' Cup World Championship races at Churchill Downs on Friday and Saturday, with highs in the 60s and only a slight chance of rain.
The Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup, still a major national event in Australia, drew a field of 24 to challenge the 2 miles of Flemington turf expected to be good to soft. Defending champion Americain, drawn No. 15, is top fancied in early wagering although he has struggled since last year's victory. Godolphin, which has found little success in this race, will be represented by Lost in the Moment, who has not won since January in Dubai.
The weekend racing action overseas was highlighted largely by races that point toward future events. Back in the States, a trio of "festival" dates for state-breds shared marquee status with the shift of Kentucky racing from Keeneland to Churchill Downs.
Sangster surged to the lead heading for home in Saturday's Group 1 Victoria Derby at Flemington, then just held on to win by a head over late-closing Induna. The 3-year-old, New Zealand-bred son of Savabeel, finished the 2,500 meters in 2:40.33 under Hugh Bowman. Bowman didn't have as easy a task as last year when he won the same race by 6 1/2 lengths riding Lion Tamer. This time around, he was caught wide most of the way and able to conserve just enough energy to get the job done. "I wasn't looking at the screen this year -- put it that way," he said in comparing the final yards of the two races.
Also Saturday at Flemington: Hurtle Myrtle got home first by nearly 1 1/2 lengths over Sacred Choice in the Group 1 Myer Classic, running 1,600 meters under Damien Oliver in 1:37.50; Glass Harmonium took the Group 1 Longines MacKinnon Stakes by just under 1 length from Mourayan; and Sepoy won the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Ascot Vale Stakes for 3-year-olds in a close finish with Foxwedge.
A pair of surprises greeted racegoers on Saturday at Sha Tin in the first major run-ups to the Dec. 11 Hong Kong International Races.
In the HK Group 2 Premier Bowl, previously undefeated Entrapment got a bit entrapped in traffic and fell victim to his stablemate, outsider Rich Unicorn. Entrapment finished third, edged out for second by Little Bridge. Rich Unicorn got the 1,200 meters in 1:08.82. Entrapment's owner, Benson Lo, said he was disappointed but not shocked. "He was boxed up a bit in running," Los said, "as I thought he might be. But he ran a good race." Both Entrapment and Rich Unicorn are trained by John Size, who noted the winner "raced on the best ground down the center of the track. I wasn't disappointed by Entrapment because he had valid excuses. He got a bit lit up early in the race when it looked as though another runner was going to cross him and Douglas [Whyte] had to move him up to avoid that. But he still ran on very well considering the ground was not as quick on the rail where he was racing."
In the HK Group II Sha Tin Trophy, last year's Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup winner, California Memory, got through on the rail to nip Champions Mile winner Xtension and last year's Trophy winner, Thumbs Up. California Memory's ability was never in question. But he was not running at his best distance and the field included some of the SAR's top runners. With Matthew Chadwick up, the gray horse was near the back of the pack turning for home and the only path forward was on the rail. "The ground wasn't as quick on the inside," Chadwick admitted. "But maybe we saved a length or two by sticking there and he did run on very well. I never thought the drop to the mile would be a real problem for him." Trainer Tony Cruz said the 2,000-meter G2 Cathay Pacific Jockey Club and the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup are now on the horizon for California Memory. "It was a great lead-up for those races," he said. California Memory finished the 1,600 meters in 1:34.75.
French Fifteen, with Thierry Thulliez up, rallied from the back of the field in the final 2 furlongs to win Sunday's Group 1 Criterium International for 2-year-olds at Saint-Cloud by 1 1/4 lengths over Pakal. English invader Bonfire, was caught in traffic in the late going and finished third. French Fifteen, trained by Nicolas Clement, picked up his second stakes win. The French-bred Turtle Bowl colt finished the mile over very soft going in 1:43.50.
Tosen Jordan came from well back in the field to pull off a big upset in Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho at Tokyo Race Course, getting home first by a half length over Dark Shadow in course-record time of 1:56.1. Pelusa finished third and last year's winner, Buena Vista, got home fourth. In a star-studded field, 2010 Japan Cup winner Rose Kingdom finished 10th of 18. Tosen Jordan, a 5-year-old son of Jungle Pocket, likely will join stablemate Orfevre, winner of this year's Japanese Triple Crown, in the field for the Nov. 27 Japan Cup, trainer Yasutoshi Ikee said. "I thought that he would have a better chance of winning if the race development required stamina rather than burst of speed," the conditioner said. "So I was delighted when the pace became fast." The race was opened to international runners in 2005 but none has yet accepted the challenge.
Some of the top California horses not ticketed for next weekend's "doin's" in Louisville were on display Saturday in the California Cup races for state-bred steeds. The star of the show, however, turned out to be jockey Rafael Bejarano, who piloted four of the five Cal Cup winners and five winners overall on the day.
Norvsky tracked the pace set by Lucky Primo in the $175,000 Classic, then just got up in time to win by a neck. Holladay Road, coming from farther back, fell another nose short, finishing third. Norvsky, a 5-year-old Vronsky gelding, finished the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.97 with Bejarano in the irons. Norvsky has been out of the money only once in 16 lifetime starts -- that, when trainer Donald Warren placed him ambitiously in the Grade II Arcadia Stakes in April off a full year's layoff. And he was fourth in that event, behind Liberian Freighter.
Courtside set an honest pace in the Donald Valpredo $100,000 Sprint and never found a challenger, winning by 2 1/4 lengths with Bob Black Jack second and M One Rifle third. Courtside, a 3-year-old Cindago gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.97 under Joel Rosario. Bejarano did not have a mount in this race.
Unzip Me tracked the pace in the $125,000 John Deere Distaff down the hillside turf course, then outfinished West Ruler to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Salty Sarah led the way and held on for third. Unzip Me, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, finished the "about" 6 1/2 gravity-aided furlongs in 1:12.53 with Bejarano riding.
Rousing Sermon stalked the pace into the stretch in the $100,000 Bob Benoit Juvenile, worked his way past pacesetting Motown Men a sixteenth out and got off to a 2 1/4-length win over that rival. Stoney Fleece finished third. Rousing Sermon, a Lucky Pulpit colt from the Awesome Again mare Rousing Again, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.52 with Bejarano up.
Starlight Magic, the odds-on favorite, came from a pace-stalking position in the $100,000 Robert H. Walter Juvenile Fillies to take the lead in the lane, then edged off to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Willa B Awesome led briefly and held second. It was another 10 1/2 lengths back to Raesunbridledfaith in third. Starlight Magic, a Marino Marini filly out of the General Meeting mare Star's Millennium, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.47 under Bejarano.
Rose and Shine tracked the pace in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Princess Elizabeth Stakes for 2-year-old, Canadian-bred fillies, took the lead with a three-wide move in the lane and won by a length over Dixie Strike. The favorite, Blue Heart, got home third. Rose and Shine, a Mr. Sekiguchi filly out of the Colonial Affair mare Yellowenglishrose, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.56 with Luis Contreras up. "Everytime she runs, she tries so hard," winning trainer Ralph Biamonte said. "We had a good trip today and I think it was just a matter of the trip."
Oregon Lady dropped to the inside in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) River Memories Stakes for fillies and mares, squeezed by the leaders and won off by 4 1/4 lengths. Moment of Majesty was second with an even trip and Halloween hunch bet Magic Broomstick, the favorite, was third. Oregon Lady, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Shamardal filly, ran the mile on soft turf in 1:39.59 with Patrick Husbands at the controls. "I just did like Simon says," laughed Ramsammy, referring to winning trainer Stuart Simon. "Last race she was a bit rank and we had a slow track. We liked her an awful lot going into this race, and she didn't disappoint us."
Atlantic Hurricane roared down the stretch like a big wind in Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Fashion Stakes for fillies and mares, collared pacesetting Waccamaw late and went on to win by a half length over that rival. The odds-on favorite Ariana D, made a move in the stretch but hung and finished third. Atlantic Hurricane, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Halo's Image filly, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.23 for jockey Emile Ramsammy.
Stormy Lord took the lead early in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Labeeb Stakes and held off Hollinger to win by a half length. Safety Zone finished third. Stormy Lord, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred Stormy Atlantic gelding, got the mile on yielding turf in 1:39.94 with Justin Stein in the irons. "When the gate opens, and the race shapes up the way you want it to and you have good position early, the rest is up to him," Stein said. "I don't have to worry about a thing after that, because he's going to give me his whole heart."
Wise Dan swooped past the leaders on the stretch turn in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Fayette Stakes and worked clear, winning by 4 lengths over Ioya Bigtime. Workin for Hops was a half length farther back in third. Wise Dan, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Wiseman's Ferry gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.72 for jockey Julien Leparoux. He was coming back from a fourth-place finish behind Gio Ponti in the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 8. "We had a big question about the mile-and-an-eighth," winning trainer Charlie Lopresti said. That's the thing we've been afraid of all along. And I just thought, 'We've got to try it. We've got to find out how far he can go.'" Now, he said, he is considering one of the 9-furlong graded events on the Churchill Downs fall schedule.
On Fire Baby helped kick off the fall stakes schedule under the twin spires with an off-the-pace upset win in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Pocahontas Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. With Joe Johnson up, the Kentucky-bred Smoke Glacken filly, out of the Gilded Time mare Ornate, outfinished And Why Not to score by 3/4 of a length. Glinda the Good was up for third. On Fire Baby ran the mile on a fast track in 1:37.17. She now has two wins from three starts. "I've trained a lot of good horses and some graded stakes winners and she's right up there with them," winning trainer Gary Hartlage said. "She'll be even better next year when she really figures out what's going on." He said she may start in the Golden Rod on Nov. 26 or wait until next year.
In the Opening Day co-feature, Motor City rallied from last of seven to win the $100,000, Grade III Iroquois Stakes for 2-year-olds, getting by pacesetting Seven Lively Sins late to win by 3/4 of a length over that rival. Mr. Bowling finished third. Motor City, a Street Sense gelding out of the Danzig Connection mare Shawgatny, ran the mile in 1:37.18 for jockey Calvin Borel. He now has two wins, a second and a third from five starts. "He ran really well today," winning trainer Ian Wilkes said. "The race set up like we wanted. Sometimes it works out perfect. We'll make sure he comes out of the race fine and then we'll definitely look at the [Kentucky] Jockey Club." Borel said Motor City "ran just like his daddy," who won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and the 2007 Kentucky Derby.
Trainer King Leatherbury wasn't successful in finding partners to supplement Ben's Cat to the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint so, instead, he sent the 5-year-old Parker's Storm Cat gelding out to a 2-length win in Saturday's $50,000 Laurel Dash -- which came off the turf in the northeast's nasty weather. With Jeremy Rose up, Ben's Cat tracked the pace off the rail, got to the front in the stretch and won driving. Royal Currier was second and Action Andy took third. The 6 furlongs in the slop took 1:11.11. Half of the original 12-horse field scratched after the surface change. Rose, who piloted Afleet Alex to victories in the 2005 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, said Ben's Cat is the third-best horse he has ever ridden. "Alex, Havre de Grace and him are 1-2-3," Rose said. "I have been on some really top horses, including Big Brown and Toccet, but Ben's Cat is better than them."
The weekend card was called off following Saturday's third race because of the snowstorm that wreaked havoc in the northeast, making everyone really glad the Breeders' Cup wasn't scheduled for Belmont this year. It's bound to be nicer in 2013.
R Gypsy Gold was along late to win Thursday's $60,000 Real Prize Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 lengths over Draw It. The pacesetting favorite, Love and Pride, faded to finish third. R Gypsy Gold, a Kentucky-bred Bernardini filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:43.58 under John Velazquez.
Clement Rock stalked the pace set by Dynafortwo in Friday's $60,000 Shady Character Stakes for 3-year-olds, hooked that one in a long stretch duel and prevailed by a nose. Top Surprize finished well back in third. Clement Rock, a Florida-bred Strong Hope colt, got the mile on soft turf in 1:39.62 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Since Saturday is reserved for college football this year in Oklahoma, Friday night was Oklahoma Classics, featuring a card full of events for Sooner-breds.
Ransom Roberto rallied from the back of the pack to engage the leaders in the stretch run of the $165,800 Classics Cup Stakes, then edged clear in the final yards to win by 1 3/4 lengths. J J's Indy led late but could not hold off the winner, settling for second. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Evansville Storm in third. Ransom Roberto, a 5-year-old Rojo Dinero gelding, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.14 with Jose Medina aboard.
She's All In raced off the pace into the stretch in the $128,500 Distaff, then relentlessly closed through the stretch drive, wearing down the leaders and scoring by a length over Okie Blonde. Leslie Be Judged took show money. She's All In, a 4-year-old Include filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.10 with Glen Murphy up.
Okie Ride led most of the way to a 1 1/2-length win in the $111,100 Sprint. Rite to Rule was second with Steal Your Face third. Okie Ride, a 4-year-old, Candy Ride gelding got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.51 for jockey Floyd Wethey Jr.
Geaming pressed the pace in the $113,700 Distaff Sprint, surged to the lead when asked and held well to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Vertical Vision. Miss Natalie was third. Gleaming, a 4-year-old Dehere filly ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.06.
Capture the Flag outfinished Okie Slew in the $114,350 Distaff Turf, winning in the final strides by a head. Concerned Okie closed fast in the final furlong but settled for third, another neck in arrears. Capture the Flag, a 4-year-old Military gelding, ran the mile on firm going in 1:38.31 with Luis Quinonez in the irons.
In the Band was in the lead from the early furlongs in the $115,000 Distaff Turf and held on at the end to win by 3/4 of a length over Miranda Diane. Varna pumped the trifecta. In the Band, a 6-year-old Prospector's Music mare, finished 7 1/2 furlongs the grass in 1:30.67 under Quinonez.
Ted's Folly rallied from last of nine to win the $79,050 Juvenile by a neck over Star's Valentino after benefiting from a crazy speed duel that involved all the other runners. Z Rockstar was third. Ted's Folly, a Wild Tale gelding out of the Sword Dance mare Tricksword, finished 6 furlongs in 1:10.64 with Medina riding.
Now I Know was the easiest of winners as the heavy favorite in the $81,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, drawing off late to score by 9 1/4 lengths. Peeker was second with Valid A.J. third. Now I Know, a daughter of Pure Prize out of the Maria's Mon mare Now U Know, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.74 with Perry Compton up.
Salad Girl stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Jersey Juvenile for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, took over in the lane and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths over Don Six's Number. Geeky Gorgeous finished third. Salad Girl, a daughter of Hit the Trail out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Boot's, ran the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12.35 with Elvis Trujillo in the irons.
Deliburnsky dominated Saturday's $60,000 Jersey Juvenile for state-bred juvenile colts and gelding, charging clear in the final furlong to win by 6 lengths. Final Forest was second with Chief Carlson third. Deliburnsky, a Flatter gelding out of the Distinctive Pro mare Deliciously, finished the 6 sloppy furlongs in 1:11.23 for jockey Pedro Cotto Jr.
Pay the Man stalked the pace four-wide in Saturday's $50,000 Scarlet and Gray Handicap for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, took the lead when asked and got clear late to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Indian Ink was second, a neck in front of Honey Be Fleet. Pay the Man, a 7-year-old Bernstein mare, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.03 with Luis Gonzales up.
Dreamed a Dream, making her first start in Saturday's $50,000 Norman Hall Stakes for Massachusetts-bred 2-year-olds, got loose on the lead and never quit, drawing off easily at the end. The odds-on favorite, King Colby, finished second, 7 1/4 lengths back of the winner. Fonzy finished third. Dreamed a Dream is a bay filly by the Japanese-bred Agnes Gold out of Fast Designer, who is by the Irish-bred Fastness. She ran the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:16.16 with David Amiss up.
Sunday was New Mexico Classic Cup Day, with seven events for horses bred in the Land of Enchantment.
That's Who sprinted to the lead in the $140,000 Juvenile Colt and Gelding Stakes and held well, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Honshu City. T.V. Stevie finished third. That's Who, a gelding by Quinton's Gold out of the Hadif mare Rama Lassie, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.17 with Carlos Madeira up.
Our Flying Angel came flying wide and late to win the $140,000 Juvenile Fillies Stakes by 3/4 of a length over Hot For You. Quinton's Doll Who led early and held third. Our Flying Angel, a daughter of Abajo out of the Distorted Humor mare Flying Humor, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.66 under Jimmy Coates.
Desert Hennessey stalked the pace in the $140,000 Colts and Geldings for 3-year-olds, then took over and 1 1/2 lengths with Texas Silver second and Attitude E Racer third. Desert Hennessey, a Desert God gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.60 with Madeira in the irons.
Comicsperfectstorm pressed the early pace in the $140,000 Filly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got to the front and easily held off Funnyoushouldask, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Shamrock Girl finished third. Comicsperfectstorm, a daughter of Comic Genius, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.45 for jockey Juan Ochoa.
Chuchuloco had to come seven-wide around the leaders in the $170,000 Sprint Championship but, once there, the 4-year-old Devon Lane gelding got by Lester's Secret in the final jumps to win by a neck. The favorite, Our Choice, ran well late and finished third. Chuchuloco, with Ry Eikleberry up, got the 6 furlongs in 1:09.54.
The 1-mile Championship Fillies & Mares went to the favorite, Rose's Desert, who stalked the pace, got to the front at the top of the stretch and finished first by 3 lengths over King's Water Lily. Elvira Who finished third. Rose's Desert, a 3-year-old Desert God filly, finished in 1:38.24 under Ochoa.
And the $180,000 Classic Cup Championship went to Cross Chris Run, who did all of his running late, outfinishing Brother Louie to win by a neck. Silver Matthias finished third. Cross Chris Run, another by Desert God, ran the 1 mile in 1:37.73 with Ken Tohill aboard.
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