The weekend's most-watched race produced a viable Australian candidate for Dubai World Cup night; Florida's top race of the weekend, not so much.
Black Caviar easily won her 18th straight race Saturday, easily capturing the C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield. But in the $500,000, Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, it was Hymn Book springing the upset over several promising 4-year-olds who might have targeted the World Cup itself with a better showing.
In the Orr, jockey Luke Nolan kept Black Caviar in fourth and in the clear until the field was halfway around the bend. Turned loose, she quickly picked off the leaders and opened a comfortable lead. She was almost eased at the end and won by 3 1/4 lengths over the 2011 Caulfield Cup winner, Southern Speed. Playing God was third.
Black Caviar, a 6-year-old Bel Esprit mare, was stretching out to 1,400 meters for the first time and finished in 1:25.14 over going rated "good to soft."
Trainer Peter Nolan said the race was so little effort for Black Caviar that she might race twice more in Australia before heading overseas -- which would fit with his stated goal to run her record to 20 consecutive wins in front of her home country fans.
Moody also challenged the appearance that Black Caviar has feasted on easy pickings down under.
"What do you say? It's unbelievable," the trainer said after Saturday's win. "I know people doubt the opposition but they are good horses. There's a Caulfield Cup winner who looked outstanding three weeks ago. What she does to good horses is beyond belief."
At Gulfstream, Trickmeister and Shackleford ran 1-2 into the stretch turn in the Donn Handicap, then basically gave it up. Mission Impazible appeared to have a clear path to victory but 6-1 chance Hymn Book, moving on the outside, survived some bumping and got up to win by a nose. Redeemed was third and 2011Hawthorne Gold Cup runner-up Where's Sterling finished fourth after taking the worst of the rough stretch run.
There were high hopes before the Donn for Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Flat Out, the previously undefeated Trickmeister, Preakness winner Shackleford and Belmont Stakes winner Ruler On Ice. They finished fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.
Meanwhile, Hymn Book, a 6-year-old son of Arch, finished the 9 furlongs on a "good" main track in 1:49.16. Owned and bred by Stuart Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey, Hymn Book is being pointed not to Dubai but, rather, back to New York, where he finished a solid second in last November's Cigar Mile.
"Right after he ran so well in the Cigar Mile, I started thinking about this race for him, although I didn't know it would come up this strong," winning trainer Shug McGaughey said. "This was a good field.
"We're New York people and naturally will want a fresh horse for the big races up there later this year. But the [April 14] Oaklawn Handicap is one option we might consider before that."
Mission Impazible's trainer, Todd Pletcher, also was happy with his 5-year-old's performance.
"That was a nasty beat," Pletcher said. "The horse ran super and ran a very professional race. He sat inside the pocket and it's as good as he's ever run."
(By RICHARD GROSS)
In Dubai itself, the purses grew larger, the stakes grew bigger and the races grew tougher at the midpoint meeting Thursday night at Meydan. But Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor enjoyed a stellar outing and Dubai World Cup day hopeful Mendip returned to peak form.
Bin Suroor saddled four winners including Mendip in the $250,000, Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 over 1,900 meters on the Tapeta all-weather. The 5-year-old son of Harlans Holiday captured his sixth win in nine starts. He won last year's 1,600-meter Group 3 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1, but could finish no better than fourth in this year's running of that race.
"He probably needed that first run for the big effort this evening," reasoned jockey Kieren Fallon, after his mount bested Haatheq by 1 1/4 lengths. Trainer Bin Suroor offered no immediate plans for the horse's next outing though the 2003 winner of the race, Moon Ballad, went on to win that year's Group 1 Dubai World Cup over Mendip's sire.
Sandagiyr carried the Godolphin colors to an earlier victory by a neck over Tamaathul for Bin Suroor in the 1,600-meter, Group 3 Firebreak Stakes on the all-weather. Bold Silvano returned to the track in that race after suffering an injury leading up to last year's Dubai World Cup. The winner of last year's Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 had several months of intensive rehabilitation, but could do no better than fifth in a finish that saw the first five runners within 2 lengths. Despite the returner's disappointing placing, South African trainer Mike de Kock said "It's exciting to have him back."
Bin Surror also saddled Spring of Fame to a 1-length victory over Jamr in the 2,200-meter Casthouse Trophy all-weather handicap and Songcraft ran the Godolphin colors to another victory in the 2,435-meter Potlines Trophy outing on the turf. Mahmoud al-Zarooni saddled U.S. runner Kinglet to still another Godolphin win by a neck over Ireland's Mickdaam in the $250,000, Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas over 1,600 meters on the all-weather.
The evening's thoroughbred dominance by Bin Suroor and Godolphin was broken only in the final race as Ireland's Mutahadee and Argentina's Anaerobio gave de Kock a 1-2 finish in the 1,800-meter Dubal Trophy handicap on the turf.
Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap also failed to produce a Dubai candidate. Instead, the winner is being primed for the Breeders' Cup Mile -- for the third time. Get Stormy led throughout the 9-furlong event and held off Hollinger to win by a half length. Big Blue Kitten rallied to take third. Get Stormy, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Stormy Atlantic, covered the distance on turf rated "good" in 1:52.78 with Ramon Dominguez in the irons. Get Stormy won the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland last April and trainer Tom Bush said that race will be the next goal again, en route to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. Get Stormy finished 12th in last year's Mile and 11th the year before -- both times over the Churchill Downs turf. "The two Breeders' Cup races are still a mystery," Bush said, "except that the course there is different in the fall than it is in the spring. There is less growth in the fall. But maybe we'll get him on that firm turf at Santa Anita later this year and he'll like that firm ground out there."
Despite an impressive performance by the winner, Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Hutcheson Stakes for 3-year-olds failed to turn up an obvious Florida Derby contender. Thunder Moccasin, the heavy favorite, proved the crowd right by stalking the pace set by Il Villano, getting by that one with a quarter mile to run and easily scooting off to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Il Villano held second, a half length better than Quick Wit. Ever So Lucky was a late scratch. Thunder Moccasin, a Kentucky-bred A.P. Warrior colt out of the Storm Cat mare One Stormy Mama, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24.16 with John Velazquez up. Despite the dominating nature of the win, trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt is likely to stick to one-turn challenges. "He's a very talented colt," said Pletcher, who already has a barn full of Derby contenders. "His first race was so impressive with the move he made we thought we'd take a shot and go right into the Hutcheson. The race came up just the way we talked about … and he handled it beautifully." He said the 7-furlong Swale on March 10 likely will be the next stop for Thunder Moccasin.
Snow Top Mountain rallied outside the leaders through the stretch drive and was up in time to win Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Suwannee River Stakes for fillies and mares by a half length over Hit It Rich. Gold d'Oro was third and the pacesetter, Speak Easy Gal, finished fourth. Snow Top Mountain, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Najran mare, ran 9 furlongs on the "good" turf in 1:52.86. "The race set up perfectly for us," said winning rider Jose Lezcano. "I sat back off the speed duel. She handled the soft turf very well and I think the 1 1/8-mile distance is perfect for her." Trainer Tom Proctor said he hasn't yet plotted a course for Snow Top Mountain or a couple other grass-running distaffers in his barn. "I'm not one to make a lot of plans ahead for the horses," he said. "We'll just see what comes along."
In Sunday's $60,000 Madcap Escapade Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Sabrina's Dance quick-stepped to the lead and got home first by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Alydarla. My Due Process was third. Sabrina's Dance, a Florida-bred Werblin filly, ran the 5 furlongs on "good" turf in 58.19 seconds under Jose Lezcano.
Slim Shadey led from the early going in Saturday's $150,000 San Marcos Stakes and held off Utopian by a head under the wire. Norvsky was third, Bourbon Bay fourth and the odds-on favorite, Sanagas, faded to finish last of six. The Usual Q.T. and Worth Repeating were late scratches. Slim Shadey, a 4-year-old, British-bred Val Royal gelding, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.55 with David Flores riding. Slim Shadey went into the race as a deserving longshot after halting an 11-race losing streak with a win in a first-level allowance event last month. "I thought he was in tough today," winning trainer Simon Callaghan said. "But when you can go to the front and have tactical speed like him, it's good. There was no real pace in the race, and David just gave him a perfect ride. It's nice when the plans come off." He said Slim Shadey might be able to go farther than a mile and a quarter but added he has no immediate plans for the improving steed.
Indigo River rallied from behind the leaders to win Sunday's $70,000 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies down the hillside turf course. With Joel Rosario riding, the Irish-bred Kodiac filly came out after crossing the dirt track and scooted by to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Vionett. Dypsy finished third. Indigo River ran the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:13.36.
Singlet battled with Corderosa neck and neck down the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies before prevailing by a neck. Lisa T. was third and Well Kept was well beaten in fourth, completing the order of finish. Singlet, a Florida-bred Real Quiet filly, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.62 with Cornelio Velasquez aboard. "Going into today's race, I felt she had the talent to compete, but hadn't been tested for class," winning trainer Tony Dutrow said. "These were better horses she was facing today, and for her to take them on and be competitive proved something."
Pretension raced three-wide and just behind the leaders all the way around in Saturday's $75,000 Sweet Envoy Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds, finally getting away to the lead in the lane and winning by 1 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Swag Daddy, came along late but settled for second, a half length ahead of Sportswriter. Pretension, a Bluegrass Cat colt, got the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.87 with Javier Santiago riding.
Stormy's Majesty showed the way in Sunday's $75,000 Mr. G.J.G. Stakes for state-breds and survived at the end to win by a half length over odds-on favorite Inherit the Gold. Star of New York finished third. Stormy's Majesty, a 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the fast inner track in 1:42.92 with Charles Lopez in the irons.
Beautiful But Blue pleased the Marge Simpson fans in attendance with a front-running, 2-length win in Sunday's $75,000 Windswept Wings Stakes for New York-bred, 3-year-old fillies. With Junior Alvarado riding, the El Corredor filly didn't trip any speed cameras along the way to a 1:45.42 time for the 1 mile and 70 yards. The favorite, Peggy Jane, ran second but couldn't overcome the slow pace and finished in that spot. Mischief Maker was a longshot third.
Lacie Slew had to wait for racing room in the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes but when jockey Joe Rocco Jr. got her to the outside, the 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Mineshaft mare went on and won by a length over Baltimore Belle. Pilot Point Lady was third after showing the way. Lacie Slew ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.98. "I had so much horse when I wheeled her out she exploded for me," Rocco said. "My horse ran really well. It didn't matter that we had to swing out wide."
Tampa Bay Downs
Action Andy surged to the lead at the top of the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Super Stakes, opened up a comfortable lead and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Watch Me Go. Gold Strike Begins added some gold to the trifecta at 26-1. Action Andy, a 5-year-old, Maryland-bred Gators N Bears gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.22 with Daniel Coa up, subbing for injured regular rider Jesse Garcia. Coa said he agreed to split his earnings from the race with Garcia. "That was the deal. Jesse is a class guy," Coa said. "Anyone in jocks' room would have won on this horse today."
Joyful Victory hooked up with Ravi's Song at mid-stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes for fillies and mares and the former won what track announcer John Dooley called a battle of "bobbing gray noses" by a half length. Juanita finished third. Joyful Victory, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred Tapit filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.09 for jockey Robby Albarado. "I knew Ravi's Song was coming with a head of momentum and I've never seen this mare get in that kind of position," winning trainer Larry Jones said. "But I was very proud to see her second effort to come back and she gutted it out. It was a good effort … . I knew this race wasn't as easy as that $75,000 tag that was put on it. They got their money's worth here at Fair Grounds today."
Amie's Dini tracked pacesetting odds-on favorite Now I Know through the early furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got past at the top of the stretch and went on to a 1 3/4-length win over that rival. Lulu Wong was third. Amie's Dini, a Kentucky-bred Bandini filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:38.72 under Jon Court. "I told Jon, 'You're such a good tactician and I'm leaving a lot of this to you,'" winning traine Ron Moquett said. "'But just make sure, when you do challenge her, you blow by her. Don't go head-in-head. Don't test her and find out how much guts she has." Now I Know came into the race undefeated. Amie's Dini, who now is 3-for-5, likely will try the $125,000 Honeybee on March 10, Moquett said, en route to the April 11 Fanasy Stakes -- the final local Kentucky Oaks prep.
Sam Houston Race Park
Great Mills dueled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Champion Energy Services Stakes, then got clear in the lane and held on to win by 3/4 of a length over Solar Charge. Trelawny, the favorite, checked in third. Great Mills, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred War Front colt, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.06 with Chris Landeros aboard. It was his first win since last July at Saratoga. "He felt like a Ferrari under me tonight," Landeros said. "He's all class and was very professional out there. The way he dragged me down the backside, all I could say was, 'Wow.'"
Whisked Away switched to the outside for running room in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes for fillies and mares and got the job done from there, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Hot Hot Mama hit her best stride in the lane and finished second with odds-on favorite La Gran Bailadora a neck farther back in third. Whisked Away, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Victory Gallop mare, ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:40.88 with Luis Martinez Jr. in the irons. Trainer Rowena Beck won her first stakes with her first stakes starter. "She does very well running fresh, and two months between races just hit her perfect," Beck said.
Twelve Twenty Two, the odds-on favorite, ran to her notices in Saturday's $50,000 El Diario Handicap for fillies and mares, shaking clear in the lane to score by 4 3/4 lengths over Came West. Oflee Wicked finished third. Twelve Twenty Two, a 7-year-old, Florida-bred Kafwain mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.95 with Enrique Gomez in the irons.
Vamoose got loose in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Curribot Stakes and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Forest Mouse. Quiet Again was third. Vamoose, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Petionville gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.71, also with Gomez up.