The long wait for a Triple Crown winner could soon be over -- in England as well as the United States.
I'll Have Another, by all accounts, is happy and ready for his date with destiny in Saturday's Belmont Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. And Camelot, after demolishing a small field in Saturday's Investec Derby at Epsom, has only the St. Leger in his way to the British Triple Crown.
No horse has completed the U.S. series since Affirmed in 1978; the British version since Nijinsky in 1970.
Meanwhile, Game On Dude rebounded from his off day in the Dubai World Cup two months ago with a nice win Saturday in the Californian at Hollywood Park. Upsets ended the French Derby and the Investec Oaks. But it was a good weekend for "Team O'Brien" from Coolmore. And Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II kicked off her Diamond Jubilee celebration with a win by arguably her top horse in training.
Here's the royal scoop:
Camelot dominated Saturday's Group 1 Investec Derby on the Epsom Downs, drawing off to win by 5 lengths with Joseph O'Brien riding for his trainer dad, Aidan O'Brien. Camelot's win was never in doubt. After letting stablemate Astrology make the early going, the younger O'Brien sent Camelot after the lead with 2 furlongs to run and he easily went by and cleared the field in the final furlong to win in hand. Main Sequence finished second with Astrology third as the 1 1/2 miles went in a good 2:33.90.
For all that, the jockey said Camelot was not totally comfortable on the course rated good, "so he did well to win today. He's a very special horse."
Camelot, a Montjeu colt, remains undefeated in four starts, including the first leg of the Triple Crown, the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, where he beat Paris-based filly French Fifteen. The final leg is not run until Sept. 15 at Doncaster -- at 2,900 meters, or just over 1 3/4 miles.
As is her custom, Queen Elizabeth was in attendance among about 130,000 fans at the Derby.
The O'Briens also teamed to take down the secondary feature on the card, sending St Nicholas Abbey to a repeat win in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Coronation Cup. A 5-year-old colt by Montjeu, St Nicholas Abbey cruised home 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Red Cadeaux with Masked Marvel third. St Nicholas Abbey, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs, finished the Coronation Cup in 2:34.52. "He has the option of the Prince of Wales' Stakes at Ascot," Aidan O'Brien said. "And he has the option of the King George. Then obviously there is the Arc at the end of the year. He's a very exciting horse."
The elder O'Brien produced a surprise Friday as Was collected the Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom at 20-1 odds -- one of five O'Brien trainees in the field, which also included the favorite, Maybe. She, however, got home fifth, 5 lengths back of the leader. Was, with Seamie Heffernan up, got the advantage with about 2 furlongs left in the 1 1/2-mile test and held on at the end to win by a neck over Shirocco Star. The Fugue was third, a half length farther back, Was, a Galileo filly, finished in 2:38.68 after tracking a slow pace. It was only the third career start and second win for Was. "I was worried about her lack of experience but she has improved a lot from her last run," Heffernan said. O'Brien's other fillies finished eighth, 10th and 11th. He said Was is a prospect now for the Irish Oaks.
Her Majesty did have something to cheer besides the Jubilee ceremonies this weekend. On Thursday at Sandown, Carlton House, her unsuccessful 2011 Derby promise, returned from a nearly year-long layoff to win a Group 3 event with something to spare. Blocked early in the stretch run, Carlton House got through between rivals in time and was home first by 1 3/4 lengths over Sagramor. The Street Cry colt, with Ryan Moore up, got the 1 1/4 mile over good to firm footing in 2:08.38. "I didn't feel a great deal of pressure," winning trainer Sir Michael Stoute said with a straight face. He added the Prince of Wales' Stakes at Royal Ascot would be the next target, giving Her Majesty a chance to see her runner in action.
Sunday's Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, sported a full field with the attendant traffic issues and was so roughly run that the stewards took another look before making the result official. After all that, long shot local runner Saonois was the winner, 3/4 of a length better than Saint Baudolino. Nutello was third and the O'Brien/O'Brien entry of Imperial Monarch settled for eighth after being squeezed back. Saonois, a son of Chichicastenango, picked up his second win on the grass after spending most of his early career on the all-weather track. Overall, he now is 5-for-8.
Aiken was the victor in Sunday's Group 2 Grand Prix de Chantilly, holding off Maxios in the final furlong. Dunaden, the Melbourne Cup and Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase winner, finished third.
Electrelane won a narrow victory over Cherry Danon in Sunday's Group 2 German 1,000 Guineas at Dusseldorf and then had to survive a stewards' inquiry before the result was stamped official. Trained by Ralph Beckett, Electrelane came to the race off a good second to Laugh Out Loud at York in her last race. The winner is a Dubawi filly.
Strong Return, benefiting from a strong early pace, rallied from well back in the big field to win Sunday's Group 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Race Course by a neck over Grand Prix Boss. Cosmo Sensor was 2 lengths farther in arrears in third and the favorite, Sadumu Patek, got home third. The only two foreign horses, Hong Kong invaders Lucky Nine and Glorious Days, finished 11th and 14th, respectively, in the 17-horse field. Strong Return, a 6-year-old son of Symboli Kris S, ran the mile over firm going in 1:31.30. "The front-runners were going a high pace," winning rider Yuichi Fukunaga said. "So we settled at the rear and we moved up before the home turn."
Back in North America:
Belmont Stakes preparations:
Five prospective starters for Saturday's 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes posted official workouts Sunday morning. Dullahan, rated one of the top threats to I'll Have Another's Triple Crown bid, got 4 furlongs in 48.55 seconds, breezing. "When he works like that, he runs big," trainer Dale Romans said. "I wouldn't change places with anybody in this race." Paynter, subbing for Bodemeister from Bob Baffert's deep barn, worked 7 furlongs in 1:27. "Bob likes that kind of work and I saw what I needed to see," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said. Street Life and Unstoppable U each did 5 furlongs in 1:01.15 and 1:02.05, respectively. Unstoppable U is only 50-50 to start Saturday, trainer Ken McPeek said. Meanwhile, Union Rags has been flying under the radar at the Fair Hill Training Center but worked 5 furlongs in 59 seconds there Sunday under John Velazquez. And I'll Have Another visited the paddock and galloped before returning to the barn, where he is under the watchful security eye of the State of New York. His trainer, Doug O'Neill, viewed Sunday's workouts and said Dullahan looked good. Advised of Romans' comments, he said, "I respect him a ton, so if he says that, it's scary. As confident as he is in his horse, I'm equally confident in my horse. I think we're in really good shape."
Game On Dude and trainer Bob Baffert flew halfway around the world to have a tough time at the Dubai World Cup. Game On Dude beat just one horse in the world's richest race. Baffert had a heart attack shortly after arriving in Dubai. Both have recovering ever since -- quite well, if the results of Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Californian are any indication. Game On Dude, with Chantal Sutherland up, went right to the front and never looked back, extending the advantage in the late going to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Kettle Corn, Prayer for Relief and Morning Line completed the order of finish. Uh Oh Bango was a late scratch. Game On Dude, a 5-year-old Awesome Again gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.01, ridden out. Baffert said the Dubai debacle was atypical for Game On Dude. "He didn't break well and got shuffled back. It wasn't him. He really didn't run his race," the silver-haired conditioner said. "For two weeks, I didn't really do anything with him. Lately, he's been really doing great. Instead of working him again, I let him run for $150,000. Chantal gets along with him really well. He really likes her. That's why she's riding him." He said he is eyeing the Grade I, $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 7 as the next step for Game On Dude. Joe Torre, a part owner, said the Dubai experience was "disappointing. But in another way it was great that Bob came home and recovered the way he did. That's the most important thing. There's always another race."
Nonios got to the front between horses inside the furlong marker in Sunday's $100,000 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds, then held on gamely to beat the late-running favorite, Liaison, by a half length. Holy Candy also ran best late to take third. Nonios, a Pleasantly Perfect colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.99 for jockey Martin Pedroza. In his first start outside Golden Gate Fields, Nonios was let go at 15-1 odds. "We got lucky and got a seam and ran through it," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "Martin rode through there very well. We have a long year left with this horse. All of the Triple Crown races are gone, but there are other very important races around the country and also here in California."
Bizzy Caroline was up just in time to nip pacesetting Heavenly Landing by a neck in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Early Times Mint Julep Handicap for fillies and mares. Hard Seven was a non-threatening third. Bizzy Caroline, a 4-year-old Afleet Alex filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.29. Winning rider Manoel Cruz said he was afraid Heavenly Landing had stolen the race. "When we turned for home and she opened up, I thought, 'Oh no, it's too much.' But she kept gaining and we got there on time," Cruz said. Bizzy Caroline is nominated to the Beverly D. at Arlington in August. Trainer Ken McPeek scored his 300th win under the twin spires.
Rothko opened a big lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Aristides Stakes and cruised home first by 2 1/2 lengths over Will's Wildcat. Whiskey Rebellion was third. Rothko, a 4-year-old Arch colt out of the Time for a Change mare Raspberry Eggcream, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.40 under Corey Nakatani. "He's a very good horse and it was great to see him perform like that," winning trainer Steve Asmussen said. "Hopefully we're going to run in the Iowa Sprint and then the Vanderbilt." The race is named for the winner of the first Kentucky Derby.
Island Bound rallied well wide from the back of the pack in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Winning Colors Stakes for fillies and mares and got clear late to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a mild upset. Beat the Blues was second, Speedacious third and the favorite, Good Deed, faded from the lead to finish fifth. Island Bound, a 5-year-old Speightstown mare, covered the 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:09.89 with Leandro Goncalves in the irons. The race is named for one of the few filly Kentucky Derby winners.
Irish Mission stalked the pace in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks, then outsprinted the late runners at the end to win by 3/4 length over Northern Passion. Awesome Fire was third and the odds-on favorite, Dixie Strike, showed no late punch and finished fifth. Irish Mission, a Giant's Causeway filly, went off at 9-1 odds and finished the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.50 with Alex Solis in for the ride. It was her second straight win, following a maiden-breaker at Keeneland. "We had the mind to keep it close to the pace and soon as we hit the turn, she kept going. She showed determination. The more that I asked her, the more she gave," Solis said. Trainer Mark Frostad admitted the Oaks was an ambitious target. "It was a big step up for her. She went from a maiden race to the Oaks. But she's been improving all along and, as she's getting older, she's got a lot stronger," Frostad added. Owner Robert Evans said he will give some thought to the Queen's Plate but admitted, "It looks pretty tough."
And speaking of the Queen's Plate, River Rush came from last of 11 with a big rush to win Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial by 5 1/4 lengths at odds of 21-1. Incredicat and Classic Bryce, both also at generous odds, finished second and third while the favorite, Beeker Street, faded to finish seventh. River Rush, an Orientate colt, got the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.97 with James McAleney riding for trainer Reade Baker, scoring his first win in just three career starts. "This horse ran tremendous for me," McAleney said. "Reade gave me some instruction, if you can save some ground it would really help, so I opted to do as he'd suggested. We had such a wonderful trip. It was just great." Added Baker, "Hung up on the outside at 20-1 with a maiden. I thought he'd close well but I didn't think he would be that quick." Three of the last four Trial winners have gone on to win the Plate.
Dene Court set a pressured pace in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Alywow Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, survived multiple challenges and finally held on to win by a neck. Blue Heart was second with just another head back to Man Stuff and Sky Dreamer dead-heating for third and fourth. The favorite, Tu Endie Wei, finished last of six. Dene Court, a daughter of City Zip, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:18.79 with Patrick Husbands in the irons.
Marketing Mix rallied by the leaders in the stretch to win Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths over Roxy Gap. Indian Pond was a long shot third and Inglorious finished fourth. Marketing Mix, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, got the mile on firm turf in 1:37.74. "The long straight here helped her a lot," winning rider Julien Leparoux said. "We just kind of tracked and she finished good for me." Owner Craig Bernick said Marketing Mix will be staying at Woodbine. "It's a great series of races here for older mares and we hope to run in all of them."
Anywhere was just where she needed to be at the end of Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ballade Stakes for Ontario-sired distaffers -- in front by 1 1/4 lengths over Weekend Romance. Dancing Raven finished third. After stalking the pace, Anywhere finished the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.14 for jockey Luis Contreras. She is a 4-year-old Where's the Ring filly.
C C's Pal led the way in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Vagrancy Handicap for fillies and mares, gave up the lead late and then came back to win by a neck over the favorite, Nicole H. She's Cheeky was 3 1/4 lengths farther back in third. C C's Pal, a 4-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.10 under jockey Junior Alvarado. "At the sixteenth pole, I thought we were going to get beat," winning trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. said "But we showed up." He said C C's Pal will get a respite, then, "We'll just wing it, see where the good fillies are going and try to duck them until we have to hit them."
King Kreesa started on the outside of 10 rivals in Sunday's $75,000 New York Stallion Stakes Spectacular Bid Division for 3-year-olds, was gunned right to the lead and never looked back, winning by 5 lengths over Western Tryst. Wild Exploit finished third and the favorite, Sportswriter, faded from contention to finish sixth -- insert your own punch line here. King Kreesa, a King Cugat gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:22.54 under Irad Ortiz Jr.
In the Cupecoy's Joy Division for 3-year-old fillies, I Bet Toni Knows rolled from well back in the field to take the lead in the final sixteenth and win by 3/4 of a length. Stock Fund and Manero completed the trifecta. I Bet Toni Knows, a Sun River filly, finished in 1:23.60 with Junior Alvarado up.
Golden Gate Fields
Best Present Ever dominated the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Campanile Stakes for 3-year-old, California-bred fillies, drawing off to a 5-length win. Oh Molly Brannigan was the best of the rest and Warren's Amber ambled home third. Best Present Ever, a daughter of Unusual Heat, finished the mile over firm turf in 1:36.57 with Russell Baze at the controls.
Thundering Amelia battled for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 John W. Rooney Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares, the worked clear in the late going to win by a length over Martita Sangrita. Master Shade finished third. Thundering Amelia, a 6-year-old Thunder Gulch mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.37 with Julien Pimentel in the irons. It was her first win in nine U.S. starts since being shipped from South America. "We're keeping her on the turf," said winning trainer Michael Matz, pointing to the Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial on Bastille Day.
St. Louis City led from the start in Saturday's $65,000 Meafara Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and drew clear in the lane to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Ire. Emona finished third and the odds-on favorite, Lotta Lovin, was fourth under the wire. St. Louis City, a daughter of City Place, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.17 with Robby Albarado in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Frolic's Revenge frolicked big time in Saturday's $55,000 Regal Gal Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Sent to the post as odds-on favorite, the Vindication filly waited a bit behind the early lead, surged to the front when jockey Luis Saez let her run and showed her heels to six rivals, winning by 17 lengths. Topazio eventually finished second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Sinister Brew. Frolic's Revenge got the mile on a fast track in 1:38.94 in a hand ride. She also won the Calder Oaks on April 28.
Top Cat Boogie boogied down the lane to an 8 3/4-length win over odds-on favorite Look At the Time in Saturday's $50,000 Ragin Cajun Stakes for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds. Zip Motion was a neck farther back in third. Top Cat Boogie, a Big Top Cat out of the Deerhound mare Dancing Deer, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.97 with Randall Toups in the irons.
D'honorable One swapped the lead with Makors Finale during the running of Sunday's $50,000 Auburn Handicap for 3-year-olds, then the two hit the wire together for a dead-heat decision. Brady's Cat finished 3 lengths back in third. The 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track took 1:14.53. D'honorable One, a D'wildcat colt, was ridden by Leslie Mawing. Makors Finale, a Makors Mark colt, had the saddle services of Gallyn Mitchell.
Devil in Disguise rocked on by pacesetting The Gov in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) River Rock Casino Stakes for 3-year-olds and got home first by 4 1/2 lengths over that rival. Clear the Runway had first run at The Gov and led briefly but faded to finish third. Devil in Disguise, a Smarty Jones colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:44.96 with Fernando Perez up.
Taylor Said battled for the lead down the backstretch in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Sir Winston Churchill Stakes, then took command in the stretch to win by 2 lengths. St Liam's Halo was second and Senor Rojo finished third. Taylor Said, a 4-year-old Stephanotis gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:43.67 with Fernando Perez riding.
String King stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 John Franks Memorial Stakes for Louisiana-breds, got to the leader turning for home and battled to the wire before winning by a half length over the aptly named Wild Rally. Kissimmee Kyle finished third. String King, a 4-year-old Crowned King gelding, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:35.87 with Filemon Rodriguez aboard.
Ladyzarbridge led from the start in Saturday's $50,000 Honeymoon Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, opened a lead in the lane and held on at the end to win by 3/4 of a length over Beverly Belle. Divine Lorretta was third. Ladyzarbridge, a 5-year-old Zarbyev mare, got the mile on the grass in 1:36.67 with Mark Guidry up.
The Hunk dueled to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds, set a good clip and drew off late to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Hop Skip and Away. Bombast finished third. The Hunk, a 5-year-old son of Speightstown, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.23 with Carlos Marquez Jr. handling the reins.
Lil Kiara put in a late run outside the leaders in Sunday's $60,000 Open Mind Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and just got there in time, winning by a nose over Emily Allstar. Salad Girl was third. Lil Kiara, a 5-year-old Lion Hearted mare, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.74 with Marquez again riding.
Alsvid had things all his own way in Saturday's $60,000 Prairie Mile for 3-year-olds, leading from the start and kicking clear late to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Truetap was the best of the rest with Z Rockstar third. Alsvid, an Officer gelding, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:38.52 with Chris Landeros up. Alsvid won the Golden Circle Stakes on April 21 and will try to complete a sweep of Prairie Meadows' unrestricted 3-year-old events when he runs in the Iowa Derby June 30. "It's an Iowa Triple Crown, isn't it?" said winning trainer Chris Hartman.
Tapajo had an equally easy time of things in the companion $60,000 Panthers Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, making all the going before crossing the wire 6 1/4 lengths in front. Banded and Flatterific completed the trifecta. Tapajo, a Tapit filly, ran the mile in 1:38.79 for jockey Alex Birzer. Tapajo also is in a position to sweep the Iowa "filly Triple Crown" with a win in the Iowa Oaks.
Watch Me Go, in from Gulfstream Park, shrugged off the climate and altitude change to win Saturday's $50,000 Free Spirit Handicap with a late, outside run. With Miguel Hernandez up, the 4-year-old West Acre colt scored by 1 1/4 lengths over Quiet Again with Smash Dancer running third. Watch Me Go finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.58.
News and notes:
He made a lot of tough calls in eight years in the White House, so why not pay attention to former President Bill Clinton when he handicaps the Belmont Stakes? During a campaign appearance Friday night at Meadowlands, Clinton said he thinks I'll Have Another has a good chance to take the Belmont and win the Triple Crown. But he warned of a potential spoiler. "The real wildcard, I think, is the horse that finished third in the Derby, what's his name? The Irish name? Dullahan," Clinton said. "You know, the Belmont might be a good race for him because he closed just as strong as I'll Have Another and he came out of maybe more interference. So, if that horse has a race like he had in the Derby, he could still give I'll Have Another a race." It's true Clinton is not a renowned race track habitue. But his mother, Virginia Kelley, was a regular at Oaklawn Park and surely taught her son something about the game.
For those attending the Belmont Stakes: Old Friends Retirement Farm in Georgetown, Ky., is sponsoring the Belmont Ball at Oheka Castle on Wednesday night. Funds raised will go to care for retired horses, including recent arrival Rapid Redux. Reportedly confirmed as attendees, with more to come, are trainers Doug O'Neill, Billy Turner, Ken McPeek and D. Wayne Lukas Riders also are expected and the Frankel Trophy will be presented during the festivities. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or at (859) 552-4938.
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