It was a weekend for 3-year-old fillies to shine at all levels while in Canada the Queen's Plate took center stage.
Royal Ascot's exciting run is finished. But there still was international action with Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races in France and Japan.
And, by the way, reports from Australia indicate talk about retirement for Black Caviar may have been premature and that she may, after all, be pointed toward the Spring Carnival there and even to the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint in December.
Here's how things played out as the competition heated up almost as fast as the weather:
If Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park is any indication, this division is going to be quite a tussle. Contested came into the race off four straight wins at distances up to a mile. This time, she wasn't up to the task at a sixteenth further and on a drying-out track, fading from the lead to finish last while Zo Impressive was all that her name would connote, outfinishing Disposablepleasure in a hard-fought stretch run to win by 3/4 of a length. The Kentucky Oaks winner, Believe You Can, finished third while Wildcat's Smile and Contested completed the order of finish. Zo Impressive, a Hard Spun filly who finished second to Contested in the Acorn in their last start, got home in 1:44.28 over the good track. Some bridge-jumper action on Contested inflated the show payoffs. "It was probably the four best fillies you've got in the country right now, so that's what made the race pretty special," winning trainer Tom Albertrani said. He said the 1 1/8-mile Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga will be the next target. Jim Barnes, assistant to Bob Baffert, said the recent rains affected Contested. "I think the track she ran on in the Acorn was just a much different track," Barnes said. "This was kind of wet down deep inside and kind of a dead track."
Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Hollywood Oaks produced another stretch battle and another upset. Potesta, fresh off her maiden win, rallied to put a head in front of pacesetting favorite Eden's Moon at the top of the lane and the two fought it out to the wire with Potesta a nose the better when it counted. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Via Villaggio in third. Potesta, a Macho Uno filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.22. "Eden's Moon is a real nice filly so I knew I was going to need a lot of horse to get by," winning rider Joe Talamo said. "That's why I waited longer than I wanted to. I figured it would pay off the last part, which it did. We just got up. She's unbelievable … . That was her third career start and she just beat a Grade I winner." Eden's Moon, also trained by Baffert, won the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita before finishing third in the Santa Anita Oaks and 14th in the Kentucky Oaks. "She hasn't trained here," Baffert said.
Back on the East Coast and switching to the green course, Dancing Solo stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park, then took over in the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Zultanite. The favorite, Somali Lemonade, put in a late bid but could do no better than third, another half length in arrears. Dancing Solo, a Giant's Causeway filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.99 with Joe Bravo riding. "The plan was to be a little closer to the pace today since there wasn't much speed in the race," Bravo said. "She settled exactly where I wanted to be and in the stretch she was very powerful." Todd Pletcher trains the filly.
Other 3-year-old filly races:
-- Beautiful But Blue distanced the field in the stretch run of Sunday's $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes for New York-breds, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Fiftyfour Forever. Beautiful But Blue, an El Corredor filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.72 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
-- Also Sunday at Belmont, Medolina stalked the pace before taking over in the lane to win the $90,000 Tweedside Stakes against open company over the grass course by 2 1/4 lengths. Ainsley was second. Medolina, a daughter of Aragorn, ran the 1 1/16 miles on turf rated good in 1:42.83 for jockey Javier Castellano.
-- Happy Hour Honey dueled for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Frances Genter Stakes for Minnesota-breds at Canterbury Park, then got clear in the lane to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Go Go Jill. The Leroidesanimaux filly ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.41 with Dean Butler in the irons.
-- Munnings Sister led all the way to a 4 1/4-length victory over Distinctive Yolie in Saturday's $50,000 California Wine Stakes at Pleasanton. Munnings Sister, a Speightstown filly out of the Holy Bull mare La Comete, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.18 with Francisco Duran up. She is a full sister to Munnings, a graded stakes winner who retired in 2010.
-- Isadella showed her heels to a half dozen rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Cincinnatian Stakes for Ohio-breds at River Downs, winning off by 8 1/4 lengths. The favorite, I'm Kiddin, was the best of the rest. Isadella, a Kentucky Dane filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.80 with Luis Martinez Jr. in the irons.
A spin around the divisions:
Strait of Dover led from the early jumps of Sunday's $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate, set a steady pace and finished full of run in the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Irish Mission, the Woodbine Oaks winner, chased the winner to a second-place finish and the only other filly in the field, Dixie Strike, finished third. The favorite, River Rush, the winner of the Plate Trial, was victimized by the No. 1 post position, shuffled back and finished sixth. Strait of Dover, trained by Daniel Vella and ridden by Justin Stein, covered the 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in course-record time of 2:01.99. He is a British Columbia-bred son of the great grass runner English Channel out of the Danzig mare Bahrain Star. Strait of Dover took four tries to get his first win although he did finish first in his third start -- at 44-1 odds -- but then was set down to third for stretch interference. But once started, he has reeled off four straight victories, including the Marine Stakes in his last outing before Canada's biggest race. Vella said he and Stein "analyzed the race and we thought it was a possibility we would end up on the front end. We really didn't want that. You're doing the work for everyone else. But if you're there, you're there." The second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown is the $500,000 (Canadian) Prince of Wales Stakes on July 15 at 1 3/16 miles at Fort Erie. The series concludes with the $500,000 (Canadian) Breeders' Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on the grass back at Woodbine. There have been seven Triple Crown winners since the series was institutionalized in 1959.
Musketier took back early in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine, advanced to the lead with a furlong to run and won a duel to the wire by a neck over Simmard. It was 9 1/4 lengths back to Cognashene in third. Musketier, a 9-year-old, German-bred son of Acatenango, ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.07 with Ramon Dominguez up for trainer Roger Attfield. Musketier also won the Singspiel in 2009 and 2011. He now has 11 wins from 47 starts and pushed his earnings over the $1 million mark. The race is named for the winner of the 1996 Canadian International and Japan Cup and 1997 Dubai World Cup and Juddmonte International.
Filly & Mare Turf
Capital Plan stalked the slow pace in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park, then won a scramble to the wire by a nose over Cambina. Quaintly was another half length back in third with Imperialistic Diva another half length back after traffic issues. Capital Plan, a 4-year-old Rock Hard Ten filly, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:04.21 with Joel Rosario up. It was her fifth win from 12 starts but she has never been defeated at the distance. "I knew they were going really, really slow," Rosario said. "But she's the kind of filly where you can't make your move too soon. I just tried to wait for the right time so when I asked her to go she would have something left. And that was exactly what happened." Dan Ward, assistant to winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, said the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf Nov. 2 at Santa Anita is the ultimate objective. He added Capital Plan could prep in either the John C. Mabee Aug 12 at Del Mar or the Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 18.
Riding the River stepped up in the $250,000 (Canadian), Grade II King Edward Stakes Sunday at Woodbine, rallying from last of six to win by a neck over Big Band Sound. Hollinger was third and the favorite, Hothersal, settled for fourth. Riding the River, a 13-1 long shot, ran the mile on the firm turf in 1:32.89 with Todd Kabel in the irons. Riding the River is a 4-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding.
Smokey Fire posted a 17-1 upset in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Highlander Stakes, working through traffic to pass most of the field before getting home 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Essence Hit Man. Gypsy Ring finished third and the favorite, Surfrider, was last of nine. Smokey Fire, a 7-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:07.77 -- just 0.36 second off the course record. Eurico Da Silva had the ride.
Blueeyesintherein waited behind the leaders in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, circled the competition to take the lead and won by 2 1/2 lengths over late-running Quiet Success. Shesakitty finished third. Blueeyesintherein, remaining undefeated in two career starts, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.71 with Leandro Goncalves riding. She is a Magna Graduate filly. "Around the half-mile pole, we got in a lot of traffic," winning rider Leandro Goncalves said. "From there to the quarter pole, I had horses all over me. I had to work my way out. She didn't have the best trip, but good horses are always able to overcome things and that's what she did." Trainer Garry Simms said Blueeyesintherein will target either the Schuylerville at Saratoga or the Mountaineer Juvenile Fillies after a short break.
Just Got In just got there in time in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) My Dear Stakes at Woodbine, leading much of the way and then holding on by a neck over Lake Dancer. Evangeline's Hope finished third. Just Got In, a Songandaprayer filly, ran the 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 59.11 with Christopher Griffith up.
Love You Baby got into the clear in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Princess Stakes at Louisiana Downs and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Fleet Dawn. Joyful Angel finished third. Love You Baby, a Petionville filly, finished the "about" 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.43 seconds with Chris Rosier riding.
Thermal dropped down to the rail in the stretch run of Saturday's $135,000 Mountain Top Futurity for New Mexico-breds at Ruidoso Downs and found the going to his liking. With Duane Sterling riding, the Attila's Storm gelding quickly shot clear of the field and won by 1 3/4 lengths at 15-1 odds. Kiss My Hennessey finished second, Indication N M was third and the favorite, Roll D' Nile, finished fourth. Thermal ran the 5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:00.08.
Desert Ransom dueled his way to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Minstrel Stakes at Louisiana Downs and scooted off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Themistocles finished second with Prince Production third. Desert Ransom, a Gold Tribute colt, ran the "about" 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.09 seconds with Diego Saenz in the irons.
Eternal Rule pressed the pace in Wednesday's $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial Northwestern Pennsylvania Stakes at Presque Isle Downs, took charge in the lane and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Ravalo. Dazzled Saint led much of the way and held third. Eternal Rule, a 4-year-old Tribal Rule gelding, finished the 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:03.27 under Jesse Campbell.
Slone Ranger led from the start in Saturday's $150,000 Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap, then battled tenaciously at the end to win by a neck over Golddigger's Boy. Rod's Five Star finished third with the favorite, Toby's Corner, fading to finish fourth. Slone Ranger, a 6-year-old Parker's Storm Cat gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.03 with Frankie Pennington aboard.
Filly & Mare Sprint
It's Me Mom didn't have the cleanest start in Tuesday's $100,000 Satin and Lace Stakes for fillies and mares at Presque Isle Downs but had no trouble after that, leading the field to a 3 1/2-length win. Sweet Cassiopeia was second and Dr. Diamonds Prize took third. It's Me Mom, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred Put It Back filly, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:03.14 with Willie Martinez up for trainer Lynne Scace. It's Me Mom has won 11 of 18 starts but was eighth in this race last year, the poorest showing of her career.
Black Caviar, after narrowly escaping with her 22nd straight victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, has begun the torturous process of quarantine for return to Australia. But early hints by oh-so-conservative trainer Peter Moody that the super mare's career might be over may well have been premature. "You never make decisions on race day," part-owner Gary Wilke told the Australian media. "We have three months to decide whether to keep her racing." Other reports indicated Black Caviar may have suffered some muscle tears in her hindquarters during the Diamond Jubilee -- injuries that could be treated while she remains in quarantine. Wilke said if Black Caviar remains in training and runs back to form in the Spring Carnival, there would be every expectation her owners might consider one last international fling to the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint Dec. 9. That race at Sha Tin is the final leg of the Global Sprint Challenge. Black Caviar has won two legs of that series and a third would qualify her for a $1 million (U.S.) bonus.
Only four went to the post in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud and the winner was the longest chance in the short field. With Maxime Guyon up, Meandre caught pacesetting Shareta a furlong out and went by to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Galikova, making her seasonal debut, finished third and last year's Arc winner, Danedream, tossed in a clunker, finishing last. Meandre, a 4-year-old Slickly colt, ran the 12 furlongs on good to soft ground in 2:31.50. He was running on two weeks' rest for trainer Andre Fabre after finishing second in a Group 3 at Longchamp. The race is a lead-in to the Arc and also is a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Speaking of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, last year's Japanese Triple Crown winner, Orfevre, moved back into the picture for this year's running of France's iconic race with a victory in Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen. Orfevre, whose earlier efforts this year were erratic at best, accelerated smoothly once the field turned out into the stretch and he won by 2 lengths over Rulership, who claimed the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup in Hong Kong in April. Shonan Mighty took third. Orfevre, a Stay Gold colt, ran the 2,200 meters over firm going in 2:10.9. Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee said before the race Orfevre was only about 70 percent fit, so he may have more upside yet to show. Ikee did not immediately comment on plans to take his resurgent star to France. The Takarazuka Kinen also is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Gleaming had a better late run than the favorite, Bold Affair, in Saturday's $150,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for fillies and mares and won by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Winning Image and Coax Liberty completed the order of finish. Gleaming, a 5-year-old, Oklahoma-bred Dehere mare, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.20 with Alex Cintron at the controls. She now has won half her 18 lifetime starts.
Willy Beamin flew by the early leaders in the stretch run in Sunday's $125,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds and kicked clear to a 4-length win over Brigand. With Mike Luzzi aboard, the Suave gelding covered the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.44.
Boat Trip rallied from a pace-stalking trip to take Friday's $90,000 Tsunami Slew Stakes for 3-year-olds by a half length. Unusual Heatwave came from last to take second and Canuletmedowneasy let his backers down gently by finishing third at 10-1. Boat Trip, a Harlan's Holiday colt, got the mile over firm turf in 1:34.68 with Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard for trainer Mike Pender.
Delaunay finished best in Saturday's $73,000 Kelly's Landing Stakes and won by 3/4 of a length over Noble's Promise, who led late. Shrill got home third but was set down to fourth, promoting Whiskey Rebellion to show money. Delaunay, a 5-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.77 with Leandro Goncalves in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Where's Sterling rallied from well back in Saturday's $50,000 Mecke Stakes and kicked clear at the end to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Oligarch led much of the way and held second over Numb Lips. The race was moved off the turf and contested at 9 furlongs on the sloppy main track with Where's Sterling finishing in 1:52.85. Juan Delgado rode the 5-year-old son of Northern Afleet. The race is named for the 1996 Arlington Million winner.
Sensible Lady came around the leaders to take the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Buckland Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the pacesetter, Kitten Love. Lady of Greatness raced evenly to finish third. Sensible Lady, a 3-year-old Street Sense filly tackling older foes, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:03.67 for jockey Xavier Perez.
Attila's Parting led the way in Tuesday's $75,000 Totah Stakes for New Mexico-bred colts and geldings and held sway by a length over Jenson's Miracle. Storms Surprise finished third. Attila's Parting, a gelding by Attila's Storm, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 53.12 seconds under Brian Theriot.
A Diehl trailed the early pace in Wednesday's $100,000 J. Kenneth Self Shelby County Boys and Girls Club Stakes, advanced steadily along the outside down the stretch and nailed pacesetter Night Party late, winning by a half length. Final Count, coupled with A Diehl in the wagering, finished third and Cherokee Lord was fourth. A Diehl, a 7-year-old Aldebaran gelding, got the mile on firm turf in 1:36.11 for jockey Marcelino Pedroza.
Ain't She a Saint rallied from well off the pace in Wednesday's $75,000 Ellen's Lucky Star Stakes for 3-year-old Indiana-bred fillies and easily outfinished Easter Dell to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The early leader, Angels Trace, held third. Ain't She a Saint, a daughter of Saintly Look, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:38.80 under Corey Lanerie.
Heliskier, the 1-20 favorite, set a brisk early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Victor S. Meyers Stakes for Minnesota-bred 3-year-olds, then coasted home first by 4 lengths over Speakfromyourheart. Heliskier, a gelded son of Appealing Skier, finished in 1:09.42 with Derek Bell up. He remains undefeated in four starts, the previous two by 10 lengths. "We don't really know how good he is," said owner Marlene Colvin of Ethan, S.D.
Commander took command in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Journal Handicap and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Gone in a Flash. The optimistically named Salt Flat Speed finished third. Commander, a 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.40 with Jorge Espitia up.
Rubyintheruff sped to a daylight advantage in the late going of Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Wild Rose Handicap for fillies and mares and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Alywyn. Two Horn Unicorn finished third. Rubyintheruff, a 4-year-old Tribal Rule filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.60 under Scott Williams.
Makors Finale set a pressured pace in Sunday's $50,000 Coca-Cola Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings, bumped with D'honorable One in the stretch run and jumped tracks late, yet still got home first by 3/4 of a length. D'Honorable One held second, 4 lengths better than Brady's Kat. Makors Finale, a Makors Mark colt, finished the mile on a fast track in 1:35.13 with Gallyn Mitchell riding.
Exclusive Diva opened a big lead in the stretch run in Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then held off Royal Moses late to win by 3/4 of a length. Champagneandcaviar was third. Exclusive Diva, a Bernardini filly, ran the mile in 1:35.88 under Juan Gutierrez.
Reconstruction rallied to the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Livermore Valley Wines Stakes for 3-year-olds, then fended off the favorite, Longview Drive, to win by a neck. Coach Bob was third. Reconstruction, a Broken Vow colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.87 under Frank Alvarado.