The competition from coast to coast and even overseas was as hot as the weather. Early bids for position in the year-end races already are up for grabs and there is no shortage of challengers.
Overseas, Camelot continued his march through the 3-year-old ranks on the British Isles but, for a change, he didn't have things all his own way.
The Classic Division
Hansen bounced back nicely from his fading, ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with a romping, 10-length win in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows. With Ramon Dominguez in for the ride, the 2011 juvenile champ led from the start and won handily as the heavy, odds-on favorite. Hero of Order, the 107-1 Louisiana Derby winner, finished second with Macho Bull, Truetap and Alsvid completing the order of finish. Hansen, a light gray Tapit colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.01. Both Hanen's owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen, and trainer, Mike Maker, seemed surprised at the ease with which their distinctive colt romped. "I wish they were all that easy," Maker said. "He settled well. He did what we wanted." Hansen added, "Oh, my gosh! I've never seen 1-9 (odds) in a stakes race. It looks like he's back." Hansen was undefeated in 2011, capping his year with a gritty, front-running victory over Union Rags in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. He had every chance in the Run for the Roses but appeared done in by the 1 1/4-mile route, fading down the long Churchill Downs stretch.
Teeth of the Dog pressed the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, got the lead when asked by jockey Joel Rosario and then held on to win by a neck over late-running Fast Falcon. Morgan's Guerrilla finished third, 6 lengths farther back. Teeth of the Dog, a Bluegrass Cat colt, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.34. "He's a pretty darn game horse, that's for sure," said winning trainer Michael Matz, who also conditions Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags. "He ran a real nice race, and I'm proud of him. This is a class horse." With Union Rags headed for the Travers at Saratoga, Matz said he will be seeking an alternate target for Teeth of the Dog. After a short break, he said, the options include the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 28 or the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on Aug. 4. Trainer Nick Zito said the Jim Dandy also is a possibility for Fast Falcon.
Among the older horses, it was all Fort Larned in Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap. With Brian Hernandez Jr. up, the 4-year-old E Dubai colt got out on a comfortable lead and the favorite, Successful Dan, couldn't make up the ground in the stretch. At the end, it was Fort Larned by 3 lengths. Awesome Gem took third with an even run. Fort Larned completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.42. "I didn't expect that," trainer Ian Wilkes said of Fort Larned taking the early lead. "I thought Shadowbdancing would make the pace. When he didn't, that was fine with me."
Up north, Hunters Bay engaged with Pender Harbour early in the stretch run of Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine and shook clear in the closing yards to win by a length over that rival. It was 7 1/2 lengths back to Stately Victor in third. Hunters Bay, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Ghostzapper, got the 10 furlongs on the all-weather track in 2:04.11 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. Hunters Bay entered the Dominion Day off a win in the Grade III Eclipse Stakes and trainer Reade Baker said he may travel to his next few engagements. "We'll probably go to the Whitney at Saratoga or possibly the Pacific Classic at Del Mar," said Baker. "He's got speed and endurance and that's all you need."
Jeranimo got to the outside in the stretch run of Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Shoemaker Mile Stakes at Hollywood Park and mowed down all seven rivals, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over South American import Suggestive Boy. The favorite, Little Mike, set the early fractions and held on for third. Jeranimo, a 5-year-old son of Congaree, finished in 1:33.97 with Garrett Gomez riding. "We have the home field advantage now," winning owner B.J. Wright said. "This is a 'Win and You're In' and the Breeders' Cup is going to be held at Santa Anita. I like that home field advantage. And we have Gomez. It can't get much better than that. He's just a great race horse."
Guys Reward rallied from off the pace to post a mild upset win in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II Firecracker Handicap at Churchill Downs. At the winning post, it was Guys Reward by 2 lengths over Seruni with Night Party third and the favorite, Turallure, checking in fourth. Guys Reward, a 5-year-old son of Grand Reward, got the mile on good turf in 1:38.46 with Corey Lanerie in the irons.
Filly & Mare Turf
Neither of the French imports had what it took to catch pacesetting Mystical Star in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II New York Stakes for fillies and mares. With Jose Lezcano leading her on a deliberate pace, Mystical Star shook off a challenge at the quarter pole and won by a length over Aruna, who prospered after being shipped from France more than a year ago. Hit It Rich finished third and a recent French invader, Banimpire, faded to get home next-last in the field of six. Mystical Star, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:00.17. "She was very nice last year, but then her form went down," winning trainer Christophe Clement sai. "She was not quite as sound, so we gave her time and came back with her. She came back better than ever." He said he is eying the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park in Aug. 18 as the next stop for Mystical Star.
Silver Screamer stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park, came screaming out of the turn and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Heavenly Landing. Unbridled Humor was third and the favorite, Ruthenia, finished fourth. Silver Screamer, a 4-year-old Cozzene filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.41 with Jose Espinoza riding. She now has won two of her three starts this year. "We wanted to be close to the pace," Espinoza said. "She showed today she can run with anybody."
Camp Victory blew by pacesetting The Factor in the stretch run of Saturday's $250,000, Grade I Triple Bend Handicap and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. The Factor easily held onto place money with Mobilized 5 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Camp Victory, a 5-year-old Forest Camp gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.75 with Joe Talamo up. "For once everything worked out on paper like we thought it would," Talamo said. "Two or three would go out there, and they did. I kind of thought The Factor was going to get out, which he did, but I didn't want to leave it to chance so I just kept him outside." Trainer Bob Baffert, noting The Factor was making his first start since returning from Dubai, said, "He just got a little tired. I think he'll move forward off this."
Wiredfortwotwenty got the early lead in Friday night's $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows, turned away a bid by the favorite, Rothko, and got home first by 2 lengths over that rival. Warning Song finished third. Wiredfortwotwenty, a 7-year-old Greatness gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:08.12 with Jake Barton in the irons. Wiredfortwotwenty, returning from a hairline fracture in a shin, tired to finish third in this year's Prairie Express, a race he won last year before the injury. "He needed his last race," trainer Bart Hone said. "We were hoping he'd come back healthy and move forward off of that."
At Charles Town, the 3-year-olds were assigned 7 furlongs in Saturday night's $400,000 Red Legend Stakes with Sum of the Parts leading all the way to a 3 3/4-length upset win. The favorite, Il Villano, chased willingly but could not make much late progress, finishing second. Mr. Handsom paid a handsome price to show. Sum of the Parts, a Speightstown colt, got home in 1:23.98 with Leando Goncalves riding. Sum of the Parts finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint last fall at Churchill Downs but now has won all three of his starts this year, including the $100,000 Tom Ridge Stakes at Presque Isle Downs in his last previous outing for trainer Tom Amoss. Il Villano has never been worse than third in nine career starts.
Good Lord got to the front in Saturday's $100,000 Wild and Wonderful Stakes at Charles Town and the favorite, Bandbox, fell 1 3/4 lengths short of catching him at the wire. Hurricane Ike finished third. Good Lord, a 5-year-old Greatness gelding, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.68 with Goncalves riding for trainer Forrest Kaelin.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Kitty in a Tizzy tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park, shifted out for running room in the stretch and out-finished the favorite, Maude S, to win by a length. Ariana D got home third. Kitty in a Tizzy, a 5-year-old Tiznow mare, finished the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.49. "When I eased her out turning for home," said winning rider Francisco Torres, "it was just a matter of when I was going to push the button on her. The race developed well and it paid off." Kevin Bond, who saddled the New York invader for his father, H. James Bond, added Kitty in a Tizzy is a "Polytrack specialist. We were kind of hoping for the right condition. It opened up here and here we came."
Derwin's Star waited nicely behind the pace in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Bed o' Roses Handicap at Belmont Park, got to the front three sixteenths out and romped home a 3 1/2-lengths winner. Catch a Thief was second and the favorite, C C's Pal, settled for third. Derwin's Star, a 5-year-old Wildcat Heir filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.53 with Ramon Dominguez up. "This filly has always shown a lot of ability," said winning trainer and part-owner Steve Klesaris, "from way back when she was third to Blind Luck and Havre de Grace [in the Delaware Handicap]. We've had to deal with a lot of issues with her and at one point we thought about retiring her, but we gave her time." He said he now will look to the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga.
Five of the original eight scratched out of Friday night's $100,000 Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows because the weather was too hot for travel and the track came up muddy. The placing judges had no trouble deciding the remaining order of finish. After trailing early, Yournotthebossofme kicked by in the stretch run to score by 2 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Speedacious, led early and finished second and it was 19 1/4 lengths back to Starlite Starbrite in third, which was still worth $10,000. Yournotthebossofme, a 5-year-old Johannesburg mare, toured the 6 furlongs in 1:09.07 under Israel Ocampo. "They were going real, real fast," Ocampo said of his decision to wait. "They were bumping. I tried to save ground and then, turning for home, I stayed outside, which is the good part of the racetrack right now."
Uptown Bertie surged to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows and got clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Ice Cream Silence, the favorite, finished second and Emona was third at long odds. Uptown Bertie, a daughter of More Than Ready, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.34 under Julien Leparoux. "We knew she was a nice filly," Loren Diego, assistant to winning trainer Steve Margolis said. "She's a tall filly with a long stride. She was doing good and we won it last year [with Little Miss Holly], so we thought we'd take a shot."
Brushed by a Star worked her way to the lead in Friday night's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows, then hit overdrive in the stretch and kicked clear to win by 11 lengths. Someplace Else was second and Another World took third. Two of the six starters, including the odds-on favorite, Sterling Madame, did not finish the race. Brushed by a Star, a 4-year-old Eddington filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:42.86. "This filly likes the mud like you wouldn't believe it," winning rider Corey Nakatani said. "This filly loves the mud."
In Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Bison City Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, Blue Heart blew by the early leaders in the lane and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Black Bird Rock. Casa Loma, the early leader, held on for third. Blue Heart, a daughter of Exchange Rate, negotiated the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:45.77 with Alex Solis riding. "I waited down on the inside," Solis said. "When I asked her to go at the three-sixteenths, she responded nicely. I felt like she had an easy race. She saved all the ground, and only ran 300 yards." Blue Heart came into the race followed a neck loss in the Alywow Stakes and improved her record to three wins, a second and a third in six lifetime starts.
Circle Unbroken rated kindly behind the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs, got through between horses when put to the task and won by a length over the late-running Positively. Special Jo finished third after showing the way. Circle Unbroken, a Florida-bred Broken Vow colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.21 with Jon Court up. He remained undefeated in two starts and gave trainer Garry Simms a seldom-turned double of Churchill's spring juvenile races. He saddled Blueeyesintherein to victory last week in the Grade III Debutante. Simms said he bought the colt at the Keeneland September sales because, "He had the perfect eye, attitude, walk. He had everything I like in a horse. I was going to get him and I probably would have paid more than I did." He paid $92,000 and the colt now has earned $94,534.
Uncaptured swept by pacesetting Jocosity with a furlong to run in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Clarendon Stakes for Ontario foals and quickly drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths over that rival. First-time starter River Seven ran credibly to finish third. Uncaptured, a Lion Heart colt, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:03.05 after following a hot early pace. He won for the second time in as many starts. "They were traveling pretty fast up front," winning jockey Patrick Husbands said. "I rode him last time, and I rode him with a lot of confidence. He showed me he was the best today."
Shanghai Bobby bumped out of the gate in Wednesday's $85,000 Track Barron Stakes at Belmont Park, quickly righted the ship and led the rest of the way to a 1-length victory over Handsome Jack. Nice Going went nicely enough to finish third. Shanghai Bobby, a Harlan's Holiday colt handled by the Todd Pletcher operation, got the 5 1/2 furlongs over a fast track in 1:02.87 with Rosie Napravnik up.
Two Ts At Two B demolished the field in Saturday's $55,000 Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes at Calder Rac Course, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 5 1/4 lengths over Joshua's Compromise. Billos Boy finished third. Two Ts At Two B, an Untuttable colt, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:06.56 with Eduardo Nunez in the irons.
Salamara rallied to the lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $55,000 J J'sdream Stakes at Calder Race Course, then was all out to win by a neck over a stubborn Impossible Mary. Anita's Compromise was well back in third. Salamara, a Successful Appeal filly, negotiated the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.70 with Angel Castillo up.
Aesop's Fables posted a 12-1 upset in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Prat for 3-year-olds at Chantilly, kicking in during the final furlong to win by a length over Gregorian. Coup De Theatre was third. The race was notable for its disappointments as Caspar Netscher and French Fifteen both failed to fire, finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. Aesop's Fables, an American-bred son of Distorted Humor, was winning for just the second time in seven starts for trainer Andre Fabre. He is owned by Godolphin and Maxime Guyon applied the winning ride.
Camelot on Saturday added the Irish Derby to his list of wins, alongside the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. But it was more of a challenge for him, likely because of the heavy going at the Curragh. With Joseph O'Brien riding for his father, trainer Aidan O'Brien, Camelot went to the lead when asked. But Born to Sea quickly ranged up to challenge and while Camelot turned back the challenge to win by 2 lengths, he did not seem as dominant as in previous races. "He hated the ground all the way," the younger O'Brien said. "I was worried that he was struggling. He has a big heart." The Montjeu colt, now undefeated in five career runs, completed the 1 1/2 miles on soft-to-heavy going in 2:43.96. His next likely target is some rest before September's Ladbroke's St Leger. Should he win that, he would become the first English Triple Crown winner since Nijinsky in 1970. He is the early betting favorite both for that race and for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Izzy Top easily went by pacesetting favorite Sapphire in the late going of Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. I'm a Dreamer and Up completed the order of finish over a soft-to-heavy course. Izzy Top, with William Buick up for trainer Tom Gosden, finished the 10-furlong slog in 2:15.05. Izzy Top is a 4-year-old Zee Zee Top filly. "We will look at all the big Group 1 races over a mile and a quarter for her," Gosden said. "Races like the Nassau, Prix de l'Opera and possibly even the Breeders' Cup could be a possibility for her."
Pastorius rallied to the front with 2 furlongs to run in Sunday's Deutsches Derby at Hamburg, drifted out to run alone on the stands side of the course and finally prevailed by a half length over Novelist. Girolamo was third. Pastorius, a German-bred colt by Soldier Hollow, ran the 1 1/2 miles on good footing in 2:32.23. He now has two win from five career starts.
Blue Maiden got by pacesetting favorite Whipsaw City in the late going in Thursday's $85,000 Glowing Honor Stakes for fillies and mares and won by a half length over that rival. Trix in the City was third and Sure Route completed the order of finish. Blue Maiden, a 5-year-old, British-bred Medicean mare, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.51 with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
King Kreeza led from the start in Friday's $90,000 London Company Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning off by 3 lengths at the end. Easy Crossing was second and Star Channel took third. King Kreeza, a King Cougat gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.38 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding.
Lady Candidate pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Mariah's Storm Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then battled through the stretch before securing a neck victory over Ire. Ann of the Dance was third. Lady Candidate, a daughter of Bob and John, ran the mile on the all-weather surface in 1:38.86 under James Graham.
Successful Song pressed the pace in Saturday's $76,000 Lighthouse Stakes for fillies and mares, moved to the front when asked by jockey Angel Serpa and got clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Cascabella finished second, 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Daring Reality. Successful Song, a 5-year-old Successful Appeal mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.22.
Maple Forest wrested the lead from My Sunshine Gal in the early stages of Sunday's $60,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for fillies and mare and the two ran in that order onward to the wire, with Maple Forest prevailing by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Beat the Blues, beat the other three starters. Maple Forest, at 4-year-old Forestry mare out of the American Chance mare Maple Syrup, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.84 with Joe Bravo up.
John Johny Jak had the best kick in the lane in Sunday's $68,000 Robert K. Kerlan Memorial, reporting home first by 1 3/4 lengths after tracking the early speed. Obviously was second and Comma to the Top finished third as the favorite. John Johny Jak, a 5-year-old Wildcat Heir ridgling, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.63 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons.
Forest Mouse rallied three-wide to the lead entering the stretch in Tuesday's $100,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handicap and held on to win by a half length over Imco Spirit. Plea Agreement finished third. Forest Mouse, a 4-year-old Teton Forest colt, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.10 with Miguel Hernandez up.
Frontside was quickly on the frontside of a 10-horse field in Wednesday's $100,000 Girls Inc. of Shelbyville, Shelby County Stakes and held on at the end to win by a half length over Hard Seven. The favorite, Hoo Why, was gaining slowly in deep stretch but settled for third. Frontside, a 4-year-old War Front filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:37.20 for jockey Marlon St. Julien.
Doe led all the way to a 1-length victory over Jazzy Idea in Saturday's $75,000 Lady Charles Town for 3-year-old fillies. Moon Philly took third. Doe, a daughter of Forestry, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.42 with J. Acosta riding.
Immortal Eyes rallied by Map of the World when asked for a brief burst of speed and went on to win Saturday's $75,000 Charles Town Dash by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival Candy Games finished third. Immortal Eyes, a 7-year-old Greatness gelding, finished the 4 1/2 furlongs in 50.50 seconds with Travis Dunkelberger up.
Salty Strike overcame some traffic issues midway through Saturday's $73,600 Roxelana Stakes for fillies and mares, came out for room in the stretch run and won off by 3 1/2 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Sassy Image, finished second and Sam's Bliss was third. Salty Strike, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.50 with Corey Lanerie aboard.
There were six $100,000 races, all for state-breds, on Louisiana Legends night Saturday.
U Belong to Me rallied from well back to take the 5 1/2-furlong Ladies Sprint by 1 1/4 lengths over Warrior Maid. The 5-year-old Scrimshaw mare finished in 1:04.52 under Ramsey Zimmerman.
Top Cat Boogie led most of the way to a popular 4 1/4-length win over Four Joes in the Mile Stakes, finishing in 1:37.75 with Randall Toups on top.
Amanecer de Oro was in front quickly in the Sprint and won by 4 1/4 lengths over Pirate Island. The 4-year-old Afternoon Deelites colt got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.55 for jockey Richard Eramia.
Kissimmee Kyle battled down the lane with Sadie's Soldier before landing the Turf, winning by a head over that foe. The 6-year-old Gold Tribute gelding finished 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:41.17 with Mark Guidry in the irons.
Ladyzarbridge pressed the pace in the Distaff, then got to the front and held off Harlie's Dreams in the closing yards to win by a neck. The 5-year-old Zarbyev mare ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.46 for Guidry.
And Star Guitar continued his long run of starring in these state-bred events by closing sharply in the Classic to win by 3/4 length over Heavy On Themister. Star Guitar, a 7-year-old son of Quiet American, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.71 under Gerard Melancon.
Sundae on Sunday had it all going Saturday, rallying from far back to win the $50,000 Ontario County Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds by 2 1/4 lengths over El Grande Patron. Bruce's Choice finished third. Sundae on Sunday, a Chief Seattle colt, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.18 with Dennis Carr riding.
Halo Dolly led most of the way to a 2 1/2-length win over Cathy's Crunches in Saturday's $50,000, Alameda County Fillies and Mares Stakes. With Russell Baze up, the 4-year-old Popular filly ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.45.
Alamedan also took the direct route in Sunday's $50,000 Alamedan Handicap, leading from the start and drawing off to score by 6 1/2 lengths. Positive Response was the best of the rest as Alamedan, a 5-year-old Sarava gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.21 with Juan Hernandez riding.
Lucky Melissa got first run to the lead in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Rainbow Connection Stakes for Canadian-bred fillies and mares, then easily out-finished the favorite, Anywhere, to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Aone Saucy Miss finished third. Lucky Melissa, a 5-year-old Mobil mare, ran the 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.68 seconds under Corey Fraser.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]
Michael Sam cut from the Dallas Cowboys