It was a transition weekend in U.S. racing, with lots of action on the turf and many eyes on this week's move to summer quarters.
Del Mar and Saratoga, two of the premier meetings on the American racing calendar, kick into gear this week. Both will feature, among other world-class racing, top grass events.
That can't, however, totally overshadow this weekend's action, with an emphasis on the grass, which started to tee up some of the, perhaps, "quarterfinals" that lead to the Breeders' Cup.
There also was Group 1 action in France and England, although the July Cup meeting at Newmarket was beset by the nasty weather -- horrible even by British standards -- that has marked the early summer there.
Here are the details. Tune in again next week to hear how it went at "the Spa" and "Where the Surf Meets the Turf."
Point of Entry prompted the pace in Saturday's $600,000, Grade I Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park, got to the lead in the stretch and drew clear late to win by 3 1/2 lengths over early leader Center Divider. Tahoe Lake finished third. Newsdad was fourth and the odds-on favorite, globetrotting Treasure Beach, finished fifth. Point of Entry, a 4-year-old Dynaformer colt, finished the 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.87 and won his third straight race while climbing the class ladder. His last previous triumph was in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland in April. Treasure Beach, an Aidan O'Brien trainee, finished fourth in Dubai and ninth in Hong Kong in his two previous starts. "He wasn't pulling or anything," winning rider Jose Lezcano said of Point of Entry. "He did everything right. I think any distance would be good for him. He's a very good horse." Treasure Beach's rider, Jamie Spencer, said his mount "was moving fine. He just didn't do anything ... He was a bit rank early, so I had to get him back."
Rahystrada, no stranger to the Arlington Park turf course, got out front in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Arlington Handicap and made the lead stand up, holding off the favorite, Boisterous, by a half length at the wire. Mister Mardi Gras held third by a nose over the late-running Vertiformer. Rahystrada, an 8-year-old Rahy gelding, ran the 1 1/4 distance in the Arlington Million prep in 2:01.84 with Joel Rosario riding. Noting that Rahystrada was fifth in last year's Million and fourth the year before, trainer Scooter Hughes said Sunday, "I guess we'll take another crack ... One of these years, we'd like to win that sucker."
Trainer Dale Romans left his budding turf star, Silver Max, at home in Louisville rather than ship to Arlington for Saturday's $200,000, Grade III American Derby. It turned out, he didn't need Silver Max. With Silver Max instead awaiting next weekend's Virginia Derby, the Romans-trained Cozzetti slipped through along the rail to nail pacesetting All Stormy by a neck in the local prep for the Aug. 18 Secretariat Stakes. Skyring finished third. Cozzetti, a Cozzene colt, ran the 1 3/16 miles on good turf in 1:57.42. "We intended to go around at the eighth pole," winning rider Shaun Bridgmohan said. "The horse on the rail drifted a little bit so I went back down on the inside. It was a little tight but he was game and he pulled through."
Trainer Chris Block, ever dangerous on Arlington's big days, had two starters in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap and, by far, Ioya Bigtime was the more lightly regarded. Dispatched at 41-1 odds, the 5-year-old son of Dynaformer obviously forgot to look at the tote board. With Jeffrey Sanchez up, he battled for the lead for the first mile of the 12-furlong mararthon, then quickly opened a big margin turning for home. The favorite, Musketier, came to challenge but to no avail as Ioya Bigtime held on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Block's other starter, Suntracer, got home third. The win was Ioya Bigtime's first in six starts this year. "Both horses trained well up to the race," Block said. "I knew Suntracer could get the mile and a half but I didn't know about Ioya Bigtime. I have to give Jeffrey Sanchez a lot of credit. He can be a tough horse to ride but Jeffrey seems to have his number. He got him to relax nicely." The race is the local prep for the new American St. Leger, installed this year as an adjunct to the Aug. 18 International Festival of Racing.
Dhaamer raced last of four through the early furlongs of Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Sunset Handicap at Hollywood Park, picked it up when kicked into gear by jockey Julien Leparoux and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Romp, Quaintly and Juniper Pass completed the order of finish. Dhaamer, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Dubai Destination gelding, ran the 12 furlongs on firm going in 2:29.13. Trainer Mike Mitchell made his first appearance at the track since undergoing brain surgery June 29 and savored the win. "We want to have a Breeders' Cup Marathon horse on the dirt," he said, adding Dhaamer "just barely got beat" in the 1 1/2-mile Round Table Stakes on the main track at Santa Anita on March 24 in his first U.S. start.
Patrioticandproud closed best of all in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine and won by 1 length over Excaper. Attendant finished third and the odds-on favorite, Hammers Terror, faded from the early lead to finish next-last of five. Patrioticandproud, a Proud Citizen colt, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.33 under Eurico Da Silva.
Filly & Mare Turf
Lady of Shamrock saved ground well back in the field through most of Saturday's $350,000, Grade I American Oaks at Hollywood Park, found a narrow opening on the inside at mid-stretch and squeezed through en route to a 1 1/4-length victory. My Gi Gi took the outside route and finished second. Best Present Ever was on the lead in the stretch, bumped with the winner and then held third. Lady of Shamrock, a Scat Daddy filly, ran the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:03.19 with Mike Smith in the irons. "I think clearly she's the best 3-year-old filly on turf in the country," winning trainer John Sadler said. "We're very excited about her. We'll probably run her in the [$300,000, Grade I] Del Mar Oaks" -- a $300,000, Grade I on Aug. 18.
Romacaca battled her way to the lead around the stretch turn of Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Modesty Handicap at Arlington Park and held off Snow Top Mountain to win by a neck. Upperline finished third. Romacaca, a 6-year-old Running Stag mare, finished the 1 3/16-mile prep for the Aug. 18 Beverly D. in 1:56.67 with Francisco Torres in the irons. Romacaca came into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park but affirmed her liking for the Arlington grass. The mare now has five wins from seven starts over the course. Asked about the natural progression to the Beverly D., winning trainer Danny Miller said, "Right now, we have to point for it."
Starformer opened up a daylight lead early in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park and the favorite, Bubbly Jane, fell 3 lengths short of catching her at the wire. Sikara finished third. Starformer, a 4-year-old Dynaformer filly, ran the 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:15.19 with Edgar Prado up. She now has won three of 10 starts for trainer Bill Mott.
Grace Hall waited patiently off the pace in Saturday's $400,000, Grade II Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park, moved when asked by jockey Javier Castellano and won by 3 3/4 lengths, ridden out. Via Villagio rallied from last of five to finish second, followed by Amie's Dini in third. Grace Hall, a daughter of Empire Maker, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.59. It was her fifth win from eight starts and pushed her earnings over the $1 million mark. "She finished up full run and it looks like the added distance will not be a problem," winning trainer Tony Dutrow said. "Now we're off to the Alabama at Saratoga."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Switch rallied four-wide into the lane in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II A Gleam Handicap, quickly shot to the front and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Sugarinthemorning. Glamorista finished third. Switch, a 5-year-old Quiet American mare, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:24.37 with Garrett Gomez up. Switch has been second in the Breeders' Cup two years in a row at Churchill Downs and winning trainer John Sadler said her owners kept her in training specifically to take another shot this fall at Santa Anita. The A Gleam was a "Win and You're In" race, guaranteeing a spot in the Filly & Mare Turf. "I think that's tremendous," Sadler said. "You save a lot of money on entry fees and you take the pressure off. She's been a very good horse for us."
Well Spelled rallied around all five rivals in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Jersey Shore Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park and won by 1 1/2 lengths under a well-timed ride by Pablo Fragoso. Cape Cod Canal was second and third went to Scaramanga (who, in a rational world, would be trained by H. James Bond but isn't). Well Spelled, a Spellbinder colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.17. "I knew we had a lot of horse," winning trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said. "With the way the track's been playing and the fact he's been training over it, we thought that would help him a lot and it did. He ran hard. It took him a while to get the right style and now that he's got that, it definitely helped him."
Redeemed jumped to a big early lead in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing, settled in and held off Not Abroad late to win by a half length. Hello Lover was third and Win Willy finished fourth Redeemed, the heavy odds-on favorite, covered the 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in track-record time of 2:28.01 with Ramon Dominguez up. The victory secured the 4-year-old Include colt a spot in the Breeders' Cup Marathon thanks to the "Win and You're In" program.
Scherer Magic rallied strongly through the stretch to win Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Hollywood Juvenile by 2 1/2 lengths, starting trainer John Sadler on a string of three stakes wins for the day. Carson's Crown was second and Just Call Me Al finished third. The favorite, Amarish, led early but faded to finish next-last of seven. Scherer Magic, an Iowa-bred Donerail Court gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.67 with Joe Talamo in the irons. Winning trainer John Sadler took Scherer Magic for $50,000 out of a maiden claimer one month earlier. "You have to have some guts to claim an Iowa bred," he said. "You have to be lucky, too. We won a [six-way] shake that day. Before we even claimed him, we were looking at the Iowa-bred stakes schedule." Now that the colt is undefeated in two starts, he added, "I might want to make him eligible to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint. It closes tomorrow and it's a big price reduction if you nominate him early."
Joha rallied strongly through the stretch to win Saturday's $150,000 Colin Stakes at Woodbine by a length. Honorable Guest finished second but was disqualified to fifth for impeding rivals in a rough start. That promoted Triple Cross and Bear's Furr to second and third, respectively. Joha, a Kentucky-bred son of Johar, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.05 with Justin Stein in the irons for trainer Michael Maker. It was his second straight win following a maiden victory at Belmont Park.
The Absolute One set an absolutely fast pace in Thursday's $50,000 Par Four Stakes at Delaware Park and had enough left at the end, winning by 1/2 length over Pitch N Roll, who would have seemed the logical hunch bet in the Par Four. Shockman finished third. The Absolute One, a Songandaprayer colt out of the Storm Cat mare Driving Rain, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.01 with Jose Caraballo up.
Executiveprivilege rallied to the lead between horses leaving the turn in Saturday's $150,000 Landaluce Stakes at Hollywood Park and kicked clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Speedinthruthecity was next-best with Miss Empire third. Executiveprivilege, First Samurai filly, got the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.49 for jockey Rafael Bejarano. "I wasn't going to run her in this race and then I worked her Monday and she really breezed well," winning trainer Bob Baffert said. "Hopefully, I won't have to do too much with her. She'll come back in the Sorrento [Aug. 8 at Del Mar] if she's doing well. The main thing is the Breeders' Cup. She's like Silverbulletday. Those kind are just gifted."
Cryptic Message took the lead going into the turn in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Shady Well Stakes for Ontario-bred juvenile fillies at Woodbine, then held sway down the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Spring in the Air, was second in her career debut and Bold Birdie finished third. Cryptic Message, by Cryptograph, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:04.42 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. Assistant trainer Rocco De Luca said the plan is to stretch Cryptic Message out. "She's bred to go two-turns," De Luca said. "We were surprised the first time, when she did go short, because of her pedigree. Nice horses overcome pedigree sometimes."
Brown Almighty waited behind a slow early pace in a nice maiden turf event on Saturday's Arlington Park card, came running when asked by jockey Francisco Torres and won with relative ease by 1 3/4 lengths in his first career start. Telitlikitiscoach was second after leading at mid-stretch. Brown Almighty, a Big Brown colt, finished the mile over good turf in 1:40.48.
Touring around the ovals:
Giofra upset Friday's Group 1 Etihad Airways Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket, catching a stubborn Elusive Kate in the late going. The other French invader and heavy favorite, Golden Lilac, faded to finish ninth, evidently disliking the rain-softened going. Giofra, a 4-year-old Dansili filly, prevailed by a half length with Christophe Soumillon riding for trainer Alain De Royer-Dupre. Siyouma finished third as the mile took 1:42.15 over ground officially rated soft. Giofra finished second to Cirrus des Aigles in her last previous start, the Prix Ganay. She now has four wins from six starts. De Royer-Dupre said he may send Giofra in the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood as a prep for the Prix de l'Opera or the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. "She is engaged in both," he added.
Mayson led all the way to victory in Saturday's Group 1 Darley July Cup at Newmarket after early favorite Bated Breath was withdrawn due to soggy going. With Paul Hagan up for trainer Richard Fahey, Mayson won by an easy 5 lengths from The Cheka. Society Rock and Ortensia finished third and fourth. Mayson, a 4-year-old Invincible Spirit colt, ran the 6 furlongs on ground rated "heavy" in 1:15.90. The race was the seventh leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which now has three to go. Only Black Caviar has two wins in two countries. She needs one more in a third jurisdiction -- either the Sprinters Stakes in Japan or the Longines Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin -- to qualify for a $1 million bonus.
Imperial Monarch battled Last Train down the Longchamp stretch before prevailing by in Saturday's Group 1 Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris. Main Sequence twice was forced to alter course in the stretch run while trying to get by the front duo. Saint Baudolino finished third ahead of the luckless favorite. Imperial Monarch, with Joseph O'Brien up for his trainer/father Aidan, now could be ticketed for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Dixie Strike beat the boys in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. With a late run under Patrick Husbands, Dixie Strike outfinished Ultimate Destiny, winning by a length with Colleen's Sailor third. The favorite, Irish Mission, was never in the hunt and finished sixth. Dixie Strike, a Dixie Union filly, ran the 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:57.54. Strait of Dover, an all-weather specialist who won the Queen's Plate, did not participate in the Prince of Wales. Irish Mission and Dixie Strike finished 2-3 in the Plate.
Prince of Time kicked into gear in the stretch run of Wednesday's $200,000 Governor's Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and quickly drew off, winning by 9 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Senor Rain. Flashy Kid got home third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back. Prince of Time, an Invisible Ink colt, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the fast main track in 1:42.97 under Fernando De La Cruz.
Yeardley led throughout in the $200,000 Indiana First Lady for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, holding on in the final yards to score by 3/4 of a length over Ain't She a Saint. Angels Trace was well back in third at a big price. Yeardley, a daughter of Don't Get Mad, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards on the fast main track in 1:44.55, also with De La Cruz in the irons.
Miz Ida raced off the pace in the $125,000 Indiana Downs Distaff for 3-year-old fillies, came out for room in the stretch run and won by a neck over Run a Risk. Cozze Up Lady finished third with an even run. Miz Ida, a Proud Citizen filly, got the mile on firm turf in 1:36.92 under Shaun Bridgmohan.
It Happened Again got first run on the leaders in the $100,000 Golden Bear Stakes and quickly drew off to win by 6 lengths over the favorite, Fast Alex. Thunder Affair finished third. It Happened Again, a 6-year-old Proud Citizen gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:44.59 for jockey Leandro Goncalves.
Northern Candyride pressed the pace in the $84,000 A.J. Foyt Stakes for state-breds, took over around the turn and cruised home first by 2 lengths. Doctor Mark was second with Hoosier Kingdom third. Northern Candyride, a 5-year-old Candy Ride gelding, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.49 with Rodney Prescott up.
Dreamin Big stalked the pace in the $84,000 Florence Henderson Stakes for Indiana-bred fillies and mares, edged past pacesetter Keeneland Act in the final yards and won by a half length over that rival. Princess Gone Wild finished third. Dreamin Big, a 4-year-old Pure Prize filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the turf course in 1:44.08 for jockey Francisco Torres.
Calder Race Course
Angelica Zapata showed her heels to five rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap for fillies and mares. With Jose Ferrer riding, the 4-year-old Sharp Humor filly crossed the line 9 lengths ahead of runner-up Canadian Mistress. Annie
Roe finished third. Angelica Zapata ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.44. "I told Jose, 'That other horse is going to the lead, and we're going to sit right behind her,'" winning trainer Ron Pellegrini said. "And then whenever we wanted the lead, I told him to go take it. I was pretty confident we had the better horse."
Morrow Cove opened a big lead early in the stretch run of Sunday's $75,000 Serena's Song Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 4 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Moment in Dixie, rallied from last but could do no better than a distant second. Ainsley finished third. Morrow Cove, a Yes It's True filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.69 under Paco Lopez.
Tiree slugged it out with Arcade down the stretch in Saturday's $65,000 Coach Jimi Lee Stakes for 3-year-olds and held on by a nose under the wire. Sweet Luca was 2 lengths farther back in third. Tiree, a Smoke Glacken gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:24.89 with Francisco Torres up.
Ancient Rome pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Oh Say Stakes for 3-year-olds, took over the lead in the lane and held on to win by a half length over late-running Sword Trick. Reconstruction was third. Ancient Rome, a Roman Ruler ridgling, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.54 with Javier Castellano riding.
Welcome Dance led from the start in Wednesday's $50,000 Walking in Da Sun Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, holding well at the end to waltz home with 1 1/2 lengths of sunshine between her and runner-up Seanchi. Zucchini Flower finished third. Welcome Dance, a Henny Hughes filly out of the Dynaformer mare Choreograph, got the "about" 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.91 under Joe Rocco Jr.
Artemus Kitten waited behind the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Ellis Park Turf Stakes for fillies and mares, moved to the lead in the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Ridgester. Strong Willed Lady rallied from last of eight to fill the trifecta. Artemus Kitten, a 4-year-old Kitten's Joy filly, finished 1 1/16 miles over firm going in 1:43.50 with Malcolm Franklin riding.
Italian Boy led all the way, under some pressure, in Sunday's $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap, then held on in the final yards to win by a head over D'Honorable One. Edge Forward was third. Italian Boy, a 3-year-old Tizbud colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.61 with William Antongeorgi III in the irons.
Long shot Champagneandcaviar dueled for the lead with the favorite, Exclusive Diva, through much of Sunday's $50,000 Kent Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. At the end, Champagneandcaviar edged out front and won by 3/4 of a length with Regal Betty third. Champagneandcaviar, a Van Nistelrooy filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.02 for jockey Javier Matias.
Unitas got by Dance Caller in the late stages of Saturday's $50,000 Oak Hall Stakes and won by 3/4 of a length over that rival. The favorite, Crystal Moment, was third with a mild rally. Unitas, a 4-year-old Sunday Break gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.59, just 0.16 second shy of the 5-year-old track record. Gerard Melancon rode.
Caged Mistress won a three-way lunge to the wire in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Strawberry Morn Handicap for fillies and mares. Wando Woman was just a nose back in second and it was another head back to the early leader and favorite, Overvalued. Caged Mistress, with Fernando Perez applying the well-timed ride, got home in 1:45.22 over a fast track.
Bridge Jumper was the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) New Westminster Stakes for 2-year-olds. But if there were any bridge jumpers betting on the Storm Victory gelding, they had nothing to worry about. With Perez riding, he took the early lead and was never challenged, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Gambino. Prohibiting and Lord Harlow completed the order of finish. Bridge Jumper ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.79 over a fast track.
Plethora led all the way to a 1 1/2-length victory in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) R.K. "Red" Smith Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. Claresmieszie was second and Blue Baby finished third. Plethora, a First Samurai filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:40 with Tony Maragh up.
Up Jumps a Monster jumped up in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Ky Alta Handicap for 3-year-olds, coasting past the early leaders to a 1 1/4-length win. Toccetive was second and Clear the Runway landed third. Up Jumps a Monster, a Proud Citizen gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38 2/5 with Scott Williams aboard.