It was a weekend of emerging stars in U.S. racing and, in France, the re-emergence of a star whose career had been in doubt.
At Arlington Park, Little Mike slowed things down on the lead and won the Grade I Arlington Million over strong foreign competition, stepping up in distance and into the top rank of turf runners. It was a similar story for Point of Entry, a late-bloomer who won the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga and for Questing, the Godolphin filly who jumped to the top of the 3-year-old filly ranks with a dramatic win in the Alabama at Saratoga.
In France, Snow Fairy came back from a long injury-induced layoff to win a Group 1 event at Deauville in her first start since a Group 1 win last November in Japan.
At this rate, the rest of the year is going to be fun to watch. Some details:
Little Mike saved the day for the U.S. team in Saturday's International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park, winning the Arlington Million with ease. After a day when Europeans dominated the other top stakes in Arlington Park's marquee day, Kentucky-based Little Mike shot right to the lead in the Grade I Million, slowed things down to a relative walk and had plenty left to hold off European raider Asfare and win by 1 1/2 lengths. Rahystrada and Colombian dead-heated for third and fourth, another 1 1/2 lengths back. Little Mike, a 5-year-old Spanish Steps gelding, now has won six of his last eight races over the last 18 months. Trainer Dale Romans was stretching him out to the 1 1/4-mile Million distance after Little Mike got home third last time out in the Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park in California. "He was running very comfortably," Dominguez said, "Turning for home, when I decided to let him run, he beautifully started opening up. I wasn't sure how slow we were going." Kieren Fallon, who rode Asfare, said, "I knew what was going on and there was nothing I could do. I had to ride my horse to win and there was no pace." The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf. But Romans said he has "no idea" whether he will prep Little Mike for that race or for the Turf Mile.
Point of Entry totally dominated Saturday's $600,000, Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational at Saratoga, clearing traffic in time to draw off down the stretch to a 4-length victory as the even-money favorite. Picking up his fourth straight win for Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey, the 4-year-old Dynaformer colt ran the 1 1/2 miles in 2:26.40 with under John Velazquez. Al Khali also rallied late but could do no better than second, with Brilliant Speed and Newsdad filling out the superfecta. "By the half-mile pole I pointed him outside," Velazquez said, "and the horse who was laying third took a bad step. So I had to go back inside with him. But I didn't want to make a move before the quarter pole anyway, so it worked out. He was ready to go any time I let him go. Incredible." McGaughey said he's looking at the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont on Sept. 29 as the bridge to the Breeders' Cup for late-bloomer Point of Entry. "He's a Dynaformer, and he has big horses," the trainer said. "You just have to be patient with them. He's paying us back now."
Jakkalberry got Arlington's International Festival of Racing off to a real international start with a determined stretch drive that got him past local hero Ioya Bigtime to win the $400,000 American St. Leger. This was the first running of the St. Leger, carded at 1 11/16 miles, and it drew a nice foreign contingent. Top among them was Jakkalberry, a 6-year-old Storming Home gelding whose resume includes stops in Hong Kong, Dubai, Italy and England. Ioya Bigtime, owned by local powerhouse Team Block, led the field through a sensible clip into the stretch for a second time, repeating the tactics that led him to victory in the 1 1/2-mile Stars and Stripes last month. This time, he had Jakkalberry to contend with and the latter drove by outside the leader and kept on well to win by 2 1/4 lengths, finishing in 2:49.01. It was his first win since a visit to Italy nearly a year ago. Zuider Zee, a German-bred gelding trained by John Gosden and ridden by William Buick, was up for third. Winning rider Colm O'Donoghue said Jakkalberry "gave me a lot of confidence rating him. We expected a good run. My horse was the class and he really can run."
Forte Dei Marmi rallied from last to post an upset win in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian), Grade II Sky Classic Stakes at Woodbine. With Alex Solis riding, the 6-year-old, British-bred Selkirk gelding caught pacesetter Stormy Lord late and won by 3/4 of a length. The favorite, Scalo, was a neck further back in third. Forte Dei Marmi got the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:02.57. He also could be a rising star. After starting his career in England with modest success, Forte Dei Marmi has shown flashes this year for trainer Roger Attfield, finishing third in the Grade II Dixie Stakes at Pimlico and a reasonably good sixth in the Colonial Turf Cup before Sunday's win. "He's just a horse that has a big kick and a very relaxed horse early on," Attfield said.
Back at Arlington, Bayrir, under a well-timed ride by Christophe Lemaire, ran to the lead in the stretch run in the $500,000, Grade I Secretariat Stakes for 3-year-olds and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths. Finnegan's Wake also rallied late to take second and Summer Front finished third. The early leader, Silver Max, came into the race after six straight front-running wins. He again made the early pace but folded quickly on the far turn when he was headed by the enigmatic Daddy Long Legs. Neither of those rivals persevered through the stretch. Bayrir, a French-bred colt by Medicean, finished the 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:02.92. Lemaire said he hadn't planned to lay so far off the pace "but the race started out very quickly ... . He took the bit on his own around the last corner. When I put him out, he reacted very well. He's a very clever horse."
Saturday's $100,000 Edward J. DeBartolo Memorial was moved from the turf to the fast main track, which proved no problem for Don Dulce. The 4-year-old Maria's Mon gelding stalked the pace before hooking up with Nikki's Sandcastle in a stretch duel that found him a head in front at the wire. Golden Yank finished third, a length farther back, as the favorite. Don Dulce, with Bryan McNeil up, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:51.12.
It looked for all the world like Questing was setting a suicidal pace in Saturday's $600,000, Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. But by the time she turned for home, the rivals that had stayed close were totally spent and there was no one else to come and challenge. She wove her way through the final furlong but still won by 9 lengths. In Lingerie, who was kept off the pace, passed the other tiring rivals to finish second and Via Villaggio likewise got home third. The favorite, Grace Hall, stuck closest to Questing and paid the price, fading badly in the stretch to finish a distant and spent fifth, behind Zo Impressive. Questing, a Godolphin filly by Hard Spun, ran the first half mile in 46.01 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:09.74. Even after ducking in and out through the stretch, she completed the 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:01.29. Questing has improved by leaps and bounds this summer, jumping from the optional claiming ranks to win the Coaching Club American Oaks in her last previous race, soundly defeating Zo Impressive and In Lingerie. The Alabama was a showdown for supremacy between Questing and Grace Hall, the winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Delaware Oaks, with last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, My Miss Aurelia, now back in training and waiting to play the winner. Questing's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, admitted he thought jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. was going too fast early. "But I liked the way she was doing it. I looked behind her, and a lot of them were riding hard to keep up," he said. "I was nervous about the fractions, but she was doing it the right way." About the erratic run in the stretch, he added, "As long as she's 5 [lengths] in front, I'm not worried about it." Sunday, he said the Grade II Cotillion at Parx Racing on Sept. 22 is the next logical step for Questing as he tries to keep Godolphin's horses apart leading up to the Breeders' Cup. Zo Impressive finished with a displaced fracture in her right front cannon bone, an injury that attending veterinarians described as career-threatening but likely not life-threatening. Trainer Tom Albertrani said she was standing comfortably in her stall Sunday morning and will be sent to Rood & Riddle Equine Center in Kentucky this week for surgery.
The remarkable Snow Fairy, unraced since a training injury in Hong Kong last December, gutted out a dramatic win in Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville, beating Izzy Top by 3/4 of a length and Galikova by another half length. Timepiece finished fourth. With Ryan Moore up, the 5-year-old Intikhab mare covered the 10 furlongs on good turf in 2:06.30. She last raced on Nov. 13, 2011, winning the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto, defeating some of Japan's top runners for the second year in a row. She also has Group 1 victories in Hong Kong, Ireland and England. "This has to be one of the biggest highlights of my career," winning trainer Ed Dunlop told Racing Post. "We'll wait to see how she comes out of this before making a plan. But she's in the Irish Champion, the Arc, everything." Snow Fairy finished third in last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe before heading to Japan.
Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny for 2-year-olds also was dominated by the invading forces as Reckless Abandon, with Gerald Mosse up, led throughout to win with George Vancouver and Parliament Square finishing second and third. Reckless Abandon remains undefeated in four starts, also including the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Fumino Imagine kicked into gear in the straight and went on to win Sunday's Group 2 Sapporo Kinen by a half length over Dark Shadow. Hiruno D'Amour was third, another 3/4 of length back. Fumino Imagine, a 6-year-old son of Manhattan Cafe, finished the 2,000 meters in 1:58.7. The race, worth nearly $1.8 million, is an important step toward the Group 1 Tenno Sho Autumn.
Other Breeders' Cup divisions:
Filly & Mare Turf
I'm A Dreamer, with Haley Turner in the irons, sat in a perfect stalking position until the final turn in the $750,000, Grade I Beverly D. for fillies and mares at Arlington Park, drove to the lead with a determined stretch run and held off Marketing Mix at the end to win by a head. Joviality was third and Kapitalite fourth. I'm A Dreamer, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Noverre mare, finished the 1 3/16 miles on firm going in 1:55.29. She had finished her 2011 season with a victory in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine in Canada, then finished third, fourth and third in her first three starts this year in England and Ireland, all group races. "It was a long stretch," winning trainer David Simcock said. "It isn't really, but it just felt like it. She quickened up when that closer was coming." Turner noted the Woodbine experience had accustomed I'm A Dreamer to the travel regime. "I think she seems to sparkle well when she's over here," she said.
While the East Coast 3-year-old fillies were slugging it out on the main track at Saratoga, Lady of Shamrock took a big step forward in the female turf division with a last-to-first win in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Oaks. With Mike Smith up, the Scat Daddy filly raced last of nine down the backstretch, advanced around the turn and came six-wide into the stretch. She reached the lead by the sixteenth pole and held off fellow closer Stormy Lucy by a half length. Open Water led briefly early in the stretch run and held third. Lady of Shamrock, the even-money favorite, ran the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.30. "She's one of those fillies with such a wicked turn of foot that you have to be careful," Smith said. "If you niggle on her a little bit, she goes from last to first right now. You've got to trust her. Taking the overland was no problem. No problem at all with her." Winning trainer John Sadler said he will consider the Rodeo Driver, the former Yellow Ribbon, at Santa Anita or the Queen Elizabeth II at Saratoga. "She's very good at Santa Anita so we'll probably be leaning toward staying home," he added. She has won six of her last eight starts, including three of four at Santa Anita, site of this fall's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
And on the grass back east, Stephanie's Kitten got by the pacesetting duo in the stretch run of Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Woodford Reserve Lake Placid for 3-year-old fillies and won by a half length. Centre Court, who pressed the pace, finished second and Somali Lemonade rallied for third. Stephanie's Kitten, a Kitten's Joy filly out of the Catienus mare Unfold the Rose, ran 9 furlongs on the fast inner turf in 1:48.51. "It was a great effort by her and an incredible last eighth," winning rider John Velazquez said. "I know she has it in her, and as soon as I pulled her out and hit her with the whip she responded right away. So I was very impressed at the way she did it." Trainer Wayne Catalano said he plans to take Stephanie's Kitten to the Breeders' Cup via the Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland.
San Pablo rallied three-wide in the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park and kicked clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Toby's Corner. Small Town Talk finished third. San Pablo, a 4-year-old Jump Start colt, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.59 for jockey Christopher DeCarlo. The colt has been knocking on the door of the top level for his whole career, finishing out of the money in only one of his 11 previous starts and now has two straight wins following a victory last month in the Birdstone Stakes at Saratoga. "The plan was to just get him comfortable early and into a nice rhythm," DeCarlo said. "I just sat and waited with him until it was time to go. He's not a quick-punch type of horse so I started riding him a little early so as to not give him too much to do. Once we straightened up in the lane, he was rolling." Todd Pletcher trains.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Winding Way came from last to win Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap by a half length over Sugarinthemorning. Rumor finished third. Winding Way, a 3-year-old Malibu Moon filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.93 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. Winding Way, the only 3-year-old in the field, remains undefeated in three starts. In her first two outings, she led from the start. After the tardy start Sunday, said trainer Carla Gaines, I was just hoping to hit the board. That's a massive recovery." She added, "We were testing her in a graded race to see if she might be a Breeders' Cup-type horse. It looks like she's getting closer now."
Relay Bill was out front from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Capital City Stakes for 3-year-olds at Penn National and won easily by 3 1/4 lengths at odds of nearly 23-1. The favorite, Margano, was best of the rest and Two Months Rent finished third. Relay Bill, a Dance with Ravens gelding, got home in 1:41.56 over soft turf with Clinton Potts riding.
Filare l'Oro rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 Dauphin Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 of a length over Welcome Dance. Isla finished third. Filare l'Oro, a daughter of Hard Spun, ran the mile on soft going in 1:42.69 under Wesley Ho.
Taylor Said sat just off the early pace in Sunday's $200,000, Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, hooked early leader Winning Machine through the stretch and finally won by a head over that rival. The favorite, Awesome Gem, ran into some traffic problems rallying from the back of the pack and settled for third, 1 1/2 lengths farther in arrears. Taylor Said, a 4-year-old, British Columbia-bred Stephanotis gelding, finished in 1:33.79 over a fast track with Mario Gutierrez up.
Francois rallied stoutly outside the leaders in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $65,000 Straight Line Stakes for 3-year-olds -- a race that was run a 1 mile around one turn. Sweet Luca was second and Hogy third. Hammars Terror, the favorite, led briefly but faded to get home fourth. Francois, a Smarty Jones gelding, finished in 1:37.02 on the all-weather track with Jeffrey Sanchez up.
In the first $85,000 division of Saturday's Hatoof Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Julia's Star was up late to win by a half length over the favorite, Nayarra. Zapper Belle was third. Julia's Star, a daughter of El Prado, ran the 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.01 with Julien Leparoux at the controls.
In the second division of the popular race, Leading Astray kept a nose in front of Freedom Reigns at the wire with Drama Drama a longshot third. Leading Astray, a Belong to Me filly handled by Team Block, finished in 1:42.90 with Eddie Perez riding.
Halo Daddy came four-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Solana Beach Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and got by the field to win by a half length over Unusual Hottie. Sparkling Style finished third and the favorite, Antares World, was fifth. Warren's Jitterbug balked, was pulled up and vanned off. Halo Daddy, a 4-year-old Popular filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.43 with Joe Talamo riding.
Lady Ten battled gamely between rivals to win Friday's $85,000 Sandy Blue Handicap for 3-year-old fillies by a neck. Graser was second, a half length ahead of Cozze Up Lady. The favorite, Byrama, was another nose back in fourth. Lady Ten, a Rock Hard Ten filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.05 under Rafael Bejarano.
Lubash came from last of seven to win Thursday's $150,000 West Point Stakes for New York-breds by 1 3/4 lengths over Minnie Punt. Compliance Officer finished third. Lubash, a 5-year-old son of Freud, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.61 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Hessonite came three-wide into the stretch in Friday's $150,000 Yaddo Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and was along in time to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Mystic City. Elusive Rumor finished third. Hessonite, a 4-year-old Freud filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.44 under Ramon Dominguez.
Lady Cohiba tracked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Summer Guest Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then ran on to post the upset win by a half length over Moment in Dixie. Harbor Mist finished third. Lady Cohiba, a daughter of Broken Vow, got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.66 with Joel Rosario riding.
Moonlit Beauty was on the engine from the start in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victoriana Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, then was all out to prevail by a head over Reconnect. Let's Forget It finished third. Moonlit Beauty, a 6-year-old Pedigree Moon mare, ran 11/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.85 under Eurico Da Silva.
Moment of Majesty rallied from last of nine to win Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares. With Gerry Olguin in the irons, the 5-year-old Saint Liam mare ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.63.
Get Happy Mister had no trouble with Del Mar invader Manewal, winning Sunday's $100,000 Gold Rush Futurity 9 1/4 lengths over that rival. Another Californian, R S Watson, finished third. Get Happy Mister, a Colorado-bred First Samurai colt, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.63 with Michael Ziegler in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Empire Builder stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Naked Greed Stakes for 3-year-olds, then dueled to the lead and won off by 2 lengths over Musical Flair. Bellefire was third. Empire Builder, a Kitten's Joy colt, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:29.47 with Jonathan Gonzales up and picked up his third win from his last four starts, all at Calder.
Awesome Belle led all the way to her second straight stakes win at the South Florida track, taking Saturday's $75,000 Crystal Rail Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by2 1/4 lengths over Obrigeta. Jazz played third fiddle. Awesome Belle, an Awesome of Course filly, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on the good turf course in 1:30.50 with Fernando Jara dictating a measured pace.
I'm Steppin' It Up led all the way in Saturday's $55,000, off-the-turf Eight Thirty Stakes, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Picko's Pride. Magnifi Cat finished third. I'm Steppin' It Up, a 4-year-old Congrats colt, finished the mile on a wet-fast track in 1:36.07 under Jose Caraballo.
Class Included exuded class in the stretch run of Sunday's $65,000 Emerald Distaff, racing off to win by 5 lengths as the heavy, odds-on favorite, Carrabelle Harbor was second and Private Fortune and Sweet Nellie Brown completed the order of finish. Class Included, a 4-year-old Include filly out of the Sky Classic mare A Classic Life, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.78 under Juan Gutierrez.
Mike Man's Gold sat just off the pace through most of Saturday's W.T.B.O.A. Lads Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, survived some bumping to get to the lead late and held off Music of My Soul and the end to win by a head. It was just another head back to the favorite, Finallygotabentley, in third. Mike Man's Gold, a Liberty Gold colt, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.72 with Javier Matias up.
Russell Road led from the start in Saturday's $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial, turned back a challenge with ease and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Son of a Bear, who applied the pressure, held on for second. Black Belt finished third. Russell Road, a 6-year-old Wheaton gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.64 with Matthew McGowan up. Russell Road has been a dominant force in West Virginia racing and won for the third time in four tries this year.
Hollywood Drama provided some drama of his own in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) CTHS Sale Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, rallying late to win by 3/4 of a length at 8-1 odds. The favorite, Leprechaun Kid, finished second and Tangent was third. Hollywood Drama, a Ministers Wild Cat gelding out of the Seattle Slew mare Modern Drama, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20 2/5.
In the companion filly event, odds-on favorite Tell Me Lies kicked clear in the stretch and won by 10 lengths over Canaveral Leader. Tell Me Lies, a Captain Bodgit filly, got home in 1:19 45.
Pure Glory covered himself with same in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Agassiz Stakes for Manitoba-breds, leading all the way and winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Major Hurricane. Trevor Simpson rode the 4-year-old Pure Prize gelding, who covered the mile on a fast track in 1:40 2/5.
Saturday's Louisiana Cup day had an octet of stakes for state-bred cayuses. The track was fast.
Amanecer de Oro led all the way to a 1 1/2-length victory over Tortuga Straits in the $60,000 Sprint, running the 6 furlongs in 109.86 under Richard Eramia.
Palmy Day finished best of all to win the $50,000 Juvenile by 3/4 of a length over Mr. Bandini's Band. Palmy Day, a Lydgate colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.68 with Eramia up.
The $50,000 Juvenile Fillies went to Miss Goodthing, who jetted off in the stretch to win by 5 lengths over Like a Doc. The Closing Argument filly, with Mark Guidry riding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.84.
In the $75,000 Oaks, She's Prado's Idol battled down the stretch with Midge Four before prevailing by a neck. The Screen Idol filly ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.74 with Tracy Hebert in the irons.
Top Cat Boogie led from the start in the $75,000 Derby, shook off a challenge and won off by 1 1/4 lengths over Fate's Right Hand. The Big Top Cat gelding ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.89 with Randall Toups riding.
Pretty Not pulled off a pretty big upset in the $100,000 Distaff, rallying by the pacesetting favorite, Ladyzarbridge, in the late going to score by 1/2 length. Pretty Not, a 5-year-old Sefapiano mare, was dispatched at 21-1 odds and covered the 11/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.61 with Donald Simington up.
In the $60,000, Filly & Mare Sprint, Warrior Maid rallied stoutly down the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Harlie's Dreams. With Eramia up, the 6-year-old Holy Bull mare finished 6 furlongs in 1:11.15.
And in the $100,000 Classic, Sadie's Soldier was along late to outfinish the favorite, String King, winning by a half length over that rival. With Kerwin Clark riding, Sadie's Soldier ran the 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.59. He is a 5-year-old son of Lost Soldier.
Almighty O stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Honey Jay Stakes for Ohio-breds, then worked to the lead late and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Sneak a Cold Treat and Klassy Korbin dead-heated for second and third. Almighty O, a 5-year-old Olmodavar gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10 with Ben Creed in the irons.
Evelyn's Dancer toyed with the competition in Friday's $50,000 (Canadian) Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, then finally took command in the lane and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Dance the Wind. Racing for Gold finished third. Evelyn's Dancer, a Songandaprayer filly, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.84 under Fernando Perez.