Despite Breeders' Cup prep races all over the landscape, weekend racing did little to point the way to the World Championship winners.
The biggest race of the weekend produced one of the biggest upsets. Some of the winners were testing new surfaces, looking for their best shot in the Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita.
Even the state-bred races for 2-year-olds at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds produced big upsets.
Here are the unlikely details:
Saturday's $1 million, Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing was supposed to be a showdown between Alpha and Golden Ticket, the dead-heat winners of last month's Travers. Instead, Handsome Mike stuck around the lead in a slowly run race and then shook clear in the stretch to post a 19-1 upset win. A late-running Macho Macho was up for second, 2 lengths back of the winner. Golden Ticket settled for third and Alpha faded to get home next-to-last of seven. Handsome Mike, a Scat Daddy colt whose only previous victory came in a maiden event on the Santa Anita grass nearly a year ago, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.63 under Irad Ortiz Jr. Despite his dearth of winning efforts, Handsome Mike had finished fourth in the Haskell at Monmouth and the Secretariat at Arlington, both Grade I events.
My Miss Aurelia ran her record to six wins without a loss by winning Saturday's $1 million Cotillion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Parx Racing. On the wire, My Miss Aurelia caught pacesetting favorite Questing to win by a head after a roughly run stretch drive. Dixie Strike and Moment in Dixie were well back in third and fourth, completing the order of finish. My Miss Aurelia, a Smart Strike filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.54 with Corey Nakatani riding. She now has three Grade I events to her credit, including last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Dance Card saved an otherwise disappointing weekend for Sheik Mohammed by winning Sunday's $85,000 Belle Cherie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park by a convincing 7 1/2 lengths. Final Escrow finished second and Lady Cohiba rolled up third. Dance Card, a Tapit filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.12 with Ramon Dominguez riding for Darley Stable and Kiaran McLaughlin. She drifted out badly through the stretch but, with no opposition at hand, Dominguez let her run where she wanted. She now has won three straight after finishing second in her first afternoon trip to the track.
Optimizer finally seems to be on the right track after winning the $200,000, Grade III Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds at Delaware Park. And he did it in a style that must have trainer D. Wayne Lukas looking for a better future for the well-bred colt. Optimizer, by English Channel out of the A.P. Indy mare Indy Pick, shadowed the pace made by Excaper in the early stages of the Kent, took over when roused by jockey Jon Court and drew off smartly to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Excaper held second and it was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Two Months Rent. The favorite, globetrotting Lucky Chappy, was never in the mix and finished seventh. Optimizer ran the 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:47.27. "He broke alertly and he chose to lay up there close," Court said. "He laid up there effortlessly. I know the track has been running really good and he was able to lay up there and finish in front of them." Optimizer won at first asking last summer at Saratoga. He then went through a 13-race dry spell, during which he finished 11th, sixth and 10th in the Triple Crown races. After a break, Lukas put him on the turf and, after a couple misfires, he easily won an allowance event over the Saratoga grass last month. So now his future seems greener, in at least two senses of the word.
Well Spelled sat well back of a blistering early pace in Saturday's $300,000 Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at Parx Racing, then came with his run through the lane, getting up to win by a half length over Trinniberg. Private Zone was a longshot third while the favorite, Currency Swap, weakened at the end and finished next-last of the eight starters. Well Spelled, a Spellbinder colt, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.88 under Pablo Fragoso.
It's eight wins in a row for Guam Typhoon. The 6-year-old Distorted Humor gelding jumped out to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Changing Times Stakes at Penn National and wasn't caught. At the wire, he was out front by 2 3/4 lengths with Nicole H next. Slone Ranger was third and Immortal Eyes got home fourth. Ponzi Scheme, The Hunk and Peppki Knows completed the order of finish. Guam Typhoon ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.09 with Daniel Centeno up. He was claimed Feb. 17 by trainer Jamie Ness for $25,000 out of a race at Tampa Bay Downs. He won that event, his second straight score, then went on to win at Delaware Park, Colonial Downs and Mountaineer during the current skein.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Dust and Diamonds is rapidly climbing the class ladder, winning Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park in a big step forward for trainer Steve Asmussen. Dust and Diamonds pressed the pace, took the lead in the stretch and went on to notch the upset win, beating Judy the Beauty by 1 1/4 lengths. Musical Romance finished third and the favorite, Turbulent Descent, settled for fourth, lacking a rally. Dust and Diamonds, a 4-year-old Vindication filly, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.71 with Julien Leparoux aboard -- just a shade shy of the track record. She now has a record of five wins and four thirds from nine career starts. The Gallant Bloom was her first graded stakes effort. Asmussen assistant Toby Sheets said the staff has "spent a lot of time with her, and she's done really well and blossomed here." He said he and Asmussen "were just focusing on this race and this moment. We'll see how she comes out of it and go from there." Note to those interested in owning some good ones: Dust and Diamonds Musical Romance are both being consigned by Three Chimneys Farm in November at Fasig-Tipton.
Book Review raced in mid-pack early in Saturday's $400,000 Charles Town Oaks, moved up nearing the stretch turn and then proved best through the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Holiday Soiree and Beautiful but Blue were always close but couldn't handle the winner and finished second and third, respectively. Book Review, a Giant's Causeway filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.65. Javier Castellano had the mount for trainer Chad Brown. Book Review finished seventh in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga in her last previous race. Before that, she had finished in the money in each of her first five starts.
Worth Repeating stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Handicap at Fairplex Park, took over when asked by jockey Martin Pedroza and went on to win by 5 lengths over Quail Hill. Juniper Pass was third and Quindici Man fourth. The favorite, Norvsky, stumbled at the start, dumping jockey Joe Talamo. Worth Repeating, a 6-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.36.
Music of My Soul dueled his way to the lead in Sunday's $65,000 Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs, coughed up the lead to the favorite, Finallygotabently, then came again to win by a half length over that rival. Raised a Secret finished third. Music of My Soul, a Harbor the Gold colt, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:36.90 with Leslie Mawing up.
Flattering Bea took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Miss Shenendoah Stakes at Charles Town Races, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Easter Fashion. Gallant Performer rallied gallantly from last to finish third. Flattering Bea, a daughter of Flatter out of the Wild Rush mare Wild Bea, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.40 with Alberto Delgado in the irons.
Sunday's Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne was run without any foreign entrants but didn't lack for drama in any case. In the final furlong, a line of four horses all had a chance but it was Girolamo, with Andrasch Starke at the controls, who found the little bit extra to get home a half length in front. Starke and winning trainer Peter Schiergen plan to send Danedream out for a second Arc win next month in Paris. Sunday, however, was about Girolamo. "He is a stayer and needs a proper pace," Schiergen said. "He got that today." Girolamo, a 3-year-old Dai Jin colt, was winning for only the second time in eight starts. He finished fifth behind Danedream in his last start, the Grosser Preis von Baden. Feuerblitz came second in Sunday's race, a short head better than Araldo. Ovambo Queen, who finished second at Baden Baden, and only a half length behind the Arc champion, got home last of seven at Cologne.
Another to look for down the road: Moohaajim, winner of Saturday's Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury. The Cape Cross colt had to alter course in the final furlong to get running room but came home strongly to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Master of War. Taayel finished third. Moohaajim, with Adam Kirby up for trainer Marco Botti, ran the 6 furlongs on good to firm going in 1:11.19. He now has two wins and a fifth from three starts. The fifth, however, came in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville, for which he simply was not prepared. Botti said Moohaajim is in the Dewhurst and the Middle Park. "We will see how he comes out."
Captain Ramius got clear in the final furlong in Saturday's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, opened a 2-length lead and held that to the wire. Regal Parade ran well late to land second and Maarek, the very lukewarm favorite in the field of 26, saved third. Captain Ramius, a 6-year-old gelding by Kheleyf, got the 6 furlongs on heavy going in 1:14.13 with Pat Smullen in the irons for trainer Kevin Ryan.
La Tia overcame not only her five rivals but also her own misadventure to win Sunday's $150,000 La Lorgnette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Leading comfortably in the stretch, the Illinois-bred City Place miss suddenly ducked in, hit the rail and briefly let Sky Dreamer get by to the lead. However, with jockey Justin Stein keeping his cool, she quickly rallied, regained the advantage and won by 3/4 of a length. Stablemates Sky Dreamer and Sky High Lady finished second and third. La Tia ran the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.14, upping her record to four wins and a third from eight starts. The wins also include the Grade III Arlington Oaks back in July. Stein said La Tia apparently shied from the whip into the rail. "She was really impressive," he said. "She dug back in and I can't believe she re-rallied like that at that point of the race."
Bear's Peak overhauled Jenna's Wabbit in the late going of Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Overskate Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up, then went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that wascally wival. Courtville finished third. Bear's Peak, a 4-year-old Peaks and Valleys gelding, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.46 under jockey Justin Stein. "It was a beautiful trip, ideal really," Stein said. "Those horses went at it hard early and I was all by myself sitting third watching them go."
Saginaw opened up a nice lead in the stretch run in Sunday's $85,000 Promenade All Stakes for New York-breds, then held on to win by a half length over the favorite, Lunar Victory. Fiddlers Afleet finished third. Saginaw, a 6-year-old gelding by Peruvian, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:34.29 with David Cohen in the irons.
Calder Race Course
Angelica Zapata moved easily to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $75,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares, opened up and won off by 7 1/2 lengths under a hand ride by Luis Saez. My Pal Christy was second and Callmethesqueeze finished third. Angelica Zapata, a 4-year-old Sharp Humor filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:44.86. "When she's on the track, she knows what to do, and when we made our move, that was all her," Saez said. "I never had to ask. She is so good that she knows exactly what she needs to do and when to do it."
Friday's Bangles and Beads Stakes for fillies and mares was split into two divisions with Kindle leading all the way to a 3-length win over Great Hot in the first heat. All On the Table finished third and the favorite, Candrea, faded to get home last of six. Kindle, a 4-year-old Indian Charlie filly, negotiated the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.74 under Edwin Maldonado.
Gem of Soul rallied on the outside from mid-pack to take the second division of the Bangles and Beads, nipping Camille C. by a neck in the final yards. American Lady led to deep stretch and finished another neck back in third as the odds-on favorite with Candy and Thunder only another head behind in fourth. Gem of Soul, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred filly, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.47 with Alonzo Quinonez up.
Third Chance was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Addison Cammack Stakes for Illinois-breds and shot clear at the end to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Sir Applesolutely was second; Hoodwinked, third. Third Chance, a 4-year-old Kafwain filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.23 with Francisco Torres riding.
Philly Ace got around traffic in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for Pennsylvania-breds, surged to the lead and held on to win by a nose over Roadhog. Sir Cadian finished third. Philly Ace, a 4-year-old Smart Strike gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:45.05 with Kendrick Carmouche aboard.
Storm's Surprise was a 21-1 surprise winner in Sunday's $50,000 George Maloof Futurity for 2-year-old New Mexico-bred colts and geldings. Leading all the way, the Attila's Storm gelding drew off late to win by 4 lengths over Mos Dancer. The favorite, Indy's Rocket, finished third. Storm's Surprise covered the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.22 with Brian Theriot up.
Sunday's $50,000 Dessie and Fern Sawyer Futurity for state-bred 2-year-old fillies produced an almost equally shocking result as Dandy Devona R F put her nose in front of pacesetting La Luz on the wire to secure the 20-1 upset. I Am Who was who was third. Storm's Surprise, a Real Dandy filly, got the 6 furlongs on the fast track in 1:11.45 for jockey John Rochabrun.
Zenon's Star tracked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 New Mexico State Fair Breeders' Stakes for 3-year-old state-breds, jumped to the front and cleared, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. San Juan Cigar was second and Neeocity finished third. Zenon's Star, a Fusaichi Zenon gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.39 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. riding.
Charles Town Races
Jax and Jill dominated nine other state-bred 2-year-old fillies in Saturday's $50,000 Rachel's Turn Stakes, winning by 8 1/4 lengths over Dixieland Silk. Flirting Silk finished third. Jax and Jill, a Yes It's True filly, ran the 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 51.08 seconds with Gerald Almodovar along for the brief ride.
In the Fairway drove to the lead midway through Saturday's $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for state-bred 2-year-olds and kicked clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Hidden Canyon was up for second and the early leader, Grey Tiger, took third. In the Fairway, a Posse colt, finished the 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.24 seconds with Jose Montano up.
Bayonne got by Withgreatpleasure in the final sixteenth in Saturday's $70,000 Pink Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares and won off by a length over that rival. Moonlit Malibu finished third. Bayonne, a 4-year-old Dance with Ravens filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.40 with Erik Ramirez riding.
Shadow Runner engaged the early leader, Az Ridge, inside the final sixteenth in Saturday's $50,000 Pomona Derby and won a sprint to the wire by a neck. Northern Iowa was only another nose back in third. Shadow Runner, an Invisible Ink ridgling, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:46.12 with Martin Pedroza up.
Little Emily stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Las Madrinas Stakes for fillies and mares, opened a daylight lead in the stretch and held on to win by a head over Glowing Spirit. The favorite, Going for a Spin, put in a late bid but could manage only show money. Little Emily, a 4-year-old Castledale filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.68 under Jorge Carreno.
A sextet of stakes events on Saturday catered to 2- and 3-year-old Louisiana-bred steeds. The track was fast and the turf was firm.
Palmy Bay ran to expectations in the $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The odds-on favorite, a Lydgate colt, led from the start and won by 12 1/4 lengths. Kwik n' Smokey finished second with One King's Man third. Palmy Bay, with Richard Eramia up, got the 7 furlongs in 1:23.94.
First-time starter Best of Birdstone rallied from well back to win the $50,000 Razorback Futurity for 2-year-old colts and geldings by 2 3/4 lengths. Rock City Roadhog finished third and Brandon's Way was third. Best of Birdstone, a Birdstone colt, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.92 with Corey Lanerie up.
Ile St. Molly, making her first start, won the $50,000 Lady Razorback Futurity for 2-year-old fillies by 7 1/4 lengths over Sashabye. The odds-on favorite entry of Good Night and Sacred, finished third and last, respectively. Ile St. Molly, an Ile St. Louis filly, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.77 with Carlos Gonzalez aboard.
I Dare U Em battled to the lead in the $100,000 Louisiana Stallion Stakes for juvenile fillies, then cleared and won by 2 lengths over Blanco Canyon. Dawn's Cherokee finished third. I Dare U Em, a Lunarpal filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.24 for jockey Mark Guidry.
Look at the Time rallied late but was up in plenty of time to win the $150,000 A.L "Red" Erwin Sales Graduate Stakes for 3-year-olds by 5 1/2 lengths over Rulers Beauty. Four Joes finished third. Look at the Time, a Brahms gelding, ran the grassy mile in 1:38.51 with Lanerie up.
And in the $150,000 Elge Rasberry Sales Graduate Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Osi Posse took the lead in the lane and held off Blessed Immaculata to win by 3/4 of a length. Arctic Wind blew home third. Osi Posse, a daughter of Osidi, got the mile on the green course in 1:38.61 with John Jacinto in the irons.
Cougarstown showed the way in Saturday's $50,000 Harvest Stakes for fillies and mares and held on at the end, winning by 3/4 length over Blendara. Bleach Blonde finished third. Cougarstown, a 4-year-old Speightstown filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.81 with Eric Camacho riding.
Adahai stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 African Prince Stakes for 3-year-old Massachusetts-breds, then got to the lead in the lane and won a hard drive by 1 1/4 lengths over Fonzy. Danly's Dream finished third. Adahai, a Yonaguska gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.94 with David Amiss riding.