It was all about the 2-year-olds in the weekend's racing and not a bit too soon with the Kentucky Derby less than six months off.
There also were some nice stakes at Aqueduct, Churchill Downs and Woodbine.
It was Florida Million day at Calder Race Course, with eight stakes events for Florida-breds worth a total of, gee, $1 million. Jose Lezcano rode the winners of three of the four juvenile events.
On the international front, some big races ran without the big names of previous years -- Black Caviar missing a return engagement in Australia and Snow Fairy in Japan. And Sunday's Singapore Gold Cup benefited not only the winners but a lot of local charities.
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Carving stalked the pace down the backstretch in Saturday's $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park, dueled three-wide down the stretch and got home first by a half length over Fury Kapcori. Dirty Swag finished third. Carving is an Any Given Saturday colt owned by Jill Baffert and skier Bode Miller and trained by Baffert's husband, Bob. He finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.04 with Martin Garcia riding. It was his third win in four tries, following a fourth-place finish in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita, when he made all the early going. Bob Baffert said Carving could return in the $750,000, Grade I CashCall Futurity on Dec. 15. "I'm going to run as many as I can in that," Baffert said. "I'll try to load the gate up. I have a lot of nice ones. [Carving] has been a fun horse because he always runs better than he trains. Everyone in the barn has outworked him. He's been a real surprise to me."
Up With the Birds was back with the tortoises through the early furlongs of Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Coronation Futurity for Canadian-bred juvvies at Woodbine, came four-wide around the leaders into the stretch and drew off under a hand ride to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Star Contender finished second as the favorite and His Race to Win faded in the lane to finish third. Up With the Birds, a Stormy Atlantic colt, finished 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:51.13 with Eurico Da Silva riding. Winning trainer Malcolm Pierce already has his eye on the 2013 Queen's Plate. Pierce, who also saddled His Race to Win, said, "I hope next June or July he can go a mile and a quarter. But there's a lot of water to go under the bridge between now and then."
Brave Dave, the prohibitive favorite, led from the start in Saturday's $125,000 Jack Price Juvenile at Calder Race Course, winning by a length over Sr. Quisqueyano. Uptown Anthem got home third. Brave Dave, a Florida-bred Put It Back colt, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.59 for jockey Paco Lopez. He now has won four of his five starts with the lone defeat coming in the Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, where he finished fourth after pressing a hot pace.
Meeker Avenue, the odds-on favorite, just did get a nose in front of Laila's Jazz under the wire in Sunday's $125,000 New York Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old state-breds. Petrocelli was 2 lengths farther back in third. Meeker Avenue, a Read the Footnotes gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.96 with Ramon Dominguez up.
Whiskey Romeo had things all his own way in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel Park in Maryland, kicking away in the stretch to a 7 1/2-length victory. Amerigo Vespucci navigated his way home ahead of the rest and Alpha Mike Foxtrot was the show horse. Whiskey Romeo, a Kentucky-bred Forestry colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.70 with Stewart Elliott aboard. He came into the race off a maiden win at Parx Racing in September. "It was very impressive," Elliott said. "I let him run a little bit the last part but wrapped up on him at the end. I worked him a couple times and knew he has some talent. He looked like he was the speed of the race so the plan was to get to the front and he did it easy."
Kanturk Kid won a stretch battle with Hardrock Eleven in Saturday's $100,000 Arthur I. Appleton Stakes for Florida-breds at Calder, prevailing by a neck. Thunder Calls came thundering up late to take third away from odds-on favorite Reporting Star. Kanturk Kid, an Act of Duty gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.34 with Jose Lezcano up. He was stepping up from the allowance ranks despite having only a maiden win to his credit.
At Hawthorne Race Course, Lassell took command halfway through Saturday's $125,000 Sun Power Stakes for Illinois-bed 2-year-old colts and geldings and led through the stretch to win by 3/4 of a length over Smokin Glock. The favorite, Emile, made up just enough ground late to get show money. Lassell, a Star Dabbler gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy and sealed track in 1:11.88 under Quincy Hamilton. Lassell also provided the first stakes winner for trainer Carlos "Hi Ho" Silva, a long-time successful rider on the Chicago circuit.
Outside Nashville pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, went to the lead when asked and drew off to score by 4 1/2 lengths. The early leader, Strong Wind, finished second and Zeewat filled out the trifecta. Outside Nashville, a Broken Vow colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.54 with Dennis Carr up.
Admiral Kitten started well back in Saturday's $75,000 El Jovan Stakes on the Retama Park turf in Texas, worked his way to the front with a wide move into the stretch and cleared the field late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Worldventurer was second and the pacesetter, Mr. McCoy, trekked home third. Admiral Kitten, a Kitten's Joy colt owned by the Ramseys, ran the mile on firm going in 1:36.40. Victor Lebron had the mount for trainer Mike Maker. Jump for Kitten, with the same sire and owners as the winner but trained by Wesley Ward, finished fifth as part of the joint-ownership entry.
Midnight Ballet was squeezed at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes at Hollywood Park, raced well behind the leaders into the turn and then came four-wide down the lane to win by 3/4 of a length over fellow closer Renee's Titan. The odds-on favorite, Scarlet Strike, led briefly at the top of the lane but couldn't hold off the top two, finishing third. Midnight Ballet, a Midnight Lute filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.93 in her first start over a distance of ground. She won at first asking at Del Mar but then finished fifth in an allowance race on the dirt at Santa Anita. "I think the two-turn distance helped her," winning rider Julien Leparoux said. "She's a big filly and she breaks OK, but she's not real fast. I decided to put her on the rail, save ground and follow the favorite. I got her out at the quarter pole and she made a nice run."
Leinan rolled from the back of the pack to upset Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes at Woodbine, winning by a length over Goldstryke Glory. The odds-on favorite, Mechaya, opened up a huge early lead but faded in the stretch and settled for show money. Leinan, a Kentucky-bred filly by Ready's Image, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.73 for jockey Luis Contreras. She now has two wins and two seconds from four career starts.
Crumb came from off the pace to upset Saturday's $125,000 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies Stakes for state-breds at Calder, winning by a length over Lavalette Gold. Deramlicious finished third, while the odds-on favorite, R Free Roll, faded from the early lead and finished fourth. Crumb, a Graeme Hall filly, got the 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:25.43 under Paco Lopez. She now has two wins, a second and a third from four trips to the track.
Nicki Starshine ran right by pacesetting favorite Verso a Verso in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf for Florida-breds at Calder and drew off quickly to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Verso a Verso held second by a neck over I Ain't Gonna Lie. Nicki Starshine, a Milwaukee Brew filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.52 with Jose Lezcano riding.
Julmae rallied to the lead late in Saturday's $125,000 Showtime Deb Stakes for Illinois-bred fillies at Hawthorne Race Course and won by a half length. There was a dead heat between Magdalenka and Indygo Kiss for second and third. Julmae, a Proud Citizen filly, got the 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:12.89 with Rosemary Homeister Jr. in the irons.
Kelli Got Frosty overtook pacesetting favorite P J's Superego in the late going of Sunday's $125,000 New York Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and won by a half length over that rival. It was 8 more lengths back to Nonnie Connie in third. Kelli Got Frosty, a Frost Giant filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.91 with Joel Rosario up.
Kitten's Dumplings made it a sweep for the Ramseys, Lebron, Kitten's Joy and Maker in Saturday's juvenile races at Retama Park, kicking clear late to win by 3 lengths over Sister Ginger in the $75,000 M2 Technology La Senorita Stakes. Satin Gold finished third. Kitten's Dumplings got the mile on firm turf in 1:36.20. She also was part of an entry with Emotional Kitten, trained by Ward, who also finished fifth.
In the Fairway won driving in Saturday's $100,000 Tri-State Futurity at Charles Town, beating Hanky Doodle by 1 1/4 lengths. Cinderella'spalace was third. In the Fairway, a West Virginia-bred Posse colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.07 with Jose Montano up. The race was restricted to juveniles bred in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland.
Unlimited Budget, a Todd Pletcher trainee for owner Mike Repole, might be one to watch. The filly drew off to win a Friday maiden race at Aqueduct by 9 1/2 lengths, finishing the mile on a good track in 1:37.82. "We thought with her being a Street Sense she'd be running a little later, so we didn't get in a rush with her," Pletcher said. "It worked out well." Repole may have an unlimited budget but he got this one for $475,000 at the OBS March sale.
Edgar Prado found the right path and timed his ride perfectly aboard Starformer in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares. Right on the lead with the 4-year-old Dynaformer filly, Prado plodded along into the stretch and held on to win by a half length. Mystical Star just missed and Aigue Marine finished third. The favorite, Kissable, was next-last of eight at the wire. Starformer ran the 1 1/2 miles on soft turf in 2:33.13. "It's been raining and snowing, and a lot of the water goes to the inside," Prado said. "I had the No. 1 post position, so I had to come running out of there and take her to the outside. It seemed like the plan worked out beautiful." Starformer, trained by Bill Mott, came into the race off a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland.
Daisy Devine opened a big lead on the backstretch in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares, was hooked by Julie's Love in the stretch and dueled to the wire with that one before winning by a head. Last Full Measure was 3 1/4 lengths farther back in third and the favorite, Bizzy Caroline, finished fifth. Daisy Devine, a 4-year-old Kafwain filly, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.29 with Calvin Borel at the controls. She finished second by a half length to Tapitsfly in her last start, the 1-mile First Lady on the Keeneland grass. "I didn't know the fractions," said winning trainer Andrew McKeever, "but I figured he [Borel] knew what he was doing. I told him, 'If you have to go to the front, then go.' She likes to stalk, really, but it doesn't make any difference because she's such a good filly."
James Street collared pacesetting Patrioticandproud in the final yards to win Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade II Autumn Stakes by a half length. Hotep finished third, a half length farther back. James Street, a 5-year-old son of El Prado, ran 11/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.39 under Patrick Husbands. He now has six wins, four seconds and three thirds from 20 races. "He's a beautiful horse and the model of consistency," winning trainer Josie Carroll said. "He's just a horse that comes over and does his job every time."
Calder Race Course
Cash Rules ruled Saturday's $150,000 Carl G. Rose Classic Handicap, leading from the early going and winning by 1 1/2 lengths over He's Spectacular. Decaf Again finished third. Cash Rules, a 5-year-old Peace Rules gelding, finished the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:54.15 with Luis Saez in the irons. He now has won four straight stakes at Calder, including the Grade III Spend A Buck Handicap a month ago.
My Pal Chrisy tracked the early pace in Saturday's $150,000 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap, then took charge in the late going, winning off by 7 1/4 lengths. Flying Trip was second and the favorite, Successful Song, checked in third. My Pal Chrisy, a 4-year-old daughter of Alex's Pal, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast main strip in 1:47.58 with Luca Panici riding.
Close It Out did just that in Saturday's $125,000 Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap, starting last of 10 and finishing first by a neck over Bahamian Squall. The odds-on favorite, Bull Dozer, finished third with a belated run. Close It Out, a 4-year-old Closing Argument gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.73 for jockey Jose Lezcano.
Bad Debt came from off the pace to win a four-way scramble to the wire in Saturday's $125,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup, scoring by a neck over Speak Easy Gal. It was a nose back to Alley Oop Oop in third and another neck to Picou in fourth. Bad Debt, a 5-year-old Grand Reward gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.95 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
Morandi loved the heavy going at Saint-Cloud on Saturday, rolling down the straight to win the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud by an easy 7 lengths, virtually eased at the end by jockey Maxime Guyon. Willie the Whipper was the best of the rest with the English filly Miss You Too making a late run to finish third. Morandi, a gray, French-bred colt by Holy Roman Emperor, got the 10 furlongs in a glacial 2:25.30. He now has four win and two seconds from his six starts. "There may be others that come along next year," winning trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said. "But he's going to be a high-level 3-year-old."
Godolphin got home with a good one Saturday as Mental wound up his career down under with a win in the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic -- a race previously owned by Black Caviar. The 4-year-old, Australian-bred colt by Lonhro got his second win from four starts in the 6-furlong sprint, rallying by the leaders inside the final furlong to score by 3/4 of a length over the favorite, Sea Siren. Hallowell Belle was third. Mental got home in 1:09.04 over good turf under Kerrin McEvoy. He is slated to follow the likes of Sepoy and Helmet from trainer Peter Snowden's barn to Dubai and England, with hopes he can outperform those when he gets to next summer's top British sprints.
Also Saturday at Flemington, Happy Trails righted the ship after a bad outing in the Cox Plate and got home first in the Group 1 Emirates Stakes at 1 mile on the turf. Fawkner was just a short head behind and Secret Admirer the same margin farther back in third. Happy Trails, a 5-year-old Good Journey gelding, finished in 1:35.99.
Rainbow Dahlia upset Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup - Diamond Jubilee at Kyoto, rallying wide around the final bend and catching favorite Verxina before dueling down the lane to win by a neck. Pixie Princess finished third, a neck farther back. Rainbow Dahlia was winning her first Group 1. Verxina finished second for the fifth straight time, including all three legs of the Japanese Filly Triple Crown. The 2,200 meters over yielding turf and through rain went in 2:16.3. Rainbow Dahlia is a 5-year-old mare by Brian's Time. This race was won in 2010 and 2011 by Snow Fairy, who currently is sidelined with another in a series of injuries.
While there were no foreign runners in the QE II, the Nov. 25 Japan Cup has stirred some interest from international runners. As of Friday, the list of foreign acceptances for one of the world's richest and most prestigious races included Melbourne Cup third Jakkalberry, Mount Athos, Red Cadeaux, Sri Putra and Solemia, the filly who upset this year's running of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Twenty-six originally were nominated. Interestingly, Solemia will face off again with Japan's top horse, Orfevre -- the rival she narrowly defeated in the Arc. This should be a good race.
Better Life rallied down the stretch to win Sunday's Longines Singapore Gold Cup at Kranji, the third leg of the Singapore Triple Crown. Kept in reserve until the stretch run by jockey Alan Munro, Better Life quickly unleashed a furious run that got him to a clear lead, then held off Maurice Utrillo for the win. Better Life, a 4-year-old Smarty Jones filly out of the Sunday Silence mare Quiet Life, finished in 2:18.33. Better Life won the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Panasonic Mile, but did not contest the middle jewel, the Raffles Cup. She is trained by Hideyuki Takaoka, who now has won four of the last five runnings of the Gold Cup. Gold Cup Day also is a showcase for the Singapore Turf Club's charitable mission, with donations going to a panoply of local charities.
Only Boy broke slowest of all in Saturday's $50,000 Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial Handicap for Ohio-breds, got a wide trip and still drew off late to win by 2 lengths over Howdy Boy Rib. Uncle Virgil was a nose farther back in third. Only Boy, a 4-year-old Political Folly gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.97 with Jareth Loveberry up. Howdy Boy Rib would be a great name for a barbecue joint.
Down Town Allen had to work for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred distaffers but, once she got it, the 5-year-old Windsor Castle mare opened a daylight advantage and rolled home first by 1 length. Runaway came from last of five to finish second and Hot Sauce finished third. Down Town Allen, with Mathew McGowan up, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.27.
News and notes:
The 22nd annual Cartier Awards, the annual European Thoroughbred honors, will be announced Tuesday before a select audience of 300 at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Anyone betting against Frankel for "Horse of the Year" likely won't be admitted. There are four other nominees for the top honor -- Cirrus Des Aigles, Nathaniel, Camelot and Excelebration.
Among the divisional awards, the candidates for Cartier Sprinter include Black Caviar, Moonlight Cloud and Ortensia, which could be an interesting match since Black Caviar's one appearance in England was such a near-run affair.