One Kentucky Derby favorite moved forward in weekend racing while another suffered a setback and a third blazed into the picture anew.
Meanwhile, Game On Dude put on a dominating show in California, announcing he is "the dude" in the handicap ranks, at least on the West Coast. Last year's 2-year-old filly champ got back to her winning ways. And Comma to the Top was a winner while running in graded stakes on back-to-back weekends.
Action ratcheted up in Dubai with "Super Saturday" coming up this weekend and World Cup night looming at the end of the month.
Action here, action there, action, action everywhere.
Kentucky Derby preps
Vyjack avoided a traffic jam before the first turn in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, raced at the back of the pack through the early furlongs, then got past pacesetting West Hills Giant near the sixteenth pole with a dramatic rush and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. West Hills Giant held second, 1/2 length in front of Elnaawi. The favorite, Overanalyze, had nothing left in the stretch and finished fifth, beaten by about 5 lengths. Vyjack, ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario, got 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:44.09. The Into Mischief gelding now is undefeated in four starts, all at Aqueduct. "He broke OK and I didn't want to get in a hurry," Rosario said. "I just let him do whatever he wanted to do. He was pretty relaxed behind horses and he did everything right. Turning for home, I was pretty far behind, but that's where he wanted to be. He passed [West Hills Giant] and then he just kept on going." The win earned Vyjack 50 points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby but owner Dave Winkenfeld said there's no intention of easing up on the colt in the interim. Rather, he said, he will tackle the $1 million, Grade I Wood Memorial on April 6 en route to Louisville. "You buy a horse, you hope for this," he said. "But it's not something you really think about." Overanalyze, who was making his 3-year-old debut, "let go and just didn't come with any run at all," said jockey John Velazquez. "Sometimes they need to get back to the distance again. Maybe he needed the race."
Rydilluc pressed the pace in Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Palm Beach Stakes for 3-year-olds, took command down the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Charming Kitten. Reporting Star reported home third. Rydilluc, a Medaglia d'Oro colt, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.18 with Edgar Prado up. Although the Palm Beach horse was on the turf, trainer Gary Contessa was so impressed with Rydilluc's move that he said he has to consider the Kentucky Derby trail. "You see what he looks like turning for home with the stride he's got," the trainer said. "He's an amazing horse. I think we have to go to the Spiral [at Turfway Park on March 23] or Blue Grass [at Keeneland on April 13] and take a shot." Both of those races are on all-weather tracks while the Kentucky Derby is contested on dirt. "I've seen a lot of horses that did this -- turf to Poly -- and showed up in the Derby," Contessa said. "So we're not ruling it out." Rydilluc probably would need to run first or second in either of those races to earn enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
In Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Clearly Now rallied sharply from mid pack and got clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over 50-1 longshot Singanothersong. Undrafted finished third and the favorite, Forty Tales, got home fifth. Clearly Now, a Horse Greeley colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.19. Luis Saez rode for trainer Brian Lynch. He earlier finished third behind Itsmyluckyday and Shanghai Bobby in the Grade III Holy Bull, going 1 1/16 miles. "With a 3-year-old, you're always tempted to think of the big races," Lynch admitted. " We'll see how he comes out of it and talk about what's next. If we decide to try him long again, the Florida Derby is here and would be a possibility. Who knows? He might turn out to be a top turf miler. We'll see."
General Election rallied eight-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park and closed steadily to post the 13-1 upset, beating Giant Finish by 1/2 length. For Greater Glory finished third and the favorite, By Bye Bernie, faded to get home seventh. General Election was up from Fair Grounds for trainer Kellyn Gorder. With Albin Jimenez up, the Harlan's Holiday colt ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.13 after avoiding a bad traffic tangle shortly after the start. "He really hadn't run well on the dirt at Fair Grounds," Gorder said. "He won his first race on dirt, so we thought he just didn't get hold of the race track at Fair Grounds. We tried blinkers and that didn't work. We were deciding between the OBS Stakes or here, and we decided to send him here ... I thought this race came up tough."
Departing departed Fair Grounds to run in Saturday's $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park and enjoyed the change of scenery, winning by 2 3/4 lengths with a strong stretch rally. Holiday Mischief was second and Worldventurer got hone third. Departing, a War Front colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.94 for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Beholder got back to her winning ways with a gate-to-wire victory in Saturday's $250,000 Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita. With Garrett Gomez up, the Henny Hughes filly increased her advantage at each call before coasting home first, 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Fiftyshadesofhay. Scarlet Strike finished third. Beholder got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.14. Last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, she had finished second in her 3-year-old debut, the Grade II Santa Ynez. "Everything she did today was great," said winning trainer Richard Mandella. "She's a great filly. We'll enjoy this today, but plans are for her to run next in the Santa Anita Oaks. That $300,000 Grade I prep for the Kentucky Oaks is scheduled for April 16.
It was only 6 1/2 furlongs, but Fuasichiswonderful ran Friday's $70,000 Primal Force Stakes at Gulfstream Park just the right way. The Fusaichi Pegasus filly raced behind the pace into the turn, quickly took over and drew off to win by 5 3/4 lengths, ridden out. With John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher, she finished in 1:16.28. Fusaichiswonderful won her first five starts in Puerto Rico, then got home fourth in the Grade II Forward Gal in her first Florida effort.
Walkwithapurpose ran with one in Saturday's $100,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes at Laurel Park, leading all the way to a popular, 9 1/2-lengths win -- her fifth straight victory. Listen Boy was best of the rest and Sense of Reality finished third. Walkwithapurpose, a Sagamore Farm homebred daughter of Candy Ride, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.38 with Jeremy Rose up. Listen Boy also is a Sagamore homebred. "It's a great day for Sagamore," said winning trainer Ignacio Correas. "She is amazing," he said of Walkwithapurpose. "I really don't know how good she can be." He said she will stay in Maryland and prep for the $500,000, Grade II Black Eyed Susan Stakes on May 17.
Comma to the Top, just a week after finishing third in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes at Santa Anita, gritted out a tough victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Tom Fool Handicap, holding off Saturday's Charm by a nose. Head Heart Hoof finished third, 1 length farther in arrears. Comma to the Top, a 5-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.26 for jockey Joel Rosario. He now has10 wins from 28 starts. We put ourselves out there and a lot of people were second-guessing the decision [to run back in a week]," said winning trainer Peter Miller. "But I live with the horse seven days a week and know the horse."
Summer Applause rallied to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares and went on to win by 2 3/4 length over Twice the Lady. Sunny Desert finished third. Summer Applause, a 4-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:14.10 under John Velazquez. Summer Applause was a force at Fair Grounds last winter and spring, finished fourth in last year's Kentucky Oaks, then was sidelined with a bone chip in her knee until she returned to a sixth-place finish in the Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston on Jan. 26. She was making her first start for trainer Chad Brown.
Game On Dude romped in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, leading all the way to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Clubhouse Ride finished second, Called to Serve was third and Ron the Greek settled for fourth. It was all Game On Dude, though, as he finished 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:00.14 with Mike Smith keeping him wrapped up late. The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding picked up his third straight win since a disappointing seventh-place showing in the Breeders' Cup Classic and now has won 12 of his 24 career starts. His only really bad outings have come in his biggest races -- the Florida Derby, Dubai World Cup and Breeders' Cup. "I'm so proud of him, the way he's developed into such a great horse," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. Asked whether Game On Dude might make another try at the Breeders' Cup Classic again this fall at Santa Anita, he said, "Hopefully, we'll keep him healthy and keep him at this level. He's going to have to take a break somewhere along the line. But the way he's running right now is pretty incredible."
Suggestive Boy got the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile and held off Silentio at the end to win by a nose. Fed Biz, making his first try on the grass for Baffert, finished third. Suggestive Boy, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred son of Easing Along, finished in 1:32.89 with Joe Talamo up for trainer Ron McAnaly. It was his second straight win after finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile. "As a rule," said McAnaly, "he likes a good pace up front because he has good turn of foot turning for home. Turning for home today, I really thought we had a good chance because he was in the clear and that's all it takes. A good horse will make anybody."
Rosengold made all the going in Saturday's $75,000 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds going down the hillside turf course, then held off Will True Up to win by 1 length. Horizon Sky was third and the favorite, Procurement, finished fifth. Rosengold, a Stormello colt, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:12.20 with Martin Garcia in the irons.
Kitten's Point stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then outfinished Tokyo Time to win by a neck in a mild upset. The favorite, Tuttipaesi, checked in third. Kitten's Point, a Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Kitten's Joy, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.22 with Edgar Prado up. "It kind of ran like a stayer's race. I think the difference for the win between her and Tuttipaesi was that she had the trip and Tuttipaesi never got to cover up, never got to settle," said H. Graham Motion, who trains both. He said he's thinking about the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland for Kitten's Point. "I wish it was a mile and an eighth because she's run well on the synthetic. Definitely, I'll have to think about that," Motion said.
Up With the Birds was up at the end to win Saturday's $75,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds by a head over Animal Style. Cairo Six finished third. Up With the Birds, a Stormy Atlantic colt making his first start since Woodbine, started last of six, went wide on both turns and just got the job done in a well-timed ride by Shaun Bridgmohan. He finished about 7 1/2 furlongs on soft turf in 1:35.84.
Gator Zone stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Allen Lacombe Memorial Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, caught pacesetting To My Valentine near the 16th pole and gamely prevailed by a head. Overheard finished third and the favorite, Magical Moon, was fourth. Gator Zone, a Sharp Humor filly, ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on the soft turf in 1:36.78, also with Bridgmohan up.
King Henny took back off the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-olds, raced three-wide into the stretch and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetter Titletown Five. Malibu High finished third. King Henny, a Henny Hughes colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.00 for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
Sam Houston Race Park
Unstoppable U caught pacesetting favorite Hurricane Ike in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup and worked clear to win by 1 length. Dreaming Blue was up for second and Hurricane Ike salvaged third by a neck over Twinspired. Unstoppable U, a 4-year-old Exchange Rate colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.96 with Chris Landeros in the irons.
Artemus Kitten raced just off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares, took over when asked by jockey Rosie Napravnik and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Distorted Legacy rallied from far back to finish second and Firehouse Red got show money. Artemus Kitten, a 5-year-old Kitten's Joy mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.12.
Flashpoint shadowed Hamiltonian through most of Saturday's $50,000 Sam Houston Sprint Cup, then edged by late to win by 3/4 length over that foe. The odds-on favorite, Bind, ran evenly to finish third. Flashpoint, a 5-year-old son of Pomeroy, finished 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.21 for jockey Glen Murphy.
Tampa Bay Downs
Flatter This took charge in the stretch in Saturday's $60,000 Challenger Stakes and went on to post 15-1 upset win. Nicklaus Way and Argentine Tango dead-heated for second and third and the favorite, Prospective, finished fourth. Flatter This, a 6-year-old son of Flatter, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.90 with Antonio Gallardo riding.
(By RICHARD GROSS)
This week offered the only double date on this year's Dubai World Cup Carnival weekly calendar. Trainers prepped their charges Thursday and Saturday at Meydan with only the March 9 Super Saturday card left on the calendar before World Cup Day March 30.
It was something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue Thursday when old-hand trainer Saeed bin Suroor racked up his record eighth Group 3 UAE Oaks win as new star Shuruq, "rising" in Arabic, rose to the occasion under borrowed jockey Paul Hanagan. Hanagan donned the Godolphin blue while stable regulars Silvestre de Sousa and Ahmed Ajtebi both sat out suspensions.
Godolphin enjoyed its third 1-2-3 finish this Carnival in the 1,900-meters Oaks on the all-weather Tapeta. Lovely Pass held on to second, passed by Shuruq, while Music Chart scored third. The winning Elusive Quality filly finished second in both the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial and the 1,000 Guineas and was slated to return to England. The win may change that plan.
"These conditions clearly suit her," said bin Suroor after the win, "so the UAE Derby is at least a consideration." The trainer completed his only UAE Oaks-Derby double in 2011 with Khawlah.
Bin Suroor earned a double on the card when Kassiano, under Mickael Barzalona, opened the evening with a very comfortable 6 1/2-lengths win over Fattsota in the 2,200-meters all-weather handicap. Indian champion In the Spotlight continued her hard Carnival luck in third after taking the lead early, yielding to the Kassiano 400 meters from the finish.
"He is going to have to go up in grade after that very impressive effort," concluded bin Suroor after the 4-year-old German-bred gelding's third and most impressive Carnival win. "We will have to try and find one more race for him on this surface."
Hard Spun colt Now Spun spun past Deauville Prince in the final 200 meters to win his Dubai debut and his second consecutive win in three starts with Barzalona steering a double on the night in the 1,600-meters Meydan Classic on the turf.
Jockey Hanagan, aboard Mufarrh, scraped by with a nose victory over Banna Boirche in the 1,600-meters all-weather handicap. "It would be nice to get him back to the Godolphin Mile," mused trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe about the winner's next race.
United Color was first in the 1,200-meters all-weather handicap by 3/4 length over Arnold Lane with Dubawi Sound the same distance behind in third. Anaerobia breathed easier after a 2 1/2-length advantage over Jaasoos, scoring a nose second over Kenny Powers in the 1,400-meter turf sprint that closed the Thursday card.
Gloria de Campeao won a legendary near-dead heat Dubai World Cup in 2010 in the race's first edition at the plush Meydan facility and owner Stefan Friborg returned to Meydan Saturday to sponsor the Carnival card for Stud Estrela Energia and a first running of the race named in honor of his Dubai World Cup winner.
The winner of the 2,000-meters Gloria de Campeao fittingly represented Spain as Plantagenet came from eighth place to steal a neck victory from Con Artist. Out of Bounds finished in third a neck in front of Daddy Long Legs as last year's UAE Derby winner finished a disappointing fourth on the all-weather.
Trade Storm raged from last to first in the final 400 meters as the pack turned for home to take a 1 1/2 -length win over Musir with Fulbright third in the feature Group 2 Zabeel Mile over 1,600 meters on the turf.
"I wanted to track Musir but we missed the kick," said jockey Jamie Spencer of the thrilling win. "We were able to get through and he showed a great turn of foot."
After a long 2,810 meters, Ahzeemah and jockey Kieran Fallon could get only a neck in front of Certerach to win the Nad Al Sheeba on the turf with Star Empire a mere 3/4 length back in third. Trainer bin Suroor said he may stretch out his winner. "He will be better further," he said. "The Dubai Gold Cup over 3,200 meters would be an ideal race for him."
Trainer Mike de Kock and jockey Christophe Soumillon both earned doubles on the evening when Rerouted held on for a 3/4-length win over Free Wheeling in the 1,400-meters, all-weather Linton sprint with Red Duke 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third.
The card opened well for de Kock and Soumillon as Kavanagh gained a length advantage over Ballista and Invincible Ash in the 1,200-meter Energia Elegante turf sprint. It closed smartly with a double for bin Suroor and jockey Fallon as Quick Wit jutted a short head in front of Jutland in the 2,000-meters turf Natagora with Burano finishing up the evening in third.
Akeed Mofeed, making his third start in Hong Kong, showed promise Sunday that he has legitimate claims on HK-Group 1 BMW Hong Kong Derby, just two weeks away. With Douglas Whyte riding, the Dubawi 4-year-old scored by 2 1/2 lengths over an outclassed field in an 1,800-meters handicap, a final prep for the 2,000-meters Derby. Trainer Richard Gibson said the "more satisfying point is that he will win Group 1 races in Hong Kong, which is wonderful. I think he's got a lot of talent, a lot of ability and class." Akeed Mofeed was the fourth-place finisher in last year's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.