It was a relatively quiet weekend in U.S. racing. But the action was hot and heavy across the water -- especially with a lot of 3-year-olds trying to run their way into the upcoming Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks.
And it was an interesting weekend for Rosie Napravnik -- on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Hop on board and let's start paddling.
Those wacky 3-year-olds
Could this be one of those years when the best 3-year-olds did not run in the Kentucky Derby? It sure looked like one of those was on display Saturday in the $200,000, Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont Park.
Freedom Child finished last in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, a race that produced Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Normandy Invasion. In that race, he was caught flat-footed at the start and never got into the mix. Saturday was a different story.
With Luis Saez up for trainer Tom Albertrani, Freedom Child went right to the front and never looked back. At the wire, he was out front by 13 1/4 lengths. Saint Vigeur was second, Go Get the Basil third and Abraham fourth.
Granted, the track was sloppy and the final time of 1:49.09 was unimpressive to say the least. And it was only his second win from six starts.
But it's worth noting that in his second career outing, on Nov. 4 at Aqueduct, Freedom Child led from the start in a 1-mile maiden event and was only caught in deep stretch to finish second to -- Orb. Finishing third that day was Revolutionary, who was second to Orb in the Kentucky Derby. Like Orb, Freedom Child is by Malibu Moon.
"The last time he had a bad break," Saez said. "I just put him in the race and he responded perfect. In the chute he wanted to run, so I let him run."
"I think we're going to the Belmont Stakes in about four weeks," added Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds, part-owner of Freedom Child. "I hope Orb runs well in the Preakness and the whole world is watching for the Belmont Stakes. And I hope we upset the apple cart."
Meanwhile, preparations for Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, the second jewel of the Triple Crown, continued despite wet weather across the major racing centers. Orb, the Kentucky Derby winner, seeks to become only the 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978 by adding the Preakness and the June 8 Belmont Stakes to his Kentucky Derby win.
One of his likely opponents in the Preakness, Departing, also was a non-starter in the Kentucky Derby, instead detouring to Hawthorne Race Course where he was a convincing winner of the Grade III Illinois Derby. Departing worked a half mile in 50 2/5 seconds over a fast track at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. "He did enough to get the day off tomorrow," trainer Al Stall Jr. said. He is scheduled to ship to Pimlico Wednesday.
Orb jogged over a muddy Belmont Park track Saturday morning and was scheduled to work a half mile Monday. Goldencents, 17th in the Run for the Roses, stretched his legs in the slop Saturday at Pimlico. Sunland Derby winner Govenor (cq) Charlie waited until after the renovation break at Churchill Downs and the track was upgraded to "good" for his 1 1/2-mile gallop.
Itsmyluckyday, 15th in the Kentucky Derby, worked a half mile in 47 1/5 seconds between the third and fourth races Sunday afternoon at Monmouth Park. The work was rescheduled by special permission after weather forced cancellation of Saturday training hours. "He went awesome, but that's him," trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said. "I couldn't ask for a better work."
Trainer Tom Amoss confirmed Saturday that Mylute, the fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will be a starter this coming weekend in the second jewel of the Triple Crown. That means jockey Rosie Napravnik, who started her riding career at Pimlico in 2005 at the age of 17, will be coming home for the race. "I promise you there is no other jockey who wants to win the Preakness more than me," Napravnik tweeted after the announcement. She will be the third female rider in the race, following Patti Cooksey, who finished sixth on Tajawa in 1985, and Andrea Seefeldt, who was seventh with Looming in 1994.
All three of trainer D. Wayne Lukas's Preakness starters -- Oxbow, Titletown Five and Will Take Charge -- had light work on the Churchill Downs strip and are slated to van to Baltimore on Tuesday.
Spice Sense, the fifth-place finisher in the Illinois Derby, Saturday was ruled out of the Preakness after a work at Arlington Park. "There's nothing wrong with him. He's just not quite seasoned enough yet and it's a tough race," trainer Greg Geier said. And Normandy Invasion, who finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, will not run in the Preakness, trainer Chad Brown said Sunday.
Vyjack, who beat only Falling Sky in the Derby, remains on the fence as a potential Preakness runner.
Speaking of Napravnik's exciting weekend -- she also was named to ride in the "all girls" team in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot on Aug. 10. The competition also features a "rest of the world" team to be headed by Gary Stevens. Those teams will challenge Team Europe and Team Great Britain and Ireland.
Charlie Em was first to the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and the odds-on favorite, Scarlet Strike, couldn't quite catch her. At the wire, Charlie Em held on to win by a head with Kyriaki third. Charlie Em, a British-bred daughter of Kheleyf out of the Pivotal mare Miss Meggy, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.18 with Garrett Gomez in the irons. She spent her 2-year-old season in England and on the Continent, compiling a record of three wins from eight starts. The Senorita was her first U.S. start. "It took her a little while, but she came around in the last five weeks," winning trainer Paddy Gallagher said. "She got rid of her winter coat and started acting and training nice. She breezed a couple of times on the grass and seemed to go nice."
Alpha Bettor got the better of odds-on favorite Delegation to win Sundays' $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Eclipse Stakes by a neck. James Street was only a head farther back in third. Alpha Bettor is a 5-year-old son of Alphabet Soup, who beat Cigar in the 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine. He finished Sunday's 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.69. He had not been worse than fourth in six intervening starts since getting home seventh in last year's Eclipse Stakes. "I had a perfect trip. I had to wait a little longer than I wanted to, but it worked out for the better," said winning rider Justin Stein. "Everyone was asking their horses to run and I was able to save a little more horse and it made the difference."
Black Hornet led from the early going in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Queenston Stakes for 3-year-olds and went on to post the upset win by a length over Jagger M. The favorite, Dynamic Sky, finished third. Black Hornet, a Pioneering gelding out of the Siphon mare Start Stinging, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.44, also with Stein riding. It was his second win from six starts. Dynamic Sky returned home after an abortive trip down the Triple Crown trail, finishing ninth in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in his last U.S. start. "He's a really fast horse, speed oriented, and he has a lot of stamina as well and he used that to his advantage," Stein said. "He was really settled in the early stages of the race, and when I asked him to run on down the lane he really kicked for me."
Percussion went to the lead right away in Sunday's $90,000 Albert the Great Stakes, was hooked by Fast Falcon in a long stretch duel and finally prevailed by a nose over that rival. It was another 13 3/4 lengths back to Birdrun in third. Percussion, a 5-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a good main track in 1:49.45 with John Velazquez riding.
Mine Over Matter asserted himself in the stretch run in Thursday's $85,000 Corma Ray Stakes for New York-breds, kicking by the early leaders to a 1-length victory. Be Bullish was second and Fiddlers Afleet finished third. Mine Over Matter, a 6-year-old son of Mineshaft, got 7 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:22.99 with Joel Rosario up.
Miss Valentine up up in the final yards to win Friday's $90,000 No Reason Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares by a half length over Clear Passaj. Lady On the Run was third. Miss Valentine, a 5-year-old Afleet Alex mare, ran the mile on a good track in 1:37.53, also with Rosario in the irons.
Wings of War came from well back in the field in Saturday's $75,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings, went by the pacesetting, odds-on favorite, Ice Hockey, in the stretch and won by a half length over that rival. Cainam came from last of seven to take third, just another head in arrears. Wings of War, a 6-year-old Kafwain gelding, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.67 with Shane Laviolette in the irons.
Ginger Added dueled with Prairie Cougar through the early furlongs of Friday's $70,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for Iowa-bred distaffers, then got clear and won by 2 1/4 lengths over that rival. Queen Lily Kay was a non-threatening third. Ginger Added, a 5-year-old Added Edge mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.67 with Jake Barton up. She now has seven wins from 12 career starts, all at the Iowa track.
Let Em Shine went right to the front in Saturday's $70,000 Came Home Stakes for 3-year-olds and wasn't challenged, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Broadway Empire. Treasury Bill finished third. Let Em Shine, a Songandaprayer colt, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.76 with Edwin Maldonado up.
Dhaamer stalked the pace in Sunday's $70,000 Round Table Stakes, took over the lead at the quarter pole and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths, ridden out. Lime Rickey rallied to take second and Niagara Falls finished third. Dhaamer, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred Dubai Destination gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles over firm turf in 2:26.96 with Garrett Gomez in the irons.
Presque Isle Downs
Leinan shot clear in the stretch drive in Sunday's $100,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by 5 1/4 lengths over 40-1 long shot Ghost Flower. The odds-on favorite, Cor Cor, faded from the lead to finish third. Leinan, a daughter of Ready's Image, finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.49 with Pablo Morales riding. Leinen picked up her third win from eight starts. Cor Cor came into the race with four wins and a second from five career starts.
Good Deed fought to the lead early in Saturday's $65,000 Unbridled Sidney Stakes for fillies and mares but once in front she quickly got clear and won by 4 1/4 lengths over Palazzo Babe. Formal Plan finished third. Good Deed, a 4-year-old Broken Vow filly, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 57.37 seconds with Shaun Bridgmohan up.
Proud Victor stalked pacesetting favorite Bridge Jumper in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Jim Coleman Province Stakes for 3-year-olds, too charge in the stretch run and won by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. I'm Not Gray finished third. Proud Victor, a Storm Victory colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:17.09 with Fernando Perez in the irons.
I Think So, with Aaron Gryder up, was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Ross McLeod Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and kicked loose in the lane to win by 5 lengths. Goldstryke Glory finished second and Silkworm filled out the triactor. I Think So, a daughter of Proud Citizen, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.21.
Lone Star Park
He Has Bling came three-wide into the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Texas Stallion Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings and quickly took charge, winning off by 2 1/4 lengths over Meme Jo. Breathethefire was a neck farther back in third. He Has Bling, a Too Much Bling gelding, got the mile on a fast track in 1:39.83 under Miguel Hernandez.
In the $75,000 filly division, Tastefullyxcessive opened a clear lead in the stretch, then had to hang on late to win by a neck over Joyful Hannah. Makeshift was a distant third. Tastefullyxcessive, a daughter of Early Flyer, finished in 1:39.47.
Lillie Abbie got the best of a four-way photo at the end of Saturday's $50,000Lane's End Stallion Scholarship for Texas-breds, winning by a nose over Lasting Bubbles. It was a head back to Mescaleress in third and another neck to Shannon' Phavorite in fourth. Lillie Abbie, a 5-year-old Uncle Abbie mare, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:30.60 with Junior Chacaltana up.
Pass You Bye Bye bypassed pacesetting Luckysdream late in Saturday's $75,000 Decathlon Stakes and went on to win by a length over that rival. Diski Dance was third and Travelin Man finished fourth as the even-money favorite. Pass You Bye Bye, a 4-year-old Rock Slide colt, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:09.34 with Julien Pimentel aboard.
E Z Kitty prompted the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Hastings Handicap for fillies and mares, then went by and easily won off by 2 lengths. Exclusive Diva finished second and early leader Plus One salvaged show money. E Z Kitty, is a 5-year-old mare by He's Tops. With Anne Sanguinetti up, she ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.26.
Meanwhile, across the oceans:
Epsom Derby preps
With the favorite, Dawn Approach, safely in his stall with the 2,000 Guineas loot tucked under a blanket, the scramble continues among potential opponents for the June 1 Epsom Derby.
Ruler of the World raced with his three rivals into the straight in Thursday's Group 3 Chester Vase, easily kicked clear when asked by jockey Ryan Moore and cruised home a 6-length winner. The early leader, Mr. Impatience, held second and Havana Beat managed to beat one -- Feel Like Dancing. Ruler of the World, a Galileo colt conditioned by Aidan O'Brien, won for the second time in two trips to the track, getting 1 mile, 4 1/2 furlongs in 2:40.29 over good going. The last colt to win both the Chester Vase and the Epsom Oaks was the immortal Shergar in 1981.
As usual, O'Brien has no shortage of good horseflesh in his care and demonstrated that again Friday as he sent out Magician to the easiest of wins in the Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester. Another Galileo product and also with Moore in the irons, Magician made his four rivals disappear in the final furlong, winning off by 4 lengths. Contributer was second and Glacial Age finished third. The 1 mile, 2 1/2 furlongs went in 2:12.96 over turf rated good to soft. Magician was making his first start of the year after running inconsistently as a 2-year-old, winning just once in four starts.
Yet another Galileo product from the O'Brien barn won Sunday's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial at Leopardstown, albeit in a less scintillating fashion than might have been expected. Battle of Marengo, with Joseph O'Brien, did what was needed to best a trio of rivals, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Loch Garman. The 1 1/4 miles over yielding ground went in 2:07.79.
Style Vendome had the best punch in the final furlong of Sunday's Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulaines at Longchamp in Paris, besting Dastarhon by a neck and Intello by another head. Richard Hannon's raiding party of Havana Gold and Olympic Glory finished fifth and 11th, respectively, while O'Brien's Irish force of Gale Force Ten and Flying the Flag settled for fourth and ninth. Style Vendome, an Anabaa colt, completed the mile over good going in 1:34.68 and won for the fifth straight time. Trainer Christophe Clement said he is eyeing the French Derby and the St. James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot as possible next stop for his winner.
Epsom Oaks preps
It's "all hail" Secret Gesture. The filly was the easiest of winners Saturday in Lingfield's Oaks Trial -- as a pelting rain turned to hail. After racing in touch with the leaders under Jim Crowley, the Galileo filly hit another gear a furlong out and was 10 lengths in front at the finish. Miss You Too was the best of the rest with Whippy Cream third. It was Secret Gesture's first win after a second-place showing at Leicester in her first start. "I'm thrilled she did it the way she did it," trainer Ralph Beckett said. "Better than we'd hoped." The filly's Oaks odds dropped faster than a falling hailstone with British bookmakers.
In Sunday's Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Flotilla got to the front in the late going and won by a neck over Esoterique. Tasaday was third and Hannon's invader, Zurigha, was along for fourth. Flotilla, a daughter of Mizzen Mast, ran 1 mile on good ground in 1:34.77.
And at Leopardstown, Just Pretending, a Giant's Causeway filly benefitting from the O'Brien-O'Brien connection, won Sunday's 1,000 Guineas Trial by a neck over Hint of a Tint.
Verxina seized the lead inside the final furlong in Sunday's Group 1 Victoria Mile and held off Whale Capture in the final yards to win by a nose. Meine Isabel finished third. Verxina, a 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, had posted five straight second-place finishes last year, four of them behind Gentildonna. She then was sixth in her 2013 debut in a race won by Orfevre. She finished Sunday's test in 1:32.4 over firm going.
Novelist made his 2013 debut a winning one in at Baden Baden in Sunday's Group 2 Grosser Preis der Badischen Unternehmer. After racing last of eight, the 4-year-old Monsun colt advanced while turning into the straight, surged to the lead with 2 furlongs to run and won a battle to the wire by a head over Waldpark. Technokrat finished third. Girolamo, coming back from a trip to Dubai, finished fourth. Novelist now has six wins from eight starts with his only losses coming in the Group 1 Deutches Derby and the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden.
Vedelago was all out to get to the leaders inside 100 yards in Sunday's Group 1 Premio Presidente Della Repubblica at Capannelle and won by a half length over Orpello. Pattaya was another head back in third. Vedelago, a 4-year-old Red Clubs colt, was making his first start in nearly a near and ran his record to four wins from six starts. He finished 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:01.50.