Three-year-olds caught the lion's share of attention in weekend racing, with the Japanese Derby done and the Epsom Derby in its countdown.
The long U.S. holiday racing schedule turned up some promising new star candidates on both the grass and the main track as far afield as New York, Illinois and California.
Speaking of California, California Dreaming won the final local Group 1 of the year in Hong Kong. And Camelot didn't translate too well on a visit to Ireland.
Read all about it and come back tomorrow for a recap of the Memorial Day races, including the Met Mile at Belmont.
With just a week to go before the Investec Epsom Derby, Magician pulled a rabbit from his hat in Saturday's Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh, winning impressively enough that part-owner John Magnier said the big race may be in the cards for the Galileo colt. With Joseph O'Brien up for his trainer-father Aidan, Magician sat behind a quick pace, surged to the front when prompted and won off by 3 1/2 lengths. Gale Force Ten, another from O'Brien's bottomless string, was up for second and pacesetting Trading Leather settled for third. "We've done crazy things before so we could run him at Epsom," Magnier said. "I'm saying it tongue-in-cheek. But we could. We'll savor the moment and not get carried away." The elder O'Brien suggested the St. James' Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot might be a more realistic option. He has other options for Epsom, including Battle of Marengo and Mars. The former has won five of six, including the Derby Trial at Leopardstown.
In other Derby news, undefeated Telescope has been removed from contention by his trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, who said the Galileo colt has a sore leg. That helped drive down the odds on the favorite, Dawn Approach, who is undefeated in seven starts, including the 2,000 Guineas.
Meanwhile, 12 3-year-old fillies are left in at the six-day confirmation stage for Friday's 1 1/2-miles Investec Oaks at Epsom. Banoffee was supplemented at a cost of 30,000 pounds sterling after winning the May 9 Cheshire Oaks. Topping the market is Lingfield Park Oaks trial winner Secret Gesture, a Galileo filly trained by Ralph Beckett. Beckett also saddles Talent, who won the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket May 5. Liber Nauticus, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, is undefeated in two starts including the Musidora Stakes at York on May 15. Harry Dunlop will send out his first-ever Oaks contender in Roz. Aidan O'Brien invades from Ireland with three entries, of which two are likely runners. From those, Moth is well fancied after a third in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas.
At Haydock, Kingsgate Native belied his eight years -- and a long string of defeats -- to land Saturday's Group 2 Betfred Temple Stakes, a leg in the British Champions Series sprint competition. The Mujadil gelding, with Shane Kelly up, beat Swiss Spirit by a neck, finishing 5 furlongs on good to firm going in 59.25. Reckless Abandon was only a head farther back in third and 1 1/2 lengths better than Sole Power. Kingsgate Native won this race in 2010 but had not been victorious in 18 intervening tries.
Al Kazeem got the better of Camelot in Sunday's Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, winning a virtual match race by 1 3/4 lengths. Both horses had checkered recent pasts. Camelot, a triple Classic winner last year, underwent surgery after a serious bout of colic during the off season. Al Kazeem suffered a season-ending injury last May at Newmarket in his first start of the 2012 season. Sunday, the two easily dismissed the early leaders and it appeared Camelot had every chance to assert himself but lacked the needed kick. Windsor Palace finished a far-distant third. Al Kazeem, a 5-year-old Dubawi, now has five wins from 10 starts. Camelot now is 6-for-9.
Just The Judge easily handled 14 rivals in Sunday's Group 1 Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh, besting Rehn's Nest by 1 1/2 lengths at the end of the mile. Just Pretending finished third. Just The Judge, a daughter of Lawman, trained by Charles Hills, won for the fourth time in five starts. Her only setback came in her last previous race, when she finished second, a half length behind Sky Lantern, in the Qipco 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. She finished Sunday in 1:39.37 over turf rated good to firm. The winner is owned by Sheik Fahad's Qatar Racing, a relatively new force on the turf scene. "We were very confident," Sheik Fahad said. "She has been a lot better in her coat and hopefully she can go on improving. This is the first proper season for Qatar Racing so to win a Classic is a great start."
California Memory, twice the winner of the International Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup, closed out the local Group 1 season Sunday with a late rush that lifted the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup. Asked to carry his run to 2,400 meters for the first time, the light gray horse waited off the lead under Matthew Chadwick, hesitated briefly when the running started in the straight and then kicked on to finish best, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of stablemate Willie Cazals. Dominant finished third. The race went in 2:26.46. "I was following the right horse through the run, Dominant, and he took me into the race and I went past him," Chadwick said. "The tempo didn't bother me. I was minding my own business. He was very relaxed and I knew he would have that last burst." Trainer Tony Cruz said he had the race covered. "I expected Willie Cazals to almost win this race but California Memory is an 'International' champion," the conditioner said. "I'm very happy with Willie Cazals' performance today. He came home very strong and if the race was on the softer ground, I'm sure he would have won it."
Only a half length separated the first seven finishers in Sunday's HK-Group 3 Sha Tin Vase, with Charles The Great getting the edge in a photo after flashing down the middle of the course in the final 50 meters. Carrying just 117 pounds, including jockey Tommy Berry, the John Moore trainee finished in 1:08.94 with Best Eleven second and Captain Sweet third. While a seventh-place finish in a local Group 3 seldom is a ticket to Royal Ascot, that may be the case here for Moore-trained Time After Time. "The run was fantastic," Moore said of Time After Time. "He was beaten less than a length. What more can you ask? Carrying 133 pounds, you've got to say that the horse is peaking at the right time. My impression would be to go [to England] on that run. That was a beauty. Now we need to speak to the syndicate and get the green light and if he does, he'll fly out on June 9."
Maxios wore down Planteur in the final furlong to win Sunday's Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp by a half length. Mandour was another 3/4 of a length in arrears in third. Maxios, a 5-year-old son of Monsun, picked up his seventh win from 15 starts and first-ever victory in a Group 1 race. He was bred by his owner, the Niarchos Family. Planteur was making his first start since finishing third behind Animal Kingdom and Red Cadeaux in the March 30 Dubai World Cup at Meydan. He also finished second in the Ispahan last year, behind Golden Lilac.
In Sunday's Group 1 Pour Moi Coolmore Prix Saint-Alary for 3-year-old fillies, Silasol waited near the back of the eight-horse field, moved relentlessly through the final two furlongs and was just up in the final strides to win by a short head over Alterite. Ferevia was third. Silasol, a Literato filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on soft going in 2:10.53 with Olivier Peslier riding. It was her third win from five starts.
Kizuna came wide and very fast through the stretch run in Sunday's Group 1 Tokyo Yushun, or Japanese Derby, and was along in time to score by a half length from Epiphaneia. Apollo Sonic was third at long odds while Logotype, co-favorite with the winner, got home fifth. Kizuna, a Deep Impact colt, got the 2,400 meters on firm turf in 2:24.3. Yutaka Take won his fifth Tokyo Yushun, a total that includes a victory on Deep Impact in 2005. Kizuna picked up his first Group 1 win and third straight victory in group races.
The big races in North America, by division:
Fillies and mares
Imposing Grace tracked the pace set by Lotta Lovin in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Arlington Matron at Arlington Park, got by and outfinished Sisterhood to win by a half length. Lotta Lovin finished third and the favorite, Ausus, settled for fourth. Imposing Grace, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly, got 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.21 with Channing Hill in the irons. It was her first stakes win although she did get home second in both the Tiffany Lass and the New Orleans Ladies Stakes this winter at Fair Grounds. "I wasn't expecting to be so close to the pace," Hill said. "But she broke well and was sitting extremely comfortable on the backstretch. She gave me all the confidence in the world picking it up at the eighth pole."
The weekend fix of 1-mile races climaxes with Monday's $750,000, Grade I Met Mile at Belmont Park. The morning-line favorite is Flat Out, who couldn't quite get over the top in Grade I company going longer but was just up in time to win the Grade III Westchester Stakes going a mile in his last outing. It's a tough field of nine with Cross Traffic, Mark Valeski, Saraha Sky, Discreet Dancer, Fort Loudon, Fed Biz and Handsome Mike all to be reckoned with.
Hogy stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park, shot to a clear lead at the top of the stretch and held off Mister Mardi Gras to win by 1 1/2 lengths. It was a long way back to Hammers Terror in third. Hogy, a 4-year-old Offlee Wild gelding, ran the mile on the all-weather track in 1:34.25 with Chris Emigh up. Nate's Mineshaft finished ninth in his first start in 11 months. He now has won four of his last six but Saturday's win was his first in graded stakes company. "We knew there were a couple of speed horses in it and this race was wide open," Emigh said. "I got in the perfect spot where I wanted to be on the outside and he started dragging me turning for home."
Dark Cove got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs and made it stand up, getting home first by a half length over the favorite, Atigun. Najjaar was just a nose farther back in third. Dark Cove, a 6-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:27.29 with Rosie Napravnik up. "I was in a dream spot," Napravnik said. "I couldn't have picked a better spot. I was happy with where I was the whole way ... . I knew they were coming, but he was the class of the race." Ken and Sarah Ramsey claimed the winner last spring for $50,000. Dark Cove ran twice for a tag this winter at Gulfstream Park, first for $40,000, then for $50,000, without being taken. He then won the Grade II Elkhorn Stakes last month at Keeneland. The winner's share of that purse plus Saturday's is more than $150,000.
General Election, making his first start on the grass, won an eventful stretch battle to take Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Arlington Classic for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park by a length over Admiral Kitten. Dorsett finished third but was set down to fourth as a result of contact in the lane, elevating Gefest to show money. General Election, a Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:45.48 with Joe Rocco up. Fordubai, who ran second to Departing on the dirt in the Illinois Derby, finished 12th in Saturday's race. General Election was a Kentucky Derby candidate after winning the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway but was redirected after finishing 10th in the Grade III Spiral Stakes at the same track and second in the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland. Assistant trainer John Ortiz said, despite the surface switch, "We came into this race very confident. He's a smart horse, very sensible. He trains unbelievable. He does whatever you ask him to do."
Obviously led the way in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II American Handicap at Hollywood Park, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Lucayan with Barocci third. Obviously, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding by Choisir, ran the mile on firm going in 1:32.95 with Joe Talamo at the controls. He has not been worse than third in 13 straight races dating back to the summer of 2011 in Ireland. That string includes a third in the Breeders' Cup Mile last fall -- behind only eventual Horse of the Year Wise Dan and eventual Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom. "We're going to keep him at a mile, take our time with him," said winning trainer Mike Mitchell, adding another go at the Breeders' Cup is in the cards. Next up will be the $300,000, Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood on June 29.
Something Extra was on the engine all the way in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Connaught Cup at Woodbine and won by 3/4 of a length over Riding the River. Upgrade was third. Something Extra, a 5-year-old Indian Charlie gelding, ran 7 furlongs on firm going in 1:20.54 under Eurico Da Silva. The Gail Cox trainee won the Connaught Cup for the second straight year following a nose loss in the Grade III Shakertown at Keeneland. "He's a nice horse and he's gotten better," said Cox. "It was a really tough trip [in the Shakertown]. He had a wall of horses in front of him and Julien [Leparoux] just couldn't get through. It was just bad luck." He now has missed a top-three placing only once in his last 13 races.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, Ordak Dan was the upset winner of Saturday's Group 1 Gran Premio 25 de Mayo at San Isidro Racecourse -- a Breeders' Cup Challenge qualifier for this fall's Breeders' Cup Turf. Saturino Erro, 95, who owns Ordak Dan, was asked if he will attend the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita this November. "Of course I will go," he said. Thursday's win came in Ordak Dan's first stakes try. He had won four of 10 allowance starts. He finished in 2:29.34 over soft going with Pablo Carrizo up.
Ladies on the lawn
It was all long shots at the end of Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park. Tannery, at 10-odds, rallied from far back over a soft inner turf course to win by a length over another late runner, Anjaz, who went off at 21-1. Minakshi, a 15-1 chance, led the way and held on for third. The favorite, Hessonite, finished sixth while stepping up from New York-bred company. Tannery, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Dylan Thomas, got 1 3/8 miles in 2:20.17 while hugging the rail all the way under Luis Saez. She came into the race off a fourth-place finish in her seasonal debut. "We try to have our horses fit," said winning trainer Alan Goldberg. "But with her first start of the year being a mile and a quarter, I didn't expect her to be completely ready. She came out of that race great and I thought she'd handle the conditions today."
Solid Appeal moved to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Nassau Stakes and worked clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Irish Mission. Northern Passion finished third. Solid Appeal, a 4-year-old Successful Appeal filly, ran the mile on firm going in 1:34.01 with Jesse Campbell aboard. "I did not expect to be that forwardly placed," said Campbell. "I let her be there because she was in the bit and I also had the 5 horse [Irish Mission] where I wanted her. I was riding my race around the 5 horse, being in the position I was, but she gave me a tremendous kick down to the wire."
I'm a Kittyhawk was up just in time to win Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Lady Angela Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Rootham Triple E's was a half length back after leading much of the way and Pipers Future filled out the triactor. I'm a Kittyhawk, a daughter of Tomahawk, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:23.82 with David Moran up.
Up With the Birds came from last of five to get the worm in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Ontario-bred Stormy Atlantic colt easily flew by his rivals and won by 4 3/4 lengths over Winning Cause with Five Iron chipping in for third. With Eurico Da Silva riding, Up With the Birds ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.82. Earlier this year he won the Black Gold Stakes at Fair Grounds and just missed in the Grade III Transylvania at Keeneland. Trainer Malcolm Pierce said he hopes the race was a good omen for the upcoming Queen's Plate. "He came into the race in good order and timing wise he's had plenty of space between races," Pierce said. "Let's just keep our fingers crossed for six more weeks."
Calder Race Course
Csaba, the odds-on favorite, pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Memorial Handicap, took over in the stretch and won off by 2 lengths over Megamove. The pacesetter, Decisive Moment, held on for third. Csaba, a 4-year-old Kitten's Joy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.20 with Manoel Cruz in the irons.
Schiaparelli quickly opened a big lead in Sunday's $75,000 Great Lady M. Stakes for fillies and mares and coasted home first by 2 1/2 lengths over Purim's Dancer. Customer Base was third. Schiaparelli, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.66 with Joe Talamo up.
Saturday's $75,000 My Juliet Stakes was scratched down to just three starters and the best of those proved to be odds-on favorite Winning Image. The 6-year-old Southern Image mare led all the way and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Appealing Stella. J K L's Legacy completed the order of finish. Winning Image got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.02 with Jose Caraballo up.
Onepointhreecarats was good as gold in Wednesday's $50,000 Winter Melody Stakes for fillies and mares, leading from the git-go and winning by 2 lengths over a late-running Bryan's Jewel. Giguaraya got show money. Onepointhreecarats, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.58 with Jeremy Rose up.
Zucchini Flower blossomed in the stretch run in Sunday's $75,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes for fillies and mares, driving by the leaders and shooting clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Winiliscious was second and early leader Daydreamin Gracie settled for third. Zucchini Flower, a 4-year-old daughter of Flower Alley, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:39.84 for jockey Jeremy Rose.
Ruthenia outfinished Namaskara in the final sixteenth to win Sunday's $75,000 Miss Liberty Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length. Street Secret and Dinner's Out dead-heated for third and fourth. Ruthenia, a 5-year-old Pulpit mare out of the Rahy mare Ruthian, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:42.08 with Joe Bravo up.
Big Sur led from the start in Saturday's $75,000 Majestic Light Stakes and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the dead-heat duo of Spring Hill Farm and Ruler On Ice. Big Sur, a 5-year-old Malibu Moon gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a sloppy track in 1:42.01 with Ramon Moya in the irons.
Maude S rallied from last to win Saturday's $60,000 Wild Rose Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 3/4 lengths from early leader Lava Girl. Miss Hockaday got home third. Maude S, a 5-year-old Jump Start mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:44.93 with Israel Ocampo up.
Conchaser chased the pace set by City Saga in Friday night's $60,000 Prairie Express Stakes, got by late and was up to win by a half length over that rival. The favorite, Flashpoint, flashed a brief bid but couldn't sustain it and sagged back to finish a well-beaten third. Conchaser, a 7-year-old son of Congaree, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.84 with David Cardoso riding.
In the companion Prairie Rose Stakes for fillies and mares, Lulu Wong led all the way to a handy 3 3/4-length win with the favorite, Missjeanlouise, rallying for second. All About Allie finished third. Lulu Wong, with Terry Thompson up, got home in 1:09.13. She is a 4-year-old Badge of Silver miss.
Silent Legacy and Little Polka Dot dueled throughout Saturday's $50,000 Opelousas Stakes for fillies and mares before Silent Legacy prevailed by a neck. Queenie Vic finished third. Silent Legacy, with Kirk LeBlanc up, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.39. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Silent Name.
Down Town Allen shadowed pacesetting Jax and Jill in Saturday's $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes for fillies and mares, closed in the stretch and beat that one by a half length. Fear the Facelift was third. Down Town Allen, a 6-year-old Windsor Castle mare, got 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 51.27 seconds under Mathew McGowan.
Tyger Teras rallied from mid-pack midway through Saturday's $65,000 Aztec Oaks for New Mexico-breds and drew off to a big lead, eventually scoring by 4 lengths, ridden out. Lakehouse Fun was second and Swedish Goddess completed the trifecta. Tyger Teras, a daughter of To Teras, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.38 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Attila's Hurricane blew quickly to the lead in Sunday's $65,000 Dine Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Hush's Storm. Carmen's Rocket got home third. Attila's Hurricane, an Attila's Storm gelding, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:19.75 for jockey Isaias Cardenas.
Wizardry stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 First Lady Handicap for fillies and mares, went by late and sprung a 20-1 upset by 2 lengths over Little Vidalia. Way to Go Gerda completed the boxcars trifecta, which paid $18,594 for a $2 investment. The favorite, African Rose, faded from the lead to finish fifth. Wizardry, a 4-year-old Teuflesburg filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.54 with Jorge Rocha up.
Stopshoppingdebbie dueled for the lead with Goin to the Window in Sunday's $50,000 Seattle Handicap for 3-year-old fillies before prevailing by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Blueberry Smoothie finished third. Stopshoppingdebbie, a Kentucky-bred Curlin filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.41 with Rocco Bowen in the irons.