With his victory in Sunday's Belmont Stakes over Preakness winner Oxbow and Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Palace Malice set up an interesting summer and fall of racing among the 3-year-olds. All three colts, for example, could give it another go in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga -- the "Midsummer Derby."
There were plenty of other top stakes on both coasts, at Woodbine in Canada and in Kentucky. And check out the defections from the upcoming Royal Ascot meeting. Animal Kingdom is looking better and better.
But fate and the racing gods tossed in a few twists, too.
Point of Entry, arguably the nation's top grass horse, won Saturday's co-feature at Belmont Park but now requires surgery and will need luck to get back in action for the Breeders' Cup -- or at all.
And how would you feel if your horse, the favorite and with a world-class rider up, "walked out of the gate, turned sideways and stood there"? It happened Sunday at Woodbine and the result, like the horse, was allowed to stand.
It's not always easy to figure this game out. But let's give it a whirl.
Palace Malice won Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Belmont Stakes fair and square, taking over the lead from Oxbow early in the stretch run and then ... well ... running no more slowly than any of his rivals the rest of the way. The final quarter mile was clocked in 27.58 seconds as Palace Malice and all of his pursuers seemed frozen in time and place as they slogged toward the end of their 1 1/2-mile journey.
Oxbow, too, slowed dramatically in the stretch but no one could catch him, either. To his credit, Orb came from far back to reach contention at the head of the lane but then couldn't do any more and settled for third, a length ahead of Incognito and another half-length better than Revolutionary.
None of the starters is likely to be asked to go that far again, so it's reasonable to expect some spirited rematches at shorter distances along the summer and fall racing calendar.
"Everyone kind of goes into the rest of the summer and the fall of the year with similar resumes," said Palace Malice's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "I don't think there's a clear-cut leader. Largely it will depend on what happens in the fall of the year. It will be interesting to see how they stack up when that happens."
He said he will try to keep Palace Malice and his other four Belmont starters apart during the coming months.
Oxbow and Orb both came out of the Belmont well, according to their people, and could be up for an August rematch at Saragota. "I would love to run him in the Travers," Shug McGaughey said of Orb.
As for the Belmont itself, an equipment change may have made the difference for Palace Malice, who finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby and then skipped the Preakness. Pletcher removed his blinkers for Saturday's race.
"It was the blinkers," said winning rider Mike Smith as he jogged Palace Malice back to the Belmont Park winner's circle. "He was just enjoying the trip, sucking all the air in ... . The whole key was getting him into that rhythm he was in."
Smith kept his mount close to the front all the way down the backstretch, tracking the early leaders and just behind Oxbow. Oxbow, under Gary Stevens, got the lead as the field hit the Belmont Park stretch but couldn't maintain it, yielding to the eventual winner.
Smith, 47, said as he went by and to the lead, Stevens, 50, yelled to him, "You go on with it, big guy. You're moving better than me."
Saturday's undercard was a stellar one and the track maintenance crew did an equally stellar job preparing for the races. After Friday's downpours, the turf courses remained yielding on Belmont Stakes day but the main track was upgraded to fast for the biggest races.
The $500,000, Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan Handicap boiled down to Point of Entry and Optimizer and, in the final sixteenth, Point of Entry had too much to be denied, although the victory cost him an injury that throws the remainder of his season into doubt. The 5-year-old son of Dynaformer inched clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths, winning for the seventh time in his last eight races -- a string broken only by a narrow loss to Little Mike in the Breeders' Cup Turf last fall at Santa Anita. Real Solution ranged up on the outside late in the stretch run and looked like a threat but eventually settled for third, another neck in arrears. Point of Entry, with John Velazquez up, finished the 1 1/2 miles on yielding turf in 2:02.55. Joel Rosario, who rode Optimizer, added, "We were just second best. Point of Entry is probably the best horse on the turf right now." Sunday, however, trainer Shug McGaughey said Point of Entry was found to have a non-displaced condylar fracture of the cannon bone in his left hind leg. He will be scheduled for surgery with Dr. Larry Bramlage in Kentucky. "This is the kind of fracture we treat all the time," the noted veterinarian said. "We expect him to come back and run well. It requires surgery, but it's a pretty responsive injury." McGaughey said Point of Entry's owners intended all along to retire him at the end of the year. Whether he can return to run before then, the trainer said, is a question. "We might have to pull the rug out from under him," he said.
Fast Bullet was quickly on the lead in the $400,000, Grade II RTN True North Handicap and held on well to win by 2 1/2 lengths over entry mate Justin Phillip. Laurie's Rocket finished third. Fast Bullet, a 5-year-old son of Speightstown, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.27 with Joel Rosario up. Fast Bullet was making just the fifth start of his career for trainer Bob Baffert and his first outside California. His only loss came in last fall's Breeders' Cup Sprint, where he finished sixth when caught inside. "Joel was just cruising on him," Baffert assistant John Terranova said. "I mean, he had a ton of horse. Bob said he's really fast. The main thing was just getting him out of the gate, which he did, and that was it."
Baffert, who saddled only one horse in this year's Triple Crown races, has a late-developing 3-year-old who looks to be reckoned with in the second half of the year. Power Broker, a Pulpit colt who finished fifth in both the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year and in this year's Santa Anita Derby, posted his second straight win in Saturday's $150,000 Easy Goer. With Rosie Napravnik up, Power Broker powered to the lead, shook off a passel of rivals and went on to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Micromanage was best of the rest with Irsaal third. The one-turn 1 1/16-miles race went in 1:41.55 as Power Broker backed up an equally impressive win in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs a month ago. "Obviously he was the best horse in the race. Rosie gave him a great ride and kept him out of trouble," Terranova said.
Forty Tales, the Derby Trial winner at Churchill Downs, dialed back to 7 furlongs in Saturday's $400,000, Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes for 3-year-olds and, as he did at Louisville, came from far back to win. At the wire, the Tale of the Cat colt was out front by 3/4 of a length from Declan's Warrior with Clearly Now up for third. With Rosario riding, Forty Tales got home in 1:22.47 on the fast track. "He broke well and I started finding myself way behind," Rosario said, "but I was hoping they were going quick enough so I could finish with him. He did everything right and just got the jump in the last minute."
Stephanie's Kitten found room on the inside turning for home in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Longines Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares, kicked on through and battled gamely to win by a half length over Better Lucky. Hungry Island was third, Centre Court fourth and Mizdirection, who clearly did not like the yielding course, finished fifth. Recent European import Laugh Out Loud attended the pace but then faded to finish last of six. Dayatthespa was a late scratch. Stephanie's Kitten, a 4-year-old Kitten's Joy filly, ran the mile in 1:36.27 with Velazquez in the irons. "When the hole opened up and Johnny stuck her head in there, I was happy with it, I really was," trainer Wayne Catalano said.
On Friday at Belmont Park, Tropical Storm Andrea provided a drenching downpour, moving turf races to the very sloppy main track.
Calidoscopio was so far back with a half mile to run in the $200,000, Grade II Brooklyn Handicap that he'd have needed a "telescopio" to see the leaders. No matter. With Aaron Gryder up, the 10-year-old started moving around the stretch turn, got to the outside and steadily advanced through the slop. In the final yards he slipped by pacesetter Percussion and went on to win by a length. It was 5 lengths farther back to Fast Falcon in third. Calidoscopio, an Argentine-bred who won the Breeders' Cup Marathon last fall in his first U.S. start, finished the 1 1/2 miles through the rain and slop in 2:31.64. That's just a bit more than 7 1/2 seconds slower than the track record held for 40 years now by Secretariat. "I think it was the combination of horses coming back and him moving forward," winning trainer Mike Puype said. "Belmont is such a long track. You have so much running to do here. Aaron hit him left-handed and got him in the sweet part of the track. He got them at the right time."
The $150,000 Jaipur Stakes was washed off the grass and the field scratched down from 12 to just five. Big Screen led all the way and crossed the finish line first but was running diagonally down the stretch and interfered with the runner-up, Souper Speedy, who was promoted to the victory by the stewards. Big Screen was placed second. Politicallycorrect swerved inward avoid the interference and took third. The favorite, Reload, faded to finish fourth, beating only Next Question. The 7 furlongs in the slop and a driving rain took 1:22.09. Irad Ortiz rode Big Screen and Jose Lezcano was aboard Souper Speedy. Tom Albertrani, who trains both the top two, said, "I was actually hoping for a dead heat in the final strides. Unfortunately, the one got taken down. I had one happy owner for a couple of minutes, and then vice versa. They both ran well."
Also Friday, four of the original 10 came out when the $100,000 Mariensky Stakes for fillies and mares came off the grass. Then, Royal Lahaina came from off the pace to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Sure Route with Peace Preserver third on a day when personnel could have used life preservers. Royal Lahaina, a 5-year-old Chapel Royal mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy main track in 1:42.79 under Jose Ortiz.
Nipissing stole a march on favored Spring in the Air in Sunday's $500,000 Woodbine Budweiser Oaks, outfinishing her rival by 3/4 length. Original Script had the original lead and held on for third. Nipissing, a Niigon filly, raced a bit closer to the lead than Spring in the Air and, when asked by jockey Steven Bahen, she got to the lead first. She finished in 1:50.34 over the all-weather track. Nipissing won all four of her starts as a 2-year-old, all at Woodbine. She finished sixth in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland, then second as the favorite in the Grade III Selene Stakes at Woodbine three weeks ago. "Last time we were a little further back so I was hoping she'd break a little sharper, which she did today," Bahen said. "I wanted to be three, four lengths off the pace, sit on the outside and give her a clean trip. It worked out perfectly. I heard her [Spring in the Air] coming and I said, 'C'mon, wire.'" The door would be open for a run against the boys in the July 7 Queen's Plate.
Speaking of which, Dynamic Sky closed sharply down the stretch under Joel Rosario to take the lead in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial, then held off His Race to Win by a nose. Midnight Aria, the pacesetter, held third and the favorite, Pyrite Mountain, settled for fourth. Dynamic Sky, a Sky Mesa colt, finished 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.59. He could be rounding into top shape just in time for the Queen's Plate after a winter tour that found him in Santa Anita for a sixth-place in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then at Tampa Bay Downs and Keeneland. Rosario said the decision by trainer Mark Casse to take blinkers off Dynamic Sky made a difference. "He was more relaxed and I could do exactly what I wanted to do with him," Rosario said. "I thought he had a good chance as he had been running with good horses like Verrazano. We just got up in the last jump and got the money." His Race to Win and Midnight Aria, along with Dynamic Sky, are expected to move along to the "Gallop for the Guineas."
Rosario didn't get any jumps in an earlier stakes race at the Canadian oval. Overheard overhauled Akron Moon in the final jumps to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Alywow Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by a nose. Savvy Hester finished third. The favorite, Spring Venture, with Rosario up, "walked out of the gate, turned sideways and stood there," according to the Equibase chart footnote. She took no further part in the proceedings. A stewards' inquiry found nothing amiss with the start and the result stood. Overheard, meanwhile, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:14.93 with Eurico Da Silva up.
Langstaff got through traffic in the late going in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Bold Ruckus Stakes for 3-year-olds and was along just in time to win a three-way photo by a neck over the pacesetting favorite, Click. Skyrish was another neck back in third. Langstaff, an Ontario-bred colt by Saffir, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.20 with Luis Contreras riding. "He's a very nice horse," Contreras said. "He's got a tremendous kick at the end. He was leaving fire on the ground." Langstaff was making his first stakes start and remains undefeated in three trips to the track.
Sisterly Love showed nothing but distain for her six rivals in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes for fillies and mares. The 5-year-old Bellamy Road mare rocketed to the lead under Da Silva and never looked back, winning by 8 1/2 lengths over Reconnect. Sarah Her Highness was third and the favorite, one-time Queen's Plate champion Inglorious, finished an inglorious last. Sisterly Love ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.00. Da Silva said trainer Mark Casse told him "she didn't like too many horses around her so we tried to make the lead and try not to have anybody around us. She went there comfortably and she did a great job."
Tale of a Champion got to the front between rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap and inched away to win by a length. The favorite, All Squared Away, was second and pacesetter Lucky Primo held third. Tale of a Champion is a 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat, out of the Seattle Slew mare If Angels Sang. He ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.27 with Joe Talamo in the irons. The win made it two straight for Tale of a Champion, who went through a tough patch late last year and into 2013. "He's really coming into himself," Talamo said. "I think we've misplaced this horse in the past and he hasn't had the best trips," winning trainer Kristin Mulhall said. "He feels like he wants to run 2 miles when he's galloping. I told the owner about five races ago I'd like to see him go a mile and a half."
Sarach shot straight to the lead in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Honeymoon Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, established a pedestrian pace and the favorite, Scarlet Strike, couldn't catch her. At the end, it was Sarach by 1 length over a fast-closing Scarlet Strike with Macha another 1/2 length back in third. Sarach, an Arch filly, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.73. "She showed what she can do," winning rider Martin Garcia said. "If they would have gone faster, she would have been right there. But like I said, there was no pace and I just took advantage from there."
Kinz Funky Monkey, this week's "name of the week," led from the start in Saturday's $70,000 Manhattan Beach Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and just held on the beat the favorite, Judy In Disguise, by a half length. Upbeat Mood was another half length back in third. Kinz Funky Monkey, a Florida-bred filly by The Green Monkey, ran 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:09.44 with Victor Espinoza aboard.
Unusual Hottie came three-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $70,000 Redondo Beach Stakes for fillies and mares and quickly got clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Customer Base was second and Sugarinthemorning finished third. Unusual Hottie, a 4-year-old daughter of Unusual Heat, got the mile on firm turf in 1:34.59 with Joe Talamo riding.
Shug McGaughey's interesting weekend continued Sunday as Boisterous rallied to a popular, 1 1/4-length win over Big Blue Kitten in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Monmouth Stakes. With John Velazquez moving down the shore from his weekend assignments at Belmont, Boisterous closed smartly through the stretch to get by pacesetting long shot Two Notch Road, then held on well for the win. Two Notch Road held third. Boisterous, a 6-year-old son of Distorted Humor, went to the post as the even-money favorite and finished 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:48.84. Boisterous has been in the money in eight of his last nine starts, dating back 13 months. The exception was last year's Grade I Arlington Million, when he didn't fire. "I had the absolute perfect trip all the way around," Velazquez said of Sunday's race. "We got squeezed around the quarter pole but once we got to the outside, it was all over."
Brave Dave set a pressured pace in Sunday's $60,000 John McSorley Stakes, then held tenaciously to win by a neck over Perfect Officer. Night Officer finished third and the favorite, Varsity, weakened to finish fourth. Brave Dave, a 3-year-old Put It Back colt, covered "about" 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:02.72 with Elvis Trujillo riding. It was his first time racing on the grass.
Srumdiddlyumptious did not want to enter the starting gate for Saturday's $60,000, off-the-turf Fort Monmouth Stakes for fillies and mares, delaying proceedings for several minutes. But once in the gate, she wasted no time getting out of it, shooting right to the lead and winning off by 8 1/4 lengths. Spun Silky was the best of the rest with Queen Chatanika third. Srumdiddlyumptious, a 4-year-old Roman Ruler filly, got 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.74 under Trujillo.
Miz Ida put away favored Daisy Divine in the late going of Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Early Times Mint Julep Handicap and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Colonial Flag finished third in the 1 1/16-miles turf test for fillies and mares. Miz Ida, a 4-year-old daughter of Proud Citizen, got home in 1:42.37 with Shaun Bridgmohan up. Asked where the winner might surface next, trainer Steve Margolis said, "I don't know. There are a couple spots up at Saratoga and there is a race at Canterbury. We'll mull it over and figure out what's best for her."
Golden Gate Fields
Surfcup has the look of one to watch in the second half of the year. The Unusual Heat colt had no trouble as the odds-on favorite beating a half-dozen fellow Cal-breds in Sunday's $100,000 Silky Sullivan Stakes, leading all the way to a 1-length win over Gervinho. Tebows Big Play finished third. The race went in 1:37.54 over firm going. Surfcup, a Bob Baffert trainee, won the Snow Chief Stakes at 1 1/8 miles over the Hollywood Park all-weather surface in his last outing.
Calder Race Course
R Free Roll rolled freely in Saturday's $75,000 Unbridled Stakes for 3-year-olds, leading all the way to a 6 3/4-length win over Rockyshomerun. City of Weston finished third and Sr. Quisqueyno, the favorite, got home fourth. R Free Roll, a Rockport Harbor filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.19 under Antonio Gallardo.
Wildcat Lily forged her way to a big lead in Saturday's $75,000 Leave Me Alone Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by a convincing 4 lengths over Dreaming of Sophia. Street Girl finished third with a late move. Wildcat Lily, a D'Wildcat filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.98 with Jose Alvarez up.
Capitalism At Risk led from the early furlongs in Saturday's $75,000 U Can Do It Handicap for fillies and mares, then survived the late run of Oh Carole to win by a nose. Saint Aggie finished third. Capitalism At Risk, a 6-year-old Bull Market mare, finished 6 furlongs in 1:11.37 with Orlando Bocachica riding.
Black Diamond Cat came from just off the pace to upset the $75,000 Ponche Handicap, beating Close It Out by 1 3/4 lengths with Grande Shores third. Black Diamond Cat, a 6-year-old Wildcat Heir gelding, finished in 1:10.28 for jockey Luca Panici.
Sweet Luca just nailed pacesetting favorite Work All Week in the shadow of the wire to win Saturday's $100,000 Addison Cammack Handicap for state-breds by a nose. Four Left Feet finished third. Sweet Luca, a 4-year-old Candy Ride gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.92 with Eddie Perez in the irons.
Kip Berries had them all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Isaac Murphy Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Smiling Gambler. Royal Posh finished third. Kip Berries, a 7-year-old Kipling mare, got 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:10.92 with Seth Martinez riding.
Keep Up got up late, from last of seven, to win Saturday's $65,000 Swoon's Son Stakes by 3/4 length over Corporate Jungle. Workin for Hops finished third. Keep Up, a 6-year-old son of Unbridled's Song, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.58 under James Graham.
Grandma's Rules stalked the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes for fillies and mares, hit the front late and won by a length over Hooh Why. Drama Drama was a nose farther back in third, just a nose in front of Doll Dreams. Grandma's Rules, a 4-year-old Orientate filly, was clocked in 1:45.76 for the grassy 1 1/16 miles with Graham riding.
Presque Isle Downs
Purely Hot stalked the pace for a while in Sunday's $100,000 Satin and Lace Stakes for fillies and mares, then took over and won off by 5 lengths. Dr. Diamonds Prize and Salty Sally showed up second and third in a five-horse photo for the minor awards. Purely Hot, a 5-year-old Pure Prize mare, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:03.22 with Harry Vega aboard.
Lighthouse Bay, the odds-on favorite, surged to the lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Jostle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Dreamingofcarmella. Doubled finished third. Lighthouse Bay, a Spightstown filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.40 with Kendrick Carmouche up.
Lady Genius led from the early going in Saturday's $65,000 C.O. "Ken" Kendrick Memorial for New Mexico-bred 2-year-old fillies and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Unofficial Winner. Got Aces took show money. Lady Genius, a daughter of Quinton's Gold, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52.30 seconds with Carlos Madeira in the irons.
Unreachable Star outfinished the favorite, Pass the Crown, in a battle of stretch runners to win Wednesday's $85,000 William Henry Harrison Stakes for Indiana-breds by a neck. It was another neck back to the long shot pacesetter, Dread the Pirate, in third. Unreachable Star, a 9-year-ol Unloosened gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.73 with Marlon St. Julien in the irons.
Ms. Smitty sat back of the pace early in Wednesday's $85,000 Shelby County Stakes for state-bred distaffers, came with a rush into the stretch and won off by 6 1/4 lengths over early leader Fancy's Spirit. Indy Pie ran evenly to take show money. Ms. Smitty, with St. Julien up, got 6 furlongs in 1:10.12. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Moro Oro.
Just like the Blackhawks, Ice Hockey had it when it counted in Saturday's $75,000 Cyclones Handicap for state-breds. The 6-year-old Cactus Ridge gelding shadowed pacesetter Beware the Devil, then put his head in front of that rival in time for the photo. Wings of War glided in 8 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Israel Ocampo steered Ice Hockey home in 1:45.06.
Queen Lilly Kay took charge in the lane in Friday's $75,000 Hawkeyes Handicap for Iowa-bred fillies and mares, winning off by 6 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Ginger Added. Rudy's Edge led early and finished third. Queen Lilly Kay, a daughter of Indy King, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.11 under Glenn Corbett.
Bryan's Jewel was never far back in Saturday's $75,000, off-the-turf John W. Rooney Memorial for fillies and mares, rallied to the lead on the second turn and got home first by 3 3/4 lengths over Onepointthreecarats. It was another 9 3/4 lengths back to Carrietta in third and Tanivan completed the order of finish. Bryan's Jewel, a 5-year-old Rockport Harbor mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on a wet-fast track in 1:44.06 for jockey Alex Cintron. Nine scratched from the original field.
Signsealndeliver started from the back of the queue in Saturday's $50,000 Dark Star Cup but wound up at the front of the line by 1 length over pacesetting favorite Southern Dude. Absolutely Cool finished third. Signsealndeliver, a 7-year-old, Illinois-bred Private Terms gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.66 with Ry Eikleberry in the irons.
Silver Baubles got past Tiny Giant in the late going in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Journal Handicap and scored by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. The favorite, Commander, finished third. Silver Baubles, a 4-year-old, Alberta-bred Gilded Time gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10 4/5 with Kyle Carter aboard.
Awesome Plan stalked the pace set by long shot Plethora in Friday's $50,000 Wild Rose Handicap for fillies and mares, got by in the stretch run and won by 3/4 of a length. After Plethora, it was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Claresmiezie in third. Awesome Plan, a 4-year-old Takin It Deep filly, finished in 1:12 under Jorge Espitia.
Capella Dancer raced near the back of the pack in Saturday's $50,000 Susan B. Anthony Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares, came into the stretch five-wide and was up to win by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetter Princess Phoebe. Saltamontes finished third and the voters' choice, Nicole's Miss El, got home next-last of eight. Capella Dancer, a 4-year-old Rockport Harbor filly, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:12.07 with Joel Cruz up.
I Think So led from gate to wire in Sunday's $50,000 Emerald Downs Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Silkworm. Goldstryke Glory finished third. I Think So, a Proud Citizen filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.62 under Aaron Gryder.
Ruby's Victory was quickly out front in Sunday's $50,000 River Rock Casino Handicap for 3-year-olds and went on to win by a half length over a late-closing Major Dundee. Shooting Jacket was third. Ruby's Victory, a Storm Victory gelding, was clocked in 1:16.72 with Enrique Gonzalez up.
Shrug pressed the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Sir Winston Churchill Handicap, took over and held on gamely to win by a length over Wilo Kat. Herbie D showed the way and faded to get home third. Shrug, a 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.43 under Frank Fuentes.
Dance the Wind rallied from next-last to win Sunday's $50,000 Vancouver Sun Handicap for fillies and mares by 3/4 of a length over Terlani. Orchid's Silver finished third as the odds-on favorite, Evelyn's Dancer, faded from the lead to finish eighth and last. Dance the Wind, a 4-year-old Second in Command filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.94 for jockey Fernando Perez.
Exclusive Diva came four-wide into the stretch and went on to take Sunday's $50,000 Washington State Legislators Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths over E Z Kitty. Gosailgo sailed home third. Exclusive Diva, a 4-year-old Bernardini filly, strolled 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.88 with Juan Gutierrez at the controls.
It's almost time for Royal Ascot and, while the meeting will have its usual complement of royalty and pageantry, it will be missing some star power. Several top runners have defected from the rich and historic lineup in the past couple weeks.
Godolphin Racing's Farhh, winner of the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes at Newbury last month, is reported lame and will miss the royal meeting, racing manager Simon Crisford said on the Godolphin web site. Farhh had been entered for either the Queen Anne or the Prince of Wales's. "Hopefully he will be back on the racecourse later this season," Crisford said.
Cirrus des Aigles, the world's top-rated turf horse and a successful world traveler, is unlikely to make the cross-Channel trip for the Prince of Wales's Stakes, trainer Corine Barande-Barbe said. The 7-year-old has not raced since October after scratching in Hong Kong in December because of an injury. Barande-Barbe said she likely will give Cirrus des Aigles a comeback race at Chantilly, then try the King George later in England.
Cityscape, another globetrotter, has been removed from Royal Ascot consideration after finishing last in the Lockinge. Trainer Roger Charlton said the 7-year-old was "slightly jarred up after the Lockinge and we will wait a little longer with him.
The defections from the Queen Anne have made Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom an ever-more-popular choice for the 1,600-meters fixture on the first day of the royal meeting. The race is to be Animal Kingdom's last before he takes his promising genes to Australia to begin a stud career.
On the bright side, Snow Fairy is reported on schedule to make her return to the races in the Queen Anne Stakes. The 6-year-old has won as far afield as Hong Kong and Tokyo but has never been part of Royal Ascot.
Telescope will not make his 3-year-old debut in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Ascot, according to trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who said he is trying to "regroup" with the colt after a series of mishaps. The Galileo colt was a promising winner in both his starts as a 2-year-old.
And trainer Michael De Kock said he is doubtful Group 2 Godolphin Mile winner Soft Falling Rain will be ready to contest the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. He said international travel has taken its toll on the undefeated 4-year-old, who won all three of his starts last year on the turf in South Africa and all three this year on the all-weather Tapeta at Meydan in Dubai.
The lineup for the five-day Royal Ascot meeting from June 18 through June 22 includes 18 Group races, seven of them Group 1 events.
Trading Leather bested two Aidan O'Brian starters in Sunday's TRM Silver Stakes at the Curragh, providing hope there might be an alternative to the Ballydoyle stranglehold on the upcoming Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Trading Leather, a Teofilo colt trained by Jim Bolger, accelerated in the final furlong to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Lines of Battle. Kingston Jamaica was third. Trading Leather now has won three of seven starts. O'Brian said Saturday he plans to start only one colt in the Irish Derby -- Epsom Derby winner Ruler of the World. He said that decision "is not set in stone" but reflects current intentions.
Biz the Nurse came to the lead in the final furlong of Sunday's Group 1 Gran Premio di Milano at San Siro and quickly shook clear, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Wild Wolf. Romantic Wave finished third. Biz the Nurse, a 3-year-old Oratorio colt, made it 2-for-2 this year. He finished the 1 1/2 miles on good going in 2:27.40 with Cristian Demuro up.
News and notes
It was nice to see a photo of the Three Chimneys Farm stallion barn on the front page of Friday's Wall Street Journal, teasing a story about "Palaces for Racehorses." Three Chimneys, the former home of such stars as Seattle Slew and Dynaformer and now featuring Big Brown, is a great example of the care and attention given horses throughout the Bluegrass. The story was especially nice coming on the same day the New York Post announced it would no longer cover horse racing -- even Saturday's Belmont Stakes -- and fired writer Ed Fountaine and handicappers John DaSilva and Anthony Affrunti.
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