A bittersweet ending to Royal Ascot, a big upset on the turf in America and a showdown among Japanese stars highlight weekend racing.
Three-year-old fillies also had their day on both American coasts. And there was plenty of action on the grass from Canada to California.
Let's get right to it, shall we?
On the turf
London Lane rallied from the back of the pack to post a 50-1 upset win in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs, beating fellow late runner Hyper by 3/4 of a length. Swift Warrior was third and the favorite, Atigun, had nothing but traffic trouble and finished next-last of eight. London Lane, a 6-year-old Langfuhr gelding, ran 1 3/16 miles on the firm outer turf course in 1:55.94 with Horacio Karamanos up. The Maryland-bred was making his first graded stakes appearance after a steady diet of allowance races and minor stakes on the Maryland circuit. He had only one win in his 11 previous starts. "The horse always tries," winning trainer Larry Murray said. "It may not always show in the final results, but he never gives up and tonight's race proved that. I'm not completely surprised by the win."
Fillies and mares on the turf
Channel Lady stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes at Colonial Downs, got through between rivals entering the stretch and held off Idle Talk to win by a length. Claire Skies Ahead came from last of seven to finish third while the favorite, Appealing Cat, faded to finish fifth. Channel Lady, a 4-year-old daughter of English Channel, ran 9 furlongs on the firm outer turf course in 1:50.34 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Riding the River held off Valentino Beauty in deep stretch to take Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II TVG King Edward Stakes by a head. It was only a neck farther back to Hotep in third and another neck to So Long George in fourth. Pender Harbour continued his disappointing ways, fading to finish last. Riding the River, a 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding, finished in 1:33.24 over firm turf. Winning rider Todd Kabel said the going actually was quite quick, adding, "We did put speed into him in his last couple works. He's working like he's a 3-year-old. He had me sitting perfect and when I called on him he went with me easily enough."
Hudson Steele battled down the lane with Hoofit in Saturday's $50,000 Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs before prevailing by a neck. Change of Command finished third and Disco Elvis finished fourth. Hudson Steele, a 6-year-old Johannesburg gelding, finished in 1:37.68 with Javier Castellano riding.
Close Hatches closed and slammed the door on the odds-on favorite, Dreaming of Julia, in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose at Belmont Park. After tracking the pace under Joel Rosario, Close Hatches went four-wide to the lead with more than a quarter mile to run and quickly put an end to the proceedings, drawing clear with every stride to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Dreaming of Julia beat the other three with Marathon Lady filling the trifecta. Close Hatches, a daughter of First Defence, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.36. Close Hatches had won three straight before finishing seventh in the Kentucky Oaks, then was second in the Grade I Acorn at Belmont in her last outing. Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks before a fourth-place finish at Churchill Downs. Winning trainer Bill Mott was pleased with the performance but not counting any year-end chickens. "By the time we got to the middle of the turn, it looked like we got first run ... . At the three-eighths pole, we're breezing to the lead. It looked pretty good from here," Mott said. Asked about Close Hatches' potential for year-end honors, he added, "I think it will all probably come down to who beats the older girls later in the year. A lot is decided October, November time."
On the West Coast, Doinghardtimeagain had a relatively easy time in the $150,000, Grade II Hollywood Oaks, leading all the way and winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Iotapa. Ondine was another half length back in third after chasing the pace. Doinghardtimeagain, a Ministers Wild Cat filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.27 with Rafael Bejarano up. She won for the fifth time in nine starts and was making her graded stakes debut. "We thought we had the best horse and so we used our speed," winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "When they came to us, fortunately she was able to hold them off." He added he will look at the $300,000, Grade II Delaware Oaks on July 13 but, "That might be running her back a little quicker than I would intend."
Traffic Light pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Donald LeVine Memorial Handicap at Parx Racing, went by entering the stretch run and held off the lukewarm favorite, Brujo de Olleros, to win by a neck. Hello Lover was third. Candyman E put in a stretch bid but flattened out to finish fourth and Travelin Man got home last of 10 with a dull effort. Traffic Light, a 4-year-old Peace Rules gelding, finished the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.03 with John Bisano up.
Conquest Whiplash, the odds-on favorite in his first career start, led from the early stages in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Victoria Stakes and won by 2 3/4 lengths over Ba Ba Brett. Bold 'n Golden finished third. Conquest Whiplash is a Florida-bred Hear No Evil filly out of the Saint Ballado Saint Sammi. She ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 58.19 with Eurico Da Silva up. Winning trainer Mark Casse said he knew he had a speedy filly on his hands after watching her work at Ocala. "We called her 'Whiplash' because she came out of the turn so fast working, she could hardly make the turn," Casse said. "It was like a motorcycle going around the turn." As a result, Da Silva said, Casse told him, "'Usually I say sit third or fourth but today, don't take any prisoners. Just go,'" Da Silva said. "He put some fire inside me and I did."
Yes I'm Lucky also was the best in Saturday's $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial at Calder Race Course, leading from the early jumps and getting home first by 4 lengths over Brothersofthetime. Casiguapo was third at a big price. Yes I'm Lucky, a Kentucky-bred son of Yes It's True out of the Dove Hunt mare Whenthedoveflies, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:06.35 with Mike Smith up. He was coming off an earlier win at Monmouth Park.
In the $100,000 J J'sdream Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Calder, Sweetmarys Success also shot quickly to the fore after an awkward start, opened a nice lead in the stretch and held on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over In Luv With Willie. One More Wild Ride finished third. The winner, a Teufelsberg filly out of the Double Honor mare Sky's Honor, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:07.56, also with Smith up as owner/trainer Wesley Ward parlayed his Royal Ascot win earlier in the week. She won earlier at Churchill Downs.
Reaper rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $150,000 Mountain Top Futurity for New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Unsociable Major. Beaumont Time finished third. Reaper, an Attila's Storm gelding, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 59.44 seconds with Duane Sterling in the irons.
Gold Ship stuck closer to the pace than usual in Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin and the tactic paid off. As the early leader tired, Gold Ship set sail for the lead in the final 200 meters and scored by 3 1/2 lengths. Dannon Ballade survived equally furious stretch runs from Gentildonna and Fenomeno as those finished second, third and fourth. Gold Ship came into the race off a fifth-place disappointment as the favorite in the Tenno Sho (Spring). "The horse was in very good form, so I was able to take him towards the front while saving enough energy for the finish," jockey Hiroyuki Uchida said. "I'm very glad that we were able to win over the other two strong rivals and look forward to his further great performance in the future." Trainer Naosuke Sugai was noncommittal about that future, saying only he will consult with the owners. There were no foreign runners in the field.
The final two days of Royal Ascot produced a mixed bag of triumph and tragedy. Saturday's finale was a case in point, with a smashing win in the Diamond Jubilee and a sad conclusion in the Hardwicke Stakes.
Lethal Force, a narrow second to Society Rock in their last race at York, repaid that favor in spades with a 2-length victory in Saturday's Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes. Lethal Force, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Dark Angel, was along at the right time, posting his first Group 1 triumph. Krypton Factor was third across the line and Gordon Lord Byron was fourth. The 6 furlongs over good to firm going went in 1:13.36 as Adam Kirby handled Lethal Force for trainer Clive Cox. The victory, in a race won last year by Australian superstar Black Caviar, positions Lethal Force among the top ranks of European sprinters. It also gives him one up in the ongoing Global Sprint Challenge, which offers a $1 million bonus for any horse winning three legs in three different countries.
The meeting wound up on a somber note as Thomas Chippendale, trained by Sir Henry Cecil's widow, Lady Jane Cecil, posted an upset win in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes but then collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack. Leading with a quarter mile to go, Thomas Chippendale held off Dandino by a length at the end. Universal was third. Johnny Murtagh quickly dismounted the winner after the finish and he was attended by a race track veterinarian without success. The favorite, Ektihaam, slipped on the turn and dropped jockey Paul Hanagan, though neither appeared to suffer serious injury. Thomas Chippendale, a 4-year-old Dansili colt, finished second to Ektihaam in their last race, a listed heat also at Ascot. He also was a winner at last year's Royal Ascot, taking down the King Edward VII Stakes. He finished the 1 1/2-mile Hardwicke in 2:30.65. Dandino's trainer, Marco Botti, said he will be looking at Australia's big fall races. The King George, Canadian International and Japan Cup could be on the agenda for Universal, trainer Mark Johnston said.
The Friday card produced another win for the Irish, who showed well throughout the meeting, and a stellar performance by the 3-year-old filly Sky Lantern.
Sky Lantern backed up her victory in the 1,000 Guineas with an impressive, 4-length win in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes. After being held up in the rear of the field under Richard Hughes, the Irish-bred Red Clubs filly made smooth progress, took the lead with a furlong to run and was in total command in the late going. Kenhope was a long shot second with Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Just the Judge settling for third. Sky Lantern, trained by Richard Hannon, now has five wins from nine starts and appears to be headed the right direction. Leading Light continued an impressive Royal Ascot showing by Irish horses with a victory in the Group 3 Queen's Vase, In Memory of Sir Henry Cecil, for 3-year-olds. Feel Like Dancing was second, 1 1/2 lengths back, and Boite finished third. Lady Jane Cecil, who took over her husband's training duties after his death last week, saddled Disclaimer, who finished 12th in the Vase. Leading Light, a Montjeu colt trained by Aidan O'Brien and ridden by Joseph O'Brien, won for the fourth straight time, stepping up from a group 3 win at the Curragh last month. Irish-bred horses have been prominent throughout the early days of the Royal meeting.
Hillstar rallied in the final furlong to get the better of the favorite, Battle of Marengo, in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes for 3-year-olds, kicking clear in the final yards to win by a length. Mutashaded finished third. Hillstar, a Danehill Dancer colt, won for the second time in his first effort at the Group level. He got 1 1/2 miles in 2:30.09 with Ryan Moore riding for trainer Sir Michael Stoute. Battle of Marengo had won five straight starts before getting home fourth in the Epsom Derby.
Kiyoshi was slow out of the stalls in the Group 3 Albany Stakes for 2-year-old fillies but quickened nicely late to win by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Sandiva. Kiyoshi, a Dubawi filly, won for the second time, finishing 6 furlongs in 1:13.82 with Jamie Spencer up for trainer Charles Hills.
Earlier in the meeting:
On Thursday, Estimate held on gamely at the end to win Thursday's Group 1 Gold Cup for her owner, Queen Elizabeth, while American invader No Nay Never took the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for trainer Wesley Ward. Ward said he will bring his colt back to Europe for the Prix Morny at Deauville in the fall. Riposte captured the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Tuesday got things off with a bang as Dawn Approach rebounded from his Derby thrashing to win the St. James' Palace Stakes but Animal Kingdom wound up his career with a thrashing of his own finishing 11th in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, far behind the rising-star winner, Declaration of War. And Sole Power, often a bridesmaid in top sprint races, finally got top billing in Tuesday's Group 1 King's Stand Stakes.
Street Secret was no secret on the street, going off the favorite in Sunday's $90,000 Open Mind Stakes for fillies and mares, then leading the way to a 1 3/4-length win. Flash Forward and Mischief Maker filled out the trifecta. Street Secret, a 5-year-old Street Cry mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.17 with Javier Castellano up.
Rosengold blasted out to a huge lead in Sunday's $70,000 Tsunami Slew Handicap for 3-year-olds and just did hold on to beat Pure Loyalty by a neck. Olympic Blue was 5 lengths farther back in third. Rosengold, a Stormello colt, got the mile on firm turf in 1:35.59 with Martin Garcia riding.
Street Gem fought her way to the lead in Sunday's $60,000 Revidere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then edged clear and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Coarsegold. Cat's Holiday finished third but was set down to fourth, elevating Alydorable to show money. Street Gem, a daughter of Street Boss, got 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.31 with Daniel Coa in the irons.
Music of My Soul led from the start of Sunday's $50,000 Coca-Cola Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings and won by a half length over Cariboo Road. The latter, however, was declared a non-starter after an incident leaving the gate. That promoted Worldventurer and Valliant Flame to second and third. Music of My Soul, a Harbor the Gold colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.07 under Enriquez Isaias.
Stopshoppingdebbie was quickly on the lead in the Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and coasted home a 6 3/4-length winner. Goin to the Window was second and Blueberry Smoothie finished third. Stopshoppingdebbie, a Curlin filly, got the mile in 1:34.74 under Rocco Bowen.
Isn't He Clever, the prohibitive favorite, drew off to win Sunday's $75,000 San Juan County Commissioners' Stakes at SunRay Park by 16 3/4 lengths. Casa de Cambrio beat the others, with Super Candy putting in a late run to take third. Isn't He Clever, a 4-year-old Smarty Jones gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.95 with Enrique Gomez riding. Isn't He Clever was on the Kentucky Derby trail last year after winning the Borderland Derby at Sunland Park and finishing second in the Grade III Sunland Derby. An eighth-place showing in the Grade I Arkansas Derby began a period of reassessment.
Jax and Jill ran away from his rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Its Binn Too Long Stakes for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies, winning by 9 lengths. Just a Trick was second and Golden Style finished third. Jax and Jill, a daughter of Yes It's True, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 50.85 seconds with Gerald Almodovar up.
My Place Anytime ran by the pacesetting favorite, Silverette, with ease in Saturdays $60,000 Blue Sparkler Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 5 3/4 lengths over that rival. Promise Me a Cat made up some ground late to take third. My Place Anytime, a 5-year-old Don Six mare, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.96 with Abel Mariano in the irons.
Lightning Electric worked through traffic in the stretch to win Saturday's $60,000 Smarty Jones HBPA Stakes by a length over Danny Newman. Saco River finished third. Lightning Electric, a 6-year-old Cetewayo gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.24 with Julien Pimentel in the irons.
Lenape Rim gradually wore down pacesetter Nasty Noozie in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Wiseman's Ferry HBPA Stakes for fillies and mares and won by a nose over that rival. Little Often Anni finished third. Lenape Rim, a 5-year-old Rimrod mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.11 under William Otero.
Saint Prado stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Livermore Valley Wines Stakes for 3-year-olds and then was along in time to win by a length over Outside Nashville. Our Cognac Kid finished third. Saint Prado, a Kitten's Joy colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.36 under Frank Alvarado.
Let Faith Arise came from off the pace to take Saturday's $50,000 California Wine Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/2 lengths over Marks Mine. Tribal Gal finished third. Let Faith Arise, a Kafwain filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.31 with Russell Baze up.