A battle royal is shaping up among fillies and mares after weekend racing, while the 2-year-olds have started sorting themselves out.
Last year's champion mare, Royal Delta, got back to her winning ways with authority in the weekend's biggest race. But she had plenty of company in winner's circles across the country. Notably, long shot Kentucky Oaks winner Princess of Sylmar proved the Churchill Downs race was no fluke as she also won convincingly.
Saratoga's juvenile series started with both males and fillies testing serious competition for the first time.
Overseas, a French-trained filly named Chicquita proved you don't have to run where you're pointed to win the Irish Oaks. And a father-son trainer-jockey combination not named O'Brien won the weekend's big race in Germany.
With Royal Delta leading the older mares and Princess of Sylmar emerging as a 3-year-old force, this division is quickly becoming very interesting.
Royal Delta, last year's Breeders' Cup winner and division champion, came into Saturday's $750,000, Grade I Delaware Handicap off two sub-par efforts. For the second straight year, she showed nothing on the Tapeta artificial surface in Dubai, then finished second in the Fleur de List Handicap at Churchill Downs. She looked like a different animal in Delaware. With Mike Smith up for trainer Bill Mott, Royal Delta shot right out to a big lead, wasn't challenged and responded to mild urging in the stretch to win off by 10 3/4 lengths. She's All In finished second with And Why Not third. Royal Delta, a 5-year-old Empire Maker mare, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.04. "Dubai, you have to draw a line through it," Mott said. "And the other day she was second, but she did not bring her 'A' race. But she ran well today. She was training great coming into the race. Actually, a little too good, if there is such a thing. She was wanting to work a little fast but doing it the right way. We are looking at the Personal Ensign at Saratoga for her next race." That's a $600,000, Grade I event.
Meanwhile, at Saratoga, Princess of Sylmar was making her first start since an upset win more than two and a half months ago in the Kentucky Oaks. She, too, looked like a rejuvenated horse in the $300,000, Grade I TVG Coaching Club American Oaks. With Javier Castellano riding, the Majestic Warrior filly dawdled at the back of the pack until the stretch turn, moved to the leaders entering the lane and showed her heels. At the wire, My Happy Face was the closest pursuer and she was 6 lengths in arrears. Marathon Lady finished third, Cue the Moon was fourth and the favorite, Unlimited Budget, got home last of five after hitting the gate at the start. Princess of Sylmar got 9 furlongs on a good track in 1:51.07. Trainer Todd Pletcher said people underrated Princess of Sylmar because he left her at Aqueduct for the winter rather than racing her in Florida. "I think everyone kind of lost sight of the fact that going into the Kentucky Oaks, it was billed as the best Oaks we've seen in 25 years," he added. "This filly wins it and gets virtually no respect. I think today she put herself at the top of the leader board and now everyone understands that the Kentucky Oaks was a real race."
Also Saturday at the Spa, Authenticity put in her bid for consideration as a division leader. The 6-year-old Quiet American mare, with John Velazquez aboard, tracked pacesetter Sea Island through the early furlongs of the $200,000, Grade III Shuvee Handicap, hit the front in the stretch and won by a length over a late-closing Flashy American. Sea Island held third. Eblouissante, a half-sister to Zenyatta, hit the gate, was bumped and never figured in the race, finishing last of six. It was her first loss in three career starts. Authenticity ran 9 furlongs on a good track in 1:52.33 -- notably, more than 1 second slower than Princess of Sylmar in the next heat. Since moving into the stakes ranks in March at Gulfstream Park, Authenticity has two wins and two seconds. Pletcher trains Authenticity, too. "I think it was a good effort from her," Pletcher said. "She's a total professional. She's very easy to train, easy to ride ... . You can put her on the lead, you can let her stalk, take her back if you wanted to. The main thing is we wanted her to be in a nice, comfortable rhythm." He said he also will aim for the Personal Ensign on Aug. 25.
At Arlington Park, My Option rallied from next-last to win Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Arlington Oaks by a neck over Frivolous. The favorite, Sky Girl, made the early going and held on for third. My Option, an Illinois-bred daughter of Belong to Me, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:52.85 with Eddie Perez in the irons. It was her first win against open company and her first stakes win. Trainer Chris Block said he will consider running My Option back in the $75,000 Hatoof Stakes on Arlington Million Day, Aug. 17.
Up north, Sisterly Love took the early lead in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Ontario Matron Stakes at Woodbine and administered an un-sisterly beating to a half dozen rivals. At the wire, it was Sisterly Love by 3 1/2 lengths over Eagle Hall with Pure Blue Sky third. Eurico Da Silva rode the winner over 1 1/16 miles of all-weather track in 1:43.41. The 5-year-old Bellamy Road mare now has won five of eight career starts and two in a row.
Jeranimo flew by pacesetting Fed Biz and a pair of long shots in deep stretch to win Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar by 1 1/2 lengths. Vagabond Shoes and Fly Lexis Fly finished second and third. Promising French import Sofast wasn't so fast. After a slow start, she finished last of nine and was eased in the stretch. Jeranimo, a 7-year-old son of Congaree, started behind even Sofast but went in the other direction around the turn and into the stretch when asked by jockey Rafael Bejarano. He finished 9 furlongs on firm going in a rapid 1:45.80. This time last year, Jeranimo was running in 1-mile turf races, winning the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park, then finishing third in the grade II Del Mar Mile and sixth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, which was one of the year's top heats. Winning trainer Mike Pender said the pace of Saturday's race helped Jeranimo show his best form. "I think when Jeranimo is in a real horse race, where there's speed, tactical speed and deep closers like himself, that's when he's able to shine. And today he had perfect conditions," Pender said.
So Long George took the rail route into the stretch in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Nijinsky Stakes at Woodbine and outfinished Hampstead Heath to win by 3/4 of a length in a battle of long shots. The favorite, Grand Arch, pressed the pace and finished just a neck farther back in third. So Long George, a 4-year-old Arch gelding, ran about 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:45.28 with Emma-Jayne Wilson riding. All of his 13 career starts have come at Woodbine, including a fourth-place finish last time out in the Grade II King Edward. The former claimer now has a promising future in Woodbine's big turf events, trainer John Charalambous said. "He just kept stepping up and stepping up," Charalambous said. "We put him in tougher races and he responded. You don't know how proud I am of this horse."
Filly & Mare Turf
Wishing Gate stalked the pace in Sunday's $150,000, Grade II San Clemente Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, got by the pacesetter, Unusual Way, in the stretch and edged clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. The favorite, Iotapa, ran evenly to finish third. Wishing Gate, a Florida-bred Indian Charlie filly who recently arrived from Arlington Park, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.58 with Gary Stevens at the controls. Stevens blamed himself for an earlier loss aboard Wishing Gate at Keeneland. "I absolutely butchered her. Cost her the race, for sure," he said. "So to win this one today on her helps make up for that one." Trainer Tom Proctor said Stevens' ride Sunday was "perfect. You couldn't ask for a better trip. It's a pretty fair turf course. I didn't think about the pace. I don't think a whole lot. I just hope for the best." He said the $300,000, Grade I Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 17 is a likely next target. That's 1 1/8 miles.
Hessonite rallied from near the back of the pack to win Friday's $100,000 On the Bus Stakes for New York-bred distaffers at Saratoga by 1 1/4 lengths over Inimitable Romanee. Dreaming of Cara finished third. Hessonite, a 5-year-old Freud mare, got 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in 1:42.37 under John Velazquez.
Strong Impact rallied into a blistering early pace to snatch victory in Sunday's $100,000 Fiddlers Patriot Stakes at Saratoga. After saving ground, the 7-year-old A.P. Jet gelding caught pacesetting speedball Tightend Touchdown in the final sixteenth and went on to win by 3/4 of a length over that one. Varsity finished another half-length back in third. Strong Impact, ridden by Alex Solis, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.17 -- just a bit more than a half-second off the course record, which not coincidentally is held by Fiddlers Patriot.
Sage Valley chased the leaders into the turn in Friday's $100,000 James Marvin Stakes at Saratoga and worked clear in the final furlong to win by a length. Politicallycorrect was along for second, a half-length ahead of Hello Lover. The favorite, Souper Speedy, got home third. Sage Valley, a 4-year-old Discreet Cat colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.49 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. "Very, very perfect trip," winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. "Cornelio gave him a perfect ride. He's one of the best riders in the country."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Reneesgotzip rocketed away from five rivals in an $85,000 allowance feature on Thursday's card at Del Mar and got home first by 5 1/4 lengths. Executiveprivilege was second, Curvy Cat third and the favorite, Gypsy Robin, fourth. Reneesgotzip, a 4-year-old City Zip filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.59 with Edwin Maldonado up. It was her sixth win from 11 starts. Executive Privilege was making her start as a 3-year-old.
Wired Bryan battled gamely to the lead in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, then took over in the stretch run, winning off by 5 1/4 lengths. Southern Blessing was best of the rest, followed by Hollywood Talent, All In Blue, Jake's Magic and the favorite, Debt Ceiling. Wired Bryan is a New York-bred Stormy Atlantic colt out of the Runaway Groom mare Red Melody. With Shaun Bridgmohan up, he got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.06. "Shaun came back and said he's not a one-dimensional horse," said Michael Dilger, who saddled his first stakes runner. "He's a horse that can rate if we need him to. We learned a lot from the horse today." Bridgmohan said Wired Bryan was a "perfect professional ... . He got passed around the turn and he showed enough heart to come back and put them away late. He's a pretty decent little horse." He now is 2-for-2 having won his first start at Belmont Park last month. Debt Ceiling, previously undefeated and winner of the Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, was too aggressive on the backstretch, ran up on heels and had to be checked, jockey Eric Camacho said. "He just had a horrible trip, that's all," added trainer John Robb.
Go Greeley got the jump on the field in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Colin Stakes at Woodbine and extended his lead in the final furlong to win by 2 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Conquest Two Step, was second with an even effort and Tuscan Getaway added a little value to the triactor. For Sinatra fans, Danny Ocean finished sixth. Go Greeley, an Ontario-bred colt by Horse Greeley, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.19 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons. He now has two wins and a second from three starts, all at Woodbine.
Smack Smack smacked around a field that include several invaders to win Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile at Prairie Meadows by 3 lengths. Deadly Black Eagle settled for second after leading briefly and Da Belldozer was third. The two favorites, Bad Boy Peter and Big Blue Talent, finished fourth and fifth after journeying from Chicago and Kentucky, respectively. Smack Smack, a Closing Argument gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.87 with Jake Barton up.
My Brown Eyed Guy, the nearly even-money favorite, showed the way in Saturday's $75,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder, then kicked clear in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Best Plan Yet finished second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Copa Del Rey. My Brown Eyed Guy, a With Distinction gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.87 with Eduardo Nunez up. He now has won two straight races.
Bahnah caught pacesetting Brazen Persuasion on the wire in Friday's $150,000, Grade III Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga and the camera couldn't find anything between them -- a dead heat. Elena Strikes finished third and Yes Liz was fourth. Bahnah, an Elusive Quality filly with Corey Lanerie up, and Brazen Persuasion, a daughter of Indian Charlie with Rosie Napravnik riding, finished 6 furlongs in 1:12.12. "Both horses, neither one of them wanted to lose," Lanerie said. Napravnik said Brazen Persuasion is "about half the size of any of them. They both ran super hard and our filly is really talented. She ran very well." Bahnah came to the Spa off a win at first asking at Churchill Downs. Brazen Persuasion took two tries to break her maiden, also under the Twin Spires.
Designer Legs outfinished Divergent View to win Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Gold Lassie by a half length. Bakken Baby was third and the favorite, Churchill Downs invader More Than Beauty, finished fifth after a stumbling start. Designer Legs, a Louisiana-bred Graeme Hall filly, toured 5 1/2 furlongs of fast track in 1:06.19 for jockey Shane Laviolette. Gary Scherer trains the filly at Canterbury Park. She now is undefeated in two starts.
Scandalous Act led them a merry chase in Saturday's $75,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder Race Course. After leading from the early jumps, the Act of Duty filly easily drew off in the lane, winning by 7 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Holiday Magic, beat the five and Quinnkat was a long shot third. Scandalous Act, with Eduardo Nunez aboard, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.87. It was her second win in three starts, bracketing a seventh-place finish in the J J'sdream Stakes.
Todd Pletcher said earlier in the week Mike Repole doesn't plan to go all out this year to win the Saratoga owner's title -- a position that might be gamesmanship given the promise by Ken and Sarah Ramsey to do just that. So it's worth nothing Pletcher sent out Repole's highly touted Tale of the Cat filly, Stopchargingmaria, to an easy, 5 1/2-length victory in her first start on Opening Day at the Spa. With John Velazquez up, Stopchargingmaria led all the way and finished 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.69. "I believe a stake will be in order," Pletcher said. "It's just a matter of which one." The Ramseys had no winners from three starters on Opening Day.
Chicquita still hasn't learned how to run straight but she corrected her wandering ways just enough Saturday to win the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh -- after a long inquiry. The French-trained filly was a maiden entering the race, thanks in part to erratic running in her first three starts. That included running into a hedge and falling while apparently on her way to an easy victory two starts back. Saturday, Johnny Murtagh kept the Irish-bred Montjeu filly on course until the final furlong. Then, when he steered Chicquita out to get around the leaders, he couldn't get her corrected back to a straight line. Continuing to veer sharply to her left, Chicquita cut in front of a pair of rivals, including eventual runner-up Venus de Milo, and was out in the center of the course by herself as she won by a half length. Just Pretending led much of the way and salvaged third. Epsom Oaks winner Talent showed nothing and finished last of seven while Ribblesdale winner Riposte lacked a finishing kick and got home fifth. The 1 1/2 miles on good to firm turf took 2:35.01. Winning trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre, said Chicquita runs so easily he is loathe to make any equipment changes and, rather, hopes she will learn as she goes. He said the Prix Vermeille and "then maybe" the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe could be on Chicquita's agenda.
Nymphea showed the way in Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten, opened a huge lead and stayed on to win by 3 lengths over Temida. Meandre was third. Nymphea, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Dylan Thomas, ran 1 1/2 miles on good going in 2:26.30. She won for only the third time but has never finished worse than fourth in any of her eight starts. Amateur rider Dennis Schiergen was in the irons for his trainer/father, Peter Schiergen, emulating the more familiar Irish combo of trainer Aidan O'Brien and his jockey-son, Joseph. The elder Schiergen said he has not plotted out Nymphea's next start, adding, "Obviously, we have lots of possibilities." Meandre won this race last year but then finished 12th in the heavy going of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Since then, he has raced successively in Hong Kong, Chantilly, Dubai, Singapore and now Germany. Saturday's showing matched his previous best on that world's tour -- a third in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase last December behind Red Cadeaux.
Amberjack shook loose in the stretch drive of Saturday's $200,000 New York Derby for state-breds and went on to win by 6 1/2 lengths, ridden out. Smooth Bert and West Hills Giant filled out the trifecta. Amberjack, an Indygo Shiner colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:44.42 for jockey Jose Espinoza.
Sing Dixie Sing led most of the way in Saturday's $50,000 Arctic Queen Handicap for New York-bred distaffers and got home first by 3/4 length over late-running Capella Dancer. The favorite, Lady On the Run, came from last of 10 to get third. Sing Dixie Sing, a 4-year-old Dixie Union filly, finished 6 sloppy furlongs in 1:11.95 under John Davila Jr.
Silsita came to even terms with early leader Broken Spell in the final furlong of Saturday's conditioned $100,000 My Princess Jess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and finally prevailed by a nose. Lady of Gold was third and the favorite, Wave Theory, finished fourth. Silsita, a daughter of Macho Uno, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf course in 1:43.30 with John Velazquez up.
He Be Fire N Ice put a neck in front of Rock Me Baby at the wire in Sunday's $125,000 California Dreamin' Handicap for state-breds. Starspangled Heat split rivals late and got up for third. He Be Fire N Ice, a 5-year-old son of Unusual Heat, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.44 with Victor Espinoza up.
Closing Range closed stoutly in Saturday's $90,000 Osunitas Stakes for fillies and mares, putting a neck in front of the favorite, Unusual Hottie, at the wire. I Dazzle tossed in a dazzling late run to get show money. Closing Range, a 4-year-old Aftermarket filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.44 for jockey Corey Nakatani.
Winning Image set a torrid pace in Saturday's $100,000 Sweet and Sassy Stakes for fillies and mares, then had enough left at the end to survive by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Evening Show. Vicarious One finished third. Winning Image, a 6-year-old Southern Image mare, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.74 with Jose Caraballo up.
Leigh Court led most of the way to a 5 1/2-length upset win in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Duchess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Captivating Dancer was second and the odds-on favorite, Sky Treasure, could do no better than third. Leigh Court, a Grand Slam filly out of the French Deputy mare Padmore, got 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.95 with Gary Boulanger up.
Sister Ginger drove to the lead inside the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $125,000 Indiana Grand Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Miss Scout. Finding More was the early leader but could find no more in the lane and settled for third. Sister Ginger, a daughter of Student Council, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:36.76 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. She won the Martha Washington Stakes earlier in the year at Oaklawn Park and now has compiled a three-race win skein.
Agent Di Nozzo got through along the rail in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Golden Bear Stakes and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Mr. Bowling. Sabercat finished third. Agent Di Nozzo, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.24 with Marlon St. Julien up.
Calder Race Course
Angelica Zapata was up in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $75,000 Nancy's Glitter Handicap for fillies and mares by 3/4 of a length. My Pal Crissy got to the lead at mid-stretch but could not hold off the winner and settled for second. Centrique finished third. Angelica Zapata, a 5-year-old Sharp Humor mare, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:39.34 with Juan Leyva in the irons. She now has won five of her last seven starts, including last year's running of the Nancy's Glitter.
Grand Tito and Backseat Memories hit the wire together in Saturday's $75,000 Showing Up Stakes for 3-year-olds for a dead-heat finish. Starship Zorro finished third. The 1 1/16 miles on firm turf took 1:46.76. Grand Tito, a Candy Ride colt, had Fernado Jara up while Backseat Memories, a Johar colt, toted Jilver Chamafi.
Ju Ju Eyeballs, this week's "name of the week," waited until let run in Sunday's $60,000 Just Smashing Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then did just that, winning off by 5 1/4 lengths over Ol Donyo. Dreamingofcarmella finished third and the odds-on favorite, Blueeyesintherein, faded to finish fifth after contesting the pace. Ju Ju Eyeballs, a daughter of Gators N Bears, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.46 under Paco Lopez.
Hard Enough stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Jersey Derby, then went by to post a 12-1 upset win. Reporting Star was along for second and the pacesetting favorite, Shining Copper, settled for third. Hard Enough, a Virginia-bred Hard Spun colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.06 for jockey Paco Lopez. It was his third career win in his 14th start.
Good Lord led from the start in Saturday's $50,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes, turned back a challenge and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Good Morning. Right to Vote was third. Good Lord, a 6-year-old Greatness gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.07 with Jesus Castanon up for trainer Forrest Kaelin.
Miss Addison got the better of the favorite, Little Polka Dot, in a stretch battle in Saturday's $50,000 Matron Stakes for fillies and mares, then edged clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Little Creole finished third. Miss Addison, a 6-year-old Orientate mare, finished about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.42 with Richard Eramia in the irons.
Silk Spinner held the narrow advantage over odds-on favorite Victor Lazlo through the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Rise Jim Stakes for Massachusetts-breds and made the lead stand, winning by a half length -- at 65-1 odds. Dreamed a Dream completed the trifecta, which returned $8,280.20 for a $2 wager. Silk Spinner, a 5-year-old Silk Broker gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.75 with Elias Peltroche in the irons. He had not won since October of 2011 and finished 10th in this race last year.
Herbie D set a pressured pace in Sunday's $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap, gradually worked clear in the late going and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Stryker Phd came from far back to finish second and Jebrica was third. Herbie D, a 5-year-old gelding by Orchid's Devil, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:40.52 with Amadeo Perez in the irons.
Marks Mine took charge in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 California State Fair Sprint Handicap for fillies and mares, pulling away to win by 4 lengths. Paris in April was second and English Royal got show money. Marks Mine, a 3-year-old Benchmark filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.93 with Frank Alvarado up.