The reigning U.S. Horse of the Year won again in weekend racing, as did a star European miler, amid a few disappointments.
The surprises included poor showings by Cirrus Des Aigles and Telescope in Europe.
Also on the weekend agenda were some promising showings by 2-year-olds and some developing horses making progress toward year-end glory, including Tiz Flirtatious among turf distaffers.
Will the undefeated Stopshoppingdebbie ever venture outside the friendly confines of Emerald Downs to test the big time? And names like Victor Laszlo and Effie Trinket add an artistic edge to the weekend report, which starts now:
The Classic division:
After a very tough race in his last outing, Trainer Charles LoPresti said he wanted to get an easy race into reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga. Mostly, he got his wish -- although his stable star had to tote 129 pounds to do it. Wise Dan picked up his eighth straight win, tracking King Kreesa in second most of the way, moving to challenge in the stretch and finally disposing of that rival in the final sixteenth to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Lea finished third with Mr. Commons, Willyconker and Skyring completing the order of finish. Wise Dan, a 6-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding, ran the mile on the good inner turf course. He also won this race last year, starting the eight-race winning skein that included last fall's Breeders' Cup Mile, where he defeating Animal Kingdom and top European miler Moonlight Cloud, who won a big race of her own on Sunday. Wise Dan now has won 11 of his last 12 starts, a string broken only by a second to Ron the Greek in last year's Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on the main track. "To prove that he's a great horse like everybody's talking about, he had to carry that weight," LoPresti said. "I think he proved that he's a very good horse." King Kreesa's trainer, Jeremiah Englehart, said Wise Dan "had a serious competitor today, and as good as both horses are doing, I was really happy with my horse's effort. Obviously, he [Wise Dan] is a champion."
Over the seas:
Moonlight Cloud held on for a narrow victory Sunday in the Group 1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, defeating outsider Olympic Glory by a short head. Intello was third, Declaration of War fourth and Dawn Approach fifth in a showdown among European milers. Moonlight Cloud, a 5-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit, is a multiple Group 1 winner whose exploits include victories over the likes of African Story, Society Rock and Farhh. Sunday's win was her fourth Group 1 triumph at Deauville. She will be forever remembered, however, as the horse who almost ended Black Caviar's undefeated streak in last year's Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. "I think with this victory," said trainer Freddy Head, "she has joined Miesque and Goldikova among the Deauville Legends." She has not, however, yet won a Breeders' Cup race, which both Miesque and Goldikova did. Moonlight Cloud finished eighth in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, which was one of the toughest races of the year anywhere. Her win Sunday qualified her for this year's renewal.
Cirrus Des Aigles now is winless in three trips this year after returning from a ligament issue. The Corine Barande-Barbe trainee missed by a head of reeling in Petit Chevalier in Saturday's Group 3 Prix Gontaut-Biron Hong Kong Jockey Club at Deauville. But Barande-Barbe said she saw progress and that Cirrus Des Aigles was hampered by quick going and a lack of early pace. She is pointing him to the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October -- the race in which he finished second to Frankel in that one's final start last year. The Prix Dollar now looks likely to be the next stop for the multiple Group winner.
The injury comeback of one-time Derby favorite Telescope took a hit Saturday as the Galileo colt put up little resistance in the final stages of the Group 3 Betfred Rose of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock, surrendering to David Livingston by a length. Noble Mission finished third, making it a 1-2-3 sweep for Galileo offspring. Noble Mission is Frankel's brother. Area Fifty One, a cleverly named son of Green Desert, finished fourth. Sir Michael Stoute had been nursing Telescope back from minor woes after skipping the Derby and he won a comeback last time out by 24 lengths. Saturday's effort wasn't up to much. Harry Herbert, managing director for Telescope's owners, said the team will "regroup" to jump start the colt.
Also, Team Europe won the Shergar Cup jockey challenge on Saturday, defeating "The Rest of the World" and "The Girls" fairly handily. In the final race of the series at Ascot, wily American veteran Gary Stevens got Annunciation up in the last jumps to defeat Noble Deed, piloted by rising young American star Rosie Napravnik.
Seismos rumbled home a 4-length winner in Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern at Munich. With Andrea Atzeni up for trainer Andreas Wohler, Seismos took the early lead, opened a big advantage and was brave enough late to hold the rest of the field well at bay. Empoli and Girolamo, both trained by Peter Shiergen, finished second and third to the long shot winner. Seismos, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred son of Dalakhani, scored his fourth win from 12 starts and first in a Group 1 event.
Back in North America:
Friday's $200,000, Grade III National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds was rained off the grass and lost one of its stars with the scratch of Rydilluc, who is pre-entered for the next weekend's Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. With five left in the field, Notacatbutallama came along in the final sixteenth to win by 3/4 of a length over North Slope. Battier was third, followed by the Ken and Sarah Ramsey entry of Charming Kitten and Get In Line. Notacatbutallama, a New York-bred Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 9 furlongs on the sloppy, sealed main track in 1:52.29 with John Velazquez up. "He was in good position and when the rail came open, he came up the fence," winning trainer Todd Pletcher said, noting Notacatbutallama came into the race off back-to-back turf stakes wins. "I had a feeling he was turning into a top-class turf horse, and you hate to change surfaces. At least we know now in this situation what he can do."
Dice Flavor came from the clouds to catch Den's Legacy in the final yards and win Saturday's $150,000, Grade II La Jolla Stakes for 3-year-olds at Del Mar by a half length. Pure Loyalty was third and the favorite, Streakin Rocket, faded to finish seventh. Dice Flavor, a Scat Daddy colt, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:39.82, missing the course record by just 0.30 second. Dice Flavor finished eighth in the UAE Derby at Meydan on World Cup night, then fourth in the Grade III Affirmed Handicap and third in the Grade III Swaps, both over the Hollywood Park all-weather surface, before Saturday's win. "He worked well on the grass here, seemed to like it better each time," winning trainer Paddy Gallagher said. "The race set up nice for him and Garrett did a good job riding him. He's run on the turf and synthetic and when he gets a pace to run at he usually shows up." Asked if the $300,000, Grade II Del Mar Derby at 9 furlongs on the turf might be next, Gallagher said, "Yeah. Why not?" Corey Nakatani, who rode Den's Legacy for trainer Bob Baffert, also indicated he hopes his mount can return for the Sept. 1 Derby.
Filly & Mare Turf
Tiz Flirtatious came three-wide around the leaders into the stretch in Sunday's $250,000, Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes for fillies and mares at Del Mar and quickly ended the suspense, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Lady of Shamrock attended the very slow early pace but couldn't go with the winner and settled for second. My Gi Gi got show money. Tiz Flirtatious, a 5-year-old Tizbud mare, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:51.47 with Julien Leparoux up. She now has seven wins, three seconds and one third from 11 starts. "It has taken some time," winning trainer Marty Jones said, "but now she relaxes and Julien has done a great job and understands her and knows how she needs to be ridden. I think a mile and a quarter is our next spot. We'll look at the Rodeo Drive [at Santa Anita] and then hopefully the Breeders' Cup."
Seaneen Girl pressed the early pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Monmouth Oaks at Monmouth Park, then kicked clear and won off by 6 lengths. Mr Hall's Opus finished best of the rest with Lucky Rag Doll third. Seaneen Girl, a Spring at Last filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.04 with Paco Lopez in the irons. Seaneen Girl ran second in the Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows in late June, then finished sixth in the Grade III Arlington Oaks before shipping east to pick up her third career win. "She's such a nice filly," winning trainer Bernie Flint said. "The Breeders' Cup down the road is always something you look at but for now, we'll just see how she comes out of this one."
Devious Intent stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Gardenia Stakes for fillies and mares at Ellis Park in Kentucky, stuck a head in front of pacesetting Magic Hour in the stretch run and held to beat that one by a head. The favorite, Groupie Doll, stumbled at the start, had to steady while rallying and still was up for third, just another 3/4 of a length in arrears. Devious Intent, a 4-year-old Dixie Union filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:34.97 with Roberto Morales up -- just 0.37 second short of the track record. The top two came off races at Prairie Meadows. Groupie Doll is based at Churchill Downs but last raced at Aqueduct in November. Others came from last outings in Florida, Delaware, West Virginia and Minnesota.
Brethren pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs, blew by the early leader with ease and went on to post an upset win by 3 1/4 lengths. Arkansas Martini, this week's "Name of the Week," finished second and the favorite, Sabercat, prowled home third. Brethren, a Steve Asmussen-trained, 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor, finished the mile on a sloppy track in 1:36.01 under Diego Saenz. If the name rings a bell, it might be because Brethern was on the 2011Kentucky Derby trail for trainer Todd Pletcher, winning the Grade III Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and finishing third in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby. He was done for the year after an 11th-place finish in that year's Arkansas Derby.
Corfu set a quick pace in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Saratoga Special and just did hold on to win by a nose over Wired Bryan. Danza came from well back to finish third, just another half length back, and the favorite, Candy Dandy, got home a well-beaten fifth. Corfu, a Malibu Moon colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.57 with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. Corfu won at first asking earlier in the Saratoga meeting. Wired Bryan came into the race 2-for-2, including a victory in the Grade II Sanford over the track. Candy Dandy won his first start by 5 lengths at Churchill Downs. "He held on after going as fast as they were going all the way around," said Velazquez, who had five winners on the day. "You've got to take your hat off to him when the horse keeps running like that. We knew he is fast." Michael Dilger, a former Pletcher assistant, trains Wired Bryan. "I thought this was a scenario that might happen," Dilger said. "I am very, very proud of our horse. He ran a great race."
Go Greeley showed the way in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Vandal Stakes at Woodbine, shadowed all the way by Arlington Park shipper Heart to Heart. The latter challenged in the lane by Go Greeley won the spirited duel by a nose. Man o' Bear, a first-time starter, ran well late to take third at long odds. Go Greeley, an Ontario-bred Horse Greeley colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.33 with Eurico Da Silva up. He now has three wins from four starts. "When we turned for home, my horse picked it up pretty good," Da Silva said. "But the other horse never gave up. We had a good fight and we were the lucky ones to take the win."
Hirschy was off to a slow start in Sunday's $50,000 Cavonnier Juvenile at Santa Rosa but closed ground swiftly in the lane to win by 3/4 length over Outlook. Time For Angie was in time for show money. Hirschy, a California-bred colt by Papa Clem, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.19 with Russell Baze up.
Who's In Town led throughout Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Adirondack Stakes at Saratoga but made repeated contact with several foes and, after finishing first, was set down to fourth. That left Designer Legs to pick up her third win without a loss with Thank You Marylou awarded second and Fiftyshadesofgold, the main victim of the stretch interference, placed third. The 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:16.42. Further marring the race, long shot Charmed Hour broke down and later was euthanized. Designer Legs, a Louisiana-bred Grame Hall filly, was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan. Joel Rosario was aboard Who's In Town. "Well, I thought I was sitting a good trip down the backside," Bridgmohan said. "Turning for home, me and Rosario were kind of fighting it out. He kind of bumped [Fiftyshadesofgold] a little bit and she hesitated just enough. His filly was game, but we got lucky and got put up." Added Who's In Town's trainer, Michael Matz, "What can I do?"
Skylander Girl pressed the pace in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine, drove to the lead at the top of the stretch and won off by 2 1/2 lengths over Sweetsoutherndame. Madly Truly finished third. Skylander Girl, an Ontario-bred Stroll filly, got 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.05 with James McAleney in the irons. "When we left there, I was able to get her back a couple lengths and switch to the outside so we had a nice clean trip," McAleney said. "Once she saw daylight, she kicked on."
Flay Mignon, who is not owned by Bobby Flay, dueled for the lead in Sunday's $60,000 Colleen Stakes over the Monmouth Park grass, then edged clear under encouragement to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Pure Lady Like was second and Aibhilin finished third. Flay Mignon, a daughter of Yesbyjimminy, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.77 seconds with Paco Lopez riding.
Sweet Whiskey, making her first start for trainer Todd Pletcher, won Sunday's second race at Saratoga by an impressive 5 1/4 lengths after setting a sharp early pace. The filly is by Old Fashioned, out of the El Corredor mare Baby Betty. She finished 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.81, which is only 0.31 second off the track record. "I was impressed by the time," Pletcher said. "It was very fast." He said the next race will be "a stakes. Just depends which one."
Summer of Fun took the long way around in Saturday's $100,000 Auntie Mame Stakes for 3-year-old fillies but got the job done, closing sharply to win by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Effie Trinket. Joy attended the early pace and finished third. Summer of Fun, a daughter of Include, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:44.66 with Joe Rocco Jr. up for trainer George Weaver.
No Spin, in from Prairie Meadows, led most of the way under Kelly Bridges to win Sunday's $100,000 Arapahoe Park Classic by 2 3/4 lengths over Treacherous. No It Ain't was up for third and another Iowa import, Red Lead, came from far back to finish fourth as the favorite. No Spin, a 4-year-old Johannesburg gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.48.
Lil' Apollo started last of seven in Saturday's $75,000 Minnesota Derby for state-breds, came four-wide around the leaders late and drew clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Evert got first run to the lead but settled for second. Jantzesfancyfriend finished third. Lil' Apollo, an Added Edge gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:44.77 under Dean Butler.
Badge of Glory stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Minnesota Oaks for state-bred fillies, checked briefly midway through but still came on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over pacesetter Sweet Tango. B J's Angel finished third. Badge of Glory, a Badge of Silver filly, finished in 1:46.16 with Scott Stevens up.
Stopshoppingdebbie ran like the odds-on favorite she was in Saturday's $65,000 Washington Oaks, taking charge in the stretch to win by 3 lengths. She remains undefeated in five starts at Emerald, including an unprecedented sweep of the track's four-race stakes series for 3-year-old fillies. Blueberry Smoothie was second. Goin to the Window and Beautranda completed the order of finish. Stopshoppingdebbie, a Kentucky-bred Curlin filly out of the Wild Again mare Taste the Passion, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.65 with Rocco Bowen in the irons. "I knew she would fine coming from behind," Bowen said of Stopshoppingdebbie. "She's such a nice horse that you can place her anywhere." Trainer Tom Wenzel conditions the top three finishers -- all for various ownership combinations involving Northwest Farms owner Jerre Paxton. Wenzel said the next step for Stopshoppingdebbie will be up to the owner.
Worldventurer ventured far in front of his five rivals in the stretch run of Sunday's $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby, winning off by 7 lengths. Valiant Flame was second and Mike Man's Gold finished third. The favorite, Music of My Soul, led early but faded to finish fourth. Worldventurer, a Texas-bred Wimbledon gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.79 under Julien Coulton.
Smack Smack rallied from mid-pack to smack five rivals in Saturday's $60,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile, winning by 1 3/4 lengths with a late move. Ethical gained a brief advantage early in the stretch run but finished second. Dehaven was third at a big price. Smack Smack, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Closing Argument, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.00 with Jake Barton up.
Presque Isle Downs
Cat's Holiday took command in the stretch run in Sunday's $75,000 Malvern Rose Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-old fillies and won by 4 3/4 lengths over Platinum Steel. Emerald Bracelet finished third. Cat's Holiday, a daughter of Harlan's Holiday out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.83 with Mario Pino riding.
Down Town Allen stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares, got by when asked and won by a length. Jax and Jill led most of the way and held second, 4 lengths better than Autumn Affair. Down Town Allen, a 6-year-old Windsor Castle mare, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.02 with Matthew McGowan in the irons.
Service for Ten finished first of five in Saturday's $50,000 Vincent A. Moscarelli Stakes, rallying from last to win by 2 1/2 lengths over pacesetter Hamiltonian. Cop a Tude ran evenly to finish third and the favorite, Back Forty, plowed home fourth. Service for Ten, a 4-year-old Service Stripe gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.71 with Daniel Centeno up.
Legend Fortynine rushed off in the stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Two Year Old Sales stakes for colts and geldings by 11 1/4 lengths. Old Top Hat was second and Second Hand News was third. Legend Fortynine, a Gold Legend gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22 2/5 with Kyle Carter in the irons.
In the $50,000 (Canadian) Two Year Old Filly Sales Stakes, Honey Candy led throughout and won by 6 3/4 lengths over Bet On Soup. It was another 15 1/4 lengths back to Cats a Lush in third and 9 1/2 more back to the trailer, Kissin Music. Honey Candy, a daughter of Desperately, finished in 1:19 4/5 under Amie Pooli.
Winter Book stuck close to the leaders in Saturday's $50,000 Aspen Cup for 3-year-old fillies, took charge late and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Thibodeaux. Crafty Contessa finished third. Winter Book, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Any Given Saturday, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.90 with Enrique Gomez at the controls.
Ain't No Other prevailed by a neck over Starboardlights after a stretch battle in Saturday's $50,000 Jess Jackson Owner's Handicap. Moonshine Bay was third after being forced wide on the turn. Ain't No Other, a 5-year-old Old Topper gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.47 seconds for jockey Juan Hernandez.
Victor Laszlo pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Last Dance Stakes for Massachusetts-breds, then kicked clear to win by 8 1/2 lengths. Silk Spinner led briefly and beat the rest of them with Tallys Sundance third. Victor Laszlo, a 5-year-old gelding by Victory Gallop, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:44.54 with Tammi Piermarini in the irons.
Needmore Flattery came three-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds and went on to win by 2 lengths over Spring Song. Obsessionsoptimist finished third. Needmore Flattery, a Flatter filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.44 under Irwin Rosendo.
Plain Ol' Willard was just plain too much for five rivals in Sunday's $50,000 Horizon Stakes for 3-year-old Ohio-breds, going to the lead when asked and scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over Pyrite Mill. Bold Ben was third and the rest were far up the track. Plain Ol' Willard, a Pacific Waves gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:45.76 with Gabriel Lagunes up.
Stamp Queen went quickly to the lead in Sunday's $50,000 Vivacious Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and worked clear in the lane, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Pay the Man was second and Uptown Gal third. Stamp Queen, a 4-year-old Soto filly, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.97 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons.