While much of the United States looked forward to the upcoming Breeders' Cup, there were some rich races for juveniles in New York, Kentucky and Louisiana and a smattering of graded stakes for older horses skipping the big show at Santa Anita.
The long and short of it:
Joshua Tree sat just off the pace in Sunday's $1 million (Canadian), Group 1 Canadian International at Woodbine, closed the gap while saving all the ground around the turn and opened a daylight lead at mid-stretch. Hyper put in a big, late run but fell 3/4 length short of catching the winner while Seismos used a late run to finish third, another 3/4 length behind. The favorite, Slumber, faded to finish sixth over the yielding turf course. Joshua Tree, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred Montjeu gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:35.45 with Ryan Moore up for trainer Ed Dunlop. He doesn't win often but when he does, it's usually in the Canadian International. He won the race in 2010 and last year, and finished second in 2011 behind long shot Sarah Lynx. Joshua Tree has only seven total career victories and came into Sunday's race off a 13th-place showing in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
In the $500,000 (Canadian), Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares, Tannery started last of 10, rallied around her rivals on the turn for home and was just up in time after a long stretch drive. Fitful Skies put in a bid in the stretch but settled for second, a head behind the winner. Moment in Time finished third. The top three were all bred in Ireland. Tannery, a 4-year-old Dylan Thomas filly, got 1 1/4 miles on yielding turf in 2:07.13. Joel Rosario applied the winning ride for trainer Alan Goldberg. The finish was about as international is it could be, with the top five finishers having last run in New York, Germany, England, Canada and Italy, respectively. Tannery finished second in the Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park; Fitful Skies won a Group 3 in Hanover; Moment in Time was unplaced at York; Minakshi won the Grade II Canadian at Woodbine; and Samba Brazil, based in Germany, finished fourth in the Group 1 Premio Vittorio di Capua in Milan.
Clearly Now shot to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap, took a comfortable lead and held it to the wire, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Forty Tales. Saturday's Charm was well back in third and the favorite, Strapping Groom, faded from the lead to finish fourth. Clearly Now, a 3-year-old Horse Greeley colt running against elders, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.52 with Jose Lezcano up. He has never finished worse than third in 10 career starts, including six graded events.
Stanwyk got the advantage a furlong out in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares and held off the favorite, Centring, to post the 21-1 upset win. Fantasy of Flight was a non-threatening third. Stanwyk, a 4-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.62 under Alex Solis. It was her third win from 10 starts and first try in a stakes race.
Nikki's Sandcastle, always eager to run, finally got the go-ahead late in the game in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes and quickly kicked clear, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Winning Cause. You Know I Know was third whilst the favorite, Willcox Inn, faded badly and finished last of nine. Nikki's Sandcastle, a 6-year-old Castledale gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:48.13 with Leandro Goncalves riding. He was second in this race last year but had not visited the winner's circle since last December at Gulfstream Park. That's it for Keeneland racing until springtime.
Wishing Gate was a step slow out of the gate in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, came three-wide into the lane and finally got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Journey On led for a part of the journey and held second, 1/2 length better than Charlie Em. Wishing Gate, a Florida-bred filly by Indian Charlie, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.67 for jockey Gary Stevens.
Native Bombshell put a nose in front under the wire in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Ruling Angel Stakes for 3year-old fillies. Cabo Queen got to the lead at mid-stretch but couldn't quite hold on, finishing second. It was another 2 1/2 length back to Philzana in third. Native Bombshell, a Kentucky-bred War Front filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:15.75 under Patrick Husbands.
Hawthorne Race Course
Katie the Lady led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Illini Princess for Illinois-bred fillies and mares and edged clear late, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Goldway was along for second and the favorite, La Tia, finished third. Katie the Lady, a 7-year-old Lost Soldier mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on Hawthorne's lush turf in 1:42.56 with Francisco Torrez aboard.
Rise Up did all that in Saturday's $200,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. The Rockport Harbor colt tracked a fast early pace set by the favorite, Burning Warrior, and then blew by and drew off to win by 6 1/2 lengths. Mighty Brown was the best of the rest with Flat Gone third. Rise Up, with Gerard Melancon up, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.20. Rise Up won the Mountaineer Juvenile in August but finished sixth in the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs last month.
In Sunday's $100,000 Awad Stakes on the Belmont Park turf, Storming Inti battled for the lead, got by pacesetting Tuscan Getaway and prevailed by 3/4 length over that rival. The favorite, Mansion House, finished third in his first start since departing Ireland. Storming Inti, a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Stormy Atlantic, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.47 with Javier Castellano riding.
Coastline stalked the pace in Sunday's $65,000 Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs, took over when asked by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan and cleared the field to win by 3 lengths. Ichiban Warrior was second and the even-money favorite, Ride On Curlin, finished third. Coastline, a Speightstown colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.77.
Miss Machiavelli rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes at Golden Gate Fields by 1/2 length over the pacesetter, Alasharchy. Pleasant Miss finished third. Miss Machiavelli, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Artie Schiller, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:39.42 with Dennis Carr in the irons.
Synapse, a 15-1 long shot, was put up to the win in Friday's $150,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes at Delta Downs when the prohibitive favorite, Bahnah, was set down to fifth for interference -- after getting home first by 4 lengths. Ima Three Blinger and Bella's Flair were promoted to second and third by the stewards' ruling. The decision, judging by the inflated show payoffs, also burned some bridge-jumper money. Synapse, a Fairbanks filly winning for the first time in three starts, was ridden by Gerard Melancon. Corey Lanerie was up on the offending favorite, who won the Grade III Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga but then pulled a similar fade job in the Grade I Spinaway when stretched out to 7 furlongs.
Tea Time led the way in Sunday's $100,000 Sharp Cat Stakes over the Belmont Park main track and held off the favorite, Miss Behaviour, to win by 3/4 length. Alpaca Fina and Storm Swept completed the order of finish. Tea Time, a Kentucky-bred Pulpit filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.09 with Luis Saez in the irons.
On the Belmont turf Sunday, Recepta got first run to the lead in the $100,000 Chelsea Flower Stakes and drew off, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. A Little Bit Sassy followed the winner from the back of the field and got home second, 1/2 length ahead of the favorite, Zloty. Recepta, a Speightstown filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.60 with Junior Alvarado up.
Clever Beauty worked her way to the lead in the stretch run in Sunday's $65,000 Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs and inched clear to win by 3/4 length over Vexed. Tepin finished third. Clever Beauty, a daughter of Indian Charlie, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.70 with Corey Lanerie up from Louisiana to take the mount.
Just A Way shot to the lead early in the stretch run in Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse and easily prevailed over the heavy favorite, super filly Gentildonna. Eishin Flash, who won the race last year, was third in this renewal. Just A Way, a 4-year-old Heart's Cry colt, reportedly is ticketed not for the Group 1 Japan Cup but, instead, for the 1 1/4-miles Longines Hong Kong Cup because of perceived distance limitations. He had finished second in three straight races but had not won since February of 2012.
Gold-Fun got home first by 1/2 length in Sunday's HK Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy, setting him up for a run in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile Dec. 8. Helene Spirit made most of the going and held on for second with Real Specialist third. A trio of better known names -- California Memory, Military Attack and Akeed Mofeed -- finished in a close race for fourth, fifth and sixth in likely preparation for a longer test in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup.
Shamus Award entered Sunday's Cox Plate at Moonee Valley as a maiden and emerged as a Group 1 winner after leading all the way. Happy Trails was on the trail of the winner in the final yards but came up a short head on the wrong end of the decision. Fiorente chassed the winner early, giving significant weight, before tiring to finish third. Shamus Award, toting apprentice jockey Chad Schofield, was lucky even to be in the field, entering as the first "emergency" starter when well-fancied Atlantic Jewel was scratched earlier in the week. Trainer Danny O'Brien said Shamus Award is due a break. Fiorente, second in last year's Melbourne Cup, is slated to try again in that race.
Hong Kong raider Lucky Nine was a bit of an unlucky second to Buffering in Friday's Group 1 Sportingbet Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley -- a result that was only a bit disappointing to the visitor but immensely satisfying to Buffering's connections. It was the first Group 1 win for the 6-year-old after a series of seconds and thirds in 10 previous tries. For Lucky Nine, it was a good preparation for an even bigger target in the Group 1 Patinack Farms Classic on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival. That race is the next-last event in the Global Sprint Challenge and, should Lucky Nine win there, and then return to win the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 8, he would jingle the $1 million GSC cashbox. In Friday's race, Buffering took the lead and set a steady pace, and then found enough late to hold the win. Sessions, representing Sheik Mohammed, finished a close third. Trainer Robert Heathcote said Buffering "seems to bring out the best" in the top-shelf horses he has opposed. Lucky Nine's rider, Brett Prebble, said his mount seemed to hit a dead spot on the turn and he was a bit surprised to find him rallying late.