Some emerging stars were on display in weekend racing, including Kentucky Derby contenders and potential Dubai World Cup challengers.
Speaking of Dubai, the rich "World Cup Carnival" is off and running at Meydan, pointing directly to the world's richest race on the last weekend of March. Looking farther ahead, next fall's Breeders' Cup fields are already on the radar scope.
Scope this out:
Midnight Hawk dueled with Kristo through most of Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, finally edged ahead exiting the turn and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths despite drifting in once clear. Kristo held second, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Ontology. I'll Wrap It Up wrapped up the order of finish. Midnight Hawk, a gray colt by Midnight Lute, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.48. Mike Smith was up for trainer Bob Baffert. It was only the second career start for Midnight Hawk, who won at first asking Dec. 13 at Hollywood Park. "You hate to get everybody puffed up," Baffert said, "but the way he worked the last couple of times, it was like, he was pretty impressive ... So far, so good. But we'll just take baby steps as we go and just have fun with him." Kristo, a Distorted Humor colt, now has three seconds and one win from four career starts for trainer John Sadler. "We think he can get better," Sadler said. "We think he wants to run farther."
Street Story raced well off the early pace in Friday's $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes at Oaklawn Park, came out through some traffic entering the stretch and got home first by 1 length over Questlie. Racing Holiday was third while the favorite, More Than Beauty, flashed brief speed, then faded to finish next-last of nine, beating only an eased rival. Street Story, a Street Cry filly trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:14.25 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. Street Story now is 2-for-4 in her brief career. She came into the race off a second-place finish in the Letellier Stakes at Fair Grounds. "There was a lot of speed in the race," Asmussen said. "I thought Ricardo did a really good job with her today."
Mamdooha rallied through the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Ruthless Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then stuck her nose in front of pacesetting Vero Amore at the wire. Alpaca Fina finished far back in third. Mamdooha, a daughter of Daaher out of the Rahy mare Marraasi, got 6 furlongs on the muddy inner track in 1:12.01 with Eddie Castro riding for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Mamdooha is a Shadwell homebred. She now has three wins from four starts, the victories also including the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park. "He rode her great," assistant trainer Art Magnuson said of Castro. "And we got a little lucky on the wire. We couldn't be happier for Shadwell Stables."
(By RICHARD GROSS)
It was a girl's night out on the opening night of the 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival as Godolphin's Shuruq became the first filly to win the featured 1,600-meters, Group 2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 on Meydan's Tapeta all-weather surface.
"She just loves this surface and continues to thrive in the Dubai weather," said winning jockey Silvestre De Sousa, who guided the 4-year-old, Darley-bred daughter of Elusive Quality to a 3/4-length win after taking the lead from Empire Storm in the stretch. Shuruq notched her third win in 10 career starts, including a victory in last season's UAE Oaks. It was the eighth win in the prestigious event for Godolphin lead trainer Saeed bin Suroor.
In other contests, recently appointed Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby earned his first turn in the Meydan winner's circle in the first Thoroughbred race on the evening's card when local runner Ahtoug captured the 1,000-meters Master Collection turf handicap under Mickael Barzalona. Appleby continued to enjoy the good life in the 1,400-meters, all-weather Dolce Vita handicap, earning a double with a smart 1-2 finish by Fulbright, followed 1/2 length back by Modern History.
South African trainer Mike de Kock padded his accustomed success at Meydan by notching two turf wins on the evening. He combined with two-time British Champion jockey Paul Hanagan for the 1 1/4-lengths win by Mushreq in the inaugural running of the 1,800-meter listed Singspiel Stakes. Anaerobio found more than enough oxygen to earn a double for de Kock when the Argentine invader snared the evening's concluding 1,400-meter turf Conquest Classic handicap by 1 3/4 lengths over Iguazu Falls with Christophe Soumillon aboard.
In the card's remaining race, Busker held onto a 1 1/4-lengths advantage over Layali Al Andalus in the 1,900-meters Saint Imier handicap on the all-weather.
The 2014 Dubai World Cup Carnival features 11 race meetings including the 19th running of the Dubai World Cup Saturday, March 29. "Super Saturday," the final prep for the Dubai World Cup program, is March 8.
This year's Carnival offers $37.36 million in total purses. Dubai World Cup day, Saturday, March 29, offers purses totaling $27.25 million over the 9-race card, capped by the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest single race with a purse totaling $10 million.
On the dirt
Lea stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park, worked to the lead turning for home and drew off to score by 3 1/4 lengths. Jackson Bend rallied late to finish second and Neck 'n Neck was a long shot third. The favorite, Csaba, led early and was done early, finishing a fading sixth. Lea, 5-year-old son of First Samurai, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.30 with Luis Saez in the irons. He is a homebred from Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. Bull Lea, of course, was the great Calumet foundation sire. "It went really well," said Saez, who rode Csaba to victory in last year's Hal's Hope. "We followed Csaba because I knew he was the horse to beat. At the three-eighths, I had a lot of horse and when I asked him, he ran." It was only the third career dirt start for Lea and Bill Mott, who took over his training late last year, said the Hal's Hope was an experiment "just to see what direction we want to go for the rest of the year ... I suppose now we have to decide how far we want to run him." He said the 9-furlongs Donn Handicap on Feb. 9 might be a possibility.
Drogue surged to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park and kicked clear, winning by 9 lengths over entrymate Cyber Secret. Stealcase finished third and Joy Boy completed the trifecta. Drogue, with Calvin Borel hugging the rail on his way to the lead, finished 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:47.91. The entry was heavily favored because of the presence of Cyber Secret, who won two of Oaklawn's big handicaps last season. Drogue, a 6-year-old son of Victory Gallop, was making his first stakes start but had been tearing up the allowance ranks at Churchill Downs.
Blueskiesnrainbows led all the way in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita and held on gamely through the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Majestic Harbor. Drill came from last of seven to get show money. Blueskiesnrainbows, a 5-year-old son of English Channel, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.17 with Martin Pedroza in the irons. The horse finished second in the Grade II Breeders' Cup Marathon, then won the Grade III Native Diver at Hollywood Park before Saturday's triumph. "The horse is doing real good right now," said winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Asked about the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap on March 8, he said, "It's very possible that we should be thinking about that."
Revolutionary, making his first start since finishing fifth in last year's Belmont Stakes, caught pacesetting Falling Sky in the final yards in Saturday's second race to win by 1/2 length over that rival. Viramundo rallied to finish third. Revolutionary, under a well-timed ride by Javier Castellano, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.07. The War Pass colt won last year's Grade III Withers at Aqueduct and Grade I Louisiana Derby, then finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Falling Sky, by the way, finished 19th and last in the 2013 Run for the Roses. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Revolutionary's next target will be the Grade I Donn Handicap, which has been moved from Feb. 8 to Feb. 9 to accommodate network television schedules.
On the lawn
Summer Front raced off a moderate pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, then had to work his way through between horses turning for home before outgaming the pacesetter, Tetradrachm, to score by 3/4 length. Nikki's Sandcastle rallied wide from far back to take third. Summer Front, a 5-year-old son of War Front, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.24 with Joe Bravo at the controls. "Turning for home, we were looking for a place to turn him loose," Bravo said. "When we found a seam, he just exploded ... That was really a special move to overcome such a slow pace. It wasn't really about the horses he was in against. It was the pace. Any horse that goes that slow is going to be hard to catch." Trainer Christophe Clement said he will consider the Gulfstream Park Handicap at 9 furlongs or the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. Both are Grade I events but, he said, the California event has the benefit that, "at a mile, you really get a very strong pace. And when you've got a good turn of foot, that's nice."
Heitai surged right to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Costa Rising Stakes, showed the way and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Skip the Pinot was second and Nubin Ridge came from last of seven to complete the trifecta. Heitai, a 4-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast main course in 1:03.46 with Diego Saenz in the irons. The race originally was carded for the turf.
High Test Gal hit the gas in the stretch run in Saturday's $85,000 La Senora Stakes for New Mexico-bred 3-year-old fillies, kicking clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Rollsetroll was the best of the rest and the favorite, That's the Idea, finished third after leading early. High Test Gal, a High Octane filly, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.41 with Francisco Giles riding.
News and Notes
Apparently it's not too early to be thinking about the Breeders' Cup World Championships, just around the corner Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. That's because two horses already have qualified through the Breeders' Cup Challenge races, which provide paid entry fees for the winners. Capetown Noir earned a start in the Breeders' Cup Mile with a win in Saturdays L'Ormarins Queen's Plate at Kenilworth in South Africa. Beach Beauty qualified for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf with a win in Saturday's Maine Chance Farms Paddock Stakes at the same course.