Superstars strutted their stuff on racetracks around the world during the weekend while potential celebrities emerged as far afield as Iowa and California.
In Ireland, it was Australia backing up his Epsom Derby with a win in the Irish equivalent. In Japan, Gold Ship became the first back-to-back winner of the Takarazuka Kinen. In New York, Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable was so impressive in the Grade I Mother Goose that she may have to run against males to find any competition. And in Kentucky, Silver Max was impressive in winning the Firecracker Stakes at 1 mile on the grass.
Less successful was Game On Dude, cooked by a quick early pace in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita. But that same race could have turned up a potential rising star in Majestic Harbor. And the biggest weekend of the year at Prairie Meadows in Iowa was hammered by bad weather but blessed with some talented runners, especially in Saturday's three graded stakes.
This is a Grade I report, so pay attention. There may be a short quiz next period. Distaff Untapable looks pretty much untoppable -- or is it unstoppable? -- after running away with Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and may look to running against males to finds some competition. The victory was her fourth straight, following the Rachel Alexandra and Fair Grounds Oaks in New Orleans and the Kentucky Oaks. She had been idle since the Churchill Downs romp. Saturday, she simply overpowered a quartet of rivals as John Velazquez, subbing for the injured Rosie Napravnik, worked out of some early traffic problems, found a safe passage and turned the Tapit filly loose in the lane. She won by 9 1/4 lengths. Princess Violet, America, House Rules and Aqua Regia trailed in that order. Trainer Steve Asmussen said he will discuss with owner Ron Winchell how to proceed with Untapable, who is headed for Saratoga. "There's definitely the thought of running her against the boys," he said, mentioning the Haskell at Monmouth Park. "It's nice to have a horse like her because you can consider races like these," he added. Size, a lightly raced but well-bred Bill Mott Trainee, took back behind the early speed in Saturday evening's $200,000, Grade III Iowa Oaks at Prairie Meadows, then closed with a late run to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia. The early leader, Dream Spinner, held on for third. Size, a First Samurai filly out of the Pulpit mare Extant, ran 1 1/16 miles in the slop in 1:43.64 with Junior Alvarado in the irons. "I just let her get settled and get comfortable," Alvarado said. It was only the fourth career start for Size, bred and owned by Adele Dilschneider and Calumet Farm. She won at first asking at Gulfstream Park in March, then took an optional claimer at Aqueduct in April before finishing second in the Jersey Girl Stakes at Belmont Park in May. Diva's Diamond got by pacesetting favorite Quiet Success in the final sixteenth to take Friday's $100,000 Iowa Distaff by 2 lengths over that rival. Glorys Last Chance finished third at a big price. Diva's Diamond, a 5-year-old, Illinois-bred mare by Crafty Shaw, ran 1 1/16 miles with Channing Hill in the irons in 1:44.16. Diva's Diamond has been a force in the Illinois-bred ranks in the Chicago area but had not fared so well outside the Land of Lincoln in previous efforts. She now has eight wins from 29 career starts. Filly & Mare Turf Riposte rallied from off the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II New York Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths from Tannery. Viva Rafaella led early and held on for third. Riposte, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Dansili, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 1:59.71 with Joel Rosario up for trainer Bill Mott. Raced earlier in Europe, Ripost posted her second straight win, following Grade II Sheepshead Bay Stakes over the Belmont grass. She has yet to miss the board in five U.S. starts. Tannery, an Irish import, won last year's Sheepshead Bay and in the interim also took the Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine. "I think the longer distances have probably helped her," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "She broke a little slow, so she was fourth instead of second or third, but she was still within range of the leaders. She rated very nicely and kicked very well. She punched pretty good off a slow pace." Sheza Smoke Show raced in mid-pack in Saturday's $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, came wide into the stretch and rallied to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Famous Alice, also ran well late to finish second and Morning Fix was third. Sheza Smoke Show, a Wilko filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.34 with Joe Talamo on board. "She ran a great race and we had an absolutely perfect trip," Talamo said. "I was able to save ground on both turns and I took her out that last part and I had a ton of horse." Turf Mile Silver Max led from gate to wire in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Firecracker Stakes at Churchill Downs, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Nikki's Sandcastle. Guys Reward finished third. Silver Max, a 5-year-old son of Badge of Silver, was making his first start since running fourth in the Breeder's Cup Mile. He ran 1 mile on firm turf in a quick 1:34.21 with Robby Albarado in the irons. "It was unbelievable," said winning trainer Dale Romans, who also conditions Guys Reward. "It was his first race back and when that horse (Regally Ready) ran up to him on turn I was thinking that maybe if I didn't have him tight enough, that the horse might get by him. But he's just class and with these class athletes you can't mess 'em up. I just need to stay out of his way and he'll get the job done for me." Silver Max had won three of his four races before the Breeders' Cup with the sole loss coming in the Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker during an abortive attempt to move him to the dirt. Parranda stalked the pace set by Kathleen Rose in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes at Santa Anita, went by late and won by a neck over that one. Moulin de Mougin finished third. Parranda, a 5-year-old English Channel mare, covered 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.27 with Elvis Trujillo up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Parranda posted her sixth win from her last nine starts including victories in the Grade III Suwannee River Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Grade III Wilshire Stakes at Santa Anita. "Elvis rode a real good race, real smart, and helped us to win the race," Hollendorfer said. "We wanted to try and get out of there (the gate) and be tactical." Cabo Cat rallied from last of seven to win Saturday's $100,000 Manila Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park by 1 length over Long on Value. The early leader, So Lonesome, finished third and the favorite, Green Mask, ran evenly to finish fourth. Cabo Cat, by Kitten's Joy, got home in 1:33.57 over firm turf with Joe Bravo riding. Trained by Mark Hennig, Cabo Cat had finished second in his two previous starts, minor stakes at Gulfstream Park and Belmont Park. Classic Majestic Harbor took advantage of a quick early pace in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita, rolled by the early leaders down the stretch and won by 6 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Game On Dude, was never able to get to the lead and struggled home fourth, behind Clubhouse Ride and Imperative. The early leader, Fury Kapcori, blazed through 6 furlongs in 1:09.80, then chucked it in and finished next-last of seven. Majestic Harbor, a 14-1 chance on the tote board, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:01.53 with Tyler Baze up. The winner is a 6-year-old son of Rockport Harbor out of the French Deputy mare Champagne Royale. He has run mostly in allowance company until this year but has moved up steadily, finishing second in the Grade II San Pasqual in January, then winning the Grade III Tokyo City Cup in March. Trainer Sean McCarthy, who picked up his first Grade I win, noted the race was a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Classic. "We've kind of got a cushion right now," he said. "So we'll just wait and see how he comes out of this race. The Pacific Classic certainly is a race you've got to take a look at." Baze added, "From the first time I got on him, I told Sean, 'This horse will make you. We'll win the Breeders' Cup with him.' I'm just looking forward to that and now we're goin' fishing!" Mike Smith, who rode Game On Dude in search of the 7-year-old's third straight victory in the Gold Cup, said the early pace did him in. "I didn't want to be going that fast. But by the time we took back, we were already going real fast," Smith said. Gary Stevens said Fury Kapcori was comfortable with the pace but the distance caught up with him. Turning into the stretch run in Saturday night's $300,000, Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker, Carve rallied boldly outside the early leaders -- Right to Vote and Ground Transport -- and won by a neck. Right to Vote held second and Ground Transport third. The favorite, Golden Ticket, was a step slow out of the gate and put in a late run to finish fourth. Carve, a 4-year-old First Samurai gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy track following an afternoon downpour in 1:50.56 with Jesus Castanon up. While he had been knocking on the door, the Cornhusker was his first graded stakes victory. "I knew all I had to do was to get myself into position and he did the rest," Castanon said. Saturday night's $200,000, Grade III Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows may have turned up a late bloomer in Jessica's Star. The Magna Graduate gelding, out of a Dynaformer mare, bided his time in mid-pack as Grade III Derby Trial winner Embellishing Bob set the pace, followed closely by Grade II Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's In Trouble. When jockey David Mello gave him his cue, Jessica's Star swung three-wide and got there first by 1 length with Embellishing Bob relegated to second and Vicar's In Trouble 2 lengths farther back as the heavy favorite. The 1 1/16 miles went in 1:44.12 over a sloppy track. Jessica's Star now is 4-for-6 with two seconds. After racing at Fair Grounds and Keeneland, he won the local prep for this race in identical style. Mello said trainer Michael Stidham "told me to wait off the pace and it was pretty much déjà vu. The last time out, he beat locals. But this field, you have to give them credit. These were some good horses." Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Vicar's In Trouble, said he got good position down the backstretch. "But the last part, he was lugging in a little bit. I don't know," Velasquez said.
One worth filing away for future reference: Wildcat Red, making his first start since the Kentucky Derby, obliterated a half dozen rivals in the $75,000 Quality Road Stakes for 3-year-olds on Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The D'Wildcat colt ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.70 with Luis Saez in the irons. East Hall was second, 10 lengths in arrears. Wildcat Red, lest we forget so soon, won both the Grade III Hutcheson and the Grade II Fountain of Youth and finished second in the Florida Derby, a neck back of Constitution. He got home 18th in the Run for the Roses, beating only Vicar's In Trouble. Trainer Jose Garoffalo said he is pointing Wildcat Red to the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 27.
Sprint Declassify and Cyclometer battled the full 7 furlongs of Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita before Declassify, with a second effort along the rail, finally prevailed by a nose. Indexical finished third and the favorite, Sahara Sky, finished last of six. Declassify, a 4-year-old Orientate colt, finished in 1:22.03 with Martin Garcia up for trainer Bob Baffert. Lightly raced, the win was his third from five career starts and came in his first stakes run. "I thought I was beat at the top of the stretch," Garcia said. My horse was trying everything, every step of the way. He never gave up. (Cyclometer) moved into me a little bit in the stretch and my horse was intimidated. He responded again, though. He's such a good horse." Work All Week, an absolute win machine for Midwest Thoroughbreds, did it again Friday night in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows, leading from the start under pressure from the favorite, Delaunay, then inching clear of that rival in the final jumps to win by 1/2 length. Mico Margarita finished third. Work All Week, a 5-year-old City Zip gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:08.16 with Chris Emigh riding. He now has won 10 of 12 career starts and seven in a row. He came into the race off a win in the $100,000 Hot Springs at Oaklawn Park. "He's amazing," Emigh said. "He is so big and has such a big stride, he looks like he's going slow but he's really moving." Maggi Moss's Delaunay now has finished second in this race for two straight years. Last year, he was caught late by Gentlemen's Bet.
Filly & Mare Sprint
My Option, a multiple Illinois champion last year, jumped up a big class rung with an emphatic win in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park. The 4-year-old Belong to Me filly, with Eddie Perez up, saved ground early well back of the speed, found running room toward the front entering the stretch and quickly shook clear, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. Flower Spell was second after showing the way and the favorite, Disco Barbie, settled for third. My Option ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.72. "She's trained great coming up to it," said winning trainer Chris Block. "She and Eddie get along really well. At the three-eighths pole I was confident. I know her and I know Eddie's posture when he's got a lot of horse. He found a nice spot and the rest was history." Dancin' Lil rallied four-wide in Friday night's $100,000 Saylorville Stakes for fillies and mares at Prairie Meadows and got by the leaders to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Livi Makenzie beat the rest and the early leader, Canopy Lane, held on for third. Dancin' Lil, a 5-year-old mare by Fusaichi Pegasus, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.55 with Ramon Vazquez in the irons. She came into the race off three straight wins at Oaklawn Park. Owner Danny Caldwell noted Dancin' Lil has won at distances as long as a mile and could tackle that again. "Anything more than that, I get a little worried," he said. Caldwell, an Oklahoman, said Dancin' Lil will go to Remington Park. "We'll look and see what they have" for her, He added.
Street Story rallied from well back to upset Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Miss Behaviour. Milam finished third and the favorite, Red Velvet, was fourth. Street Story, a Street Cry filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.07 with Joel Rosario up. She's been doing really, really good," said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "She likes it here. The pace worked out super. It was a big plus today. We're just going to enjoy the moment and go from there." 2-year-olds Cinco Charlie had to battle Silverhill for the lead in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. But once he'd cleared that rival, he went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Silverhill held second, 4 lengths better than Skyway. Cinco Charlie, an Indian Charlie colt out of the Marquetry mare Ten Halos, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36 with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons. "He's pretty precocious, a nice 2-year-old, and he makes my job easy," Bridgmohan said. "It was pretty straightforward. He broke smartly and was comfortable the whole way. When I asked him to pick it up he accelerated and did everything professionally."
Unhindered blasted out to a big lead in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) My Dear Stakes at Woodbine and then held on late to win by 3/4 length over an onrushing Sweet Dreams. Happy to Go finished third. Unhindered, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 58.33 seconds. Despite the diminishing late margin, jockey Luis Contreras said he had 'em all the way. "She's pretty nice and simple," Contreras said. "She's fast from the gate. I was just waiting (for the other horses in the stretch run). I gave my filly a little break."
Big Kick used a big early kick in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita, opening up a 10-lengths advantage on the field in the 1 3/4-miles marathon. Then, with Victor Espinoza nursing him along, the 5-year-old Tiznow gelding survived to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Quick Casablanca. Starspangled Heat finished third. Big Kick got home in 2:46.78 over firm turf.
Epsom Derby winner Australia didn't face much of a challenge in Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at The Curragh. But he beat what lined up against him and did it with ease as trainer Aidan O'Brien won the race for the eighth time in nine years and the Coolmore team swept the top three placings. Their task was made easier by the scratch of Epsom runner-up Kingston Hill. Australia's stablemates, Kingfisher and Orchestra, made the early going but when the compact field hit the stretch, they easily gave way to Australia and the Galileo colt had little more than an easy workout the rest of the way. He won by 2 1/2 lengths with Kingfisher and Orchestra second and third, Ponfeigh fourth and Fascinating Rock fifth and last. Australia, out of the international champion mare Ouija Board, now has four wins, a second and a third from six starts. O'Brien said despite the lack of numbers, the field for the Derby "had three Derby trial winners in it and Australia ran in the Guineas. The quality of the race is a lot higher than everyone thinks." O'Brien and his jockey son, Joseph, both said they think Australia will be at his best going 2 furlongs shorter -- at 1 1/4 miles, although the elder O'Brien said the 1 1/2-miles Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe "is an option, although you wouldn't want to run him on soft ground."
Thistle Bird stepped up to a career best performance in Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes and The Curragh and was rewarded with a 2 3/4-lengths victory over Venus De Milo. Just the Judge finished third and the general favorite, Ambivalent, settled for fourth. Thistle Bird, with George Baker up, ran from the middle of the field, picked things up down the stretch and was well best in the final furlong. The 6-year-old Selkirk mare ran 1 1/4 miles over good to firm going in 2:05.58. It was her first win in 13 months, since the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, and her first at the top level.
Sunday's Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin is one of two Japanese races for which the fans vote who they want to see in the race. The No. 1 vote-getter this time around was Gold Ship and Gold Ship proved the wisdom of the "Broken Down Horseplayers" (the late Chicago turf writer Dave Feldman's term). Gold Ship, a 5-year-old son of Stay Gold, became the first horse in the 55-year-history of the race to win back-to-back runnings. Starting from Post Postion No. 11, the grey horse was away a step slow, got position about five spots behind the speed and when jockey Norihiro Yokoyama asked him to go he hit the front 200 meters from home and won by 3 lengths. He was followed by a herd of long shots -- Curren Mirotic, Verxina and Hit the Target, before Denim and Ruby, the runner-up in last fall's Japan Cup, crossed the line in fifth. Win Variation was seventh and Gentildonna, winner of the 2012 and 2013 Japan Cup and the Group 1 Sheema Classic in Dubai in this March, disappointed many by finishing ninth. The victory earned Gold Ship a slot in the Breeders' Cup Turf through the "Win and You're In" Challenge Series program. "He didn't break as well as expected," said Yokoyama. "But I was able to guide him to good position thanks to the wide draw. The track condition was a little soft so I wasn't sure if he would respond. But he didn't seem to care at all. He is a clever horse and whether he performs or not depends upon his mood." Elsewhere Woodbine
Silent Treat was quickly on the lead in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Zadracarta Stakes forfillies and mares and held well to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Why Katherine. Smartfly flew home with a late rush to get show money. Silent Treat, a 4-year-old Silent Name filly, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.00 with Michelle Rainford in the irons.
Charlie Em was just up at the wire to beat pacesetting favorite Customer Base in Thursday's $75,000 Possibly Perfect Handicap for fillies and mares. Perfecta was third at long odds. Charlie Em, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Kheleyf, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:29.23 with Martin Garcia up.
Good Lord led from the early jumps in Saturday's $65,000 Kelly's Landing Stakes and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Pass the Dice. Cozzetti was third at double-digit odds. Good Lord, a 7-year-old Greatness gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.45 with Brian Hernandez Jr. up.
Cherokee Artist outfinished the favorite, Ribo Bobo, to win Sunday's $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes by 3/4 length. Candyman E finished third. Cherokee Artist is a 9-year-old son of Cherokee Run, out of the Mr. Prospector mare Race Artist. He ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.73 with Trevor McCarthy handling the reins.
Majestic River just kept rollin' along in Saturday's $75,000 Lighthouse Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 2 lengths with a nice stretch run. South Andros came from off the pace to snatch second with Made Up up for third. Majestic River, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.67 with Eddie Castro in the irons.
Deniro's Saint rallied from last of five to win Sunday's $50,000 J. William Petro Memorial for Ohio-bred fillies and mares by 3 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Caviar n Champagne. Crafty Blue Kat finished third. Deniro's Saint, a 4-year-old filly by Saints n' Sinners, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.86 with Luis Gonzalez in the irons.
Find Your Spot stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, took over in the lane and won off by 1 1/4 lengths over the pacesetting favorite, Chu and You. Belladiva was another neck back in third. Find Your Spot, a daughter of Nationhood, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.78 with Isaias Enriquez in the irons.
Nine of the original 13 scratched when Thursday's $60,000 Stanton Stakes for 3-year-olds was moved off the turf. Of the four hardy steeds who ran, Joint Custody proved 3 lengths the best, rallying to the lead in the stretch and scoring by 3 lengths over Sea View Chico. All Star and first-time starter Echo Libra completed the order of finish. Joint Custody, an Outflanker gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.67 with Trevor McCarthy up.
Indiana Grand Race Course
Success Is Racing dueled to the lead in Wednesday's $85,000 William Henry Harrison Stakes for Indiana-breds, then shook loose to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Strawberry Amour was second and Short Round (an Indiana Jones reference) finished third. Success Is Racing, a 4-year-old Major Success gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.91 for jockey Ben Creed.
Aint She a Saint came six-wide from the back of the field to take Wednesday's $85,000 Shelby County Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over Higher Logic. The early leader, In a Jif, held third. Aint She a Saint, a 5-year-old Saintly Look mare, got 6 furlongs in 1:11.41 with Malcolm Franklin riding.