The favorites won both major Kentucky Derby preps during the weekend but one was immediately knocked off the Triple Crown trail with an injury.
Shaman Ghost and Stanford continued their demonstration of prowess in the handicap division. Whitmore, Denman's Call and Spartiatis were winners in weekend sprints.
Internationally, a couple of Hong Kong stars -- riders, this time -- earned some frequent flyer miles along with victories both at home and in Australia.
We'll stay at home for this:
The Road to the Roses
Mastery remained undefeated and essentially unchallenged his 3-year-old debut at Santa Anita on Saturday -- but sustained a fracture in his left front leg that will require surgery and rules him out of the Triple Crown.
The Candy Ride colt, winner of three straight last year, led all the way in the $400,000 Grade II San Felipe and won by 6 3/4 lengths with Iliad second, Term of Art third and Gormley fourth. But jockey Mike Smith, sensing something wrong, quickly pulled Mastery up on the turn. He was unsaddled there and loaded into a horse ambulance under his own power, foregoing the winner's circle ceremonies.
Smith said he wasn't sure what happened.
"He just all the sudden went off it and wouldn't put any weight on the left hind," Smith said.
Owner Everett Dobson later added Mastery's injury "will require a few screws and he's going to have to take significant time off. Obviously it's incredibly disappointing. It's difficult to find horses of this talent and have them run in your colors."
Trained by Bob Baffert, Mastery won at first asking at Santa Anita last October. He then won the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar and, after skipping the Breeders' Cup, dominated the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity. He was the favorite in the San Felipe and would have been among the Kentucky Derby favorites but for the injury.
On the other coast, another favorite took an impressive step forward on the Derby trail. Tapwrit, second only to McCracken in the Sam F. Davis in his previous start, didn't have that rival to worry about in Saturday's $350,000, Grade II Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.
The Tapit colt took his time to get going for jockey Jose Ortiz, but when he started his move on the turn, it was sharp and decisive and Tapwrit drove home a 4 1/2-lengths winner. State of Honor was second, followed by Wild Shot, No Dozing and Beasley. Tapwrit ran 1 1/16 miles on a track that was playing very fast all day in 1:42.36. He now has two wins and two seconds for trainer Todd Pletcher.
"When I asked him between the half-mile and three-eighths poles, he let me know he was going to win the race right away," Ortiz said. "He's really scary and I think he's going to keep improving."
Pletcher added, "We were looking for a big effort from him and this was everything we could hope for. He won pretty convincingly, and we're very pleased."
McCracken, who missed the Tampa Bay Derby with a foot problem, has been rescheduled for the Blue Grass at Keeneland as his final Kentucky Derby prep.
Kentucky Oaks doin's
It Tiz Well fled California and found more fertile ground in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Honyebee at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Trained at Santa Anita by Jerry Hollendorfer, It Tiz Well raced in the second flight, within touch of the leaders, moved up three-wide on the turn to challenge and went by long shot Benner Island to win by 1 length.
Two Florida-based fillies, Elate and Tapa Tapa Tapa, finished third and fourth in the Honeybee while Chanel's Legacy, winner of the Dixie Belle and the Martha Washington earlier in the Oaklawn meeting, faded through the stretch and finished sixth. It Tiz Well ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.61 with Kent Desormeaux in for the ride.
It Tiz Well was second, well behind division leader Unique Bella, in Grade II Santa Ynez in January.
"She is special filly and I felt the farther she went the better she would get," Nakatani said. "Unique Bella is possibly the best 3-year-old in the country and these have a little ways to go to catch up to her. She (It Tiz Well) is on the right path and doing the right things."
Hollendorfer assistant Don Chatlos said the decision to come to Oaklawn was, in part, to get It Tiz Well away from Unique Bella while stretching out to two turns. "We're getting closer to the Kentucky Oaks," Chatlos said. "She's not going to find any easy spots and obviously this wasn't. It was a good test for her.
The Big Cap and some littler events:
Shaman Ghost, second only to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup in January, was second to none in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. After saving ground right behind pacesetting Midnight Storm, Shaman Ghost came to the outside in the stretch run and surged past his rival in the late going, winning by 3/4 length. Follow Me Crev was third, 4 1/2 lengths farther back. Imperative, who won the $400,000 Poseidon on the Pegasus undercard, faded in the stretch to finish last in the Big Cap.
"I knew I had it won at the eighth pole," said winning jockey Javier Castellano. "I asked him for full speed at the eighth pole, and he gave it to me, right away. I said, 'Yes!'"
Shaman Ghost, a 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper and winner of the 2015 Queen's Plate, won the Grade I Woodward last September at Saratoga, then finished third in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs before the Pegasus. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Shaman Ghost earned some respect with the win.
"He's been showing up in all of his races so I think he should get some now," Jerkens said.
At Tampa Bay Downs, Stanford led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Challenger and romped home first, covering the 1 1/16 miles in track-record time 1:41.75 with John Velazquez up. Ami's Flatter, adding blinkers, chased the winner all the way around but couldn't make up any ground in the stretch and settled for second. Hereditary, an improving Phipps Stable homebred, ran well from the back of the pack to finish third.
Stanford, a 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon, was coming off a second-place finish in the $400,000 Poseidon on the Pegasus World Cup undercard at Gulfstream Park Jan. 28, when he was caught in the final strides by the aforementioned Imperative.
Sunny Ridge took back from his inside post position in Sunday's $125,000 Stymie Stakes at Aqeuduct, then fanned five wide turning for home to take the lead and win by 3/4 length. Doyouknowsomething was along for second, followed by the favorite, Send It In. Sunny Ridge, a 4-year-old Holy Bull gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:50.19 with Manny Franco riding. He also won the Jazil stakes in January.
Bal a Bali's long-distance career might be at an end after his dramatic victory over What a View in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita. After missing the board in a pair of starts at 1 1/4 miles, the Brazilian-bred let What a View show the way in the Kilroe, then rallied in the final yards to put a head in front at the wire. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Bolo in third.
Dortmund, recently moved from trainer Bob Baffert to Art Sherman and making his first start on turf, finished last, beaten some 12 lengths.
Bal a Bali ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.86 with Javier Castellano up and now has finished in the top three in 10 of 12 starts at the mile distance.
"I like winning better," said winning trainer Richard Mandella. "The horse got sour last year, and with a little time off and some freshening up, he responded and came back good."
Victor Espinoza, who rode Dortmund, said, "I think he should go back to dirt again."
Denman's Call slipped by pacesetting Masochistic along the rail at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Triple Bend, which is run out of the Santa Anita backstretch chute and around a single bend, and went on to win by 1 length over that foe. Conquest Cobra was third at a big price. Denman's Call, a 4-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, finished in 1:20.94 with Tyler Baze at the controls, scoring his first Grade I victory.
Mike Smith, who rode Masochistic, blamed himself for the loss. "I thought I felt somebody back there, but I could swear it was to my outside," Smith said. "I looked over to my right, then looked back and he was inside. It was a great move on his part, and not so good on mine. In saying that, my horse ran well. He got a little tired, but I certainly didn't need to let him (the winner) through."
Denman's Call finished third in $40,000 optional claimers in his two previous races. By contrast, Masochistic last raced in November, finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint before being stripped of the purse money for a medication overdose finding.
Spartiatis rallied to catch pacesetting Chief Lion midway down the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct and went on to win by 2 lengths over that foe. King Kranz was third, the favorite, Sassicaia, finished fourth and Green Gratto beat only The Great War.
Spartiatis, a 7-year-old Scat Daddy gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.23 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons. It was his first stakes win and followed a sixth-place showing in last year's Tom Fool. Winning trainer Leon Blusiewicz said he hopes to take Spartiatis to the Grade I Carter on April 8 and credited a new friend with moderating some unruly behavior.
"He's half-crazy if I don't have a pony with him in the morning," Blusiewicz said. "But since I got him this goat, it's (calmed) him. He really loves that goat. I got him last summer and he takes to him."
Whitmore found running room as the field turned for home in Saturday's $125,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park, hit the afterburners and went on to win by 6 lengths over Ivan Fallunovalot. Fish Trappe Road rallied from last of eight to get show money. Whitmore, with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.72.
After his 19th-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby, trainer Ron Moquette gave Whitmore a long rest, then relegated him to sprints. He has responded with three straight wins. "We had confidence that our rider would make the right decision," said Moquett, also a part-owner. "I thought the race could unfold to where it would be better for us today to be a little farther off. It worked out. But he's got enough tactical speed that he can put us where we need to be."
Moquette said the $400,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 15 is "one of our goals."
Filly & Mare Turf
Goodyearforroses tracked the lead down the backstretch in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Ana at Santa Anita, mounted a challenge on the stretch turn and proved too good for the other in the final furlong, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Pretty Girl. Sweet Charity finished third. Goodyearforroses, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare by Azamour, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.98 with Corey Nakatani up.
"It's been a matter of being patient with her and letting her tell us when she's ready to run," Nakatani said. "The sky's the limit." Goodyearforroses has won five of her last seven starts. The Santa Ana was her first graded stakes victory.
Fifty Five came rolling up outside the leaders in deep stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs and was there in time to win by a neck over the odds-on favorite, La Coronel. Compelled finished third.
Fifty Five, a New York-bred daughter of Get Stormy, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in stakes-record time of 1:41.60 with Jose Ortiz riding. It was her third win but first in a stakes. She was a fast-closing third in the Grade III Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream Park in her previous start. La Coronel was making her first start since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where she finished sixth.
"She's a heartthrob, because she always comes from behind like that," said John Crowe, who bred and owns Fifty Five with his wife, Sandy. "When Jose took her back early, I thought 'She's done this before,'" said Sandy Crowe. "But when they turned for home, I said 'Get her moving. Get her moving.'"
Dickinson ran by pacesetting favorite Isabella Sings in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by 1/2 length. Elysea's World also got past a fading Isabella Sings to finish second.
Dickinson, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare bred by Darley and owned by Godolphin, saved ground behind the early speed, got through between rivals turning for home and was in control for most of the stretch run. She finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.77 with Paco Lopez in the irons and made it four wins from her last five starts for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
"We've been patient with her, and we're starting to be rewarded," said Jimmy Bell, Godolphin's U.S. racing manager. "Paco fits her very well and he gave her a great ride today. We love her versatility, but the turf is where she has really started to flourish."
Sircat Sally tracked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, rallied to the lead on the second turn and held on despite drifting through the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Beau Recall. Miss Sugars was along for third. Sircat Sally, a daughter of Surf Cat, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.40 with Mike Smith in the irons. She remains undefeated after four starts.
Pay any Price led from the start in Saturday's $75,000 Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream Park and got home first by 3 1/4 lengths in turf course-record time of 53.61 seconds despite being ridden out by jockey Edgard Zayez. The odds-on favorite, Power Alert, beat the others with Mongolian Saturday completing the trifecta.
Pay Any Price, a 7-year-old Wildcat Heir gelding, was not taken for a $10,000 claiming tag 10 months ago over the same course. Since then, he has won four times. Power Alert, a regular in graded sprints, was coming off a win in the Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint in January. Mongolian Saturday has only a single victory since winning the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland in 2015.
On the international front
Yamakatsu Ace won Saturday's Group 2 Kinko Sho at Chukyo by 1 1/4 lengths over Lord Vent d'Or with Staphanos sixth and Nuovo Record 10th. Yamakatsu Ace, a 5-year-old son of King Kamehameha, covered 2,000 meters on firm turf in 1:59.2 in his first race since a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 Arima Kinen at Nakayama on Christmas Day.
Staphanos was making his first start since a third-place showing in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup in December. Nuovo Record, a 6-year-old Heart's Cry mare, won the Grade III Red Carpet at Del Mar last fall after a poor performance in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She was fourth in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase in her 2016 finale.
Humidor and Jameka, the co-favorite, finished in that order and less than 1/2 length apart at the end of Saturday's Group 1 Australian Cup at Flemington. Exospheric was another 1 length in arrears in third. Humidor, with Damian Lane up, ran 2,000 meters on good going in 2:01.07. The 4-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding, by Teofilo, had been a bridesmaid in three previous races at Caulfield this season.
While the Cup was a triumph for handicappers, the co-featured Group 1 Lexus Newmarket Handicap rewarded the plungers as 31-1 chance Redkirk Warrior led home fellow long shots Voodoo Lad and Star Turn. The favorites, Extreme Choice and Spieth, reported sixth and ninth, respectively. Redkirk Warrior, a 6-year-old, British-bred gelding by Notnowcato, was let go at long odds despite a last-out win in a Group 3 in November.
Hong Kong's Joao Moreira was in to ride the Saturday card at Flemington, bagging two wins, a second and a third, but finished seventh aboard Tally in the Cup.
At Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, Heavens Above just edged Silent Sedition and Danish Twist to take the Group 1 Coolmore Classic for fillies and mares, running 1,500 meters on soft turf in 1:29.65. Heavens Above, a 5-year-old Street Cry mare, had recorded four sub-par outings since her last win -- a Group 3 event over the same course last September.
Sam Clipperton made the trip from Hong Kong to ride at Rosehill Gardens in Sydney, booting home the winner in a Class 3 event before just missing aboard Silent Sedition in the Group 1. William Buick also was in town to handle part of the heavy Godolphin presence on the day's card, riding two winners.
The aforementioned Clipperton returned from Sydney to ride three winners Sunday at Sha Tin, including two of the first three races. "It's been a whirlwind 24 hours, that's for sure," Clipperton said. "But to ride winners in both Australia and Hong Kong over a weekend, that's a dream and I can't believe how this season keeps progressing. I'm very happy at the moment." Joao Moreira, who rode eight winners on the previous Sunday card, had two on top on this week's program after his return from Australia.
The United Kingdom
Four-year-old filly Another Story, a 4-year-old Rip Van Winkle filly trained by Sheila Lavery, Friday won for the third time in as many starts in a Fast-Track Qualifier on the Polytrack at Dundalk, Ireland. With the win under Pat Smullen, Another Story gained a free and guaranteed place in the Sun Bets All-Weather Mile Championship over the same distance and surface at Lingfield Park on Good Friday, April 14. All three of her wins came at the course midway between Dublin and Belfast as she stretched from 6 to 7 furlongs before Friday's mile. "I would love to chase the prize money on offer on Good Friday," Lavery said. "But I am not sure the track at Lingfield Park will suit her. I have spent a long time getting Another Story right and we will have to decide what to do next.
The All-Weather Championships and the Dubai World Cup Carnival are turning into a mini-circuit during the winter season, with winners moving in both directions. The latest is Salateen, a handicap winner on turf at Meydan on Feb. 9, who just did hold on to win Saturday's Listed 7-furlongs feature at Wolverhampton. The David O'Meara-trained 5-year-old, ridden by Phillip Makin, looked a sure winner 100 meters out but tired to win by a nose over Keystroke and a short head over Yuften. The victory was good for a spot in the Sunbets All-Weather Mile Championships on Finals Day, Good Friday, April 14. "He has never run over a mile for me," O'Meara said, "so I will have to speak to the owner, Sheikh Abdullah, and see what his thoughts are regarding Good Friday. It's great prize money, so I think we will have to consider it."
In other racing action:
Believe in Bertie was out for a stroll in Saturday's $60,000 Red Camelia Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares and that was all she needed to keep a quintet of rivals in their place. Quickly in front, the 4-year-old Langfur filly rolled on to win by 6 3/4 lengths, eased through the final sixteenth by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan. Safari Calamari and Pacific Pink filled out the trifecta slots. Believe in Bertie ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.53, scoring her fourth win of the Fair Grounds season.
Stallion Heiress led all the way in Saturday's $60,000 Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial for 3-year-old fillies and edged clear in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths, remaining undefeated in three starts. Pure Michigan, Hotshot Anna and Song of Spring completed the order of finish. Stallion Heiress, an Ontario-bred Exchange Rate filly, ran about 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:44.73 with Mitchell Murrill in the irons.
Pretty Perfection rallied three-wide in deep stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Captiva Island Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Brandy's Girl. Ruby Notion was third. Pretty Perfection, a 5-year-old mare by Majesticperfection, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 54.26 seconds with Nik Juarez in the irons.
Jeff and J's Dream was up in the final strides to post the upset win in Saturdays' $50,000 Owners' Appreciation Day Stakes. The pacesetting favorite, Rise Up, held on for second, 1/2 length to the good of Great Minds. Jeff and J's Dream, a 4-year-old colt by Marino Marini, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.23 with Juan Larrosa riding.
In the companion race for fillies and mares, Vieja Luna led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths win over the favorite, Mayla. Lunar Gaze was another 6 1/4 lengths back in third. Vieja Luna, a 4-year-old Street Hero filly, got the 1 mile in 1:38.55 for rider Roberto Morales.