Astra showed why she is top-ranked in the international filly and mare turf division, winning Saturday's $250,000 Beverly Hills Stakes at Hollywood Park by a neck, holding off Peu a Peu in the final strides.
Astra is a 6-year-old daughter of Theatrical from the Seattle Slew mare Savannah Slew. She ran the 1 ¼ mile on firm turf in stakes-record time of 1:58.56 under Kent Desormeaux. Crazy Ensign was third.
Winning trainer Laura de Seroux said Astra was dealing with Peu a Peu in the final strides. "She re-accelerated when she saw her," de Seroux said. "That's the first time she's hit the lead that early and then had something come at her. So she showed another dimension today."
Desormeaux said Astra "dawdled making the lead" before Peu a Peu collared her. "For those who think she's only got an eighth of a mile run, she sprinted a half a mile today," Desormeaux added.
The Beverly Hills is an early step toward the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf -- part of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to be run Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.
In a potential European prep for the race:
Aquarelliste was difficult to load before Sunday's Grand Prix d'Sainte Cloud and then had all she could do to get home third against male rivals. Ange Gabriel, a 17-1 longshot, won by 2 lengths after taking the lead in the stretch from pace-setting Virginian. The victory was the first in group company for Ange Gabriel. Aquarelliste came into the race ranked third in the division based on her victory in April in the Prix Ganay.
In other potential preps for Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship events:
Orientate returned to the main track for Saturday's $100,000 Aristides Handicap at Churchill Downs and apparently like the switch, drawing off to win by 4 ½ lengths over Bintehbest. No Armistice was third and Bet On Sunshine fourth in his 10-year-old debut. Orientate, a 4-year-old son of Mt. Livermore, ran the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14.41, just .07 second off the track record. "He's every bit as talented as any sprinter," said Mike Maker, assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Maker said the colt is expected to start next in the Smile Handicap in Calder's "Summit of Speed" on July 13. He is owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis.
Atelier, a surprising close-up fourth in last year's Distaff at 53-1, got the whole job done in Saturday's $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old Deputy Minister mare dragged jockey Eibar Coa to the lead on the clubhouse turn and held on gamely to beat the favorite, Summer Colony, by 1 length. Spain, ranked No. 5 in the Distaff division despite being in foal, finished third. Atelier ran 9 furlongs in 1:48 3/5 on a fast track. "I saw the hole open up on the turn and so did she," said Buzz Tenney, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey. "When she sees daylight, she goes." The victory was Atelier's first since she won the Next Move at Aqueduct 15 months ago.
Nonesuch Bay took charge in the final furlong of Saturday's $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, winning by 1 ½ lengths over Chamrousse. Seba was third and Dust Me Off fourth and last. Belterra was scratched earlier in the week. Nonesuch Bay, a daughter of Mr. Greeley, got the 9 furlongs in 1:49.09. "She is a gutsy little filly," said winning trainer Frank Alexander. "I wasn't concerned about the distance. She settled so nicely, that's why she has no problem with the distance." He said he may give Nonesuch Bay a brief respite and come back in the Alabama at the Spa. The filly already has seven races this year, with four wins. She was beaten 22 lengths in the Acorn in her last previous start, however.
John Deere Turf
High Chaparral completed the English-Irish Derby double Sunday by capturing the Irish half at the Curragh under Mick Kinane. High Chaparral tracked stablemate Sholokhov before going to the lead. Sholokhov finished second at huge odds and yet another Aidan O'Brien trainee, Ballingarry, finished third. The first three, plus fourth-place finisher Nysaean, all were sired by Sadler's Wells. High Chaparral was ranked No. 3 in the division before the race, behind Sakhee and Street Cry.
At Hollywood Park on Sunday, French-bred Inesperado got through on the rail in the stretch run to capture the $175,000 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap by a nose over Regiment. Johar was third. "This is a very brave horse," said winning rider Kent Desormeaux. "I set him up for an anticipated hole and he aimed for it because there was plenty of room. He's a brave little guy, but also very talented." Bobby Frankel trains Inesperado, who was making his first North American start after winning four of his nine starts in Europe.
"He's a star for sure," trainer Patrick Biancone said after Zavata rolled to a 6 ¼-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park. The Phone Trick colt, with Jerry Bailey aboard, won for the second time in three starts. He was second in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day at Churchill Downs with a wide trip. Saturday, he came four-wide on the turn and outclassed four rivals. Hussar was second, Desert Warrior third. The 5 ½ furlongs took 1:02.66 -- one tick off the track record. Biancone said he will aim for the 2-year-old events at Saratoga.
Hold That Tiger, a son of Storm Cat and half brother to Editor's Note, scored his first stakes try Sunday at the Curragh. The colt, with Mick Kinane up, held off Pakhoes to win the Anheuser Busch Railway Stakes by a neck.
In the "them as has, gets" column: Michael Tabor owns both Zavata and Hold That Tiger.
Long John Silver Juvenile Fillies
Heavenly Miss caught favorite Crimson and Roses in the late going of Saturday's $100,000 J j'sdream Stakes at Calder Race Course, winning by 1 ¼ lengths. Formal Miss was third. Heavenly Miss, by Suave Prospect,ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:06.07. "She finished very stong," said winning rider Manuel Aguilar. "She's a strong closer. I never hit her, just pushed on her." Owner/breeder Mike Sherman said Heavenly Miss will go on to the Florida Stallion Stakes series.
Mike's Wildcat scored by 8 lengths Sunday at Belmont Park in the $100,000 Astoria, running 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03 4/5. Beautiful Treasure was second and the favorite, Collymore Hall, got home third while coming off a two-month layoff. Mike's Wildcat, a daughter of Forest Wildcat out of a Black Tie Affair mare, now has two wins from three starts. "She was just cruising along out there with her ears up," said winning jockey Jose Santos. "I knew it was over at the three-eighths pole. She basically galloped through the stretch."
In other weekend racing:
Trainer Elliott Walden had to back off Mr. Mellon before the Triple Crown races and now seems to be reaping some rewards from that. Making just his second start on the green course, Mr. Mellon and jockey Rene Douglas were just up in the final strides to win by a neck over Doc Holliday in Saturday's $175,000 Arlington Classic. Seainsky was third with a late run. Mr. Mellon, a son of Red Ransom, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.95. "He definitely has a turf pedigree," said Walden. "I'd like to keep both avenues open for him." He said he plans to ship the colt to Saratoga for the main-course Jim Dandy on Aug. 4 but could return for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Aug. 17. The Classic is the first leg of Arlington's Mid-America Triple for 3-year-olds on the turf, which continues with the American Derby on July 21 and concludes with the Secretariat.
Sunday, Talknow held off Secret Romeo in the late going to win the $40,000 Dr. Fager Handicap by a head under Elvis Trujillo. The 5-year-old gelding now has won eight times in 11 tries since trainer Tom Tomillo claimed him for $5,000 last October. And he won a 29-way shake to complete the claim. Tomillo said he may send Talknow on to the Claiming Crown at Philadelphia Park in August.
Pass the Virtue passed most of the field in the stretch run to score a huge upset in Saturday's $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The Virginia-bred daughter of Slavic, with Oliver Castillo up, worked through traffic on the turn to get to the lead and won by 1 length at odds of 36-1. The favorite, Alternate, was second and Shop Till You Drop was third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:46.24. Alternate's rider, Ramon Dominquez, said the trip didn't work out for his mount as he was forced to follow Pass the Virtue into the stretch. "Once she got through, she made her run. But it was not enough," he said.
In Saturday's co-featured $100,000 Brandywine Stakes for 3-year-olds, He's a Knockout prevented any traffic issues by leading all the way to a 3-length victory over Marciano. Beau's Surprise was third while the favorite, Burning Roma, could do no better than sixth. He's a Knockout, a Maryland-bred son of Two Punch, ran the 1 mile in 1:37.36 under Dominquez. Trainer Graham Motion said he added distance apparently made the difference after two losses sprinting.
Cavalier Billie came to the leaders in the stretch run in Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Damsel Stakes, then surged clear to win by 2 lengths. Fleet of Foot, the odds-on favorite, was second and Spanish Decree got home third. Cavalier Billie, a daughter of Wild Zone, was clocked in 1:15.70 over firm turf. "My filly dug deep and kicked on when I asked her," said winning rider Robert Landry. "I had a terrific trip."
Lone Star Park
Desert Darby hadn't faced the starter for 233 days before Saturday's $125,000 Assault Stakes. No matter. The 5-year-old son of Sheik Albadou stalked the early leaders, came three-wide around the turn into the stretch and rolled home first, ¾ length over Logans Leo. Lights On Broadway, the 2001 Texas-bred Horse of the Year, was third. Said winning rider Corey Lanerie: "Right before he came out of the turn, I saw him prick his ears a little bit. I figured I had a little more than I thought and that he'd give me a little fight to the wire. He did." Steve Asmussen trains the winner.
In other races in the second "Stars of Texas Day": First-time starter Tiffany Jennifer, trained by Asmussen and owned by his dad, scored a 3-length victory over heavy favorite Parting in the fillies division of the Texas Stallion Stakes, paying $60.80 to win. Action Tonight broke his maiden in winning the colts and geldings division by 2 ½ lengths over odds-on favorite Leo's Last Hurrahy. Costalota came from well back in the field to win the $125,000 Allan Bogan Memorial for state-bred distaffers by ½ length over Miss Photogenic. Miss Ritz, last year's state champ 2-year-old filly, won her second straight stakes as a sophomore by beating Sly Kona by a neck. And Front Nine caught Nuclear Assembly in the late going to win the $50,000 Harold Goodman Memorial for 3-year-old colts and geldings.
No Parole worked through some traffic trouble to get the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, then ran away to win by 2 ¾ lengths. Trial Prep was second and Private Emblem third. The 7 furlongs took 1:22.60. The race was the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, followed by the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 27 and the Albany Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 21. A sweep earns a $250,000 bonus.
Jockey Eibar Coa won both of Sunday's features -- the $50,000 Skip Away Stakes on Cat's at Home and the $50,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies aboard Wish It Were. Cat's at Home led all the way in the Skip Away, winning by 5 ½ lengths over Sea of Tranquility with Twilight Prince third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:42 3/5. Wish It Were, on the other hand, sat off the early pace and didn't take charge until deep stretch, winning by just a neck over Haunted Lass. She ran 6 furlongs in 1:09 3/5.
Due to Win lived up to her name in Saturday's $50,000 Honeymoon Stakes, coming from just off the pace to win by ¾ length over Golden Rhythm. Eagle Lake was third. The 1 mile on firm turf took 1:36.50.
J.P. Jet, with Derek Bell up, overhauled pace-setting Semi Sweet Dr. in the stretch to win the $35,000 Victor S. Meyers Jr. Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings by 4 lengths. Frosty Prince closed late to take third. In the co-featured $35,000 Frances Genter Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Demiparfait ran by early leader Susie Blues to score by ½ length. Lakeville was second and Susie Blues held third.