Some of the most promising prospects for next year's Kentucky Derby were on display during the long Thanksgiving weekend with Toccet rebounding from a disappointment in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile performance to move toward the head of the "Class of '03."
Toccet, who ran ninth in the Juvenile, dominated Saturday's $200,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in New York. After tracking pace-setting Bham, jockey Jorge Chavez sent Toccet to the lead at the top of the lane and the Awesome Again colt drew off to win by 2 ¼ lengths.
Bham held second and Empire Maker, the favorite, finished third with a late effort. The 9 furlongs went in 1:50.40 on a fast track as Toccet scored his fifth win in seven starts, including the Champagne and the Laurel Futurity.
"This horse can do it all," said winning trainer John Scanlan. "He can win on the front, back or sideways." But Scanlan said he's not sure what he will do next with the colt. "I don't like Gulfstream for this horse. Maybe we'll go to Dubai, New Orleans or just stay home," he said.
Trainer Bobby Frankel said the highly regarded Empire Maker had problems leaving the gate and may run next in the Hollywood Futurity. "This horse needs more racing," Frankel said.
In other 2-year-old racing during the long weekend:
--Soto remained undefeated with a 1-length victory over Ten Cents A Shine in Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs. The Dehere colt, ridden by Larry Melancon, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.67. Melancon said trainer Michael Dickinson told him Soto "looks like a 3-year-old -- he's a horse." Dickinson had been working around weather and travel to find a spot for the colt, who now has won all three of his starts on three different tracks.
--Peace Rules was on the lead most of the way in Saturday's $200,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 mile on the turf. The chestnut son of Jules drew clear in the stretch and then held on to finish 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Lismore Knight. Outta Here was third and the favorite, Man Among Men, was fourth. The race was clocked in 1:35.49. Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel, said Peace Rules was allowed to run the race however he wanted. "It's no secret he's a nice horse," Ascanio said. "He's a real smart horse, too." At least one of the top finishers, Outta Here, will go on to the Hollywood Futurity on the main track on Dec. 21, said trainer Bill Currin.
--Millennium Storm upset Saturday's $100,000 Mecke Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 mile on the grass at Calder Race Course in Florida. Racing on the lead, the Son of Future Storm just held off a late bid to beat Our Finale by a head. Kick In, who provided the early pace pressure, held on for third. The favorite, Super Frolic, could do no better than sixth. Winning jockey Rene Douglas said Millennium Storm ran well, "except he was jumping the shadows and kind of green. I had to keep him together, up against the bridle." Bill White, who trains both the top two finishers, said both may run back in the Tropical Park Derby on Jan. 1.
--Timeform won Sunday's $125,000 Kingarvie Stakes at Woodbine near Toronto, making the son of Tejabo a likely candidate for next year's Queen's Plate. Tejabo also sired this year's Queen's Plate winner, T J's Lucky Moon.
--Shawklit Man led from gate to wire in Sunday's $75,000 Remington MEC Mile Stakes at Remington Park in Oklahoma, winning by 3 ½ lengths over Skamper. Kickin Kountry was third. Shawklit Man, a Kentucky-bred son of Woodman, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.23.
--In Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Aqueduct, Roar Emotion went quickly to the front and rolled home a 2-length victress over Savedbythelight. Feisty Step was third. Roar Emotion, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Roar, ran 1 1/8 mile in 1:51.43, picking up her second win in three starts. "We hate to go a mile and an eighth on the lead," said winning trainer Jose Martin. "But we were forced to do that" because of the No. 1 post position. "She opened up pretty easily," said winning rider John Velazquez. Martin said Roar Emotion likely will winter in New York.
--Atlantic Ocean stayed right behind the leader in Friday's $200,000 Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Hollywood Park, then took charge in the lane and won by 1 length over Tangle. Major Idea was third. Atlantic Ocean, a huge daughter of Super Chef, ran 1 mile on the turf in 1:34.63. She ran ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
--My Boston Gal remained undefeated by winning Saturday's $200,000 Golden Rod for 2-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs. The daughter of Boston Harbor, with Calvin Borel up for trainer Carl Nafzger, left the field behind in the lane, winning by 3 ¼ lengths over Holiday Lady. My Trusty Cat was third. "She'll learn a lot from this race," said Nafzger assistant Ian Wilkes. "She's still learning and getting things right."
--Sweettrickydancer won her third straight race in Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Wildcat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the grass at Calder. With Eibar Coa in the irons, the Green Dancer filly raced in mid-pack until the top of the stretch, reached the front by the sixteenth pole and beat Askforaraise by 1 length. Running Debate completed a $3,447.60 trifecta and the favorite, Crimson and Roses, backpedaled to finish 10th after leading early. "This is what she needed," said Coa. She's got a lot of potential. She's been playing around. Now that she's serious, she could be very good in stakes races." Trainer Rodolfo Garcia, who picked up his first U.S. stakes win, said the filly could come back in the Tropical Oaks on New Year's Day.
In other weekend racing:
Johar pulled off a mild upset in Sunday's $500,000 Hollywood Derby, racing from last in a field of nine to win by 1 ½ lengths over Mananan McLir. Royal Gem was third in the 1 1/8-mile turf race. Johar, a Kentucky-bred son of Gone West, finished in 1:48.70. The favorite, Century City, never got into the race and finished eighth. Said winning trainer Richard Mandella: "I'm excited to think toward next year at a mile and a quarter, a mile and a half, some of the better races and whate he might be." Alex Solis said Johar was actually helped by a bad break Sunday. "There were horses moving early on the backside, so it really helped me. Then as soon as I got him out in the clear, he was coming very strong," Solis said.
Also Sunday, Dress To Thrill came from off the pace to outfinish Golden Apples in the $500,000 Matriarch for fillies and mares at 9 furlongs on the grass. Magic Mission was third and the favorite, Banks Hill, faded to finish fourth after leading briefly. Dress To Thrill, a 3-year-old daughter of Danehill, finished in 1:48.31 under Pat Smullen. Dress To Thrill ran eighth in the Breeders' Cup Mile in her previous start. That result, said trainer Dermott Weld, "did not reflect her true ability, for a filly who was unbeaten at three years old in Ireland and unbeaten in her only start in England."
Good Journey, with Pat Day up, drew clear in the stretch run in Saturday's $500,000 Citation Handicap and went on to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Seinne. White Heart was third in the 1 1/16-mile turf event. Good Journey, a 6-year-old son of Nureyey, finished in 1:41.45, rebounding from his third-place finish in the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile. "This horse made the pace in the Breeders' Cup, which is not his style," said Day. "He would much rather stalk these horses and get past them in the stretch." Asked about chances for an Eclipse Award for Good Journey, Day said, "I'd have to think that his name would be in the thick of it." Trainer Wally Dollase, also a minority partner in the ownership group, said, "I would like to sell him as a stallion now. He's impeccably bred and would make one heck of a sire." Failing that, he said, Good Journey could travel to Dubai in the spring.
On Friday, Texas Glitter won the $200,000 Hollywood Express, backing up his victory in the Oct. 12 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap. The 6-year-old son of Glitterman is expected to retire to stud duty after competing later this month in the Hong Kong Sprint.
Thursday, Viernez provided a Thanksgiving bonanza for longshot players in the $70,000 Waya Handicap. At 25-1, the 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred mare came running late to win the 1 ½-mile turf marathon by 4 lengths over Snowflake. Julie Jalouse was third as the favorite. Trainer Paulo Lobo said he was "waiting for a mile-and-a-half for a long time" because his mare has distance ability in her Brazilian family tree.
Lido Palace wore down pace-setting longshot Crafty Shaw to win Friday's $400,000 Clark Handicap by a head. Lido Palace, a 5-year-old son of Rich Man's Gold, scored his 11th career win in his 23rd start. He also won the Woodward at Belmont Park this year. "I had horse and I felt I was going to get up in time," said winning rider Jorge Chavez. "I was waiting for the stretch. I didn't want to move too early and get beat on the wire. So he moved up gradually and was good enough to get there."
Congaree got to the front at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $350,000 Cigar Mile, then left seven rivals in the dust as he won off by 5 ½ lengths. Aldebaran was second and Crafty C.T. was third, followed by Harlan's Holiday, Bonapaw, Windsor Castle, Red Bullet and Griffinite. Congaree, a 4-year-old son of Arazi, ran the one-turn mile in 1:33.11. "He was awesome," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "We've got some serious bragging rights now." Jockey Jerry Bailey compared Congaree's performance with those of his previous winning rides in this race -- Cigar and El Corredor. "It was just an awesome performance from him," Bailey said. Baffert said he hasn't yet decided where to send Congaree, although he would like to keep him at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth.
Sightseek, with Jerry Bailey riding, stalked the early pace in Friday's $150,000 Top Flight Handicap for fillies and mares, then took over in the stretch and won by 1 ¾ length over Zonk. Nasty Storm was third. Sightseek, a Bobby Frankel trainee, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.46 despite being hit in the face by jockey Charles Lopez' whip during the stretch run. Lopez was up on Zonk. "Horses don't get hit in the face with the whip that often," Frankel said. "When I happens near the wire, it is not a good thing." Bailey said the incident just provided motivation for Sightseek.
Sunday, Along Came Mary took over in the stretch to win the $75,000 Montauk Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares by 2 ½ lengths over Princess Dixie. Textbook Method was third. Along Came Mary, by Citidancer, ran 9 furlongs in 1:52.36.
In Thursday's Fall Highweight, True Direction toted 134 pounds to a ½-length victory over Crossing Point. Gold I.D. was third in the 6-furlong event.
Lucky Molar, with apprentice Chantal Sutherland riding, rated off the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Valedictory Stakes. As the field turned into the stretch at the end of the 1 ¾-mile marathon, Sutherland finally let her 7-year-old mount run and Lucky Molar responded with a ½-length score over Defenman. Malmaison was third. Sutherland said she had to force Lucky Molar to wait. "I think he thought that was the final turn (onto the backstretch)," she said.
On Saturday, Cheap Talk won his third straight race, the $125,000 Kennedy Road Stakes. After racing behind the pace-setting duo of Krz Ruckus and Dreams Go Bye, Cheap Talk moved into position on the turn and went on to win by ½ length over Krz Ruckus. Wake at Noon was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:09.50.
Mountain General won Thursday's $75,000 Thanksgiving Handicap by 6 ½ lengths in track-record time of 1:08.03. Drawing clear down the stretch under Corey Lanerie, the 4-year-old Mountain Cat colt was well in front of traffic problems that resulted in the disqualification of Gracie's Dancer from second to fourth for interference. Wild Summer was promoted to second and Aloha Bold, the victim of the foul, was placed third. Lanerie said Mountain General "gave me tons. That's the fastest I've come down the lane in a long time."
Golden Gate Fields
Lacie Girl, under a patient ride by Russell Baze, was just up at the wire to win Saturday's $60,000 Star Ball Handicap for fillies and mares by a nose over Lindsay Jean. "She'll go when you make her but you have to make her," Baze said of the 3-year-old daughter of Editor's Note. "But she's worth the effort. She's a nice one." Lacie Girl ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:41.71 and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said she "fit well" in the La Canada series for 4-year-old distaffers at Santa Anita.
Aggadan slowed the pace to a crawl in Saturday's $75,000 Northern Dancer Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds, then had just enough left hold off This Guns For Hire by a neck under the wire. Tamayno was third. Aggadan, a son of Carnivalay, ran 9 furlongs with Mario Pino aboard in 1:51.
No Its Not opened up a big lead in Saturday's $50,000 Marshland Stakes, then held on to beat Two Punch Sonny by 1 ½ lengths. Screen Idol was third. No Its Not, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Is It True, ran 7 furlongs in 1:26.12.