With just four weeks to go before the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park, weekend racing around the country and overseas all had an eye to the future.
Some key weekend preps, by division:
$4 million Classic, Powered by Dodge
-- Borrego, a promising sort since last year's Kentucky Derby preps, is rounding into a top-notch contender just as the handicap division thins out due to injuries and premature retirements. The El Prado colt confirmed his credentials Saturday, winning his second straight $1 million event -- the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. In his last start, the chestnut won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on the other coast. Saturday, jockey Garrett Gomez kept Borrego at the rear for a half mile, then ran right by all seven rivals on the second turn and drew off to win by a convincing 4 1/2 lengths over Suave. Sun King was third. The early leaders, including favorite Flower Alley, faded after an early speed duel. Flower Alley held on for fourth. The 1 1/4 mile went in 2:02.86. "This is two millions in a row," said winning trainer Beau Greeley. "I never looked at the Breeders' Cup until right now. He's going to tell me in the morning. Today, I am delighted. I like to think I have the horse to beat."
-- Rock Hard Ten returned from a 7-month vacation to win Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita and set himself up for a run at the Classic. After letting Roman Ruler lead the way, jockey Gary Stevens sent Rock Hard Ten to the lead passing the furlong marker and went on to win by 1 length. Roman Ruler held second and Choctaw Nation was third. Rock Hard Ten, a 4-year-old son of Kris S., finished the 9 furlongs in 1:48.68 after a dawdling pace. "They were walking early," said Stevens, "and there's just not many horses that can out-kick this one the last quarter of a mile. ... Everybody knows how much I believe in this horse so I'll let him do his speaking on the race track." In his last race, Rock Hard Ten won the 1 1/4-mile Strub Stakes, defeating Imperialism by a nose. "This was the big obstacle," said winning trainer Richard Mandella. "To get him back, make sure he ran the race that he ran last winter here, and he did that. ... From here, I'll just train him like any other horse and come back a month from now in the Breeders' Cup." Trainer Bob Baffert said he hasn't decided where Roman Ruler will run next.
-- The Daddy jumped into major-league contention with a front-running, neck victory in Saturday's $750,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. With Pablo Morales riding, the New York-bred son of Valid Expectations dueled for the lead most of the way and just held off the late rush of A.P. Arrow in the closing strides. Nolan's Cat was third and the favorite, Real Dandy, threw in a real clunker, finishing eighth. The Daddy got 1 1/4 mile in 2:03.15 on a fast track. Owner Greg Norman said the Super Derby outcome might decide whether he runs The Daddy in the Classic or gives him the rest of the year off. He said he might wait to decide until he sees whether speedster Lava Man, who faded from contention in Saturday's Gold Cup, enters the Classic.
-- Don't Get Mad came five-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, bumped a bit in the process and then drew clear to win by 3 lengths over the favorite, Scrappy T. Thor's Echo was third. Don't Get Mad, a Kentucky-bred son of Stephen Got Even, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42.71 for jockey Brice Blanc. The colt is owned by B. Wayne Hughes and trained by Ron Ellis. "He just fell into the turns and, to me, that was a good sign," said Ellis. "I had concerns about how he would handle the tighter turns but he is an agile horse. He handled the track well."
-- At the Meadowlands Friday night, Magna Graduate rallied to the lead on the turn for home in the $250,000 Pegasus Handicap for 3-year-olds and flew home, winning by a widening 1 1/4 length over 54-1 long shot Crown Point. Network was third. Magna Graduate, the even-money favorite, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.47 with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. "We'll look at our options after this," Pletcher said. "The Discovery Handicap on the Breeders' Cup undercard is a good possibility." Magna Graduate is a Kentucky-bred son of Honor Grades, owned by Elisabeth Alexander.
$2 million Emirate Airlines Distaff
-- Defending Distaff champion Ashado bounced back from an embarrassment in her last start to win Saturday's $750,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park by 1/2 length, gamely holding off long-shot challenger Happy Ticket at the wire. Society Selection, second in this race last year, was third this time. Ashado had won two straight Grade I events before finishing fourth, beaten 14 3/4 lengths in the Personal Ensign in her last start. She is 3-for-6 this year. The Beldame's 1 1/8 mile went in 1:48.88 with regular rider John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. "You have to say now that she's one of the top mares, maybe of all time," said Pletcher. "This puts her earnings ($3,711,440) very high on the list. I think it puts her in position if she finishes first or second in the Breeders' Cup, she can break the record." Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. said Happy Ticket, a Louisiana-bred, also will stick around the Big Apple for the big race.
-- Flying Glitter upset Friday night's $400,000 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park near Indianapolis. Leading from the git-go, the Kentucky-bred Glitterman filly turned back a challenge from Mis Matched through the turn and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Eyes On Eddy was second and Miss Matched tired to finish third. The favorite, R Lady Joy, ran evenly to complete the $833 Superfecta. Flying Glitter, trained by Ronny Werner and owned by Richard and Nancy Kaster, now has four consecutive wins. Robby Albarado rode the filly to her fourth straight victory. "She's a fighter," said Albarado.
-- Nothing But Fun had nothing but work to do in Saturday's $300,000 Cotillion Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at Philadelphia Park. But, in the end, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Dixie Union got the job done, coming from well off the pace to beat Yolanda B. by a nose. Shebelongstoyou was third and the odds-on fave, Indian Vale, faded badly to finish fifth.
-- Pace-setting Healthy Addiction was headed early in the stretch run in Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares at Santa Anita but came back to win by 1/2 length over Star Parade. Island Fashion, who briefly grabbed the lead, held on for third. Healthy Addiction, with Garrett Gomez up, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.23.
$2 million John Deere Turf
-- Kitten's Joy, 2004 Eclipse Award winner and runner-up in last year's Turf, has been retired with a minor injury. Before his second-place finish in the Arlington Million, the colt's owners, Ken and Sarah Ramsey, had hoped to send him to Sunday's Arc de Triomphe, return for the Turf and finish the year at the Japan Cup. Instead, the El Prado colt will enter stud at their farm in the Bluegrass. Ken Ramsey said Kitten's Joy had "wear and tear" on the cartilage in his left knee.
-- In Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris, Hurricane Run got running room along the rail and roared through, winning by 2 lengths over Westerner. Bago, winner of this race last year, was third. Hurricane Run, by Montjeu, ran near the back of the 15-horse field until jockey Kieren Fallon found him running room at the key moment. Hurricane Run now has six wins from seven starts and Coolmore Stud's John Magnier said he might start next in the Turf.
-- Shakespeare, being undefeated and all, was well and truly favored in Saturday's $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park and lived up to his rave notices, coming from behind the pace to win by a head over English Channel. Ace was third. Shakespeare, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of 1987 Turf winner Theatrical, ran 1 1/2 mile on firm turf for jockey Jerry Bailey in 2:27.22. He has five wins in five tries, including consecutive graded stakes at Belmont Park. "I was more worried about him today than I will be four weeks from now," Bailey said, citing a fast and tough effort in Shakespeare's last start. "He's the kind I get up early in the morning for." English Channel's rider, John Velazquez, said his mount "ran an incredible race." Both he and Ace are likely to go on to the big event.
-- At Woodbine, A Bit O'Gold caught favorite Revved Up in the final jumps to win Sunday's $300,000 Sky Classic Handicap by a neck. Larry the Lender was third. A Bit O'Gold, a 4-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Gold Fever, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:17.17 under jockey Jono Jones.
-- Forty Niners Son rallied from mid-pack and came four-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship at Santa Anita and went on to win by 1 length over Whily, who then was disqualified and placed fifth. The stewards' action elevated Leprechaun Kid to second-place money and Laura's Lucky Boy to third. Forty Niners Son, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old by Distorted Humor, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf for Corey Nakatani in 2:01.17.
-- Starcraft, the New Zealand-bred international star and winner of Group 1 events at Newmarket and Longchamp in his last two starts, definitely is coming to the Breeders' Cup, according to European media. But his connections aren't saying yet just which race the 5-year-old will contest. After the Breeders' Cup, the Australian-owned globetrotter will be pointed to the Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 11 at Sha Tin.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Funfair poked a head in front at the wire in Sunday's $350,000 Kelso Breeders's Cup Handicap at Belmont Park, upsetting the favorite, Arte Schiller. Keep The Faith was third. Funfair, a 6-year-old, British-bred gelding by Singspiel, ran 1 mile in 1:32.95 with Edgar Prado aboard. H. Graham Motion trains Funfair for Cheveley Park Farm. "I have to go on to the Breeders' Cup with him," said Motion, who has saddled the horse to victory at three different tracks since taking him into his barn. "I thought he would like this course."
$1 million Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf
-- Riskaverse angled out in deep stretch and just got up for a major upset victory Saturday's $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park by a head over Wonder Again. Film Maker was third. Riskaverse, a 6-year-old mare by Dynaformer, got the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:00.27 with Jose Santos aboard for trainer Patrick Kelly. Riskaverse was sixth in the 2003 edition of the Filly& Mare Turf and did not contest the event last year despite winning the Flower Bowl. "We've been playing catch-up all summer," Kelly said. "She hurt her ankle in the New York Handicap. We had to back off her and start all over again. ... Our goal is to get her to the Breeders' Cup this year." Wonder Again also is expected to run back in the Breeders' Cup.
-- Megahertz, nearing retirement after a satisfying career, came from the back of a seven-horse field, splitting horses at mid-stretch and edging clear to win Saturday's $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita's Oak Tree Meeting by 1 length over Flip Flop. Halo Ola was third. Megahertz, a 6-year-old, British-bred daughter of Pivotal from the Rahy mare Heavenly Ray, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 2:00.50 with Alex Solis aboard. She was fifth in the "Disturf" in 2003 at Santa Anita and 11th last year at Lone Star Park. Solis said Megahertz is "looking great" going into her third start in the big event. "Hopefully she can perform the same way in that race."
-- More Than Promised delivered on the promise that made her the favorite in Saturday's $75,000 Marie P. DeBartelo Oaks at Louisiana Downs. Rallying from well back of the leaders, the Kentucky-bred daughter of More Than Ready just put a nose in front at the wire, beating pace-setter Enduring Will. Equestrian Girls finished third. More Than Promised, with Shaun Bridgmohan up, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm footing in 1:42.75.
$1 million TVG Sprint
-- Lost in the Fog didn't even have to try hard to remain undefeated with a romp in Saturday's $100,000 Bay Meadows Speed Handicap. Running in front owner Harry Aleo's friends, the Florida-bred Lost Soldier colt quickly sprinted clear and drew out to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Jockey Russell Baze said he asked the colt to run a bit so he'd get something from the race and he completed the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.05. "That was real hard, huh?" Baze recapped the rich workout. The Speed Handicap was Lost in the Fog's first try outside the 3-year-old ranks but he still has to face top-level older competitors.
-- With most of the nation's top sprinters other than Lost in the Fog entered, Saturday's $500,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park was like a one-game playoff for the big event four weeks away. It didn't settle very much, though, as 26-1 long shot Taste of Paradise jumped up to win by 2 lengths over Tiger Heart, with the favorite, Lion Tamer, a neck farther back in third. Taste of Paradise hadn't won since the Vernon Underwood last December, when he also went to the post at 26-1 (so watch the board at Belmont). Saturday, jockey Garrett Gomez kept the 6-year-old Conquistator Cielo horse back of the leaders through a quarter in 21.96 second, advanced on the inside and switched to the outside for the final effort. The 6 furlongs took 1:08.82. "We've been wanting to run him here at Belmont Park," said winning trainer Gary Mandella, who picked up his first Grade I victory. "We'll take him back to California. I need to monitor his feed on a daily basis and we'll ship back here." Trainer Richard Dutrow said Tiger Heart will go to the Breeders' Cup if he can get in.
-- If Sheikh Mohammed is prone to roll the dice, Court Masterpiece could be a wildcard for the Sprint. The 5-year-old son of Polish Precedent was a last-jumps winner of Saturday's Group 1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp in Paris and now has been in the exacta in seven of his eight starts this year. Court Masterpiece, with Gerald Mosse up, just caught Caradak to win the 1,400-meter event in 1:22.20. Mirabilis, a 3-year-old French filly, was third. Regarding Court Masterpiece's future, trainer Ed Dunlop said, "We wait and see what Sheikh Maktoum says."
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Horatio Nelson may have earned an overseas trip with a game victory in Sunday's Prix Jean Luc Lagardere-Grand Criterium at Longchamp in Paris. The colt opened up an early lead but was headed by Opera Cape in the stretch. He then came back to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:20.60. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said it's possible Horatio Nelson will try the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
-- Brother Derek led all the way to win Sunday's $200,000 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita, scoring by 3/4 length over the favorite, A.P. Warrior. Jealous Profit was third. Brother Derek, a Cal-bred son of Benchmark, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.38 with Alex Solis riding for trainer Dan Hendricks and owner Cecil N. Peacock.
-- He's Got Grit was in front from the start in Sunday's $75,000 Cowdin Stakes at Belmont Park and eased home first, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Dr. Pleasure. Jimmy's Pride was third. He's Got Grit, the odds-on favorite, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.75 after setting down some quick early fractions. The Florida-bred colt is by Songandaprayer.
-- In Saturday's $125,000 Harrah's Juvenile at Louisiana Downs, Hyle Regency went by tiring pace-setter Louie Q Indeed after 6 furlongs and held on well to win by 1 length over Desert Wheat. Test Boy was third. Hyle Regency, a Florida-bred son of Diligence, ran 1 1/16 mile on the grass in 1:43.19 with John Jacinto up. Beware the turf-to-dirt angle.
$1 million Alberto V05 Juvenile Fillies
-- Diamond Omi got the jump on odds-on favorite Wild Fit in Saturday's $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita and held on in deep stretch to win by 3/4 length. Golden Silk was third. Diamond Omi, with David Flores up, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.57. The Kentucky-bred Giant's Causeway filly is owned by Donald Dizney and trained by Bob Baffert. Baffert said Diamond Omi, despite training well, hasn't run fast. "She didn't run very fast today, either," he said. "But she keeps winning. That's all that matters." Asked about the Breeders' Cup, he said, "I don't know yet. I don't know if she'd going to handle the one turn (at Belmont Park). She's more effective at two turns." Trainer Jeff Mullins indicated it's likely Wild Fit will go on to Belmont.
-- Sensation was mildly sensational in Sunday's $100,000 Astarita Stakes at Belmont Park, pressing the pace early, then taking charge to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Swap Fliparoo. Unobstructed View was third. Sensation, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dixie Union, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.69 for jockey Eibar Coa. "She went great," said winning trainer Stanley Hough. We'll have to see what we're going to do." The filly won her first two starts, then was fourth in the Spinaway at Saratoga Aug. 26.
-- Knights Templar led from the start and dominated 10 rivals in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Breeders' Cup Stakes at Woodbine. At the wire, the Florida-bred daughter of Exploit was 13 1/4 lengths to the good of Sudsy Baby. Top Notch Lady was third. Knights Templar ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.15 with James McAleney in the irons. "Right from the start, we always thought she'd be a distance filly," said winning trainer Dan Vella. "I was actually a little more surprised that she sprinted as well as she did."
-- At Longchamp in Paris, Rumplestiltskin fought her way through a troubled trip to win Sunday's Prix Marcel Boussac Criterium des Pouliches by 1 length over Quiet Royal. The filly had been stuck in traffic turning for home but jockey Kieren Fallon said "gaps opened when I wanted them and she was good enough to take advantage." Trainer Aidan O'Brien said the Breeders' Cup is a possibility.
In other weekend racing:
Adreamisborn rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $125,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap by a nose over Shadow Raider. Hatif was third. Adreamisborn, a 6-year-old son of Kris S., ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:36.81 with Russell Baze at the controls.
Dontbotherknocking came around the leaders on the turn in Sunday's $125,000 Harrahs' Louisiana Breeders' Cup and won off by 3 lengths over Waupaca. Middleweight was third. Dontbotherknocking, a Kentucky-bred son of Farma Way, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.69 with Quincy Hamilton riding.
Artemus Sunrise led a string of long shots across the line in Saturday's $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship. After stalking the pace, the 4-year-old Tale of the Cat colt came wide to challenge the leaders on the turn and held off Mr. Krisley to win by 3/4 length. Mighty Military completed the tri, worth $22,378.60 for a $2 investment. Artemus Sunrise, with Jesus Castanon in the irons, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.31.
Calder Race Course
Dancing Master rallied from rear ranks to capture Saturday's $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap by a neck over Keep Cool. Magic Mecke was third and the favorite, Bob's Proud Moment, was fourth. Dancing Master, an Irish-bred 7-year-old horse by Nashwan, got the 9 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:50.22 with Richard Bracho riding for trainer Marcello Castro.
Joey Carson stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Gallant Bob Handicap for 3-year-olds, sprang to the lead in the stretch and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 length over Pavo. Euro Code was third and the favorite, Santana Strings, finished fourth. Joey Carson, a Pennsylvania-bred son of Lord Carson, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.29 under Anthony Black.
Trapped Again went right to the lead -- where you can't be trapped -- and ran away to win Saturday's $100,000 Kelso Handicap for 3-year-olds by 8 3/4 lengths over Navesink River. Separato was third. Trapped Again, a Kentucky-bred son of Deputy Commander, ran the 1 3/16 mile on a fast track in 1:55.41 with Joe Rocco in the irons.
Northern Scene found running room on the rail in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes and got by the leaders to win by 1 length. Charming Socialite, the early leader, finished second while Agrivating General was third. Northern Scene, a 4-year-old, Texas-bred son of Northern Baby, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.95 for jockey Lonnie Meche.
Lake Mac Mac came to challenge pace-setting favorite Upstream in the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes for 2-year-olds, then won a long duel to the line by a neck. Noble Texas finished third. Lake Mac Mac, a son of Desert Royalty, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.53 with Omar Rodriguez up.
Close wasn't involved in the companion $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Kathy's Rocket lived up to her name, seizing the lead and blasting off to a 6 1/4-length score over Cats Legend. The favorite, She's Open Minded, rallied to take third. Kathy's Rocket is a daughter of Gold Legend. She got the 6 furlongs in 1:12.05 under Jeremy Beasley.
Distinctive Trick came from last of five to win Saturday's $85,000 Sonny Hine Stakes for 3-year-olds by 7 lengths over Favalora. Salary Cap was third. Distinctive Trick, a New York-bred son of Distinctive Pro, ran 6 furlongs with Jozbin Santana riding in 1:11.86.The race is named for the late trainer, who handled Skip Away among others.
Ready for Roses rallied through the stretch run to win Saturday's $75,000 Best of Ohio Endurance by a neck over Go Johnny Go. Count On My Word was third. Ready for Roses, a 3-year-old, Ohio-bred son of More Than Ready, ran the 1 1/4 mile on a fast track in 2:01.80.
Precisepursuit lived up to her name in Saturday's $50,000 Finger Lakes Juvenile Fillies, pursuing the leaders until the turn, then swinging out for room and running off to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Blushing Marian was second as the odds-on mutuel choice and Bella Dorato was third. Precisepursuit, a daughter of Precise End, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.85 under Jennifer Schmidt.
Sungold Wonder came from next-last to win Sunday's $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity by a head over Lukin Awesome and another neck over Power Chip. Sungold Wonder, a British Columbia-bred son of Katahaula County, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:19.42.