It was an international weekend in Thoroughbred racing, with European horses dominating in Canada and promising youngsters in England and Italy.
While there were big purses and excellent runners in action all over North America, it seemed few, if any, of the weekend contests would have much bearing on the Breeders' Cup World Championships in three weeks' time.
Instead, winners were being redirected to other races -- in the case of Woodbine's three international Group 1 turf races, as far away as Japan and Hong Kong.
There was a Triple Crown winner in Japan and a big upset in Australia.
Here's how it happened, starting with Sunday's action over the sweeping Woodbine turf course outside Toronto:
Joshua Tree jumped to the lead in Sunday's $1.5 million (Canadian), Grade I Pattison Canadian International, slowed things down and had enough at the end to win by a half length over fellow European shipper Dandino. Forte Dei Marmi finished third, the best of the locals. Wigmore Hall finished fourth and the favorite, Imperial Monarch, was sixth. Less than 4 lengths separated the top six after 1 1/2 miles.
Joshua Tree, with Frankie Dettori up, took 1:17.17 for the first six furlongs and 1:43.05 for the mile. He got home in 2:30.89 over turf rated "good." However, the course was soft enough that trainer Bill Mott scratched Al Khali before the race.
Joshua Tree, a 5-year-old son of Montjeu, won the International in 2010 and finished second last year. He came into the race off a third-place finish in the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp -- a race that was Grade 1 caliber as Orfevre won with Meandre second. Sunday's win was his fifth in 20 career starts.
"That was always the plan, try to get to the front," Dettori said. "I'm very happy after half a mile. I was able to dictate my own tempo. When I kicked for home at the quarter pole, I knew I had plenty of horse left."
The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf. However, Lucie Botti, wife and assistant to winning trainer Marco Botti, said Joshua Tree is headed to the Japan Cup rather than the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita.
In Sunday's $1 million (Canadian), Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares, Siyouma easily brushed aside the leaders entering the stretch and won in a hand ride under Gerald Mosse. Pagera finished 1 3/4 lengths back in second and Dream Peace was third. Siyouma, a 4-year-old Medicean filly, got the 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:03.04.
Siyouma made it two straight wins following a victory last month at Newmarket in the Group 1 Sun Chariot Stakes, beating Elusive Kate, and Mosse said the quick turnaround impressed him.
"To be honest, I was not worried about the track, the ground or the filly," the jockey said. "I was just a bit worried two weeks ago, she was in the UK and we won a Group 1 already. It was a bit short in timing, but I told the trainer that if he chose to come, it means we are coming for something solid."
The E.P. Taylor also was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup but trainer Francois Dumen said Siyouma is headed for Hong Kong and the Dec. 9 Longines Hong Kong Cup.
The third Grade I event on Sunday's Woodbine card, the $500,000 (Canadian) Nearctic Stakes at 6 furlongs on the grass, was upset in front-running fashion by Next Question, imported from the New York circuit by trainer Michael Trombetta.
Next Question, a 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding, raced against fellow New York-breds until his last previous start, a win in an optional claimer at Belmont Park.
Sunday, he went to the front under Ramon Dominguez, set a pressured pace and then held off Night Carnation to win by a half length. Bear Tough Tiger was third and the favorite, Big Band Music, finished fourth. Next Question got home in 1:09.32 over the good turf.
"I kind of wanted to rate and stalk," Dominguez said. "But my horse was really pulling me and taking me forward so I decided to just keep him together. This race also was a "Win and You're In." Last year's winner, Regally Ready, used it as a springboard to victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Dawn Approach ran his undefeated skein to six in Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, quickly taking the lead inside the final 200 yards, then was eased up at the end. Leiter Mor was second and George Vancouver finished third. Dawn Approach, a New Approach colt representing Godolphin, got the 7 furlongs on good to firm turf in 1:24.00 under Keven Manning. Trainer Jim Bolger, who now has won five of the last six editions of this race, said Dawn Approach should be a viable Guineas and Derby candidate despite a leisurely approach to the early furlongs of Saturday's race. "He just has a lazy style of racing," the trainer said. "Once Kevin wound him up, there were never any concerns. Kevin says he will get further but I think we will start him at a mile next year and take it from there." After Dawn Approach's victory at Royal Ascot in June, he was sold to Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al Maktoum's Godolphin Racing. Sheik Mohammed, also ruler of Dubai, said after the race, "Today is a great day and we are very happy. I was impressed with Dawn Approach when he won his maiden and I thought that he was a good horse. I could have been wrong. I could have bought a bad horse. But, thank God, we were lucky. Good horses always find something and, Insha'Allah, he will be back for the 2,000 Guineas. I think that he will get a mile or a mile and a quarter but I don't know if he is a Derby horse yet."
Reckless Abandon ran his career mark to five wins without a loss by scoring a narrow and hard-fought victory over Moohaajim in Saturday's Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. Reckless Abandon, an Exchange Rate colt, had defeated Moohaajim rather decisively at Deauville in August in the Prix Morny. But the latter came back with a victory in the Group II Mill Reef Stakes less than a month ago. Saturday, Reckless Abandon got to the lead inside the final furlong, was headed by Moohaajim and had all he could do to come back and score by a neck with second effort. Gale Force Ten was just another neck in back, finishing third. Reckless Abandon, with Gerald Mosse up, ran the 6 furlongs on good to soft going in 1:11.07. Cristoforo Colombo finished fourth. Winning trainer Clive Cox said Reckless Abandon is done for the year. Asked about his 3-year-old campaign, Cox said, "I think we will digest whether he is a sprinter or a miler a bit further before we comment." Moohaajim's trainer, Marco Botti, said the 2,000 Guineas is in the thinking for his charge. "Why not?" Botti said of the Cape Cross colt. "He has the pedigree to be a better 3-year-old. I think he will definitely get a mile and there is still improvement to come in him."
Pierro surrendered his undefeated status and his favorite's odds for the upcoming Cox Plate took a minor hit when All Too Hard caught the favorite in the late going to win Saturday's Group 1 Caulfield Guineas. With Dwayne Dunn up, All Too Hard started slowly and was just getting wound up with about 400 yards to go. But Pierro appeared to tire as he neared the finish and just did fail to hold. Betting concerns continued to hold Pierro favored for the Cox Plate but All Too Hard tumbled from high double-digit odds to single digits with most books.
British-based Law Enforcement wore down Sorella Bella in the late going to win Saturday's Group 1 Gran Criterium at San Siro by a length. Law Enforcement, an Irish-bred Lawman colt, got the mile on good turf in 1:37.10 with Stephane Pasquier aboard. The Richard Hannon-trained youngster now has won four straight races after finishing second in his first try.
With a smashing win Sunday at Sha Tin, Packing Whiz continued a whiz up the class ladder toward a potential spot in December's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup. Packing Whiz, winner of last year's Italian 2,000 Guineas, doubled down on a victory last month with a late run that got him home first by 1 3/4 lengths in Sunday's Sa Sa Ladies' Purse. Winning trainer John Moore said Packing Whiz is targeted for the 2,000-meter Longines Jockey Club Cup next month, then for the big show on Dec. 9. Many horses are renamed when they move to Hong Kong ownership and Packing Whiz raced in Italy under the name Al Rep. His Hong Kong stablemate, Dominant, missed the start badly Sunday but put in an excellent late run to finish second and could target the 1 1/2-mile Longines Hong Kong Vase in December.
Gentildonna just barely outran Verxina in Sunday's Group 1 Shuka Sho at Kyoto, completing the Japanese fillies' Triple Crown. Both fillies are by Deep Impact and the pair finished 1-2 in all three legs of the series. Sunday, the margin was a nose as the duo powered past 200-1 long shot leader Cherry Medusa in the final 50 yards. Aromatico was along for third. Gentildonna completed the 1 1/4 miles on firm going in 2:04.40.
Back in North America, we'll continue for one final week to sort them by Breeders' Cup Division, although it seems virtually all the preps for the Santa Anita races now are in the books.
Filly & Mare Turf
Dayatthespa looked on paper like the only speed in Saturday's $400,000, Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and Keeneland and that's how it worked out. With Javier Castellano rationing out her speed, Dayatthespa led from the start and won by 2 lengths over Centre Court in the race restricted to 3-year-old fillies. Better Lucky was third and the favorite, Stephanie's Kitten, finished a close-up sixth after suffering some traffic woes. Dayatthespa, a New York-bred daughter of City Zip, zipped the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.99. She is undefeated in five starts this year and she has missed the exacta only once in eight career races -- a ninth-place showing in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Asked if she might extend her range to the 1 1/4 miles of the Breeder's Cup Filly & Mare Turf, winning trainer Chad Brown replied that race comes up too soon. Instead, he added, he is considering the Grade I Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25. Stephanie's Kitten's rider, John Velazquez, said she "really didn't try very much today." None of the others is ticketed for the Breeders' Cup, either.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Nicole H got through along the rail into the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park and kicked clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Winning Image. Starlite Starbrite finished third. Nicole H, a 5-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.96 under Daniel Centeno.
Two Months Rent earned a bit more than that with a stretch-running, long shot win in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Hawthorne Derby at Hawthorne Park. The Purim gelding outlasted Film Shot on the rain-softened turf, winning by a head in 1:52.58 under Jesus Castenon. The favorite, Lea, was 3 3/4 lengths farther back at the end after rallying from the back of the pack. Finale led much of the way but faded at the end, finishing sixth. It was just the third win in 14 career starts for Two Months Rent, who posted a third-place finish in the Grade III Kent Stakes at Delaware Park in his last previous start. "As soon as he broke from the gate I knew he could handle the yielding turf," Castenon said. "I could just feel it. Everything went according to plan. We had a good trip, he handled the turf, and we got up for the win." Rosie Napravnik, who rode Lea, said her mount slipped coming out of the gate, "was just trying to get ahold of it, and he did come with a great late run." You may remember Two Months Rent as the horse whose saddle slipped during the Virginia Derby this summer, causing some traffic issues on the backstretch.
Boisterous rallied wide around most of the field entering the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont Park, quickly passed them all and went on to win by 2 lengths. See Tobe was second and Tune Me In completed the trifecta. Boisterous, a 5-year-old son of Distorted Humor, ran the 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:50.26 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. He won the race for the second straight year. Buzz Tenney, assistant to winning trainer Shug McGaughey, said Lezcano "got him in a good position early in the race and I think that's the key with him. I think he likes to get in position early, be patient, and find a hole to finish through."
La Cloche rallied from well back to take Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park by 1 1/4 lengths over Embarr. Laughing finished third and the favorite, Ruthenia, got home fourth with a belated run. La Cloche is a 5-year-old Phipps Stable homebred by Ghostzapper out of Memories of Silver, who won the 1996 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup and the following year's Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park. Memories of Silver also produced Winter Memories who won this year's Grade I Diana at Saratoga before being retired with a degenerative bone disease. La Cloche ran the 1 1/16 miles on good going in 1:45.15 with Junior Alvarado up. "That's all we've heard, 'Gotta get a graded stakes, gotta get a graded stakes, gotta get a graded stakes!" said winning trainer James Toner. "Thank God, maybe she can get out of her sister's shadow for a change. We're really happy for her."
Csaba obviously didn't mind that Saturday's $100,000 Tropical Park Derby came off the grass and onto the good main track. The Kitten's Joy colt tracked the pace through the early furlongs, then kicked into hyper-drive in the stretch, winning off by 14 lengths. Empire Builder chugged in second with early leader Musical Flair salvaging third. Casba, with Luis Saez in the irons, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.94. "That horse is good -- so good," Saez said. "We have to figure out what we're going to do now," trainer Phil Gleaves said. "We could take the conservative approach and stay here for the Fred Hooper, but I don't know. Is it tough to take a 3-year-old to the Breeders' Cup, to a race like the Dirt Mile? I'm not sure you want to do something like that with a 3-year-old. Maybe it's best to leave that for next year. But off that performance, we may have to think about it."
Madame Giry rallied wide into the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland and drew clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Bounding Bi led briefly, before Madame Giry went bounding by. Sensible Lady finished third. Madame Giry, a 3-year-old Castledale filly, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:03.12 with Eddie Castro up, picking up her fifth straight victory. Winning trainer Cam Gambolati said Madame Giry was a bargain. "She was out in a field in Maryland, and [her then-owner], unfortunately, was on financial bad times. We bought her for $2,000."
Tiz Flirtatious was last of 11 halfway down the hillside turf course in Saturday's $100,000 first division of the California Cup Distaff, rallied four-wide across the dirt course and was up at the end to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Best Present Ever. Unusual Hottie was along for third. Tiz Flirtatious, a 4-year-old Tizbud filly, finished the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:11.70. Winning rider Joel Rosario said his filly "was really relaxed and she covered a lot of ground when I asked her to run. She looked good."
Bella Viagia took charge in the stretch of the second division of the Distaff and drew clear to win by 2 lengths over Missdealornodeal. Cayanna was second and Sparkling Style finished third. Bella Viagia, a 3-year-old daughter of Good Journey, ran the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.02 with Joe Talamo riding. "It was a big race, big effort," said winning trainer Mike Puype. "She has a great future."
Maui Mark mowed down the leaders in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita, then outfinished Ain't No Other for a half-length victory. Obsess led into the stretch and held third. Derby Gold and Mensa Heat finished seventh and eighth, respectively, despite wide support at the betting windows. Maui Mark, a 7-year-old Unusual Heat gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.03 with Garrett Gomez riding.
Speak Logistics blasted right to the lead in Saturday's $300,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder and had no trouble coasting home a winner by 2 3/4 lengths over Two T's at Two B. Uptown Anthem finished third in the climactic race of the series for colts and geldings by Florida-based stallions. Speak Logistics, by High Cotton, ran the 11/16 miles on the good main track in 1:47.79 with Angel Serpa up. He now has won two of three starts. "Once I was on the lead so easy, I knew I had the race won," Serpa said.
Monument rallied by the tiring leader entering the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Bob Benoit California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, took the lead and easily held off stablemate Ballard Ruler for a 2 3/4-length win. Star Rocker was third. Monument, a Cindago colt, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.84 with Martin Garcia riding. Winning trainer John Sadler said, "We'll probably keep him in the state-bred program for now, but he is an improving horse and we're excited."
In Saturday's $300,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder, Verso a Verso waited behind the pace, surged to the lead turning for home and drew clear quickly thereafter, winning off by 5 lengths over Ashlee's Princess. So Blessed finished third and the odds-on favorite, Putyourdreamsaway, hit the gate, rushed to contention and then faded to get home sixth. Verso a Verso, a daughter of Circular Quay, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the good main track in 1:49.95 with Angel Serpa up. She was claimed by owner Frank Calabrese for $16,000 out of her first career start and trainer Luis Ramirez admitted the result "was a good surprise."
Tilde accentuated her favorite's status with a late-running, half-length victory over Doinghardtimeagain in Saturday's $250,000 Keith E. Card California Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. Cotton's Point finished third. Tilde, a Swiss Yodeler filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.56 with Rafael Bejarano up. "I wasn't real excited about the job I did coming into this race and she still won," trainer Mike Harrington said. "It just goes to show you good horses will overcome their trainers." He said he expects to keep Tilde in state-bred ranks.
Surtsey was put to the drive midway down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Fanfreluche Stakes for Ontario-foaled 2-year-old fillies and responded, winning by a length over early leader Rootham Triple E's. Sarah Her Highness finished third. Surtsey, a daughter of Heetseeker, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.52 with Jermaine Bridgmohan aboard.
Delegation made all the going in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Durham Cup at Woodbine and held well at the end, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over City Wolf. James Street finished third. Delegation, a 3-year-old Speightstown gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.60 under Patrick Husbands.
Lucky Primo stalked the pace set by 40-1 long shot Got Even in Saturday's $175,000 Lava Man California Cup Classic, got by and went on to win by a half length over that rival. The favorite, John Scott, ran well late to finish third, another 3/4 of a length back. Rousing Sermon was fourth. Lucky Primo, a 6-year-old Atticus gelding, ran the 11/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.04 under Tyler Baze. Winning trainer Joshua Litt said he will continue to go "race by race with him. If he's good enough, we'll go on with him. Sometimes you have to give him time off. He's just a solid, solid Cal-bred."
Calder Race Course
Awesome Belle conceded the early lead in Saturday's $75,000, off-the-turf Frances A. Genter Stakes for 3-year-old fillies but quickly picked up the pace when asked, got to the front and held off Frolic's Revenge in the final yards to win by a neck. Wicked Night was 7 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Awesome Belle, now the winner of four straight, ran the mile on the good main track in 1:40.82 under Fernando Jara. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Awesome of Course.
Cash Rules rallied from a pace-stalking trip in Saturday's $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap, took the lead in the lane and got home first by 3/4 of a length over Ducduc. Flatter This finished third. Cash Rules, a 5-year-old Peace Rules gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the good track in 1:46.99 with Luis Saez up.
Kid Kate was up in the final yards to win Sunday's $80,000 Classy Mirage Stakes for fillies and mares by a half length over pacesetting Roman Treasure. Media Starlett finished third. Kid Kate, a 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.69 for jockey Jose Lezcano.
Beau Choix rallied from last to win Friday's $80,000 Rob N Gin Stakes by a nose over Upgrade. Saint Pierre led early in the stretch and held on for third. Beau Choix, a 5-year-old son of Elusive Quality, ran 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:23.39 with Joel Rosario up.
Silver Baubles tracked the pace in second position through the early stages of Saturdays' $50,000 (Canadian) Harvest Gold Cup, got by early leader Hollywood Dreams in deep stretch and won by a half length over that rival. The favorite, Up Jumps a Monster, settled for a tame third. Silver Baubles, a 3-year-old Gilded Time gelding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:46 1/5 under Kyle Carter.
Dreamed a Dream fought a fight down the stretch before winning Saturday's $50,000 John Kirby Stakes for Massachusetts-bred 3-year-olds by a nose over Fonzy. Danley's Dream, the early leader, held on for third. Dreamed a Dream, a filly by Agnes Gold, ran the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:46.49 on a fast track with Jill Jellison in the irons.
Friday's $75,000 Best of Ohio Endurance capped a program of stakes for Buckeye-breds and Only Boy punctuated the event with a last-to-first victory. The 4-year-old Political Folly gelding actually kicked clear at the end to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Raise the Reward. Bold Captain was third and the even-money favorite, Eyes Super Freaky, faded from the lead to finish fourth. Only Boy got 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:05.02 with Jareth Loveberry up.
In the other "Best of Ohio" races: Pay the Man came from off the pace to upset the $75,000 Distaff, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Muir Woods in 1:51.74; Sneak a Cold Treat snuck by Royal Nemesis with a second effort to win by $50,000 Sprint by a half length in 1:10.36; Blazing Bling battled for the lead in the $50,000 John W. Galbreath for 2-year-old fillies, then easily drew off to win by 4 3/4 lengths over Deniro Saint, finishing in 1:47.68, and; Silver Tongued rallied from last of 10 to win the $75,000 Juvenile going away from runner-up Pryrite Mill in 1:47.80.
Two unanswered, sports-related questions: Why is this track named Thistledown? And why are they the Baylor Bears?
Control Seeker controlled the pace all the way in Sunday's $75,000 Bull Dog Handicap and got home first by a half length over Juniper Pass. Quindici Man finished third and the favorite, Dynamic Host, was fourth. Control Seeker, with Francisco Duran in the irons, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.53.
Glencoe Kid took command in the stretch run of Sunday's $75,000 (Canadian) Ascot Graduation Stakes for 2-year-olds and won off by 4 1/2 lengths over Step Up. Tracker finished third. Glencoe Kid, a Kentucky-bred Repent colt, got the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.86 with Mario Gutierrez riding.
I Want to Dust Her came from last of nine to win Sunday's $75,000 (Canadian) Fantasy Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 4 1/4 lengths over Innocent Love. Ten Thirty finished third. I Want to Dust Her, a daughter of Mass Market, ran 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy track in 1:47.05 for jockey Richard Hamel.
Indication N M came by the leaders late in Sunday's $55,000 Governor's Cup for 2-year-olds and won by 3/4 of a length over the odds-on favorite, Estrickator. Ize In Command finished third. Indication N M, an Attila's Storm gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.51 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons.
Winter Book took over early in Sunday's $55,000 Permian Basin for 2-year-old fillies and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Platinum Song. Cowgirl Princess finished third. Winter Book, a Kentucky-bred Any Given Saturday filly, was clocked in 1:11.40 with Miguel Hernandez up.