There was a changing of the guard in thoroughbred racing during the weekend, with some emotional retirements and new stars shining.
Notable among the retirements was Shackleford, who won his final start at Churchill Downs amid no shortage of emotion.
And notable among the breakthroughs was Gentildonna, already a star in Japan but now poised to hit the international stage after upsetting Orfevre in Sunday's Japan Cup in Tokyo.
There was a lot going on so let's take a look:
Gentildonna dealt Orfevre his second straight heartbreaking defeat Sunday, catching the favorite in the final jumps to win the Group 1 Japan Cup by the narrowest of margins.
The defeat was devastatingly similar to Orfevre's second-place finish in last month's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, when he was caught at the wire by French filly Solemia after lugging in badly with the race seemingly won.
This time, the stewards took a long look at bumping in the stretch run before approving the victory by the winner of the Japanese Filly Triple Crown. They did impose a two-day suspension on winning jockey Yasunari Iwata for allowing the contact.
"It was a fierce battle," Iwata said. "I wish it could have been a bit cleaner. I'm sorry we bumped Orfevre and, yes, she did have a 4-kilo weight advantage. But she really deserves congratulations for her magnificent effort."
It was the seventh win in nine starts for Gentildonna and trainer Sei Ishizaka now is looking overseas for new targets. "I would say the Arc is a possibility and so is running in Dubai or the United States," he said. "I am thinking long-term and not necessarily next year."
The foreigners in this year's Japan Cup made little impression. Red Cadeaux got home eighth, Jakkalberry 11th and Mount Athos 12th. Sri Putra finished last of the 17 starters.
Shackleford went out on top, leading all the way to a 1-length win over Take Charge Indy in his final career start in Friday's $400,000, Grade I Clark Handicap. With Jesus Castanon in the irons, the 4-year-old Forestry colt ran 9 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:49.12 and never let Take Charge Indy pose more than a minor threat. Bourbon Courage made a courageous late run from well back to finish third, another head back. Shackleford heads off to the breeding shed with six wins, five seconds and a third from 20 career starts. He finished fourth in last year's Kentucky Derby, won the Preakness and finished fifth in the Belmont. "That's the way he's supposed to leave," said winning trainer Dale Romans, who picked up his ninth Grade I win of the year. Castanon, who rode Shackleford for the first time since he won the Grade II Churchill Downs on Derby Day, added, "He was very impressive today. That's 'Shack' at his best. I know what he likes to do and I put him in a spot where he wanted to be. He finished up strong. Once they let me open up, I knew he was going to last. I could have gone around again and I don't think they would have gotten me."
Uncaptured and Frac Daddy dueled down the long stretch in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club for 2-year-olds before Uncaptured put his nose in front under the wire. Dewey Square was third, 1 1/4 lengths farther in arrears. Uncaptured, an Ontario-bred Lion Heart colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.97 with Miguel Mena up for trainer Mark Casse. Uncaptured became just the seventh horse to win by both the Iroquois and the Kentucky Jockey Club during the fall meet under the twin spires and thus becomes an early candidate for next spring's Kentucky Derby. "Honestly, at the eighth pole I thought he was beat," Casse said. "Very seldom does a 2-year-old get headed, be on the inside and come back and win. He showed his gameness today. Good horses can win when things don't go perfect." Frac Daddy's trainer, Ken McPeek, also spoke optimistically about his colt's future. "I really trained him conservatively coming into it," McPeek said. "I could have trained him a little harder and, in hindsight, I think maybe I would have won it. But I'm thrilled with his race. I think if you give him two or three more starts under his belt, I don't think Uncaptured wants anything to do with him." They likely will settle that dispute on some track or the other before too many more months elapse.
Seaneen Girl came widest of all into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and went on to post a 31-1 upset win, besting the favorite Gal About Town, by a half length. It was 5 more lengths back to Liberated in third. Seaneen Girl, a Spring at Last filly, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.95 with Mena up for trainer Bernie Flint, who bought her in Canada because he liked her breeding. "I know one thing," Flint said after the win. "If she stays the way she is, she'll be fine. She'll come on in the spring really good. We're going to go down to Louisiana and I'll probably get a whole van just for her."
Keep Up wound up the fall meeting's stakes schedule with a 30-1 upset win in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III River City Handicap. Racing from near the back of the 12-horse field, the 5-year-old son of Unbridled's Song outfinished odds-on favorite Boisterous to win by a half length with 50-1 chance Skyring completing a nice getaway trifecta. Keep Up, with Miguel Mena up, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf and under the lights in 1:48.05.
Salty Strike got through between rivals in the stretch in Friday's $65,000 Dream Supreme Stakes for fillies and mares and held on to win by a half length over Cheery. Salty Strike, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.74 with Victor Lebron up.
Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher took three of the four rich stakes on Saturday's card and jockey Ramon Dominguez also won three, including two for Repole and Pletcher.
Stay Thirsty and Groupie Doll hooked up in a stretch duel in Saturday's $350,000, Grade I Cigar Mile with Stay Thirsty prevailing by a nose. Coil finished third, 2 lengths farther back. Stay Thirsty, a 4-year-old Bernardini colt, got home in 1:35.47 under Dominguez. Groupie Doll, dominant against fellow fillies and mares, brushed slightly with her rival in deep stretch but ran to the wire and did no harm to her chances for divisional honors at this year's Eclipse Awards. Winner of last year's Travers, Stay Thirsty had been winless in four earlier starts this year and now is targeted for the breeding shed. Pletcher noted the colt "was successful at 2 and won races like the Jim Dandy and Travers at 3, and the breeders love milers. He proved today he can be versatile enough to do all of those things. It was a huge win for him." Groupie Doll's trainer, Buff Bradley, said his filly "ran a hell of a race" in her first start against males. I'm glad we came. I knew Stay Thirsty was coming at us. He ran a great race, too. I thought she ran her race and ran very well."
Dance Card led from the early going in Saturday's $350,000, Grade I Gazelle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by 4 lengths. Sea Island was second at a big price and Puerto Rican star My Wandy's Girl finished third. Dance Card, a Kentucky-bred Tapit filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.39 with Dominguez up for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Godolphin filly now has won four straight races after finishing second in her debut. The Gazelle was her first graded stakes try. "She's a beautiful animal with high cruising speed, and she can pick it up whenever you ask her," Dominguez said. "She was perfect through the whole race, and down the lane she wanted to drift out some, but she keeps running. She's special, and I love her."
Pletcher, Dominguez and Repole won another in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Remsen Stakes for 2-year-olds as Overanalyze prevailed in the middle of a three-horse stretch battle sandwich. At the wire, Overanalyze was a nose better than the late-running Normandy Invasion. The pacesetter, Delhomme, settled for third. Overanalyze, a Dixie Union colt, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.13. He now has three win in five starts -- one in each of the major New York tracks. He also finished fourth in the Grade II Three Chimneys Hopeful at Saratoga and third in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs.
The Repole stable's Unlimited Budget led all the way to a 1 1/4-length score in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Demoiselle Stakes. Emollient, who stumbled at the start, finished second. Giant Cat's Eye and Flash Forward completed the order of finish. Unlimited Budget, a Florida-bred Street Sense filly, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:52.16 with John Velazquez in the irons. She remains undefeated in two starts. "We'll take her down to Florida and won't race her until February," Repole said, "give her all the time she needs and get her ready for a nice 3-year-old campaign."
Nefertini got to the lead in the lane and then battled through the final furlong in Friday's $200,000, Grade II Go for Wand Handicap before prevailing by a neck over Willet. Hard Life finished third. R Gypsy Gold and the odds-on favorite, Fantasy of Flight, completed the order of finish. Nefertini, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly, ran the mile on a fast track in 1:35.80. Winning rider Alan Garcia said his instructions were to stay close to the lead. At the end, he said, "She didn't want to get beat."
Notacaatbutallama tracked the pace in Friday's $80,000 Super Mario Stakes for 2-year-olds, swung out entering the stretch and drove clear, winning by 3 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. James Jingle came from last of seven to get place money and Sunlover finished third Notacatbutallama, a New York-bred Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.31 with John Velazquez in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole.
Better Lucky stalked the pace in Sunday's $250,000, Grade I Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares, put in the first run at the lead in the stretch and beat late-closing Tiz Flirtatious for a 1-length victory at 35-1 odds. Summer Soiree finished third. Better Lucky, a 3-year-old Ghostzapper filly owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Tom Albertrani, got the mile on firm turf in 1:34.18 with Eddie Castro up. "I was surprised at her odds," Godolphin racing manager Jimmy Bell said. "She's really blossomed. This is certainly a great way to cap off this year. She's very game, tries and is dead honest. I would think she'd surely be racing next year."
Unbridled Command rallied from near the back of the field to win Sunday's $250,000, Grade I Hollywood Derby by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Grandeur. Lucky Chappy finished third. Unbridled Command, a New York-bred Master Command colt, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.07 with Javier Castellano riding. It was his fifth straight win. Winning trainer Tom Bush said Unbridled Command will ship to Florida and will be pointed to a race at Gulfstream Park. "He likes to track on the turns," Bush said. "He just matures from race to race to race. I couldn't dream of a horse developing any nicer than this horse. He's really gotten special."
Data Link rallied three-wide into the stretch in Friday's $250,000 Citation Handicap and quickly shot clear, winning off by 2 1/4 lengths over the early leader and favorite, Ultimate Eagle. Doubles Partner finished third. Data Link, a 4-year-old War Front colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.00 with Garrett Gomez up for trainer Shug McGaughey. It was his seventh win in 15 career starts with the wins coming at five different tracks. "We're very pleased with the way he ran today and very pleased with the way Garrett Gomez rode him," McGaughey said by telephone. "They went slow early, but then they picked it up and Gomez was in a great spot ... . We think he's a pretty good little horse. He'll ship Monday and we'll see how he's doing."
Den's Legacy got to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds and held off Rising Legend's late run to win by a half length. Shining Copper finished third. Den's Legacy, a Florida-bred Medaglia d'Oro colt, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:36.32 with Garrett Gomez riding for trainer Bob Baffert. "I knew this horse would go through wherever I pointed him," Gomez said. "He's pretty handy that way. He was hitting the hole that wasn't there yet. When the hole opened up, I told him, 'Let's go." I just didn't want him to go from zero to 100 as fast as I could. I kind of pushed the gas pedal down and he kicked on." Baffert assistant Mike Marlow said, "I would guess Bob will keep him on the grass. That's his best, I think."
Travesura was on the lead shortly after the start in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Miesque Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and prevailed by a half length over late-running Pussycat Lips. Flashy Ways finished third and the favorite, Premier Steps, settled for sixth with a dull effort. Travesura, a Kentucky-bred Limehouse filly, got the mile on firm going in 1:37.01 under Tyler Baze. Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said he started thinking about the Miesque after Travesura won a maiden event by 3 3/4 lengths at Santa Anita in early October. "There really wasn't anything else for her," he said. "It was our only option. My only worry was the distance. I know she can run and I knew she'd like the grass. It just took forever to get her there."
Kindle was quickly on the lead in Friday's $65,000 Cool Air Stakes for fillies and mares and won off by 2 3/4 lengths over Broken Dreams. Schiaparelli finished third. Kindle, a 4-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie, got 6 furlongs over firm turf in 1:08.38 with Edwin Maldonado aboard.
Calder Race Course
Twilight Eclipse got home first in a parade of upsets in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II W. L. McKnight Handicap, rallying late to beat Mucho Mas Macho by 1 3/4 lengths. Vertiformer finished third and the favorite, Ioya Bigtime, finished fourth after leading for much of the race. Forte Dei Marmi, who skipped a trip to Hong Kong for this race, finished last of eight. Twilight Eclipse, a 3-year-old Purim gelding, ran the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:26.71 with Manoel Cruz up, winning for the third time in just six lifetime starts. "We had such good position through the whole race and I just waited," Cruz said. "And when I wanted to go, he just took off for me and he finished so, so strong."
Ducduc rallied to just catch pacesetting Csaba on the wire in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Fred W. Hooper Handicap, producing a dead heat for win and place. It was 7 1/4 lengths back to Fair Whit in third. Ducduc and Casba ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.93. Luis Saez was up on Csaba, a 3-year-old Kitten's Joy colt and Orlando Bocachica had the mount on Ducduc, a 6-year-old son of Langfuhr.
Magic Broomstick survived an awkward start in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares, rallied through the stretch and outfinished Wyomia to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Atlantic Hurricane finished third. Magic Broomstick, a 6-year-old More Than Ready mare, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.29 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. The race was her last as she heads off to her new career in the breeding shed.
Bear Tough Tiger won a duel with Bear No Joke in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III Kennedy Road Stakes, scoring by a neck. Something Extra finished third. Bear Tough Tiger, a 4-year-old Roar of the Tiger gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.77 for jockey Justin Stein. Bear Tough Tiger came into the race off a third-place finish in the Grade I Nearctic stakes. "He's doing better all the time," said winning trainer Reade Baker. "He'll go a little farther. We might try the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream before the year's over and see if we can get a Sovereign Award or two."
She's All Scat led most of the way in Saturday's $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, was headed by Ek Haseena late but fought back to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Disco Barbie danced in third as the favorite. She's All Scat, a Scat Daddy miss, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.18 with Jose Caraballo in the irons. She now has won two of four career starts. "She's a game little filly," Caraballo said. "She'll go to the front, she'll come off the pace. Today, when a horse came up to me and passed me, the filly came running again and she did it."
Unlatch surged to the lead late in Friday's $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes for 3-year-olds, opened a daylight lead and held on to win by a neck over Aldous Snow. Ikon Ike finished third. Unlatch, a Horse Chestnut gelding, got the mile on firm turf in 1:37.96 with Jamie Theriot in the irons.
Zapper Belle outfinished Francisca in Saturday's $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 3/4 of a length with Cat Lore getting show money. Zapper Belle, a Ghostzapper filly, ran the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:39.36 with Leandro Goncalves up.
African Rose led from the early going in Saturday's $55,000 Zia Park Distaff and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Raucous Lady. Pyrite On My Mind finished third. African Rose, a 3-year-old, Florida-bred Bwana Charlie filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.88 with Isaias Enriquez up.
Okie Ride mowed down his rivals in the stretch run of Friday's $50,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for Oklahoma-breds and went on to win by 3 3/4 length over Fifth Date. Ferdie Mac finished third. Okie Ride, a 5-year-old Candy Ride gelding, completed 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.62 with Luis Quinonez up.
Startin' Something went to the front, plodded along on the pace and easily won Saturday's $50,000 Bobbie Bricker Memorial Handicap for Ohio-bred fillies and mares. At the wire, the 4-year-old Musical Dreamer filly was 5 3/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Sheza Runaway Star and finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.63 for jockey Hector Rosario Jr.