Winners from the Breeders' Cup World Championships are eying races all around the world after a two-day Santa Anita extravaganza that saw plenty of international intrigue of its own.
Sunday's Tenno Sho (Spring) in Tokyo looks to have been a worthy prep for the upcoming Group 1 Japan Cup. And a very international field is set to halt Australia in its tracks in Tuesday's Group 1 Melbourne Cup.
Breeders' Cup has drawn a fair amount of international derision over the years for the appellation "World Championships." But Friday and Saturday's races lent some credence to that title, with runners coming from a far afield as Hong Kong, winners hailing from several countries, a winner bred in Japan and even a few American horses who have been campaigned successfully in Europe.
The case can be strengthened should Breeders' Cup competitors perform in the Group 1 Japan Cup later this month, the quartet of Group 1 events in December in Hong Kong and the Dubai World Cup in March. Of course, planning for international movement of horses remains a case of, "Man plans and God laughs," so we won't count any chickens quite yet.
In the meantime, the controversy will linger over the controversial start of Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic. And Hong Kong will be a while getting over the failure of their first-ever Breeders' Cup runner who looked so, so good going into the Sprint.
Let's take a brief look at the Breeders' Cup races and Japan, peek ahead at Melbourne and very briefly recap other action around the ovals.
Breeders' Cup Saturday
Bayern defeated the UAE Derby winner, Toast of New York, by a nose in the $5 million Classic, with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome third and previously undefeated 3-year-old Shared Belief fourth. Bayern took an abrupt left turn out of the gate, slamming Shared Belief, while Toast of New York inflicted some damage of his own while getting over to the rail. After a long examination, the stewards let the result stand. In addition to tossing U.S. Horse of the Year honors into the blender, Beyern's victory may have international implications. Trainer Bob Baffert initially expressed doubt about sending the colt next March to the Dubai World Cup, which will be run on the new dirt surface at Meydan. Baffert suffered a heart attack while in Dubai for the World Cup two years ago. But any hesitancy on the part of the trainer might be trumped by the owner. Kaleem Shah said Bayern might be considered for the World Cup. Baffert countered, "I'll take my cardiologist with me. He's ready. He wants to go." And good news for fans and a possible incentive for his reluctant trainer: Shah said of Bayern, "As long as he's healthy, he'll run at 4, 5 and 6." Toast of New York also is a candidate for the $10 million World Cup.
It doesn't get much more international than the renewal of this turf event, even without the once-expected British miler Kingman and South African crackerjack Variety Club, both sidelined by injury. In their absence, Karakontie, a Japanese-bred, French-trained 3-year-old colt, fought to the lead in the stretch run and held off Anodin, an Irish-bred runner, winning the $2 million Mile by 1 length as the top four finishers all went off at double-digit odds. The downside for the victorious European contingent was crack British miler Toronado getting home a fading eighth. Furthering the international theme, Karakontie is nominated to the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin on Dec. 14. "I don't know about the Hong Kong Mile," said trainer Jonathan Pease. "He's had a long year and he may have done enough. We'll see." Trade Storm, third in Saturday's race, also reportedly is a candidate for the Longines Hong Kong Mile.
Work All Week, the reigning Illinois Horse of the Year, is an unlikely candidate for international glory -- but, then, he seemed just a few days ago an unlikely candidate for Breeders' Cup glory. In fact, he survived a hot pace duel in the $1.5 million Sprint, then held off last year's winner, Secret Circle, for a 1 1/2-lengths victory. Work All Week is owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds, who grind out their glory in daily racing on many fronts, as evidenced by their standing as the leading U.S. owner by wins. The disappointment of the race was Rich Tapestry, who came from Hong Kong to finish second in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, then won the Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship three weeks before the Breeders' Cup, beating Secret Circle, among others. He appeared to break well from the gate on Saturday but had no response when called on by jockey Olivier Doleuze and wasn't persevered with late, finishing last.
How multinational is this? Main Sequence was campaigned in Europe until this year, hit the ground running in America for his 5-year-old campaign and, after winning the $3 million Turf -- over a top French runner -- now is 4-for-4 for the season, all in Grade I events. The runner-up Saturday, Flintshire, finished second to Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in his last start and an outstanding British horse, Telescope, finished fourth in the Turf, so this is not a case of dominating only inferior American rivals. Both Main Sequence and Flintshire are in the mix for the Hong Kong international races. "We've been invited to Hong Kong, we've been invited to Japan and then there are nice races in Dubai in March, so there are lots of options," said Main Sequence's trainer, Graham Motion. "Japan comes a bit quick, so that's a worry. Hong Kong is an option. My only apprehension is that this horse got quite sick when he came to me last winter and I'm just worried about shipping him a long way. But I'd say we'll definitely consider it." Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms, which owns Flintshire, said their colt "is still coming good. He's still a possible for Hong Kong or maybe Dubai next year."
Unless Louisiana counts, there's not a lot of international intrigue about Texas Red's last-to-first win in the $2 million Sentient Jet Juvenile. Last entering the stretch turn, he circled the field and won by 6 1/2 lengths. Carpe Diem, the favorite, was best of the rest with Upstart third and the only foreign starter, the Aidan O'Brien-trained The Great War, finished fourth. Texas Red, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Kent, was purchased for $17,000 at the Keeneland sale in September 2013. He benefitted in Saturday's race from scratches by two likely favorites, American Pharoh and Calculator. "You never want to see a defection but it had to help," said Keith Desormeaux. Both Desormeaux said Texas Red has Kentucky Derby potential written all over him. "He was just getting into gear" after 6 furlongs, the jockey said. "When he got to the wire, he was like, 'Is that it?' The road to Kentucky leads through here."
Bobby's Kitten won the $1 million Turf Sprint, rallied from last of 14 to nip No Nay Never by 1/2 length. Undrafted was a whisker behind in third, just in front of long shot Ageless. No Nay Never and Undrafted, both trained by Wesley Ward, both have raced at Royal Ascot and, judging by the enthusiasm of winning owner Ken Ramsey, Bobby's Kitten may follow in their hoofprints this coming June. Trainer Chad Brown, with Ramsey's blessing, named the Kitten's Joy colt for his training mentor, Bobby Frankel. Brown said Ramsey told him to keep the name for a horse worthy of it and this colt is the one. Ramsey, in fact, called him "probably the very best Kitten's Joy I ever raised," which takes in a lot of territory. "We're thinking about Royal Ascot next year," Ramsey exulted while Brown added a shot at the Breeders' Cup Mile on his home Keeneland turf might be the ultimate 2015 objective. Side note: Avid horse owner and restaurateur Bobby Flay jokingly tried to appropriate the colt's name during the awards ceremony. "Thanks for naming the horse after me," he quipped.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Judy the Beauty, another of Wesley Ward's international travelers, shot by the early leaders at mid-stretch in the $1 million DraftKings Filly & Mare Sprint and held off a desperate late effort by Better Lucky to win by a head. Thank You Marylou finished third along the rail. Judy the Beauty, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare, won the Prix Caravelle at Chantilly in France in her second career start after breaking her maiden at Keeneland in April of 2011. She finished second by 1/2 length to Groupie Doll in last year's Filly & Mare Sprint. Ward plans no more trans-Atlantic travel for Judy the Beauty, who "will head back to Kentucky. I had thought about retiring her but there is no doubt that Keeneland is absolutely her favorite track. I just want to give her another chance to win at her home track," Ward said. The 2015 Breeders' Cup World Championships will be contested for the first time at Keeneland.
Filly & Mare Turf
The international contingent settled for third and fourth in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf, a race often favored by Europeans. Dayatthespa hit the lead early, relaxed into a moderate pace and kept going long enough to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Stephanie's Kitten. Just the Judge, a British-based filly making her third North American start, was third and the defending champion, Dank, also based in England, finished fourth with an even run. Dayatthespa, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, ran 1 1/4 miles on turf officially rated "good" after overnight rains, in 2:00.12. The race was her first at 1 1/4 miles and Jockey Javier Castellano said, "I thought she could get the distance if we could get away with a slow pace. And that's exactly what we did." The trainers of Just the Judge and Dank both said a soft pace in the middle stages of the race put paid to their horses' chances. "My God, they didn't half-crawl," said Just the Judge's trainer, Charlie Hills.
Take Charge Brandi, at 60-1 odds, led all the way to a 1/2-lengths victory in the $2 million, Grade I 14 Hands Winery Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. The Giant's Causeway filly, boasting only one previous victory from five starts, blazed through 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.95 with Victor Espinoza up. Top Decile made a late run to finish second and Wonder Gal was third. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran his record of Breeders' Cup wins to 20 with the massive upset.
Breeders' Cup Friday
Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable capped a dream season with a handy victory in Friday's $2 million Distaff, holding off a dramatic late run by Don't Tell Sophia by 1 1/4 lengths. Iotapa was third and last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner, Ria Antonia, finished fourth. Untapable, a Tapit filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.68 with Rosie Napravnik becoming the first female jockey to win the race. Napravnik announced during the trophy presentation she is pregnant and "my retirement will start Monday," although she left the door open to an eventual return to racing. Winning trainer Steve Asmussen said he hasn't heard for sure about Untapable's future but added, "I have every indication that she'll stay in training."
Goldencents survived the early pressure of Vicar's In Trouble, then turned back the stretch run of Tapiture to capture Friday's $1 million Dirt Mile by 1 1/4 lengths. Tapiture held second, 5 lengths in front of Pants On Fire with Bronzo fourth. Goldencents, with Rafael Bejarano up, sprinted to the lead heading into the first turn but Vicar's In Trouble applied relentless pressure as the two opened up a huge lead down the backstretch. But Vicar's In Trouble was in trouble before they hit the stretch turn, dropping from contention as Tapiture took up the chase. Despite the quick early pace, Goldencents found more and went on to win his second straight running of the Dirt Mile, finishing 1:35.16. Goldencents is off to his second career in the breeding shed.
Hootenanny became a cross-Atlantic dual stakes winner Saturday, coming from off the pace to collar Luck of the Kitten in deep stretch to take the $1 million, Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf by 3/4 length. A tight photo for third went to long shot Daddy D T with Conquest Typhoon fourth. The favorite, War Envoy, finished twelfth of 14. Hootenanny, a Kentucky-bred Quality Road colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.75 under Frankie Dettori. "This is what you dream about," said Michael Tabor, co-owner of Hootenany. "To campaign a horse in Europe and America and then win the Breeders' Cup -- it makes the game very international. That's what it's all about." The colt epitomizes the international vision of the Irish-based Coolmore and trainer Wesley Ward. Hootenanny won at first asking at Keeneland in the spring, then traveled to Royal Ascot, where he won the Windsor Castle Stakes. He went on to finish second, only 1/2 length in arrears to The Wow Signal, in the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in August in his last start before the Breeders' Cup. Luck of the Kitten, from the powerful stable of Ken sand Sarah Ramsey, was trying to wrest this race away from the Europeans, who have dominated since its inception in 2007.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Lady Eli got through along the rail at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies turf and jetted off to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the pacesetter, Sunset Glow. Osaila, based in England, ran on to finish a distant third in the best showing for Europeans in a race they often own. Lady Eli, with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.41. She remains undefeated in three starts, following a maiden win at Saratoga and an easy victory in the Grade III Miss Grillo at Belmont Park. She is a daughter of Divine Park out of the Saint Ballado mare Sacre Coeur. Gary Stevens, riding only three months after a total knee replacement, finished fifth aboard Sivoliere.
On the Saturday undercard:
The $100,000 Juvenile Turf Sprint came off the turf and half the field scratched, leaving Ocho Ocho Ocho to jet off in the stretch and win by daylight over Peacenluv Peacenluv. Tizcano finished third. Ocho Ocho Ocho, a 2-year-old Street Sense colt, won for the second time in as many starts, covering the 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:14.57. The surface switch eliminated all but one of the European entries and that one, War Alert, finished last.
Amaranth shot out to a big early lead in the $100,000, Grade III Senator Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares and held on at the end to win by 3/4 length from Velvet Mesquite. Fanticola, well last through the early going, put in a late run but flattened out to finish third. Amaranth, a 3-year-old Mr. Greeley filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:16.07. The race, named for a former California state senator, came off the turf and its graded status is subject to review.
Acceptance set a pressured pace in the $200,000 Golden State Juvenile for state-bred 2-year-olds and held on gamely to defeat Wake Up Nick by1 1/4 lengths. Mischief Clem finished third. Acceptance, a Vronsky colt, ran 7 furlongs on a good main track in 1:21.70 with Elvis Trujillo up. He now is 2-for-2 after winning the race in which California Chrome finished sixth last year.
On the Friday undercard:
Long on Value rallied by Sawyer's Hill in the final yards to take the $200,000, Grade II Twilight Derby with Divine Oath along for third. Long On Value, a Value Plus colt, posted hi second straight win for trainer Bill Mott following a victory in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. With Rosie Napravnik up, Long On Value ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:46.82. The colt now has five wins from 13 lifetime starts.
Cary Street trailed the field by a huge margin through most of the $200,000, Grade II Las Vegas Marathon Stakes at 1 3/4 miles. But when jockey Miguel Mena gave him his cue during the second tour down the backstretch, he responded gamely, picking off rivals easily and hitting the lead at the top of the lane. The 5-year-old Smarty Jones gelding then kicked clear, eventually winning by 9 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Irish Surf. Patrioticandproud was third at a big price. Cary Street got home in 2:58.29 over firm going.
Chitu had things all his own way in the $100,000 Damascus Stakes for 3-year-olds, leading from the start and kicking clear in the lane to win by daylight. Bahamian Squall stuck close to the lead and held on for second with Unbridled's Note third. Chitu, one of three in the race trained by Bob Baffert, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.66 with Joel Rosario up. Chitu was making his first start since finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby and, before that, won the Grade III Sunland Park Derby in New Mexico. He is by Henny Hughes out of the A.P. Indy mare Sea Gift.
My Fiona found running room on the rail in the stretch drive of the $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies for Cal-breds, got through and inched away to win by 3/4 length from long shot Princess Bertrando. Stormy Adieu led early and held on for third. My Fiona, a Ghostzapper filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.16 with Rafael Bejarano up.
Spielberg caught the embattled favorites, Gentildonna and Isla Bonita, in the final yards to win Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) by 3/4 length. Denim and Ruby finished seventh and Curren Black Hill was ninth in the 2,000-meters event around the left-hand Tokyo turf. Spielberg and Gentildonna provided an exacta sweep for their sire, Deep Impact. Both are 5-year-olds. Spielberg, who has been lightly raced due to leg issues, was off to a typically tardy start and did not launch his bid until the stretch, sweeping to the lead in the shadow of the wire. The full brother to Group 1 winner Tosen Ra finished in 1:59.7 over firm going and likely is headed to the Japan Cup in four weeks' time. "He's been lightly raced with long intervals," said trainer Hiroshi Kitamura. "But he's gaining strength and developing well." Winning jockey Kazuo Fujisawa added, "He's best at this distance. He is in hand and has a liking for the Tokyo course so the coming Japan Cup is likely to be his next target." Gentildonna has won the past two runnings of the Group 1 Japan Cup, last year by a narrow margin over Denim and Ruby.
Eleven internationally trained horses are among the 24 confirmed on Saturday for Tuesday's Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup. Among them are Japan's Caulfield Cup winner, Admire Rakti, Red Cadeaux, Protectionist, Seismos and the Godolphin Racing duo of Cavalryman and Willing Foe.
Preferment, under Damien Oliver, got home first in Saturday's Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby with Bondeiger second and Light Up Manhattan third. The favorite, Hampton Court, struggled home eighth. It was the first win in seven starts for Preferment, an entire son of Zabeel, who had settled for second three times in his earlier races. "The writing was on the wall in his last start," said trainer Chris Waller. "He's just a genuine stayer. He's a very talented horse and, being a colt, the sky's the limit."
Also on Saturday, Happy Trails trailed no one at the end of the Group 1 Longines Mackinnon Stakes, a 2,000-meters event for 3-year-olds and up. He's Your Man was second with Spillway third and the favorite, Criterion, settling for fourth.
In the Group 1 Myer Classic for fillies and mares at 1,800 meters, Bonaria posted a big upset under Michael Rodd with Sweet Idea second and Catkins third. The favorite, May's Dream, finished eighth.
Filimbi came five-wide into the stretch and passed all seven rivals to win Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Goldikova Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths. There were two disqualifications for bumping in deep stretch: Emotional Kitten from second to fourth and I'm Already Sexy from fourth to fifth. That promoted Strathnaver to second and Wall of Sound to show money. Filimbi, ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by Bill Mott, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.13. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast, out of the Seattle Slew mare Flute.
Protonico rallied from last of seven over a sloppy track to take Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds by 2 3/4 lengths over Bay of Plenty. Just Call Kenny finished third. Protonico, a Giant's Causeway colt, ran 9 furlongs in 1:51.92 with Joe Bravo riding.
Blofeld stalked the pace in Sunday's $250,000, Grade II Nashua Stakes for 2-year-olds, went to the lead at the eighth pole and went on to win by 5 lengths, ridden out by John Velazquez. El Kabeir was best of the rest, 5 1/2 lengths better than The Truth or Else. Blofeld, a Quality Road colt out of the Storm Cat mare Storm Minstrel, ran 1 mile on a muddy track in 1:38.89. Ernst Stavro Blofeld was an arch villain in several of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels.
Jacaranda led from the start in Sunday's $250,000, Grade III Tempted Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and drew clear late to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Paulassilverlining. Save Rock and Roll finished third. Jacaranda, a Congrats filly out of the Distorted Humor mare Baffled, ran 1 mile on a good track in 1:40.24 with Jose Ortiz up. A Jacaranda is a flowering tropical plant.
Molly Morgan rallied from next-last to take Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares, besting runner-up Street Girl by 2 1/4 lengths. Enchanting Lisa finished third. Molly Morgan, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.97 with Corey Lanerie in the irons.
Strut the Course got to the lead a furlong from home in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares and strutted home a 5-lengths winner. Julie's Love was 1/2 length farther back in third. Strut the Course, with Luis Contreras in the irons, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:02.74. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Strut the Stage.
Glenville Gardens led from the start in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes for 2-year-olds and kicked away in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Hollywood Critic finished second and Sea to Sea was third. Glenville Gardens, a Kentucky-bred colt by Street Cry out of the Storm Cat mare Navy Gardens, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.45 with Contreras up.
Brooklynsway rallied to the lead at mid-stretch in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Princess Elizabeth Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies and outfinished Shez a Masterpiece to win by 1 length. The early leader, London Tower, salvaged third. Brooklynsway, a Giant Gizmo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.35 with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons.
Little Ms Protocol blew by Blessed Immaculata in deep stretch to win Friday night's $100,000 Magnolia Stakes for Louisiana-bred distaffers by 3 1/4 lengths. I Dazzle finished third. Little Ms Protocol, a 5-year-old El Corredor mare, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.74 for jockey Diego Saenz.
Sunbean stalked the pace in Saturday night's $100,000 Gold Cup for state-breds, then seized the advantage in the stretch and won off by 4 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Louisiana Flyboy followed Sunbean to finish second and early leader Masters Degree was third. Sunbean, a 4-year-old Brahms gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.49 with Richard Eramia up.
Mister Pollard won a stretch battle by a nose over Prince of Time in Saturday's $150,000 Too Much Coffee Stakes for Indiana-breds. New Cat Rib rallied from farther back to finish third, only a neck behind. Mister Pollard, a 3-year-old colt by Pollard's Vision, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:42.52 with Rafael Hernandez aboard.
Mary n' Eileen shadowed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Frances Slocum Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, then outfinished deep closer Hoosier Honey to win by a neck. Colony Crossing finished third with a late move. Mary n' Eileen, a 3-year-old daughter of Indy King, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:43.41 with Hernandez up.
Good Lord led the way in Saturday's $130,000 Mountaineer Mile and held on gamely at the end to score by a neck over Page McKenney. The favorite, Dawley, settled for third with an even, inside trip. Good Lord, a 7-year-old gelding by Greatness, finished in 1:38.68 with Ricardo Feliciano riding.