Some budding turf stars and promising 2-year-olds brightened up the late fall weekend of Thoroughbred racing.
The weekend's top sprint event produced the weekend's top upset at Laurel Park in Maryland.
Internationally, there was another potential breakthrough performance in Japan and the British All-Weather Championships started their long journey to the Good Friday finale.
Things heat up even farther next weekend with the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot on tap for would-be 2015 Kentucky Derby prospects. The following weekend is the first Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby futures pool.
But, first things first. Here's what went into the books this weekend:
On the turf
Dynamic Sky saved ground into the stretch in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct, surged to the lead and held off Big Blue Kitten by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths under the wire. Margano finished third. Dynamic Sky, a 4-year-old colt by Sky Mesa, ran 1 3/8 miles on yielding turf in 2:18.85 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. He had been knocking on the door up north, finishing second in the Grade I Northern Dancer Turf Stakes in September and third in the Grade I Pattison Canadian International in October in his last two starts. The Canadian International "was a really tough race, obviously," said Kathryn Sullivan, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse, said the Canadian International "was a really tough race, obviously. He got a great trip today and everything seemed to come together for him. He didn't have the best start in the International, which put him behind in the race, but today everything went exactly as planned."
Heart to Heart continued his dominance on the grass with a front-running victory in the $100,000, Grade III Commonwealth Turf Handicap for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs on Saturday. With Julien Leparoux up, the English Channel colt made it three straight win on the lawn, scoring by 3 3/4 lengths without much trouble from 11 rivals. Other Cheek stuck close to the early pace, but turned the other cheek before the stretch run and settled for second. Bashart was 3/4 length back in third. Heart to Heart ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:41.54. He earlier won the Better Talk Now Stakes at Saratoga and the Grade III Jefferson Cup under the Twin Spires. "He's a fast horse from the gate," Leparoux said. "He pretty much took me on the lead and the way he relaxed in the early stages gave him the ability to finish very strong." Trainer Brian Lynch said the colt may ship to California for one more race before heading to Florida for the winter with the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill Downs on the longer-range radar.
Three-year-old fillies took center stage in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes on the Churchill Downs turf with Sparkling Review sweeping by the early leaders in the stretch run, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Lady Lara made her run from even farther back in the big field and settled for second with Kiss Moon, Personal Diary and Sandiva all in close attendance. The favorite, Testa Rossi, finished seventh. Sparkling Review, a Lemon Drop Kid filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.33 for jockey Julien Leparoux. She won for the fourth straight time, backing up a similarly run triumph in the Grade III Valley View at Keeneland in her last previous start. "It's pretty crazy when you think about the fact that she was just a maiden in August," said winning trainer Ben Colebrook. He said she is nominated to the $300,000, Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on Nov. 29 and the $300,000, Grade I Matriarch the following day at the same track. But he said he will wait to make a decision on either of those.
Zee Bros shadowed the early pace in Saturday's $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park, assumed the lead entering the stretch and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths at odds of nearly 30-1. Bern Identity was third and the favorite, Dads Caps, finished fourth. Ben's Cat was a late scratch. Zee Bros, a 4-year-old colt by Brother Derek, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.77 with Jose Ortiz up for D. Wayne Lukas. Ortiz took over the mount from Alex Cintron, who was injured in a Friday spill. It was only the fourth career win in See Bros's 15th start. "Nobody does it better than Wayne when it comes to running in the big races," said assistant trainer Tim Austin. "We got this horse right after the Saratoga meet. It took a few weeks to figure him out but in his last four workouts, I know they saw a big improvement in him. This horse is really doing well right now."
Fillies and mares went 7 furlongs on the all-weather course at Woodbine in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Bessarabian Stakes with Hillaby rallying from a pace-stalking trip to win by 2 3/4 lengths from Disco Barbie. Sky Treasure finished third. Hillaby, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor filly, got home in 1:21.44 with Patrick Husbands up. The Mark Casse trainee now has won three of her last four starts, all at Woodbine. "She left running," Husbands said, adding he took back because he knew he didn't want to dispute a hot pace. When he found room to let her run, Hillaby "just took me around there," he said. Original owner Eugene Melnyk sold Hillaby to Stonestreet Stables for $500,000 in the July sale at Fasig-Tipton in Kentucky.
No Problem came three-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar and prevailed by 1/2 length over a stubborn Alright Alright, the even-money favorite. St. Joe Bay finished third after challenging for the lead early in the lane. No Problem, a Munnings, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.48 with Victor Espinoza up for trainer Michael McCarthy. It was his second straight win after a misfire in his career opener.
Cinco Charlie, who bypassed the Breeders' Cup, dueled his way to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel Park and then kicked clear, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Majestic Affair was second with Senor Grits third. Cinco Charlie, an Indian Charlie colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.74 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons. "The boss had this horse ready today," said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "He's had good works and prepped well leading up to this race. He has been facing some very tough competition so we were not too concerned about the competition today. We were only concentrating on our horse." The colt's biggest previous win came in the Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs in June.
Regal Minister went quickly to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Notebook Stakes for New York-breds at Aqueduct and extended the advantage to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Breakin the Fever was second, a neck in front of Bullheaded Boy. The odds-on favorite, Good Luck Gus, finished fifth. Regal Minister, a Posse colt, got 6 furlongs in 1:12.27 for jockey Manuel Franco.
W V Jetsetter jetted off in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 My Dandy Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park, winning by 6 lengths over Silverhill. The favorite, Nublado Bling, faded to finish sixth. W V Jetsetter, a Jet Phone colt, negotiated 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.65 for jockey Jamie Theriot.
Duff came to challenge pacesetting Stonebriar in the stretch run in Sunday's $75,000 Christopher Elser Memorial at Parx Racing and got a head in front under the wire. Nasa came from well back to finish third. Duff, a Candy Ride colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:19.25 with Daniel Centeno up. The race was restricted to 2-year-olds who had spent 90 days in South Carolina and paid a fee to that state's TOBA.
Lake Sebago rallied from last of six to pull off a big upset in Saturday's $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park. The Munnings filly, with Trevor McCarthy up, closed inside E Dubai's Humor in deep stretch to score by 1/2 length over that foe. Overprepared overcame a bit of traffic trouble to get up for third. Lake Sebago ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.85. "They bet all the money on the New York horse," said winning trainer Jerry Robb, referring to Overprepared. "I didn't expect her to be favored but I didn't expect 25-1. I expected her to win. She wore blinkers for the first time. I don't like using blinkers the first few times out. She won her first race and the jockey came back and said she was green and needed blinkers but I couldn't change them because she won. When she finished second in her last race I could put them on."
Achiever's Legacy started last of four in Sunday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar, took over the lead at mid-stretch and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Maybellene. The odds-on favorite, Light the City, led early and finished third, just a neck farther back. Into Oblivion completed the order of finish. Achiever's Legacy, a City Zip filly, got 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.25 with Drayden Van Dyke riding.
The Lewis Dinner led from the opening yards of Sunday's $100,000 Key Cents Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies and poured it on late, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Sandra finished second, 2 1/4 lengths better than Sweetpollypurebrd. The favorite, stumbled badly out of the gate and wasn't able to get back in the race, finishing next-last of six. The Lewis Dinner, a Posse filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.04 under Manuel Franco.
Galina Point, the odds-on favorite, stalked the lead in Saturday's restricted, $125,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes at Woodbine, got to the lead in the lane and survived the late bid of Take Back Ya Poils to win by 3/4 length. Reserve Love finished third. Galina Point, a daughter of Saffir, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:47.35 with Patrick Husbands at the controls.
Promise Me, the odds-on favorite, led from the early stages in Saturday's $75,000 Darby's Daughter Texas Stallion Stakes at Retama Park and ran on late, winning by 7 1/4 lengths under a Cliff Berry hand ride. Carol's Flyer beat the others, finishing 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Silver Akantha. Promise Me, a Silver City filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.57.
Miss Bullistic came out on top of a four-way scramble to the wire in Sunday's restricted $75,000 Donna Fryer stakes at Parx Racing, beating Mondor and Pattitude by a pair of noses and Lust for Diamonds by another head. The favorite, Kawfee Fa Marfa, finished seventh. Miss Bullistic, a Bullsbay filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.26 under Jevian Toledo. The race was restricted to 2-year-old fillies who had spent 90 days in South Carolina and paid a fee to the South Carolina TOBA.
Lachesis kicked into gear turning for home in Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto, caught Nuovo Record late and won by a neck over that rival for her first win at the top level. Dia de la Madre finished third. Lachesis, a 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, covered 2,200 meters on firm turf in 2:12.3. "Her start wasn't great," said winning rider Yuga Kawada. "But we were able to position ourselves in an ideal spot behind Nuovo Record during the first two corners. We were squeezed in a bit at the strait but she had plenty of run and the will to go and really stretched well up to the finish." There were no foreign starters in the race this year.
On Saturday at Kyoto, Nagano Espresso captured the Group 2 Daily Hai Nisai Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1/2 length over Ash Gold with the favorite, Navion, settling for third. Nagano Espresso, a Black Tide colt, ran 1,600 meters on firm turf in 1:35.1.
Battalion and Intransigent got in early for next spring's All-Weather Championship Finals with fast-track qualifying victories Saturday at Lingfield. Battalion beat the favorite, Educate, by 1 length in the Churchill Stakes at 10 furlongs and trainer William Haggas said he likely will not run again until the final on Good Friday. "This opens a few avenues for us," he said. Intransigent rallied in deep stretch to beat French invader Fresles by a neck in the 6-furlongs Golden Rose Stakes. "We are definitely looking forward to bringing him back for Good Friday now," said Ian Balding, speaking for his son, William, the winning trainer. "He will have a bit of a winter break and not be going out to Dubai." Krypton Factor was a non-runner in the sprint.
Griff got a terrible start from the inside post in Saturday's $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes for 3-year-olds, moved up around the turn and surged to the lead in the lane. Once in front, the Rockport Harbor gelding showed his heels, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Cutty Shark. Bump Start, who was in fact bumped at the start, finished third. Griff, with Abel Castellano Jr. aboard, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.92 over a fast track.
Who's In Town tracked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then was confidently ridden through the stretch to win by 3/4 length over Shayjolie. True Romance enjoyed a brief lead in the lane and finished third. Who's In Town, a Speightstown filly, got 7 furlongs on the fast track in 1:23.68 with Julien Pimentel up.
Stormin Monarcho stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes, quickly opened a daylight lead at the top of the lane and coasted home first by 2 3/4 lengths. Page McKenney with second with Beautyinthepulpit third. Stormin Monarcho, a 4-year-old Monarchos gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:49.32 under Jevian Toledo.
Hawthorne Race Course
Coalport proved best of three late runners in Saturday's $75,000 Buck's Boy Handicap for Illinois-breds, outfinishing Yankee Dealer by a neck and Sweet Luca by another 1/2 length. The early leader, Ultima Tango, held on for fourth. Coalport, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.96 with Rafael Hernandez up.
Alette had to come five-wide to get to the lead in deep stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Illini Princess Stakes for state-bred distaffers and went on to win by 3/4 length over Kepi. Lovely Loyree finished third. Alette, a 4-year-old filly by Lemon Drop Kid, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.85 with Eddie Perez in the irons.
Wine Police caught Unfettered in deep stretch to win Tuesday's $55,000 Lee County Sprint by 1/2 length. Watch Me Go finished third. Wine Police, a 6-year-old Speightstown gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.56 for jockey Enrique Gomez.
Cool Cowboy dueled to the lead in Tuesday's $85,000 Sophomore Sprint Championship for 3-year-olds, then drew off to win by 4 1/2 lenghts as the odds-on favorite. Rockin Donovan was second and Stunt Double finished third. Cool Cowboy, a Kodiak Kowboy colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.75 with Eduardo Perez riding.
Down Town Allen had 'em all the way in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred distaffers, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Red Hot Diva. Flirting Song was well back in third. Down Town Allen, a 7-year-old Windsor Castle mare, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:53.61 with Mathew McGowan up.
Golden Gate Fields
Outside Nashville took command at the top of the lane in Saturday's $65,000 Oakland Stakes and kicked away to a 4-lengths victory over Marino's Wild Cat. The favorite, Streamside, finished third. Outside Nashville, a 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.62 with Dennis Carr riding.
Circle Can Run ran right to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Ohio Debutante for state-bred fillies and mares and wasn't caught, winning by 2 1/2 lengths from Isadella. Startin Something finished 1/2 length farther back in third. Circle Can Run, a 3-year-old Kentucky Dane filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track with no time recorded by Equibase.
On a relatively light week, a little attention for a pleasant track that usually doesn't get much notice.
Maker or Breaker stalked the pace in Saturday's $35,000 City of Phoenix Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead when urged by jockey Israel Hernandez and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over early leader Rock and Glory. Gracie Grace attended the pace but weakened late to finish third. Maker or Breaker, a 5-year-old Empire Maker mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.72.
Omar was quickly out front in Saturday's $35,000 Caballos Del Sol Stakes and worked clear late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Absolutely Cool, Bull Dozer and Lotsa Mischief completed the order of finish. Omar, a 5-year-old Bertrando gelding, covered 6 furlongs in 1:08.97 with Scott Stevens up.