Metaboss traveled to northern California to join the list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls this weekend while much of the other racing action involved the fillies and mares.
Internationally, wizardry was in the air in Dubai and Gold-Fun spun his mastery at an unaccustomed distance in Hong Kong. But Harp Star couldn't pull any rabbits out of a hat in Japan.
Let the magic begin:
The Road to the Roses
Metaboss rallied strongly down the stretch to post a mild upset victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, beating Cross the Line by 2 1/2 lengths and the favorite, Conquest Typhoon, by another neck. Conquest Typhoon dueled for the lead with Indianaughty, who faded to finish next-last, before Metaboss asserted himself. Metaboss, a Street Boss colt out of the Free House mare Spinning Yarns, got 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather course in 1:49.92, less than 1/2 second off the track record. Alex Solis rode for trainer Jeff Bonde. Metaboss made four starts in Southern California before finally breaking his maiden going 9 furlongs on the turf at Santa Anita in his previous start. Bonde said he has improved enough as he has stretched out that the Triple Crown now is a possibility. "When you've got a 3-year-old, you're hoping you can make it to the Kentucky Derby," the trainer said. "There are a lot of steppingstones on the way and you have to make sure you're at your best on that given day. We'll look at it a lot closer this week and decide where we go from here. I don't see dirt as a problem because he's trained very well on it at Santa Anita." Conquest Typhoon's pilot, Mike Smith, said his colt went to the front so he went with the flow. "I thought, when something's coming this easy, you can't take it away. The winner just beat me, that's all."
Supermason dueled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Jim's Orbit Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, then had things his own way, winning by 14 lengths over five outclassed rivals. Flying Frenchman was second, 1 1/2 lengths better than Witt's Tax Day. Supermason, a Texas-bred Grasshopper gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.56 with Lindey Wade in the irons.
The Road to the Roses continues Monday with the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Mr Z, Far Right and J S Bach are among the favorites.
Promise Me Silver continues to roll, winning Saturday's $75,000 Two Altazano Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park by 9 3/4 lengths over Infectious. Tea for Two was 6 lengths farther back in third. Promise Me Silver, a Silver City filly out of the Macho Uno mare Uno Mas Promesa, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.09 with Cliff Berry in the irons. She remains undefeated in six starts, five of them stakes races. Although several of those victories have been against modest competition, she also won the Debutante at Churchill Downs last June and the Dixie Belle at Oaklawn last month. Saturday's effort was her first beyond 6 furlongs.
Saturday's $75,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes fell victim to old man winter.
Warren's Veneda started last of eight in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Santa Maria Stakes at Santa Anita, advanced outside her rivals through the turn and got to the front by mid-stretch. Under urging from Tyler Baze, the 5-year-old Affirmative mare surged clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths from 50-1 long shot Uzziel. The favorite, Thgirlinthatsong, got show money. Warren's Veneda ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.18. Baze said he took the outside route because he had confidence in the mare. "I lost a little ground, which I really don't like doing," he said. "But she was the best. She amazes me. She's a great animal."
Mufajaah survived a wide trip after breaking last in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park and was up in a determined stretch drive to win by a neck over Flashy American. Gold Medal Dancer was 1/2 length farther back in third. Mufajaah, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.04 with Emmanuel Esquivel in the irons. Three of her four career wins have come in Hot Springs, including the Pippin Stakes in her first start of the year on Jan. 17. Winning trainer Danny Peitz said plans called for Mufajaah to be retired to Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Farm for breeding. But he said now he hopes to talk "the boss into leaving her here and letting us run her for the rest of the season. Just with the Azeri and the Apple Blossom here, it would be great if we could run in all four of these races," he said.
Awesome Flower stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, got by late and won by 3/4 length over Elusive Fate. Swinger's Party led early and held third. Awesome Flower a 6-year-old daughter of Flower Alley, cruised 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.87 with Fernando De La Cruz aboard. She has been a consistent, if unspectacular, stakes performer for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey while benefitting from careful placement from Minnesota to New Orleans to Florida by trainer Mike Maker. "She has always been a real honest filly, and she trained real well coming up to this race," said assistant trainer Dave Kueffner. Mike is very good at picking the right spots for her, and she has fared well in these type of races."
Lunar Surge rode the rail all the way home in Saturday's $100,000 Maryland Racing Media Stakes at Laurel Park, rallying from last of 10 to win by 1 length from Flores Island. Luna Time was third and Zucchini Flower finished fourth. Lunar Surge, a 5-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.41 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Golden Lad got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park and the favorite, Ride On Curlin, couldn't catch him in the late going. At the wire, it was Golden Lad by 1 3/4 lengths with Ride On Curlin second, 1 length to the good of I Got It All. Golden Lad, a 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.05 with Ricardo Santana Jr. up. He was coming off a fifth-place finish in the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park, which was his first start since the Pimlico Special last May. "We were disappointed in his first race back," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher from Florida. "He may have been a little fresh off the layoff. We thought coming back here to Oaklawn would be a good idea." So much so that he likely will be back for one or both of the remaining big handicap events at the Hot Springs oval.
Page McKenney won a three-way photo in Saturday's $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park, a neck in front of Behemoth and another head better than A.P. Cino. Page McKenney, a 5-year-old Eavesdropper gelding, ran 9 furlongson a fast track in 1:51.88 for jockey Horacio Karamanos.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Lady Sabelia dictated the pace in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park and held off Princess Violet late to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Expression was third and the favorite, California invader Sam's Sister, finished fourth after a problematic start. Lady Sabelia, a 5-year-old Majestic Warrior mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.14 with Horacio Karamanos up. "We haven't thought past today," said winning trainer Robin Graham. "We wanted to see where this goes. I will consider taking her to bigger things. I don't give Horacio a lot of instructions. He knows not to get into a fight with her."
Merry Meadow led them a merry chase in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park. With Javier Castellano up, the 5-year-old Henny Hughes mare bid her four rivals adieu in the lane, drawing off to win by 9 1/2 lengths. More Than a Party was second, 1/2 length to the good of Galiana. Merry Meadow ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.97. She now has three straight wins, including the Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes over the same course in December. "She's such an honest filly and right now she just wants to win," said trainer Mark Hennig. "She's really gotten professional as she's gotten older. She's better than she's ever been."
Filly & Mare Turf
I'm Already Sexy returned to her winning ways in Saturday's $60,000 Cooper City Handicap at Gulfstream Park. With Paco Lopez in the irons, the 5-year-old Ready's Image mare stalked the early speed into the lane, then outfinished Stoptalkingmaria to win by a head over that one. Kitty Wine was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. I'm Already Sexy ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.97. A graded stakes winner at Arlington Park, I'm Already Sexy had not won since taking the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf Stakes last September.
(By Richard Gross)
There was a magical meeting Thursday at Meydan as a trainer and a horse finished in a near-dead heat for the lead storyline on an evening featuring a triple lineup of Group 3 races. Let's start with the trainer.
It was an exceptional night even by high Godolphin standards as trainer Saeed bin Suroor snared three wins for the hometown team, including a head win in the dirt feature and a 1-2-3 turf sweep.
Suroor's mounts first sped away to the finish line with a 1 3/4-lengths win by Tha'lr over Berling with Belgian Bill a neck behind in the Jaguar Trophy handicap over 2,000 meters of turf.
The featured UAE 2000 Guineas was no gimme for Maftool as he vanquished South African trainer Mike de Kock's Mubtaahij by a mere head after 1,600 meters of dirt, leaving de Kock's Ajwad a mere onlooker showing 10 3/4 lengths back. It was the eighth win in this race for a Godolphin runner. Other Suroor mounts have used the UAE 2000 Guineas as a launching pad to greatness, including 2001 winner Street Cry, winner of the 2002 Dubai World Cup. "I was pleased with Maftool," said Suroor, who added blinkers to the 3-year-old Hard Spun colts evening wear for this outing. "He might have one more race before the Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night."
Songcraft then hit a high note for Suroor, finishing in the lead a trilling half-length ahead of stablemate Al Shaham after 2,345 meters of green to capture the Range Rover handicap with Excellent Result backing up his fellow boys in blue by 3 1/4 lengths. "Saeed's horses are flying and everybody is happy," said joyful winning rider William Buick, speaking for the entire stable. The next performance for the 7-year-old gelded son of Singspiel likely will be a tune-up on Super Saturday March 7 followed by a gala performance March 28 in the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night.
But the triple by Suroor and Godolphin could not poof away a big night for an ageing illusionist. Even Kryptonite might not be a factor in breaking the super powers being displayed this Carnival season by Reynaldothewizard as the 9-year-old gelded son of Speightstown put on a magical performance to hold off fellow Golden Shaheen winner Krypton Factor by a neck after briefly seeing his lead vanish in the co-featured 1,200-meters Al Shindagha Sprint on the Meydan dirt Thursday. Speed Hawk flew in a forgettable 1 1/4 lengths back in third.
The Dubai fan favorite pulled a second first out of his mane this Carnival season for trainer Satish Seemar after not scoring a win since his 2013 Golden Shaheen feat on synthetic Tapeta on Dubai World Cup day. Believed by many to be bred for the dirt now installed at Meydan, there may be more sleights of hoof to come from the rejuvenated sorcerer on Super Saturday and World Cup day with Krypton Factor again a likely foe.
The evening's final Group 3 race was the 1,600-meters dirt Firebreak Stakes won with a comfortable, 4-lengths margin by 5-year-old Speightstown son Tamarkuz over a duller Gold City with Empire Storm a further 3 3/4 lengths calmer in third.
Trainer Doug Watson must have felt the evening's forgotten man even while scoring a double and a 1-2 finish on the night. Jeeraan snorted past stablemate Layl by a nose in the evening's opening Evoque Trophy handicap over 1,900 dirt meters, leaving Cry Joy a sorrowful third by 2 1/4 lengths. Watson also denied de Kock in the evening's closer as 5-year-old Limario carried his German colors to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over New Zealand's Zahee with Ireland's Elleval an unlucky neck behind in third.
The results certify the Carnival roller coaster is becoming less an amusement with only three meets remaining until Super Saturday March 7 followed by the Big Ferris Wheel, Dubai World Cup Day March 28.
Gold-Fun was starting at an unusually short 1,200 meters in Sunday's HK Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize at Sha Tin but, with a well-timed ride by Christophe Soumillon, his class prevailed as he won by a short head from Aerovelocity. Lucky Nine was only a neck farther back in third and last year's Dubai Golden Shaheen winner, Sterling City, showed signs of life with a late run that found him finishing a close sixth. Soumillon kept Gold-Fun on the rail and behind the pace early in the sprint, then tracked Aerovelocity as that one took the lead. "I shook him up at 300 meters out and 100 meters out," Soumillon said. "I knew I could win it but I knew it was going to be a small margin." While Gold-Fun had he head in front under the wire, Aerovelocity was ahead again just jumps later, "so I was happy the winning post came when it did," Soumillon added. Trainer Richard Gibson said he always felt 1,400 meters was Gold-Fun's best distance and credited the rider. "It was a fantastic ride from the champion French jockey," Gibson said. "It's a great honor and privilege to have him back in Hong Kong (for the race) and I wish he was here more often." He said he has not decided where Gold-Fun will run next.
Thunder Fantasy took Sunday's HK Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup by a nose when the apparent winner, Redkirk Warrior, ran erratically in the final yards to surrender the advantage. Giant Treasure finished third. The 1,800-meters event leads to the 2,000-meters HK Group 1 BMW Hong Kong Derby next month. "It looked like the horse on my outside was going to win it," said victorious rider Karis Teetan, who picked up his first HK Group 1 win. "But then he didn't go through with it. My horse actually went again, so it was a very good win."
Harp Star was eclipsed in Sunday's Kyoto Kinen, finishing fifth, albeit beaten only about 3 lengths. Her trainer, however, said Harp Star still is ticketed for the Sheema Classic on World Cup night at Meydan. Sunday's race went to Lovely Day, with Suzuka Devious second by a nose, Kizuna another neck back in third and Red Davis fourth. Harp Star, a 4-year-old daughter of Deep Impact, finished sixth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last fall, then fifth in the Japan Cup. She had been idle since that Group 1 event in November.
Dissident came from just behind the leaders to take Saturday's Group 1 Sportingbet C F Orr Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths from pacesetting Entirely Platinum. Mourinho was 1/2 length farther back in third. Trainer Peter Moody lauded his winner as "one of the best milers in the country."
Back in the States:
Isabelle bided her time until the field was heading into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Broadway Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, the came around the leaders, challenged through the final furlong and finally got clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Atlantic's Smile was second and Make the Moment filled the trifecta. Isabelle, a 4-year-old Successful Appeal filly, ran 6 furlongs on the fast but cold inner track in 1:12.23 with Junior Alvarado up.
She's a Big Winner dueled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies down the hillside turf course, then held off Bobbi Grace after crossing the dirt and won by 1 length over that one. Spirit of Xian finished third. She's a Big Winner, a daughter of Bellamy Road, finished in 1:12.42 with Brice Blanc up.
Bench Warrant outfinished Pain and Misery to win Sunday's $75,000 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds down the hill, winning by a neck with Diamond Majesty third. Bench Warrant, a Street Boss colt, got home in 1:12.53 with Tyler Baze riding.
Magna Breeze stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Village Turf stakes for Texas-breds, shot to the lead in the lane and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Rule Breaker. Fly the Red Eye was third. Magna Breeze, a 5-year-old Magna Graduate gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.80 with Cliff Berry riding.
Absolutely Cool came from last of eight to win Saturday's $75,000 Phoenix Gold Cup by 1/2 length over Valiant Flame. Omar finished third as two Southern California invaders -- Ankeny Hill and Pimpernel -- finished fifth and seventh, respectively. Absolutely Cool, an 8-year-old gelding by Absolute Harmony, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.75 with Rocco Bowen up.
Renewed Vows surged to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $85,000 Peppers Pride Handicap for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares and held on to win by a neck over Little Vidalia. B Bold Cindy ran well late to take third. Renewed Vows, a 4-year-old daughter of Attilla's Storm, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.78 with Isaias Enriquez in the irons.