An apparently minor injury cost top-rated American horse Shared Belief his second career loss Saturday while 3-year-olds were on display from Japan to Illinois to Maryland to England.
Graded stakes in many divisions around North America provided diversion. And a trio of old guys went 1-for-3 on the East Coast.
Let's coast right into Shared Belief's scare.
The Classic Division
Shared Belief was pulled up early in Saturday's $1.5 million Charles Town Classic when jockey Mike Smith realized something was wrong after the Candy Ride gelding, co-rated as the world's top horse, got off to a stumbling start. While most eyes were on Shared Belief, Moreno took the lead with 1/2 mile to run and kept going to win by 2 lengths over Imperative with Page McKenney third. Moreno, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, finished the 9 furlongs around three turns in track-record time of 1:48.81 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. Moreno finished last in the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall, then returned to get home second in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, well back of Shared Belief, and a narrowly beaten third in the Grade II New Orleans Handicap. "People misunderstand how good this horse is," said winning trainer Eric Guillot. The $852,000 winner's share of Saturday's purse boosted his career earnings to nearly $2.9 million. It also boosted the stock of those who bet against "bridge jumpers" in the show pool. Heavy wagering on Shared Belief in that pool inflated the $2 show payoffs to $23.20, $71.20 and $45.60. "He just seemed to slip behind (at the start) and wasn't comfortable," Smith said of Shared Belief's mishap. "The safe thing to do at that point was to get back in one piece." Track veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Daniel said Shared Belief seemed to have "a little soft tissue swelling in the right stifle ... He didn't appear to be traveling well from the time he left the gate." An assistant trainer said Sunday Shared Belief will have a nuclear scan to check for undetected damage but repeated the injury appears to be minor. His only previous loss was in the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall at Santa Anita.
Redstart proved a bit of an upstart in Saturday's Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Newbury, making all the going en route to a 3/4-length win over Jellicle Ball. Tiggy Wiggy, a leading candidate for the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks, checked in third. Redstart, with Pat Dobbs in the irons, ran 7 furlongs on good to firm going in 1:22.13. The Cockney Road filly now is 2-for-3 for trainer Ralph Beckett.
Saturday's Group 3 Aon Greenham Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings also produced an upset as Muhaarar surged to the lead in the final 100 yards and went on to win by a neck over Estidhkaar. The favorite, Ivawood, could do no better than third and Dick Whittington was fourth. Muhaarar, an Oasis Dream colt owned by Sheik Hamdan, ran 7 furlongs in a speedy 1:20.80 with Frankie Dettori up for trainer Charles Hills. He has three wins and three thirds in six trips to the track.
Arab Spring was in command for the final few furlongs in Saturday's Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Stakes, winning by 1 length over Pether's Moon with Romsdal another 3/4 length back in third. Arab Spring, with Ryan Moore up for Sir Michael Stoute, ran 1 1/2 miles on good to firm going in 2:32.35. The lightly raced 5-year-old son of Monsun has won five of his last six starts.
Duramente shot by Real Steel in the final yards to win Sunday's Group 1 Satsuki Sho, or Japanese 2,000 Guineas, by 1 1/2 lengths, going away. The top two are both owned by Sunday Racing Co. Ltd. Duramente, a King Kamehameha colt, was well back when the field entered the stretch turn but also was in full stride and not to be denied. He finished in 1:58.2 over firm turf. Kitasan Black finished third. The race is the first leg of the Japanese Triple Crown. Duramente had finished 1/2 length in arrears to Real Steel in their previous start, the Grade III Kyodo News Service Hai. "He was easy to ride early in the race," said winning jockey Marco Dimuro. "But he's very highly strung, it was his first time going right-handed and the crowd was very loud, too, so he may have over-reacted at the fourth corner. He gave me a bit of a fright. We'll have to work on that towards the Derby but he certainly is a very strong colt."
Back in North America:
The old guys
Ben's Cat opened his 9-year-old career with a disappointing second in a Friday allowance race at Pimlico. The Parker's Storm Cat gelding ran second to Bold Thunder throughout the 5-furlongs turf race and was unable to cut into that rival's margin in the late going, falling 3 lengths short. It was the first start for the veteran since Nov. 29 and came on the ninth anniversary of his foaling. "It was disappointing, naturally, anytime you get a horse that wins all the time and doesn't win," said owner/trainer King Leatherbury. "But this is what happens in all races. We know there's no such thing as a sure thing."
Ten-year-old Immortal Eyes could do no better than fourth in Saturday's $35,000 Caixa Eletronica Stakes at Charles Town, passing only a few tired ones after racing last of six. The Greatness gelding hasn't won in a while but over his long career has been in the money 39 times from 57 starts and has earned nearly $1.2 million.
Russell Road salvaged something for the senior set in Saturday's $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes at Charles Town. Leading from the start, the 9-year-old Wheaton gelding won his 2015 debut by 4 1/2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Lucy's Bob Boy Russell Road picked up where he left off last fall when he defeated Lucy's Bob Boy after three straight losses to that rival.
Whiskey Ticket looks like being yet another good one for trainer Bob Baffert, who already has two of the Kentucky Derby favorites in American Pharoah and Dortmund. The Ghostzapper colt, in just his second career start, surged to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $400,000, Grade III Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course and stubbornly held off the late charge of Conquest Curlinate to win by a nose. Phenomenal Phoenix was third and the favorite, Cross the Line, finished fifth. Whiskey Ticket, with Martin Pedroza up, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.82. The colt won at first asking at Santa Anita last month, also after a tough stretch battle. "I was a little concerned before the race," Pedroza said. "He was a little anxious. Not nervous but anxious ... I galloped him a little bit just to take the edge off and it worked. He seemed to be pretty relaxed after that." Pedroza noted the colt's first win was at 1 mile. "There aren't many horses that can do that," he said.
Bodhisattva dueled with Noteworthy Peach through most of Saturday's $100,000 Federico Tessio Stakes at Pimlico, then finally edged clear in the lane to win by 1 1/2 lengths from that rival. The favorite, All Hands, faded in the final sixteenth to finish third, beaten another 6 3/4 lengths. Bodhisattva, a California-bred colt by Student Council, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.18. Winning rider Trevor McCarthy said the slow early pace helped. "I was surprised. I mean, I was going slow and thought this was a dream come true. Then, he gave me a new gear at the eighth pole," McCarthy said. "He really dug in and fought and I hadn't seen that side of him before today." Owner/trainer Jose Corrales said he will see how the colt comes out of the race before deciding whether to consider the Preakness. "He ran well today," Corrales admitted.
Yahilwa recovered from a stumbling start to get first run to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne Race Course and the odds-on favorite, Awesome Flower, could only trail her home, 2 1/2 lengths in arrears. Ketel Twist was third, just anose farther back. Yahilwa, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.13 with Elvis Trujillo in the irons. The victory was a significant turnaround after two straight defeats in graded stakes in California. "I know that she stumbled pretty good at the start but it might have helped," said winning trainer James Cassidy. "Elvis got her back quickly. She was pretty sharp, keen to go, so I expected her to be right there with the early leaders. But, she recovered and everything was good."
Deceptive Vision prevailed in a tight, five-way finish at the end of Friday's $100,000, Grade III Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland, edging Lunar Surge by a head. Blue Violet, Pretty Fancy and Tiz Windy were all within another length. Deceptive Vision, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.34 with John Velazquez aboard. The Sam-Son Farm homebred is trained by Malcolm Pierce. She has never finished worse than third in nine career starts. "She handles the dirt as well as she handles the turf," Pierce said. "We've got some options from here."
Dramady posted the upset of the weekend in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland. After setting a pressured pace at odds of 30-1, the 6-year-old Distorted Humor horse got a daylight lead early in the stretch run and held off Dynamic Sky to win by a neck. The favorite, Unitarian, was a head farther back in third. Dramady, with Joe Bravo up, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:31.17. More often seen in the optional claiming ranks, Dramady showed some signs of life in Florida this winter, winning a 1-mile turf race at Tampa Bay and then finishing a good fourth in the Grade III Appleton at Gulfstream Park. Saturday's 1 1/2 miles was by far his longest trip. "Man, don't you love horse racing?" Bravo enthused. "You never know what to expect. This horse, the first time doing the distance. I take my hat off to the whole team. Do you know how hard it is to get a horse ready for a mile and a half? He just thrived on it. Turning for home, he was like, 'C'mon guys. Let's go.'"
Papacoolpapacool advanced to the lead midway through Saturday's $75,000 La Puente Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, then kicked away to a 4 1/4-lengths victory as the odds-on favorite. Hero Ten All finished second and Ride Hard Kowboy was along for third. Papacoolpapacool, a Temple City gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.47 with Gary Stevens at the controls.
Filly & Mare Turf
Queen of the Sand worked through traffic from well back in the field in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Santa Barbara Handicap at Santa Anita and was just there in time to beat pacesetting Fanticola by a nose. Three Hearts got show money. The favorite, Diversy Harbor, was pulled up and vanned off with what later was reported as a career-ending sesamoid injury. Queen of the Sand, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare by Footstepsinthesand, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:01.04 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons. "I knew I had a lot of horse but it was all about getting through at the top of the lane," Van Dyke said. "Luckily, I had a lucky break, was able to hustle my way out of there, got through and had a run." Trainer Paddy Gallagher said Queen of the Sand is ticketed for the $300,000, Grade I Gamely on May 25.
Stellar Path got off to a slow start in Friday's $100,000 Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct, tracked the pace and was along in time to score by 1/2 length over Cushion. Principessa Ava finished third and the early leader, Tokyo Time, completed the order of finish. Stellar Path, a 4-year-old, French-bred daughter of Astronomer Royal, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:38.67 with Luis Saez in the irons. "I don't think she was a 100 percent fit, but she really ran well today. She was good in the gate and stumbled a little bit coming out of it, but that might have been a blessing because she was still able to get a perfect trip," said Christophe Louriel, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement.
Talk Show Man stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Henry S. Clark Stakes at Pimlico, then outfinished Paris Vegas by a nose. Special Envoy finished third. Talk Show Man, a 5-year-old Great Notion gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.09 with Xavier Perez up.
On the distaff side, Nellie Cashman enjoyed a similar trip, shadowing the pace in the $100,000 Dahlia Stakes, then outfinishing Run of the River for a nose victory. Fasnacloich finished third and pacesetting favorite Istanford was fourth. Nellie Cashman, a 5-year-old Mineshaft mare, got home in 1:35.95 under Forest Boyce.
Vision Perfect stalked the pace set by Made in Detroit in Saturday's $100,000 Woodhaven Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct, hooked up with that one turning for home and finally edged clear after a long stretch duel, winning by a neck. Chief Kitten finished third after being blocked on the rail in the stretch run. Vision Perfect, a Pollard's Vision colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.33 with Manuel Franco up.
Aztec Brave was brave on the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Danger Hour Stakes at Aqueduct, repulsing a late bid by Chamois to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Lubash, finished third. Aztec Brave, a 4-year-old, French-bred gelding by Pyrus, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.65 with Franco riding.
Get Happy Mister got through on the inside after crossing the dirt track in Sunday's $100,000, Grade III San Simeon Stakes at Santa Anita and won by 1 length over Holy Lute. The favorite, Home Run Kitten, rallied from last of seven to get show money. Get Happy Mister, a 5-year-old First Samurai gelding, finished about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.11 with Tyler Baze in the irons.
Odds-on favorite Lady Shipman was in control all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Stormy Blues Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico, winning by 5 lengths over Comforter in a hand ride. Harlan's Honor finished third. Lady Shipman, a daughter of Midshipman, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.65 seconds with Eduardo Nunez riding.
Filly & Mare Sprint
La Verdad quickly shook off her three rivals in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct and was in charge most of the way to a 5 1/4-lengths win. Frivolity, Mamdooha and Aireofdistinction completed the order of finish. La Verdad, a 5-year-old Yes It's True mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.00 with Jose Ortiz up. She won six of 11 starts last year for trainer Linda Rice, who then gave her some time off. "She was showing a few signs of needing a rest, so I turned her out for the winter. She deserved it," Rice said.
Unspurned got by pacesetting favorite Executive Allure in the late going in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine and outfinished Skylander Girl for a 1 length victory. Executive Allure finished third. Unspurned, a 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:09.18. "I had a great trip," said winning jockey Alan Garcia. "She broke well and we were in a good position all the way. For the last part, I had to ask her to keep running, but she kicked very well."
Taketheodds was up just in time to nip pacesetter Flattering Bea by a neck in Saturday's $150,000 Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town. The favorite, Nesso, was 5 lengths farther back in third at the end. Taketheodds, a Street Sense filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.61 with Mike Smith aboard. The win snapped a five-race losing streak dating back to September.
Galiana took back early in Saturday's $100,000 Primonetta Stakes at Pimlico, then closed sharply in the stretch run to win by 2 3/4 lengths over She's Ordained. Tarnished finished third. Galiana, a 5-year-old daughter of Stonesider, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.27 with Abel Lezcano in the irons.
In other action:
On the Saturday undercard:
Control Stake stalked the pace in the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for 3-year-olds, opened up a lead around the final turn and won by 4 1/2 lengths over One More Time. Charitable Annuity added some interest to the trifecta. Control Stake, a Discreetly Mine colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.28 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. He now has four wins from seven starts, none longer than 7 furlongs.
Hear the Chatter was an easy winner in the $50,000 Coin Collector Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, beating Sir A.J. Munnings by 2 1/2 lengths while running 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52:03 seconds.
The $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for state-bred distaffers was an eventful race with the first across the line Kluvyabye disqualified to fourth for causing a chain reaction of impeded rivals at the quarter pole and odds-on favorite Immortal Eyes pulled up and vanned off with an apparent suspensory injury. Morningisbreaking, a Fiber Sonde filly, wound up with the winner's share.
Get the Sensation went to the lead early in the $50,000 It's Binn Too Long Stakes for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies and extended the advantage to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Nay's Back. Get the Sensation, a Not For Love filly, ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.29 seconds.
Brenda's Way had things all her own way in Saturday's $75,000 Geisha Stakes for Maryland-bred distaffers at Pimlico, winning by 10 1/4 lengths, geared down by jockey Jevian Toledo. Bazinga B was better than the others and Celtic Katie finished third. Brenda's Way, a 5-year-old Weigelia mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.78 under Jevian Toledo.
Beau Wizer led from the git-go in Saturday's $60,000 O.D. McDonald Stakes and widened the gap at the end, winning by 4 1/2 lengths from Reaper. Shining Source finished third and the favorite, That's Who, was a fading fifth. Beau Wizer, an 8-year-old Premeditation gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.64 for jockey Ry Eikleberry.
Justalittlesmoke showed the way in Saturday's $75,000 Austintown Filly Sprint for 3-year-old fillies, then held off a late run by Tetrad, winning by a neck over that rival. Dark Darling finished third. Justalittlesmoke, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.84
Gliding Along prevailed by 1 /2 length after a long stretch battle with Unbridled Graduate in Saturday's $75,000 Howard B. Noonan Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds. It was another 10 1/4 lengths back to Bootlegger in third. Gliding Along, a Quien colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.85 with Deshawn Parker riding.