1 of 2 | Trainer Todd Pletcher watches Kentucky Derby winner and Triple Crown hopeful Always Dreaming working Sunday morning at Pimlico. Photo courtesy Maryland Jockey Club
Always Dreaming continues to dream of the U.S. Triple Crown while preparing for Saturday's Preakness Stakes but, across the Atlantic, the Derby picture remained in soft focus after weekend races on both sides of the Channel.
A U.K. invader took the Grade I Man o' War and an Irish-bred horse racing in Germany won a spot in the Belmont Park starting gate next month.
It was a potpourri of weekend racing action around the globe. So let's stir that 'pot' and get things going:
Trainer Todd Pletcher watched Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming gallop on the Pimlico track Sunday morning, then school in the starting gate. As he has all week, Pletcher pronounced himself well pleased.
He's settled in really well," Pletcher said. "Each gallop day has gotten progressively better. He's showing us everything we hoped he would show us -- good energy, good appetite, he's moving great, he was good at the gate today. He keeps checking off those boxes that we're looking for. We're really happy."
The news was not so good for the connections of Royal Mo, the colt who just missed getting into the Derby starting gate and was training gangbusters for the Preakness. Halfway through a Sunday morning workout, jockey Gary Stevens "heard a 'pop'" that turned out to be a fractured right front sesamoid bone. The colt was taken to the Bolton Center in Pennsylvania for evaluation and treatment.
"Thankfully, when he went, I had a hold of him," said Stevens, who took a red-eye flight from the West Coast to work Royal Mo. "He looked out for me and I looked out for him. He pulled himself up."
Timeline let Meantime show the way in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Peter Pan at rain-soaked Belmont Park, rallied by that one when asked by jockey Javier Castellano and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Meantime held second, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Impressive Edge. Timeline, a Hard Spun colt trained by Chad Brown, ran 9 furlongs in the slop in 1:51.62 and remains undefeated after three starts, including his maiden-breaker at Gulfstream Park in March. Asked about the possibility of a start in the 1 1/2-miles Belmont Stakes, Brown said he will talk to Bill Farish, who manages Timeline. "We had spoken earlier in the day that if we had some success here, the Haskell is a race that we have a lot of interest in, with maybe one race between now and then," Brown said. "He doesn't strike me as a mile-and-a-half horse, but I'm not going to declare him out of the race."
Turf/Filly & Mare Turf
Zhukova shipped across the North Atlantic for Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Man o' War at Belmont Park, heavy rains turn the course yielding and the 5-year-old Fastnet Rock mare romped, emerging from a pace-stalking position to win by 6 lengths. Taghleeb was best of the rest, a nose in front of Sadler's Joy. Charming Kitten and Wake Forest were in their wake while Patterson Cross, Highland Sky and Twilight Eclipse were scratched. Zhukova, with John Velazquez up, ran 1 3/8 miles on the inner turf course in 2:25.31 -- only a bit more than 15 seconds shy of the course record. She was a Group 3 winner in Ireland last year and won her seasonal debut at Cork in April. "We're absolutely over the moon with that," said Mark Weld, assistant to his trainer father Dermot. "It was a major target over the last few weeks. The rain came, which was a huge help. Johnny was very complimentary about her. He said she could have a future here." Weld said that might be in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in the fall at Del Mar. In the meantime, the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in August is a target.
Hawksmoor led from gate to wire in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Beaugay at Belmont Park and held on to win by a head over an onrushing Dacita. Time and Motion was along late, too, taking third another 3/4 length back. Hawksmoore, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Azamour, ran 1 1/16 miles on the yielding inner turf course in 1:48.91 for Julien Leparoux. For the second time in as many weeks, Miss Temple City was scratched because of the soggy turf. Originally trained in England, Hawksmoor ran twice in the United States last fall, finishing third in the QE II at Keeneland in October. The Beaugay was her first start of 2017. "Towards the finish, Dacita came on like she was going to pass us but our filly is a little deceiving," said winning trainer Arnaud Delacour. "She was kind of looking around a little bit. That's why she had blinkers. But she kept coming and she tried hard. I was real pleased with that." He said Hawksmoor is versatile as to distance and her next start is not yet set.
Lady Valeur waited right behind the early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Poppy Stakes for fillies and mares at Golden Gate Fields, hit the lead on the second turn and won a stretch duel by 3/4 length over Street Surrender. Sweet Dragon Fly was third, 3 1/4 lengths farther back. Lady Valeur, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Multiplex, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.17 with Ricardo Gonzalez in the irons. She's trained at Santa Anita by Patrick Gallagher.
Nobody's Fault was along late to win Saturday's $65,000 Unbridled Sydney Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs by 1 length over Triple Chelsea. Lajatico was third and the favorite, Miss Gossip was fourth with a late effort. Nobody's Fault, a 4-year-old Blame filly, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.65 seconds with Corey Lanerie up for trainer Neil Pessen.
Arms Runner did his running after crossing the dirt in Saturday's $75,000 Desert Code Stakes for 3-year-olds down the Santa Anita hillside, rallying outside the early leader and then holding on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Cistron. Arms Runner, a Florida-bred colt by Overdrive, got the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.33 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. riding.
Saturday's $60,000 Wolf Hill Stakes on opening weekend at Monmouth Park came off the turf after heavy rains drenched the Jersey shore. After eight scratches, Rainbow Heir proved best of the remaining six, winning by 1 3/4 lengths from Blue Y Gold. Delta Bluesman was third. Rainbow Heir, a 7-year-old son of Wildcat Heir, ran 5 furlongs on the sloppy main track in 58.01 seconds with Trevor McCarthy riding.
American Anthem looked just fine returning to sprinting, at least for now, with a pace-stalking, 1 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Lazaro Barrera Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita. With Mike Smith in the irons for trainer Bob Baffert, the Bodemeister colt finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.02. Kimbear was second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Aristocratic. American Anthem, owned by a group including the surging China Horse Club, was making his first start since finishing a fading 12th in the Santa Anita Derby. Smith said distance may not be an issue for the colt.
"I think you have to throw that last race out, the Santa Anita Derby. I was scrambling the whole time and he got hooked pretty hard in that race," the rider said. And Baffert's ace assistant, Jimmy Barnes, concurred. "At Oaklawn we lost a shoe and in the Santa Anita Derby, it was more the way the race set up, going so fast early. I don't think stretching him out is out of the question but those are Bob's decisions and China Horse Club's. I just take care of the horse and make sure he's healthy for each race."
Crewman won a bumpy, three-way battle to the wire in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park, scoring by a neck over the favorite, Ghost Hunter, and another nose over Wyeth. Hootenanny, making his first start in seven months, wasn't disgraced getting home fourth. Crewman, with Carlos Marquez Jr. at the controls, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:35.06. The 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding was seventh in this event a year ago. "He just seems like he's been improving every step and he's relaxed and seems very happy training over this track," said Dee Poulos, who scored her first graded stakes victory. "I had a lot of confidence because the other morning at coffee Carlos said, 'Mama, we're going to win the Hanshin.'"
Filly & Mare Sprint/Mile
Highway Star and Bar of Gold battled down the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Ruffian for fillies and mares at Belmont Park before Highway Star edged off to win by 1/2 length. High Ridge Road was 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Highway Star, a 4-year-old daughter of Girolamo, finished the sloppy one-turn mile in 1:39.05 with Angel Arroyo up. The top two are both owned by Chester and Mary Brotman but ran uncoupled with different trainers. It was the fifth win from her last six starts for Highway Star who started her career running against fellow New York-breds. "The speed had been strong all day but the last two races it died out a little bit so we decided not to change our tactics and it worked out," said winning trainer Rodrigo Ubillo. "She's good enough she can do anything."
At Chester on Friday, the Coolmore-O'Brien-Moore team scored again as Cliffs of Moher came to the lead a furlong out in the Dee Stakes and had no trouble holding off Godolphin's Bay of Poets, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Max Zorin didn't have enough in the late going and sagged to a third-place finish. Her Majesty's colt, Call to Mind, was not called to the post for this one. Cliffs of Moher, another Galileo colt, was making his first start since breaking his maiden last October at Leopardstown.
Brametot was up in the final stride to win Sunday's Group 1 Abu Dhabi Poule d'Essai des Poulains at Deauville by a short head over Le Brivido. Rivet was the best of the cross-Channel contenders, finishing 3 lengths farther back in third. The Aidan O'Brien duo of Orderofthegarter and Peace Envoy made no impression and the favorite, National Defense, stopped badly in the final furlong, beating none of his dozen rivals. Brametot, an Irish-bred colt by Rajsaman, won his third straight race and fifth of six overall with Cristian Demuro up for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget.
Best Solution moved to the lead with 2 furlongs to run in Saturday's Betfred Derby Trial at Lingfield and the Godolphin colt, an Irish-bred son of Kodiac, went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths while eased near the finish. John Gosden trained the next two, Glencadam Glory and the favorite, Tartini. Best Solution, trained by Saeed bin Suroor, won for the first time since taking a Group 3 event at Newmarket last Oct. 8. In his previous start, he finished eighth behind Thunder Snow in the Group 2 UAE 2,000 Guineas at Meydan.
Over turf rated "very soft," Precieuse posted a major, and somewhat emphatic, upset in Saturday's Group 1 Abu Dhabi Poule d'Essai des Pouliches at Deauville. The Tamayuz filly, with Olivier Peslier in the irons, tracked the leaders until sent to the lead a bit more than 100 yards from the finish and edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Sea of Grace, well back early, had the advantage until Precieuse tracked her down but held second, 3/4 length of Heuristique.
The Aidan O'Brien bandwagon bogged down a bit as Rain Goddess and Roly Poly finished fifth and sixth, respectively, and Smoulder cantered home last of 18. Precieuse scored her second win after finishing second last time out in the Group 3 Prix Sigy at Chantilly. Trainer Fabrice Chappet said it's unclear where Precieuse will appear next. Sea of Grace's trainer, William Haggas, said he was thrilled with her race and she is ticketed for the Irish 1,000 Guineas.
Hertford Dancer got by Pocketfullofdreams in the late going to win Saturday's Betfred Mobile Oaks Trial on the Lingfield turf by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, The Sky Is Blazing, chucked it in through the final furlong, finishing third, 7 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Hertford Dancer, a Foxwedge filly trained by John Gosden, scored her second win from six starts.
Elsewhere on the international front:
Signs of Blessing led throughout Saturday's Group 3 Prix de Saint-George at Deauville and won by 2 lengths over the favorite, Profitable. Finsbury Square was third in the 5-furlongs contest, run over very soft going. Signs of Blessing, a 6-year-old Invincible Spirit gelding, winner of last year's Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over the same turf, was making his first start since finishing fifth in last December's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint. It was the best showing for Profitable since he won the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot last June.
Godolphin scored another Group 1 victory as Sobetsu found another gear in the final furlong of Sunday's Prix Saint-Alary for 3-year-old fillies at Deauville and scooted off to win by 3 lengths over Vue Fantastique. Coronet was third and the favorite, Gold Luck, finished fifth. Lady Frankel was sixth. Sobetsu, a Dubawi filly, was making her 3-year-old bow after going 1-for-3 as a juvenile.
Speaking of Belmont Park (weren't we?), Red Cardinal earned a spot in the Grade III Belmont Gold Cup Invitational in June with a 1 1/4 lengths victory in Sunday's Group 2 Comer Group International Oleander-Rennen at Hoppegarten in German. The 5-year-old Irish-bred Montju gelding was held up near the rear of the field through the first half of the 2-miles trek, advanced steadily through the final furlongs and caught Nearly Caught in time to win convincingly over that rival. San Salvador raced close to the front and finished just a nose farther back in third. Eduardo Pedroza rode Red Cardinal for trainer Andreas Wohler.
Red Cardinal raced in the English minor leagues until late last year when he was transferred to Wohler and he promptly responded by finishing second, beaten only 3/4 length by Nightflower, in the Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne. Sunday's race was his first of 2017.
Admire Lead bulled to the lead through a narrow opening late in the stretch run in Sunday's Group 1 Victoria Mile for fillies and mares at Tokyo Racecourse and held the advantage to the wire. Denko Ange was second, 1 1/4 lengths back and a neck in front of Pour Jolaire. The favorite, Mikki Queen, checked in seventh. Admire Lead, a 4-year-old Stay Gold filly, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:33.9 with Christophe Lemaire in the irons. She has hit the exacta now in five consecutive starts. "I was able to position her well and although she has a good turn of foot, her charge doesn't last long so I tried not to drive her in early stretch," Lemaire said.
Red Falx, winner of last year's Group 1 Sprinters Stakes, returned to the winner's enclosure for the first time since that October triumph after taking Saturday's Group 2 Keio Hai Spring Cup at Tokyo Racecourse. The 6-year-old son of Swept Overboard raced in mid-pack through the turn, made a wide move into the stretch and dominated the final 100 meters, winning by 3/4 length. Clarente was second, 1/2 length in front of Grand Silk.
Volatile Mix upset Saturday's Group 1 UBET South Australian Derby at Morphettsville, seeing off Ruthven by 1/2 length with the favorite, Odeon, another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Volatile Mix, a New Zealand-bred colt by Pentire, scored his first win at the highest level. John Allen rode for trainer Darren Weir.
Back in North America:
Yorkton led gate-to-wire under Eurico da Silva in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Queenston Stakes for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Sailing Home. The favorite, Lokinforpursemonee, was a nose behind that one in third. Yorkton, a Speightstown colt, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.02. It was his first victory in four starts this season. Normally, a victory in the Queenston would have connections looking to the $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate on July 2. That may not be the case here. "I think we just kind of made a decision that we figure he probably is a sprinter," said winning trainer Stuart Simon. "We don't want to discourage him and we want him to progress in the right fashion. We'll see how things go and take it from here."
Blurricane came with a late rush to take Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ballade Stakes for Canadian-bred fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Crumlin Spirit. Code Warrior was another neck back in third. Blurricane, a 5-year-old Rebellion mare out of the Rahy mare Otra Vez, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.66 with Da Silva up.
Faypien and Noted and Quoted both rallied through the stretch to give trainer Bob Baffert a 1-2 finish in Sunday's $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The favorite, Selcourt, was in the mix until the final yards but held on to finish third. Faypien, a Ghostzapper filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.21 under Joe Talamo. It was only her third start. Noted and Quoted, winner of the Grade I Chandelier Stakes last fall, was eased in her last start in the Sunland Park Oaks.
Dear Lilly took over in the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Vancouver Sun Stakes for fillies and mares and held the lead to the wire, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Touching Promise. Castellani was third Dear Lilly, a 7-year-old Graeme Hall mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:17.49 with David Lopez up.
Modern led from the start in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) George Royal Stakes and won by 1/2 length from Bistraya. Venetian Mask was third. Modern, a 7-year-old Tiznow gelding out of the A.P. Indy mare Interior Design, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:16.79 with Richard Hamel aboard. The veteran has been in the money in 20 of his 28 starts.
Someday Soon prompted the pace in Sunday's $75,000 Tomboy Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, took over on the turn and won by 1 length over Nikki My Darling. My Ticket Home was another 9 lengths behind in third. Someday Soon, a Proud Citizen filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.58 with Declan Cannon in the irons.
Sharkzilla came from last of eight to post an upset win in Sunday's $50,000 Auburn Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings. After coming six-wide on the turn, the Distorted Reality colt surged past pacesetting So Lucky to win by 1 length. Sure Sweet was third. Sharkzilla with Erik Lopez in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.92.
Golden Gate Fields
Grecian Fire dueled to the lead in Sunday's $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds, then had to duel again with the favorite, Anyportinastorm, before going on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. More Power To Him pipped Anyportinastorm for second. Grecian Fire, an Unusual Heat gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.81 under William Antongiorgi III.