While American racing fans focused on Kentucky Derby preps during the weekend, much of the rest of the racing world was watching Super Saturday at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.
The seven races on the program all were lead-in events to the Dubai World Cup night, March 30 and the defending champ in the World Cup itself, Thunder Snow, was on full display.
He didn't win. But his trainer said not to worry. He'll be better prepared in three weeks time.
All that and much more weekend racing, from around the world and around the United States:
With the exception of a second-place finish by Thunder Snow, "Super Saturday" was pretty super indeed for the Godolphin home team. The "Boys in Blue" not only won four of the seven races on the card but also sent out their star 3-year-old filly to beat the boys in a Group 1, moving her one step closer to a try in the Kentucky Oaks.
Here's how the day unfolded:
Thunder Snow, the defending champ in the Dubai World Cup, apparently was in need of a race. In his first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, the 5-year-old son of Helmet contested lead made by Capezzano in the Group 1 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 Sponsored by Emirates Airline. But when Capezzano found another gear in the stretch, Thunder Snow did not and Capezzano shot away to win by 9 1/2 lengths. Thunder Snow barely held second by a neck over South Korea's Dolkong.
"He's an honest horse, said Capezzano's trainer, Salem bin Ghadayer. "Even when he won over a mile, he ran an amazing race. We thought, why not try him over 10 furlongs ... This horse really is amazing when he decides to run. His problem is he's a little bit tricky of a horse and he needs to keep calm and relax. He has a big future."
Thunder Snow's trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, was not discouraged by the outcome.
"He got tired, just like we said before the race," bin Suroor said, referencing the four-months layoff. "He will improve from the race and will be ready for World Cup night. He'll be fine."
While the Maktoum Challenge was a temporary disappointment for Sheik Mohammed and Godolphin, the pain was eased one race later as Dream Castle swept to a stretch-running victory in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline, a prep for the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf at the same 9 furlongs on World Cup night. Godolphin runners Wooton and First Contact also finished second and third in the Jebel Hatta.
"Last year, we thought maybe he could be a sprinter," bin Suroor said of Dream Castle, a 5-year-old son of Frankel. "But I believe he's a 9 furlongs-plus horse. This year he has shown he's a class, Group 1 horse."
Old Persian put another one in the Godolphin column with a short head victory over stablemate Racing History in the Group 2 Dubai City of Gold Sponsored by Emirates Air Cargo (G2) at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. That event is a prep for the $6 million Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic (G1).
The Godolphin minions were especially excited about the outcome of the Al Bastakiya Sponsored by emirates.com, at 9 1/2 furlongs on the dirt for 3-year-olds. The race is scheduled as a precursor to the $2.5 million Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night but star filly Divine Image threw a curve ball into the works with a late run that found her overwhelming her male rivals to win by 7 1/4 lengths.
Talking about the possibility of running Divine Image, a Scat Daddy filly, in the UAE Oaks, trainer Charlie Appleby said, "She's a very talented filly. But she's learning on the job and this was a team effort tonight. Before the race we had the discussion of if she were to win, we wouldn't rush into it. It's definitely on the cards, but we also have the Kentucky Oaks to take into consideration."
Adding to the Godolphin joy, Blue Point, bidding to join the ranks of the world's top sprinters, dominated the Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint Sponsored by Arabian Adventures. That was a lead-in to the $2 million Group 2 Al Quoz Sprint on the March 30 program.
Two other events did not go to Godolphin and all have potential implications for World Cup night.
Muntazah took the Group 3 Burj Nahaar Sponsored by Emirates Holidays a 1 mile-race on the dirt that leads to the $1.5 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile.
Drafted raced steadily down the center of the course to win the Group 3 Mahab Al Shimaal Sponsored by Emirates Skywards (G3) at 6 furlongs on the dirt, a prep for the $2.5 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1).
We're well into Lent and the final Fast-Track Qualifier races for the Good Friday All-Weather Championships are in the books.
Chelmsford City staged two Fast-Track Qualifiers Thursday evening and both winners are on course for the finals.
Amade, visiting from France, won the Bet totequadpot At totesport.com Conditions Race over 2 miles, qualifying for the final at Lingfield over the samedistance. After racing last of six through much of the race, jockey Andrea Atzeni swung Amade wide, secured the lead a furlong out and had plenty left, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Elegiac was best of the rest as Amade ran his record to 2-for-2 in the UK.
"I think Good Friday is the plan, as tonight was Amade's third qualifying run anyway," Atzeni said. A horse qualifies for the finals by winning a Fast-Track Qualifier race or by contesting three times on all-weather surfaces during the program.
Later on the same card, Clon Coulis ensured a spot in the Ladbrokes Filllies & Mares' Championship on Good Friday with a victory in the Bet totetrifecta At toresport.com Fillies Conditions Race. The David Barron trainee, a 5-year-old mare by Vale of York, had no trouble with the 1 mile despite having been idle since September, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Emily Goldfinch.
"Clon Coulis did it well," said jockey Jamie Spencer. "On paper, it looked like it could be a messy race, but fortunately there was pace and she was able to pick up the main danger in the straight ... I am sure Finals Day will come into the reckoning now and you would think her on her rating (101) that she will be a major player."
Clon Coulis's trainer, David Barron, made it a double on the weekend as Above the Rest landed the final Fast-Track Qualifier of the season, Saturday's listed Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton. The 7-furlongs race over Tapeta earned Above the Rest a spot in the Sun Racing All-Weather Mile Championship on Good Friday.
Above The Rest was making his first start in the UK since finishing fourth in another Fast-Track Qualifier, the Betway Golden Rose Stakes at Lingfield Park Nov. 17. Between those starts, the 8-year-old son of Excellent Art made two outings at Meydan in Dubai, including when fourth on dirt in the Group 3 Dubawi Stakes.
"Lingfield would on the cards now for Above The Rest," Baron said. "Good Friday is obviously still a little way away, but there is every possibility that he could head that way."
Back in the U.S.:
Sprint Dirt Mile
Do Share raced well off a hot early pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Tom Fool Handicap at Aqueduct, rallied five-wide into the stretch and raced by, winning off by 6 1/2 lengths. Life In Shambles also benefitted from the pace meltdown, finishing second, 1/2 length in front of Bavaro. The favorite, Skyler's Scramjet, made the early lead but was under pressure and faded to finish fourth. Do Share, a 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.77 with Reylu Gutierrez in the irons for trainer Mike Maker.
Do Share, a $25,000 claimer early in his career, scored his first graded stakes win but finished second in the 2018 edition of the Tom Fool. It also was the first graded stakes win for his young rider, who said, "It was a great trip. Talk about a great horse. He just took me to the wire. Any rider probably could have won on him today. He was going at light speed today."
One race later at Aqueduct, Vino Rosso stalked the pace in the $150,000 Stymie Stakes, came five-wide into the lane and went on to win by 3/4 length over Title Ready with the others well up the track. Vino Rosso, making his first start since finishing fifth in last year's Travers, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.27 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Whitmore, ultra consistent and a true "horse for the course," stalked the pace while saving ground in Saturday's $150,000 Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park, moved to the lead three-wide with a furlong left and drew off to win by 1 1/2 lengths -- his third straight victory in the Hot Springs. Share the Upside and Welder, who disputed the early lead, finished second and third. Whitmore, a 6-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, ran 6 furlongs in a smooth 1:09.39 with Ricardo Santana Jr. riding confidently.
Whitmore not only has won the Hot Springs thrice but also remains undefeated in seven sprint starts over the spa oval. "That's huge, especially in that division because there's a lot of good sprinters come through this division," said part-owner and trainer Ron Moquett.
Filly & Mare Turf
Rymska, the solid favorite in a field of 10, stalked the pace in Saturday's $225,000 Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, worked past pacesetting Hawksmoor in the stretch and sailed on to win by 2 lengths over that one. Onthemoonagain rallied late to get third, a nose behind Hawksmoor. Rymska, a 5-year-old, French-bred mare by Le Havre, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.18 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up. The multiple graded stakes winner finished second in the Grade III Suwannee River at Gulfstream Park in her 2019 debut.
"Irad rode a beautiful race," said Chad Brown, who trains both Rymska and Onthemoonagain. "She got a beautiful trip and she responded well. She's been laying a little closer her last couple of starts, which I like to see, and she finished great."
In Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Florida Oaks on the Tampa Bay Downs turf, Concrete Rose atoned from her only career loss, that in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, with hard-won, 1/2-length victory. After tracking the pace under jockey Julien Leparoux, Concrete Rose closed to take the lead in the stretch, then outfinished Blowout for the win. It was another 1/2 length back to Winter Sunset in third. Concrete Rose finished 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.02. Her 2-year-old wins last year included the Grade II Jessamine at Keeneland.
Nun the Less tracked down pacesetting Lanier in the late going to win Saturday's $100,000 Kubota Kentucky Cup at Turfway Park by 1 lengths over that rival. It was 8 lengths more back to Midnight Pleasure in third. Nun the Less, a 7-year-old Candy Ride gelding, finished 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.79 with Walter De La Cruz in the irons for trainer Cipriano Contreras. Nun the Less won the Prairie Bayou Stakes over the course in December, in virtually identical fashion over Lanier, and finished seventh in the Grade III Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park Feb. 18.
Flameaway battled Killybegs Captain through the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Challenger Stakes, swapped the lead and finally prevailed by 1/2 lengths. Bourbon Resolution was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third. Flameaway, a 4-year-old colt by Scat Daddy, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.89 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. He was second in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, the Grade II Blue Grass and the Grade II Jim Dandy last year -- those bracketing a 13th-place in the Kentucky Derby. The Mark Casse charge returned from a six-months layoff to run third in the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds Feb. 16.
Elsewhere around the ovals:
Tampa Bay Downs
Digital Age was off to a slow start in Saturday's $75,000 Columbia Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 mile on the turf. But with Irad Ortiz Jr. at the controls, the Irish-bred Invincible Spirit colt rallied four-wide into the stretch and got home first by a head over Forever Mo with Global Access just another 1/2 length back in third. Digital Age was home in 1:36.58 over firm going.
Mocito Rojo battled to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Owner Appreciation Stakes, then dueled to the line with Line Judge, holding on to win by 1/2 length. Gentrified was third, a further 2 3/4 lengths back. Mocito Rojo, a 5-year-old son of Mutadda, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.04 for jockey Filemon Rodriguez.
Testing One Two took charge in the stretch run in Friday's $60,000 Owner Appreciation Distaff, opening a daylight lead and coasting home first by2 1/4 lengths over Maline. Saffron Spirit was a further 2 lengths back in third. Testing One Two, a 4-year-old Star Guitar filly, ran 1 mile on a fast but sealed track in 1:41.88 with Diego Saena in the irons.
The races were restricted to who started at the track during the season.
Hawaiian Noises pressed the pace made by Thunderous Gem in Saturday's $50,000 Mayers Electric Company Animal Kingdom Stakes for 3-year-olds, engaged that one for the lead in the lane and edged ahead to win by 3/4 length. Artemus Bridge was third, 4 1/2 lengths farther back. Hawaiian Noises, a Super Saver colt owned and trained by Wesley Ward, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:18.61.
Princess Warrior started well back of the leaders in Saturday's $75,000 Latonia Stakes for fillies and mares, advanced quickly along the rail entering the stretch and won off by 3 3/4 lengths, ridden out by Brian Hernandez Jr. Princess Warrior, a 4-year-old Midshipman filly, ran 1 mile in 1:38.67. Eqho and Silent Sonnet completed the trifecta.
Bell's the One was along just in time to nip pacesetting Fortunate Girl by 1/2 length in Saturday's $75,000 Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial for 3-year-old fillies. Gamblin Train rallied from far back and finished third, just a nose behind Fortunate Girl. Bell's the One, a Majesticperfection filly, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:39.96 with Corey Lanerie in the irons.
Samara hooked up in a stretch duel with Morticia in Saturday's $75,000 Captiva Island Stakes for fillies and mares and won by a neck. Goldwood was another 3/4 length back in third. Samara, a 5-year-old Hard Spun mare, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.60 seconds with Nik Juarez in the irons.
Much earlier on Saturday's program, Imprimis drew off in the stretch run to win the $75,000 Silks Run Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths with odds-on favorite Vision Perfect second and Pay Any Price a further neck back in third. Imprimis, a 5-year-old Broken Vow gelding, got home in 54.64 seconds under Paco Lopez.