The "new Winx" surfaced in Australia in weekend racing, even before the old one is officially retired, and the winner of the BMW Hong Kong Derby brought joy to locals and hope for another new star in that jurisdication.
While U.S. attention focused on the Kentucky Derby preps, there was plenty more action. Among the winners was Midnight Bisou, who looks like she, too, will be a handful in her 4-year-old season.
Here's a double handful of weekend action:
With two consecutive wins under her girth, Mystic Journey already is being weighted with the mantle "the next Winx". Winx is set to retire next month, likely with 32 straight wins going out the door. Mystic Journey, a 3-year-old filly by Needs Further, has a string of six. It's the latest two that have captured the imagination.
First came the Group 1 Australian Guineas March 2, a race Mystic Journey needed to win to qualify for a wildcard spot in Saturday's AUS$5 million (US$3.54 million) All-Star Mile at Flemington, a race billed as the world's richest mile.
Rallying down the middle of the course, Mystic Journey not only won the race but, in the process, outfinished two of the finest in Godolphin's Down Under team -- Hartnell and the race favorite, Alizee. Happy Clapper, a frequent Winx victim, reportedly bled and finished eighth.
Even Mystic Journey's trainer, Adam Trinder, was caught up in the "next Winx" mystique.
"The Group 1 (Australian Guineas) was obviously a pinnacle a fortnight ago but to win the richest mile race in the world with her only two weeks later, she's a filly on an upward spiral and we don't know where the bottom of her is," Trinder said while interviewed trackside.
"We'll protect her, look after her and she might be able to take over the mantle of Winx."
Furore held off a late run by the favorite, Waikuku, to land Sunday's BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin Racecourse by 1 1/4 lengths -- a triumph for young local trainer Frankie Lor.
Lor, who was raised in the shadow of the Happy Valley Racecourse stands, is in just his second season training on his own after 34 years spent working his way up the labyrinthine Hong Kong system.
"I can't express my feelings," he said after Forore sealed the victory in the most prestigious race amongst locals. "To have one horse to even run in the Derby ... Now I've won the Derby so it's a dream come true."
Furore, a New Zealand-bred gelding by Piero, slotted in behind the leading trio under ace jockey Hugh Bowman while the favorite, Waikuku, was slow to get going and raced near the back of the field through the long riverside backstretch. Jockey Joao Moreira finally got Waikuku going at the top of the lane but, by then, Furore was on the lead and the deal was done. Sunny Speed finished a third, just a short head behind Waikuku.
Lor said Furore now is headed toward Group 1 company April 28 on FWD Champions Day. But he said he has yet to decide between the QE II Cup at the Derby distance of 2,000 meters or the Champions Mile.
Either way, Bowman plans to be there. "I think back to when Werther won the Derby a few years ago and he went on to win the QE II at his next start," he said. "I don't know what Frankie's plans are but you'd think it would be a logical step forward. Until he goes there and does it, it's hard to know. He's certainly put the writing on the wall that he deserves his chance in open grade."
Back in the USA:
Midnight Bisou found room between the leaders midway through the stretch run in Saturday's $350,000 Grade II Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park, drove through and ran on to win by 1 length over Elate. Shamrock Rose was third, completing a trifecta composed of all Grade I winners. Midnight Bisou, a 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.72. Mike Smith had the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen as Midnight Bisou, winner of last year's Grade I Santa Anita Oaks and third in the Kentucky Oaks, ran her 2019 record to 2-for-2.
"It's all Midnight Bisou," Asmussen said. "She's a very special mare. She's been training incredibly well all winter ... She's been spot on and looked beautiful. I thought she proved her quality today. Today's Azeri had four Grade I winners in it and for her to come out on top is very special."
Rated R Superstar won a three-horse charge to the wire in Saturday's $350,000 Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park, with the photo finding the 6-year-old Kodiac Kowboy gelding a head in front of Snapper Sinclair. Giant Expectations was third. Rated R Superstar, with Walter De La Cruz in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.66, improving on his third-place finish last time out in the Grade III RazorbackHandicap. He was 79-1 in that race, 14-1 in the Essex.
"He had a good trip. We took a shot at it and it worked out," said trainer Cipriano Contreras. Asked about the upcoming Oaklawn Handicap, he said, "That's the plan."
At Laurel Park, Cordmaker came wide around the leaders in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial, made up all the ground and won by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Unbridled Juan. Bonus Points was only a head farther back in third. Cordmaker, a 4-year-old Curlin gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.29 with Victor Carrasco in the irons.
Filly & Mare Sprint
America's Tale rallied to the lead in deep stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park, then edged away to a 1 1/4-length victory over the pacesetter, Razorback Lady. The favorite, Tequilita, was always in the mix and saved third. America's Tale, a 4-year-old Gio Ponti filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.08. Paco Lopez rode for trainer Bernie Flint. She posted three straight wins to wrap up 2018 and finished sixth in the Marie G. Krantz at Fair Grounds in her 2019 debut.
"I was a little concerned because she usually likes to run out front, and she wasn't out front in the beginning," America's Tale's owner, Naveed Chowhan told The Blood-Horse. "But Paco thought she would rather like the outside instead of being inside horses, and I think he was right."
Startwithsilver started a bit slowly in Saturday's $100,000 Correction Stakes at Aqueduct, then endured a wide trip into the stretch before rallying to outfinish Yorkiepoo Princess by a neck. Sounds Delicious led briefly and held on for third. Startwithsilver, a 6-year-old mare by Jump Start, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.19 with Junior Alvarado at the controls. It was her first stakes win although she did finish third in the 2018 Correction.
"I had to play it by ear," Alvarado said. "I didn't want to leave her with too much to do. At the same time, she's one of the only horses in the field that likes to run from behind, so I kind of had to sit early and hope for a fast pace."
Around the ovals:
Durkin's Call started last of four in Sunday's $100,000 Gander Stakes for 3-year-old New York-breds, rallied to the lead at the top of the lane and strolled off to win by 7 1/4 lengths. Kosciuszko was best of the rest with Pipes and a distanced Kadens Courage completing the order of finish. Durkin's Call, a Jump Start gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.90. He was making his first start for trained Bill Mott after a private purchase. Junior Alvarado had the ride.
Hyper Piper stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000, off-the-turf Red Camelia Stakes for fillies and mares, came three-wide into the lane and dueled with Is Too for the final furlong before winning by a head. Tap Dance Star came with a late run to finish third, another head back. Hyper Piper, a 6-year-old Old Fashioned mare, ran 1 mile on a muddy, sealed track in 1:39.14 with Marcelino Pedroza up.
Anna's Bandit was up in the final strides to win a three-way photo in Saturday's $100,000 Conniver Stakes for Maryland-bred or sired fillies and mares. S W Briar Rose led and was just pipped on the line. Enchanted Ghost was a neck farther back in third. Anna's Bandit, a 5-year-old Great Notion mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.50 with Xavier Perez up.
Lewisfield led virtually gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Not For Love Stakes for Maryland-affiliated steeds, wining by 3 1/4 lengths over Rockinn On Bye. The odds-on favorite, Laki, was third, beaten another 1 3/4 lengths. Lewisfield, a 5-year-old gelding by Great Notion, got 6 furlongs in 1:08.68 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons.