April 1 (UPI) -- While most of the racing world focused on the Dubai World Cup and Kentucky Derby doings, there were some meaningful races elsewhere around North America, particularly on the grass.
Ohio, a former $50,000 claimer, won the Grade I Kilroe Mile and Secret Spice the Grade I Beholder Mile, both at Santa Anita.
A rundown of the action:
Epical showed the way in Friday's $200,000 Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes at Santa Anita, turned back a brief challenge and rolled through the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Beach View was second, 1/2 length to the good of Marckie's Water. Epical, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles starting on the downhill course in 2:24.60 with Tyler Baze riding. Epical finished second in the Grade II San Marcos in his previous start. Friday's effort was his first stakes win. "We had a few struggles along the way with this horse, but he's had the right trip in the last few races and it shows," said winning trainer Jim Cassidy.
Focus Group returned to the races from a six-months break to win Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Pan American at Gulfstream Park in a nip-and-tuck finish with Melmich. Focus Group, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, waited until the last quarter mile of the 1 1/2-miles event to get fully revved, then adanced inside rivals, hooked Melmich and won by a head bob. The early leader, Village King, finished third. Focus Group, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy out of the Dynaformer mare Cocktail Hour, finished in 2:30.03.
Filly & Mare Turf
Santa Monica, starting from the outside gate in a field of nine, settled well back through the early furlongs of Friday's $100,000 Grade III Orchid Stakes at Gulfstream Park, picked things up on the turn for home and was just up in the final strides to win by a head from Ickymasho. Giant Zinger made the early pace and held on for show money. Santa Monica, a 6-year-old, British-bred mare by Mastercraftsman, went to the post as the odds-on favorite and finished the 1 3/8 miles on good turf in 2:16.07 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. Despite consistently finishing in the money in graded stakes, the Chad Brown trainee was 10th in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare turf.
"I didn't have too many choices by the three-eighths pole," Ortiz said. "Nobody on the inside moved, so I had to keep her outside. I had to move early and wide, but I had the best horse in the race. Chad Brown's horses always come ready."
Elysea's World waited well back of the leaders in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Santa Ana Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita, came four-wide to challenge entering the stretch and outfinished Zaffinah for a 1/2-length victory. Lynne's Legacy was third. Elysea's World, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred mare by Champs Elysees, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf, starting on the hillside course, in 1:59.24 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons. It was her second California start since transferring from Chad Brown's care to Richard Baltas' barn and her first win since a pair of scores at Monmouth Park last summer.
"This is the first time I've rode her, but I could tell she is a very classy filly," Van Dyke said of Elysea's World. "We had a very nice pace to chase, so I was bidding my time before I asked her to run. This race set up for us perfect on paper for me. She did the rest when we turned for home."
Ohio dueled for the lead in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita, put away the initial challenger and then had to hold off the late bid of the favorite, Catapult, to win by a nose. Desert Stone was third. Ohio, an 8-year-old, Brazilian-bred gelding by Elusive Quality, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.71 with Reuben Fuentes in the irons.
Ohio was claimed for $50,000 last June at Santa Anita. Now, said trainer Michael McCarthy, "I'm thinking of taking him to Kentucky for Derby weekend." As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee has been heard to proclaim, "It's an easy game."
Fuentes, who scored his first Grade I win, said, "It's great. It's the best feeling in the world."
Dr. Edgar took the lead in Friday's $100,000 Grade III Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park, repelled a long shot bid midway through and went on to win by 1/2 length. Hawkish fell just short with a late bid, finishing 2 lengths to the good of Doctor Mounty. Dr. Edgar, a 6-year-old Lookin' At Lucky gelding, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:34.65 with Julien Leparoux at the controls. Formerly raced in the claiming ranks in New York, the Appleton was Dr. Edgar's first foray into the stakes ranks.
"I was lucky," said Dr. Edgar's trainer, Barclay Tagg. "I was given the horse when Carl Domino retired. We'll play it by ear as we go along. He won the Appleton. It's a step up. If he can keep stepping up, we'll keep stepping up with him."
Seismic Wave raced last of seven through most of Saturday's $125,000 Cutler Bay Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, kicked in gamely at the top of the stretch and was just up to win by a neck over Forever Mo. Art G Is Back finished third. Seismic Wave, a Tapit colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.49 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. The Bill Mott trainee was coming off his first career win in his fourth start.
Valedictorian set a pressured pace in Saturday's $100,000 Sand Springs Stakes for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park, finally holding off a bid by Proctor's Ledge to win by a head. Andina Del Sur was third. Valedictorian, a 5-year-old Temple City mare, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.92 under Tyler Gaffalione. It was her seventh straight in-the-money finish for trainer Kelly Breen.
Trenchtown Cat set a leisurely pace in Saturday's $125,000 Sanibel Island Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park and held on in the final strides to win by a neck over Vow To Recover. Seranitsa was third. Trenchtown Cat, a daughter of Discreet Cat, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.11 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding.
Law Abidin Citizen rallied to the lead four-wide in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III San Simeon Stakes down the Santa Anita hillside course and worked clear for a 1-length victory over Cistron. Mesut was third. Law Abidin Citizen, a 5-year-old Twirling Candy gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in 1:11.21 with Tiago Periera riding.
Secret Spice stalked the pace in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Beholder Mile at Santa Anita, circled three-wide into the stretch and quickly got clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Marley's Freedom. Paradise Woods was third. Secret Spice, a 4-year-old Discreet Cat filly, went to the post at odds of better than 11-1 and finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.39. Geovanni Franco rode for trainer Richard Baltas.
Secret Spice, more frequently seen in the optional claiming ranks, scored her third win from 10 starts. She has missed a top-three finish only three times, however.
"Marley's Freedom is a great horse," said winning trainer Richard Baltas. "It was our day today and we'll take it. She put it all together today."
Marconi settled behind the leaders in Friday's $100,000 Skip Away Stakes at Gulfstream Park, came three-wide to challenge in the upper stretch and worked by to win by 1/2 length. Sir Anthony also found good late kick to finish second, a neck in front of Realm. Marconi, a 4-year-old Tapit colt, ran 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:56.30 with Luis Saez in the irons. The colt was an early Triple Crown candidate in 2018, finishing fifth in the Fountain of Youth and eighth in the Blue Grass but the Skip Away was only his second career victory.
"I think he's heading in the right direction and as a 4-year-old he should start to really figure things out," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who handles Marconi, a $2 million yearling purchase, for the Coolmore partners in Ireland and Bridlewood Farm. "I was impressed by how he was training recently. It seems like he's kind of been coming around."
Prince Lucky continued a nice winning streak with an easy victory as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Gulfstream Park Mile. The 4-year-old Corinthian gelding moved to the lead after the first quarter mile and quickly edged away from five rivals, winning by 4 3/4 lengths. Tale of Silence and Guy Caballero filled the trifecta slots. Prince Lucky, with John Velazquez up, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.21. He ended his 3-year-old campaign with a win in the Easy Goer at Belmont Park in June. After the long layoff, he came back to win the Grade III Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Feb. 23 by 6 lengths.
St. Joe Bay surged quickly to the front in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Carlos at Santa Anita, opened a comfortable lead under jockey Victor Espinoza and kept on gamely to win by 3 lengths. Dr. Dorr was best of the rest, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Kanthaka. St. Joe Bay, a 7-year-old gelding by Saint Anddan, covered 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.06 with Victor Espinoza scoring his first win after a long recuperation from and injury.
The San Carlos was St. Joe Bay's first start since a fifth-place finish behind Roy H in the Grade II Palos Verdes Jan. 19.
"We're really happy for Victor," said winning trainer John Sadler. "He's worked hard and it's been tough with the calendar. He was ready to go a month ago and he had to stop, so it's good for him to get back to the winner's circle."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Break Even led from the start in Saturday's $150,000 Purple Martin for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn Park and extended the advantage to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Lady T N T. Tomlin was third. Break Even, a Country Day filly, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.15 with Colby Hernandez in the irons.