April 15 (UPI) -- Graded stakes from the Blue Grass of Kentucky to the gray skies of Arkansas filled Thoroughbred racing's weekend with promise of stars to come.
Among the top-level winners were Delta Prince, Rushing Fall and Midnight Bisou. Quip and Bourbon Resolution promised better things to come in the Classic Division. But Whitmore fell short of landing his third straight Count Fleet Sprint victory in Arkansas.
Here's the rundown:
Delta Prince dallied at the rear of the seven-horse field through much of Friday's $300,000 Grade I Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland, got going around the turn and passed them all, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over 46-1 chance Clyde's Image. Qurbaan was third and well-fancied Raging Bull finished fourth. Delta Prince, a 6-year-old son of Street Cry, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:35.97 with Javier Castellano in the irons for trainer James Jerkens.
"I tried to take my time and let the race develop," Castellano said. "He picked it up a little bit at the top of the stretch. I like the way he finished. He finished really, really well."
Jerkens said Delta Prince is headed back to New York and likely will not progress to the Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic on Derby Day at Churchill Downs. "I'd like to take another shot at the (Grade I) Fourstardave at Saratoga, where he just got beat last year," the trainer said.
At Aqueduct on Sunday, Fifty Five was sent off at odds of 50 cents on the dollar and raced fifth through the early furlongs of the $100,000 Plenty of Grace Stakes for fillies and mares. But then the 5-year-old Get Stormy mare got storming, passed all four rivals and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Conquest Hardcandy was second, 1/2 length in front of Coffee Crush. Fifty Five ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.10 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. It was her first start of the year and third straight win. She was second in the 2018 Plenty of Grace.
Filly & Mare Turf
Rushing Fall did what she does in Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland -- win. The 4-year-old More Than Ready filly clearly loves the Keeneland grass and led all the way to win by 1 length over Rymska. Got Stormy finished third, a neck in front of Onthemoonagain, denying trainer Chad Brown a 1-2-3 finish in a Grade I. Rushing Fall finished the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:42.77 with Javier Casellano up.
Rushing Fall now has won seven of eight career starts and all four of her races at Keeneland. The list includes the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 1 1/8 miles during the 2018 fall meeting. "She definitely loves the course," Brown said. "Big team effort. Just a great day."
Brown said he knew Rymska would make it tight between his top two. "She's fit, she's sharp right now. I knew it would be close. She's a top filly herself, but there can only be one winner. All three ran well and they'll probably go their separate ways now."
Ginger Nut posted a mild upset win in Friday's $100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland with a pair of Royal Ascot veterans trained by Wesley Ward filling out the trifecta slots. Ginger Nut, a Sir Prancelot filly who also has raced in England, rallied sharply from the back of the field in the 5 1/2-furlongs dash and finished 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Stillwater Cove. Chelsea Cloisters barely survived the late bid of Beechwood Ella to finish third. Ginger Nut, with Joel Rosario up for trainer Juan Leyva, finished in 1:03.53.
"She broke nice and they got away from her a little bit," Rosario said. "I wanted to take my time to let her come with a late run like Juan told me to do."
Ginger Nut tallied six straight top-three finishes for trainer Richard Hannon in England last summer. She started 2019 at Gulfstream Park under the care of John Sadler with a fourth-place finish in the Melody of Colors Stakes Feb. 23. Stillwater Cove, a Quality Road filly, showed little in the Group 3 Albany Stakes at the 2018 Royal meeting. Chelsea Cloisters also flopped in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Ascot but rebounded to finish second in the Group Prix du Bois at Deauville in July and was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint last fall.
Juan Leyva, assistant to trainer John Sadler, reported Saturday morning Ginger Nut "looks good ... and will ship back to California Tuesday with plans to be determined."
Saturday at Keeneland, Morticia raced behind a pair of long shot leaders through the early furlongs of the $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead mid-stretch and held off a late rally by Excessivespending to win by a neck. Surrender Now threatened at the top of the lane but faded to finish third, 3/4 length farther in arrears. Morticia, a 5-year-old mare by Twirling Candy, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.18 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. She was third in this race last year and third again in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County during the fall meeting.
Trainer Rusty Arnold admitted Morticia is "a little difficult" but Ortiz said, "She broke out of there and she relaxed so well. She relaxed behind some horses, and I didn't rush her. And when I tipped her out in the stretch, she responded really well."
At Aqueduct, Regally Irish was up in the final jumps to snatch victory from pacesetting Skole in Saturday's $100,000 Bridgetown Stakes for 3-year-old. Mount Travers was third, 2 lengths farther back. Regally Irish, a Regal Ransom colt, ran 6 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:10.28 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons. It was his third win from seven starts for trainer Graham Motion. Assistant trainer Adrian Rolls said the colt's next race has yet to be decided.
Midnight Bisou rallied from well back in Sunday's $750,000 Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, then hooked up in a stretch-long duel with Escape Clause before escaping with the victory by a nose on the wire. Elate was third, 2 3/4 lengths farther back, as Midnight Bisou, a 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a track rated good in 1:43.88 with Mike Smith notching his second Grade I of the Hot Springs weekend.
"Man, that was great," Smith said. "Escape Clause ran huge but, you know, the great ones seem to pull it off no matter what. I'm really happy with the way she ran today but she had to run. Sometimes you have to do that. I set back with Elate and waited to make my move. She ran huge, she had to fight for it, but she ran big. Escape Clause ran really well."
Winning trainer Steve Asmussen called Midnight Bisou "an unbelievable filly ... how much confidence she has this year."
In her 3-year-old season, Midnight Bisou won the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks and was second or third in five other Grade I's. She now is 3-for-3 this year.
At Aqueduct on Saturday, Another Broad rallied from last of six to take the $200,000 Top Flight Invitational by 1 1/4 lengths over Forever Liesl. The favorite, My Miss Lilly, was a further 3/4 length back in third. Another Broad, a 4-year-old Include filly, ran 9 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:52.99 with Manny Franco in the irons. It was her first stakes win and followed a fourth place in the Grade III Royal Delta at Gulfstream Park.
Quip seized the lead from a pair of embattled longshots in the stretch run of Saturday's $750,000 Grade II Oaklawn Handicap, then just did withstand a blistering late run by Lone Sailor to win by a neck. The two early frontrunners, Pioneer Spirit and Rembering Rita, were another two necks back in third and fourth. Quip, a 4-year-old colt by Distorted Humor, finished 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track in 1:50.21 with Jose Ortiz riding.
Quip, racing for China Horse Club, WinStar Farm and SF Racing, won the Tampa Bay Derby last year, finished second in the Arkansas Derby and then missed the Kentucky Derby. He came back to finish eighth in the Preakness, then was idle until finishing third in the Hal's Hope at Gulfstream Park in February.
"We were expecting to be close," said Quip's trainer, Rodolphe Brisset. "He looked like on the backside, the horse was not really taking us anywhere, but he was keeping position. He had to make an early move and was very wide on the turn, but the horse ran his usual race. He's been taking us on a fun ride. It's very sweet. This horse is special."
At Keeneland, Bourbon Resolution dug in resolutely through the stretch run to land Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Ben Ali by 4 1/2 lengths over fellow long shot Nun the Less. Third Day, a lightly raced son of Bernardini, ran well to finish third. Bourbon Resolution, a 4-year-old son of New Year's Day, took the overland route on both turns, reached the lead at the top of the stretch and quickly cleared. Chris Landeros rode for trainer Ian Wilkes, finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.82. It was his third win from his last four starts and first stakes win of any kind.
"He's developed a lot. He's bigger, stronger," Wilkes said of Bourbon Resolution. "We were forced to give him some time, and now he's a more mature horse."
Asked if the colt could become a force in the Classic division, which lacks established stars, Wilkes said, "I don't see why not. He's only getting better, and I finally figured him out. He's got a high cruising speed. I was probably a detriment to him trying to rate him. Today, I just told Chris, 'Let him run. Let him find his way.'"
Mitole foiled Whitmore's bid for a third win in the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap, winning Saturday's $500,000 Grade III renewal at Oaklawn Park by 2 3/4 lengths, leading most of the way. Whitmore gave futile chase, finishing second, 7 lengths ahead of Bourbon Cowboy. Mitole, a 4-year-old colt by Eskendereya, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:09.36 under Ricardo Santana Jr.
Mitole came into the race as the winner of four straight and five of his last six -- a stretch dating back to last spring at Oaklawn. He was stepping up to graded stakes company for the first time but went to the post as the odd-on favorite. Whitmore, a 6-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, won the Count Fleet in 2017 and 2018 and was 7-for-10 at the Hot Springs oval, plus a third-place finish in the 2016 Arkansas Derby.
"To win his first graded stakes is special," trainer Steve Asmussen said of Mitole's effort. "He's an elite-caliber horse. He handles the wet track extremely well ... He broke well and was fast to the wire. Very grateful to have him in our barn."
Whitmore's trainer, Ron Moquett, said, "Today was their day. The short field, lone speed, that's not his deal. Twenty two (seconds) and change opening quarter. I'm proud of my horse."
Fight On seized the lead in the lane in Sunday's $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn Park, then battled to the wire before claiming a nose victory over Casino Star. Gato Guapo was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Fight On, a 4-year-old Into Mischief colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:44.63 with Tyler Baze up.
In other action:
Yes, there were two Misdirection Stakes during the weekend and both were turf sprints. To wit:
Painting Corners led all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita. Poster Girl rallied for second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Go On Mary. The race originally was set for 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside course but was switched to 5 furlongs over the main turf oval. Painting Corners, a 5-year-old Pleasant Strike mare, finished in 56.30 seconds with Joe Talamo riding.
At the other edge of the country, Eyeinthesky also led all the way to victory in Sunday's $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Aqueduct turf. Fashion Faux Pas was second, 3/4 length back and 1 1/4 lengths in front of Mae No Never. Eyeinthesky, with Manny Franco up, ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:09.92.
Mizdirection, a daughter of Mizzen Mast, won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in 2012 and 2013, both times at Santa Anita. Most of her career was in California. She finished fifth in her lone New York appearance, the Grade I Just a Game, but that was at Belmont Park, not the Big A.
Campaign dallied last of five through most of Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Tokyo City Cup, a 12-furlongs marathon over the Santa Anita dirt. When prompted by jockey Rafael Bejarano, the 4-year-old Curlin colt picked them up willingly while four wide and got to the front at the sixteenth pole. He went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths from Beach View with the early leader, Acker, another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Campaign, out of the Dynaformer mare Arania, finished in 2:34.73 on a fast track.
Diamond Dust waited patiently behind the early leader in Saturday's $75,000 Howard B. Noonan Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, blasted past that one and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Celtic Line was second, 2 lengths better than the pacesetter, Ohio Player. Diamond Dust, a Paynter gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.37 with Gerardo Corrales in the irons.
Midnight Fantasy asserted herself midway through Saturday's $75,000 Austinown Filly Sprint for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, drawing clear to win by 5 lengths over Thunderous Gem. Into Trouble was making up ground but settled for third, a nose shy of place money. Midnight Fantasy, a Midnight Lute filly, reported in 1:10.35 with Erik Barbaran up.
News and Notes
The Breeders' Cup has added eight more races to the international "Challenge" series -- races that offer the winner a guaranteed spot and travel allowances for a corresponding race in the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Noteworthy among them are the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and the Juddmonte International at York.
Enable won last year's Arc and journeyed to Churchill Downs the following month to bag the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf and Breeders' Cup officials would like nothing better than for that to set up as a repeat this year. The Juddmonte International, which is run on the turf, becomes the first European "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic, run on the dirt.
The full list is available at www.breederscup.com.