May 28 (UPI) -- With Derbies and Guineas from England to France to Japan, U.S. Memorial Day weekend racing and even Hong Kong and Singapore in the mix, it was a busy weekend of Thoroughbred racing around the globe.
With the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs set for Saturday and Royal Ascot hot on the heels of that, we'll start with England, Ireland and France.
To the surprise of none, Sir Dragonet and Telecaster on Monday were supplemented to the Derby at a cost of 85,000 pounds sterling each.
"It was an easy, if very expensive, decision to supplement him," trainer Hughie Morrison said of Telecaster, the winner of the Grade II Dante Stakes at York May 16. He is by 2008 Derby winner New Approach.
Sir Dragonet, by 2012 Derby winner Camelot, jumped into the favorite's role for the Derby with an eye-opening victory in the Grade III Chester Vase May 8. He now heads the seven-strong herd of 3-year-olds still eligible for the Derby from the Coolmore-Ballydoyle combine.
Final declarations for the 240th running of the Derby are due Thursday. The Met Office called for moderate Tuesday rains to abate with mostly dry conditions for the remainder of the week.
The "race of the season" for 3-year-olds never developed in Saturday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas. Billed as a showdown between Qipco 2000 Guineas winner Magna Grecia and the wintertime's hottest item, Some Like It Hot, the race instead proved a showcase for Phoenix of Spain, who led from the start and kicked away to win by an easy 3 lengths. Some Like It Hot, making a quick turnaround after a tough second at York, ran well enough to get second but Magna Grecia retreated quickly in the final 200 meters to finish fifth.
For winning trainer Charlie Hills and jockey Jamie Spencer, the victory opened the door to Royal Ascot with the Lope de Vega colt. For trainer Aidan O'Brien, who has all but owned this race for more than a decade, it was a major comeuppance as Magna Grecia's placing was the best of his five starters.
Hills called Phoenix of Spain's effort "very impressive. The St James's Palace is the plan and I'm really looking forward to stepping him up to a mile and a quarter a bit later on, probably in the Eclipse."
O'Brien said of Magna Grecia: "He was a bit disappointing and obviously didn't produce his Newmarket form for some reason. He seemed okay after the race but we'll check him out when he gets home."
Things were a sight better for the O'Brien-Coolmore team Sunday at the Curragh.
Magical and stablemate Flag of Honour had things all to themselves in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup. With three others always well behind, Flag of Honour set things up nicely for her teammate, who took over at mid-stretch and ran on as nicely as jockey Ryan Moore pleased, winning by 7 lengths. Flag of Honour held second, followed by Mustajeer, Zihba and Verbal Dexterity.
Magical, the 4-year-old Galileo filly who last fall chased Enable home in the Breeders' Cup Turf, now has three wins this season for Coolmore and O'Brien, who said plans for the filly are not set. He suggested she could continue for the Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot or get a much-deserved break pending an autumn campaign with the word "Arc" part of that conversation.
The same connections returned to the winner's circle after the very next race as Hermosa completed the English-Irish Guineas double with a decisive, front-running victory in the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas. Pretty Pollyanna and Foxtrot Liv got the minor awards while never threatening the winner. Hermosa, a Galileo filly, had a closer call in the Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, winning that by 1 length in her 2019 debut.
"We're delighted with her," O'Brien told Racing Post. "We knew she had improved since Newmarket and we think there will be more improvement to come. The Prix de Diane will be next for her." That Group 1, also known as the French Oaks, is June 16 at Chantilly.
We note with great admiration that, in Saturday's Group 2 Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at The Curragh, 11-year-old Gordon Lord Byron finished third, beaten less than 2 lengths, in his 97th career start. The Byron gelding, trained by Tom Hogan, is like the proverbial battery bunny -- he just keeps going and going. He has won Group 1 races in France and Australia and run with distinction at the top level as far afield as Hong Kong, Qatar and Dubai, finishing in the top three in 44 of his races.
Old guys rule.
In Saturday's features at Haydock, one hot favorite won and another lost. Calyx, a previously undefeated Kingman colt racing for Khalid Abdulla's Juddmonte Farms, was unruly in the stalls and ran erratically to finish second as the heavy favorite in the Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes as Hello Youzmain scored at 5-1 odds. Calyx had been the early favorite for the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
The Group 2 Armstrong Aggregates Temple Stakes at 5 furlongs went more to form as the odds-on pick, Battaash, surged to the lead midway through and won by 2 1/2 lengths, completing a nice double of the Irish 2,000 Guineas for trainer Charlie Hills. Battaash used the Temple Stakes last year as a stepping stone to the Group 1 King's Stand at the Royal Meeting, where he finished second to Blue Point. Hills said Sunday the 5-year-old Dark Angel gelding has become easier to train and looks to have a great year sprinting.
"We'll take each race as it comes," Hills told Racing Post. "But if we keep him in the form that he was in yesterday through the year, then he's going to be a hard horse to beat."
Hong Kong's champion stayer, Exultant, was all heart in scoring a 1 1/4-length victory in Sunday's Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup at Sha Tin but it wasn't enough to earn him a trip to Japan.
Exultant, a 5-year-old Teofilo gelding who sprung the upset win in December in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase, cemented his status atop the local stayers with the bookend 2,400-meters win. But jockey Zac Purton said this one did not come easy as Exultant ran down the leaders at mid-stretch and held off the deep closers, Rise High and Dark Dream.
"Exultant was all heart today," Purton said. "He pulled in the run, which he hasn't done for quite some time, and he was gone at the 600 (meters). But his big heart just continued to carry him to the finish line."
Trainer Tony Cruz and owners Eddie Wong and Wong Leung Sau-hing had suggested Exultant's next start could be in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen (G1) at Hanshin at the end of June. After watching the Champions & Chater effort, however, Cruz said that plan is a no-go.
"He wasn't very comfortable on the going," the trainer said. "I think he's better on good to firm and he was running a bit freely today. The owners, myself and the jockey, we all decided just now not to go to Japan. It's a short run-in at Hanshin and the going is almost always on a soft track, so with those things in mind we'll give him a break.
"Next season, maybe the trip is Dubai," he added.
Zabeel Prince drove by the leading duo at mid-stretch in Sunday's Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Longchamp and held off the late bid of Study of Man to win by 3/4 length. Trais Fluors was third and the favorite, Godolphin filly Wild Illusion, tired to finish sixth in her first start since running second in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last November. Zabeel Prince, a 6-year-old Lope de Vega gelding, backed up a Group 3 victory in his season-opener in April at Newmarket.
Winning rider Andrea Atzeni told Sky Sports Racing Zabeel Prince did well to overcome a stumble at the start and get position. "We weren't going very fast, but I ended up behind the filly (Wild illusion) which was where I wanted to be. He travelled nicely into the race and we got a nice lead. He picked up really nicely," Atzeni said.
Siyarafina, the odds-on favorite, raced in the middle of the field early in Sunday's Group 1 Saxon Warrior Coolmore Prix Saint Alary for 3-year-old fillies at Longchamp, moved with 2 furlongs to go and was on the lead in time to win by 1 length from Olendon. Imperial Charm was third. Siyarafina, a 3-year-old Pivotal filly, ran 1 1/4 miles under Christophe Soumillon in 2:06.48. Unraced at 2, the Aga Khan homebred already is 3-for-3 this year and now likely will face off against Hermosa in a peach of a Prix de Diane at Chantilly (see 'Ireland' section above).
Roger Barows, at odds of nearly 100-1, got a perfect trip and scored his first Grade 1 win in the Sunday's Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby at Tokyo Racecourse.
The three favorites, Danon Kingly, Velox and Saturnalia, finished second, third and fourth. Saturnalia, winner of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas on April 14, missed the break and fell short with a late rally.
Lion Lion seized the lead right out of the gate and opened a huge advantage down the backstretch at a good pace. That played right into the hand of Roger Barows' rider, Suguru Hamanaka. As the effects of the early sprint and the uphill stretch climb quickly caught up with Lion Lion, Roger Barows inherited the lead 400 meters out. Satsuki Sho third Danon Kingly closed quickly but Roger Barows held on to win by a neck.
"I was hoping for a fast pace, so settling in second behind an early pace was an ideal race for us," Hamanaka said. "The colt is a stayer with much stamina so he held on strongly even after the uphill climb and ran persistently all the way to the end.
"He's now a Derby horse, so we can count on his future performance," Hamanaka added.
Hong Kong domination of Singapore's top races continued as Southern Legend stormed to victory in Saturday's local Group 1 Kranji Mile. The Caspar Fownes trainee reported 2 1 1/2 lengths to the good of fellow Hong Kong shipper Blizzard with yet other Hong Konger, Singapore Sling, finishing third after setting a quick early pace. With Zac Purton dropping in for the ride, Southern Legend finished in 1:33.61. Southern Legend won the race for the second straight year. Before the Turf Club discontinued its two international Group 1 races several years ago, Hong Kong had swept those events for three years running.
Tamburo Di Oro ran by Brown Storm in the final furlong of Sunday's Group 1 Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella and went on to win by 2 lengths, earning an automatic spot in the Breeders' Cup Mile in November at Santa Anita through the International
Challenge program. Breeders' Cup officials said representatives of the owner, Don Alberto Stable, confirmed Tamburo Di Oro will target that race.
A 5-year-old son of Henrythenavigator, who finished second in the 2008 Breeders' Cup Classic, Tamburo Di Oro won his first race at the top level.
The Gran Premio Club Hipico Falabella was the third of five Breeders' Cup Challenge races to be run in South America for the 2019 season. Il Mercato qualified for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf when he won the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini in December at San Isidro and Entropia won the Gran Premio Criadores at Palermo in Argentina to earn an automatic berth into the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff.