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Memorial Day weekend Thoroughbred races show way to summertime showdowns

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Memorial Day weekend Thoroughbred races show way to summertime showdowns
Global Access wins the Marine Stakes at Woodbine. His trainer says no 3-year-old in Canada could beat him, but he's not eligible for the Queen's Plate. Burns Photography, courtesy of Woodbine

May 28 (UPI) -- Top-level racing through the Memorial Day weekend peaked Monday at Santa Anita with three Grade I races, one of them a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" captured by a 33-1 shot.

But there was lots of other action from coast to coast and up into Canada, much of it showing the way to even bigger contests to come this summer and fall.

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Here's a look:

Classic

Vino Rosso cruised by odds-on favorite Gift Box in the late going in Monday's $500,000 Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and held that one safe to win by 3/4 lengths. It was another 5 1/4 lengths to Lone Sailor in third. Vino Rosso, a 4-year-old Curlin colt, finished 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.00 with John Velazquez in the irons for trainer Todd Pletcher.

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Vino Rosso won last year's Wood Memorial, then was ninth in the Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Belmont, third in the Jim Dandy and fifth in the Travers. He returned after a long rest to win a minor stakes at the Big A before a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Carter.

"I knew the pace would be fast early and I just wanted to stay close," Velazquez said. "He broke very well and we settled in there ... and we got the job done. Vino Rosso seemed to have it all put together today."

Global Access seized the lead in the lane in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Marine Stakes for 3-year-olds and had enough in reserve to handle the late-running favorite, Skywire, by 1 length. Dabo was a non-threatening third. Global Access, a Giant's Causeway colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.83 with Patrick Husbands riding. The Mike Trombetta trainee was second in the Wando Stakes in his previous start and before that, won the DRF Bets Sophomore Turf at Tampa Bay Downs.

"There's no 3-year-old in Canada that could beat this horse," Husbands said of Global Access. But since he's a Florida-bred product of Live Oak Plantation, he's not eligible for Canada's biggest 3-year-old race, the Queen's Plate.

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Distaff

My Majestic Rose, fresh off her maiden win at Churchill Downs, got by pacesetting favorite Sneaking Out at the sixteenth pole in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita and defeated that rival by 1/2 length. Colonial Creed was third, another 4 1/2 lengths back. My Majestic Rose, a Majestic Warrior filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.08 with Flavien Prat riding. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset, who scored his first win at Santa Anita, explained the decision to ship in from Keeneland for the race: "It wasn't really a gamble to bring her out here, not to me. It was a small field and, at the end of the day, if we ran third, it's still black type."

Turf

Almanaar made a bold move midway down the backstretch to reach contention in Saturday's $205,000 Grade II Monmouth Stakes at Monmouth Park, got to the lead in the stretch and held on despite drifting out to win by a neck. The favorite, Synchrony, pressed the early pace and finished second, 4 1/4 lengths to the good of Force the Pass. The stewards declined to take action as a result of the stretch run. Almanaar, a 7-year-old Dubawi gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.75, a good time, indeed. Raced sparingly since arriving from France in 2016, the veteran scored just his third U.S. victory. He was second in the 2018 Arlington Million.

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"He's been training very well at Belmont so, even though he has been off, we expected him to run well, said Luis Cabrera, who oversees winning trainer Chad Brown's stable at Monmouth Park. "Chad liked this horse a lot in this spot. He's a runner, real classy horse."

Brown won the Grade I United Nations over the course in 2013 and 2014 with Big Blue Kitten and again in 2018 with Funtastic. Saturday's strong showing makes Almanaar a candidate to add to that record June 22.

Out west, Marckie's Water was strung widest of five in deep stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes, but edged clear to win by 3/4 length. The camera found United second and Ashleyluvssugar third as five horses were tightly bunched behind the winner. Marckie's Water, a 5-year-old son of Tribal Rule, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf, starting on the downhill course, in course-record time of 2:00.95. It was his first stakes win.

"Wow," winning trainer Richard Baltas said. "They were all lined up there and I was just hoping he was going to explode the last part. He kicked on like he was the best horse."

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Filly & Mare Turf

Vasilika, one of the best claims in the history of racing, continued to return on investment with an off-the-pace, 1-length victory in Monday's $500,000 Grade I Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita. After racing in the middle of the field to the turn, Vasilika and jockey Flavien Prat came four-wide to challenge for the lead, getting up in the final yards. Rymska was second and Ahimsa finished third. Vasilika, a 5-year-old Skipshot mare, ran 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:48.07.

Claimed for $40,000 by Jerry Hollendorfer Feb. 11, 2018, Vasilika since has posted 12 wins and one second from 14 starts. The victories include seven graded stakes.

Hollendorfer said Prat didn't like his early position in the Gamely "so he let her drift back a little so he could get out of where he was. He didn't like being in between horses, so luckily for us, once she saw daylight, she still had that big turn of foot."

Asked if Vasilika is his best claim ever, he said, "I think so, yeah. Probably so."

The stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs found Gentle Ruler steadily gaining on pacesetting Gaining, then going by to win by 3/4 length. Lacustre was 5 lengths farther back in third. Gentle Ruler, a 4-year-old Colonel John filly, finished 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:31.32 under Chris Landeros. She took 12 tries to find the winner's circle, ironically in an off-the-turf event at Gulfsream Park, but now has won three straight races. She's just getting things going in her career and has really started to figure things out," said winning trainer Ian Wilkes.

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Beautiful Lover found excellent late speed in Saturday's $81,000 Boiling Springs Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, catching loose-on-the-lead Karama in the final yard to win by 1/2 length. Ellyb was third. Beautiful Lover, an Arch filly trained by Chad Brown, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.67 with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. She now has won three in a row, one each at Gulfstream Park, Aqueduct and Monmouth.

Turf Mile

Bolo jumped out to the lead in Monday's $500,000 Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita and just kept going, winning by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of nearly 33-1 and landing a guaranteed "Win and You're In" spot in November's Breeders' Cup Mile. River Boyne outfinished Bowies Hero for place money and the favorite, Delta Prince, finished sixth. Bolo, a 7-year-old Temple City gelding, reported in 1:34.07 over good turf with Florent Geroux riding.

Bolo had not won since taking the Grade II Arcadia Stakes in February of 2017. He was sixth in that year's Shoemaker and his only intervening start resulted in a fifth-place finish in an April allowance event. Trainer Carla Gaines said she was "a little miffed" that local riders weren't interested in Bolo off the long layoff and it was "heavenly" to get Geroux.

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"I'll be back on him for the Breeders' Cup," Geroux promised.

Secret Message outfinished the favorite, Starship Jubilee, in Sunday's $210,000 (Canadian) Nassau Stakes for fillies and mares over yielding turf at Woodbine. After tracking the early pace under Trevor McCarthy, Secret Message came three-wide reel in Starship Jubilee, winning by 3/4 length. Get Explicit was another 5 3/4 lengths in arrears in third. Secret Message, a 4-year-old Hat Trick filly, finished in 1:35.30.

Adore, a Big Brown filly from Steve Asmussen's far-flung empire, led all the way in Monday's $100,000 Lone Star Park Turf Stakes for fillies and mares and held on in the final strides to win by a neck over odds-on favorite Sensitive. Terra's Angel was another 3 lengths back in third. Adore, with Richard Eramia riding, finished 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.65. Racing on the Louisiana-Texas-Oklahoma circuit, Adore has missed a top-three finish only once in her last 13 starts.

Turf Sprint

Pole Setter took the point in Saturday's $100,000 Paradise Creek Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and made the early advantage stand up, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Pulsate rallied from last of seven to finish second, 3/4 lengths ahead of Strike Silver. The odds-on favorite, Fog of War, beat only one rival. Pole Setter, a Take Charge Indy colt, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:20.77 with Luis Saez in the irons.

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Trainer Brad Cox said the Paradise Creek was a bit of a last-minute option and a step up the class ladder for Pole Setter. Now, he said, "We'll look at the national stakes book and see what there is for him -- dirt or turf."

At Santa Anita, Eddie Haskell stalked the pace made by What'sontheagenda through most of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Daytona Stakes, then went by to win by 1 3/4 lengths. What'sontheagenda held second by 1/2 length over Kanthaka. Eddie Haskell, a 6-year-old Square Eddie gelding, got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.49 seconds with Kent Desormeaux up. Since he was claimed for $50,000 13 months ago, Eddie Haskell has finished in the money in nine straight races, winning five of them. The Daytona was his first effort in a graded stakes.

"He's a top horse going five-eighths on turf," said Eddie Haskell's trainer, Mark Glatt. "We just hope we can keep him healthy and take it race by race and if he gets us to the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year, I'm sure we will take a shot."

Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Monrovia Stakes for fillies and mares came off the Santa Anita turf and onto the fast main track. S Y Sky dueled the favorite, Belvoir Bay, into submission in the final furlong, winning by 3/4 length over that foe. Lady Suebee was third. S Y Sky, a 5-year-old Grazen mare, got 5 furlongs in 57.54 seconds with Drayden Van Dyke up.

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Sprint/Dirt Mile

Air Strike was up in the final stride to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita over pacesetting Cistron. Nero was third and the favorite, American Anthem, was fourth. Air Strike, a Street Sense colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.12 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. in the irons.

Trainer Phil D'Amato said he has been trying to puzzle out the best conditions for Air Strike. "Is he a late running sprinter? Is he a grass miler? And we answered that today ... He's got the pedigree, the looks and he just looks like a great horse. He just has to put it all together and Norberto brought him a long way today."

Sunny Ridge, a Jersey-bred and a big fan of Monmouth Park, rallied by Diamond King in the stretch run to win Saturday's $152,500 Salvator Mile by 3/4 length over that rival. Bal Harbour also ran well late but settled for third. Sunny Ridge, a 6-year-old Holy Bull gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.17 with Jose Lezcano up. He won the 2016 Sapling over the Monmouth track, finished third in the 2017 Haskell and third in last year's Salvator Mile.

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"He's a poor man's horse. He bangs away every race and makes money," said winning trainer Jason Servis. "Look at him. He's a big, beautiful horse. And he's a gelding so he could have another good three years in him. He might hit $2.5 million. I'm thrilled to death with his performance."

On Monday at Golden Gate Fields, Grecian Fire came three-wide from off the pace to take the $100,000 All American Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Builder. Touched by Autism was third. Grecian Fire, a 5-year-old Unusual Heat gelding, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.49. William Antongeorgi III had the ride for Jerry Hollendorfer.

And by the way, the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile now officially is the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, thanks to a sponsorship by that company, which Breeders' Cup identifies as "the world's leading manufacturer of fans and lighting." Lennie Rhoades, CEO of Big Ass Fans, said, "Big Ass Fans has proudly served the equine industry since our company's inception, so partnering with the Breeders' Cup is a natural fit."

Filly & Mare Sprint

Honey Bunny made her move from the back of the pack turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs, passed them all and won by 1 1/2 lengths for her fifth straight score. Astrollinthepark edged pacesetter Upset Brewing for place money as Honey Bunny, a 5-year-old Tapizar mare, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.99 with Tyler Baze riding.

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Honey Bunny improved her record to 14-5-4 in 31 starts with earnings of $417,145. She was claimed for $16,000 April 8, 2018 at Oaklawn Park. Since then she's won eight of 14 starts and $238,550, including last year's $50,000 Prairie Rose at Prairie Meadows and Saturday's Winning Colors. "When we claimed her, we thought she would be pretty special," said winning trainer John Ortiz. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."

Around the ovals:

Belmont Park

Monday was Big Apple Showcase Day for New York-breds. The track was fast, the turf was good.

Newly Minted rallied by pacesetting Cash Offer to win the $125,000, 7-furlongs Bouwerie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths. Behind the Couch was third. Newly Minted, a daughter of Central Banker, got home in 1:22.07 with Jose Lezcano up for trainer Linda Rice

Fifty Five came from off the pace to take the $125,000 Mount Vernon Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length from Munchkin Money with Kreesie third. Fifty Five, a 5-year-old Get Stormy mare, negotiated 1 mile on the grass in 1:34.09 for jockey Javier Castellano and trainer Chad Brown.

Kathryn the Wise led all the way to a 5-lengths romp in the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the main track. Midnight Disguise and Bonita Bianca got the minor awards. Kathryn the Wise, a 6-year-old Uncle Mo mare, finished in 1:33.63 with Castellano again riding for Brown.

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Gucci Factor gradually wore down runaway leader Mo Maverick and won the $125,000 Kingston Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over that one. The favorite, Offering Plan, settled for third. Gucci Factor, a 6-year-old Gio Ponti gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Shoo In, ran 1 mile on the turf in 1:33.51. Jose Ortiz had the mount for Christophe Clement.

Blindwillie McTell pressed the pace in the $125,000 Mike Lee Stakes for 3-year-olds, took over a furlong and a half from home and ran on to win by 2 lengths over Funny Guy. Bankit was third. Blindwillie McTell, a Posse gelding, finished 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:21.53 with Jose Ortiz up for Rice.

Pat On the Back won a three-way stretch war in the $200,000 Commentator Stakes, nosing Giant Expectations for the win with pacesetter Mr. Buff another 3/4 length back in third. Pat On the Back, a 5-year-old by Congrats, ran 1 mile on the main track with Dylan Davis in the irons. Jeremiah Englehart trains the winner.

Indiana Grand

Snicker Cookie got past the speedy ones in the final furlong to take Wednesday's $100,000 Sagamore Sired Stakes for Indiana-bred 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths. Solitaire Game and Aces of Aces filled the trifecta. Snicker Cookie, a Noble's Promise gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.64 with Gabriel Saez in the irons.

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Marilyn Mongo opened a lead in the lane in Wednesday's $100,000 Swifty Sired Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and survived a late surge by Vivian to win by a neck. First Lady Maggie made the early going and finished third. Marilyn Mongo, a Mondavi filly, finished in 1:11.87 with Rodney Prescott riding.

Prairie Meadows

Chris and Dave emerged triumphant from a four-way scramble in Monday's $65,000 Jim Rasmussen Stakes, a neck in front of Remembering Rita and another neck to the good of Guato Gapo. Pinson, who dueled for the early lead, was only another 3/4 length back in fourth. Chris and Dave, a 6-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.48 with Ramon Vazquez aboard.

D' Rapper stuck a head in front of Chief Cicatriz at the finish to win Saturday's $50,000 Ed Skinner Stakes. The odds-on favorite, Welder, led early and finished third, another 2 3/4 lengths back. Gordy Florida completed the order of finish. D' Rapper, a 6-year-old, Illinois-bred gelding by Cherokee Rap, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.94 with Vazquez in the irons.

Girl Power powered home in Friday's $50,000 Jack Bishop Stakes for fillies and mares, corralling pacesetting Baydar and drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that one. She's Our Fastest was third. Girl Power, a 6-year-old Pure Prize mare, finished 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:44.49 under Ken Tohill.

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Lake Ponchatrain rallied from last of five to catch pacesetting favorite Shanghai Tariff and win Thursday's $50,000 Prairie Rose Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 lengths. No Mercy Percy was third. Lake Ponchatrain, a 7-year-old Afleet Express mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.88 with Walter De La Cruz up.

Monmouth Park

Royal Charlotte, the odds-on favorite, rallied four-wide to grab the lead in Monday's $75,000 Hystericalady Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and got away to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Miss Imperial was second, 7 lengths better than Swap Meet. Royal Charlotte, a daughter of Cairo Prince, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.92 with Joe Bravo up. Chad Brown trains the winner.

Prendimi, under pressure all the way, held the lead into the stretch in Saturday's $76,000 John J. Reilly Handicap for New Jersey-breds, then survived a late bid by Chunnel to post a 26-1 upset win by a neck. Cozy Lover was third as Prendimi, a 4-year-old Dance With Ravens gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.34 for jockey Christopher De Carlo.

Evangeline Downs

Saturday night was Louisiana Legends Night for state-breds at Evangeline. The track was fast, the turf was firm and each purse contained $75,000.

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Ours to Run, the prohibitive favorite, edged clear late to win the 5 1/2-furlongs Mademoiselle for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths from Our Millie. Monte Man, another popular choice, outfinished Win Lion Win to take the Sprint Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Shang, a Shanghai Bobby colt and another big favorite, came from far off the pace to win the Cheval Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 mile. Snowball, a daughter of Apriority, led all the way to a 3/4-length victory in the Soiree Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Mageez rallied from last of six to post a mild upset win in the Turf, at 1 mile on the green course. Bermuda Star held off the favorite, Is Too, to win the Turf Distaff by 1/2 length.

SunRay Park

My Boanerges opened a goodly lead midway through Sunday's $60,000 Dine Handicap for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, then held on to win by a neck over Quite Peace. Sunscreen reported third. My Boanerges, a Diabolical gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.95 for jockey Jansen Melancon.

Canterbury Park

Fireman Oscar, at 25-1 odds, came from far back to win Monday's $55,000, off-the-turf Honor the Hero Stakes by 4 lengths over Creative Art. Majestic Pride was third. Fireman Oscar, a 5-year-old Law Enforcement gelding, got 5 furlongs of sloppy main track in 57.59 seconds with Jareth Loveberry up.

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Loveberry also steered the winner, Beach Getaway in Monday's $55,000 Northbound Pride Oaks. The Run Away and Hide filly tracked the leaders, moved at the three-eighths pole and won by 2 lengths. O'Keeffe was second, 5 1/4 lengths to the good of support. This race also came off the grass and Beach Getaway finished 1 mile on the sloppy main track in 1:39.41.

Emerald Downs

Ima Happy Cat opened a comfortable lead in Monday's $50,000 Hastings Stakes for fillies and mares, frittered away much of that margin as the race progressed and still held on to win by 1 length. Bella Mia finished second but was set down to fifth for interference, promoting Dontkissntell and Paddy's secret into the frame. Ima Happy

Cat, a 4-year-old daughter of Smiling Tiger, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.73 with Gary Wales in the irons.

Hastings

Here's Hannah was off on the lead in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Vancouver Sun Stakes for fillies and mares and wasn't caught. At the wire, the 4-year-old Numanny filly was 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Good Luck to You. Sailingforthesun was another 3 1/2 lengths behind in third. Here's Hannah, with Richard Hamel up, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:16.82.

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Arizona Downs

Welcome to North America's newest track -- or at least its most recently recommissioned one. All the best to the new owners and management, especially to old friend Dave Zenner.

Yo Y Me won Friday's Arizona Downs Inaugural Stakes, holding off the favorite, Classy Class, by a head after a nip-and-tuck stretch battle. It was another 10 1/4 lengths back to Beat the Heat in third and the others were well strung out after the 1 mile on a fast track. Yo Y Me, a 5-year-old Dixie Chatter gelding, was clocked in 1:41.26 with Scott Stevens in the irons.

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