Lys Gracieux wins Sunday's Grade I Takarazuka Kinen, earning berths in the Breeders' Cup and Cox Plate. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association
June 24 (UPI) -- Hunter O'Riley ended a long losing streak with a victory in the Grade I United Nations, highlighting weekend racing across North America.
Owendale proved an up-and-coming force among the 3-year-olds with a win in the Ohio Derby. And Chad Brown, for the second time this month, saddled the first three finishers in a Belmont Park stakes race.
On the international front, Royal Ascot is over for another year. So is this season's Group 1 schedule in Japan.
But we're just getting started, with:
We've covered this extensively day by day, so please see that coverage. Or, suffice it to say: Tuesday was Blue Point day. Wednesday featured Crystal Ocean and Magical in that order. On Thursday Stradivarius played second fiddle to his own rider, Frankie Dettori. Friday was shared by Japan (the horse) and Phoenix Thoroughbreds. And Saturday was Blue Point day again.
Got it? Good. There will be a short quiz next period. Now, let's move on to the other international result and then we'll turn to North America.
Sunday's Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse was the final Group 1 event of the Japanese season but a worthy one, with multiple top-level winners and offers from both the Breeders' Cup and Cox Plate of a berth for the winner in those autumnal events.
The beneficiary was Lys Gracieux, the only female in the field of 12. The 5-year-old Heart's Cry mare started from the outside gate, slotted in right behind pacesetting Kiseki and made her bid as the field turned for home. With a quick burst of speed, she shot by Kiseki and ran on to win by 3 lengths. Kiseki was second, followed by Suave Richard, Al Ain and Rey de Oro -- Grade 1 or Group 1 winners, all.
Lys Gracieux finished the 2,200 meters in 2:10.8 with Australian visitor Damian Lane riding on the final weekend of his temporary permit.
"The horse turned out in perfect condition," Lane said. "She broke well and I thought I might as well use that to my advantage. I was very confident turning in that she had plenty left in the tank. I was worried that there were a lot of good horses chasing and I thought that they would challenge," Lane added. "But she was just too strong."
The race became a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf in 2011. This year, for the first time, it also offers an automatic berth in the Cox Plate -- a race won for the past four years by the now-retired Winx. If her connections do decide to travel, a choice will be required as the Cox Plate is scheduled for Oct. 26 in Australia, The Breeders' Cup Turf, Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
Back in North America
Hunter O'Riley rallied from next-last in a field of eight to win Saturday's $300,000 Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park, arriving just in time to win by a neck over Zulu Alpha. The favorite, Channel Cat, finished third and the two Chad Brown trainees, Focus Group and Arrocha, got home fifth and sixth. Hunter O'Riley, a 6-year-old Tiz Wonderful gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on good turf in 2:17.10 with Paco Lopez up. He had not won since taking the Grade II Bowling Green during the 2017 meeting at Saratoga.
"A super ride by Paco," said winning trainer James Toner. "This horse has a tendency to take himself out of races. Paco saved ground all the way and he was with the field. And then, when he hit the turn and tipped out ... he made a good run the last part of it."
Up north of the border, Tiz a Slam led from gate to wire in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine, winning by 2 lengths over Avie's Mesa. Sir Sahib was third and well-fancied Melmich was pulled up halfway through the 1 1/2 miles, later determined to have bled. Tiz a Slam, a 5-year-old son of Tiznow, finished in 2:29.99 with Steven Behen in the irons. The Roger Attfield trainee won the Grade III Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs in his previous start.
"It looked like there was no speed to contend with, and that's how he likes to do it," Bahen said. "When he gets those easy fractions, he's very tough down the lane."
In Santa Anita's traditional finale, the 1 3/4-miles San Juan Capistrano, Acclimate led the way under Martin Garcia, was never seriously pressured and held on to win by 1/2 length over Oscar Dominguez. Red King was third. Acclimate, a 5-year-old Acclimation gelding, reported in 2:48.80 over firm turf. The start was moved from the downhill turf course to the main turf oval for the Sunday feature.
"I knew they were coming to him at the half mile pole," said Acclimate's trainer, Phil D'Amato, "and Martin kind of turned him loose and he opened up again ... Hat's off to Martin. He rode a brilliant race."
Filly & Mare Turf
Valedictorian stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park, quickly opened a big lead in the stretch and had the last word, winning by 2 3/4 lengths from Maid to Remember. Inflexibility was a nose farther back in third. Valedictorian, a 5-year-old Temple City mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.70 with Paco Lopez at the controls.
Chad Brown saddled three of the five starters in Saturday's $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and the trio reported 1-2-3 -- Blowout, Nova Sol and Seek and Destroy. Seek and Destroy made the early pace, stalked by Blowout. Nova Sol, the favorite, rallied from last but came up 1/2 length short. Incredibly, a 50-cents trifecta box including the three, costing $3, returned $13.25. Blowout, a British-bred Dansili filly, ran 1 mile on good going in 1:34.02.
Winning rider Javier Castellano blamed himself for Blowout's second-place finish in the Memories of Silver Stakes April 19 at Aqueduct and Brown didn't disagree but also didn't blame Castellano.
"It was a bit of a tough trip last time. Javier was just getting to know her and she's not an easy horse to ride," Brown said.
It was the second time this meet that Brown ran 1-2-3 in stakes company, having completed the feat on Belmont Day in the Grade I Manhattan when Bricks and Mortar bested stablemates Robert Bruce and Raging Bull.
Faraway Kitten came from sort of far away -- Kentucky -- to win Saturday's $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park in Minnesota by 1 length over Bizzee Channel. Faraway Kitten also came from fairly far back after starting next-last of seven and jockey Orlando Mojica had to negotiate some traffic to secure the win, finishing 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.45. Mike Maker trains Faraway Kitten for his owner-breeders, Ken and Sarah Ramsey. The Kitten's Joy colt scored his fourth win, all coming at different tracks.
The Ramseys won the race last year and Mojica said: "I wanted to get them back-to-back wins so I was under a lot of pressure. I stayed behind and just let him run and it ended up working out very well for us."
In California, Simply Breathless rallied from well back in the field to win Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 length. Ollie's Candy, Storm the Hill and Ippodamia's Girl were second through fourth in a tight bunch behind the winner. Simply Breathless, a 4-year-old, British-bred Bated Breath filly, negotiated 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.50 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Neil Drysdale. She now is 2-for-2 since arriving from England, where she was quite successful in the handicap ranks. "She's getting the hang of it," Drysdale said. "On to Del Mar."
Majestic Eagle, with only one rival beaten, took flight in the stretch run of Sunday's $100,000 Grade III American Stakes at Santa Anita and outfinished Law Abidin Citizen, winning by a neck. The odds-on favorite, Sharp Samurai, was just another nose back in third. Majestic Eagle, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.57. Rafael Bejarano had the mount for trainer Neil Drysdale.
"Being back on the grass helped him, I would say," Drysdale said of Majestic Eagle. "He got the trip, but there wasn't as much pace as I thought there would be. We were thinking about gelding him tomorrow but maybe we will change our minds."
Eddie Haskell wore down pacesetting What'sontheagenda in deep stretch to win Sunday's $100,000 Siren Lure Stakes at Santa Anita by 3/4 length. Brandothebartender was third, another 3 1/4 lengths in arrears. Eddie Haskell, a 6-year-old Square Eddie gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.45 seconds with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. He was coming off a win in the Grade III Daytona Stakes over the same course and distance.
Here's another country heard from in the 3-year-old ranks: Owendale, the off-the-pace winner of Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Ohio Derby at Thistledown near Cleveland. The Into Mischief colt is a late-bloomer among the sophomores. After running eighth in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in February, trainer Brad Cox backed off and Owendale didn't race again until the Grade III Lexington at Keeneland, which he won convincingly. He then finished third in the Preakness, behind only War of Will and Everfast.
In the Ohio Derby, with Florent Geroux up, Owendale was away last of six, split rivals late and outfinished Math Wizard, winning by 1/2 length. Long Range Toddy, winner of a division of the Rebel at Oaklawn Park, was third. The winning time of 1:50.88, however, was nothing to write home about.
Monongahela, usually a closer, shadowed pacesetting favorite Diamond King through the early furlongs of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Philip S. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park, blew by that rival at the top of the stretch and kicked away to win by 4 lengths. Bal Harbour rallied to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Diamond King. Monongahela, a 5-year-old son of K One King, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.45 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. It was his first win since Dec. 4, 2017 although he did put together a string of four second-place finishes during the winter.
"I wasn't the one who changed this horse's running style," said trainer Jason Servix. "Jose Lezcano did. He told me, 'I want to be forwardly placed. I think he prefers that instead of (how) he has been running.' I told him, 'Jose, you ride him however you want.'"
Pink Sands broke last of six and got a wide trip in Saturday's $100,000 Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park, rallied outside her rivals though the stretch and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Breaking Bread was second and Sun Studio finished third. Pink Sands, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.56 for jockey Jose Ortiz. She stepped into the stakes ranks this spring in Florida for trainer Shug McGaughey, finishing fourth in the Grade II Inside Information at Gulfstream Park in March. Returning north, she was third in the Grade II Ruffian at Belmont Park in her most recent start.
Mocito Rojo hit the lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs, then dug in to salvage the win by a diminishing nose over Title Ready and another neck from the favorite, Pioneer Spirit. Mocito Rojo, with Filemon Rodriguez in the irons, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.30. The 5-year-old entire son of Mutadda now has 15 wins from 23 starts, including last year's Evangeline Mile and a victory April 28 in the Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park in Texas -- his only foray outside Louisiana.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Mia Mischief pressed the pace made by the odds-on favorite, Covfefe, in Saturday's $100,000 Roxelana Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs, wore down that rival in the stretch run and went on to win by 3/4 length. Awestruck put a head in front of Covfefe under the wire to get place money. Mia Mischief, a 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.76 with Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen.
It was the second straight win for Mia Mischief, following an 11-1 upset score in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day. Covfefe, a 3-year-old filly also by Into Mischief, entered the Roxelana off a victory in the Grade III Miss Preakness at Pimlico.
Deck Humor shadowed pacesetting Shame on Powers through most of Saturday's $150,000 Mountain Top Futurity for qualified New Mexico-bred 2-year-olds at Ruidoso Downs, then edged by in the final yards to win by a neck. It was a further 8 1/4 lengths back to Road to Heat in third. Deck Humor, an Indian Firewater gelding, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.86 seconds with Juan Ochoa in the irons.
Around the ovals:
Ruby Bradley came from last to first with Aaron Gryder riding, taking Sunday's $200,000 Melair Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over Tiz a Master. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to Violette Szabo in third. Ruby Bradley, a Grazen filly campaigned by owner-breeder Nick Alexander, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:49.92.
Star of Quality pressed the pacesetter, Coco Kisses, early in Saturday's $100,000 Dream of Summer Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, cruised by that one and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Sapphire Kid and Bella Luma completed the order of finish. Star of Quality, a 5-year-old First Dude mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.26 with Tiago Pereira in the irons.
Our Silver Oak chased the leaders into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds, closed three-wide and outfinished Irish Heatwave, winning by a head from that one. Lieutenant Dan, always close, led briefly and held third. Our Silver Oak, an Unusual Heat gelding, finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.04 with Mike Smith aboard.
Kid Is Frosty surged to a daylight lead in Sunday's $150,000 Cupecoy's Joy Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then survived a late bid by Niko's Dream to win by a neck. The odds-on favorite, Newly Minted, settled for third. Kid Is Frosty, by Frost Giant, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.49 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
Rinaldi pressed the pace in Sunday's $150,000 Spectacular Bid Division of the NYSS for 3-year-old, took the lead and edged away in the stretch to win by 3/4 length. Funny Guy was second, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Thorny Tale. Rinaldi, a Posse gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamite Cocktail, ran 7 furlongs on the firm grass in 1:21.30 with Luis Saez in the irons.
Chilly in Charge, the odds-on favorite, dominated the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Crowd Pleaser Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds, racing off to win by 12 lengths. Wrong Color was second, 7 1/2 lengths ahead of Kelli's Smile. Chilly in Charge, a Take Charge Indy colt, ran the off-the-turf 1 1/16 miles in 1:47.51 on the fast main track.
Saturday's $100,000 Power by Far Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, originally slated for 5 furlongs on the grass, also was switched to the main track. Wildcat Combat led the late-runners to victory in that, finishing 1 length to the good of Afleet Tizzy with The Circle Game another 2 lengths back in third. Wildcat Combat, a 5-year-old Messner mare, finished in 58.72 seconds with Dexter Haddock in the irons.
Golden Brown wore down pacesetting Irish Strait in the final yards to win Sunday's $75,000 Dan Horn Handicap for New Jersey-breds by 1/2 length. It was another 8 1/2 lengths to Don's Marsh in third. Golden Brown, a 4-year-old Offlee Wild gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.95 with Paco Lopez riding.
Best of Me got the best of six rivals in Sunday's $50,000 Washington State Legislators Stakes for fillies and mares, leading most of the way to a 3-lengths victory. Bella Mia and Dontkissntell filled out the trifecta slots. Best of Me, a 4-year-old Super Saver filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.04 under Franklin Ceballos. Blaine Wright trained the first two finishers.
Toss of Fate rated kindly behind the early pace in Wednesday's $100,000 Hoosier Breeders' Sophomore Stakes for 3-year-olds, came to the lead three-wide and won off by 3 1/4 lengths. Ace of Aces was second, 1/2 length to the good of Cap de Fuego. Toss of Fate, a Shanghai Bobby gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:45.97 with Malcolm Franklin up.
Moves Like Magic worked to the lead in the $100,000 fillies companion event, then led comfortably throughout, winning by 2 lengths from Discreet Beauty with Fireball Baby third. Moves Like Magic, a Maclean's Music filly, came home in 1:46.20 with Deshawn Parker in the irons.
Souper Escape dueled two rivals into submission before prevailing in Wednesday's $50,000 Christiana Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. At the end, the daughter of Medaglia d'Oro won by 3 lengths over Pat's No Fool with Ebullient third. Super Escape, with Julien Pimentel in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:46.07. The race originally was carded for the turf.
Beach Flower pressed the pace set by Lovely Loyree in Saturday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes for fillies and mares, wrested away the lead early in the stretch run and continued with authority, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Remember Daisy, was along to take second from Lovely Loyree. Beach Flower, a 6-year-old Flower Alley mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.96 for jockey Dean Butler.
Nobrag Justfact came from well of the pace to capture Saturday's $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile on the turf by 1 3/4 lengths over pacesetting Ibaka. Giant Payday was third, completing an all-long shot trifecta that returned $394.85 for a 50-cents investment. Nobrag Justfact, a 4-year-old colt by The Factor, finished in 1:34.38 with Leandro Goncalves riding.
Spring Steen led most of the way to 1 1/4-lengths victory over Lake Ponchatrain in Saturday's $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes for fillies and mares. Aiken to Be finished third as Spring Steen, a 4-year-old Maclean's Music filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.34 with Ry Eikleberry in the irons.
Chief Cicatriz shook free from a three-way battle for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Dark Star Cup and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Cowboy Creed. Malibu Max was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Chief Cicatriz, a 6-year-old Munnings gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:15.98 with Francisco Arrieta up.
Sammy Da Bull was up in the final strides to win Saturday's $75,000 George Lewis Memorial for Ohio-breds by 1/2 length over Mobil Solution. Mobil at Last was another 2 1/2 lengths back in third. Sammy Da Bull, a 3-year-old Vertiformer gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.68 with Erik Barbaran in the irons.
Hey Adrian dueled with Cali Dream through most of Saturday's $75,000 J. William Petro Memorial for state-bred fillies and mares, gave up the lead and then came again to win by 2 lengths at odds of more than 46-1. Cali Dream held second with Mayas Queen Neetee third. Hey Adrian, a 3-year-old Twinspired filly, finished in 1:47.44 for jockey Juan Valdez.
Lone Star Park
It's My Money, a first-time starter, led from the start in Sunday's $65,000 Pan Zaretta Division of the Texas Stallion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and held off the favorite, Dust a Flying, by 1/2 length. It's My Money, a daughter of Early Flyer, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:00.14 with Lane Luzzi riding.
Moro Said Ready also led all the way in the $65,000 Staunch Avenger Division for 2-year-olds and got clear at the end to win by 3 lengths at odds of almost 37-1. The odds-on favorite, Good Judgment, barely held off Luckenbacher to save second. Moro Said Ready, a Moro Tap colt, finished in 58.72 seconds for jockey Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez.
Texas Long Bow also showed the way in Sunday's $50,000 Wayne Hanks Memorial for older Texas-breds and won by a nose over Rumpole after a deep-stretch tussle. A M Milky Way was third. Texas Long Bow, a 4-year-old Crossbow gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.77 with Iram Diego up.
Corluna rallied from well back to win Sunday's $50,000 Lane's End Danny Shifflett Scholarship Stakes by a neck over She's Our Fastest. Corluna, a 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Heart, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.44 with Richard Eramia in the irons.