July 8 (UPI) -- The rich turf program at Belmont Park, highlight of weekend racing in North America, produced an upset by Henley's Joy in the Belmont Derby and the promise of good things to come with a win by Concrete Rose in the Belmont Oaks.
Jaywalk was a winner at Delaware Park, Preservationist upset Catholic Boy in the Suburban at Belmont and Code of Honor won the Dwyer while cutting back in distance. Marley's Freedom won at Los Alamitos. Promises Fulfilled earned the weekend's only Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" spot.
There's lots more, too, so let's get right to it:
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational was a wide-open affair for sure. But even by those standards, the outcome was surprising as Henley's Joy led home a string of long shots that settled nothing about the pecking order among this bunch.
Henley's Joy, a Kitten's Joy colt who had not won since Dec. 8, stayed close to the early pace, hooked Social Paranoia in a stretch battle and won by 3/4 length over that one. Rockemperor and Digital Age, two of the four Chad Brown starters, finished third and fourth.
The two Kentucky Derby contenders in the field, Plus Que Parfait and Japan's Master Fencer, finished sixth and 13th, respectively, and Aidan O'Brien's Irish duo of Cape of Good Hope and Blenheim Palace reported eighth and 12th as Henley's Joy got the 1 1/4 miles on firm going in a very respectable 1:58.29.
"It was great," said Nolan Ramsey, assistant to winning trainer Mike Maker. "I was kind of expecting it. He's a horse I hate to make excuses for but it seems like every race he's got some sort of excuse. Today, he got the perfect ride and a clean trip and he really relished the distance."
The race kicked off the Turf Trinity series which continues with the $1 million Grade I Saratoga Derby Aug. 4 and winds up with the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Sept. 7 back on Long Island.
At Delaware Park, Eons pressed pacesetting, even-money favorite Award Winner throughout Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds, then was just up at the wire to win by a head after a long stretch duel. Three lengths farther back, Surf and Turf rolled in third. Eons, a Giant's Causeway colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.26 with Trevor McCarthy riding.
Eons took three tries to find the winner's circle, finally getting the job done at Keeneland in April and now has run off four consecutive wins for trainer Arnaud Delacour. "He is getting better with each day, like good wine," Delacour said. "We thought the added distance would help him and he proved it today. I would not be opposed to even running him in longer, but we will see what is available. Running him at Saratoga is definitely an option."
Canessar rallied widest of all in the stretch run to take Saturday's $75,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park by 1 3/4 lengths from Surprise Twist. O Dionysus was third. Canessar, a 6-year-old, French-bred gelding by Kendargent, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.12 with Fergal Lynch up.
Filly & Mare Turf
Concrete Rose confirmed her status as the top 3-year-old U.S. turf filly with a convincing win over an international field in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational. The favorite, Breeders' Cup winner Newspaperofrecord, suffered her third straight defeat, this time fading to finish last of nine.
Concrete Rose, a Twirling Candy filly, tracked pacesetting Japanese invader Jodie through the first mile, took over easily for jockey Julien Leparoux and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Irish rival Just Wonderful, with Wayne Lordan up for Aidan O'Brien, was along for second and Cambier Parc got by Jodie to take third. The 1 1/4 miles on firm turf went in 1:59.97. Concrete Rose now is 5-for-6, the only loss being an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, won by Newspaperofrecord.
Trainer Rusty Arnold said he feared he had "rested her too much. Everyone had run and we hadn't run in two months and a couple of days and I was a little worried ... Sometimes your plan works and sometimes it doesn't work, but this one worked." He said the rest could help Concrete Rose compete in the $1 million Saratoga Oaks on Aug. 2, the second leg of the NYRA Triple Tiara. "That's why we rested her and hopefully it worked."
Newspaperofrecord's trainer, Chad Brown, said the plan to have her rate for a change didn't work out. "The filly just wouldn't cooperate. So we tried it, it didn't work, and that's that."
Preservationist, making his first stakes start, ran by well-favored Catholic Boy near the quarter pole in Saturday's $700,000 Grade II Suburban at Belmont Park and went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Catholic Boy held second, 3/4 length to the good of Pavel. With Junior Alvarado up for trainer James Jerkens, Preservationist ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 1:59.99.
Despite his lack of stakes experience, the 5-year-old son of Arch was the second-favorite in the 11-horse field after capturing a conditioned optional claimer in his previous start over a sloppy track. Catholic Boy, by contrast, entered with seven wins from 11 starts including Grade I scores on both turf and dirt.
"He's got a lot of talent but he's got stamina, too," Jerkens said. He has a lot of quality all through his female family. Nice to see it all come together to pick up a graded stakes win here today."
Javier Castellano said Catholic Boy refused to settle early "and I think that's what cost me the race."
Sir Anthony rallied from next-last to capture Friday's $300,000 Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Handicap by a neck over Dark Vader. Remembering Rita held the lead early in the stretch run by could only salvage third, another 1/2 length back. The favorite, Exclamation Point, was never in the mix after a tardy start. Sir Anthony, an Illinois-bred gelding by Mineshaft, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.98.
Sir Anthony entered the Iowa setpiece off a fourth-place finish in the Hanshin Cup at Arlington May 11. His last win came in the Grade III Harlan's Holiday in December at Gulfstream Park.
Top Line Growth was promoted to victory in Friday's $250,000 Iowa Derby as the first across the line, Winning Number, was set down to third for interference. Shang, who was squeezed by Winning Number in the stretch run, recovered from a resulting stumble to finish third. Top Line Growth, a Tapizar gelding, was last seen winning at Laurel Park. The 1 1/16 miles on a fast track went in 1:43.07.
The 2018 2-year-old filly champ, Jaywalk, turned Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Delaware Oaks into a cakewalk, racing away in the stretch to win by 9 lengths. The favorite, Fashion Faux Pas, could not go with the winner but finished second, 4 lengths to the good of Ujjayi. Jaywalk, a daughter of Cross Traffic, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.21 with Joe Bravo up.
Jaywalk, trained by John Servis, had not won since taking the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in November and finished 13th in the Kentucky Oaks in her most recent start. "That was my girl today," Servis said. "It felt very good when she started opening up ... The original plan was to run her next in the Monmouth Oaks but with the downtime, it depends when they let me go back to training."
Lady Apple hooked up with Ulele in the stretch run in Friday's $200,000 Grade III Iowa Oaks, took a narrow lead late and prevailed by 1/2 length in a battle of the favorites. It was another 8 1/2 lengths back to Taylor's Spirit in third. Lady Apple, a Curlin filly trained by Steve Asmussen, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.33 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons.
Moonlit Garden overcame a bobbling start to win Saturday's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows by 8 1/2 lengths as the heavy favorite. Summer's Indy was second, 2 lengths to the good of Girl Power. Moonlit Garden, a 5-year-old Malibu Moon mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.62 with Florent Geroux in the irons. She was coming off a rest after finishing fifth in the Grade III Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland in April.
Code of Honor, running for the first time since being awarded second place in the Kentucky Derby, had no trouble cutting back to a one-turn mile in Saturday's $250,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. With John Velazquez riding, the Noble Mission colt started last of six, came around the field and drew off to score by 3 1/4 lengths. Final Jeopardy and Rowayton filled out the trifecta. Code of Honor, a Noble Mission colt, finished in 1:35.81, notching his first win since the Grade II Fountain of Youth March 2.
"I think it showed a little bit of his maturity and where he's going," said Code of Honor's trainer, Shug McGaughey. "Physically, I think he's bigger, and I think in the Derby he was still a mentally immature horse ... "Hopefully, we can go through the summer and make our mark," the trainer added, targeting the Jim Dandy on July 27 and the Travers on Aug. 24 -- both at Saratoga.
Promises Fulfilled got back in the win column, and earned a Breeders's Cup "Win and You're In" berth in the process, with a front-running victory in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II John A. Nerud Stakes at Belmont Park. With Luis Saez up, the 4-year-old Shackleford colt blazed right to the front from the outside gate and edged clear late, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Warrior's Club finished second, a neck to the good of Killybegs Captain. Promises Fulfilled finished the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.75.
"Look at the horses he's been running against," trainer Dale Romans said of Promises Fulfilled. "This race finally gave him a bit of class relief. But this should set him up well. Where we go next, we'll have to sit down and figure it out. He can make a mile. There's just a good group of horses running three-quarters and a mile. We'll get that all figured out."
Since his victory in the Grade II Phoenix last October at Keeneland, the colt had finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, third in the Grade I Churchill Downs and fourth in the Grade I Met Mile.
After four scratches, only three faced the starter in Friday's $100,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap. D'Rapper prevailed but only after swapping the lead with the odds-on favorite, Share the Upside, before drawing off by 1 1/4 lengths. Another 8 1/4 lengths separated the favorite from Glory Stars in third. D'Rapper, an Illinois-bred Cherokee Rap gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.78.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Marley's Freedom, the odds-on favorite, took the lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Great Lady M. Stakes at Los Alamitos and kicked away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Anonymity. Exuberance rallied from last of six to get show money at a big price. Marley's Freedom, a 5-year-old Blame mare from Bob Baffert's barn, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.33 with Drayden Van Dyke in the kip. Since finishing fourth as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Marley's Freedom has three wins and two seconds, all in graded stakes.
"We were hoping she would run like that," Baffert said. When Drayden asked her to go, he had a lot of horse." He said Mike Smith, who rode her to a second-place finish in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Derby Day, said she struggles with the Churchill Downs surface. "A lot of horses are weird on that surface," Baffert said.
Royal Charlotte, away last of five, rallied smartly through the stretch run to take Friday's $150,000 Grade III Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park by 4 lengths. Cookie Dough, also slow to get going, finished second, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Peruvian Appeal. Royal Charlotte, a gray daughter of Cairo Prince, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.92 with Javier Castellano up for Chad Brown. Royal Charlotte remained undefeated in four starts after taking her stakes debut.
"You look forward to a race like the Test for her from here. She's earned it," Brown said of the $500,000 Grade I event Aug. 3 at Saratoga. "Every race she's run in she's continued to improve, and she has to be one of the top contenders now."
Shanghai Tariff dueled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows and drew off smartly to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Shabang Baby was gaining late but settled for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Pretty Greeley. The favorite, Maybe Wicked, was never involved. Shanghai Tariff, a 4-year-old Shanghai Bobby filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.83.
Filly & Mare Turf
Gentle Ruler rated near the back of the pack in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park, found room inside turning for home and slipped through for a 2 3/4-lengths victory. Theodora B. was second, a neck in front of the favorite, Gaining, who was gaining quickly at the end. Gentle Ruler, a 4-year-old Colonel John filly, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:13.70 with Chris Landeros in the irons. The Ian Wilkes trainee notched her fourth straight win, all at different tracks.
Wilkes said the difference this year has been Gentle Ruler's learning to relax. "It's as simple as that ... We will probably run her next at Saratoga but we want to make sure she is okay and comes out of this race in good shape."
Semper Sententiae shadowed pacesetting Scottish Jig in Friday's $100,000 River Memories Stakes at Belmont Park, got by that one in the stretch and eased away to a 1 3/4-lengths victory. Fools Gold was along to take second from Scottish Jig by 3 1/4 lengths. Semper Sententiae, a daughter of The Factor, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.48 for jockey John Velazquez. It was her first stakes win.
Pure Sensation set a pressured pace for the first few furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Parx Dash, then kicked away to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Rocket Heat beat the others with Smokin Nitro another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Pure Sensation, an 8-year-old Zensational gelding, ran 5 furlongs on soft turf in 1:00.42 for jockey Paco Lopez. It was his third straight win and fourth of five starts since he finished third in last year's Parx Dash.
Win Win Win started last, last, last in Thursday's $100,000 Manila Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, raced there until he fanned out toward the middle of the course turning for home and was just along in the final yards to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Fog of War was second, a head in front of Casa Creed. Win Win Win, a Hat Trick colt from the Smarty Jones mare Miss Smarty Pants, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:31.56.
"This was an experiment," trainer Michael Trombetta said of putting Win Win Win on the green course. "It looked like he got over the ground well ... We'll take him one race at a time."
Mr. Hustle led the field into the stretch in Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Victoria Stakes for 2-year-olds at Woodbine and said goodbye, winning off by 4 1/4 lengths as the favorite. Curlin's Voyage was second, 6 1/4 lengths to the good of Forester's Fortune. Mr. Hustle, a Declaration of War gelding, was clocked in 1:04.60 for 5 1/2 furlongs with Rafael Hernandez up. The Roger Attfield trainee now is 2-for-2.
Fast Scene went quickly to the front in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) My Dear Stakes at Woodbine, opened a wide advantage and sailed home first by 4 lengths. First-timer Leaveitalone was second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Copper Gem. Fast Scene, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Fast Anna, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:05.15 under Rafael Hernandez. She improved to 2-for-2 with both wins at Woodbine.
Around the ovals:
Prince Lucky led the way in Sunday's $100,000 State Dinner Stakes and easily held off the favorite, Candygram, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Backyard Heaven was third. Prince Lucky, a 4-year-old Corinthian gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.23 under John Velazquez.
Sensitive prevailed after a three-horse battle to the wire in Sunday's $75,000 Ellis Park Turf for fillies and mares, winning by a head over Stave and another head from Valentine Wish. Sensitive, a 5-year-old Divine Park mare, toured 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.99 with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons for trainer Brad Cox.
Dr Blarney seized the lead early in Saturday's $50,000 Carl Hansford Memorial and never looked back, extending the margin to a 4 1/2-lengths score over the favorite, Just Whistle. Reride was a nose farther back in third. Dr Blarney, a 6-year-old Dublin gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.34 with Tammy Piermarini in the irons.
Zarina was along late to upset Saturday's $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, outfinishing fellow late-runner Red Rounder by a neck. Kelsey's Cross was third after holding a brief lead and the favorite, Vow to Recover, finished fourth after suffering some traffic woes. Zarina, a Temple City filly, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.57 with Leonel Reyes riding.
Stirling Drive got the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Not Surprising Stakes for 3-year-olds and withstood a furious late run by most of the rest of the field. Art G Is Back was second, a neck behind the winner and a nose in front of Forever Mo. Stirling Drive, a Verrazano gelding, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.27 with Samy Camacho in the irons.
Presque Isle Downs
Imply saved ground early in Sunday's $100,000 Northern Fling Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares, ran by pacesetting Darcy Mae and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. The others were far back. Imply, a 6-year-old E Dubai mare, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:36.85. Julio Hernandez rode.
In the companion Leematt Stakes for state-breds, Jaguar Poz led all the way and won by 2 1/2 lengths from Missin the Big Dog. The odds-on favorite, Fast and Accurate, was third. Jaguar Poz, a 6-year-old gelding by Majesticperfection, finished in 1:37.83 with Huber Villa-Gomez aboard.
Heading Home headed home under a full head of steam in Sunday's $75,000 Jersey Girl Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares, hitting the wire a perfectly timed neck in front of Diamond Play. It was 5 1/4 lengths to Ebony Ball in third. Heading Home, a 5-year-old After Market mare, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.49 with Joe Bravo off. The race originally was carded for the turf.
Golden Brown took back early in Saturday's $75,000 Irish War Cry Handicap for New Jersey-breds, then rallied outside the leader on the turn and won handily, by 1 1/2 lengths. Regally Irish, who relinquished the lead to the winner, held second with Don's Marsh third. Golden Brown, an Offlee Wild gelding, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.11.
Mywomanfromtokyo led from gate to wire in Saturday's $65,000 Hawkeyes Handicap for Iowa-bred fillies and mares, winning by 8 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Zella Rose, My Sister Madi and Shimmering Dream completed the order of finish. Mywomanfromtokyo, a 6-year-old Neko Bay mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.13 for jockey Glenn Corbett.
Net Gain used the opposite tactics in the companion $100,000 Cyclones Handicap for state-breds, coming from last of six to win by 1 length from One Fine Dream. Shweet Persuasion was third and the odds-on favorite, tired from the lead to finish fourth. Net Gain, a 7-year-old Include gelding, got home in 1:44.33 with Ken Tohill up.
Ready to Runaway led the way in Thursday's $50,000 Frances Genter Stakes for 3-year-old, Minnesota-bred fillies and kicked away late to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Grand Prize was second, another 6 1/4 lengths to the good of Dangerous Wave. Ready to Runaway, a daughter of First Dude, finished 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.61.
Misterbanjoman kicked clear in the stretch run of Thursday's $50,000 Victor S. Myers Stakes for Minnesota-bred 3-year-olds and held on to win by 2 lengths from the favorite, Dame Plata. Astronaut Oscar was third. Misterbanjoman, a Maclean's Music gelding, toured 6 furlongs on a track upgraded to fast in 1:10.21.
Halfmoon Reef rallied to a big lead in the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity for Louisiana-bred 2-year-olds, then was all out to hold the advantage as X Clown fell just a neck short at the finish. Free Indeed was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Halfmoon Reef, a Steve Asmussen-trained colt by Half Ours, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.50 with Diego Saenz up. He now is 2-for-3 with the earlier win coming at Churchill Downs in his second start.
Sarah's Passion, the only first-timer in the field, seized the lead in the stretch run of Friday's $75,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity for Louisiana-bred 2-year-old fillies and held on to win by 3/4 length over aptly named Todayisnottheday. Tensas Weezy was third. Sarah's Passion, a Songandaprayer filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:06.36.
Jean Elizabeth pressed the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 Isaac Murphy Handicap for Illinois-bred fillies and mares, took over when requested and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Joyful Night and Game Time Decision were second and third. Jean Elizabeth, a 4-year-old filly by Adios Charlie, got 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.75 with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons.
In the companion $75,000 Addison Cammack Handicap for state-breds, Richiesinthehouse led all the way to a 3-lengths victory over Bulldog of Bergen. Wile E Peyote was third. Richiesinthehouse, a 5-year-old gelding by Sidney's Candy, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.54, also ridden by Valdivia.
Bulletproof One shot out to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Everett Nevin Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds and kept right on firing, eventually hitting the target first by 9 1/4 lengths. Roses for Laura was second-best with Drippin Sauce a neck behind in third. Bulletproof One, an Idiot Proof filly, got 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.04 with Cristobal Herrera riding.
Summersimage was along in the late going to win Thursday's $65,000 Oak Tree Sprint by 1/2 length over pacesetting Touched by Autism. Tribal Storm was a non-threatening third. Summersimage, by Slew's Tiznow, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.88.
Liberate battled for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Hoover Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds, then freed himself from his three rivals, winning off by 7 lengths as the prohibitive favorite. Betchaiwill, Flint Corn and Lil Bit Krome completed the order of finish. Liberate, a Gemologist gelding who bears watching, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.44
Hey Adrian, the odds-on favorite, dueled to the front in Saturday's $75,000 Cincinnatian Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, then took charge and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Here Comes Jiggs. Mobil Lady was third. Hey Adrian, a daughter of Twinspired, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.05 over firm turf.
News and notes
As if Kentucky Downs weren't already giving away enough in purse money -- it claims the highest average daily purses in North America, Europe or Hong Kong -- it now offers a $1 million bonus to a horse winning its $700,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint, the $200,000 Woodford at Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. The Kentucky Downs race is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
"The bonus was [new part-owner] Ron Winchell's idea,"said Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs general manager. "Getting our first Breeders' Cup 'Win and You're In' race is a very big deal. Ron wanted Kentucky Downs to do something to show how important this race is to us and our appreciation for being selected."