Europeans dominate Belmont turf, Kentucky Downs adds $1M event to weekend card

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Spanish Mission leads the European sweep in Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association
Spanish Mission leads the European sweep in Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Derby at Belmont Park. Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association

Sept 9 (UPI) -- European 3-year-olds dominated their American rivals at Belmont Park while much of the rest of the U.S. turf contingent slugged it out in the rich events at Kentucky Downs in weekend horse racing.

Two of the big turf races were worth $1 million each and two were "Win and You're In" events for the Breeders' Cup.


Marconi won the weekend's top main-track race at Belmont Park while Flap Jack and Mom's Red Lipstick took Arlington Park's graded stakes for juveniles.

Away we go with ...


The Europeans 3-year-olds dominated their American counterparts Saturday at Belmont Park even without bringing the A Team. The invaders finished 1-2-3 in the $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational and 1-2 in the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks.

Spanish Mission rallied from last of nine to edge Pedro Cara by a nose in the Derby. The third of three Europeans, San Huberto, then got by pacesetting Saratoga Derby winner A Thread of Blue to take show money by 3/4 length. Spanish Mission, a Noble Mission colt trained by David Simcock, completed 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:27.58 with Jamie Spencer in for the ride.


Spanish Mission won the Grade III Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket July 11 and then was third, beaten only a neck, in the Grade III Qatar Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in his previous outing. Neither Pedro Cara nor San Huberto had hit the board in a Group event previously.

"He's a good horse. I think he'll get better with age," said Barry Irwin of winning co-owner Team Valor. "When I bought him, the plan was to leave him in Europe this year and then bring him to America next year. Halfway through the season, I realized this is strictly a European horse and I told my guys, 'He's never coming home, but I'll bring him for this race.'"

The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf but Irwin said co-owner Earle Mack might have other ideas. "We're looking at the Melbourne Cup with this horse," he said. "Earle would rather win that race than anything, and I'd like to win it as well."

RELATED Code of Honor's victory in Travers tops weekend U.S. horse racing action

As the Melbourne Cup is run Nov. 4, two days after the Breeders' Cup Turf, it's one or the other.

The second $1 million turf affair on Saturday's card, the Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs, had no Europeans. It did, however, have Zulu Alpha, a 6-year-old Street Cry gelding who seized the lead in the stretch and easily held off the favorite, Arklow, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Campaign was third. Zulu Alpha, with Jose Ortiz taking the mount for trainer Mike Maker, got home in 2:28.62.


Ortiz said his main concern was Arklow but added, he "was very confident waiting for him ... When we passed the quarter pole, I went on. I didn't feel him closing in. I said 'All right, let's go.' He exploded. He gave me a great run."

Maker said Zulu Alpha's schedule is up to owner Michael Hui. "Everything is on the table and he pays the bills. He'll have final say if we go to the Breeders' Cup," said Maker, who won the race for the fourth time.

Zulu Alpha has been from A to Z this season. After winning twice at Gulfstream Park, he finished third in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland, seventh in the Grade I Man o' War at Belmont Park and fifth in the Grade II Bowling Green at Saratoga. Even in the losses, though, he was competitive.

On Sunday at Kentucky Downs, Social Paranoia bided his time while saving ground through the second turn in the $600,000 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, started to gain ground when jockey Jose Ortiz shifted him out and was along in time to win by 1/2 length as the odds-on favorite. Ry's the Guy and early leader Temple finished second and third. Social Paranoia, a Steet Boss colt, ran 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:08.50.


It was Social Paranoia's first stakes victory but followed a close second in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and a fourth in the Saratoga Derby Invitational -- both $1 million races.

"He's always trained like a nice horse, always run well on both surfaces," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who won last year's Dueling Grounds Derby with Channel Cat. "He's obviously been really holding up with top competition. We felt like he'd handle the course, hoped to get an inside draw and a good trip and it worked out."

Filly & Mare Turf

In Saturday's $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park, Edisa and Wonderment, two-thirds of the Euro contingent, rallied late to finish first and second, 3/4 length apart. The best the local team could muster was Dyna Passer, who pressed the pace and tired a bit in the stretch to report third. Edisa covered 1 3/8 miles on good turf in 2:17.02 with Flavien Prat aboard for trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre.

Edisa came across the pond after finishing second in a Group 2 event at Saint-Cloud and third in another Group 2 at Deauville. To more or less rub it in for American turf racing, she is an Aga Khan homebred daughter of Kitten's Joy and was bred in Kentucky and de Royer-Dupre said there are great hopes for the filly, especially on solid footing.


"She's well-bred," the trainer stated the obvious. "Her father, Kitten's Joy, is American and the mother is from a great Aga Khan family for long distance. She takes the speed of the father and the staying of the mother, so it was nice to see today. I don't know yet if we'll go on to the Breeders' Cup. We'll watch the weather during the weekend of the Arc (de Triomphe) and perhaps see if the ground is good. Perhaps we can go on from there and return to Santa Anita, but we'll put it all under consideration."

At Kentucky Downs, Ms Bad Behavior led from the early going in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Three Chimneys Ladies Turf and held through the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Mitchell Road, chased in second all the way and finished in that position, 3/4 length ahead of Simply Breathless. Ms Bad Behavior, a 4-year-old Blame filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.25 with Jose Ortiz up for trainer Richard Baltas.

Ms Bad Behavior bore out and was pulled up in her last race, the Grade II Royal Heroine, at Santa Anita in April. Before that, she finished third and second in graded stakes, both times behind Vasilika.


Co-owner Brooke Hubbard said Ms Bad Behavior will be ticketed for a race at Keeneland's fall meeting. She is listed in Fasig-Tipton 'Night of Stars' sale in November but, in the winner's circle, co-owner Greg Hall said, "Who knows? After this, maybe we'll change our mind."

In Sunday's $350,000 Fifth Third Insurance Dueling Grounds Oaks, Princesa Carolina hit the afterburners nearing the furlong marker, quickly swept past most of the field and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Wildlife rallied right behind the winner to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths better than High Regard. Princesa Carolina, a Tapit filly, got 1 5/16 miles over firm turf in 2:08.85 with Jose Ortiz up for trainer Kenny McPeek and owner-breeder Three Chimneys Farm. She came into the race off a pair of seconds in the Hatoof Stakes and the Grade III Pucker Up Stakes, both at Arlington Park.

"We've kind of been waiting for this race to some extent all summer and into the fall here. But a great run," McPeek said. "Hopefully we can come back in the QE II. She's had a good season, and hopefully she's got another good one in her."

The $500,000 Grade I QE II Challenge Cup is slated for Oct. 13 on Keeneland's second fall weekend. Kentucky Downs formerly was Dueling Grounds.


Turf Sprint

Totally Boss shadowed pacesetting long shot Smart Remark around the turn and into the long Kentucky Downs stretch in Saturday's $700,000 Grade III Runhappy Turf Sprint, happily ran by that one and scored by 1 1/4 lengths. Smart Remark held second, 1 1/2 lengths better than Leinster. The favorite, Imprimis, was another nose back in fourth.

Totally Boss, a 4-year-old Street Boss gelding, got the 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.21 for jockey Florent Geroux and earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint Nov. 2 at Santa Anita. He scored his first stakes win Aug. 4 in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint at Ellis Park and now has 6 wins from 15 lifetime trips. Trainer Rusty Arnold said he will not have another start before the Breeders' Cup.

"He was loaded today," Geroux said of Totally Boss. "He broke sharp. Actually, to be honest, there was not a lot of speed in the race. When he broke sharp, I just took it from there. He put me closer to normal, but he was traveling great. And when I asked him turning for home, he gave me his usual kick. He's a nice horse, and I think Rusty has him near the top of his form right now."


Morticia set the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Spendthrift Farm Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs and widened the lead to win by 1 3/4 lengths. A Little Bit Me was a long shot second, 1/2 length in front of Oleksandra, who was away tardily. Morticia, a 5-year-old daughter of Twirling Candy, entered off a third-place finish in the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Saratoga -- a race won by Oleksandra. She covered Saturday's 6 1/2 furlongs, a furlong longer than her normal distance, in 1:15.85, just 0.45 second off the course record. Tyler Gaffalione rode for trainer Rusty Arnold.

"It was great to see her come back, Arnold said. "There was a question of maybe if she had lost her edge. Her last race at Saratoga wasn't very good. We hope we found the reasons for it. Everyone was concerned about 6 1/2 furlongs but she had won at 7 furlongs. I think this may even be better for her, the way she did it."

Morticia won the Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes at Keeneland going 7 furlongs in 2017 and owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr. said she will try that event again Oct. 17 before being retired to the breeding shed.


News flash: Chad Brown saddled the winner of the first stakes race at Belmont Park's fall meeting Friday. After taking the training title at Saratoga, Brown wasted no time getting going back down south as the aptly named Turf War rallied from last of eight, wore down stretch leader Brooke Marie and won the $100,000 Christiecat for 3-year-old fillies by a neck. Turf War, with Joel Rosario riding, finished 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.99 despite dealing with yielding turf. Raced earlier in France, she finished third and fourth in two appearances at the Spa.

And, on Sunday at Belmont, Uncle Benny -- second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf -- came five-wide around rivals and got clear to win the $100,000 Allied Forces Stakes for 3-year-olds by 1 3/4 lengths. Chilly In Charge came from last of eight to finish second at long odds and Pulsate was third. Uncle Benny, a Declaration of War colt, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.57 with Manny Franco riding for trainer Jason Servis. The race was only his second since the Breeders' Cup and a big improvement on his return at Saratoga, where he finished seventh.


"He needed his last race. We're looking forward to him going long next time out," said Ara Aprahamian, founding partner of Beach Haven Thoroughbreds, owner of Uncle Benny.

Also, note the results of Saturday's races for Virginia-breds in "Around the ovals" below.

Juvenile Turf Sprint

Cambria rated kindly into the long stretch run in Saturday's $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint, then outfinished Chimney Rock, winning by a head over that rival. Prince of Thieves made up a lot of ground late to get show money, another 3 lengths back. Cambria, a Speightstown filly, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:17.40 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. Trained by Wesley Ward, Cambria now is 3-for-3 with the first two wins coming over the Presque Isle Downs all-weather track.

"Both of her races were very, very good but not great," Ward said. "Her subsequent works, in fact her last work, was an eye-opener. So I texted (owner Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm) after her last work and said, 'Barbara, we're going to have a big, big chance.' She texted me, 'What race?' I sent her a photo of this race in the condition book. I said, 'You're going to be rich after winning this one, Barbara.' I got a laugh out of her anyway."


Chimney Rock's rider, Jose Ortiz, said he lost all chance when he was squeezed back out of the gate. "They came inside, outside. I was the sandwich. I was the best today," Ortiz said.


Marconi led them a merry chase in Saturday's $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational and had plenty left at the end of the 1 1/2 miles, winning by 3 lengths. You're to Blame beat the others, reporting 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Realm. Marconi, a 4-year-old Tapit colt, finished in 2:28.07 over the fast main track with Jose Lezcano in the irons. Marconi won twice during the Belmont spring meeting before finishing seventh in the Grade II Suburban, then was second by 8 1/2 lengths in the 1 3/4-miles Birdstone at Saratoga.

"It was a nice victory," Byron Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday. "It wasn't an ideal break, but Jose did a good job of getting him up to the front and not overextending him to do it. Thankfully, it all worked out and he seems to have come out of it in good shape and ate everything up last night. We were all pretty pleased with the performance."



Flap Jack entered Saturday's $75,000 Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity as a maiden and came out not only a winner but also as a candidate for the Breeders' Cup. The colt, a son of 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow, rallied from mid-pack for jockey Sophie Doyle, split rivals a furlong out and won by 4 lengths over late-running Woopigsooie. The odds-on favorite, Peruvian Boy, settled for third.

"We'll probably put him back on the dirt. We'll look at (Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races at) Keeneland or Belmont. We've thought he's an above-average 2-year-old since his first couple of nice works," said Jack Sisterson, who trains Flap Jack for owner-breeder Calumet Farm.

Flap Jack opened his career on the Ellis Park dirt, finishing fifth, then just missed over the Arlington turf, finishing second in his only other race.

Juvenile Fillies

Moms' Red Lipstick opened a few eyes with an upset win in Saturday's $75,000 Grade III Arlington-Washington Lassie. The daughter of Race Day took full advantage when the odds-on favorite, Angelcents, refused to settle on an early lead, then bolted out on the turn. That left Spitefulness on the lead with Mom's Red Lipstick in hot pursuit to her outside. With Jose Lopez up, Mom's Red Lipstick ground out the victory in the final sisteenth.


Trainer Chris Block said the future for Mom's Red Lipstick is a bit up in the air since she also won at first asking on the Arlington all-weather July 13 in her only previous start.

"You never know how they'll do if you put them on the dirt, Block said. "I had a filly who won this race two years ago (Bet She Wins), going off like a shot. But when we tried her on dirt -- nothing. I don't think she ever won another race." She did not.

Still, Block said he will look at races on both dirt and turf at Keeneland and Belmont before making a decision. "There is a juvenile turf sprint in the fall," Block said, referring to the newest addition to the Breeders' Cup World Championships program. "That might be something to think about."

Around the ovals:

Louisiana Downs

Rotation rolled from mid-pack to win Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Super Derby by 3/4 length over Vangilder. Pirate's Punch showed the way and held third while the favorite, Knicks Go, didn't go all that well, finishing another 8 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Rotation, a Tapit colt, ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:43.70 with Richard Eramia up for trainer Steve Asmussen, who also handles Vangilder. Rotation notched just his second career win.


On the Super Derby undercard:

Net a Bear ran well late to win the $60,000 Elge Raspberry Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 lengths over Scootin Bayou; High on Gin rallied by pacesetting Cedar Hall to win the $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 lengths over Cedar Hall; Deviant was along late to take the $60,000 Sunday Silence for 2-year-olds by 2 lengths over Free Indeed; Eskenformore split rivals in the lane and went on to win the $60,000 River Cities Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length over Dagny; and In the Navy took an early lead and sailed home first in the $60,000 Frank L. Brothers Stakes, defeating Late Nite Mischief by 3 1/2 lengths.

Los Alamitos

Flor de la Mer came running in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Madame Vestal, after wresting the lead early in the lane, held on for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Message. Flor de la Mer, a Tiznow filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.22 with Mike Smith in the irons. Bob Baffert trains the filly for Godolphin. "She's been doing well," said Baffert assistant Mike Marlow. "She just needed a little bit of a break. I think the freshening helped her and she was impressive today in the last part of the race. She gets a little wound up in the post parade once in a while and Mike got her to settle well and I think that was a big factor today."


Oliver finished best in Saturday's $75,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Tule Fog was second, another 5 lengths better than Queen Bee To You. Oliver, a Papa Clem colt, ran 1 mile on the fast track in 1:35.32 under Martin Garcia.


Lift Up rallied from last of six to take Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over She's the Berries and another nose over Lunar Garden. Lift Up, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare from the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.57 under Patrick Husbands.

Dun Drum took back to last in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Vice Regent Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, moved out from a ground-saving trip entering the stretch and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over King Causeway. Lucas n' Lori was third, 2 1/4 lengths in front of the odds-on favorite, Ari Gold Speedwagn. Dun Drum, a Bold n' Flashy gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.55 with Emma-Jayne Wilson up.

Monmouth Park

Fancy Dress Party stalked the pace in Sunday's $75,000 Miss Woodford Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took over midway through the 5 1/2 furlongs and drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Ka Gee Gee was second, 7 lengths in front of Oceano Rosso. The favorite, Lexintonia, finished last of five after a tardy start. Fancy Dress Party, a Munnings filly, finished in 1:03.78 on a fast track.


Gulfstream Park

Wildwood's Beauty, at odds of better than 20-1, drew off late to win Saturday's $100,000 Sheer Drama Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares by 3 3/4 lengths. Heiressall was second, another 5 3/4 lengths to the good of Ms Meshak. Wildwood's Beauty, a 3-year-old daughter of Kantharos, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.15 with Samy Camacho in the irons.

Retama Park

Discreet Smile went quickly to the lead in Friday's $50,000 Fiesta Mile for Texas-bred fillies and mares and rolled home first by 3/4 length. Corluna was along for second, 3/4 length to the good of Shes Our Fastest. Discreet Smile, a 3-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.77 with Sasha Risenhoover aboard.

Redatory stalked the pace in Friday's $50,000 Texas Hall of Fame Stakes for state-breds, asserted himself in the stretch run and won by 3 1/4 lengths. Jim's Eagle was second, a head in front of Easter Snap. Redatory, a 4-year-old Oratory gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.61. Rodolfo Guerra rode.

Colonial Downs

Virginia-breds were featured in Saturday's stakes extravaganza as the Commonwealth continued to celebrate its return to Thoroughbred racing.

K D's Cat Bird split rivals at the furlong marker in the $100,000 Bert Allen Stakes and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Accountable. K D's Cat Bird, a 6-year-old Courageous Cat gelding, ran 9 furlongs in 1:48.90 with Trevor McCarthy up.


Embolden led from the outset in the $100,000 Jamestown Stakes for 2-year-olds and drew off late to score a 3 3/4-lengths win over Bella Aurora. Embolden, by The Factor, got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.80 with McCarthy riding.

Boldor rallied three-wide into the stretch to take the lead in the $100,000 Punch Line Stakes and kicked way to win by 3 lengths from Elusive Mischief. Boldor, a 3-year-old Munnings colt, finished 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.31 under Feargal Lynch.

Holly Hundy tracked the pace in the $100,000 Camptown Stakes for fillies and mares, then drew off late to win by 3 3/4 lengths under a confident ride by Kent Desormeaux. Solarte was second. Holly Hundy, a 3-year-old Yes It's True mare, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.76.

Ferdinanda dominated the Brookmeade Stakes for fillies and mares, winning off by 6 lengths. Tryon Summer was second as Ferdinanda, a 4-year-old daughter of Giant's Causeway, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.29 with Forest Boyce in the irons.

Belterra Park

Grizabella, under Luis Rivera, committed to a rail trip at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $75,000 Miss Southern Ohio Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, got the room she needed and went on to win by 1 length. Hope's Frog Song was best of the rest, 3/4 length better than Birdacious. Grizabella, a 5-year-old Lunarpal mare, got 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:44.80.


Emerald Downs

Unmachable, a first-timer, started last of 10 in Sunday's $50,000 Washington Cup Juvenile Colts and Geldings Stakes for state-breds, started passing rivals five-wide in the lane and got the job done for jockey Alex Anaya, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Love the Vino and Forty Smooches filled the trifecta slots. Unmachable, a Macho Uno gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:17.62.

In the companion race for 2-year-old fillies, Windy Point was quickly on the lead and won off by 3 1/2 lengths, followed by You Go Girl and Discreet Demons. Windy Point, a Coast Guard filly, reported in 1:18.34 with Juan Gutierrez up.


Five Star General and Explode dueled all the way around in Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade III British Columbia Derby with the former prevailing by a nose. It was another 5 1/4 lengths back to Final Jeopardy answered the question "Who was third?" Or however that goes. Five Star General, a Kentucky-bred colt by Distorted Humor, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.42 with Mario Gutierrez aboard.

Amazonian rallied from next-last in a field of nine to upset Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) British Columbia Oaks, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Sunburst. Whoop It Up was a distant third. Amazonian, a Malibu Moon filly, ran 9 furlongs in 1:53.10 under Richard Hamel.


News and Notes

Churchill Downs Inc. has asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to strip the state's winter racing dates from Turfway Park and grant them to a new facility CDI would build in the northern reaches of the Commonwealth.

Just one week after sounding a potential death knell for its Arlington Park track in Illinois by not applying for a casino license there, CDI said it can increase handle and purses in northern Kentucky with a new track and historical racing operation.

"Churchill Downs is stepping up to protect and grow Kentucky's Thoroughbred racing circuit," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. "Our willingness to make a sizeable investment in the neglected northern Kentucky market is our latest effort to improve Kentucky's valuable horse racing and agriculture industries."

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