Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Fifteen automatic bids to the Breeders' Cup World Championships were allotted through weekend horse racing around the globe, with big winners including Arklow, Omaha Beach, Bowies Hero, Sistercharlie, Kimari and Blue Prize.
The action was hot and heavy from France to New York, through Kentucky and on to California.
Lots to cover, so away we go.
Although Enable came up short in her bid for a third straight Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Sunday, the results of that race likely will have a major impact on next month's Breeders' Cup Turf -- just as they did a year earlier. See the international roundup for much more.
Arklow, Channel Maker and Sadler's Joy swapped the lead back and forth in the final furlongs of Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park with Arklow finally edging out in the final yards to win by 1/2 length. Channel Maker held second but only a head in front of Sadler's Joy.
Arklow, a 5-year-old son of Arch, finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.34 with Junior Alvarado up. Like many of the weekend's turf winners, Arklow came to the race off a strong effort at Kentucky Downs -- in his case, a second in the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup.
"It's been a long journey to get there, but he finally got it done," said Dustin Dugas, assistant to Arklow's trainer, Brad Cox. "He's had enough seconds in a row. He's a cool horse. He's a hard knocker for all of us. It's fun."
California invader Neptune's Storm parked right behind pacesetting favorite A Thread of Blue right into the stretch run in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, stuck a head in front nearing the sixteenth pole and ran on to complete the upset by 3/4 length.
Standard Deviation and Henley's Joy were a nose and a neck farther back in third and fourth. Neptune's Storm, a Stormy Atlantic gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:49.74 with Ricardo Santana Jr. up for trainer Richard Baltas. In California, he won four of 11 previous starts and was third, beaten just a neck, in the Grade II Del Mar Derby in his previous start.
Neptune's Storm's co-owner, John Rochfort, said the Breeders' Cup is not in the plans for the colt. "Not this year. Hopefully in the future," he said. "To be honest, we weren't going to run him here, but he was training so well. Richie said we'd be crazy to not come here and convinced us as owners to come here, and I'm glad he did."
Filly & Mare Turf
Villa Marina earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf with a win in Sunday's Prix de l'Opera in Paris. More in the international roundup on this upset.
Sistercharlie took over the lead from stablemate Thais at mid-stretch in Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park and held off Mrs. Sippy for a workmanlike victory. Thais held on for third. The win was No. 6 in a row for the Chad Brown trainee, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Myboycharlie -- a string that includes the last two editions of the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park and the 2018 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. She earned a return trip to the Breeders' Cup via the "Win and You're In" program with the Flower Bowl triumph.
Asked about Sistercharlie's Breeders' Cup prospects this year, Brown said, " "We're pretty confident as long as she stays healthy. I don't think we've reached the bottom of her. Some of the setbacks that she's had have been a bit disappointing, but it's kept her fresh so it really goes both ways." He also said Thais's performance might merit Breeders' Cup consideration.
At Keeneland on Saturday, Uni commenced a rally from the back of the pack entering the turn in the $400,000 Grade I First Lady and ran by the competition, winning off by 2 1/2 lengths. Juliet Foxtrot was second and California invader Vasilika settled for third.
The favorite, Rushing Fall, finished fourth. Chad Brown trains both Uni and Rushing Fall. Uni, with Joel Rosario in the irons, ran 1 mile on firm turf in course-record time of 1:32.87. Uni, a 5-year-old More Than Ready mare, won the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mare last December and was making just her third start of the 2019 campaign.
"It's another addition to her tremendous career as a miler," said Brown assistant Whit Beckman. "She's real solid when she's put at this distance and she's gone to multiple tracks and has shown that kick."
Glass Slippers scored a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint through the "Win and You're In" program by virtue of victory Sunday at Longchamp. Details are in the international roundup.
Stubbins started last of nine in Friday's $200,000 Grade II Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, found another gear turning for home and shot past Leinster in the final strides to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Imprimis, was third. All three of the top finishers came to the race after competing at Kentucky Downs.
Stubbins, a 3-year-old colt by Morning Line, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.44 with Joel Rosario riding for trainer Doug O'Neill. A stakes winner earlier in the year at Santa Anita, he finished sixth in the Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night in Dubai. The Woodford was his first win in four starts since returning from the Middle East and followed a second-place finish in the Grade III Franklin-Simpson at Kentucky Downs.
Today, he came running and put in a good run there at the end. I tried to stay in (on the rail in the turn). I was saving ground and then when I had some room was able to turn him loose."
At Belmont Park, Final Frontier edged by pacesetting favorite Shekky Shebaz in the final strides to take the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational by 3/4 length over that rival. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to Fully Vested in third. Final Frontier, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper colt, ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:07.39 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. Tom Albertrani trains the winner for owner-breeder Godolphin. Final Frontier scored his fourth win from 10 starts and first in a stakes race.
Tom Albertrani, who trains both Final Frontier and Fully Vested, said Breeders' Cup plans are in flux. "It is a concern," he said. "I thought about that, but it is the Breeders' Cup. Might have to take a shot in there. I don't think Fully Vested would go. It's up to if we get an invite."
California invader Bowies Hero trailed much of the field into the turn in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, came out toward the center of the track and mowed down the leaders, winning by 3/4 length. The next five were five noses apart: Diamond Oops, Suedois, First Premio, March to the Arch and Next Shares.
The favorite, Valid Point, finished 10th. Bowie's Hero, a 5-year-old son of Artie Schiller, got the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.20 with Flavien Prat at the controls. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile.
Asked why he shipped Bowie's Hero to Kentucky rather than run in Saturday's City of Hope Mile at home at Santa Anita (see below), Josh Flores, assistant to trainer Phil D'Amato, said, "About a million dollars, compare to $200,000. We always had the confidence in this horse. He's had some tough trips. Today, Flavien was able to put him in the right spot and he was able to fly home."
With the Breeders' Cup returning to Santa Anita this year, he added, "It will be nice to walk over, probably one of the favorites, right out of your own barn."
True Valour, an import from Ireland at midyear last season, scored his second straight win Saturday in the $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile. With Drayden Van Dyke up, the 5-year-old son of Kodiac swung out entering the stretch and outfinished Restrainedvengeance and the favorite, Prince Earl, winning by a head. Kingly was fourth after leading much of the way.
True Valour ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.82. The two wins were separated by a break of nearly eight months as he had not competed since taking the Grade III Thunder Road at Santa Anita in February.
Trainer Simon Callaghan said True Valor's owner, Qatar Racing, "may want to go for the Breeders' Cup Mile. It's here and he's shown a pretty good affinity for the track as far as his last two races. It will be tougher but they might want to take a shot."
Omaha Beach had not raced since winning the Arkansas Derby when he lined up for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship. Never in his seven-race career had he run as short as this race's 6 furlongs. And, into the bargain, he stumbled at the start. No matter. With Mike Smith up, the War Front colt commenced a steady advance and reeled in pacesetting, odds-on favorite Shancealot in the final yards, winning by a head. Flagstaff was third, 2 1/2 lengths farther back.
Omaha Beach was sidelined after the Arkansas triumph with a throat problem and trainer Richard Mandella then took his time with the colt. "I'm just very relieved to have him back," Mandella said. "This horse has a heart of gold and he's got the greatest personality of any horse I've ever had. I would say anything's possible.
"I want to enjoy this one," Mandella continued. "But the Sprint, the Mile and the mile and a quarter (Classic) are all possible ... We're gonna run in the Breeders' Cup! For now I'll just drink that big bottle of champagne and think it over."
Engage trailed most of the field into the turn in Friday's $250,000 Grade II Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix -- the first stakes event on Keeneland's opening weekend -- circled the field entering the stretch to take the lead and held off Whitmore, winning by 1/2 length.
Lexitonian was third, just a nose farther back at a big price. Engage, a 4-year-old Into Mischief colt, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.21 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. The victory was worth a "Win and You're In" bid to the Breeders's Cup Sprint.
Engage came to Keeneland off a victory in the Bensalem Stakes at Parx Racing Sept. 2. The win was his first in a graded stakes since he took the Grade III Futurity at Belmont Park nearly two years earlier in his second career start.
"It's great to see this horse dig in," said Engage's trainer, Steve Asmussen. "Quality field, rush to the wire and he found enough. He's always been a quality horse. Belmont Futurity winner as a 2-year-old, fresh horse, very sound horse. Loved the opportunity for him. We felt good about our chances when we saw him over the race track here at Keeneland. This is a big win."
The Phoenix favorite, Promises Fulfilled, finished sixth but trainer Dale Romans said he is still headed to the Breeders' Cup -- either the Sprint or the Dirt Mile. The Breeders' Cup Sprint also is a possibility for Whitmore, who finished second in that event last year, trainer Ron Moquette said.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Spiced Perfection stumbled badly at the start of Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland, forged through between rivals at the top of the stretch to take a late lead and won by a head over long shot Dawn the Destroyer. Mia Mischief was third and the favorite, Chalon, flattened out to finish fourth.
Spiced Perfection, a 4-year-old Smiling Tiger filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.60., earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. She was making her first start since May 4 when she finished second in the Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.
"She stumbled really bad coming out of the gate," Castellano said. "She recovered pretty quick and we kept tracking the speed. We got through a little, tiny hole at the eighth pole. The filly was very brave to go through that hole and get it done." Part-owner Robert Flynn said the free pass to the Breeders' Cup "sounds great. I've never had one in the Breeders' Cup."
At Santa Anita, Lady Ninja put a nose in front of pacesetting Selcourt on the wire in the $100,000 Grade III L. A. Woman. It was another 5 1/2 lengths back to the favorite, Anonymity. Lady Ninja, a 5-year-old Majesticperfection mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.79 with Drayden Van Dyke up. She has climbed the class ladder since being claimed for $32,000 last September.
In Sunday's feature at Keeneland, Blue Prize launched a stout rally outside rivals turning for home in the $500,000 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster and edged the odds-on favorite, Elate, by 1/2 length under the wire. Blue Prize, a 6-year-old, Argentine-bred Pure Prize mare, finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.30 with Joe Bravo riding for trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Correas IV. Blue Prize also won the 2018 Spinster, then went on to finish fourth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff. She earned a "Win and You're In" bid for a return trip with Sunday's win.
"She means a lot to me," Correas said of Blue Prize. "The horses of my country (he is also a native of Argentina) have made me look good. Thanks to the trainers that trained them before me, they did a great job developing them. To tell you that I thought I was going to beat Elate, I would be lying ... I thought if (Bravo) could relax her and if she had a target, she's going to run big. Elate is a great, great mare."
Correas also had high praise for likely opponents in the Breeders' Cup but added, "If she gets the trip, I think she has a shot."
Tiz the Law breezed by pacesetting favorite Green Light Go in the stretch run of Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park and drove home first by 4 lengths. Green Light Go, who stumbled at the start, held second, trailed home by a neck by Big City Bob. Tiz the Law, a New York-bred Constitution colt trained by Barclay Tagg, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.41 with Manny Franco up.
Tiz the Law was making just his second career start. He won at first asking Aug. 8 at Saratoga, employing similar tactics to Saturday's win. Although the race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Tagg said that's not in the plans for a colt he is hoping to see in the 2020 Kentucky Derby. "I don't think so. It's a little bit close and it's a long way away. We can always go to California another year, but we can only go to the Kentucky Derby one year," Tagg said.
Maxfield, also making his second-ever start, blew away nine rivals in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, earning a "Win and You're In" spot for November. The Godolphin homebred colt by Street Sense was away a bit slowly under Jose Oritz, who then confidently took him to the outside for the stretch run and swooped by the field, drawing off to win by 5 1/2 lengths.
Gouverneur Morris was best of the rest, 1/2 length in front of Enforceable. Maxfield finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.21. He made his debut Sept. 14 at Churchill Downs, also coming from far back to win.
He's a very special horse," said Maxfield's trainer, Brendan Walsh, who scored his first Grade I win. "I've been around a lot of good horses and good horses breathe different air. I think this horse is right there ... He overcame a lot the first day we ran him and he came out of that race doing so good. To come back in three weeks for a horse that's only run once is a big ask, but he answers every question."
Asked about the Breeders' Cup, he added, "Obviously, we'll see how he comes out of this. But if you don't bring him, who do you bring?"
Victor Ludorum earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup through a "Win and You're In" victory in France. See the international roundup for much more.
Peace Achieved dueled with Gear Jockey down the stretch in Sunday's $250,000 Grade III Dixiana Bourbon at Keeneland, got by that one in the stretch and then repelled a late rally by the favorite, Vitalogy, from far back in the 14-horse field, winning by a neck. Gear Jockey held on for third. Peace Achieved, a Declaration of War colt trained by Mark Casse, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.06 under Miguel Mena, winning his third straight race. He won the Kentucky Downs Juvenile in his previous start.
Wicked Whisper took the early lead in Sunday's $400,000 Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park and wasn't caught, reporting first by 2 3/4 lengths as the favorite, Frank's Rockette, gave futile chase through the lane. Slam Dunk was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Wicked Whisper, a Liam's Map filly, ran the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:35.92 with Joel Rosario up and something left in the tank. She improved to 2-for-2.
"Every time I asked her, she was there for me," Rosario said. "It was her first time going a mile, so you just want something for the last part. She responded and just kept going. The more I asked, the more she was going. She looks like she's real spirited and looking around and enjoying herself."
British Idiom ran her record to 2-for-2 and earned a "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup spot with a dominating stretch run in Friday's $400,000 Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland. The Flashback filly, with Javier Castellano up, flashed away from 10 rivals through the lane, winning by 6 1/2 lengths over Perfect Alibi. Alandra was third, another 3 lengths back and it was 3 more lengths to Gone Glimmering in fourth. British Idiom, with Javier Castellano aboard, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.80.
British Idiom won at first asking at Saratoga Aug. 15, rallying four-wide to score by 3 1/2 lengths, and trainer Brad Cox said that and her laid-back demeanor encouraged him to try the Grade I off a single prior race.
"She's a really nice filly that's full of class," Cox said. "She never gets worked up. She does whatever you want in the mornings. She's a good-sized filly, too, and obviously capable of getting around two turns. As long as she comes out of this in good shape, we'll look at California (the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies)."
At Woodbine, Curlin's Voyage was promoted to victory through a disqualification after finishing second in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Mazarine Stakes on the all-weather course. Skygaze led from gate to wire but was demoted to third for interference. Take Charge Eh also benefitted from the ruling, taking place money. Curlin's Voyage, an Ontario-bred Curlin filly, went to the post as the favorite in the 1 1/16-miles race, which finished in 1:43.30.
On the Sunday card at Woodbine, Muskoka Gold battled his way to the lead in the $225,000 (Canadian) Cup and Saucer Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-olds, then shook clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Pleasecallmeback. Muskoka Gold, a Lea colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:42.07 with Jerome Lermyte in the irons.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Alms contributed a late-running, 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Matron at Belmont Park, improving her record to 2-for-2. The Godolphin homebred filly by City Zip came to the center of the course turning for home to get clear sailing and powered past pacesetting Time Limit to win easily as the odds-on favorite. A Freud of Mama was third. Alms ran 6 furlongs over turf upgraded from good to firm in 1:09.30 with Jose Lezcano up.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Kimari, completely upending her racing style, lagged well off the lead in Sunday's $200,000 Indian Summer Stakes for 2-year-olds at Keeneland, then charged down the stretch and outfinished Chimney Rock for a 1/2-length victory and a "Win and You're In" bid to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Aximo finished third. Kimari ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.03 with Mike Smith up for Wesley Ward.
Kimari, a Munnings filly, won for the third time in four starts. Her only loss was a game second behind Raffle Prize in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot in June. Chimney Rock, an Artie Schiller colt, was coming off a tough, traffic-plagued loss in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint.
At Belmont Park, Four Wheel Drive got clear in the stretch run of Sunday's $150,000 Futurity for 2-year-olds and motored to a 3-lengths victory over Freewheeler, also earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. The American Pharoah colt, making his second career start, also for Wesley Ward, got 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:08.07 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. He won at first asking at Colonial Downs Aug. 31.
And at Santa Anita on Sunday, El Tigre Terrible found a seam between two rivals in the final yards and shot through to win by a head over Bulletproof One. The winner, dispatched at odds of 23-1, had to survive an inquiry before the result was posted official but the wait was worth a "Win and You're In" spot in the same Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Around the ovals:
Adventist, at odds north of 50-1, took the lead late in Saturday's $100,000 Greenwood Cup and strolled off to a 3-lengths win. War Story, the early leader, held second while the odds-on favorite, Marconi, got first run to the front in the stretch, then tired and reported third. Adventist, a 6-year-old gelding by Any Given Saturday, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:33.81 with John Bisono in the irons.
Toinette, the odds-on favorite, stalked the pace in Saturday's $95,000 Swingtime Stakes for fillies and mares, got to the lead in the stretch and edged away to a 1 1/2-lengths victory. Quebec and Super Patriot completed the trifecta. Toinette, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.23 with Drayden Van Dyke riding for trainer Neil Drysdale.
Fashionably Fast was along late to win Saturday's $100,000 Harris Farms Stakes for California-breds by 3/4 length from Baja Sur. My Friend Emma was third after leading much of the way. Fashionably Fast, a 4-year-old Lucky Pulpit gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.52 with Tiago Pereira in the irons.
Heavenhasmynikki, the heaviest of favorites, ran to her notices in Saturday's $75,000 Diana Stakes for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, striding out to a 5 1/4-lengths victory, ridden out by Jose Bracho. Magna Rose, Ali Blue and Katalust completed the order of finish. Heavenhasmynikki, a 4-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.46.
Edge of Night stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Emerald Necklace Stakes for 2-year-old, Ohio-bred fillies, took over and held on late to win by a neck from Cristalinda. Succotash was third. Edge of Night, a daughter of Added Edge, ran 6 furlongs in 1:13.88 with Christian Pilares up.