Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Mr. Misunderstood returned to his winning ways at Churchill Downs and High Velocity showed some high potential for next year's Kentucky Derby with a win at Del Mar in highlights of weekend horse racing.
On the international scene, Indy Champ rode into victory lane in Japan and Hong Kong's top horses showed they're plenty ready for the foreigners scheduled to contest the Dec. 8 Longines Hong Kong International Races.
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Indy Champ is the mile champ in Japan. The 4-year-old Stay Gold colt used a perfect trip engineered by fill-in jockey Kenichi Ikezoe to post a 1 1/2-lengths victory in Sunday's Grade 1 Mile Championship at Kyoto, book-ending his springtime win in the Grade I Yasuda Kinen. Only six other horses have won both Grade 1 miles in the same season.
Indy Champ now is headed for the Grade 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile Dec. 8 at Sha Tin.
With Ikezoe subbing for suspended jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, Indy Champ got away cleanly and rated behind the front-runners into the stretch turn. When he needed room, the wall of horses in front of him parted, he shot through and was gone. The favorite, Danon Premium, was second with Persian Knight third.
"I was asked to ride at short notice but wanted to deliver a good result since the colt was a Yasuda Kinen champion," Ikezoe said. "I was told that he is a bit unstable at the start but he broke well and we were able to race in good position while eyeing Danon Premium. He responded really well when asked at the lane."
Indy Champ, bred by Northern Racing, reported in 1:33.0 over firm going. He improved to seven wins from 12 starts but the victory was only his second at the top level -- that after the Yasuda Kinen.
Sunday was prep day for Hong Kong's finest runners as they await the influx of foreigners ticketed for the Longines Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 8. If Sunday's trio of Group 2 Jockey Club races is any key, the invaders have their work cut out for them.
The brightest star on the day was Exultant, winner last December's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase. The 5-year-old Teofilo gelding was using the 2,000-meters Jockey Club Cup to prepare for the 2,400-meters Vase. Coming from behind pacesetting full brothers Glorious Forever and Time Warp, Exultant found an extra burst in the late going and ran on to win by 1 1/4 length over Furore, winner of last season's BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Southern Legend was third and Glorious Forever, reigning champ in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup, faded from contention to finish last of eight.
"Everything has gone smoothly this season," said Exultant's trainer, Tony Cruz. "I'm very happy with his condition and he seems to be a better horse this year."
The runner-up in the 2018 Longines Hong Kong Vase, Lys Gracieux, went on to win the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate Oct. 26 while Waldgeist, who was fifth in the 2018 Vase, got the better of Enable in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1) at Longchamp on Oct. 6. If Exultant is better than he was beating them 11-plus months ago, he will be something to behold this December.
In the Jockey Club Mile, 7-year-old Beauty Generation, the two-time winner of the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile, suffered a second straight defeat, this time without the significant weight differential and traffic issues that provided handy excuses for the earlier loss.
Waikuku, a 5-year-old Myboycharlie gelding, ran down Beauty Generation in the closing stages of the race Beauty Generation was unable to generate his trademark late kick after leading into the stretch. Ka Ying Star, who ran second behind Beauty Generation through the early stages of the race, finished second.
Waikuku now has finished in front of his older rival in their last two races but his trainer, John Size, said things still could go Beauty Generation's way in three weeks' time.
"Beauty Generation will still have his fans and he's going to run under different circumstances on the big day so I think he'll probably hold his place," Size said. "He'll be the horse to beat again."
The Jockey Club Sprint at 1,200 meters confirmed Aethero as a budding star on the Hong Kong scene. The Southern Hemisphere 3-year-old benefited from a weight swing from his rivals, including all the top resident sprinters and, with Keris Teetan riding, shot right to the front and won by 2 lengths. Hot King Prawn was second with Beat the Clock third. Mr Stunning, winner of the last two runnings of the Longines Hong Kong Sprint, finished eighth while making his first start of the season.
Trainer John Moore had predicted the course record might be at risk and Aethero almost proved him right, just missing with a final time of 1:07.58, just eight-hundredths of a second shy of the mark.
"We'll go to the Hong Kong Sprint now and it's an international Group 1 so his work will be cut out," Moore said. "But you can't ask anything more and he'll still have a nice weight concession."
Back in North America, around the ovals:
Mr. Misunderstood, a "horse for the course," rallied from mid-pack in Saturday's $175,000 Grade III River City Handicap and was along four-wide to win by a neck over Cullom Road. The favorite, Admission Office, was only a neck farther back with a late run of his own. Mr. Misunderstood, who also won the 2018 River City, ran this year's 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:53.31 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
Mr. Misunderstood had not won in four starts since last year's River City. He also counts among his 13 career wins a victory in the 2018 Grade II Wise Dan under the Twin Spires.
"He looks like he's back to the old horse that he was," said owner Staton Flurry. "I think that was a question in everyone's mind but we're thrilled with today's win. It's always special when you get to win at Churchill Downs."
High Velocity battled with Strongconstitution into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes for 2-year-olds, then edged away late, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Strongconstitution held on for second with Zimba Warrior and Rager completing the order of finish. Howbeit and Thousand Words were scratched. High Velocity, a Quality Road colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.16 with Drayden Van Dyke riding for trainer Bob Baffert, improving his record to 2-for-2.
"He handled everything well for his second out," Baffert said. "It's always a tough test after you break a maiden and he didn't have a lot of time between races. But the way he worked we thought he would run well. I liked the way that when that other horse came to him he dug in and took off again. And that's a nice horse that ran second."
Queen Bee to You kicked away from five rivals in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, winning by 4 1/2 lengths from Show It N Moe It. Mo See Cal was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Queen Bee to You, a 5-year-old mare by Old Topper, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.90 with Flavien Prat up.
Dream Bigger opened a big lead early in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Notebook Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds, then held off Scilly Cay in the late going, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Bank On Shea was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third. Dream Bigger, a Mission Impazible colt trained by Rudy Rodriguez, ran 6 furlongs on a fast strip in 1:12.28 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Big Q pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Key Cents Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies, opened up when asked by jockey Jose Lezcano and won off by 5 lengths. Playtone was second, 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Time Limit. Big Q, a Big Brown filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.22.
Stephen's Answer led the way in Saturday's $100,000 Delta Mile then held on gamely through the stretch, winning by a neck from Extirpator. Late Nite Mischief prompted the pace, then held on for third. Stephen's Answer, a 6-year-old gelding by Stephen Got Even, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.51 with Quincy Hamilton in the irons.
Newstome and Informative -- an appropriate pairing if ever there were such -- battled to the wire in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes for 2-year-olds with Newstome getting the win on a head bob. The early leader, Reform School, held on for third. Newstome, a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Goldencents, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10. 65 with Trevor McCarthy up. He now is 3-for-4.
Cofactor waited behind rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Warrior's Reward Smart Halo Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, moved when asked and was along to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Lucky Trinity was second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Still Alive. Cofactor, a daughter of The Factor, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.24 with Joe Bravo riding.
Gun Society rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over pacesetting odds-on favorite Owlette. November Fog was third. Gun Society, a Society's Chairman filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.34 with Kazushi Kimura in the irons.
Drillit idled near the back of the pack in Saturday's $75,000 First Lady Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, kicked into gear when prompted by jockey T. Thornton and rallied to a 1-length win. H.F. Camel and Candy Lane finished 2-3. Drillit, a daughter of Drill, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.64.
Baja Sur stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Oakland Stakes, took the lead two-wide heading for home and won going away. Sigur Ros had the early lead and finished second, 4 1/2 lengths back. Oiseau de Gurrre was third. Baja Sur, a 3-year-old Smiling Tiger gelding, completed 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.88 with Juan Hernandez at the controls.
Rowdy Yates continued his march toward an interesting 2020 with a dominating, 4 3/4-lengths victory in Friday's $75,000 Don C. McNeill Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 2-year-olds. The Morning Line colt, with Richard Eramia in the irons, raced in third until given his cue, then quickly kicked to the front and put matters to rest. Kirkules was second, 1/2 length in front of Fly to the Bank. He ran 1 mile in 1:39.59 and now has four wins from six starts. The only losses came in graded stakes at Churchill Downs.
Welder show his heels to five rivals in Friday's $70,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for state-breds, drawing off to win by 11 lengths as the heaviest of favorites. D Toz beat the others and Gospel Cherokey was third. Welder, a 6-year-old gelding by The Vizualizer, got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.03 for jockey David Cabrera.
Machos Vision opened a big lead in Friday's $75,000 Slide Show Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 2-year-old fillies and held on to score by 2 3/4 lengths from Diamonds N Spurs. Zapit was a head farther back in third. Machos Vision, a Pollard's Vision filly, finished 1 mile in 1:42.61 under Lori Keith.
B's Wild Cork popped from next-last to first in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares, winning by 3/4 length over fellow closer Cameron Street. C R Casse's Legacy finished third but was set down to fifth for interference, leaving Spanish Moss to collect show money. B's Wild Cork, a 4-year-old Denis of Cork filly out of the Wild Rush mare B's Wild Rush, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:57.95 with Antonio Lopez up. Wild Rush won the 1998 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park in a dead heat with Silver Charm.