Tom's d'Etat wins Saturday's Grade I Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs, opening international prospects for the coming year. Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs
Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Tom's d'Etat opened a literal world of possibilities with a victory in the Grade I Clark at Churchill Downs during weekend horse racing while Got Stormy took down the Grade I Matriarch as Del Mar wound up its brief season.
After nasty weather played havoc with the Thanksgiving Day schedule, Aqueduct and Woodbine both canceled Sunday's programs as a nasty storm socked the Northeast.
On the international scene, Almond Eye is out of next weekend's Longines Hong Kong International Cup -- a blow to the year-end international turf extravaganza. And Chrysoberyl flashed promise of much more to come, winning Sunday's Grade 1 Champions Cup, the former Japan Cup Dirt.
As the first Kentucky Derby futures pool was open for business during the weekend (spoiler: "All Other 3-year-olds" was the heavy favorite), some prospects for the Derby and Oaks were on display from Churchill Downs itself to Del Mar and Gulfstream Park.
We'll display all the details, right here:
Tom's d'Etat rolled to the lead in the stretch run in Friday's $600,000 Grade I Clark Stakes and drew off with ease, winning by 3 1/4 lengths, ridden out by Joel Rosario. Owendale unleashed a furious run from last of 11 but could only manage second without threatening the winner. Mr. Freeze pressed the early pace and was just pipped for second. Tom's d'Etat, a 6-year-old entire son of Smart Strike, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.84.
The win backed up Tom's d'Etat's victory last time out in the Grade II Fayette at Keeneland and positions him to potentially improve on his ninth-place finish in last year's Grade I Pegasus World Cup.
"There are a lot of Grade I horses in this game that don't make Grade I races," said winning trainer Al Stall Jr., who also won the 2009 Clark with eventual 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame. "To have a horse like this is extremely special for our entire barn."
Stall said Tom's d'Etat's breakthrough win at the top level opens the world of opportunities, including the Dubai World Cup and the new $20 million Saudi Cup, slated for Feb. 29 in Riyadh.
Speaking of looking ahead, Saturday's program featured races for 2-year-old hopefuls for the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Trainer Steve Asmussen appeared in the winner's circle after each of them.
Silver Prospector, a Declaration of War colt, needed just about all of the long Churchill Downs stretch to get by the early leaders and win the $300,000, Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes by 3/4 length. Finnick the Fierce finished fiercely to finally finish second, a head in front of the favorite, Tiz the Law. Silver Prospector, with Ricardo Santana Jr. up for Asmussen, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.94. The track was sloppy, which -- given recent Derby Day weather -- might be a preview, omen or what have you.
"It's very special to have horses compete at the highest level on days like today," Asmussen said. "This horse has learned how to relax and was able to do that very well today."
Silver Prospector picked up his second win from six starts and earned 10 points on the Churchill Downs "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, putting him in a four-way tie for third place on the leader board. He was not listed as a single betting interest in the first Kentucky Derby Futures Pool, which was open throughout the weekend. His win enhanced the already huge appeal of the even-money pick, "all other 3-year-olds".
In Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Golden Rod for 2-year-old fillies, odds-on favorite Finite seized the lead in the stretch and held off a late bid by Motu to win by 3/4 length. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Lady Glamour in third. Finite, a Munnings filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy, sealed surface in 1:45.99, also with Santana aboard. She started her career with a pair of seconds and now has strung together three wins, on both turf and dirt. On Oct. 27, she won the Rags to Riches Stakes by 6 lengths over a fast Churchill Downs strip going 1 mile. The wins, plus the 10 points she earned for the Golden Rod win, put her squarely in the Oaks mix.
"It was pretty cool that before the Golden Rod, the replay of Untapable's Kentucky Oaks win was playing on the Big Board," Asmussen said. "Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come." Asmussen trained that 2014 Oaks winner.
In Friday's $300,000 Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Nay Lady Nay and Dalika both rallied from mid-pack to duel it out in the stretch. Dalika got the lead but couldn't hold it, finishing second to Mrs. Revere by 1/2 length. The Mackem Bullet had every chance in the final furlong but settled for third. Nay Lady Nay, an Irish-bred daughter of No Nay Never, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:48.52 with Junior Alvarado riding. The Chad Brown trainee was coming off a win in the Parx Fall Oaks Oct. 7 and making her graded stakes debut.
"Anytime you ride a horse for Chad Brown you know it'll be ready to roll," Alvarado said. "She broke very good and had a nice kick at the end. She got over the going very well and had a nice kick at the end to get us home."
Mo Forza tracked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Derby, gained a slim lead at mid-stretch and held on gamely to win by 1/2 length over pacesetting Neptune's Storm. Standard Deviation mounted a late rally from well back to get up for show money. Mo Forza, an Uncle Mo colt, ran 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:48.57 with Paco Lopez up -- one of three stakes wins for Lopez on the card. The Peter Miller trainee took six tries to become a winner, then promptly won the Grade II Qatar Twilight Derby at Santa Anita before Sunday's triumph.
"I think it's just maturity," Miller said of Mo Forza's sudden emergence. "I'd like to say it was some genius trainer move but I'd be lying. I've always been high on this horse. He's always shown a lot of ability but it has taken time for him to put it all together. We knew he had it in him."
Next Shares worked out an inside trip through the stretch and was up late to take Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap by 1/2 length. The favorite, Sacred Life, rallied from far back but was forced to swing wide and could only manage second. River Boyne ran evenly to finish third. Next Shares, a 6-year-old Archarcharch gelding, toured 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:42.00 with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons. Winless since January, he was coming off a 13th-place finish in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile.
"He doesn't like the firm turf," trainer Richard Baltas said of Next Shares. "He likes it a little softer ... I didn't do any rain dances. I'm running seven or eight horses on the grass and those that like it will run well and those that don't, won't.
Zuzanna, the longest chance in the field of seven, rallied from next-last to land Saturday's $100,000 Red Carpet Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Curlin's Journey. Vibrance was third as the early speed faltered in the stretch run of the 1 3/8-mile turf battle. Zuzanna finished in 2:16.29, also with Lopez up. The 5-year-old daughter of Wilburn had posted only three previous wins for her connections since being claimed for $8,000 in September 2018 -- twice in the claiming ranks and once in a starter allowance -- and trainer Bob Hess Jr. said he had booked her to run in the Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park next weekend. "My reservation," he said, "was that I've never trained an $8,000 claimer to win a Grade III." He said part-owner Kurt Hoover convinced him to change his mind.
On Sunday, a jailbreak from the back of the 10-horse field in the $200,000 Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup saw Oscar Dominguez outfinish the favorite, United, by a neck with Ward 'n Jerry just another neck behind. Oscar Dominguez, a 6-year-old, Irish-bred gelding by Zoffany, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:28.17 with John Velazquez riding for trainer Richard Baltas. The race originally was carded for Friday but delayed because of heavy rain.
More frequently seen a step or two down the class ladder, Oscar Dominguez scored his first graded stakes win in his 37th career start.
"Hall of Fame ride," said Baltas, who won the trainer title for the brief meeting. "This means a lot. We claimed the horse for $40,000 and he's been overachieving the whole time we've had him."
The weekend's stakes activity -- and the Del Mar meeting's -- was capped off with Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Matriarch for fillies and mares with Got Stormy storming from mid-pack, advancing around the turn and kicking clear to a 3/4-lengths victory. Daddy Is a Legend came from even farther back to take second, 3/4 length ahead of Juliet
Foxtrot. Got Stormy, a 4-year-old Get Stormy filly with Tyler Gaffalione up for trainer Mark Casse, ran 1mile on firm turf in 1:34.24. She's been in the exacta in seven of her last eight starts, including a second in the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile in her previous start.
"She's amazing," Casse said. "Put her on a van, put her on a plane, she just goes wherever and runs. We kept hearing that she'd only won one Grade I, so we had to fix that ... You don't get a lot like her. She'll definitely stay in training next year."
The Del Mar weekend also had opportunities for the 2-year-olds on the grass:
East Coast invader Alms stalked the long shot leader into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, took over smartly and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that rival. The favorite, Princesa Caroline, was a belated second, another 1/2 length back. Alms, a Godolphin homebred miss by City Zip, completed 1 mile on the turf in 1:36.01 with Lopez riding for trainer Michael Stidham. Alms won at first asking at Belmont Park Sept. 19, then won the Grade III Matron over the same course in her only other start.
"I had a perfect trip," Lopez said of the ride on Alms. "Michael told me to get a spot behind the speed and it worked out. She came away from there well and we got a good spot ... I'd heard about all the rain here but the course was very good. Not soft -- just right. When I asked her, she gave me a big kick."
On Sunday, Smooth Like Strait led all the way to a 15-1 upset of the $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes for 2-year-olds, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Goliad was second, 3/4 lengths ahead of Irish-raced Last Opportunity. The favorite in a wide-open field, hit the road, was a nose farther back in fourth. Smooth Like Strait, a Midnight Lute colt trained by Michael McCarthy, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.02 with Geovanni Franco in the irons.
Smooth Like Strait entered the fray off a maiden-breaking victory at Santa Anita in his third career outing and second on the green course. "It was always in the back of my mind to try him on the grass because he acts like a grass horse," McCarthy said. "Obviously, today he was able to get himself on an easy lead, put them to sleep and the rest is history."
When eight horses finish within 1 1/2 lengths, you know the trip made the difference. So it was in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Long Island Stakes, a 1 3/8-miles turf test for fillies and mares. Si Que Es Buena, with Joel Rosario up, raced second-last until she hit the stretch turn. Finding room inside, the 6-year-old, Argentine-bred mare snuck through, then held off the late rally of My Sister Nat, who turned for home five-wide. The margin was a neck with early leader Decorating running on gamely to finish third, another neck in arrears. Si Que Es Buena, trained by Graham Motion, finished in 2:19.68 on good turf. She was fourth in this event in 2018 in her first U.S. start and now has won three of her last four.
"I was a little concerned (about being far back) but she was comfortable," Rosario said. "I didn't want to get her into something she didn't want to do. We just tried to save ground and hopefully have something for the end.
Performer pressed the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Discovery Stakes for 3-year-olds, advanced to the lead a furlong out and then battled with Tax before edging away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that one. It was 9 1/4 lengths farther back to Grumps Little Tots in third. Performer, a Phipps Stable Speightstown homebred with a Claiborne ownership interest, finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.36 with Rosario in the irons. The Shug McGaughey trainee now has posted four straight wins this season after opening his account with a third-place finish at the Big A last November.
"He's had a really good 3-year-old year," McGaughey said. "I knew it was a step up but we wanted to see if he could handle it and he did."
Fully Vested was fully in charge as the field thundered down the stretch in Saturday's $125,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship, racing off to a 7 1/4-lengths victory. Vici was second-best, a head in front of Lonhtwist. Fully Vested, a 5-year-old Discreet Cat gelding, ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:09.49 with Jose Lezcano up. Owned by Godolphin and trained by Tom Albertrani, Fully Vested has hit the board in 12 of 14 career starts.
"He wouldn't be a bad candidate for Dubai, just thinking in the moment," Albertrani said, referring to the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on World Cup night in March. "But I'll speak to the connections before we make any plans."
Bellera pressed the pace set by Gold Standard in Friday's $200,000 Grade III Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rallied to the lead a furlong out and held off a late run by the favorite, Arrifana, to score by 1 3/4 lengths. Arrifana got by Gold Standard, taking second by 3/4 length with the others finishing well up the track. Bellera, a Bernardini filly, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.91 with John Velazquez up. It was her first start since a mishap right out of the gate in the Grade III Turnback the Alarm Stakes Nov. 2 resulted in a lost rider.
"She won the last race, she just didn't have a rider on her back," joked winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "When something like that happens, you're always concerned if they come back safely, but she came back great and trained great. I felt that the mile and an eighth suited her well and she came back great today."
Andina Del Sur and Theodora B. both rallied from well back in Friday's $150,000 Forever Together Stakes for fillies and mares with the former prevailing by a neck. Sweet Bye and Bye also ran well late to take third. Andina Del Sur, a 4-year-old Giant's Causeway filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.03 with Javier Casellano in the irons. She won the Grade III Florida Oaks in 2018 but then went 18 months before her next victory, the Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park Sept. 28.
Temple stalked the pace in Friday's $150,000 Gio Ponti Stakes for 3-year-olds, took the lead early in the stretch run and held on to win by a nose over Kadar. Halladay was third. "The wire came just in time," said winning rider Jorge Vargas Jr. Temple, a Temple City gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:44.32. Mike Maker claimed Temple for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park July 28. In his first race for his new connections, he earned $57,000 with a third-place finish in the Dueling Grounds Derby after leading most of the 1 5/16 miles.
Cooler Mike battled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Sir Barton Stakes for Ontario-sired horses, then edged clear in deep stretch, winning by 1 length. Thor's Rocket showed late speed to get second, a neck better than Royal Laser. Cooler Mike, a 4-year-old gelding by Giant Gizmo, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.02 with Luis Contreras up.
"You always have to give this horse a target, just get him back right away from the first jump. He is kind of aggressive," Contreras said. "He was great today. I got a perfect trip and when I asked him to go at the quarter pole, he just gave me everything."
It was all 2-year-olds on Saturday as Gulfstream Park revs up the meeting that will take us all the way to the Florida Derby and beyond.
Tonalist's Shape took the lead at the top of the lane in the $75,000 Hut Hut Stakes for juvenile fillies and quickly shot away to win by 9 lengths. Ceci Valentina was best of the rest, 2 3/4 lengths in front of Filly Jean King, who led early. Tonalist's Shape, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tonalist, ran 1 mile on the fast main track in 1:36.62 with Samy Camacho in the irons.
Shivaree hooked up in a long battle with the favorite, Went West, in the $75,000 Buffalo Man Stakes, swapping the lead before emerging with a 1/2-length victory. Went West was second, a comfortable 7 1/4 lengths in front of Complexifier. Shivaree, a Florida-bred colt by Awesome of Course out of the Anasheed mare Garter Belt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.42.
Cheermeister showed the way in the $75,000 Wait a While Stakes for fillies and held well, winning by 2 lengths over Sunset Promise. Lucky Ningle was third. Cheermeister, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Bodemeister from the Ghostzapper mare Kuhlu, scampered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.22 for jockey Emisael Jaramillo.
Spanish Point pressed the early speed in the $75,000 House Party Stakes for fillies, took the lead when promped by Jaramillo and ran on, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Sound Machine, was second with Lavi reporting third. Spanish Point, a Creative Cause miss out of the Mineshaft mare Ocean Foam, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.79.
Sole Volante was last of 11 early on in the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes at 1 mile on the grass, advanced through the field rounding the turn and arrived in time to win by 2 lengths. Irish Mias was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, King Guillermo. Sole Volante, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Karakontie from the Kingmambo mare Light Blow, was clocked in 1:33.02 with Jairo Rendon up.
Soros rallied four-wide to win the $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths. Ghengis was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Gangly. Soros, a Commissioner colt out of the Eastern Echo mare Eastern Ruckus, ran 1 mile on the main track in 1:38.10 with Edgar Prado up for trainer Gustavo Delgado. Fort McHenry, a half-brother to California Chrome, tired late and finished last.
Golden Gate Fields
Mugaritz surged to the lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Berkeley Handicap and carried on to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Ohio gave futile chase, settling for second, 3/4 length in front of Brave Nation. Mugaritz, a 4-year-old gelding by Dialed In, scored his sixth straight win, finishing 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.40 with Ricardo Gonzalez in the irons.
Honest Mischief hit another gear once shown room by jockey Trevor McCarthy in Saturday's $100,000 Force the Pass City of Laurel Stakes for 3-year-olds and was along in the final yards, winning by a neck. Chilly in Charge was second, 2 lengths better than Hall Pass. Honest Mischief, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by Into Mischief, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.06.
Vault stalked the pace while three-wide in Saturday's $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes for fillies and mares, vaulted around the front-runner in the stretch and won off by 3 1/2 lengths. Jehozacat made the early lead and held second by 2 3/4 lengths with Trolley Ride getting show money. Vault, a 3-year-old daughter of Jump Start out of the French Deputy mare Di's Delight, ran about 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.06 under Julio Hernandez.
Sunny Ridge tracked down pacesetting Han Sense in the late going to win the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes by 3/4 length. Bobby G was third, another 2 3/4 lengths back. Sunny Ridge, a 6-year-old Holy Bull gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the dirt in 1:51.88 with McCarthy at the controls.
Needs Supervision started last of 11 in Saturday's $100,000 Imagining Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, made steady progress through the first half-mile and drew off late, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Hey Marmaluke was second, 3/4 length to the good of Victim of Love. Needs Supervision, with Feargal Lynch in the irons, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.51.
Hotshot Anna was along in deep stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Richard L. Scherer Memorial for fillies and mares by a head over pacesetter Play On and another head from late-running May Lily. Hotshot Anna, a 5-year-old Trappe Shot mare, ran about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:04.11 with Marcellino Pedroza in the irons.
Golden Gate Fields
Southern California shipper Éclair was along late to win Friday's $65,000 Golden Gate Debutante for 2-year-old fillies by a neck over No Cover Charge. Shanghai Keely was third and the favorite, Mischievous Curlin, tired to finish fourth. Éclair, a Bernardini filly trained by Bob Baffert, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.30 for jockey Juan Hernandez. She broke her maiden at Los Alamitos but struggled in four starts and Del Mar and Santa Anita.
Angle of Attack pressed the pace set by Boundtobebad through almost all of Saturday's $50,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies, then won by a head bob over the odds-on favorite. The Better One was third-best. Angle of Attack, a daughter of Maclean's Music, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:27.99 under Arnaldo Bocachica.
On the international scene:
Chrysoberyl has emerged as a potential force on the international scene after an impressive victory over older rivals in Sunday's Grade 1 Champions Cup on the dirt course at Chukyo Racecourse.
The 3-year-old Gold Allure colt battled gamely between horses for the win and finished the 1,800 meters in course-record time of 1:48.5. He remains undefeated after six starts.
With Yuga Kawada up, Chrysoberyl came outside pacesetting Inti with some 100 meters to the wire with Gold Dream also on the run, just to his outside. Sandwiched between those two for a few strides, Chrysoberyl inched clear to win by a neck over Gold Dream, a 6-year-old son of Gold Allure. Inti settled for third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears.
"We were able to settle in good position behind Inti and the colt was able to race with good rhythm," Kawada said. "Though it was difficult to advance, having to race between Inti and Gold Dream at the stretch, we were able to pull away and win the rally at the end."
The victory was a big step up for Chrysoberyl, who won at first asking in September of 2018, then was out of action for six months with leg issues. He won a comeback race in March and then swept three events on the calendar of the National Association of Racing, Japan's locally run circuit. That string included the Japan Dirt Derby at 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles).
The Champions Cup was by far the biggest victory in the colt's campaign and opened the possibility of international competition in some of the world's biggest races on dirt -- especially as most top-level racing in Japan is on the grass.
"He's still young and developing, and I think this will be the case through until next spring," said trainer Hidetaka Otanashi.
The race, formerly known as the Japan Cup Dirt, is open to international competition but no foreign connections chose to take on the locals in this year's renewal.
Japanese superstar filly Almond Eye has been withdrawn from next Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Cup, a blow to the four-race turf program at Sha Tin Racecourse. The 2018 Japanese Horse of the Year passed up last weekend's Japan Cup in favor of the trip to Hong Kong but her travel was canceled Saturday when she spiked a fever.
The Longines Hong Kong International Races still have plenty of star power, including a first-ever appearance by a winner of the Investec Derby, Anthony Van Dyck, in the Vase. But Almond Eye was the center of the Hong Kong Jockey Club promotion of the races and her appearance would have been an antidote to the impact on racing of six months of social protest and street demonstrations.
Without Almond Eye, the foreign contingent for the Cup features fellow Japanese contender Win Bright, who won the Group 1 FWD QE II Cup at Sha Tin in April, and Magic Wand, a 4-year-old Galileo filly who won the Group 1 Seppelt Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington in Australia Nov. 9 for Ireland's Coolmore lads. Locals include the 2018 winner, Glorious Forever, and improving youngsters Rise High and Furore, winner of the BMW Hong Kong Derby in the springtime.
Hey Doc landed Saturday's Group 1 Crown Perth Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot, leading the field into the stretch, then refusing to give any ground. He finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Vital Silver with Rock Magic third and the favorite, Trekking, fourth. Hey Doc, with Luke Currie up for Calvin and Tony McEvoy, ran 1,200 meters in 1:08.59 over good going.
The 6-year-old Duporth gelding notched his first win since he took the Group 1 Manikato Stakes in October 2017, defeating In Her Time.