Dec. 16 (UPI) -- On a horse racing weekend when "new" was the watchword from Japan all the way to Saint Lucia in the Caribbean, Instilled Regard and War Story provided a hint of continuity with the past while scoring key victories at Gulfstream Park.
Much of the action involved 2-year-olds with a few performing well enough to get a look at bigger things down the pike.
On the international scene, another potential star emerged from the Asahi Hai Futurity in Japan, the Breeders' Cup Challenge series got its first winner in South America and the Royal St. Lucia Turf Club brought international Thoroughbred attention to its island for the first time.
Attend to this:
The big guns shipped some promising juveniles to Oklahoma for Sunday's $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile and walked away with the spoils. Shoplifted, one of three in the race for trainer Steve Asmussen, stole away to the lead in the stretch run and held off the odds-on favorite, Answer In, winning by a head. Embolden was third. Shoplifted, an Into Mischief colt, finished in 1:37.95 on a fast track.
Shoplifted was last seen finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita; Answer In was coming off a maiden win at Churchill Downs for Brad Cox; and Embolden finished second in the Atlantic Beach Stakes at Aqueduct in his most recent outing for Mike Stidham.
The colt earned 10 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard with the victory.
Bank On Shea outfinished the favorite, Dream Bigger, in Saturday's $500,000 Great White Way Division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct, winning by a nose. Captain Bombastic was third, 3 3/4 lengths farther back. Bank On Shea, a Central Banker colt trained by Jason Servis, ran 7 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:26.59 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. He now is 2-for-3 with a third-place finish in the Nov. 17 Notebook Stakes at the Big A in the middle of the wins.
Assistant trainer Henry Argueta said Bank On Shea "had never run before on a wet track, but the horse was doing so well in the morning. We were expecting a big race."
At Los Alamos, Club Aspen got by the pacesetting odds-on favorite, Tap Back, approaching the wire and ran on to win Sunday's $100,000 King Glorious Stakes for California-breds by 2 1/2 lengths over that rival. Papster was third. Club Aspen, a daughter of Clubhouse Ride, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.28 with Jorge Velez aboard.
Vanzzy was away first in Saturday's $120,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at Woodbine, blazed the trail through the snow and reported first by 1/2 length. The favorite, Elusive Knight, just missed with a late rally and Finalist was 6 lengths farther back in third.
Vanzzy, a Verrazano colt out of the Forest Wildcat mare Selva, got 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.90 with Patrick Husbands up. The Display was the third race on Saturday's program and the rest was canceled when the jockeys voted not to ride through the inclement weather.
At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Chimney Rock kicked away from the field in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile for state-bred colts and geldings, winning by 6 1/2 lengths. Binding Agreement beat the other five. Chimney Rock, an Artie Schiller colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.46 with Florent Geroux up.
The 2-year-old fillies
A Freud of Mama rallied by a pair of embattled leaders inside the sixteenth pole in Sunday's $500,000 Fifth Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred fillies at Aqueduct and got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Officer Hutchy and Time Limit, after fighting it out on the front, finished second and third while the odds-on favorite, Big Q, could not answer the question and finished sixth. A Freud of Mama, a Freud filly out of a Carson City mare, ran 7 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:25.81 with Jorge Vargas Jr. up.
"She's trained well coming into it and I really thought she would improve off that maiden victory and we should take a shot at this," said A Freud of Mama's trainer, Linda Rice. "She ran great."
Trainer Steve Asmussen swept the trifecta in Sunday night's $110,000 Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park with Princesinha Julia defeating Caribbean Sea by 1/2 length with Best Intentions another 5 lengths back in third. Princesinha Julia, a Pioneerof the Nile filly, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.73 under Ricardo Santana Jr. She now has three straight wins, all at the Oklahoma oval.
Cholula Lips took control in the lane in Saturday's $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for California-breds at Los Alamitos, leading by daylight en route to a 3-lengths win. Smiling Shirlee was second, a nose ahead of Warrior's Moon, while the odds-on favorite, Been Studying Her, settled for fourth. Cholula Lips, a daughter of Empire Way, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.85 with Russell Baze riding.
At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Vacherie Girl, under Florent Geroux, outfinished Our Lost Love to win the Louisiana Champions Lassie for state-breds by 1 1/4 lengths. Sincerity came from far back to get show money. Vacherie Girl, a daughter of Tapiture, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.01.
Instilled Regard rallied between rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Fort Lauderdale Stakes to win by 1/2 length over late-running Admission Office with Irad Ortiz Jr. getting the better of brother Jose. The favorite, Channel Cat, was just a neck farther back in third. Instilled Regard, a 4-year-old Arch colt, finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.18.
The victory puts Instilled Regard right in the mix for the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf scheduled over the same surface Jan. 25. He spent most of the 2018 season on the main track, finishing fourth in both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby and then got home third in the Grade I Hollywood Derby a year ago when switched to the grass.
"This is the same horse that showed up for me on Kentucky Derby day a year ago. I knew I had a better horse than that that day, and we ended up beating a lot of great horses, owner OXO Equine's Larry Best said. "This is a real horse. He needed some time to mature a little bit. We knew he'd be better as a 3- and 4-year-old. He's fresh off the layoff, and this is the kind of race we needed to think about to go on to bigger things."
War Story rallied past the tiring pacesetters to take Saturday's $100,000 Harlan's Holiday Stakes and possibly earn a spot in the Pegasus World Cup starting gate Jan. 25. The 7-year-old Northern Afleet gelding prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over Phat Man. Bodexpress set the early pace and held on for third. War Story, with Luis Saez in the irons, covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.45.
War Story was fifth in the 2017 edition of the Pegasus and 10th last year but part-owner Glenn Ellis said the 2020 edition "is the day I've been waiting for."
Pink Sands, after racing last of 10, ran down pacesetting favorite Cookie Dough in the late going in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Rampart Stakes for fillies and mares and got by for a 1/2-length score over that rival. Cairenn was third, 3 1/2 lengths farther back. Pink Sands, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.20 for jockey Jose Ortiz. It was her first-ever graded stakes win.
"That's the way she wants to run and Jose knows how to ride her," said Pink Sands' trainer, Shug McGaughey. "We'll have to sit down and look at what's next." He mentioned the $200,000 Grade II Inside Information Jan. 25 as a possible target.
To misquote John Donne, Lady's Island was unto herself through the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Sugar Swirl Stakes for fillies and mares, leading by 8 lengths en route to a 6 3/4-length victory. Meadow Dance was second, 1 1/2 lengths better than 73-1 chance Pretty Greeley. Lady's Island, a 5-year-old Greatness mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.75 with Emisael Jaramillo riding.
"I was kind of worried, because I knew she was training really sharp," said trainer Georgina Baxter. "I thought she was really, really good and how could she improve from what she's done. But I kept having to pinch myself. I was hoping she wasn't too sharp."
Mitchell Road, the odds-on favorite, led all the way in Saturday's $100,000 My Charmer Stakes for fillies and mares on the green course. After turning back a challenge from Take These Chains, Mitchell Road went on to win by 1 1/2 length from that foe. Munchkin Money was third, just a neck farther back. Mitchell Road, a 4-year-old English Channel filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.10 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
"I was fairly confident," trainer Bill Mott said of Mitchell Road. "She's been doing well and, with respect to all the other horses, with the races she's been running in, this maybe would be a little bit of class relief for her because she's coming off really tough races. She's run against the very best. It was the spot to get her back."
The Toronto track buttoned things up for the winter Sunday with Pumpkin Rumble winning as he pleased in the $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Valedictory Stakes. The 8-year-old English Channel gelding tracked the early leader, took over in the stretch and led by as much as 7 lengths before coasting home 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Fearsome. Theregoesjojo was third. Pumpkin Rumble rambled 1 3/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:57.67 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Golden Gate Fields
Bears Fans might have been focused on Sunday's game against the Packers but, nonetheless, Princess Vivian was totally focused on the job at hand in Saturday's $75,000 Bear Fan Stakes for California-bred distaffers at Golden Gate Fields. The 3-year-old Uh Oh Bango filly, with Catalino Martinez up, rallied from last of seven to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Apache Princess. Ima Happy Cat was third. Princess Vivian finished 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.55.
On Sunday, Blue Diva rallied from near the rear of the field to win the $65,000 Miss America Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length from Renny's Lady. Heathers Grey was third. Blue Diva, a 3-year-old daughter of Bluegrass Cat, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather surface in 1:43.67 with Juan Hernandez at the controls.
Tampa Bay Downs
Jackson worked quickly to the lead in Saturday's $125,000 FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire Stakes for Florida-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Cajun Firecracker was second, 2 lengths ahead of Well Defined. Jackson, a Kantharos colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.80 with Pablo Morales in the irons.
JP's Delight made the pace while racing three-wide in the $125,000 companion race for 3-year-old fillies, then edged away to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Wildwood's Beauty was second, 1 length better than R Prerogative. JP's Delight, a daughter of JP's Gusto, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:23.65 for jockey Jairo Rendon.
Saturday was Louisiana Champions Day. The races were for state-breds and the courses were fast and firm
In the $150,000 Champions Day Classic, Pound for Pound hounded pacesetting Travilion before going by and running on to win by 1/2 length over that rival. Underpressure was third. Pound for Pound, a 4-year-old colt by Redding Colliery, finished 9 furlongs on the main track in 1:52.98 with Aubrie Green in the irons.
Laughingasaintssong pressed the pace made by long shot Takes Two to Tango in the $100,000 Sprint, eased by that 70-1 long shot and won by 1 length. Double Barrell Man was third, 2 1/4 lengths farther in arrears. Laughingasaintssong, a 5-year-old Songandaprayer gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.19 with Colby Hernandez up.
Minit to Stardom was promoted to victory in the $100,000 Ladies Sprint after finishing second to Midnight Fantasy. The latter came out and bothered Minit to Stardom, a daughter of Star Guitar, ridden by Alex Cintron. The 6 furlongs went in 1:09.49.
On the grass, Ninety One Assault came running five-wide from near the back of the pack to win the $100,000 Champions Day Turf by 1 length over Remembermis. Ninety One Assault, a 6-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, finished about 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:47.06 with Shaun Bridgmohan riding.
In the $100,000 Ladies Turf, Net a Bear rolled from last of 10 to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Room to Finish, who also finished well but couldn't match strides late. Eskenformore held a brief lead and finished third. Net a Bear, a 3-year-old daughter of Awesome Bet, got about 1 1/16 grassy miles in 1:47.96 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
On the international scene:
Salios notched his third win without a loss Sunday at Hanshin Racecourse, taking the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity by 2 1/2 lengths in stakes-record time.
With Ryan Moore in the irons, the Heart's Cry colt stalked the pace, then kicked away from 15 rivals in the stretch run, finishing in 1:33.0, 0.3 second better than the old record set in 2017 by Danon Premium. Taisei Vision rallied to finish second with Gran Rey third. The disappointment in the placings was Red Bel Jour, a Deep Impact (JPN) colt who went off third-favorite and finished 10th.
Moore said the performance promises great things for the owners, Silk Racing Co. Limited, and trainer Noriyuki Hori.
"He was a lovely horse. The track ran very fast, but he's a colt that's not short-paced and he was still very green on the turn so he should run even faster in the future," Moore said.
"He's a big powerful colt and when I sat on him you get the impression that he's very strong already, but he should improve and be even better as he gets older being the size that he is and hopefully he'll carry on."
The Futurity, along with the 2,000-meters Hopeful Stakes Dec. 28 at Nakayama, helps establish early favorites for the following year's Japanese Triple Crown.
And the first "Win and You're In" Breeders' Cup berth for 2020 goes to: Nao Da Mais, a three-time Group 1 winner in Brazil who took down his biggest prize Saturday in Buenos Aires, winning the Group 1 Gran Premio International Carlos Pellegrini by 3/4 length. That was worth an Annie Oakley to the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland in less than 10 months.
Breeders' Cup South American representative John Fulton confirmed with connections of owner Haras Phillipson that they will prepare Nao Da Mais for the Breeders' Cup. His sire, T.A. Approval, won the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita in 2005 and 2006 and the Del Mar Handicap in 2006 and finished eighth in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
The Royal Saint Lucia Turf Club, with a big assist from the government and the China Horse Club, brought international racing to the lovely Caribbean island Friday with four races culminating in the $150,000 Pitons Cup.
The response was enthusiastic, both from the overflow crowd of locals and potential St. Lucia investors and from the winner of the big race.
Casting Crowns, representing Taylor Made Farms, drew off late in the featured event to win convincingly, to the delight of Taylor Made Vice President Frank Taylor.
"We won the Dubai World Cup with California Chrome a few years ago and this was right up there with that," said a jubilant Frank Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made. "I'll be great supporter of what they're trying to do here," Taylor added.
The day was filled with international racing figures and organizations from around the world. The secondary feature, the $20,000 Helen of the West Indies Stakes, was won by Reef Cup, a Twirling Candy gelding owned by Fasig-Tipton Sales and Bluewater Sales.
"Fasig-Tipton couldn't be happier to win a race sponsored by one of our best relationships, Coolmore, and organized by China Horse Club, one of our best clients for the past several years," said Terence Collier, Fasig-Tipton representative at the day's festivities.
The event was staged at a new track on Saint Lucia's National Day with much of the infrastructure housed in temporary quarters. Permanent facilities to support ongoing racing are part of a massive development project called Pearl of the Caribbean and promoted by China Horse Club founder Teo Ah Khing.
As part of the deal, the racing brought a large contingent of wealthy potential investors who are expended to provide much-needed capital for Saint Lucia's development programs.
Local officials were happy with the inaugural racing program.
"We had to expand the VIP section three times and it still overflowed," said Saint Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet. "The crowd outside exceeded the number of people we expected. We've never had this kind of attendance for a first-time event."
"Look at who is here tonight," the prime minister continued. "You have a bit of Europe, a bit of Canada and a bit of America. Horse racing would not have been an industry we would have seen ourselves. What Mr. Teo has done with his master planning is very far-sighted. He is a true visionary."
Raymond Tusk outfinished All-Weather Championship veteran Funny Kid in Saturday's Betway Conditions Stakes at Newcastle, winning by 1/2 length and earning a Fast-Track Qualifier spot in this season's finals on Good Friday.
Raymond Tusk was campaigned at a high level during the 2019 flat turf season, finishing fourth in the Sky Bet Ebor Handicap at York in August, then beaten only 5 lengths when 16th in the Lexus Melbourne Cup.
Winning jockey Tom Marquand said: "Raymond Tusk is a gent. ... The new races they are putting on in Saudi Arabia could maybe also be an option. I am only speculating, but hopefully there are a few nice targets for him next year."