Jan 6 (UPI) -- Authentic looked like the real deal and Chance It stepped up big time in weekend horse racing to boost their Kentucky Derby chances while Bast was easily best in her latest step toward the Kentucky Oaks.
Along the way, trainer Bob Baffert sent out the first two finishers in the weekend's Derby qualifying race, and then topped that by saddling the first three in the Oaks prep.
Contenders just keep coming for the Hong Kong Derby. And, in Dubai, the World Cup Carnival gets serious this coming Thursday with early preps for the Cup itself and a couple other big races.
The finalists for the 2019 Eclipse Awards were announced Saturday and we've got them in "News and Notes." Also there, the story of two new execs at The Breeders' Cup, recruited from Keeneland and BloodHorse.
Consider yourself recruited to read this:
The Road to the Roses
Authentic looked like the real deal in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, winning by 7 1/2 lengths, ridden out by Drayden Van Dyke. Azul Coast, after bobbling at the break, came back to finish second, giving trainer Bob Baffert the exacta. Zimba Warrior completed the A-to-Z trifecta. Authentic, an Into Mischief colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.57, earning 10 points toward a start at Churchill Downs on May 2.
The Sham was only Authentic's second career start.
"We thought if he's a good horse, he should win," Baffert said. "That's what you're hoping for, the way he was working and all. ... It was a big move forward. The second race is the toughest one to make."
Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby five times, with two of those winners going on to claim the Triple Crown, and always seems flush with Kentucky Derby prospects this time of year. He indicated 2020 will be no different.
Azul Coast, he said, "is better than that. We've got some other ones back there and hopefully they'll come along. But the timing is good for him (Authentic) now to run in the March race, whatever it is," he said, referring to the $400,000 Grade II San Felipe on March 7.
Asked to quantify his 2-year-olds, Baffert said, "Whichever one won that day is your Derby hopeful. That's the way it works in this business. He's got 10 points."
Across the continent, Chance It successfully stepped out of the state-bred ranks to win Saturday's $100,000 Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park by a head over As Seen On Tv.
The two swapped the lead in the final furlong before Chance It prevailed. Sole Volante was third, a further 2 1/4 lengths in arrears. Chance It, a Currency Swap colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.53 with Tyler Gaffalione at the controls. The stewards denied a claim of foul against the winner.
Chance It now has four wins and two seconds from six starts. He captured two-thirds of the Florida Sire Staies series last season for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., who won three stakes races on the Saturday card.
"I'm so proud of this horse," Joseph said of Chance It. "He's a special horse. Most horses would lay down there, especially off a layoff. The horse on the outside (As Seen On Tv), I have a lot of respect for. He's obviously a good horse. Chance It is just special."
Joseph said he will decide later whether to send Chance It to the Grade III Holy Bull on Groundhog Day or wait for the Grade II Fountain of Youth on Leap Day.
Saturday's $75,000 Limehouse Stakes at Gulfstream Park was only 6 furlongs over the main track, but worth noting as Shivaree kicked away smartly in the final furlong, winning by 3 1/4 lengths and looking for more. The Awesome of Course colt, out of the Anasheed mare Garter Belt, finished in 1:10.91 with Emisael Jaramillo up and now has three straight wins.
"Shivaree" is defined thus: A noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage or mock an unpopular person.
On the grass, Island Commish tracked the paced made by Get Smokin well into the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Kitten's Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park, got by and went on to win by 1/2 length over that rival. Summer to Remember was third. Island Commish, a Commissioner filly, ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.25 for jockey Paco Lopez.
Kentucky Oaks preps
If Baffert had a good day Saturday at The Great Race Place, his Sunday was even better as he sent out the first three finishers in the $200,000 Grade II Santa Ynez -- Bast, Auberge and Golden Principal. Even more impressive, it was another 9 1/4 lengths back to the next finisher. Bast, an Uncle Mo filly toting Drayden Van Dyke, let her stablemates make the early going, then rolled three-wide to take the lead at mid-stretch, finishing 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.42.
Bast had three Grade I wins as a 2-year-old but faded late in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, finishing third.
"You hate to run three in a race like that but it's a graded race and its $200,000," Baffert said. "I want to give all my clients a chance at it. I've gone sort of easy on her [Bast] for this race. Those are two really good fillies that she was chasing there, as you can tell by the way they were spread out. They showed up, they ran well so here we are.
"She was doing really well, she looks great and I just hate training them too long they could get hurt in the mornings. As long as they are doing well and you enter them, the more races you get into them, it's better for them. Especially those other two, there was no race for them, so I think they are going to get a lot out of it. They'll move way up from this. Bast, I can just freshen her up."
Sound Machine soundly thumped seven rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Glitter Woman Stakes at Gulfstream Park. After tracking the early leader, Sayonara Baby, she said good bye to that one and drew off to win by 6 1/2 lengths. Sayonara Baby held second, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of the favorite, Spanish Point. Sound Machine, an Into Mischief filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:17.35 with Tyler Gaffalione Up. It was her second win from four starts. She is a stablemate of Chance It.
"It was very impressive to see her do that, kind of like how she won first time out," Joseph said. We've kind of never really had her perfect since her first start. She always looked a little sulky on us and she's turned the corner now since her last race. She's obviously an expensive purchase ($500,000 at the Keeneland September sale) and it's good to get a stakes win and hopefully we can win a graded stakes down the line with her." He mentioned the Grade III Forward Gal on Feb. 2 as a potential target.
On the Gulfstream Park turf, French-bred She's My Type rallied from last of 11 to win Saturday's $100,000 Ginger Brew Stakes by a neck. Fellow late runner Moral Reasoning was second with the favorite, Abscond, settling for third after a stumbling start. She's My Type, a daughter of Dunkerque, got about 7 1/2 furlongs over firm going in 1:28.12 with Gaffalione riding. She now is 2-for-2 for trainer Christophe Clement with both wins coming over the Gulfstream greensward.
"She's a really talented filly," Gaffalione said. "She overcame a lot today. I didn't give her the best of trips. ... All the credit goes to Mr. Clement. He's been telling me for a while how nice she is. She proved it today."
Desert Stone raced last of seven into the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Gabriel, rallied around rivals through the lane and was along in time to win by a neck from the favorite, Cleopatra's Strike. Majestic Eagle soared to a brief lead before fading to report third. Desert Stone, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred son of Fastnet Rock, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.63. Geovanni Franco rode for trainer Richard Baltas. It was his first stakes win and only the third from 16 starts.
"Turf is weird," Baltas said. "Sometimes it holds the speed sometimes it doesn't. The turf course changes daily so that is just the way he runs. You can't change the horse's style, he runs from behind and Geovanni Franco is the only guy that knows how to ride him. If you look at his form this horse just likes this jockey."
Cash Offer had the best late effort in Saturday's $100,000 La Verdad Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, getting by Kept True in the late going for a 1-length win. The pacesetting odds-on favorite, Pauseforthecause, hit the pause button in the lane and finished third. Cash Offer, a 4-year-old Shackleford filly, finished 7 furlongs over a sloppy strip in 1:24.58 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
"She showed ability to rate, which helped today," trainer Mark Hennig said of Cash Offer. "Going forward, that will help a lot. We just felt like she's a filly that didn't want to go much over three-quarters last year. Now that she has learned the ability to rate, she looked like she could go a mile."
Ancient Land got things going late in Sunday's $100,000 Four Rivers John Deere Stakes for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds, but found enough late to win by 1/2 length over Franchise Tagged. Stormin Fast also was closing fast but settled for third. Ancient Land, a Monterey Jazz gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.16 with Luis Contreras riding for trainer Casey Lambert.
Tee Em Eye trailed early in Saturday's $65,000 Bold Ego Handicap for fillies and mares, swung out toward the middle of the track turning into he stretch and was up in time to score by 1/2 length. She's My Gem was best of the rest, a neck in front of the favorite, Into Mystic. Tee Em Eye, a 7-year-old mare by Cyclotron, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.80 with Enrique Gomez in the irons.
On the world scene:
Things heat up quickly in the desert and the Dubai World Cup Carnival is no exception. The Carnival's second meeting on Thursday features Round 1 of the Al Maktoum Challenge and the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial, both at 1 mile on the dirt, and the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes at 1,800 meters on the turf. The latter points to the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night.
With no one "good thing" yet emerging, the BMW Hong Kong Derby picture continues to evolve, week-by-week. Sunday at Shat Tin Racecourse, Beauty Legacy evolved into the picture with a late-running win in the Class 2 Broadwood Handicap for trainer John Size and jockey Joao Moreira. The race was his Hong Kong debut and his connections were cautiously optimistic after their first look.
Size said the Australian-bred Fiorente gelding will move along to the Hong Kong Classic Mile Jan. 27, the next step in the series. "The truth is I'm quite relieved with the performance because I was quite concerned before I even took the horse. I knew he'd have some management issues on race day. So far, so good!" he said.
Moreira, per instructions, took Beauty Legacy back toward the rear of the field and rode for luck late, finding an inside opening that led to the 1/2-length victory. Happy Fun was second, Decrypt third.
"He is one of a kind," the jockey said. "He's got presence, he's got temperament, he's got scope and he's got ability as well. Horses that get back first time out in such a strong class of race and do what he's just done, they must have class and I think he's one of them."
Size added, "Today, everything went perfectly. ... He showed he can give away a start and win, so we learned something. He was a little bit anxious today, first start at Sha Tin, so when he comes back next start for his second run, you'll know then whether he's going to be manageable or not. He's going to be worse or better."
Named Hawkshot while racing in Australia, he won the Group 2 Autumn Stakes at Caulfield and finished second in the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington before being sold to the Kwok family, which campaigns Hong Kong's long string of talented "Beauty" horses -- recently featuring Beauty Generation.
Invitational, the heavy favorite, rallied to the lead in the final furlong of Friday's Ladbrokes Where the Nation Plays Fillies Conditions Stakes at Wolverhampton and ran on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Rock On Baileys. Second Collection was a non-threatening third. Invitational, a 4-year-old Poet's Voice filly trained by Roger Varian and ridden by Jack Mitchell, earned a Fast-Track Qualifier berth in the Ladbrokes All-Weather Fillies & Mares Championship over the same distance at Lingfield Park on Finals Day, Good Friday, April 10.
"For a filly that has run quite a few times, she was wandering around in the straight, but she has got the job done," Mitchell said. "This is Fast-Track Qualifier, which means she is in the big race now on Good Friday, and hopefully she will come on again from today."
News and Notes
No real surprises came in Saturday's announcement of the 2019 Eclipse Award finalists. Structor, 3-for-3 and winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, beat out Dennis' Moment in the 2-year-old male category, but trainer Dale Romans will be happy to take the trophy after Dennis' Moment's 3-year-old year. The finalists, in alphabetical order, with my No. 1 votes in italics and underlined:
Horse of the Year: Bricks and Mortar, Maximum Security, Mitole
Two-Year-Old Male: Maxfield, Storm the Court, Structor
Two-Year-Old Filly: Bast, British Idiom, Sharing
Three-Year-Old Male: Code of Honor, Maximum Security, Omaha Beach
Three-Year-Old Filly: Covfefe, Guarana, Serengeti Empress
Older Dirt Male: McKinzie, Mitole, Vino Rosso
Older Dirt Female: Blue Prize (ARG), Elate, Midnight Bisou
Male Sprinter: Imperial Hint, Mitole, World of Trouble
Female Sprinter: Belvoir Bay (GB), Come Dancing, Covfefe
Male Turf Horse: Bricks and Mortar, Mo Forza, World of Trouble
Female Turf Horse: Got Stormy, Sistercharlie (IRE), Uni (GB)
Steeplechase Horse: Brain Power (IRE), Scorpiancer (IRE), Winston C (IRE)
Owner: Gary Barber, Peter Brant, Klaravich Stables, Inc. and William H. Lawrence
Breeder: Calumet Farm, Godolphin, George Strawbridge Jr.
Apprentice Jockey: Julio Correa, Angel Diaz, Kazushi Kimura
Notes: I abstained from voting in the Steeplechase category because I know nothing about horses jumping over things and in the apprentice jockey category because, if this is to be an award at all, I believe it should be by vote of the riders themselves.
Also, I did vote for the Ortiz brothers in the jockey category but also put Mike Smith on my ballot because, well, his numbers from a relatively small sample are stellar and he keeps popping up with great rides in key spots. No disrespect to several others who could win this on merit.
Finally, I have Blue Prize as No. 1 in the older dirt female category on merit -- she did defeat both Midnight Bisou and Elate late in the season and won the Breeders' Cup Distaff -- but also because I'd love to see trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Correas IV collect a statue.
Breeders' Cup Friday announced the appointment of John Keitt as chief operating officer and Rogers Beasley as chief strategy officer.
Keitt, who leaves his role as CEO and publisher of BloodHorse, will oversee the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the Breeders' Cup, including financials, business negotiations, operations, legal, sponsorship and marketing. He also will also work on future domestic and international business planning and structuring and other industry initiatives.
Beasley will work with Breeders' Cup management to shape the company's future business strategies, including future host site selection and expansion of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. He also will assist in planning for the Breeders' Cup World Championships and further developing the company's relationships with international partners.
Beasley joins Breeders' Cup following a 34-year tenure at Keeneland, during which he served as both director of sales and director of racing.