April 13 (UPI) -- With uncertainty everywhere because of the coronavirus pandemic, winning big races brings a big dose of confusion along with the thrill of victory -- as it did during the weekend from Australia to Japan to Arkansas.
Mr. Big News entered the Kentucky Derby picture in a big way with a win at Oaklawn Park, but who knows what races now might pave his way to the Kentucky Derby?
Addeybb proved in Australia he's a top-class international runner, but will trainer William Haggas be able to get him back to England for the summer -- if there is summer racing?
Things seemed more clear-cut in Japan, where Daring Tract won the first leg of the fillies Triple Crown and seems headed for the Oaks. Fingers crossed.
Here's how things happened on a weekend with a very restricted list of stakes events:
The Road to the Roses
Mr. Big News pulled off the big upset in Saturday's $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes, rallying wide into the lane and outfinishing Farmington Road to win by 1/2 length at odds of nearly 47-1.
Taishan took the lead turning for home but faded to finish fourth. The favorite, Thousand Words, nearly fell coming out of the starting gate and never recovered, finishing 11th in the 13-horse field.
Mr. Big News, a Giant's Causeway colt out of the Galileo mare Unappeased, ran 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:49.89. Gabriel Saez had the mount for trainer Bret Calhoun.
The colt took four tries to find the winner's circle, then finished fifth, beaten only 4 lengths, in a division of the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in his only other start.
Despite the record, Calhoun said he was not surprised with Saturday's win, but now is up in the air as to how to proceed Mr. Big News, given the postponement of the Kentucky Derby and the fact dates for the Preakness and Belmont still are uncertain.
"I know he was a big long shot, but we've had quite a bit of confidence in him over the last couple of months," Calhoun said.
"It was a great setup. It was very hot fractions and beneficial for us. Gabe worked out a good trip for that horse. It was a trip that's maybe not the best trip for a lot of horses, but it was the best trip for him."
Calhoun said Mr. Big News would ship right back to his base at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, with the option of returning May 2 for the Arkansas Derby. He said that might be the ideal option but his colt might need the Kentucky Derby points if he is to get into the Run for the Roses. He currently has none.
Churchill Downs officials have promised to add points races during the summer, but have not yet done so, leaving connections confused about scheduling.
Since there were no points on the line in the Oaklawn Stakes, Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law remains atop the leader board with 122 points, followed by Louisiana Derby winner Wells Bayou, Fountain of Youth winner Ete Indien, Risen Star (division) winner Modernist and San Felipe winner Authentic.
No further Derby qualifiers are slated between now and the Arkansas Derby. The Santa Anita Derby is on hold while Stronach Group officials try to win approval to resume racing at Santa Anita. Outright cancellations at Aqueduct and Keeneland scrubbed the Wood Memorial, Blue Grass and Lexington.
Tom's d'Etat found his best stride midway around the stretch turn in Saturday's $150,000 Oaklawn Mile and chased down Improbable to score by 1/2 length. Improbable, who spurted to the lead entering the lane, held second by 2 lengths over Bankit.
Tom's d'Etat, a 7-year-old son of Smart Strike, ran 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:35.82. Joel Rosario rode.
"Now that we're talking post-race, I couldn't be any more happy with exactly how it turned out," trainer Al Stall Jr. said.
"The type of race he had and the way Joel rode him to save a little bit to keep us on the upward part of the curve -- that's the hottest word in America right now. We don't want to flatten the curve with this horse."
Tom's d'Etat was having his first outing since winning the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November. He ran his record to 10 wins from 17 career starts.
The Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes finished true to form despite the heavy going at Royal Randwick as the favorite, Addeybb, got home first by nearly three lengths over Verry Elleegant. Japanese Raider Danon Premium was third, another 1/2 length back after 2,000 meters.
Addeybb raced well behind breakaway pacesetter Gailo Chop, caught that fading rival on the turn and surged to the lead as the field straightened for home. Danon Premium loomed boldly on the far outside but could not sustain the challenge, losing the place in the final strides as Addeybb was saying good bye to the field.
Addeybb, trained in England by William Haggas and ridden in Australia by Tom Marquand, made it two in a row since arriving Down Under. He won the Group 1 Ranvet stakes, also with Verry Elleegant second, March 21.
Danon Premium, a 5-year-old son of Deep Impact, was having his first start since November, when he finished second in the Mile Championship at Kyoto.
Harry Eustace, Haggas's traveling manager, said he expects his boss will want Addeybb back in England for the summer and fall campaign, transportation schedules and COVID-19 considerations permitting.
"A lot of time and effort goes into a win like this from everyone back at home," Eustace said.
Colette took The Star Australian Oaks convincingly, reporting 2 1/2 lengths to the good of the closest competition, Toffee Tongue. Quintessa was another 3 lengths back in third with highly regarded Shout the Bar sixth and Probabeel eighth.
Colette, a daughter of Hallowed Crown, scored her third straight victory and second in a row with Toffee Tongue and Quintessa in second and third. She has missed a top-two finish only once, that in her career debut.
In the Oaks Collette waited patiently until the field hit the turn, found another gear and quickly opened up a huge lead by mid-stretch, coasting home thereafter.
Etah James edged The Chosen One and Raheen House for the win in the Schweppes Sydney Cup by just a neck after traveling 2 miles on heavy going. The top two were dispatched at double-digit odds and the favorite, British import Young Rascal, was a well-beaten seventh for Haggas and Marquand.
In the day's fourth Group 1 endeavor, Con Te Partiro won the Coolmore Legacy stakes by some 2 lengths with the Chris Waller stablemates Funstar and Danzdanzdance second and third.
Con Te Partiro, a 6-year-old Scat Daddy mare, won the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot in 2017 when trained by Wesley Ward. She took the Group 1 Coolmore Classic in a bit of a breakthrough for her Down Under connections.
Daring Tact was along late to outfinish the favorite, Resistencia, in Sunday's Grade 1 Oka Sho, or Japanese 1000 Guineas, maintaining her undefeated record and well entering the picture for next month's Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks.
Resistencia, last year's 2-year-old filly champion in Japan, appeared to have the race in her hip pocket 100 meters out after chasing long shot pacesetter Smile Cana. But jockey Kohei Matsuyama, aboard Daring Tract, had other ideas.
In full flight once she straightened for home, the Epiphaneia filly had no trouble breezing by Resistencia and Yutaka Take, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Smile Cana held on for third.
Cravache d'Or and Maltise Diosa, the other two favorites, both factors in the Grade I Hanshin Juvenile Fillies last fall, finished fourth and eighth, respectively, although Cravache d'Or found her best stride in the final few furlongs.
The race was run in the rain, over yielding turf and before an empty grandstand at Hanshin Racecourse because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Daring Tract was caught behind horses shortly after the start, fell well back and had to rally wide to challenge for the lead.
"I concentrated on her rhythm more than where to position her today," Matsuyama said. "We were far behind the leaders and desperate in catching up, but she responded beautifully and stretched incredibly all the way to the line."
He said he is looking forward to seeing attendance restrictions lifted and to riding Daring Tract in the Yushun Himba, where she will tackle 1 1/4 miles. She has not yet gone beyond 1 mile in any of her starts.
"I'm not worried about the added distance in the coming Japanese Oaks," Matsuyama said. "But she does have issues to work on such as being relaxed.
"I'm praying that the day we can race in front of the crowd again will come soon," he added.