June 8 (UPI) -- Upsets were a common thread in weekend racing, with Almond Eye defeated in Japan, Quadrilateral and Pinatubo going down to their first defeats in England's Guineas, and Authentic vanquished for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby.
There's so much action as racing packs in top-level events in a shortened season that we'll start with the headlines and then mosey along to details. To wit:
Honor A.P. turned the tables on Authentic in the Santa Anita Derby, becoming a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender, while Swiss Skydiver continued her run in the Santa Anita Oaks.
Code of Honor, a multiple Grade I winner last year, made a successful return to action.
Improbable showed he's ready to rock and roll at age 5, winning the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup for fun.
Volatile just missed breaking the track record for 6 furlongs at Churchill Downs and will be a force in the Sprint Division going forward. While Vekoma was a Grade I winner in New York
Trainer Chad Brown continued his domination of the East Coast turf ranks, winning two of the four graded stakes on Saturday's Belmont Park card and saddling the first four finishers in one of them.
Bob Baffert suffered some tough knocks to his Kentucky Derby chances. But he did saddle the winners of a Grade I and Grade II at Santa Anita, which would be a pretty good weekend for most trainers. Most.
On the international scene, upsets were the rule in 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in England and in the Yasuda Kinen in Japan. A new superstar might emerge soon from South Africa.
Those are the headlines. In the weather, it's hot here in the Chicago area. In sports ... well, it's a good thing we have racing because there's not much else. So let's go.
The Road to the Triple Crown
Honor A.P. turned the tables on previously undefeated Authentic in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby. Sweeping four-wide around Authentic and two other embattled leaders on the stretch turn, Honor A.P. quickly assumed the lead and edged clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
Authentic held on for second with Rushie third. Honor A.P., with Mike Smith in the irons, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.97.
Smith said the postponement of the Kentucky Derby from May until September definitely worked in his colt's favor.
"He's one of the ones you didn't know about before this pandemic hit," Smith said. "You didn't know some horses were going to be peaking a whole lot better in May, which he probably wouldn't have been, [but] now that it's in September we should be seeing a bigger stronger horse by then. He should get every little bit of the mile and a quarter."
The colt is a son of Honor Code, who was sired by A.P. Indy, out of the Wild Rush mare Hollywood Story. Wild Rush won the 1998 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park at 9 furlongs in a dead heat with Silver Charm.
Honor A.P. broke his maiden in his second start last October, and then was sidelined until March 7, when he finished second, 2 1/4 lengths behind Authentic, in the Grade II San Felipe. Authentic entered Saturday's race 3-for-3.
The Santa Anita Derby was part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series and Honor Code earned 100 points, upping his total to 120, No. 2 on the list behind only Tiz the Law with 122. Authentic earned 40 points and stands No. 4 with 100.
Authentic's trainer, Bob Baffert, said his fears were realized when Authentic was forced wide around the first turn and all the way down the backstretch.
"He did all the heavy lifting all the way around to the stretch," Baffert said. "Mike Smith just sat back there and does what he does. The winner ran really well."
It has not been a good few weeks for Baffert, who is chasing a record-tying sixth Kentucky Derby win. The trainer announced Sunday that Charlatan, winner of one division of the Arkansas Derby, needs treatment for an ankle injury and will miss the Run for the Roses. The winner of the other division, Nadal, already has been retired with a training injury.
"I'm running low on horses," said Baffert, whose superstitious predictions could be coming true. Asked about the Kentucky Derby while at the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh on Feb. 29, he said, "Don't talk about that. It's a jinx."
The Road to the Oaks
Swiss Skydiver did nothing to tarnish her status atop the 3-year-old filly division with a no-nonsense, 4-lengths victory in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Oaks.
Jockey Mike Smith sent the Daredevil filly right to the front and only shook the reins once as Swiss Skydiver quickly put distance on the field. Speech, Merneith and Regal Beauty completed the order of finish.
Swiss Skydiver, trained in Louisville by Kenny McPeek, entered off wins in the Grade II Gulfstream Park Oaks and the Grade III Fantasy at Oaklawn Park. She went to the post Saturday as a heavy odds-on favorite.
"She's good. Just keeps getting better, too," McPeek said. "I was reluctant to bring her. We thought maybe we ought to wait for the Ashland with a short field and everything. She's easy to be around, she loves to run."
Said Smith, "I just stayed on. That's pretty much all I did."
At Churchill Downs on Friday, Shedaresthedevil was the front-running winner of the day's featured allowance race and trainer Brad Cox said the showing was plenty to keep the Daredevil filly on the road to the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks.
With Florent Geroux up, Shedaresthedevil cruised home first, 6 lengths in front of Mizzen Beau. It was her third win, including the Grade III Honeybee at Oaklawn Park in March.
"This was a good steppingstone to getting her ready for the Kentucky Oaks," Cox said. "She's proved in the past that she's talented and she's already a graded stakes winner. We'll definitely look at the [Road to Kentucky Oaks] schedule to point her to one of the local races this summer."
That could mean the $400,000 Grade I Ashland at Keeneland July 11 or the $200,000 Grade III Indiana Oaks at Indiana Grand three days earlier.
Instilled Regard rallied to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $150,000 Grade II Fort Marcy Stakes at Belmont Park, then held on to win by a neck from late-running Devamani. The first two finishers were saddled by Chad Brown, whose name will reappear in the rest of this report.
The show horse, who faded from the early lead, was Somelikeithotbrown. Instilled Regard, a 5-year-old son of Arch, ran 1 1/8 miles over the good inner turf course in 1:47.07 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.
Instilled Regard scored just his fourth win from 17 career starts.
"I was a little concerned today," Brown said of Instilled Regard. "He likes the ground firm and there was a lot of moisture. ... The turf is not that soft, but there definitely is some give in it."
Brown said Devamani "had everything against him pace wise and he still almost got there. He's an improving horse that we like quite a bit. He's on his way up."
Out west at Santa Anita, Hariboux tracked the early speed in Saturday's $150,000 Cinema Stakes for 3-year-olds, worked to the front in the lane and then was all out to hold off stablemate K P All Systems Go through the final yards.
The margin was a neck with Heywoods Beach another 1 length back in third. Hariboux, a British-bred gelding by Havana Gold, finished 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:50.29 with Umberto Rispoli riding.
Hariboux notched his second straight win and third from six starts since coming to the States after starting his 2-year-old career in England.
Filly & Mare Turf
On Sunday at Golden Gate Fields, Sloane Garden rallied from last of six to win the $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Meal Ticket, with Wicked Old Fashion third. Sloane Garden, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Iffraaj, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.39 with Kyle Frey aboard.
Code of Honor caught up with pacesetting Endorsed a furlong out in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park, started to edge away at the sixteenth pole and won by 1/2 length.
It was another 6 lengths back from Endorsed to Forewarned in third. Code of Honor, a 4-year-old colt by Noble Mission, got 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:42.39 with John Velazquez riding for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Code of Honor finished third in last year's Kentucky Derby, promoted to second. He then won the Grade III Dwyer, Grade I Travers and Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup before finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Westchester was the 2020 debut for the Will Farish homebred.
"I think he beat a pretty good horse in Endorsed," McGaughey said. "They were pretty far in front of the rest of them. Coming off that long layoff, I was very pleased."
McGaughey said he doesn't "want to do too much with him," but did not rule out a run in the $500,000 Grade I Met Mile on July 4, where he might face McKinzie and Vekoma (see below).
At Santa Anita, Improbable had things all his own way in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup. After shadowing the early leader, the 4-year-old City Zip colt seized the advantage entering the stretch turn and was not challenged thereafter.
He coasted home first by 3 1/4 lengths with Higher Power second and Tenfold another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Improbable, ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.69.
Improbable was 3-for-3 in 2018, winning the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity for the capper. He was second in both the Grade II Rebel and Grade II Arkansas Derby in 2019, then was fifth in the Kentucky Derby and sixth in the Preakness. Saturday's race was by far his most impressive showing.
"I got the consolation prize," winning trainer Baffert said, referring to his tough beat in the Santa Anita Derby. "I honestly thought I could win three races today. This horse has been training so well. Drayden had him in the perfect spot and he had plenty left for the run home. ... This horse is only going to get better."
Appropriately for D-Day, Saturday was "V for Victory" in graded sprints with Vekoma and Volatile victorious a coast apart.
At Belmont Park on Saturday, Vekoma tracked the early pace made by American Anthem in the $250,000 Grade I Runhappy Carter Handicap, got by that one and rolled on to a 7 1/4-lengths victory as the favorite.
Vekoma won last year's Blue Grass at Keeneland but finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He then was off until March 28, when he returned with a win in the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park, drawing off late to earn a career-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.
The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, but trainer George Weaver is looking a little sooner for his star.
"I think off that effort, we'll look at the Met Mile [Grade I, July 4] Weaver said. "If we can get him back in four weeks and if he's doing well, we'll think about it. He's such a special horse and he's one of those horses that will do things that you may not think are ideal for him. He's just that good."
For some reason, RUNHAPPY was all-caps in the Santa Anita Derby but capital R and then lowercase in the Carter, at least according to Equibase. We recall there was some issue with this sponsorship last summer at Kentucky Downs when Runhappy's owner, James "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, insisted on the all-caps version. We'll await further developments.
Volatile, the odds-on favorite, ran to his reviews in Saturday's $100,000 Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs. After tracking the early speed for a few furlongs, the 4-year-old Violence colt said goodbye and drew off steadily to win by 8 lengths.
Honest Mischief was second with Manny Wah third. Volatile, with Ricardo Santana Jr. aboard, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.55 -- just 0.02 second off the track record, set in 2007 by Indian Chant.
Volatile, a Steve Asmussen trainee, was making his stakes debut. He won three of his first four starts and finished second in the other.
"This horse has incredible talent," Santana said. "To go that fast as he did today shows he is extremely talented. He did that so easily."
Sunday at Santa Anita, Baffert got another bit of redemption as McKinzie, one of his favorite horses, came from last of five to win the Grade II Triple Bend Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths.
The margin over runner-up Fashionably Fast could have been greater but jockey Mike Smith didn't need or ask for McKinzie's best in the late going. He completed the 7 furlongs in 1:22.56 anyway.
McKinzie, a 5-year-old son of Street Sense, was making his first start since struggling home 11th in the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyada Feb. 29, a performance which Baffert termed "a fiasco."
Before that, he had won the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga and finished second in both the Grade I Awesome Again and the Breeders' Cup Classic, both at Santa Anita.
"It was workmanlike and this'll really move him up for next time," Baffert said. "Yes, this was a prep for the Met Mile," July 4 at Belmont Park.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Four Graces showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, lengthened the lead through the stretch and won by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Edgway.
Bayerness was a further 5 3/4 lengths back in third. Four Graces, a Majesticperfection filly, got the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.28 with Julien Leparoux aboard. The race was the stakes debut for the half-sister to McCracken and also her third win from four starts.
"I thought she was going to have to go faster to get the lead but it ended up working out for us with the early pace scenario," Four Graces' trainer Ian Wilkes said. "We had no other choice but to show speed because of her post on the inside ... There were some very nice fillies in this race that she beat."
At Gulfstream Park, Up in Smoke came running from last of eight to win Saturday's $75,000 Game Face Sakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 lengths over the favorite, Boerne. Addilyn was third.
Up in Smoke, a Florida-bred daughter of The Big Beast, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.22 for Emisael Jaramillo. The George Weaver trainee now is 4-for-5 with the lone loss coming in the Hollywood Wildcat Stakes where she reported fourth.
On Friday at Belmont, Honey I'm Good strode out to a quick lead in the $80,000 Harmony Lodge Stakes and made the early advantage hold up, winning by 1 length from the favorite, Royal Charlotte.
Those were followed by Pacific Gale and the second-favorite, Mother Mother -- another Baffert runner defeated. Honey I'm Good, a 4-year-old Shackleford filly, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.87. The Steve Asmussen-trained miss has finished in the top three in all but one of her 10 starts, winning five times.
"I was hoping for rain and we got a sealed track," said Asmussen assistant Toby Sheets. "She loves that. Everything went our way. She's a cool little horse."
Chad Brown saddled four of the 10 starters in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Intercontinental Stakes at Belmont Park and watched them romp home 1-2-3-4 with Newspaperofrecord making a statement at the front of the pack.
Newspaperofrecord, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Lope de Vega, won all three starts as a 2-year-old, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Last year, however, she was unable to carry her speed when sent around two turns.
Turned back to a career-shortest 7 furlongs for Saturday's race, she blasted away to a front-running, 4-lengths victory while returning from 11 months off. Stablemates Regal Glory, Significant Form and Viadera trailed her home, returning $13.15 for the all-Brown 10-cent exacta.
"She ran brilliantly," Brown said of Newspaperofrecord. "I wanted to see her back in the winner's circle off a brilliant effort, and she did that. She was up on the pace a little stronger than I had anticipated, but it was a great effort."
Brown said if she bounced back OK, he would like to tack on a furlong and sent Newspaperofrecord back out to the Just a Game Stakes on June 27.
She's So Special rallied between rivals in the stretch and was up to win Saturday's $75,000 Desert Code Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita by 1/2 length from El Tigre Terrible. Thanks Mr. Eidson was third.
She's So Special, a Hard Spun filly running against males, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.52 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Peter Miller. She was making her stakes debut and now has four wins from nine starts.
Up the coast at Golden Gate Fields, Mike's Tiznow had not raced since winning the 2019 Albany Stakes when he lined up for this year's renewal.
Showing no effects of the year-long hiatus, he was off in front of eight rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Albany Stakes, opened a daylight lead and lasted, winning by 3/4 length from Baja Sur. nyportinastorm pulled in third, another 1 1/4 lengths aft. Mike's Tiznow, a 5-year-old gelding by Slew's Tiznow, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.26 seconds with Ricardo Gonzalez in the irons.
On Sunday at Belmont Park, Therapist had all the answers in the $80,000 First Defence Stakes, rallying six-wide around the turn to reach contention. The 5-year-old Freud gelding then hooked up in a duel with Majestic Dunhill that was tight enough to warrant an objection which was not upheld. Therapist reported in 1:21.39 over 7 furlongs of firm turf. Flavius was third.
In other action:
One to watch: Cezanne was an easy winner in his career debut Saturday in a Maiden Special Weights event for 3-year-olds.
The Curlin colt, out of the Bernardini mare Achieving, tracked the pace, then strolled home first by 2 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. He could be a late-blooming bright spot for Baffert, who trains the colt for the Ireland-based Coolmore partners.
Super Patriot rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over Sedamar. Warren's Showtime was another 1/2 length back in third. Super Patriot, a 5-year-old Unusual Heat mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.66 with Flavien Prat in the irons.
Grinning Tiger led all the way to a 1 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Crystal Water Stakes for California-breds -- at odds of 92-1.
Lieutenant Dan, who defeated Grinning Tiger handily in their last meeting, was second this time, 1/2 length in front of Brandothebartender. Grinning Tiger, a 5-year-old Smiling Tiger gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.75. Heriberto Figueroa had the mount.
Muggsamatic got rolling late in Saturday's $100,000 Soldier's Dancer Stakes for Florida-breds and arrive in time to win by 1 length over Galleon Mast. The early leader, Wild Medagliad'oro, held on for third. Muggsamatic, a 6-year-old Any Given Saturday gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:41.63 with Edgard Zayas up.
Kelsey's Cross ran down pacesetting Crown and Sugar in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Ginger Punch Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, got by and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over that rival.
Picara, always close to the lead, settled for third. Kelsey's Cross, a 4-year-old Anthony's Cross filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on good going in 1:42.94 under Luca Panici.
Twirling Owen quickly opened a daylight lead in Friday's $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes for West Virginia-bred distaffers and won without challenge by 2 1/2 lengths, finishing 4 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 52.83 seconds. Remy's Rocket and Manarola filled the trifecta. Twirling Owen, a 3-year-old Twirling Candy filly, was running against older rivals.
Dr. Feelgood needed a little longer to assert himself in Saturday's $50,000 It's Only Money Stakes for state-breds but got the same result, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. The 5-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding got home in 52.05 seconds over a fast track with Freedom Is Ringing and Hypothesis in his wake.
Around the world, around the clock:
Gran Alegria dominated through the stretch run in Sunday's Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse and held on easily to win by 2 1/2 lengths, upsetting heavy favorite Almond Eye, who missed the start.
Gran Alegria earned a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" bid to the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland in November. The top three finishers, also including third-place Indy Champ, also earned a free pass to the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois in August at Deauville.
Gran Alegria, a 4-year-old filly by Deep Impact, got an uneventful trip under jockey Kenichi Ikezoe, finishing the 1,600 meters (about 1 mile) in 1:31.6.
Almond Eye, by contrast, was forced to run well off the pace and in some traffic by the top of the lane. The seven-time Group 1 winner got going late to nip Indy Champ for runner-up honors but was no threat to Gran Alegria for the win.
"I was focused on keeping her in good rhythm and in a good position, which all worked out beautifully," Ikezoe said of the winner. "She just gave her best with such a tenacious run down the stretch."
Jockey Christophe Lemaire said Almond Eye, who won the Grade 1 Victoria Mile just three weeks earlier, did her best.
"We had a poor break but I think we recovered well and made a smooth and strong bid turning for home with Gran Alegria in aim," Lemaire said. "She showed her good turn of foot but she could have done better. The winner was just so strong, it wasn't our day."
Gran Alegria, who won last year's Grade I Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas, now has five wins from eight starts.
It was pretty clear throughout Friday's Group 1 Hurwoth Bloodstock Coronation Cup at Newmarket that at least three bright stars were on display.
The winner, Ghaiyyath, clearly was one but staying champion Stradivarius also showed plenty of heart and no lack of talent, finishing third while running far too short for his talents.
And then one easily could add the runner-up, Anthony Van Dyck, making his first start since a year-end tour that took him to Santa Anita and Hong Kong.
Ghaiyyath, a 5-year-old son of Dubawi, jumped right out of the gate and jockey William Buick had no concerns thereafter. The Godolphin runner was well to the good of the others throughout and won by 2 1/2 lengths.
Frankie Dettori did his best aboard Stradivarius, shaking him up midway through the 1 1/2 miles, reaching second in the final few hundred meters and yielding grudgingly to an impressive late run by Anthony Van Dyck.
Other than a 10th-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last fall, Ghaiyyath has been pure joy for Sheik Mohammed and trainer Charlie Appleby. He scored his seventh win from 10 starts and looks primed to stride through whatever middle-distance tests he might face during the rest of the year.
"I would like to think that we could work back from the Arc again," Appleby said. "We have always felt as though coming back to 10 furlongs is never going to worry us when you have that natural pace."
Saturday, on The Opening Show on ITV, Appleby said Ghaiyyath exited the Coronation Cup in good order and now will target the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown. That's the race trainer John Gosden has penciled in as the seasonal debut for two-time Arc winner Enable. So don't touch that dial!
The showing was equally pleasing for the Coolmore lads and trainer Aidan O'Brien, who campaign Anthony Van Dyck, who won last year's Investec Derby and was third in last year's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf. Stradivarius, meanwhile, was prepping for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in two weeks' time and his connections said that goal was well met.
The rest of the weekend at Newmarket featured contenders for the Derby and the Oaks.
In Saturday's Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas, Kameko battled through a rapidly closing opening between rivals in the final furlong, surged to the lead when shown daylight by jockey Oisin Murphy and pulled off the 10-1 upset win for Qatar Racing and trainer Andrew Baldwin.
Wichita was second with Frankie Dettori riding for Aidan O'Brien and the Coolmore connections and the previously undefeated hot favorite, Pinatubo, couldn't light the fuse in the final 100 meters and settled for third in a disappointment for Godolphin, Appleby and jockey William Buick.
Kameko was bred in Kentucky by Calumet Farm, the next-door neighbor to Keeneland Racecourse, where this autumn's Breeders' Cup World Championships will be contested. He is by Kitten's Joy, a pre-eminent American sire of top-level grass runners, out of the Rock of Gibraltar mare Sweeter Still.
"This guy has the mental attitude and I think going there would be absolutely fine," Murphy said of the Derby. "But 12 furlongs is another half a mile further than the Classic he just won today."
The weekend of top-class racing wound up Sunday with the Group 1 1000 Guineas and that devolved into a battle among four of the world's heavyweight owners.
It was not until the final 150 meters of the 1,600-meters run that Ryan Moore got Love into an extra gear and quickly pulled clear of long-time leader Cloak of Spirits, well-favored Quadrilateral and 100-1 shot Final Song, winning by 4 1/4 lengths and looking like she will relish more ground.
Love, a Galileo filly, races for Coolmore. Cloak of Spirits, by Invincible Spirit, totes the yellow and black spots silks of Sheik Mohammed Obaid al Maktoum, a cousin of Dubai's ruler. Quadrilateral, a previously undefeated Frankel filly, is a Juddmonte Farms homebred. And Final Song, a daughter of Dark Angel, is a Godolphin homebred.
Love had finished behind winner Quadrilateral in the Group 1 Fillies Mile in their 2-year-old finale but left no doubt in Sunday's rematch and little doubt she is headed for the Investec Oaks.
"We always thought the Oaks was going to suit her and the Guineas was the place to start off," trainer Aidan O'Brien Zoomed.
"We thought she'd be a filly for a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. We thought she'd stay well and it was a nice starting point here. The distance between the races should be perfect."
The Hong Kong jockey competition between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton continued to poke along in the slow lane during Sunday's rainy race meeting at Sha Tin. Moreira rode a single winner while Purton was blanked, leaving the latter with a three-win lead, 128-125.
While the "big two" were failing to find the line, Matthew Poon booted home four winners on the card, boosting his 2019-20 season total to 29.
"I didn't expect this. I didn't expect four winners today," Poon said. "The rain we had meant that conditions must have suited my horses and they were able to perform, so I had all the benefits. I'm very happy and lucky."
Hawwaam, with Callan Murray aboard, captured Saturday's Group 1 H.F. Oppenheimer Horse Chestnut Stakes by some 1 1/2 lengths over Queen Supreme -- both runners trained by Mike de Kock.
A pair of Sean Terry horses, Cirillo and Tierra de Fuego, were third and fourth. Hawwaam, a 4-year-old Silvano colt, recorded his third Group 1 win.
"Today Hawwaam walked around the ring quietly and ran accordingly," de Kock told Sporting Post. "Sheikh Hamdan [his owner] is desperate to have him abroad. So we have to think hard if we go to Durban or not."
That would be for the Group 1 Vodacom Durban July, which has been delayed this year to July 25. De Kock would have the welcome consolation of Queen Supreme for that race.
"He is a horse who would fly the SA flag abroad," De Kock said of Hawwaam.
Out of Your League was deemed just that in the Group 1 South Africa Derby, dispatched at odds of 45-1. But the Elusive Fort gelding turned the table on his rivals and the clueless wagering public, rolling home first, 1/2 length in front of Shango. The favorite, Got the Greenlight, was a close third.
Summer Pudding was just the right recipe in the Group 1 Wilgerbosdrift South Africa Oaks -- although it is going on winter there. The Silvano filly, with Gavin Larena aboard, scored by 1 1/4 lengths over Pomander, who outran her odds with Murry up. Ballet Shoes was an even longer chance while finishing third.