June 15 (UPI) -- She's a Julie upset the Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park, Admission Office beat Arklow at Churchill Downs and Eye of a Jedi knocked off two graded stakes winners at Gulfstream Park in a horse racing weekend filled with surprises.
On the international front, last year's French Derby winner returned to the winner's circle and some top 3-year-olds from Ireland and France advanced toward this strange season's Classics.
While it was a mixed bag during the weekend, the coming week is full of top-level racing. Notably, Royal Ascot on Tuesday kicks off its first-ever renewal without spectators -- or Royals -- and Saturday finds the Belmont Stakes starting rather than anchoring the U.S. Triple Crown series.
We'll have the Royal Ascot scoops throughout the week, as well as a look at the Belmont. For now, here's the scoop on what's already transpired:
She's a Julie, the longest chance in the six-horse field, got the best of a three-horse blanket finish in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
With Ricardo Santana Jr. riding, the 5-year-old Elusive Quality mare came three-wide into the stretch, then battled with Point of Honor before prevailing by a nose. Ollie's Candy tracked pacesetting Blame into the stretch, assumed the lead and then held on for third, just a neck back of Elusive Quality.
She's a Julie finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:40.27. It was her first win since the Grade I La Troienne at Churchill Downs last May and secured her a "Win and You're In" spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff at Keeneland in November.
"I said to Ricardo before the race that there was a lot of pace in there, and that's how the race unfolded," said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "It was a very patient ride and the pace upfront helped. She ran super."
The Road to the Oaks
Gingham, with Mike Smith riding patiently, came from last to first in Saturday's $75,000 Angels Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita.
Been Studying Her had surged to the lead in the stretch run but couldn't stave off the winner, finishing 1 length in arrears but 5 1/4 lengths in front of the show horse, Biddy Duke. Gingham, a Quality Road filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.21.
Gingham, trained by Bob Baffert, finished second to Venetian Harbor in the Grade II Las Virgenes in February, then fifth in the Gardenia Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 5 in her last start.
"I think after watching this race today it may be that she wants to split middle distance, that 6 1/2 or seven-eighths," Smith said. "A one-turn mile would be brilliant, perfect."
Turf / Filly & Mare Turf
Admission Office got first run to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs, then held off the favorite, Arklow, to win by a head. He's No Lemon was 1 1/4 lengths farther back in third.
Admission Office, a 5-year-old son of Point of Envy, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:27.25 with Julien Leparoux riding. Trained by Brian Lynch, he had not won in eight starts since taking an allowance event at Keeneland in April 2019.
"He's run some big races to get beat just a head and a neck," Lynch said of Admission Office. "Arklow is an outstanding horse and it was a great battle today. Thankfully we had our head down at the right time on the wire. He's a well-accomplished horse and this will open the door up to more turf marathon races in the future."
At Santa Anita on Sunday, Dogtag rallied four-wide to challenge for the lead turning for home in the $75,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes for fillies and mares, sustained a nice run through the lane and won by 1 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite.
Don't Blame Judy came with a late rush to finish second and Pretty Point rallied from last of seven to get show money. Dogtag, a 4-year-old War Front filly, finished 1 1/4 miles on firm turf, starting on the downhill course, in 2:00.69. Flavien Prat had the ride for trainer Richard Mandella.
Dogtag was competitive in the graded stakes ranks as a 3-year-old on the East Coast but went to the sidelines after finishing 10th in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks last August. She returned March and now has a win and two seconds in three 2020 starts.
"She seems to be getting better and better," Mandella said of Dogtag. "I thought she'd break sharp and be on the lead, but Flavien got her to settle real nice, which was good. He usually does the right thing. We'll go ahead and point to the John Mabee at Del Mar" -- a Grade II at 9 furlongs on the turf Sept. 5.
Kanderel put a head in front of Ajourneytofreedom on the wire in Saturday's $75,000 Alcatraz Stakes for 3-year-olds at Golden Gate. The long-time leader, Bettor Trip Nick, tired late to finish third, another 2 lengths back.
Kanderel, a Candy Ride colt based at Santa Anita, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.82 with Juan Hernandez riding. The win was his second from six starts.
Neptune's Storm shadowed pacesetting Kiwi's Dream to mid-stretch in Sunday's $250,000 Grade III San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields, hooked that on in a duel to the wire and prevailed by a head.
It was a further 1 3/4 lengths to Camino Del Paraiso in third. Neptune's Storm, a 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding, finished in 1:35.50 with William Antongeorgi III in the irons.
Neptune's Storm, trained at Santa Anita by Richard Baltas, is a multiple stakes winner and finished second in the Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar last November. The win was his sixth from 17 starts.
Classic / Dirt Mile
Saturday's $55,000 Coaltown Handicap at Gulfstream Park drew Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard and multiple Grade I stakes-placed Diamond Oops. But it was 17-1 long shot Eye of a Jedi blowing by Diamond Oops in the stretch run and scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over that one.
Red Crescent was third after holding the lead for a while and Math Wizard never figured, finishing fifth. Eye of a Jedi, a 5-year-old Eye of the Leopard gelding, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.17 with Marcos Meneses in the irons.
Diamond Oops reported fourth in the Pegasus World Cup in his last outing while Math Wizard was eighth in the Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. Eye of a Jedi had not won since he took the restricted Sea of Tranquility Stakes over the course and distance last July.
"He's a good horse. These are old tough veterans that he beat. They don't come back in a race -- they go," winning trainer Steve Budhoo said. He's just coming into his own."
North of the Border
The 3-year-old series leading to the Queen's Plate and Woodbine Oaks got off to a belated start Saturday at Woodbine.
In the $100,000 (Canadian) Star Shoot Stakes for fillies, Owlette swooped right to the lead and flew home first by 1 3/4 lengths. Curlin's Voyage was best of the rest, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Coach Lori.
All three were making their 2020 debut. Owlette, a daughter of Frac Daddy, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.55 under Jerome Lermyte. As an Ontario-bred, she is eligible to the Plate and Oaks.
The definitive winner of the $100,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes, however, is not eligible as he is a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Goldencents. Newsome, under Luis Contreras, came four-wide to gain the lead after being crowded back at the start, and then jetted out to win by 5 1/2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Untitled. Lookinatamiracle was another 3 1/4 lengths back as Newsome finished in 1:09.99.
In other action:
Captain Bombastic rallied by pacesetting long shot Listentoyourheard in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Mike Lee Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-olds and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that foe.
The favorite, Dream Bigger, settled for third. Captain Bombastic, a Forty Tales colt from the Cat Thief mare Stolen Star, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.94 with Luis Saez up. The Jeremiah Englehart trainee has gone to the post six times, recording three wins, two seconds and a third.
Funny Guy rallied from far back in the field to win Friday's $125,000 Commentator Stakes for New York-breds by 1 1/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Mr. Buff. Bankit was third.
Funny Guy, a 4-year-old Big Brown colt, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.35 under Joel Rosario. A force in the state-bred ranks last year, Funny Guy had not raced since finishing eighth in the Grade III Oklahoma Derby last September.
Tiger Dad and Principe Carlo dueled through the first 5 furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Thor's Echo Stakes for California-breds with Tiger Dad finally edging clear in the late going to win by 3/4 length.
Principe Carlo held second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of the even-money favorite, Desert Law. Tiger Dad, a 4-year-old Smiling Tiger gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56 with Victor Espinoza riding.
Lone Star Park
Sunday's program featured seven $75,000 stakes events, all for state-breds.
Ima Discreet Lady kicked away late to post a 4 1/2-lengths victory in the Yellow Rose Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs with Silver City Trick second. Ima Discreet Lady, a 4-year-old daughter of Discreet Cat, finished in 1:10.68 for jockey David Cabrera.
Direct Dial also found a spare gear in the stretch run of the Spirit of Texas Stakes, winning off by 5 lengths over odds-on favorite Imma Bling. Direct Dial, a 5-year-old son of Too Much Bling, got home in 1:11.60 with Stewart Elliott riding.
In the Richard King Turf Stakes at 9 furlongs, odds-on favorite Redatory dueled with Sunlit Song through the final furlong before defeating that one by a head. Redatory, a 5-year-old Oratory gelding, reported in 1:48.44 with Deshawn Parker up.
The 6-furlongs Groovy Stakes for 3-year-olds went the way of Wonders of Hislove. The Early Flyer colt led all the way and scored by 1 length over Gold Pilot. Ivan Arellano booted home the winner in 1:11.24.
Always Inthe Munny was the day's best bet, at least by the tote board, and ran like it, winning the 6-furlongs Bara Lass Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by an easy 8 1/2 lengths. Gee She Sparkles was up for second as Always Inthe Munny finished in 1:10.62 with Parker at the controls.
Fillies and mares tackled 1 1/16 miles on the turf in the San Jacinto Turf Stakes with Herb's Love coming from off the pace to win by 3 lengths with Parker scoring his third stakes win of the day. Averys Miss was best of the rest. Herb's Love, a 4-year-old filly by Etesaal was clocked in 1:42.39.
Parker made it four wins in the next race, the 1-mile Star of Texas Stakes, steering Kenai Bob home first by 10 1/2 lengths. Mucho Dinero got the place dinero as Kenai Bob stopped the timer in 1:37.55.
Around the world, around the clock:
Siskin had to overcome some adversity in Friday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh but, for all that, was good enough to dominate proceedings and promise a lot more for the future.
The undefeated First Defence colt, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, was racing mid-pack inside the 300-meters marker, getting ready to make his move, when Lope Y Fernandez came blitzing along in front of him to take the lead.
Jockey Colin Keane had to switch out behind that rival into Armory, moving that one a bit to make room. Once he did, he easily surged to the lead and outfinished Vatican City, winning by 1 3/4 length. Lope Y Fernandez was third, Armory fourth.
Siskin was 4-for-4 as a juvenile and making his 3-year-old debut and trainer Ger Lyons said Keane did just right in the winning move, although it did prompt a look by the stewards before the race was posted official.
Noting the door was shut on Siskin by several of the six-strong Coolmore contingent, Lyon told Racing Post, "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But if you don't have the horse, if there was a kink in him, he wasn't going to go through that gap, and the horse got Colin out of trouble."
Among the 3-year-old fillies:
Peace and Love, the motto of the 1960s, suddenly also comprise a powerful duo for the Coolmore lads and trainer Aidan O'Brien. Last week, it was Love who dominated the Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas. Saturday, it was Peaceful with an equally convincing victory in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh.
There was little to the race. Peaceful dueled with Valeria Messalina until inside the 200-meters mark, put that one away and went about her business for jockey Seamie Heffernan, winning by 2 lengths.
The race was a family affair as Donnacha O'Brien saddled the runner-up, Fancy Blue, Aidan sent out the third-place finisher, So Wonderful, and Joseph Patrick O'Brien trains the fourth-place filly, New York Girl. The favorite, Albigna, was never in the mix and finished sixth.
"We knew he had nice fillies," Racing TV quoted O'Brien as saying. "They [Love and Peaceful] are Galileo fillies and we are just so lucky to have them. They are beautifully bred, big, rangy, scopey fillies, and they get better and better."
Of note, Fancy Blue is by the late, great Japanese Sire, Deep Impact, from a Sadler's Wells mare. So Wonderful was sired by War Front and New York Girl is by New Approach, a son of Galileo.
O'Brien said Peaceful and Love both must be considered for Royal Ascot despite the short turnaround in a coronavirus-compacted season.
"It's rapid the way things are happening this season and it's very hard to make plans because it's changing all the time," he said. "You don't get much time to think, but it's just great to be racing."
The Aidan O'Brien-Heffernan team won four races on the card, including the finale in which globetrotting superstar Magic Wand made her first start since finishing ninth in the $20 million Saudi World Cup Feb. 29. The 5-year-old Galileo mare wasn't tested in winning easily over three opponents at 1 mile.
Sottsass, the 2019 French Derby winner, found his way back to the winner's enclosure Sunday at Chantilly, taking the Group 1 Prix Ganay in a hard-won victory over Way to Paris.
Sottsass, a Siyouni colt, traveled well amid four rivals, worked by the long-time leader, Shaman, at mid-stretch and then was all out to win by a head his oncoming foe. Shaman held third.
With Cristian Demuro in the irons, Sottsass righted the ship after finishing fourth in his 2020 debut in Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt at Longchamp, a race won by Shaman with Way to Paris second.
"It's a relief because we knew he wasn't at 100 per cent for his comeback run," Racing Post quoted Demuro as saying. "But, even so, he finished a way behind some of the horses he faced again today.
"I know the second horse well and I'm happy that today we have seen the real Sottsass, while I think he can improve again for the run," he said.
Sottsass's odds were dropped a bit in futures wagering for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, where many may have forgotten he finished third last year behind only Waldgeist and Enable.
In Sunday's Group 1 Saxon Warrior Coolmore Prix Saint Alary for 3-year-old fillies at Chantilly, Tawkeel rallied outside Magic Attitude a furlong from home and quickly said adieu, drawing off to a 5-lengths win.
Magic Attitude just did hold second over the late-closing favorite, Solsticia. Tawkeel, a Teofilo filly racing for Sheik Hamdan, remains undefeated after four starts -- the first three coming on the all-weather surfaces at Pau, Cagneys-Sur-Mer and Deauville.
Sheikh Hamdan's Raabihah already is the anteposte favorite for the Group 1 Prix de Diane, leading to thoughts Tawkeel might journey to Epsom to contest the Investec Oaks on the same first weekend of July.
"I will speak to Sheikh Hamdan and see what he wants to do," racing manager Angus Gold said. "Before today we knew Raabihah was good and we hoped Tawkeel was. It's nice to have two fillies of that class in France."