July 20 (UPI) -- Authentic won the Haskell to keep his Kentucky Derby hopes alive in a highlight of weekend horse racing, while Paris Lights moved a step closer to the Kentucky Oaks.
Aquaphobia upset the Grade I United Nations in New Jersey and Chad Brown had another good day on the New York turf.
Internationally speaking, Persian King was a dominant winner in the Prix d'Ispahan at Chantilly and Even So took down the Irish Oaks.
Meanwhile, some interesting statistics are cropping up about racing without spectators, or with only limited attendance. NYRA reported Sunday that Saratoga's opening weekend all-sources handle, with no fans in the stands, topped more than $80 million -- an increase of 9.4 percent over the 2019 opening weekend.
Saturday's stakes-packed Haskell Day at Monmouth Park saw the New Jersey seaside track accept a record handle for a non-Breeders' Cup card despite limited attendance. The track reported just less than $20.5 million in all-sources handle, breaking the record of $20.02 million set on Haskell Day in 2015.
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the few tracks permitted to conduct live racing saw a bonanza of simulcast money flow into their pools. As things have opened up in most venues, however, much of the competition for wagering dollars has returned, making records more significant.
So, perhaps there's hope yet for the sport. Meanwhile, we hope you had some of these:
The Road to the Roses
Authentic looked like the real deal heading down the stretch with a big lead in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I TVG.com Haskell at Monmouth Park.
Then the wheels started to wobble and the Into Mischief colt just did hold on to win by a long nose over a fast-closing Ny Traffic. Dr Post was an uninvolved third.
The narrow margin of victory earned Authentic 100 points toward a start in the Kentucky Derby. But trainer Bob Baffert acknowledged there's still some work to do with the colt if he's going to go from the Haskell's 9 furlongs to the Derby's 10.
The win also provided Authentic a "Win and You're In" berth in the $7 million Longines Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Keeneland -- with the same caveat.
Authentic sprinted out of the gate and led the way in the Haskell with Ny Traffic tagging right along to his outside. No more than 1 length separated the two until the top of the stretch, when Authentic suddenly was out front by some 3 lengths.
Just inside the furlong marker, Ny Traffic got a green light and quickly closed the gap, falling a few strides short of catching the winner in 1:50.45.
Baffert, who watched the race from California, agreed Authentic "wasn't focused going down the stretch" and might need blinkers to help keep his mind on business. But he said assistant Jimmy Barnes reported the colt "came back not really that tired," indicating he might go farther.
Authentic won his first three races, including the Grade III Sham and the Grade II San Felipe, at Santa Anita. Stretched out to a mile and an eighth in the Santa Anita Derby, he finished second to Honor A.P., losing ground through the stretch.
Ny Traffic, trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., was third in the Grade II Risen Star, second in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and second again in the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs. Dr Post was second in the Belmont Stakes in his most recent start.
"Big Money" Mike Smith demonstrated why he's in demand for big-money races.
"He's a colt with an abundance of talent," Smith said of Authentic. "Ability is something he does not lack. He's got a lot of it. But what he is lacking right now, he's learning. He's growing up. He sees things.
"He kicked away like I wanted him to heading for home. Once that horse started to come at him, I wanted to get into him a little bit just to get him going. If he was going to start playing again, I thought, 'I just better stay riding and hope he could hang on at that point, which he did.
"I rode him well past the wire just to show him to keep running. I didn't want him to think it was over when we hit the wire."
In the wagering, Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law closed Sunday as the 5-2 favorite in Pool 6 of the Kentucky Downs Futures Wager, followed by Santa Anita Derby winner Honor A.P. (6-1), Los Alamitos Derby winner Uncle Chuck (6-1), Blue Grass winner Art Collector (8-1), Authentic (9-1) and "All Other 3-year-old Males: (13-1).
It's worth noting that, bar Tiz the Law and possibly Authentic, all of those mentioned individual favorites made their mark after the original May 2 date for the Kentucky Derby and it's unlikely any would have made it into the starting gate then.
Pool 7 (and last) is slated to run Aug. 7 to 9. Remember, there are no refunds. If your horse doesn't run, you lose.
The Road to the Oaks
Paris Lights pressed the pace made by Crystal Ball in Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, engaged that one turning for home and won a long stretch battle by a head.
Antoniette was third, 4 3/4 lengths farther back. The favorite, Tonalist's Shape, was fourth and Velvet Crush completed the order of finish.
Paris Lights, a Curlin filly from the Bernardini mare Paris Bikini, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.81. Tyler Gaffalione had the mount for trainer Bill Mott. Bob Baffert trains Crystal Ball.
Paris Lights now has three consecutive wins, the two prior coming at Churchill Downs, and earned 100 points toward a start in the Kentucky Oaks. But trainer Bill Mott has a more immediate target in mind for the filly -- the $500,000 Grade I Alabama on Aug. 15, which also is a Kentucky Oaks points race.
"I don't see any reason we wouldn't make that her potential goal. We've been lucky enough to win it a couple of times and naturally, I'd like to try it again," said Mott, a three-time winner of the Alabama.
Aquaphobia, claimed in January for $62,500, closed sharply through the final furlong to win Saturday's $315,000 Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park by 1 length.
Paret led most of the way and saved second with Corelli third. The favorite, Arklow, came up short for the fifth straight race, finishing fourth with a late effort.
Aquaphobia, a 7-year-old entire son of Giant's Causeway, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:12.63 with Joe Bravo up. He now has two wins and a second since being claimed by trainer Mike Maker.
Saturday's win alone was worth $180,000 and the horse has earned more than a quarter-million dollars since Maker visited the Gulfstream Park claim box.
"Joe Bravo rode him beautifully," Blood-Horse quoted Maker as saying. "We had a lot of confidence in the horse coming in, and he didn't let us down. ... We felt this horse was better than we were getting out of him. I think the distance was the reason. He'd been training dynamite, so I was optimistic."
Decorated Invader allowed long shot Get Smokin to take a big early lead in Saturday's $150,000 Grade II National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, then reeled that foe in at the top of the land went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Get Smokin held second, a nose better than late-running Domestic Spending.
Decorated Invader now has won five of his last six starts, the lone loss coming in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, where he reported fourth, beaten just 1 1/2 lengths.
"I thought he looked better in the last sixteenth of a mile than he did before that," Clement said of Decorated Invader's effort Saturday. "He actually won going away at the end."
Clement said the $500,000 Saratoga Derby on Aug. 15 "is one of the targets. We'll have to see how he comes out of this and see how he trains, but that's a logical spot at the moment."
Filly & Mare Turf
Speaktomeofsummer saved ground through the stretch turn in Sunday's $150,000 Grade II Lake Placid Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, split rivals to take the lead entering the lane, then was all out to prevail by a head over Stunning Sky.
It was another 1 1/2 lengths to Queen's Embrace in third. Speaktomeofsummer, a daughter of Summer Front, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.44 with Joel Rosario up. She scored her third win after finishing fourth in the Grade III Wonder Again at Belmont in her last trip.
"She had a great trip. It was a pretty game last eighth of a mile," trainer Christophe Clement said of Speaktomeofsummer. "I'm delighted. She can do a mile to a mile an eighth for sure, but any further I don't know. I would have to think about it."
Clement said the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks on Aug. 16 is a possibility, adding, "I would have to think about it because of the timing ... Instead of me, we'll let her tell us and see what happens."
Nay Lady Nay was along in the final furlong to take Saturday's $150,000 Grade III WinStar Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth Park by 1/2 length from Beautiful Lover. Feel Glorious was third.
Nay Lady Nay, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by No Nay Never, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.21 with Paco Lopez riding for trainer Chad Brown. Brown also trains Beautiful Lover.
Nay Lady Nay scored her fourth win from seven starts -- a record that also includes a victory in the Grade II Mrs. Revere at Churchill Downs last fall.
Lady Grace trailed all save one in the early furlongs of Saturday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Royal North Stakes at Woodbine, rallied willingly when called on by jockey Kazushi Kimura, and got the job done, winning by 3/4 length.
Eyeinthesky, Bohemian Bourbon, Charmaine's Mia and Sister Peacock trailed in that order, with less than 1 length covering all four. Lady Grace, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred filly by Kantharos, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:06.90, missing the course record by 0.02 second.
Lady Grace, trained by Mark Casse, took a while to figure things out in her first two seasons but this year has won four of six starts between Gulfstream Park and Woodbine. The Royal North was her first graded stakes effort.
"Last time winning with her, the filly was such a nice horse," Kimura said. "I'm not surprised today. Last time I went to the front, but today there were so many speed horses to the front side, I just changed my mind, sat behind, stalking from behind then she came flying today."
Archidust blew by pacesetting American Sailor in the stretch run of Saturday's $82,500 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. It was another 2 lengths to Shekky Shebaz, who was the subject of an inquiry after drifting in during the stretch run. No action was taken.
Archidust, a 4-year-old Verrazano colt, completed about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.26 with Hector Diaz Jr. riding for trainer Steve Asmussen. It was his sixth win in his 13th start.
Global Campaign led from the start in Saturday's $315,000 Grade III Monmouth Cup, was headed by Bal Harbour a furlong out and battled back to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Math Wizard rallied from last of nine to finish second, 1 length better than Bal Harbour. Global Campaign, a 4-year-old Curlin colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.47 with Jorge Vargas Jr. in the irons.
Global Campaign, trained by Stanley Hough, won the Grade II Peter Pan last year at Belmont Park and finished third in the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga. He now is 2-for-3 in 2020.
Horologist stalked the pace in Saturday's $277,500 Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth Park, then kicked into gear and outfinished Our Super Freak by 2 lengths.
The favorite, Royal Flag, was third, another 5 1/2 lengths back. Horologist, a 4-year-old Gemologist filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.48 with Joe Bravo at the controls.
Horologist is undefeated at Monmouth Park after five starts at the seaside oval. She's 1-for-12 elsewhere including a sixth-place finish in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.
She was pulled up and walked off from the Grade II Santa Maria at Santa Anita in her previous start, Royal Flag, trained by Chad Brown, saw her 3-race win streak snapped in her first stakes try.
North of the border, Souper Escape was well out front of six rivals through most of Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes for fillies and mares and rolled home first, 4 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Painting.
Another time was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Souper Escape, a Medaglia d'Oro filly from the Street Cry mare Try and Catch Me, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.78 with Luis Contreras aboard.
In other action around North America:
Chad Brown was back at his usual stand Friday at the spa, dominating turf stakes racing.
In the $85,000 De La Rose Stakes for fillies and mares, Brown watched two of his three starters battle it out down the stretch before Viadera prevailed by a neck over Noor Sahara.
Ironically, Brown also saddled the favorite, Catch a Bid, who took a brief lead, only to be swallowed up by the late runners, finishing fifth but beaten just 1 1/2 lengths. Viadera, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Bated Breath, ran 1 mile on the good inner turf course in 1:38.17 with Joel Rosario up.
"I was really pleased with her trip," Brown said of Viadera. "Joel got to know her that first time out [fourth in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 6 at Belmont]. It's been frustrating. She's been ready to run for months now and with cancellations and such, we had to just sprint her the first time.
In the 7-furlongs Shine Again Stakes for fillies and mares, Brown's only starter, Indian Pride, led much of the way, was headed briefly by Blamed and then found enough extra to get home first by 1/2 length.
Blamed held second by 3 lengths over Risky Mandate. Indian Pride, a 4-year-old daughter of Proud Citizen, finished in 1:21.63 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
"Everything is coming together really well. We're off to a nice start and the horses are running well," said Brown, a master of understatement.
Bramble Bay rambled home from the back of the pack to win Sunday's $76,500 Jersey
Girl Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares, finishing 1/2 length in front of I'm Listening. Boomerang Miss led early and finished third. Bramble Bay, with Joe Bravo up, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.86.
The 4-year-old is a daughter of Bullet Train, famous as the half-brother to Frankel who served as the rabbit in many of Frankel's important victories.
Moonlit Mission could see all but one of them early in Friday's $75,000 Tomboy Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, then progressed steadily through the ranks and chased down the front-running favorite and stalker Tiz What, winning by 1/2 length.
Penny Shots finished second and Tiz What, part of a 3-horse entry that went off favorite, saved third. Moonlit Mission, a Shackleford filly, got 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.00 with Erik Barbaran in the irons.
Verissimo rallied four-wide to take the lead in Friday's $75,000 Buckeye Native Stakes for -- what else? -- Ohio-bred 3-year-olds and got away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Funnel Cake set the early pace and held second, a neck in front of Birdacious.
The favorite, Mobil Solution, finished fifth. Verissimo, a Vertiformer gelding, reported in 1:41.29 for jockey Juan Machado.
Mother of Dragons pressed the pace in Saturday's $60,000 California Governor's Handicap for fillies and mares, took a narrow lead and won a three-way dash to the wire.
Biddy Duke came up a nose short and Princess Vivian was third, another head behind. Mother of Dragons, a 6-year-old mare by First Dude, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.57 with Julien Coulton in the kip.
Around the world, around the clock:
Even So kicked in with just more than a furlong to run in Saturday's Group 1 Juddmonte Irish Oaks at the Curragh and quickly sprinted clear of the favorite, Cayenne Pepper, to post a 2-lengths upset victory.
Passion was third -- the best of four starters for trainer Aidan O'Brien, who saw his top hope, Ennistyman, never land a lick and finish last.
Even So, with Colin Keane up for trainer Ger Lyons, raced in the middle of the eight-filly field through most of the race, run over yielding ground.
Cayenne Pepper made the first move in the stretch run, shooting by the leaders and looking every bit the winner. But Even So had other ideas. Accelerating nicely when called upon, the Camelot filly had no trouble leaving her rival behind.
The victory was the second in a row and third overall for Even So. For Cayenne Pepper, it was her second runner-up showing this year, following a 4 1/2-lengths defeat at the hands of Magical in the Group 1 Pretty Polly. Ennistyman was the disappointment as she came into the race off a second to Love in the Investec Oaks -- albeit beaten by 9 lengths.
For Keane and Lyons, this was the second Group 1 score of the year, on the back of Siskin's triumph in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. Lyons said this was different -- and not just because Even So was running in Coolmore colors against the O'Brien-trained Coolmore fillies.
"She's a filly I always loved and physically she has transformed from race to race. I loved the way she did it [winning the Oaks Trial] at Naas, but I have to admit I didn't think it was good enough to win a Classic," Racing Post quoted the trainer as saying.
"That said, I knew all season that if we had an Oaks filly, it was her. I was quietly confident she would be involved in the finish, but winning is a bonus."
Also on Saturday at the Curragh, Laws Of Indices outfinished Lucky Vega to land the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes by 1/2 length and Romanized caught pacesetting favorite Lancaster House in the late running to win the Group 2 Paddy Power Minstrel Stakes.
The O'Brien team did get on the board Saturday as Twilight Payment defeated Master of Reality by 8 lengths in the Group 2 Comer Group International Curragh Cup. But it was Aidan O'Brien's son, Joseph Patrick, who sent out the 1-2 finishers.
On Sunday, Aloha Star blazed by the engaged leaders, Frenetic and favorite Mother Earth, inside the final furlong of the Group 2 Airlie Stud Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and went on to win by a head from Frenetic.
Mother Earth was third with Inner Beauty completing the order of finish. Aloha Star, a daughter of Starspangledbanner, made it two straight wins in July after a pair of learning experiences in June.
Tabdeed was along in the final yards to win Saturday's Group 3 bet365 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury. The Tin Man, an 8-year-old multiple Group 1 winner, had the lead late but couldn't quite hold on, yielding by 1/2 length.
Tabdeed, a 5-year-old Havana Gold gelding racing for Sheik Hamdan, picked up his fifth win from just seven career starts.
At York on Saturday, it appeared gelding didn't do the trick for Godolphin's Moonlight Spirit. The 4-year-old son of Dubawi, a Group 3 winner last season in France, had the ultimate equipment change in February, and then was beaten 30 lengths in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in his return.
In the Group 3 John Smith's Silver Cup Stakes on Saturday, Moonlight Spirit led early, then retreated dramatically, finishing last of five and nearly 30 lengths adrift of the winner, Eagles By Day. Highly regarded Communique was second, 1/2 length back.
Persian King ran to his notices in Sunday's Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan at Chantilly. After tracking pacesetter Pogo, the 4-year-old Kingman colt took over the lead with some 200 meters left and left his rivals behind, winning off by 2 lengths.
Stormy Atlantic got by Pogo to finish second. Persian King, with Pierre-Charles Boudot up for Andre Fabre and the owners, Godolphin and Ballymore Thoroughbred, made it two wins and a second this season, building on a hugely promising 2019 that was cut short by injury.
"He's going to run in August and the obvious option is the Prix Jacques le Marois," Racing Post quoted Fabre. "The other option -- and it really is just an option -- is the Juddmonte International at York. But for now it's going to be the Marois."
2-year-old first timers
Racing Post's bloodstock braintrust identified five incredibly well-bred juveniles making their first starts Sunday in three countries. Here's how they fared:
Ridgeway Avenue, by Kitten's Joy-Trensa (Giant's Causeway), reported fourth at York. He was a $145,000 purchase at the 2019 September Keeneland yearling sale for Lloyd Williams.
Harajuku, by Deep Impact-Phaenomena (Galileo), won by 2 1/2 lengths at Chantilly at odds of nearly 5-1. The filly is a Niarchos family homebred racing in the Flaxman Stables silks.
Pomelo, by Dubawi-Emulous (Dansili), Newbury, won by 5 lengths at Newbury. The Juddmonte Farms homebred filly is trained by Ralph Beckett.
Mujbar, by Muhaarar-Madany (Acclimation), Newbury, finished eighth as favorite at Newbury. The colt is a homebred for Sheik Hamdan.
April Showers, by Galileo-Butterfly Cove (Storm Cat), finished fourth behind stablemate winner Snowfall at the Curragh. April Showers is a Coolmore homebred, one of the more prestigious youngsters entrusted by the worldwide combine to trainer Donnacha O'Brien.