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Pneumatic wins final Kentucky Derby prep

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Pneumatic wins the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park -- final qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park
Pneumatic wins the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park -- final qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Pneumatic won the final leg of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" on Saturday at Monmouth, but with no guarantee he'll make it to the Churchill Downs starting gate, while Swiss Skydiver confirmed her credentials for the Kentucky Oaks with a win at Saratoga.

The weekend also saw Domestic Spending land the $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational on the turf and Antoinette take the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational.

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North of the border, Curlin's Voyage won the Woodbine Oaks convincingly enough to become a contender for the upcoming Queen's Plate while Clayton won the Plate Trial. And old boy Pink Lloyd won again.

Across the Atlantic, Palace Pier earned a Breeders' Cup berth with an imposing win in France.

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The Road to the Roses

Pneumatic and Jesus' Team, the two horses in the field already boasting Kentucky Derby points, finished 1-2 in Saturday's $155,000 TVG.com Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park -- the final race in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series.

Either or both now could make the field for the Sept. 5 Run for the Roses, which looks like it might have fewer than the maximum 20 starters.

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Pneumatic, a Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred colt by Uncle Mo, moved up from the three-spot entering the stretch turn in the Pegasus, quickly asserted himself for jockey Joe Bravo and drew off to a 2 1/4-lengths win.

Jesus' Team came right behind him and was easily second, 2 3/4 lengths better than Arkaan. The 1 1/16 miles on a fast track went in 1:44.76.

Whether the effort was sufficient to justify a shot in the Run for the Roses remains to be seen although Bravo seemed to be touting Pneumatic as a contender to trainer Steve Asmussen.

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"I don't know what their plans are going forward with this horse," Bravo said. "But I'd like to say he did this very effortlessly and well within himself."

The Road to the Oaks / Distaff

There wasn't much drama in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Alabama at Saratoga as Swiss Skydiver, the overwhelming favorite, opened a huge lead in the stretch and coasted home first by 3 1/2 lengths.

Bonny South was best of the rest, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Harvey's Lil Goil. The 1 1/4-miles Alabama, one of the most prestigious races in the world for 3-year-old fillies, went in 2:03.04 with Tyler Gaffalione riding the winner.

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Swiss Skydiver, a Daredevil filly trained by Kenny McPeek, now has won four of her last five starts, the sole defeat a second in the Blue Grass at Keeneland when running against males.

Swiss Skydiver has the credentials to run in either the Sept. 4 Kentucky Oaks or the Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby but McPeek said he and owner Peter Callahan have a pretty clear idea on that.

"I'm pretty sure it's going to be Oaks," McPeek said. "Peter and I will sit down and talk about it but we're leaning pretty hard to the Oaks. Tiz the Law's race here last week [winning the Grade 1 Runhappy Travers] was ultra-impressive and if you hold the two against each other, I'm not sure we want to be up against him yet."

If she goes to the Oaks, Swiss Skydiver likely will face trainer Bob Baffert's talented Gamine, about whom McPeek also had a thought.

"We don't have any fear of her. My filly might even have an advantage because Churchill is our base and she's [gone] two turns repeatedly and hasn't had any trouble doing that."

In Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks, favorite Curlin's Voyage came roaring to the lead at the top of the stretch and quickly assumed command, holding on well late to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

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Afleet Katherine was second, followed by Marvilleaux. Curlin's Voyage, a Curlin filly out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Atlantic Voyage, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.04 with Patrick Husbands in the irons.

Raced exclusively at Woodbine by trainer Josie Carroll, Curlin's Voyage improved to five wins from nine starts.

"She's a very special filly -- a very, very special filly," Carroll said. "I think we knew what we had from the start when we were very bold and put her against the boys the first time out in a stake. It's not something you do lightly. You have to think one's special."

It's not impossible she might get another try against males soon. Carroll in 2011 saddled Inglorious to an Oaks-Queen's Plate double. He said he will take his time about a decision relative to the Sept. 12 Plate for Curlin's Voyage.

The Road to the Plate

Clayton franked his form for the Queen's Plate with a nice win in Saturday's $150,000 Plate Trial. The Bodemeister colt stalked the pace, took the lead in the stretch and won by 1/2 length over Halo Again, who was prominent all the way.

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Dotted Line made the early going and finished third, just a head back of Halo Again. Clayton, with Rafael Hernandez aboard for trainer Kevin Attard, scampered 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.61. He now has three wins and a second from four career starts.

"Obviously, everybody dreams of running in the Plate and sometimes you're taking just a hope and a prayer to kind of go in there and hope the stars align for you," Attard said.

"This situation's a little different. We're going in with one of the favorites and we know we've kind of got a good shot to maybe take it all. But there's going to be more shooters coming and it's not going to be easy."

Turf

This would have been Arlington Million weekend. Sigh. But let's dwell on the positive.

It's hard to believe a Chad Brown runner in a big-deal New York turf race went off at odds of better than 7-1.

But that's just what happened for Domestic Spending in Saturday's $500,000 Saratoga Derby Invitational and, wouldn't you know, the British-bred Kingman colt went out to win by a head over Gufo.

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No Word completed a long shot trifecta with the odds-on favorite, Decorated Invader, checking in a fading fifth.

Domestic Spending, with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, ran 1 3/16 miles on firm turf in 1:52.52, winning for the third time in four starts.

He was third in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes in his most recent start -- a race won by Decorated Invader.

"He was real quirky when he was younger," Brown said of Domestic Spending. "We had to geld him just to get him to train willingly. Every month that's gone by this year I've seen him really mature.

"In the paddock, I was confident that he would run a big race because he's never acted better or more confident."

Filly & Mare Turf

Antoinette led all the way Sunday to win the $500,000 Saratoga Oaks Invitational by 1/2 length over Stunning Sky. Key Biscayne was third, another 2 1/2 lengths back. The favorite, Grade II Appalachian Stakes winner Enola Gay, contested the early lead but faded to finish fifth as Antoinette, a Godolphin homebred daughter of Hard Spun, reported in 1:53.30 under John Velazquez.

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It was the third career win for the Bill Mott trainee. Although Antoinette has been successful on both dirt and turf, Mott said the reason for selecting Sunday's race was pretty obvious.

"That was a nice purse. Maybe there's another one of those somewhere for us," he said. "The way she ran today, I'd say maybe we run on turf but the good thing about her is she can do either."

Asked if that might tip a try in the Kentucky Oaks, Mott backtracked.

"l don't think so. We'll sleep on it tonight and we'll have a conversation about it on Monday or Tuesday about her, but I don't know that anybody is leaning in that direction right now."

Theodora B. led the way in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine and kept right on going, defeating the favorite, Etoile, by 3/4 length.

Elizabeth Way was third after encountering some traffic issues. Theodora B., a long shot in the talented field of six, completed 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:02.35 with Justin Stein up. She is a 5-year-old daughter of Ghostbuster, out of the Dynaformer Mare Dyna Waltz.

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An infrequent winner, Theodora B. nonetheless has been competitive, but faced her toughest challenge yet in Saturday's victory.

"I talked to the trainer on the way in and, unfortunately, our plans at the beginning of the race were mixed up," Stein said. "She wanted to leave and I had to go with it, but she just kept running. A lot of power."

On Friday at Saratoga, Feel Glorious took back early in the $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes, came three-wide at the sixteenth pole and won off by 1/2 length. Chaleur, always close, got second with Secret Message third.

Feel Glorious, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Bated Breath, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf course in 1:42.09 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.

Turf Mile

March to the Arch quick-marched from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $175,000 Grade II King Edward at Woodbine by 2 1/4 lengths. The pacesetter, Admiralty Pier, held off the rest with Silent Poet third, another 2 lengths back.

March to the Arch, a 5-year-old Arch gelding, got the 1 mile on firm going in 1:32.28 with Rafael Hernandez riding. It was his first win since the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park back in January.

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"He's such a lovely little horse. He tries every time. He's just really special," said Kathryn Sullivan, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "I just thought he [Hernandez] rode a really smart race, took his time, waited until he got his spot."

Sprint

Pink Lloyd did it again, scoring his ninth straight win, albeit narrowly, in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Bold Venture Stakes at Woodbine. The popular champion didn't make it easy on his fans or on jockey Rafael Hernandez.

After dawdling mid-pack, he split rivals at the eighth pole to reach the front, opened a decent lead and then held on gamely to win by a neck over Olympic Runner.

Malibu Secret was third, 3 1/4 lengths farther back. The 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track took 1:16.03.

The victory was redemption for last year's Bold Venture. In that race, Pink Lloyd did not get a clean start from the gate, trailed the field and finished fourth -- only to be declared a non-starter. He finished fifth the year before.

"He made up for me because I won the race [43] years ago at the old Greenwood Racetrack with a horse called Pres de Tu, so I really wanted to see him win it," said Pink Lloyd's trainer, Robert Tiller.

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"He's done everything, he keeps doing everything, he overcame a bad trip today for him -- he loves to run at horses, not be squeezed in between horses -- and I think he kind of thought it was over, and that horse come running, run a big race, so we win again. It's the 22nd stakes win, 25th win of his life.

"I'm in this game a long time and there will never be another horse like him."

Filly & Mare Sprint

Souper Escape stalked the pace early in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine, surged to the lead at the quarter pole and ran on to win by 1 length over Painting. Amalfi Coast was third.

Souper Escape, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.10 under Luis Contreras. The win backed up a victory in her last start, the Grade III Trillium Stakes July 16.

In other North American Action:

Monmouth Park

Chalon had to battle to put away Bronx Beauty in Sunday's $75,000 Incredible Revenge Stakes but, that done, the 6-year-old Dialed In mare went about her business, winning by 1 length.

Bronx Beauty held second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Sunny Dale. The race originally was slated for the turf but run instead on the sloppy main track with nine resulting scratches. Chalon, with Paco Lopez up, splashed the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.32.

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Del Mar

Maxim Rate was along in the final yards of Sunday's $75,000 CTT and TOC Stakes for for fillies and mare, bumping with pacesetter Quick before outfinishing that one by a neck.

Overthinking was just a nose farther back in third. Maxim Rate, a 4-year-old Exchange Rate filly, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:14.31 with Umberto Rispoli riding.

Pulpit Rider was last of five through most of Saturday's $125,000 Solana Beach Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, then came with a five-wide rally that saw her up just in time to win a nose over Sedamar.

Mucho Unusual was third. Pulpit Rider, a 5-year-old daughter of Lucky Pulpit, covered 1 mile of firm turf in 1:34.46 with Juan Hernandez riding.

Albuquerque

Shanghai Keely dominated the latter half of Saturday's $55,000 Albuquerque Distaff Handicap, kicking away to a 5 3/4-lengths victory. She's My Gem was second with Ornamental Iron another 2 3/4 lengths back in third.

Shanghai Keely, a 3-year-old daughter of Shanghai Bobby, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.60 for jockey Jimmy Coates.

Rig Time, the odds-on favorite, used a late burst of speed to win Sunday's $100,000 Casey Darnell Stakes for New Mexico-breds, getting by pacesetting Wheredoesthecashgo to score by 1 length.

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It was another 5 1/2 lengths to Del Mar Summer in third. Rig Time, a 5-year-old gelding by Right Rigger, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.31 with Isaias Enriquez up.

Ruidoso Downs

Comic Hot Toddy battled to the lead in the $133,828 Rio Grande Senorita Futurity for state-bred juvenile fillies, then kicked clear convincingly, winning by 5 lengths for jockey Shane Laviolette.

Atill I Chime was best of the rest, 2 3/4 lengths to the good of Bully Baby. Comic Hot Toddy, a daughter of Indian Firewater, got 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.97.

In the colt-gelding companion, Delbert Too came from off the pace to win by 3/4 length over Digger's Gold. Cheese Tray was third.

The early leader, Aisle Runner, was squeezed back in traffic a furlong out and the stewards looked but took no action. Delbert Too, a Marking gelding, was clocked in 1:04.20. Alfredo Juarez Jr. had the winning ride.

Around the world, around the clock:

France

Palace Pier, with Frankie Dettori up, ground 'em down and left 'em in his wake in Sunday's Group 1 Prix du Haras de Fresnay-le-Bufford Jacques le Morais at Deauville.

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The 3-year-old Kingman colt, trained by John Gosden, raced behind four rivals through the first half mile, downshifted and kicked off to win by 3/4 length.

Alpine Star was the only persistent rival, finishing second with another 5 lengths to Circus Maximus in third.

Palace Pier now is 3-for-3 this season with the Group 1 St James's Palace at Royal Ascot also in his victory column.

The Jacques le Morais was no easy pickings, either. Alpine Star, a 3-year-old Sea the Moon filly, won the Group 1 Coronation Cup at the Royal meeting, then was second in the Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines or French Oaks.

Circus Maximus, a 4-year-old Galileo colt, won the Group 1 Queen Anne at Ascot, then finished second in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.

The sparkling performance came over a very deep course that Dettori said far from favored his mount. It also prompted the argument what would come of a meeting between Palace Pier and Sussex winner Mohaather and a discussion of the rest of the season.

A meeting between the 4-year-old and 3-year-old milers may or may not happen, but Gosden has a scheme for the remainder of the year. Although Sunday's race was a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland in November, that race apparently does not figure in the scheme.

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"I don't see him as a Breeders' Cup Mile horse," Racing Post quoted the trainer. "I really see him as a mile or mile-and-a-quarter horse. I'm not sure about the tight turns of America.

"My question is rather does he go to the Moulin or not and then it will definitely be the QE II. Quite frankly, after that I'd like to put him away for next year. "I haven't had great experiences with the turf course at Keeneland and it cost Golden Horn."

Golden Horn, off his victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, finished second to Found in the 2015 Breeders' Cup over the Lexington turf. He held the lead entering the stretch after going slightly wide on the turn and surrendered by just 1/2 length -- obviously a bitter memory for the trainer.

In Saturday's Group 2 Haris du Logis Saint-Germain at Deauville, Mishrif drove to the lead two furlong from home and was on cruise control thereafter, winning by 4 1/2 lengths from The Summit.

Victor Ludorum and Dream Works completed the order of finish. Mishrif, another of those John Gosden-Frankie Dettori partnerships, backed up his victory in July in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby.

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He started the season finishing second on the dirt in the Saudi Derby at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Riyadh.

Germany

Saturday's Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne produced a bit of a beetle-crusher as the favorite, Godolphin's Barney Roy, couldn't find the extra gear in the late going and finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths for it all.

Donjah was the winner, edging by Kaspar in the final strides with the second-favorite, Dame Maillot, a close third.

Donjah, a 4-year-old Teofilo filly, last year won the Group 2 Gran Premio del Jockey Club at San Siro in Italy and finished fifth, beaten just 2 lengths, in the Grosser Preis von Bayern at Munich.

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