Aug. 24 (UPI) -- Maximum Security won the Grade I Pacific Classic on Saturday at Del Mar with authority, while Rushing Fall and Red Lark were Grade I winners on the turf a continent apart in weekend horse racing.
Trainer Chad Brown had a dreadful Saturday at Saratoga, but rebounded nicely on Sunday.
On the international scene, Battaash won in England, Verry Elleegant won in Australia, Normcore was victorious in Japan and Audarya upset some good ones in France. American trainer Wesley Ward continued to up his game in Europe with a Group 1 win at Deauville.
But before we start that round-the-world report, here's the local news:
Maximum Security's career is quickly moving from the "star-crossed" column to the "star-studded."
The 4-year-old colt's Kentucky Derby victory was stripped by the stewards in a controversial decision. His victory in the inaugural $20 million Saudi Cup remains under review six months later because of his then-trainer's indictment on doping charges. And, he started his career in a $16,000 claimer.
All that extracurricular noise got in the way of Maximum Security's accomplishments -- only one loss, bar that Louisville debacle, with three Grade I wins before his fourth birthday.
Despite the subsequent controversy, he was clearly best in Saudi Arabia. And he gutted out a narrow win against many obstacles in his comeback in the Grade II San Diego Handicap July 25 at Del Mar.
Now, Saturday's front-running victory in the $500,000 Grade I TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar has set up a late-season scenario that has "Horse of the Year" potential written all over it.
With Abel Cedillo up for new trainer Bob Baffert, Maximum Security led all the way, dogged to mid-stretch by Sharp Samurai. At that point, Maximum Security simply pulled away and won by a comfortable 3 lengths.
Sharp Samurai held second, 2 3/4 lengths better than last year's winner, Midcourt. Higher Power was fourth.
"We mapped it out that he's the quickest horse, he's ready and now you can ride him with a lot more confidence," Baffert said. "Once he took the lead I figured he'd be fine ... He was a totally different horse today.
"He [Cedillo] got to know Max last time, and I'm happy for him. He just does things effortlessly. He wasn't even blowing when he came back.
"I'm just so happy for this horse," Baffert said. "It's not his fault what he went through. Today he showed that he is a great horse."
The Pacific Classic was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Before the race, Baffert had mentioned the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup Oct. 10 at Belmont Park as a steppingstone to the Classic.
On Sunday, he reported his horse returned well but still did not have an answer about what's next. "I'm not sure yet," he said.
A side note: Del Mar reported Sunday that Saturday's fan-less TVG Pacific Classic Day handle of $24,491,319 topped last year's total of $24,416,045 when 20,000 people were in the house. Welcome to the future.
There was one other weekend contest in the Classic division, the $200,000 Grade III Philip H. Iselin Handicap down the shore at Monmouth Park.
In that, odds-on favorite Warrior's Charge lost a stretch battle with Pirate's Punch, only to have the result reversed after a stewards' review. The officials ruled Pirate's Punch drifted in through the stretch run, costing Warrior's Charge his chance.
Bal Harbour and Just Whistle completed the order of finish.
"He [Pirate's Punch] came in on me pretty good," said Warrior's Charge's rider, Paco Lopez.
"I had to steady because of him. I had to completely stand up and stop riding. He came over. I think the stewards did the right thing. I had to completely stop riding my horse. I think my horse was still trying hard."
Warrior's Charge, a 4-year-old Munnings colt, won the Grade III Razorback at Oaklawn Park in the springtime, finished second in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and then fourth in the Met Mile.
He also was fourth in last year's Preakness. Trainer Brad Cox said his goal now is the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland on Nov. 7.
The Road to the Roses
The countdown is under way, finally, for the 146th Kentucky Derby, which will be run Sept. 5 without spectators for the first time and, probably, without a full field of 20 for the first time in 16 years.
Churchill Downs on Saturday released a new compilation of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" standings -- the points list compiled through 45 races and used to determine which horses would be allowed to enter the starting gate on Sept. 5 if more than 20 are entered.
Only 21 names are left on the list. One of the candidates, Rushie, is not nominated to the Triple Crown and would require a $45,000 supplemental nomination fee plus the usual $25,000 to enter and $25,000 more to start in the Run for the Roses.
And history teaches a few, or more, of the other 20 will fall by the wayside before final decisions and payments are made.
Earlier in the week, the track finally gave up on hopes to welcome fans to the Derby-week festivities. Plans for scaled-back attendance fell victim to recent spikes in COVID-19 positive testing in the Louisville area.
The Derby was one of very few major sports events still scheduled to have spectators in this wacky year.
The remaining Kentucky Derby contenders are led by Tiz the Law, certain to be the overwhelming favorite after winning back-to-back-to-back Grade I wins in the Florida Derby, Belmont Sakes and Travers.
Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies always looked like a contest between Harvest Moon and Secret Keeper and that's just how it played out.
Secret Keeper battled for the lead, got it, then couldn't hold off Harvest Moon, who was along to win by 1 1/4 lengths. It was another 5 1/4 lengths back from Secret Keeper to Paige Anne in third.
Harvest Moon, an Uncle Mo filly making her stakes debut, scored her third straight win while finishing 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.86.
"It was perfect," winning rider Flavien Prat said. "She was nice and relaxed and I knew they were running very fast up front. She's got speed if you want it, though. Last time I hardly asked her to run. Today, she was just waiting on me. She won it very nicely."
You won't see this often: Chad Brown saddled four of the nine starters in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga and finished fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.
The winner was Halladay, a 4-year-old War Front colt who led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths win. Got Stormy and Casa Creed were second and third. Halladay, with Luis Saez in the irons, finished the 1 mile on good going in 1:33.32.
Halladay enered the fray with 11 in-the-money finishes from 13 starts including a win in the Tropical Park Derby at Gulfstream Park in December.
The Fourstardave was his first try in a Grade I event and the victory earned him a "Win and You're In" spot in November's FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
"He's gotten really good and we've seen it in the mornings in his training," said Halladay's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "He's been going great and we were confident going in that he was at his very best and we thought we had a bit of a pace advantage, so we wanted to take the race to them."
Sunday at Del Mar, Mo Forza shook off a slow start, shot through on the inside during the stretch run of the $150,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile Handicap and romped home first by 4 1/4 lengths.
Restrainedvengeance was second, a head in front of Royal Ship. Mo Forza, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt, finished in 1:33.27 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Peter Miller.
He was making his first start since finishing ninth in the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Turf at Gulfstream Park Jan. 25. Before that, he had run off four straight West Coast wins.
"He had a tendency to get rank in his races last year and wanted to run over horses," Miller said, "so we thought we didn't want that problem this year so we took the blinkers off.
"He's been working without them and I thought that if it doesn't work out I'm going to look like an idiot. But thank goodness it worked out. We think the Breeders' Cup will definitely be the end of the year with one race in between."
Filly & Mare Turf
After Saturday's disappointment, Brown's legions bounced back in Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Diana at the Spa. Rushing Fall stalked the pace made by Mean Mary in the 1 1/8-miles turf event, engaged that one approaching the quarter pole and battled to the wire, winning by a neck.
Another of Brown's, Sistercharlie, came from last of five to finish third. Rushing Fall, a 5-year-old daughter of More Than Ready, finished in 1:45.88 -- just 0.27 second outside the course record -- with Javier Castellano up.
"It means a lot," said Brown, who won the race for the fifth straight year. "This is a very important race that we point for every year and we've been fortunate through the years to have horses that really fit. She's a great horse and she ran a super race today."
Of Sistercharlie, he said, "I thought she took a nice step forward towards the Breeders' Cup today. This course is very speed-favoring. It's hard to imagine a scenario, no matter what the pace is, where she is going to be able to make up that much ground."
Red Lark rallied from the middle of the field to win Saturday's $250,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks by 1 length from fellow long shot California Kook.
Warren's Showtime was third, another 1/2 length in arrears, while the favorite, Laura's Light, faded from the lead to finish sixth. Red Lark, an Irish-bred lass by Epaulette, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.64 with Drayden Van Dyke riding.
Red Lark was winless in five starts on the Auld Sod as a 2-year-old. She won her second start in the United States in February but was 0-for-4 in the intervening months.
"I was confident in the filly," said Red Lark's trainer, Paddy Gallagher. "I knew she was happy and all but I didn't know if she was good enough. She needed to run the race of her life and she did. Drayden had her in a great spot all the way and when he asked she responded and was good enough."
Red King got first run to the lead in the stretch drive of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap Presented by the Japan Racing Association, dueled with the favorite, United, then prevailed by a head over that rival. Originaire was third.
Red King, a 6-year-old son of English Channel, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf under Umberto Rispoli in 2:15.75 and earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland.
Red King, a $35,000 claim in February 2019, emerged from the optional claiming ranks to win the Grade III San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita in his last start for trainer Phil D'Amato.
"I could see going along the backstretch that Flavien [Prat on United] was on the inside and Umberto was about to make that move on the outside," D'Amato said. He timed it perfectly.
"I give all credit to him. After the last race he was so high on this horse. He chose Red King over Originaire and that gave me a lot of confidence that he felt the horse was climbing up the ladder and to win this race is really special."
Chaos Theory led a trio of late-runners across the line in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar, winning by 1 length.
Baja Sur and Torosay filled out the trifecta, a nose apart. Chaos Theory, a 5-year-old Curlin gelding, finished 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.22 seconds with Umberto Rispoli up.
He was third in the Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint on Derby Day 2019 at Churchill Downs, off for a long spell and now has put together back-to-back wins.
"It was beautiful," Rispoli said. "He surprised me because he broke so sharply. I figured we'd be a little farther back, but it put us in a great spot just behind the speed. At this distance you can't get too far back. I had a lot of horse turning for home. I thought we'd get there."
Sunday at Monmouth Park, Archidust prevailed in a three-way photo in the $79,500 Get Serious Stakes. The 4-year-old Verrazano colt raced mid-pack under Hector Diaz Jr., advanced outside rivals in the final furlong and was just up by a head over Spikes Shirl.
It was another head to Completed Pass in third. Archidust ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.17. He's won both his starts at the New Jersey race meeting.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Sneaking Out took over the lead halfway through Friday's $100,000 Grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap and kicked away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Amuse was second, separated by a pair of noses from Gingham in third and Unique Factor in fourth.
Sneaking Out, a 4-year-old filly by Indian Evening, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.57 with Umberto Rispoli at the controls. It was her second straight graded stakes win, following the Grade II Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos on the Fourth of July.
Juvenile Turf -- both genders and all distances
See the international section for Campanelle's stirring victory for trainer Wesley Ward in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Morny in France.
Golden Pal, making his first start since finishing second in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, led all the way to a 3 1/2-lengths victory in Friday's $85,000 Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga, likely a prelude to the Breeders' Cup.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. had the Uncle Mo colt well geared down at the end of the 5 1/2 furlongs, clocked in 1:00.80 over firm turf. Ward saddled the exacta as Fauci finished second, followed by Sky's Not Falling and another Ward charge, Sunny Isle Beach.
The win was the first for Golden Pal, who started his career finishing second in a Gulfstream Park maiden affair in April.
At Woodbine on Sunday, Alda didn't exactly mash her opponents in the $100,000 (Canadian) Catch a Glimpse Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, but she did get the job done with a late effort that saw her winning by just a nose from the odds-on favorite, Dreaming of Drew.
Illegal Smile was third. Alda, a Wertheimer homebred filly by Munnings out of the Maria's Mon mare Soldata, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on good going in 1:14.00 with Stephen Bahen riding for trainer Graham Motion. She finished second, then first, in two previous outings at Belmont Park.
In the companion $100,000 (Canadian) Soaring Free Stakes for 2-year-olds, Gretzky the Great salked pacesetter Into the Sunrise into the stretch, then got by in the final strides to win by a neck.
The even-money favorite, Ready to Repeat, was third. Gretezky the Great, an Ontario-bred son of Nyquist from the Bernardini mare Pearl Turn, reported in 1:13.83 for jockey Kazushi Kimura. Mark Casse trains the colt, who now has two straight wins.
A thought: Isn't "Gretzky the Great" redundant? And a footnote: The real Gretzky and Bruce McNall owned Golden Pheasant, winner of both the 1990 Arlington Million and 1991 Japan Cup. There once was a Japanese cherry tree in the Arlington Park paddock commemorating that unique double.
Around the world, around the clock:
Battaash had to work for it but, in the end, landed his second straight Grade I Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes Friday at York by a comfortable 1 length.
Que Amoro went out to the lead right against the inside rail and Battaash drifted in from the center of the course in the final two furlongs to take him on.
Finishing well for Jim Crowley, the 6-year-old Dark Angel gelding simply had too much for his rival as he nailed down his third win in as many tries this season.
The Nunthorpe is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint but Battaash also is favored for the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp. Trainer Charlie Hills said the French race would be "Plan A" unless the ground comes up too deep, in which case he will "look elsewhere."
Crowley also applied the winning ride aboard Enbihaar in Saturday's Group 2 Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup. Enbihaar, a 5-year-old Redoubte's Choice mare, moved to the lead with some 2 furlongs to run in the marathon and then held off Stratum by 3/4 length.
Nayef Road was third. Enbihaar, trained by John Gosden for Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum, doubled up on her victory in a Group 2 at Goodwood in her last start. She now is 7-for-12.
And it was Crowley again in the day's third group event -- this time booting home Minzaal to win the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Gimcrack Stakes for 2-year-olds by 2 lengths from Devilwala. Minzaal, another of Sheik Hamdan's, now has two consecutive wins.
This one was doubly impressive as the Mehmas colt missed the start and had to scoot between rivals to find the front.
Audarya led home an all-long shot finish in Sunday's Group 1 Darley Jean Romanet for fillies and mares at Deauville.
Ambition and Romanciere were second and third, respectively, while the hot favorite, Group 1 Falmouth Stakes winner Nazeef, tired through the final furlong to finish ninth, beating just two rivals.
Audarya, a 4-year-old Wootton Bassett filly, was ambitiously placed by trainer James Fanshawe after winning a handicap at Newcastle on Aug. 2.
Fanshaw said he has entered Audarya in the Prix de l'Opera, but did not sound entirely certain she will keep that engagement.
In Sunday's co-feature, the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny for 2-year-olds, Campanelle quickly took a prominent position, stayed on strongly and strode out to win by 2 lengths.
Nando Parrada was second, a neck in front of Rhythm Master. Her Majesty the Queen's runner, Tactical, was not disgraced while finishing fifth, beaten 4 1/4 lengths.
The Kodiac filly, out of the Namid mare Janina, earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Ward said he's excited about bringing Campanelle to Keeneland, his home base, but might consider her for the 1-mile Juvenile Fillies Turf rather than the 5 1/2-furlongs sprint.
Some of Japan's best were back in action Sunday in the Grade 2 Sapporo Kinen. Normcore got the best of it, shooting by Lucky Lilac at mid-stretch after the latter had taken the lead on the turn.
Normcore went on to win by 1 length with Persian Knight also rallying to take second. Lucky Lilac, the race favorite, salvaged third.
Normcore, a 5-year-old, light gray mare by Harbinger, ran 2,000 meters on firm turf in 1:59.4 with Norhiro Yokoyama riding.
She was last seen finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo June 7. Lucky Lilac, a 5-year-old Orfevre mare, finished sixth in the Grade 1 Takarazuka Kinen on June 28 at Hanshin in her last start.
Bigger prizes beckon for all of them.
If this keeps up, Verry Elleegant won't need those extra letters for emphasis much longer. Since finishing up the track in last year's Group 1 Cox Plate, the 5-year-old daughter of Zed has posted two wins and two seconds from five starts with both seconds coming behind Addeybb.
And the most recent was Friday's Group 1 Winx Stakes at Royal Randwick, a narrow but nonetheless impressive win over stablemate Star of the Seas. The favorite, Con Te Partiro, finished fifth.
Verry Elleegant and Star of the Seas emerged from the pack some 200 meters from home in the Winx. Star of the Seas took a narrow lead inside the 200 meters, but Verry Elleegant found just enough in the final strides to put her nose on the line first.
Trainer Chris Waller said he was not thrilled at jockey James McDonald taking the overland route to an early lead -- into a strong headwind.
"Thank God she won," McDonald said. Replied Waller, "Probably because he could feel my foot on his throat from he top of the straight."
Tactics and headwinds notwithstanding, both rider and trainer were happy enough with the mare's performance that the next puzzle to solve is a pleasant one -- the 2,000-meters Ladbrokes Cox Plate again Oct. 24 or the 3,200-meters Lexus Melbourne Cup on Nov. 3?
Group 2 races for 2-year-olds always bear watching, especially when they're full of promising Coolmore runners.
Coolmore notwithstanding, though, it was Mac Swiney, a Jim Bolger trainee, who outfinished the favorite, Cadillac, and the top Aidan O'Brien runner, Ontario, in Saturday's Galileo Irish EBF Futurity Stakes at the Curragh.
Ontario, a Galileo colt, led the way but surrendered in the final 50 yards as Mac Swiney, a New Approach colt, found the finish 1/2 length better than Cadillac. The winner now is 2-for-4.
Pretty Gorgeous, a Lawman filly trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien for his mother, took Saturday's A.R.M Holding Debutante Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths over Shale, trained by Joseph Patrick's brother, Donnacha.
Mother Earth, trained by the siblings' father, Aidan, was third. Pretty Gorgeous looks to be pretty good with two wins and a Group 3 second from three starts. Annemarie O'Brien shares ownership with John Oxley, per Racing Post.
Meanwhile, back in North America:
Court Return rallied from last of eight in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Eternal Search Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Gun Society. Desdemona was third.
The favorite, Bramble Queen, fell on the turn for home but recovered to walk off the course. Court Return, a 4-year-old Court Vision filly, got 1 1/16 miles over the firm inner turf course in 1:43.66 with Daisuke Fukumoto in the irons.
Hunka Burning Love was way too good for eight rivals in Friday's $75,000 Governor's Cup, dueling to the lead and drawing clear to win by 6 1/2 lengths.
Lamartine was best of the rest, 3/4 lengths clear of Mocito Rojo. The favorite, Pioneer Spirit, contested the early lead, then stopped and finished last. Hunka Burning Love, a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.18 with David Cabrera in the irons.
Bodenheimer led early in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Gold Juvenile, then held on late to win by a neck over Chicks Dig Scars.
It was another 5 1/4 lengths back to Hulen in third. Bodenheimer, a Washington-bred colt by Atta Boy Roy, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.79 with Leandro Goncalves up.
Miss Twenty showed her heels to four rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Gold Lassie, getting clear in the stretch to win by 12 1/4 lengths.
The odds-on favorite, Lacey Boss, was second, followed by Even Pandura. Miss Twenty, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Bodemeister, finished in 1:10.05 with Glenn Corbett in the irons.
Waltzing Attila dueled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Carlos Salazar Stakes for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares, then had to fend off a late run by Flight Song to win by a neck.
Let It Roll was only another neck back in third as Waltzing Attila, a 6-year-old Attila's Storm mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.11 with Jorge Bourdieu up.