Sept. 28 (UPI) -- A big weekend of horse racing saw Maximum Security defeated by stablemate Improbable, clouding the outlook for the Breeders' Cup Classic, as other Breeders' Cup bids were settled by the handful.
Princess Noor and United were among those putting in stellar showings and Chad Brown had another outstanding weekend on the turf.
Breeders' Cup action also took place in England and in Brazil. We'll cover that -- and plenty more -- in the separate International Edition. Don't miss that.
Meanwhile, here's how it went on the domestic front:
Improbable swept from a distant last to a commanding first as the field rounded the stretch turn in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita, and then drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths.
His stablemate and race favorite Maximum Security chased the early pace but had no answer in the stretch, finishing second and only 1/2 length in front of Midcourt.
The early leaders, Take the One O One and Sleepy Eyes Todd, finished fourth and last. Improbable, a 4-year-old City Zip colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.01 with Drayden Van Dyke up.
Maximum Security suffered just his third loss, counting the Kentucky Derby disqualification and his lack of any closing kick cast some doubt on his favorite status for the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
Improbable, by contrast, moved up a notch or two with his third straight win, following the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga. Both are trained by Bob Baffert.
"I knew I was coming in here with two really good horses," Baffert said.
"Maximum Security was in that scrum and they were really running up close," Baffert said, referring to the early pace contest.
"I saw Drayden, he knew what was happening, so he just sat back. He rode a great race, he knew what was going on, he took his time, rode him with patience. ... I hate to see my horses have to beat the other horse but 'Max' ran gallantly. He fended off the speed but the next one is the big one.
"Today it was all about Improbable."
Maximum Security's rider, Luis Saez, said his mount "couldn't get comfortable" with the pace pressure. "The good thing is he pulled up pretty good, so let's see how next time goes," Saez said. "He was fighting at the end of the race, but we lost."
If nothing else, the outcome might generate some slightly longer odds on "Max" for the Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
Sunday at Remington Park, Shared Sense came four-wide into the stretch run in the $200,000 Oklahoma Derby and kicked clear to win by 2 lengths over Mo Mosa. Liam was third, another 2 1/2 lengths back.
Shared Sense, a Godolphin homebred colt by Street Sense, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.88 with Richard Eramia up. He also won the Grade III Indiana Derby in July.
Harvest Moon pressed the pace made by odds-on favorite Fighting Mad in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, eased by that one and ran on to win by 3/4 length.
Hard Not to Love then outfinished Fighting Mad for third with Proud Emma a distant fourth and last. Harvest Moon, a 3-year-old Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.03 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Steadily improving since her career debut in June, Harvest Moon now has four straight wins. She earned a pass to the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff through the "Win and You're In" plan.
"It was said that this filly has a lot of talent and they were so patient throughout the whole process," Callaghan said. "She took her time to come to hand, but she's come a long way in a short period of time."
In Oklahoma on Sunday, heavy favorite Envoutante drove to the lead in the stretch run in the $100,000 Grade III Remington Park Oaks and kicked away to a 3 1/4-lengths victory.
Paige Anne and Seattle Slang filled out the trifecta. Envoutante, an Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.36. David Cabrera rode for trainer Kenny McPeek. Envoutante earlier was third in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland and fourth in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Firenze Fire stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade II Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, seized the lead at the eighth pole and powered home first by 2 3/4 lengths.
The favorite, Funny Guy, got by pacesetting long shot Share the Ride to get place money. Firenze Fire, a 5-year-old son of Poseidon's Warrior, toured 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.74 with Jose Lezcano up.
Firenze Fire, who has contested the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Dirt Mile and Sprint, all without much success, earned another shot at the Sprint through the "Win and You're In" scheme.
Owner Ron Lombardi said he's game for another try and trainer Kelly Breen said he has a plan for the race at Keeneland Nov. 7.
"He loves Belmont," Breen said of Firenze Fire. "We'll have to get him as used to Keeneland as he is to Belmont.
"I'll bring a couple of buckets from here and put it down the Keeneland stretch and bring our track to Keeneland. He's doing great. He looked great today and we're on to the Breeders' Cup."
In Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship, C Z Rocket flagged down pacesetting Flagstaff in the closing yards and won by a head, earning a "Win and You're In" berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
It was another 1 1/4 lengths to Collusion Illusion in third. C Z Rocket, a 6-year-old City Zip gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.14 with Luis Saez in the irons.
C Z Rocket was claimed for $40,000 at Oaklawn Park in April, then not taken when entered back for $50,000 at Churchill Downs May 25. He won that race at Churchill and now has put together a five-race winning streak, also including the Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar in his previous start.
"You never think you're going to claim one and win a Grade I with them," said C Z Rocket's trainer, Peter Miller. "It's a big race and he'd won four in a row, so to win five in a row is big and puts us squarely in the picture for the Breeders' Cup Sprint."
At Churchill Downs, Mr. Money saved all the ground in back of a hot pace in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Ack Ack, squirted through along the rail to take the lead at the furlong marker and won by 1 1/4 lengths.
Bourbon Calling and Thirst for Life made an apropos second and third while the favorite, Warrior's Charge, faded from the lead to finish eighth.
Mr. Money, a 4-year-old Goldencents colt, got the one-turn mile in 1:34.82 with Gabriel Saez in the irons for trainer Bret Calhoun. He's now 4-for-6 under the Twin Spires with the earlier victories including the Grade III Pat Day Mile and the Grade III Matt Winn.
"Fingers crossed that will take us to the Breeders' Cup," co-owner Chester Thomas said.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Into Chocolate launched a bid outside embattled rivals in the final furlong of Friday's $100,000 Grade III Chillingworth at Santa Anita, got by those and went on to win by 3/4 length.
The odds-on favorite, Qahira, was second, a neck in front of Amuse. Into Chocolate, a 4-year-old Into Mischief filly, toured 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.68 with Umberto Rispoli up.
The effort was a reversal of an uncharacteristically bad outing in the Grade III Rancho Bernardo at Del Mar in her last race.
"We threw her last race at Del Mar out," trainer Clifford Size Jr. said.
"She came out of that race body sore and then her blood count was off. She's been feeling really good here since we got back and I could tell saddling her today that she was doing good and she was ready. Those were some nice fillies and it's always good to win."
On the Woodbine all-weather surface, Painting rallied from last to win Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Fashion Stakes by a neck over Australian-bred Victory Kingdom.
It was another 4 lengths to Sav in third. Painting, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor filly, got 6 furlongs in 1:09.46 with Patrick Husbands in the irons. It was a breakthrough for the Josie Carroll trainee who had been second in four straight graded stakes before Saturday.
United, an upset victim in his last start, returned to the winner's circle after a front-running victory in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita.
With Flavien Prat aboard, the 5-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding was in command all the way and wasn't threatened at the end, winning by 1 length with Originaire second and Another Mystery third. Another Mystery, another of those amazing Illinois-breds, went to the post at odds of nearly 62-1 and was beaten only 1 3/4 lengths.
United, who fell just a head short of derailing Bricks and Mortar's run to Horse of the Year honors last year in the Breeders' Cup Turf, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm going, starting on the downhill course, in 1:59.17.
"He just continues to show what a professional he is now," winning trainer Richard Mandella said. "He can adapt to certain situations. He is a big lumbering stride horse and if you get him tied up too much it's hard to get him going, so it's better to keep him in the clear."
About the Breeders' Cup Turf on Nov. 7, Mandella said, "We're gonna blow their tires off."
Filly & Mare Turf
Mucho Unusual led from gate to wire in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita and reported first by 1 1/4 lengths. Maxim Rate was second and the favorite, Lady Prancealot, secured third with a belated rally from the back of the field.
Mucho Unusual, a 4-year-old filly by Mucho Macho Man, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf, starting on the downhill course, in 2:00.19 with Juan Hernandez in the irons. She has been competitive at the top level for the past year without winning often.
"It's super satisfying. Words can't describe how satisfying it is," said winning trainer Tim Yakteen. "This mare is unbelievable.
"Her mother, Not Unusual, is a great producer and it was great to get a Grade I win on the page for her. ... She's been knocking on the door with Grade I's, so to pull this out is amazing."
The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, but Yakteen did not tip his hand about plans.
Viadera dropped down to the rail to launch a late winning bid in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Noble Damsel for fillies and mares at Belmont Park.
Fellow Chad Brown barn denizen Blowout set a blistering early pace in the 1-mile race and held on for second, neck back of the winner and 3/4 length to the good of Sweet Bye and Bye in third. Brown's third entry, Noor Sahara, finished fourth.
Viadera, a 4-year-old, British-bred daughter of Bated Breath, finished in 1:32.06 over firm turf with Joel Rosario up.
Viadera scored her second win from three U.S. starts after racing in Ireland. Blowout, a 4-year-old daughter of Dansili, has not missed a top-three finish in 10 career starts.
Brown said Noor Sahara will regroup in allowance company but indicated bigger things are on tap for the top two.
"They both ran super," he said. "Viadera got a great setup saving all the ground and I'm really proud of her. Blowout ran probably the best race. For her to set those fractions and still battle on, I'm so proud of her. Both horses really ran terrific."
Brown also sent out the first two finishers in Saturday's $100,000 Violet Stakes for fillies and mares at Monmouth Park as She's Got You closed from last of seven to edge stablemate Altea by a neck.
It was another 2 lengths to Lucky Stride in third. She's Got You, a 4-year-old, British-bred Kingman filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.50 with Jersey Joe Bravo in the irons. She was third in her U.S. debut in July at Belmont Park.
Big Runnuer took a long while to get to the races but he was ready to run when the gates opened for Friday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita, shot out to a big lead and held off Wildman Jack in the closing strides to win by 1 lengths.
Grit and Curiosity was third, a further 1 3/4 lengths in arrears. Big Runnuer, a 5-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.15 with Juan Hernandez up.
The time was 0.15 second off the course record. Big Runnuer made his first start last October and quickly worked his way up the class ladder and now has three straight wins.
"He broke sharp," said winning trainer Victor Garcia. "Other times he was a jump or jump and a half slow but this time he broke sharp and he took the lead so easily. I saw the first fraction at 21 [seconds] almost 22 and I said, 'Well, he's not going too fast.' With the blinkers on, he is more focused on the race."
On Saturday at The Great Race Place, Bulletproof One showed the way in the $99,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths as the favorite.
The daughter of Idiot Proof finished about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in course-record time of 1:01.12 with Ricardo Gonzalez riding. She now has two wins and two seconds from five starts on the green course.
Get Her Number dialed up a big one in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita. After tracking the longshot early leader, the Dialed In colt took the lead in the lane and held off Rombauer to win by 3/4 length.
The favorite, Spielberg, faded late for the third straight time, finishing third, 4 3/4 lengths farther back. Get Her Number, with Flavien Prat up for trainer Peter Miller, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.92 in his first start on the dirt. He won at first asking on the Del Mar turf, then was second in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf.
The American Pharoah was a "Win and You're In" for the TVG Breeders' Cup Juvenile Nov. 6 at Keeneland and trainer Ruben Alvarado sounded so inclined.
"I think Keeneland is the plan," he said. "If everything comes off okay and looks OK, I think that is what we will do."
At Gulfstream Park, Boca Boy led virtually from gate to wire in Saturday's $400,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes and held on to win by 2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Breeze On By, denying that one a sweep of the three-race series.
Seazan was third, 2 lengths farther back. Boca Boy, a Prospective gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.34.
Juvenile Turf / Juvenile Turf Sprint
The rains came in the middle of Saturday's Gulfstream Park program, washing the $75,000 Armed Forces Stakes onto the sloppy main track. Poppy's Pride took the quick early lead and held it, winning by 1 3/4 lengths from Fulmini.
Another 9 lengths back, Castle King was third. Poppy's Pride, a Khozan gelding, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:24.10 with Jesus Rios in the irons.
Omaha City collared Big Daddy Dave in the late going to take Saturday's $75,000 Hollywood Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 1 1/4 lengths. Hall Rich Legacy was third. Omaha City, a Temple City colt, ran 5 furlongs on good going in 58.81 with Marcos Meneses riding.
Princess Noor was the proverbial "much the best" in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita. After tracking the early pace, jockey Victor Espinoza pushed the button heading into the stretch and the Not This Time filly belied her name, quickly blitzing off to win by 8 1/4 lengths, ridden out.
Varda was second, securing the exacta for the Bob Baffert barn. Yet anoher Baffert charge, Illumination, just missed holding on for third, edged by Miss Costa Rica. Princess Noor ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.59. It was her third win from as many starts and none has been close.
"I saw Victor get behind and I saw that nice move before the three-eighths and you can only do that when you have a Ferrari under you," Baffert said of the $1.35 million purchase at the Ocala Breeders' Spring sale. "This filly is just incredible and very talented."
Princess Secret hooked up in a tight stretch battle with Restofthestory in Saturday's $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park and was all out to prevail by a neck over that rival. It was another 6 1/2 lengths to the favorite, Big Rings, in third.
Princess Secret, a daughter of Khozan, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.13 with Miguel Vasquez riding. She finished second in the first leg of the series, then won the second and now the third.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Saturday's $100,000 Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita was an open race but that didn't stop trainer Wesley Ward from shipping promising filly Amanzi Yimpilo across the continent for it.
And he was rewarded as the daughter of No Nay Never survived a rough start, stalked the pace and won a cavalry charge to the wire. Wyfire was second, a head behind Amanzi Yimpilo, with Windy City Red and Commander Khai in close attendance.
Amanzi Yimpilo, with Luis Saez up, won for the second time in three starts while finishing about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:02.77.
"It's on to the Breeders' Cup, we hope," said Ward assistant Blake Heap. The Speakeasy was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint at Keeneland, Ward's home base.
At Gulfstream Park, Saturday's $75,000 My Dear Peggy Stakes was washed off the turf onto the sloppy main track where Quinoa Tifah quickly led, held and won by 3 lengths.
The favorite, Con Lima, was second with Happy Constitution third. Quinoa Tifah, a Gemologist filly, finished 7 furlongs in 1:24.18 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
In other action around North America:
Cupid's Claws came from off the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Tokyo City Cup and drew off through the stretch to win by 7 1/4 lengths.
Tizamagician was best of the rest 1 1/4 lengths to the good of the favorite, Combatant. Cupid's Claws, a 5-year-old Kitten's Joy gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:30.12 with Flavien Prat aboard.
Avoman was a bit slow out of the gate in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Bull Page Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds but made up all the lost ground late to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
All Canadian was second, followed 1/2 length back by the favorite, Dragon's Brew, who also was victimized by a poor stasrt. Avoman, an Old Forester gelding, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on the firm inner turf in 1:31.78. Justin Stein rode.
Il Malocchio made steady progress from the middle of the field in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Victorian Queen Stakes for 2-year-old, Ontario-sired fillies and swept by pacesetting Sunsprite to win by 2 3/4 lengths.
Sunsprite held second with Howmuchistoomuch third. Il Malocchio, a Souper Speedy filly, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass in 1:30.87 with Sahin Civaci up. "Il Malocchio" is Italian for "the evil eye".
Summer Sunday had an autumnal Saturday stroll in the park in the $120,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahoney Stakes at Woodbine, leading all the way to a 1/2-length win over the aptly named Art of Almost. Souper Escape, the odds-on favorite, was third.
Summer Sunday, a 5-year-old daughter of Silent Name, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.08 for jockey Rafael Hernandez.
Huntsinger rallied from last of seven to win Sunday's $60,000 Kip Deville Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths over Vulcan. Hulen was another 3/4 length back in third. Huntsinger, a Texas-bred colt by Cinco Charlie, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.85 with Lane Luzzi up.
Kandy Ginger battled her way to the front in Sunday's $50,000 E. L. Gaylord Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then asserted herself in the final furlong, winning off by 2 1/2 lengths.
The early competition, Miss Twenty, held second with Gotta See Red third. Kandy Ginger, an Ontario-bred Kantharos filly, got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.41 for jockey Stewart Elliott.
Sunlit Song won a ding-dong, three-way battle to the wire in Sunday's $60,000 Remington Green Stakes, beating Tut's Revenge by a neck and the favorite, Mr. Misunderstood, by a similar margin.
Sunlit Song, a 5-year-old gelding by My Golden Song, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.99 with Lindey Wade in the irons.
Confessing chased down pacesetter Quick Quick Quick in deep stretch to win Sunday's $60,000 Rick's Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. Corluna was third. Confessing, a 4-year-old Scat Daddy filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:42.01 with Elliott up.
Chief Cicatriz was along late to win Sunday's $60,000 David M. Vance Stakes by 2 lengths with Seven Nation Army second. Mr Money Bags reported third. Chief Cicatriz, a 7-year-old Munnings gelding, finished 6 furlongs in 1:08.52 for jockey Luis Quinonez.
Caliente Candy kicked away down the lane to win Sunday's $50,000 Flashy Lady Stakes for fillies and mares by 4 lengths over Irish Mischief. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to Brave Daisey in third. Caliente Candy, a 4-year-old daughter of Sidney's Candy, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.16 with Quionez up.
Welder, the odds-on favorite, just did get by pacesetting Shannon C in the final strides of Friday's $70,000 Remington Park Turf Sprint for Oklahoma-breds, winning by a neck.
No Lak of Speed closed sharply to finish third, another 1/2 length back. Welder, a 7-year-old gelding by The Visualizer, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.53 seconds for jockey David Cabrera.
Hawaiian Typhoon led from gate to wire in Friday's $70,000 Bob Barry Memorial Stakes for Oklahoma-bred fillies and mares, winning by 1 length from the favorite, Alternative Slew.
Special Treasure was third. Hawaiian Typhoon, a 4-year-old filly by Notional, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass in 1:28.50 with Lane Luzzi up.
Noble Drama rallied to a big lead in the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Wildcat Heir stakes for Florida-breds, and then held on to win by 1 length over Garter and Tie. Noble Drama, a 5-year-old Gone Astray gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.34 with Emisael Jaramillo.
Pickin' Time idled in mid-pack through the early part of Sunday's $75,000 Smoke Glacken Stakes for 2-year-olds, then outfinished Dalton to win by a nose.
Basso was another 3 lengths back in third with the favorite, Waist Deep, fourth. Pickin' Time, a Stay Thirsty colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.61 with Joe Bravo at the controls.
Saturday's program featured six races for horses Delaware-bred or raced. Sadly, the turf races were moved off to the sloppy main track.
Fact Finding, under Carol Cedeno, led all the way to an 11 3/4-lengths score in the $75,000 DTHA Governor's Day Handicap at 1 mile and 70 yards.
Madam Meena dashed off to an 8 3/4-lengths win in the $100,000 Tax Free Shopping Distaff at 6 furlongs. In the companion $100,000 New Castle Stakes, Whereshetoldmetogo went where he shouldn't have in the stretch run and was disqualified from the win, putting up Threes Over Deuces.
Appropriately named Artful Splatter splashed her way to a 10 1/4-lengths victory in the $75,000, off-the-turf George Rosenberger Memorial for fillies and mares.
Street Lute, a daughter of Street Magician, held an early lead in the Small Wonder Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and extended it to win by 5 lengths. In the $100,000 First State Dash for 2-year-olds, Singlino led all the way and won by 2 lengths.
Seven Thoroughbred races, all for state-breds, enlivened Saturday's mixed-breed card at the Iowa oval. The track was fast.
Minecraft Maniac was promoted to the victory in the $85,000 Governor Terry E. Branstad Stakes at 1 1/16 miles as the first-to-finish Kauai was set down to third after multiple claims of interference.
In the companion $85,000 Donna Reed Stakes for fillies and mares, Mywomanfromtokyo led from the start and won by 1 1/4 lengths.
Mr. Lovejoy showed the way in the $70,000 Dan Johnson Sprint and won by 1 length from odds-on favorite Scrutinizer.
Flat Out Speed, the heaviest of favorites, was in command all the way in the $94,875 Iowa Breeders' Oaks and the Flat Out filly won by 2 3/4 lengths. In the $87,375 Iowa Breeders' Derby, odds-on favorite Mollies Rocket seized the lead at the eighth pole and won by 3 lengths.
Kela's Turn dueled to the lead in the $77,250 Sorority Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then kicked clear to win by 8 lengths. And in the $77,250 Iowa Cradle Stakes for 2-year-olds, Greedy Creedy wrested the lead from a pair of rivals and won off by 2 1/2 lengths.
Arlington Park wound up its abbreviated 2020 season Saturday with Music City Star, a Tapiture filly trained by Chris Davis, winning the final race, a maiden special weight. Arlington holds racing dates for 2021 and local management is planning to run them.
Parent company Churchill Downs Inc. has been less emphatic about its short-term plans for the plush facility and has announced it will sell the suburban Chicago facility for