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Spielberg gets on Kentucky Derby course

By
Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Sleepy Eyes Todd wins Saturday's Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park and aims now for the Pegasus World Cup. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park
Sleepy Eyes Todd wins Saturday's Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park and aims now for the Pegasus World Cup. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park

Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Spielberg, the $1 million colt, finally got the job done in the Los Alamitos Futurity in the highlight of weekend racing, boosting his hopes and trainer Bob Baffert's for the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Maxfield remained undefeated with a promising comeback win in New Orleans. Sleepy Eyes Todd won the Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park and is headed for the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

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On the international front, Grenadier Guards, a son of Frankel and Breeders' Cup winner Wavell Avenue, won the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at Hanshin Racecourse in Japan. In Argentina, Cool Day earned the first of many "Win and You're In" slots for the 2021 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Del Mar.

In Hong Kong, Christophe Soumillon finally got back to work. And interest continues to grow for the new race sponsored by the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia for countries not in the IFHA's Part One category.

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The weekend also was notable as the first time a "Road to the Kentucky Derby" race winner was denied points because he ran on Lasix.

Here's how it played out:

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The Road to the Roses

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Spielberg, a Union Rags colt who sold for $1 million at the 2019 Keeneland September yearling sale, hadn't exactly been a flop before Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity.

But with only one previous win on his record, a bunch of seconds and thirds and a fading fourth in his last race, his purchase price was coming into question.

With a change in riders to Flavien Prat, Spielberg demonstrated new ability to wait, then strike. As 33-1 long shot The Great One showed the way, Pratt kept Spielberg well off the pace. Kicked into gear in the stretch, he got the job done just in time, winning by a head bob.

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The Great One held second easily with Petruchio third and the odds-on favorite, Red Flag, another 5 lengths back in third. Spielberg finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.56.

It was not a show of dominance but, hey, a win's a win.

"He [The Great One] was tough to get by," said trainer Bob Baffert, who won the Futurity for the seventh straight time. "We needed every bit of that stretch and we were fortunate to get there. ... I asked Prat [after the race] if there's more there and he said there's a lot more. I think he'll get better with maturity. He's a beautiful horse.

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"I'm just happy for everybody in the ownership group," Baffert added. "Now we can start thinking [Kentucky] Derby. It starts here for us."

Speilberg earned 10 points on the Churchill Downs "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard, where he now stands fourth.

Missing out on 10 points during the weekend was a Mineshaft colt named Senior Buscador, who ran the out-of-towners off their shoes in Friday's $200,000 Remington Springboard Mile in Oklahoma.

Senor Buscador, who started his training at Zia Park in New Mexico before moving to Remington, was making just his second start for trainer Todd Fincher.

With Luis Quinonez up, Senor Buscador started last of 10, circled the field to gain the lead and then kicked away in the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

Cowan, last seen at finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland, was second and Red N Wild, another local with Sophie Doyle taking the reins, finished third.

Only one of the top four finishers -- Cowan, getting 4 -- was awarded "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points because the other three ran with Lasix -- a no-no for the 2020-21 series.

Senor Buscador won at first asking at 5 1/2 furlongs Nov. 6 with the same last-to-first tactics. As he stretches out, note that his sire, a son of A.P. Indy, won at distances up to 1 1/4 miles.

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On Saturday at Fair Grounds, Quick Tempo blasted off from the inside gate in the $75,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes, set a quick enough tempo and won easily, by 1 3/4 lengths.

Gagetown and Twilight Blue finished second and third as the winner finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.12 for jockey Adam Beschizza. The Tapizar colt, trained by Chris Davis, picked up his third win from five starts but has yet to try two turns.

The Road to the Oaks

Oliviaofthedesert just did get by the embattled leaders, Tiz Splendid News and Simply Sovereign, to win Friday night's $60,000 Trapeze Stakes at Remington Park by a head.

The placing judges could find nothing to separate the other two and declared it a dead heat. The rest of the field was 7 lengths and more back.

Oliviaofthedesert, a Bernardini filly campaigned by Kenny McPeek, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.39 with David Cabrera aboard.

Oliviaofthedesert was making her first start outside Kentucky. She won a Churchill Downs allowance event in her previous start but was a well-beaten fifth in the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland in October.

At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Joy's Rocket scored her fourth win from six starts, taking Saturday's $75,000 Letellier Memorial by 1 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.

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Maria's Princess was second, 1/2 length better than Charlie's Penny. Joy's Rocket, a Florida-bred daughter of Anthony's Cross, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.17 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons.

Despite her positive strike record, the Steve Asmussen trainee's sole defeat was a telling one -- fourth, beaten 14 3/4 lengths when going 1 mile for the first and only time in the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park.

Classic

With the host of retirements in the wake of this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, any sign of new life in this division is more than welcome. Enter Maxfield. Or, rather, re-enter.

The 3-year-old Godolphin homebred, a son of Street Sense out of the Bernardini mare

Velvety, pressed the pace made by Cool Bobby in Saturday's $75,000 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds, took over the lead when asked by jockey Florent Geroux and went on to win without further fuss by 2 1/2 lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.35.

Winning a $75,000, ungraded stakes without much top-shelf competition normally wouldn't be much to write home about. But this was different.

For one thing, Maxfield remains undefeated after four starts -- a record that includes last fall's Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland and the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on May 23.

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He was on the road to the Kentucky Derby as a live chance before he suffered an injury preparing for the Blue Grass at Keeneland.

For another, this was the first race in which the colt didn't put himself at a huge disadvantage at the start. In each of his first three outings he spotted the competition substantial leads.

Now, if trainer Brendan Walsh can keep him together for a 2021 campaign, he might have something.

"He was a little fresh tonight, so maybe he was a little more aggressive than normal," Walsh said. "I don't think he's a deep closer by any means. He's a stronger horse this year and I think we can ride him more prominently.

"All options are open," Walsh said. "We will see how he comes out of the race, talk it over with the team at Godolphin and figure out the best plan going forward."

In other action:

Gulfstream Park

Sleepy Eyes Todd, Firenze Fire and Mind Control, all refugees from Breeders' Cup day Nov. 7 at Keeneland, were the first three past the judge in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Mr. Prospector.

Sleepy Eyes Todd, winner of the Grade III Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, stalked the pace and won by 1/2 length over Firenze Fire, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He was 2 3/4 lengths better than Mind Control, who finished ninth in the Lafayette.

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Haikal, making his first start since Feb. 29, was bumped at the start, lagged well behind and improved position, finishing sixth. He also could be a significant new player in the division.

Sleepy Eyes Todd, a 4-year-old Paddy O'Prado colt out of the Wild Rush mare Pledge Mom, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.67 with Tyler Gaffalione up.

The Mr. Prospector leads logically to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, a Grade 1 event Jan. 23.

"This is the plan," said winning trainer Miguel Silva of the Pegasus.

And then the Pegasus is a "Win and You're In" for the $20 million Saudi Cup in Riyadh the following month.

"This is the best horse we've ever had," Silva said. "We've always been high on him. We wanted to take him to the Kentucky Derby but he had a little issue and we had to stop with him. He's always been a nice horse. We've always believed in him."

Sleepy Eyes Todd's dam sire, Wild Rush, won the 1997 Illinois Derby at Sportsman's Park and famously dead-heated with Silver Charm for the win in the 1998 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.

In Saturday's $100,000 Via Borghese for fillies and mares, Always Shopping stalked the pace, gained the lead at the quarter pole and ran on to win by 3 lengths.

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Great Island finished second but was set down to third for interfering with Cap de Creus at the eighth pole. The latter was awarded second place. Always Shopping, a 4-year-old Awesome Again filly, ran 1 3/16 miles over firm turf in 1:54.34 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.

Always Shopping, trained by Todd Pletcher, was last seen finishing second in the Rood & Riddle Dowager at Keeneland Oct. 18. "She seems to like the course here," Pletcher said. "There's a great program of stakes here so we'll look to keep her going in those."

Fair Grounds

Archidust rallied through the final sixteenth in Saturday's $75,000 Richard L. Scherer Stakes and was up to win by 1 length over Just Might.

Hollis was third and the favorite, Fast Boat, rowed home fifth. Archidust, a 4-year-old Verrazano colt, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.71 for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., notching his eighth win from 17 starts.

Logical Myth stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial, launched a bid for the lead midway down the long Fair Grounds stretch and prevailed by a head.

Cross Border was second, a neck in front of Argentello. Logical Myth, a 4-year-old gelding by Data Link, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.58 with Adam Beschizza in the irons.

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Dalika went for the lead shortly after the start in Saturday's $75,000 Blushing K.D. Stakes for fillies and mares and wasn't caught, extending her advantage to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Curlin's Journey was second, 3/4 length in front of the favorite, Secret Message. Dalika, a German-bred, 4-year-old filly by Pastorius, ran 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:42.68 with Miguel Mena up.

Aqueduct

Backsideofthemoon showed his backside to five rivals right out of the gate in Saturday's $100,000 Queen's County Stakes and kept right on going, winning by 6 lengths. The favorite, Musical Heart, was second and it was another 12 1/4 lengths to Empty Tomb in third.

Backsideofthemoon, a 7-year-old gelding by Malibu Moon, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.94. Jose Lezcano had the mount for trainer Rudy Rodriguez. He was fourth in last year's Queen's County.

Remington Park

On Friday night's Springboard Mile program:

Jeweled Princess fought off several rivals in the stretch run of the $75,000 She's All In Stakes for fillies and mares and won by a head over the last of them, Istan Council. Kim V was third.

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Jeweled Princess, a 3-year-old daughter of Cairo Prince, finished 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.85 with David Cabrera riding. Five of the six starters last raced at Churchill Downs and they were the first five finishers.

Hunka Burning Love led from the first jumps in the $60,000 Jeffrey A. Hawke Memorial and drew off late to win by 2 3/4 lengths with Ramon Vazquez riding.

Summer Revolution found some late speed to gain second, 2 lengths in front of Fast Breakin Cash. Hunka Burning Love, a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.49.

Don't Tell Noobody took back to last in the $70,000 Jim Thorpe Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds, then came with a late move to win by 3/4 length.

Great Faces was second, 4 lengths in front of Mesa Mood. Don't Tell Noboody, a Cyber Secret gelding, finished 1 mile in 1:39.50 for jockey Sophie Doyle.

Dipping In took the $70,000 Useeit Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies by 1 length, also coming from well back.

The early leader, Polly Tiz, held on for second at odds of 25-1 with the odds-on favorite, She's All Wolfe, tiring late to finish third after enjoying a brief lead. Dipping In, a Lea filly, got 1 mile in 1:40.69 with Cabrera up.

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Los Alamitos

Play Chicken surged to the lead in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 King Glorious Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds at Los Alamitos and then was all out to hold the advantage, winning by a neck over the appropriately named Moving Fast.

Club Cal was 1/2 length farther back in third and the favorite, Mr. Bold, checked in fourth. Play Chicken, a Square Eddie colt trained by Doug O'Neill, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.10 with Mario Gutierrez up.

Mahoning Valley

Big Truck rolled down the middle of the track to get past pacesetting First Song and win Saturday's $75,000 Joshua Radosevich Memorial for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths.

First Song was second, 1 length to the good of Weekend Buzz. Big Truck, a Birdrun gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.65 with Sonny Leon aboard.

Grizabella got through between rivals nearing the furlong marker in Saturday's $75,000 Bobbie Bricker Memorial for state-bred fillies and mares and got the job done thereafter, winning by 1 length over Mobil Lady.

The favorite, Edge of Night, was third. Grizabella, a 6-year-old Lunarpal mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:42.99 with Luis Rivera up.

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Around the world, around the clock:

Japan

Grenadier Guards, a Frankel colt out of a Breeders' Cup winner, powered to victory in course-record time over the two favorites in Sunday's Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at Hanshin Racecourse.

Grenadier Guards raced comfortably out of trouble as Mondreise and jockey Christophe Lemaire took the lead in the 1,600-meters event. Grenadier Guards' rider, Yuga Kawada, urged the colt to the front just inside the 200-meter mark, quickly built a good lead and held off Stella Veloce and Red Belle Aube, winning by 3/4 length.

"My concern was to keep him happy and in good rhythm because the colt has a difficult temper and can run off like he did in his second career outing," Kawada said.

"So you have to be careful to keep him controlled. But he has great potential if he can bring out his best and I am looking forward for another good season for him next year."

Grenadier Guards is the third son of Frankel to win the Futurity, following Soul Stirring and Mozu Ascot. He is the first foal from Wavell Avenue, a Canadian-bred mare who won the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Keeneland in 2015 and finished second a year later at Santa Anita in the same event.

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The 2018 Futurity winner, Admire Mars, went on to win the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup and the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile the following year.

Next weekend's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse, at 2,000 meters, will feature youngsters more likely to target next year's longer Classics.

Argentina

Cool Day hit the front in the closing yards to win Saturday's Group 1 Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini at Hipodromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, earning an automatic berth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf next November at Del Mar.

The Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini, South America's most prestigious race, was the first Breeders' Cup Challenge Series race of the 2021 season.

Making just his fourth start, Cool Day, ridden by Eduardo Ortega Pavon and trained by Alfredo Gaitan Dassie, slipped through an inside opening in the late going and completed the 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.78. Pinball Wizard and Village King finished second and third, respectively.

Cool Day won his second race of the year. He broke his maiden in his second start at 9 furlongs Oct. 20 at San Isidro, and came back Oct. 31 in the Grade 1 Jockey Club at 1 1/4 miles over the same course, finishing second by 1 1/2 lengths.

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Hong Kong

The COVID-19 pandemic cost Christophe Soumillon the chance to ride in both the Breeders' Cup and the Longines Hong Kong International Races. Finally back in the irons, Soumillion started making up for lost time with a riding double.

"I came here with a smile on my face," said Soumillon, who won the first race on Sunday's program, scored again in the eighth and earned purse money in nine of the 10 races. "You can't see with this mask on but I'm really happy to be back."

He isn't going to challenge for the jockey premiership, which Joao Moreira leads comfortably with Zac Purton his only conceivable competition. But, he said, he's happy to be back in the mix.

"The thing is when you come here, you can show people that you are motivated and you can still do what you do best. It's good to get a nice start. I'm very happy."

The Saudi Cup races

Spanish trainer Alvaro Soto is hoping to bring Oriental, Spain's 2019 Horse of the Year, to contest the new $500,000 Saudi International Handicap on Saudi Cup weekend.

The 2,100-meter race is open to horses trained in countries not listed as Part One jurisdictions by the Federation of Horseracing Authorities and is designed to give those nations a chance at international glory while expanding the reach of the Saudi racing program.

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In 2019, Oriental won two of Spain's biggest 1,600-meters races in 2019 -- the Gran Premio Gobierno Vasco and Gran Premio de la Hispanidad -- and one of Morocco's top prizes, the 2,400-meters Grand Prix de la Sorec.

Soto, who is based in Madrid, said he has solved some breathing issues that hampered the horse's 2020 campaign but hopes to give the 6-year-old one prep run Dec. 30.

"We would love it if we were invited to Saudi Arabia for the International Handicap," the trainer said. "This is the type of opportunity I'm looking for. It is very important for my career.

"Everyone will be at The Saudi Cup meeting and everyone will be watching. It's very important to go to these type of races to meet people."

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