Ride a Comet wins Saturday's Tropical Turf at Gulfstream Park, earning a bid to the Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Photo by Ryan Thompson, courtesy of Gulfstream Park
Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Fillies and mare mixed it up at Santa Anita during the weekend while, across the continent, Ride a Comet parlayed the fourth straight win of his comeback from injury to an invitation to the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf with a victory.
On the international front, upsets in South African Grade 1 races produced two potential candidates for November's Breeders' Cup turf races.
Here's the long and short of it:
Sanenus was caught three-wide into the first turn of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III La Canada Stakes for fillies and mares, rallied from a stalking position to take the lead on the stretch turn and drew off quickly to win by 6 lengths.
Miss Stormy D edged Hard Not To Love for second with the favorite, Fighting Mad, fading from the lead to finish fifth, beaten nearly 13 lengths. Sanenus, a 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.44 with Umberto Rispoli aboard.
Sanenus was bred in Chile and was a Group 1 winner there. The La Canada was her first North American win after a pair of thirds and a second earlier this year.
"I asked her a bit at the half-mile pole and she responded well," Rispoli said. "At the top of the stretch, she was looking around and I was just hoping she was going to stay focused. She finished well and I think she has more there."
Charmaine's Mia worked quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Las Cienegas Stakes for fillies and mares and ran on unchallenged to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Jolie Olimpica rallied from far back to finish second. Lighthouse was third but set down to fifth for an incident shortly after the start that caused Oleksandra to clip heels, unseating jockey Joel Rosario.
Charmaine's Mia, with Drayden Van Dyke up, finished 6 furlongs on firm turf in course-record time of 1:07.81. The 5-year-old daughter of The Factor is trained by Phil D'Amato.
All 25 of Charmaine's Mia's previous starts were at Woodbine or Gulfstream Park and D'Amato indicated that might be a good angle to seek out.
"I've learned with some of these horses coming in from Woodbine," he said, "that because they've got a deeper turf up there, this is their first chance to run over a firm turf and sometimes, they just float over it and she did just that. She had trained phenomenally well on the training track here."
The Las Cienegas was Charmaine's Mia's first stakes score.
On Sunday, Qahira surged to the lead at the top of the stretch in the $100,000 Kalookan Queen Stakes for fillies and mares and kicked away to win by 1 length over the late-running Amuse.
Biddy Duke was third as Qahira ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.05. Joel Rosario had the mount for trainer Bob Baffert.
Qahira, a 5-year-old Cairo Prince mare, scored her fourth win from her last five starts. She was second in the Grade III Chillingworth in September.
"Bob said to tell Joel to just come out of there and try to get a good position," Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said.
"The way it worked out, those two fillies [early leaders Acting Out and Mo See Cal] went and we were able to get outside of them. At the five sixteenths, Joel jumped on 'em and she was pretty impressive. Joel gave her a perfect ride."
Ride a Comet has had a career trajectory about as opposite a comet as one could imagine. After a victory in the 2018 Del Mar Derby, the son of Candy Ride was laid low by two separate injuries and out of action for more than two years.
Returning at Woodbine, he won an allowance race last October, then captured the Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes on the all-weather course Nov. 21 -- a race in which Pink Lloyd was relegated to third.
After that effort, trainer Mark Casse took the snowbird route and returned Ride a Comet to the turf for Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Tropical Turf.
He was amply rewarded as the now 6-year-old emerged from a pace-stalking trip to outfinish Casa Creed, winning by 1/2 length. Early leader Frostmourne completed a chalky trifecta as the winner was clocked in 1:33.62 over firm going.
"He came down well-prepared from Woodbine from our crew up there," Casse assistant Nick Tomlinson said.
"The story behind this horse is just truly amazing. A lot of the credit goes to our team in Ocala and to the owners, especially, for having the patience with him. He's rewarding us every time he goes out there."
The victory also earned Ride a Comet an invitation to the $1 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational Jan. 23 although he is on the also-eligible list for that race.
Our Last Buck rallied down the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes for New York-breds and got away in the final furlong to win by 3 3/4 lengths.
It was another 3 1/4 lengths to Runningwscissors in third. Our Last Buck, a 7-year-old Courageous Cat gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.11 for jockey Kendrick Carmouche.
Sunday, Perfect Munnings got by pacesetter Storm Shooter in the late going to take the $100,000 Rego Park Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds by 2 lengths. Storm Shooter held second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Lookin for Trouble.
The favorite, Uno, was a nose farther back in fourth. Perfect Munnings, a Munnings colt, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.24 with Manny Franco riding.
Into Mystic chased down pacesetting Elle Z in the final furlong of Saturday's $75,000 Nelson J. Menard Memorial for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 length over that rival.
Change of Control was third. Into Mystic, a 5-year-old daughter of Into Mischief, ran about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:04.53. Florent Geroux rode for trainer Brandan Walsh. The result reversed the 1-2 finish from the Pan Zareta Stakes at the same conditions.
A pair of Group 1 races Saturday at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town produced a big upset and two "Win and You're In" candidates for the November Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The upset came in the Cartier Paddock States as defending champion Queen Supreme defeated previously unbeaten Summer Pudding, earning a spot in the $2 million Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf on Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
In the next race, Jet Dark got through between rivals in the stretch run to win the L'Ormarins Queen's Plate by 3/4 length over Rainbow Bridge, securing a spot in the $2 million FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile Presented by PDJF.
Jet Dark, a 3-year-old son of Trippi, is trained by internationally minded Justin Snaith. Snaith also saddled the race favorite, Belgarion, who finished third, and Do It Again, 2019 Queen's Plate and two-time Vodacom Durban July winner. Do It Again reported fourth Saturday.
Summer Pudding, meanwhile, came into the Paddock Stakes undefeated after nine starts. She was in the mix until late in the race but tired to finish seventh.
Queen Supreme, trained by the equally internationally minded Mike de Kock, had all the stamina the favorite lacked, rallying down the center of the course to win by 2 1/4 lengths from Clouds Unfold. Queen Supreme now has seven races from 13 starts.
On the relatively rare occasions they've had the chance, South African-trained horses have been competitive on the world scene.
Current quarantine protocols, however, make it difficult to impossible to send a horse from South Africa for specific world-class events. Efforts to ease those protocols, regarded as unnecessary and punitive by South Africans, have fallen afoul of Brexit negotiations and the COVID-19 pandemic.