April 12 (UPI) -- Another big weekend of Thorougbred racing at Keeneland and Oaklawn Park set the tentative field field for the May 1 Kentucky Derby amid some fascinating battles among the sprinters and turf specialists.
C Z Rocket and Whitmore continued their sprint rivalry, also at Oaklawn, and some fine turf racing during Keeneland's second spring weekend points to a classy summer campaign. Juliet Foxtrot and Raging Bull won the Grade I events.
On the international front, Japan's white filly Sodashi won again, four Group 1 races provided some upsets in Australia and promising 3-year-olds were in action as the flat racing season gears up in France and Ireland.
We're geared up, too, so let's go.
The Road to the Roses
Super Stock's pedal-to-the-metal stretch run in the $1 million Grade I Arkansas Derby produced just the second win of his career but that was enough to earn him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, shaking up the field for the 147th running of that Classic.
The Dialed In colt, trained by Steve Asmussen for a partnership that includes his father, Keith, raced behind the dueling frontrunners, odds-on favorite Concert Tour and Caddo River.
Concert Tour put a head in front early in the stretch run but then couldn't find the needed additional gear. Souper Stock, after saving ground, switched out around the lead pair and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths.
Caddo River was second, with Concert Tour holding on for third.
"He got up behind them a little quicker than we thought he would, obviously, in the stretch," Asmussen said of Super Stock's effort.
"My confidence level was he was going to run really good. I've been in races like that, that you have no control over how good or bad somebody else runs. But I felt like that he was going to represent extremely well."
Bob Baffert, trainer of the horse than ran (sort of) bad, previously undefeated Concert Tour, racked it up as a learning experience for his favorite and Hozier, his other runner.
"He's there and just got tired there at the end," Baffert said of Concert Tour. "He's a young horse. It was a good race but I was more disappointed in my other horse in the race. That other horse, he got tired early. Those things happen.
"You get beat and try to figure out. They're still young and they're still having these races. Sometimes, you learn more from a loss than a win. Right now, he got beat. I can make any excuses for him right now."
Super Stock earned 100 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard, moving into the No. 3 spot. Caddo River jumped to No. 13 and Concert Tour now stands at No. 9.
Asmussen enthusiastically said his colt is headed to Louisville. His only previous win came in a restricted 5 1/2-furlongs dash at Lone Star Park, but the trainer said he absolutely is peaking at the right time.
The "other Baffert" in the race, Hozier, finished second to Concert Tour in the Grade II Rebel in their last race. The 20 points from the Rebel find him No. 27 on the Derby ratings although he didn't look like a contender this time around the Arkansas oval.
The Oaklawn Park race was the last of 35 races on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series used by Churchill Downs to determine the maximum-20 field for the Run for the Roses.
The penultimate event in the series, the Grade III Lexington, run at Keeneland just hours earlier, was important more for what didn't happen than for what did.
The Lexington carries qualifying points on the 20-8-4-2 scale. Proxy, a Godolphin runner, entered with 34 points and earned only 2 for finishing fourth. That left him No. 21 on the leaderboard after all the adjustments.
If history is any measure, at least one defection will happen among the top 20, affording the Tapit colt a spot in the starting gate alongside Godolphin's potential favorite, undefeated Essential Quality. A second-place finish would have moved him up to the No. 16 spot.
The Lexington winner, King Fury, sits at No. 28 on the list and trainer Kenny McPeek said the Derby might be a consideration if he sneaks into the field.
"I think he's going to handle a mile and a quarter without any trouble," McPeek said. "Whether he gets in, it's out of our control. We'll see how he bounces out. We think a mile a quarter would be great. We'll look at the opposition.
"The Preakness is a great race, too. It could be either-or, but it would definitely one or the other."
Filly & Mare Turf
Juliet Foxtrot waltzed to a front-running, 2-length victory in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Coolmore Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland.
Making her first start since a close third-place finish in the Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar in November, the 6-year-old, British-bred Dansili mare led from the start, opened up a daylight lead and was still 2 length to the good of Tamahere at the end.
La Signare was third, another neck in arrears. Tyler Gaffalione rode as Juliet Foxtrot, a Juddmonte Farms homebred, completed 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:44.51.
Juddmonte's Garrett O'Rourke said the victory has special meaning for the organization's breeding potential.
"It was brave on behalf of everybody at Juddmonte to make the move to keep her [in training] for one more year to try to win that elusive Grade I," he said.
"This is huge for the mare. She looked absolutely magnificent today, and for as consistent of a performer as she's been, I just think she thoroughly deserves it, which makes it all the more sweet for us."
Raging Bull raced in mid-pack, saving ground, down the backstretch in Friday's $300,000 Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland, began passing rivals on the turn and opened up in the stretch to win by 2 lengths over late-running Ride a Comet.
Sacred Life was third and the favorite, Hit the Road, finished fifth after never contending. Raging Bull, a 6-year-old, French-bred son of Dark Angel, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:33.86.
Raging Bull was third in this race last year and fourth the year before. He finished second in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile during Keeneland's 2020 fall meeting, and then was 10th in the Breeder's Cup Mile in his last start.
Saturday at Aqueduct, Delaware rallied from next-last of seven to win the $100,000 Danger's Hour Stakes by 3/4 length over pacesetting Rinaldi.
Decorated Invader was another 3 lengths back in third and the favorite, Analyze It, faded to finish last and reportedly bled.
Delaware, a British-bred, 4-year-old Frankel colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in course-record time of 1:33.63 for jockey Manny Franco. Delaware was a Group 3 winner in France in 2019, but had not won in six previous U.S. starts.
Sunday at Aqueduct, Regal Glory put in a late bid in the $100,000 Plenty of Grace Stakes for fillies and mares, got by pacesetting Platinum Paynter at the sixteenth pole and won by 1/2 length over that one. Myheartbelongstodaddy was third.
Regal Glory, a 5-year-old Animal Kingdom mare, finished 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.49 with Jose Ortiz up. She was having her first start since winning the Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf in September.
As ace racing pundit Jude Feld says, "Old guys rule." C Z Rocket and Whitmore are proving that over and over as the veterans duke it out atop this division.
Whitmore, now 8, pulled off the upset win in last autumn's Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland, winning by 3 1/4 lengths with C Z Rocket second. C Z Rocket, now 7, returned the favor in the Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 13, outfinishing Whitmore to win by a neck.
On Saturday, he made it two in a row, winning the $500,000 Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap by 2 lengths over his archrival.
Both came from off the pace, as is their wont, in the Count Fleet. But C Z Rocket was first to hit the lead and Whitmore couldn't find enough in the final sixteenth. C Z Rocket got home in 1:09.62 over a fast track with Florent Geroux riding.
The respective trainers complimented each other's horses. Winner Peter Miller: "Whitmore's a great horse and ran a great race, as always." Runner-up Ron Moquette: "Just the other horse's day today. Congratulations."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Edgeway edged into the lead turning for home in Saturday's $250,000 Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park and held on bravely to turn back the challenge from favorite Frank's Rockette, winning by 3/4 length from that rival. It was 1 1/4 lengths more back to Casual in third.
Edgeway, a 4-year-old Competitive Edge filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.13 with Joel Rosario riding. At this time last year, she was finishing third in the Purple Martin over the same track, behind Kimari and Frank's Rockette. She has never finished worse than third in six career starts.
"That was a really nice field, so that's a big win for her," said Edgeway's trainer, John Sadler. "She's stakes-placed several times. For her to win a really good stake like that, is very important. She's a nice, quality filly, there's no doubt about that."
Change of Control came running late and wide to capture Saturday's $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland, chasing down the even-money favorite, Into Mystic, through the final furlong. Into Mystic finshed second by 1 length but 4 1/2 lengths to the good of Jakarta.
Change of Control, a 5-year-old Fed Biz mare, got 5 1/2 furlongs on yielding turf in 1:04.48 with Colby Hernandez Jr. aboard. She scored for the first time since June of 2019. Three of the original 10 entrants scratched.
Friday's $100,000 TVG Limestone Turf Sprint for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland was hit by a raft of scratches -- notably Royal Ascot prospect Campanelle -- but turned into quite the race, nonetheless.
Toby's Heart got the win, following Goin' Good into the stretch, then easing by that one in the closing strides to win by 1/2 length. Navratilova chased the early lead and finished third.
Toby's Heart, by Jack Milton, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on turf rated good in 1:02.29 with Javier Castellano riding.
Classic / Dirt Mile
As noted here Friday, By My Standards had a rough go of things at the end of 2020 and likely needed a break. He got just that, resting up for four and a half months, then found a bunch he could handle in Saturday's $400,000 Oaklawn Mile.
The 5-year-old son of Goldencents, with Gabriel Saez up, got a wide trip throughout the race, lost significant ground around the second turn and still got up to win by a nose over the favorite, Rushie. It was another 2 1/2 lengths back to Rushie in third.
By My Standards reported in 1:37.82, promising a return to the form that saw him win three Grade II races last year.
"He was really ready," trainer Bret Calhoun said of By My Standards. "He really was well prepared, but I was more concerned about the short-stretch mile, honestly. ... It kind of played out like we thought.
"There was quite a bit of speed in there. Some of the horses on the outside had speed and they had to make some quick decisions. Gabe just rode a great race."
Silver Dust stuck close to the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Ben Ali at Keeneland, dueled through the stretch to get the advantage and held off the favorite, Night Ops, by 1/2 length.
The other three, Beau Luminaire, Sprawl and Treasure Trove, were all within 1/4 length.
Silver Dust, a 7-year-old Tapit gelding, finished 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track in 1:50.21 for jockey Adam Beschizza. It was his first win since the Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds in February of 2020.
Horologist drafted in behind pacesetting Mrs. Danvers in Saturday's $100,000 Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct, went by that rival when prompted by jockey Junior Alvarado and ran on to win by 1 length. Mrs. Danvers held second by a neck over Lucky Stride.
Horologist, a 5-year-old mare by Gemologist, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.14. It was her first start since a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Keeneland.
In other action:
Only half the field finished Saturday's $75,000 Howard B. Noonan Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds as Startdfromdabottom fell at the 5/16ths pole with three trailing rivals either falling like dominos or checking to avoid the wreck. Three of those affected walked away but Hakman was euthanized as a result of his injuries.
Morestride was the winner, emerging from a stalking trip to finish 2 1/2 lengths to the good of runner-up Esplanade. Morestride, a Midshipman colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.08 with Luis Rivera riding.
The companion Cheryl S. White Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies was uneventful with Prodigy Doll leading throughout and kicking loose to win by 8 lengths. Make a Scene and Tivis filled out the trifecta.
Prodigy Doll, a Shanghai Bobby filly, reported in 1:13.31 with Sonny Leon riding.
Around the world, around the clock:
Startling white filly Sodashi is quickly becoming star white filly Sodashi. The daughter of Kurofune ran her record to 5-for-5 with a narrow but nonetheless impressive win in Sunday's Grade 1 Oka Sho or Japanest 1,000 Guineas.
It was her first start of the year and first since she won the Grade 1 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies back in December.
Sodashi got a dream trip, skimming the rail behind the leaders into the stretch. She then put on a burst of speed, opened up a couple of lengths lead and held on win by a neck over familiar rival Satono Reinas, who was second by just a nose in the Hanshin race.
Sodashi finished the 1,600 meters in course-record time of 1:31.1.
Although Sodashi's lead was evaporating quickly in the closing yards, winning jockey Hayato Yoshida sounded as if she had the measure of her rivals.
"She responded beautifully and ran well holding off the others closing in on us, which I saw and made me drive her to the wire," Yoshida said.
"It's a great feeling," he added. "There was a lot of pressure with many doubting how strong a white filly could be. So I'm thrilled that we were able to prove them wrong. Her potential is limitless."
The race was the first leg of the Japanese fillies Triple Crown but Sodashi will have to show she can go much longer distances if she's to challenge for that title.
Owned and bred by Kaneko Makoto Holding Co. Ltd. and trained by Naosuke Sugai, Sodashi's longest trip so far was 1,800 meters -- 600 meters short of the next leg of the Triple Crown series.
Explosive Jack, already wearing the Tazmanian Derby crown, added the ATC Derby to his trophy case Saturday with a gutsy, if narrow, victory over Young Werther with Randwick Guineas winner Lion's Roar also in close attendance in third.
"He is a tough horse," said jockey Johnny Allen. "The distance was never going to be a worry with him. We got cover on the back of Young Werther.
"Montefilia actually popped out down the side and pushed me out a bit wide. I didn't want to take off on him too early, so I let her come around me. Once we got to the outside, he really let down and he tries his guts out this horse."
Also Saturday, Nature Strip made it two straight T J Smith wins -- that in furtherance of a hoped-for two straight Australian Horse of the Year titles. The 6-year-old Nicconi gelding surged out to the lead with plenty of grass yet to cover in the 1,200-meter sprint and wasn't for being caught.
Masked Crusader's late charge fell 2 lengths short and Eduardo, who battled for the early lead, settled for third.
Jamie Kah, visiting from Melbourne where she has set racing ablaze, scored her first Group 1 win in Sydney as she just managed to get Godolphin runner Cascadian up to win the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap by a nostril over Icebath with Dalasan third.
Icebath appeared to have victory in the bag, but Cascadian kept finding just a bit more with each stride and barely got the job done.
"I am a bit speechless to be honest," Racenet quoted Kah as saying. "He probably waited a little bit on the line, that is why I wasn't sure if I had got it or not. But he stuck his nose out though and I couldn't be happier."
Cascadian's win made it a Group 1 double for trainer James Cummings, following on the earlier victory of Anamoe in the ATC Sires' Produce Stakes for 2-year-olds.
Anamoe, another of Godolphin's, scored by nearly 3 lengths -- no surprise after his excellent runner-up finish last time out in the Golden Slipper.
Sunday's program at Longchamp included a couple impressive performances by 3-year-olds over a course rated very soft.
Adhamo, an Intello colt trained by Freddie Head for the Wertheimers, ran his winning streak to four with a 3-lengths victory in the Group 3 Prix la Force for colts and geldings. He had a previous start this year while runner-up Erasmo was making his first start of 2021 in the 1,800-meter race.
The Group 3 Prix Noailles for 3-year-olds at 2,200 meters went to Cheshire Academy on a disqualification. Pretty Tiger crossed the finish line first after a late-race battle, but was ruled to have caused interference the order of finish was reversed.
The ruling preserved a perfect record for Cheshire Academy, a Flintshire colt making his first start of the season after going 2-for-2 at 2.
In the Group 3 Prix Vanteaux for 3-year-old fillies, Rumi batted through the closing stages with heavy favorite Petricor before subduing that rival by 3/4 length.
Both are by Frankel Rumi posted her second win from three starts while Petricor, a Juddmonte homebred, was making her first start of the year after winning her only race at 2. Tiger Tanaka, winner of the Group 2 Prix Marcel Boussac-Criterium des Pouliches, finished sixth.
Bolshoi Ballet may have renewed some of Coolmore's faith as the Galileo 3-year-old contested the lead in Sunday's Group 3 P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown, and then took control when asked by jockey Ryan Moore and won by 2 1/4 lengths from Flying Visit.
Bolshoi Ballet won his second start of 2020 but then disappointed in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, finishing fifth while beaten just more than 2 lengths. The Aidan O'Brien trainee was having his first go of the season in the 1 1/4-mile test.
A pair of Guineas trials Sunday at Leopardstown produced a huge upset in one and a fizzle by the favorite in the other.
Keeper of Time, a Mehmas filly with two previous wins, got the lead inside the last of 7 furlongs and just did hold off Mehnah, a Shadwell homebred Frankel filly, by a head -- at odds of 80-1 -- in the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud "Priory Belle" 1,000 Guineas Trial.
Poetic Flair, a Dawn Approach colt, improved to 4-for-4 with a victory in the Group 3 Ballylinch Stud "Red Rocks" 2,000 Guineas Trial as the favorite, faded to finish last of 12 while hanging right through the final furlong.