April 19 (UPI) -- Million-dollar races at Oaklawn Park produced a big upset and a potential star for the remainder of the year in highlights of horse racing this weekend.
The Kentucky Derby field continued its slow simmer, with another of trainer Bob Baffert's prospects out of the picture.
On the world scene, the Japanese 3-year-olds had a potentially defining experience Sunday while some top 2-year-olds from late 2020 returned to the track in England. The rematch in Australia between Addeybb and Verry Elleegant ... well, see the international section.
But that's after a quick tour through the North American action, thus:
The Run for the Roses
Concert Tour has been removed from Derby contention after his third-place finish in the Blue Grass at Keeneland with trainer Bob Baffert saying the Preakness is a possibility for the colt.
Baffert now has only San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby runner-up Medina Spirit to carry his hopes for a record seventh win in the Run for the Roses.
Crowded Trade and Rombauer also came out of the field. After all that, moving into the 20-horse starting gate are Santa Anita third Dream Shake, Louisiana Derby third O Besos and Get Her Number, who won the American Pharoah way back on Sept 26 and finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby.
There are only three candidates left on the Churchill Downs "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard -- King Fury, Keepmeinmind and Starrininmydreams -- so if four more horses defect, the field would drop below the maximum 20.
Note that Starrininmydreams has accumulated only 4 points in the series, that for a third-place finish in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park was billed as a showdown between Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver -- the putative royalty of the division. But someone forgot to tell Letruska, who boldly upset that applecart.
Taking the lead right out of the gate for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., Letruska led down the backstretch with Monomoy Girl behind and to the outside of Swiss Skydiver.
Monomoy Girl made her move on the turn and hit the front at the top of the stretch, seemingly ready to draw off. Letruska had other ideas, digging down for more, regaining even terms in the shadow of the wire and winning by a nose.
"The instructions were: 'We are the speed of the race,'" winning trainer Fausto Gutierrez said.
"She started a little bit slow in the last races. I told Irad, 'No matter if this happens, you try to move and go in front and set the pace and make the others think: 'What do you have to do?' He has magical hands. It's not this race. He does this all the time."
"I think we're going to take a little bit more time with her," Gutierrez said. "The plan is to go to the Breeders' Cup. We need to check in the middle, which races we can go to."
Swiss Skydiver, who ran without Lasix, faded in the final furlong to finish third, 6 1/2 lengths back of Monomoy Girl as the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track went in 1:43.14.
While Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver were the marquee names in the Apple Blossom, Letruska was never ignored and went to the post as third-favorite at odds of 3.40-1.
The Super Saver mare, who started her career in Mexico, was a three-time graded stakes winner in the United States and came off a second-place finish in the Grade II Azeri over the Oaklawn track.
Friday's $100,000 Grade III Baird Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland turned into a three-way sprint to the wire with Bonny South holding off Royal Flag by a head and early leader
Graceful Princess just another head back in third. The favorite, Speech, contested the early lead, fell back and was eased through the stretch.
Bonny South, a Juddmonte Farms homebred 4-year-old by Munnings, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.46 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
The Brad Cox trainee was making her first start of the year after closing out a promising 2020 with a runner-up showing in the Grade II Falls City at Churchill Downs. Along the way, she won the Fair Grounds Oaks and finished second in the Grade I Alabama, behind only Swiss Skydiver.
Trainer Brad Cox said Bonny South has "moved forward from 3 to 4" in a physical sense and said he hopes the rest of her 2021 schedule is "full of Grade I's. That would be the goal." Cox mentioned the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster during the Keeneland fall meet as a step toward the Breeders' Cup.
Silver State roared from near the back of the field to score his fifth straight victory Saturday in Oaklawn Park's $1 million Grade II Oaklawn Handicap.
The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt, with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons, scored by 1/2 length over Fearless with the favorite, Express Train, another 1 length back in third.
The race shaped up as a wide-open affair and that's how it looked as six rivals flashed past the furlong marker in a line across the track.
Warrior's Charge, who led most of the way, was giving way with Silver State making up ground to his outside and Fearless bravely getting through an opening on the rail. Silver State ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.56, picking up his first graded stakes win.
The Steve Asmussen trainee went to the sidelines after finishing seventh in last year's Louisiana Derby, returned late in the season and won allowance heats at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. He won the Fifth Season Stakes and Essex Handicap at Oaklawn in preparation for Saturday's victory.
"We've always loved his talent level," Asmussen said of Silver State. "The five-race win streak and putting it all together against such a talented field today -- significant race, extremely pleased with him.
"The horse has been training really well. He's figured out winning. I think what we saw in the two races here previously, he chose to win."
In Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Californian at Santa Anita, Royal Ship sailed right in the wake of pacesetting Country Grammer right into the stretch, got by that rival and won by a neck.
Royal Ship scored his first U.S. win in his fifth try after a successful first career in South America with most of the previous outings over the turf.
"He's always trained well on dirt and the only time we ran him on it, he fell on his face leaving the gate," Mandella said. "We didn't have a grass race to point for, so this looked like a good spot. We'll run in the Gold Cup next."
That's the $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup May 31 -- on the dirt.
Sunday at Santa Anita, Tizamagician pressed the early pace in the $100,000 Grade III Tokyo City Stakes, moved to the lead when turned loose by jockey Flavien Prat and won off by 9 lengths.
Zestful was second, Lure Him In third. Tizamagician, a 4-year-old Tiznow colt, ran 1 1/2 miles on a fast track in 2:32.45.
Say the Word and Channel Cat hooked up at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland with Say the World getting clear in the final yards to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Channel Cat survived a late bid by Crafty Daddy to hold onto second. Say the Word, a 6-year-old More Than Ready gelding, got 1 1/2 miles of good turf in 2:28.26 under Luis Saez.
The well-traveled veteran was coming off a second-place finish in the Grade III San Luis Rey at Santa Anita in March. Despite a slew of efforts, the Elkhorn was just his second graded stakes win behind the Grade I Northern Dancer at Woodbine last October.
That victory helped make him Canada's top male turf horse of 2020.
"He just found a good spot and he picked up the bridle," Saez said. "I didn't want to let him go too early, so I tried to relax him. When we came into the straight he was pretty good. He took it away, and he won the race."
Hard Love, the odds-on favorite, pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Woodhaven Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct, worked to the front at the furlong marker and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
It's a Gamble was up for second as the pacesetter, Original, faded to finish third. Hard Love, a Kitten's Joy ridgling, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:44.34 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Cezanne blitzed right by the leading pair at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita and shot off to a 9-lengths victory.
Brickyard Ride, Fight On and Ax Man completed the order of finish. Cezanne, a 4-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert for the Coolmore connections in Ireland, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.71 with Flavien Prat riding.
"We knew there was going to be a hot pace," Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said. "Not sure how fast but it ended up being fast, and you know Cezanne just ate them up. Flavien gave him a wonderful ride and Bob had him ready.
"With the races coming up this spring and summer, we should be looking really good with Cezanne."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Bubbles On Ice rallied from last of seven to capture Sunday's $100,000 Memories of Silver Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by a head over fellow closer Fluffy Socks. Sleek Lynx was another 3 lengths back in third.
Bubbles On Ice, an Irish-bred filly by Starspangledbanner out of the Galileo mare Medicean Star, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.14 with Javier Castellano riding. She was 1-for-4 in Ireland as a 2-year-old with a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
Sunday's race was her first U.S. start for trainer Christophe Clement.
Constantia came from last of six to capture Saturday's $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes at Santa Anita by 1 1/2 lengths over Superstition. Biddy Duke was third and the favorite, Leggs Galore, finished sixth with a tough trip.
Constantia, a 4-year-old Munnings filly, zipped over 6 furlongs of firm turf in 1:08.36 with Umberto Rispoli up. After taking a while to figure things out, the John Sadler trainee now has won three of her last four starts.
In other action:
Arkansas-bred 3-year-olds took center stage Friday in the Rainbow and Rainbow Miss, each worth $150,000 and contested at 6 furlongs.
Blame J D took back after an alert start, then came running through the stretch to take the Rainbow by a comfortable 3 3/4 lengths. Mrs. Beans was second-best, 1/2 length ahead of Rolling Fork.
Blame J D, a Blame gelding out of the Speightstown mare Tipping Point, reported in 1:09.73 over a wet-fast strip with Ramon Vazquez at the controls. His record stands 2-for-4 with all starts coming at the Hot Springs track.
Hillary G employed similar tactics to land her second straight win in the Rainbow Miss, scooting by pacesetting favorite Heated Argument in the lane to score by 2 3/4 lengths. Kaboom Baby was third.
Hillary G, by Even the Score, finished her task in 1:11.22 with David Cabrera riding.
Devious Mo seized the lead halfway through Saturday's $200,000 Times Square Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and held off the late-running favorite, Sinful Dancer, to win by 3/4 length. It's Gravy was third, 5 1/4 lengths farther back.
Devious Mo, a Laoban colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:17.10 with Manny Franco up.
On Sunday, it was the 3-year-old, state-bred fillies on display in the $200,000 Park Avenue Division and Shaker Shack emerging from a pace-pressing trip to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Shesadirtydancer and Bustin Bay filled out the trifecta while odds-on favorite Laobanonaprayer never ran a lick and finished last of six. Shaker Shack, a Bustin Stones filly, completed the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.75 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Now it's on to Belmont Park racetrack and skating rink.
Will Rogers Downs
Catching up a bit: Raintree Street led from gate to wire in Monday's $55,000 Wilma Mankiller Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Zanadu. Shesomajestic was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third.
Raintree Street, a 5-year-old Get Stormy mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.47 with Ramon Vazquez riding. The race is named for the first woman elected to serve as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
Brigintine Island said "see ya" to nine rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Original Gold Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares and raced off to win by 7 lengths. See Ya Manana was second, 1/2 length better than Malibu Splash.
Brigintine Island, a 5-year-old Jersey Town mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.55 with Reshawn Latchman up.
Around the world, around the clock:
Sunday's Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2000 Guineas at Nakayama Racecourse was a bit of a showdown involving some of last year's top 2-year-olds against some promising newcomers. Newcomer Efforia emerged as a convincing winner.
The Epiphaneia colt, with Takeshi Yokoyama in the irons, broke cleanly, stalked the pace and put in his bid as the field hit the stretch. Climbing the rise toward the finish, Efforia found another gear, opened a daylight lead and won by 3 lengths over Titleholder.
Titleholder, in turn, had won his previous start -- a race in which 2020 Grade I Hopeful Stakes winner Danon the Kid finished third. Danon the Kid, looking to reverse that trend Sunday, instead ran out of gas in the stretch run and finished next-last.
"The pace wasn't that fast," said Yokoyama, who won his first Grade 1, "so we were able to cruise along in a good position. But we were a little tight going into the stretch and I could not be sure of my win until the end."
Yokoyama is the son of still-active jockey Norihiro Yokoyama, who won the Satsuki Sho in 1998, the year of the younger Yokoyama's birth.
Efforia, out of the Heart's Cry (Japan) mare Katies Heart (Japan), was bred by Northern Farm and races for U Carrot farm. He is trained by Yuichi Shikato. He made two starts as a juvenile, winning his debut at Sapporo on Aug. 23 and a return engagement at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 8.
He kept his undefeated record intact with a victory in his 3-year-old debut in the Kyodo News Hai on Feb. 14, also at Tokyo.
There were four Group 1 races at Royal Randwick on Saturday but, perhaps, none more exciting than the Queen Elizabeth. Always expected to be a rematch between Addeybb and Verry Elleegant, that's how it shook out although you wouldn't know it by the bunched field right behind those two at the end.
Addeybb, looking for a second straight win in the race, broke poorly and jockey Tom Marquand was forced to implement Plan B, working through traffic to find a clear run, then circling wide to challenge as the field exited the stretch turn.
From there, Addeybb was just too good, working by Dalasan and holding off Verry Elleegant by 1/2 length at the line.
The triumph was the latest in a globe-circling campaign orchestrated by trainer William Haggas that has seen the 7-year-old Pivotal gelding win Group 1 events in both England and Australia in the span of a year.
In The Star Australian Oaks, Hungry Heart got rolling entering the stretch, hit the front 200 meters out and won off by nearly 1 1/2 lengths over Duais. Bargain was third.
Hungry Heart, a popular winner, picked up her second straight Group 1 triumph. The Frankel filly, trained by Chris Waller, rook out the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill in her previous start.
Nettoyer, with Tommy Berry up, edged heavily favored Probabeel by a short head in the Moet & Chandon Queen of the Turf. Quantum Mechanic was third with Colette fourth.
Waller also trains Sellino, an English import who validated Waller's description of him as "an extreme distance horse" as he won Saturday's fourth Group 1 -- the 3,200-meter Sydney Cup.
Sellino had been going shorter but obviously enjoyed the extended stroll, winning nearly 1 1/2 lengths. The race is one of only two Group 1 events at that distance on the Australian racing calendar. The other is the better known Melbourne Cup.
Three-year-olds were the featured attraction Sunday at Newbury.
Chindit was along in the final jumps to win the Group 2 Watership Down Too Darn Hot Stakes by a neck over Mehmento in the first start of the season for several who showed promise as 2-year-olds. The Lir Jet was third and Nando Parrado fourth in the 7-furlongs sprint.
Chindit, a Wootton Bassett colt, won his first three starts last year, then was ninth in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst before being put away for the winter. The Lir Jet was fifth in the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes and seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf to wind up 2020.
Nando Parrado was second in both the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny and Deauville and the Group 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardare. Mehmento was the odd man out, having two previous starts, all this year on the Southwell all-weather course -- both wins.
In the Dubai Duty Free Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Alcohol Free got to the lead with about a furlong left, didn't exactly steer a straight course and just held on to win by a short head over Statement. Vadream was third.
It was the first start of the season for Alcohol Free, a No Nay Never filly who won the Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in her final race of 2020.