Vigilantes Way wins Sunday's Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park. Photo courtesy of Monmouth Park
June 21 (UPI) -- Royal Ascot is done again, all too soon, but with the promise that it has sent forth plenty of talent to keep the racing pot bubbling for a good long time around the globe.
Four spots in the November Breeders' Cup lineup were reserved for Royal Ascot winners. Other runners from the five-day meeting already are being eyed as contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and its preliminaries.
Her Majesty the Queen emerged from the Royal Meeting without a winner, but with a potential 2022 Derby candidate.
And it would be more surprising than not if Australia didn't find some contenders for its big springtime races coming from the Royal Meeting.
Meantime, North American racing action perked along with a lot more to come as we pass the summer solstice Monday night and head into the summertime schedule.
Pity we can't all be at Stonehenge for the monumental day -- and be sure to see the "Sprint" section below for a coincidence on that!
Four Breeders' Cup slots, a couple hot properties for next year's English Classics including one owned and bred by the Queen, all sorts of contenders for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and its preliminaries and early prospects for the big springtime races in Australia and even the 2022 Saudi and Dubai races -- all from the five days of the Royal meeting.
American trainer Wesley Ward continued to find success in his decade-plus raids on the meeting, thanks to a stewards' call that awarded Campanelle another Group 1 win. Ward wound up in a tie for the No. 9 spot in the trainer standings.
A battle is brewing in the Mile division after Palace Pier dominated Tuesday's Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes, earning a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" chance. That win, his eighth from nine starts and fourth at the top level, seemed to cement his claim to the highest rung among milers, at least outside Hong Kong.
But wait. Three races later, Poetic Flair was equally impressive in winning the Group 1 St James's Palace Stakes for 3-year-olds, also at 1 mile. His body of work doesn't match Palace Pier's -- yet.
Looking to the Arc? Coolmore's star filly Love came off the bench to score a gritty, front-running victory in Wednesday's Group 1 Prince of Wales's Stakes with 2020 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf winner Audarya second and talented Coolmore cohort Armory third.
Then, on Saturday, Wonderful Tonight, another 4-year-old filly, won the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes in her seasonal debut, backing up her victory in the Group 1 British Champions Filly & Mare Stakes last fall.
She seems to do best over soft to heavy ground like she found at Ascot and trainer David Menuisier immediately thought of October in Paris. Toss in Subjectivist, who emerged from a dominant score in Wednesday's Group 1 Gold Cup, as a potential candidate, although true staying races are more likely.
The Arc comes a month before this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships at Del Mar and Love earned a spot in the Longines Turf at that meeting by dint of the Queen Anne score.
Dream of Dreams won the "Win and You're In" Diamond Jubilee Stakes, the Group 1 feature on Day 5, qualifying for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. And Perfect Power's score in the Norfolk Stakes earned a trip to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Her Majesty, after missing the first four days of the meeting, appeared at Saturday's finale just in time to see her star 2-year-old, Reach for the Moon, pipped at the line by Coolmore's very promising Point Lonsdale.
Both juveniles are majestically bred (royally bred, in the case of Reach for the Moon) and both are early candidates for the 2022 Classics. The Queen's best chance of the meeting, King's Lynn, finished third in the Group 2 Wokingham Stakes four races later after lacking running room.
European participation in Australia's big springtime races might be difficult due to strict new safety protocols but veteran global travelers from such as trainers as Charlie Appleby, Charlie Fellowes, Aidan O'Brien and others remain candidates after their Ascot experiences.
The weather at Ascot went from very hot and dry Tuesday and Wednesday to drenching rain Thursday and Friday, then chilly on Saturday. None of that prevented the daily crowd of 12,000 racegoers from thoroughly enjoying the early step out of England's seemingly endless pandemic restrictions.
"We have learnt from COVID-19 that human beings are basically social creatures and we need these events to help us open up," said Guy Henderson, the Ascot CEO.
"This week has felt like coming out of hibernation for most of us and it has been absolutely wonderful. We aimed to deliver what I would call an 'authentic little Royal Ascot' and I hope everybody enjoyed it."
One thing's for sure: The betting public enjoyed it. The "World Pool" organized by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, taking wagers from more than 20 nations, handled total turnover of more than $178 million on the 35 races.
After a relatively quiet Royal Ascot, the Coolmore forces took out a big prize across the Channel Sunday as Joan of Arc won the Group 1 Prix de Diane or French Oaks at Chantilly.
The Galileo filly, from the Storm Cat mare You'resothrilling, raced just off the early leader, then was hustled to the front with less than 50 meters to run by jockey Ioritz Mendizabal and held off Godolplhin runner Philomene by 3/4 length. Burgarita was third.
Joan of Arc has come on strong as a 3-year-old, finishing winning the Group 3 Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown before finishing second to stablemate Empress Josephine in the Group 1 Irish Guineas.
Philomene was sixth in the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Poulishes or French 1,000 Guineas, run over very soft ground, in her last start but went to the post favorite in the Diane.
O'Brien said Mendizabal indicated Joan of Arc gave every impression she would love moving up in trip from Sunday's 2,000 meters, so add her name to Coolmore fillies Love and Epsom Derby winner Snowfall already in the pipeline for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
O'Brien and Mendizabal also won the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby with St Mark's Basilica two weeks earlier.
Speaking of Hong Kong, the season isn't quite over there and neither, apparently, is the career of 8-year-old Southern Legend, who showed plenty of spirit in landing Sunday's Group 3 Premier Plate at Sha Tin Racecourse.
The Australian-bred Not A Single Doubt gelding has been one of Hong Kong's most consistent performers since landing at Sha Tin in the spring of 2017. He has earned more than HK$58 million (about US$7.48 million).
"You'd like a few more like him in your stable," trainer Caspar Fownes said of Southern Legend. "He's just a brute. He's got so much heart and he deserved that victory. He's been so consistent all his career and then in the last 10 runs he's been in the money each time, so he deserved that win."
Fownes said owner Boniface Ho has left it up to him to decide how long the gelding will continue to compete.
"We'll give him a nice prep for next season and see what he can do," the trainer said. "There's a lot of money still on offer here in Hong Kong and we'll just offset that with how the horse is. Obviously, if he's had enough, we'll just retire him."
Also on Sunday's card, BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Sky Darci came up 1 3/4 lengths short of stablemate Sky Field at the end of the Group 3 Premier Cup. Both are trained by Fownes and both rallied from well back in the field with Blake Shinn on the winner and Joao Moreira riding Sky Darci.
Fownes won five races Sunday and now leads the trainer standings by seven wins over John Size. Zac Purton rode two winners, including Southern Legend, but Moreira booted home three and tops the leaderboard with 147 wins. Purton has 121.
Pink Kamehameha, winner of the Saudi Derby in Riyadh in February, died during the running of Sunday's Grade 3 Unicorn Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse. The colt fell during the backstretch run in his first start in Japan since a 10th place finish in the Group 2 UAE Derby in Dubai in March.
Kate Hunter, who coordinates Japanese racing interests in the United States, attributed the death to heart failure. Pink Kamehameha, by Leontes, won only two races -- his first start last July and the Saudi Derby. He did not have another first-three finish.
Meanwhile, back in North America:
Acclimate, the even-money favorite, led virtually from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita, then had plenty left at the end of 1 3/4 miles, winning by 3 3/4 length. Astronaut was second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Red King.
Acclimate, a 7-year-old gelding by Acclamation, finished in 2:49.74 with Ricardo Gonzalez riding for trainer Phil D'Amato. He also won this race in 2019 and finished second in his most recent start, the Grade II Charles Whittingham on May 29.
"I thought this was an 'A' performance for him today, and this is a horse that I would target for the Del Mar Handicap," D'Amato said. "He has been lightly raced. We gave him a short break and he has come back better than ever."
Filly & Mare Turf
Vigilantes Way raced second behind Valetta into the turn in Sunday's $165,000 Grade III Eatontown Stakes at Monmouth Park, rallied by that rival and got clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Valetta, the favorite, held second with Counterparty Risk and Crystal Cliffs dead-heating for third and fourth.
Vigilantes Way, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, toured 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:41.90 with Paco Lopez up for trainer Shug McGaughey. She won the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park in December, but the Eatontown was the first graded stakes win for the Phipps Stable homebred.
"Getting a graded stakes win is important, especially for a filly with a pedigree like hers," McGaughey said. It's as good a pedigree as you are going to find. So now she's a graded stakes winner. Hopefully it might lead something even better."
Starship Nterprise slipped through a narrow gap between rivals at the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $75,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, and then battled it out with Karakatsie before winning by a neck. Charges Dropped finished third.
Starship Nterprise, a daughter of Honor Code, went to the post at odds of better than 33-1 and finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.74 for jockey Miguel Vasquez. She took nine tries to get to the winner's circle, accomplishing that goal in a maiden claimer May 23 where she went unclaimed for a $50,000 tag.
Turf Mile / Turf Sprint
Oleksandra had been coming up short in turf sprints for the past year, so trainer Neil Drysdale decided to give the Australian-bred a shot going a mile against males in Sunday's $250,000 Grade III Poker Stakes.
The move paid off as the 7-year-old Animal Kingdom mare needed every yard of that distance while rallying from last of nine. At the line, she was a head in front of the odds-on favorite, Raging Bull, with Front Run the Fed another 3 lengths back in third.
Joel Rosario timed the move perfectly and got Oleksandra home in 1:32.11 over firm going.
"Since she's more relaxed this year, we decided to try her at a mile, hoping she could get the distance, and she did. She's pregnant [in foal to Into Mischief], so this was her swan song. She'll go out on a high note," Drysdale said.
On the other coast, Restrainedvengence outfinished odds-on favorite Neptune's Storm by 1/2 length to take Sunday's $100,000 Grade III American Stakes at Santa Anita. Tiz Plus was a similar margin farther back in third.
Restrainedvengence, a 6-year-old Hold Me Back gelding, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.87 with Tyler Baze riding. He was third in both the Grade III San Francisco Mile and the Grade I Shoemaker Mile in his last two starts.
Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Stakes at Santa Anita also was 1 mile on the grass but for fillies and mares. Warren's Showtime was easily best, rallying down the lane to grab a late lead and win by 1 1/4 lengths. Long-time leader Leggs Galore settled for second with Brooke a neck farther back in third.
Warren's Showtime, a 4-year-old Clubhouse Ride filly, reported in 1:34.29 with Juan Hernandez riding. She has been a model of consistency for trainer Craig Lewis and owner-breeder Benjamin Warren, finishing in the money in 18 of 20 lifetime starts.
"She looks like a million dollars and, by the way, she's close to getting to that point [in earnings]," Lewis said. "We're hoping she does but she's just a wonderful filly and gives you what she can. It's a privilege to train her."
The Critical Way pressed the pace in Saturday's $76,500 Get Serious Stakes at Monmouth Park, got by early leader French Reef early in the stretch run and went on to win by 3 lengths over that rival. Francatelli was third.
The Critical Way, a 7-year-old Tizway gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 55.19 seconds with Paco Lopez at the controls. He now has finished in the top three in each of his last eight starts, including a third-place showing in the Grade II Shakertown at Keeneland in April.
"We'll look at some serious things for him now," said The Critical Way's trainer, Jose Delgado. "Maybe we'll try something in Saratoga, then one or two races at Parx and then, if everything goes right, we will try to take him to the Breeders' Cup. That's the plan. That's the hope."
At Santa Anita, Kanderel rallied from last of seven to win Saturday's $100,000 Siren Lure Stakes by 1/2 length over Commander. Chasin Munny, the favorite, reported third with a belated move and some traffic issues.
Kanderel, a 4-year-old Candy Ride gelding, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:14.98 under Juan Hernandez. The result backed up an allowance win May 9. Earlier stakes efforts were less successful.
If anyone was going to beat Pink Lloyd on the eve of the summer solstice, it figured to be Souper Stonehenge. And, in fact, that 5-year-old Speightstown gelding seized the lead in the lane in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Jacques Cartier Stakes at Woodbine and ran on to win by 4 lengths over the venerable favorite.
Malibu Secret was along for third as Souper Stonehenge ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.89 with Patrick Husbands riding for trainer Mark Casse. He notched his first stakes win although he was second in the Grade II Kennedy Road over course and distance last November, with Pink Lloyd third.
"I rode him as the best horse in the race," Husbands said. "I respect 'The Boss.' Any time you can beat Pink Lloyd at Woodbine Racetrack, especially sprinting, he's the world beater, he's the champion here. So I knew it would take a real Pink Lloyd to beat this horse today."
Souper Stonehenge campaigned through the winter in Florida and continued in New York while Pink Lloyd, now 9 and a four-time winner of the Jacques Cartier, had been idle since the Kennedy Road.
On the same program at Woodbine, trainer Wesley Ward got Outadore back to the winner's circle after the $125,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Outwork colt charged to the lead in the stretch, put away the favorite, Jaxon Traveler, and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Chasing Artie was third.
Outadore, with Justin Stein aboard, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:09.77. He now has four win from six starts, with victories on both turf and the all-weather.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Bell's the One came around rivals into the stretch in Saturday's $110,000 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs, took dead aim on Sconsin shortly after that one took the lead and ran by to win by 3/4 length. Sconsin held second with Miss Mosaic third.
Bell's the One, a 5-year-old Majesticperfection mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.90 with Corey Lanerie in the irons. She was third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and second in the Grade I Madison at Keeneland in April.
Trainer Neil Pessin said the race was a step toward another Breeders' Cup try. "She'll likely run in the 'Win and You're In' at Keeneland," he said, referring to the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes.
"I'm not sure yet if I'll run her once before then or not. We'll wait and see but the goal is the Breeders' Cup at the end of the year."
At Woodbine, Boardroom took advantage of an early speed duel up front in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Whimsical Stakes, rolled by the leaders five wide and got home first by a neck over fellow closer Our Secret Agent.
Amalfi Coast also rallied to get show money. Boardroom, a 4-year-old Commissioner filly out of the Rahy mare Money Madness, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.35, just 0.30 second short of Pink Lloyd's track record.
She finished the 2020 season with a runner-up finish in the Grade II Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine in November and, after the long delay in opening the Toronto-area track, was making her seasonal debut.
Discussing his patient ride, winning jockey Luis Contreras said, "Reading the program and by the way the track has been playing, that was pretty much the thing to do. Everything worked perfect. Every single step of the race I was right there."
Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Star Shoot Stakes at Woodbine was for 3-year-old fillies with Can't Buy Love getting the spoils. Claimed for $75,000 at Gulfstream Park this past winter, the Twirling Candy filly wasted no time starting to repay the investment.
With Justin Stein up, she sat off the early speed, came to the front in the stretch and got home first. Dirty Dangle was second California Lily third. The 6 furlongs over the all-weather went in 1:08.47.
Big City Lights, the prohibitive favorite, led all the way to an easy, 7 1/4-lengths victory in Sunday's $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Futurity at Santa Anita. Bochombo was second, another 5 1/4 lengths in front of Buehler's Day Off. Luis Mendez saddled all three.
Big City Lights, a California-bred Mr. Big colt, finished 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.20 seconds with Juan Hernandez up. He now is 2-for-2. The first win was by 12 1/2 lengths going 4 1/2 furlongs May 2.
Thanks to LA Times' John Cherwa for pointing out that Dr. Schivel, idle since winning the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, was back in action Friday at Santa Anita. The Violence colt returned a winner, although he had to work for it, rallying between horses into the stretch, then chasing down Canadian Pride before putting a neck in front at the end.
"We've actually been hoping he'd come back and run a race like this in his comeback race," trainer Mark Glatt said. "There are a couple races for 3-year-olds at Saratoga in August and we've been planning on getting him back there."
At the Spa pressed the pace made by the favorite, Laurel Canyon, in Sunday's $100,000 Fasig-Tipton Debutante at Santa Anita, got to the lead at the top of the stretch and won off by 2 1/4 lengths. Munny Penny was along late to take second from Laurel Canyon by 3/4 length.
At the Spa, a daughter of Outwork, ran 5 furlongs on a fast track in 59.79 seconds with Tyler Baze in the irons. She's 2-for-2 for trainer Jorge Periban. Note that "Munny Penny" is yet another in the endless list of horse names referencing the James Bond books and movies.
Around the ovals:
Ocala Dream stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Spectacular Bid Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds, moved to the lead at the nearing the furlong marker and ran on to win by 1 length. The favorite, Step Dancer, found late speed to get up for second, 1/2 length in front of Barrage.
Ocala Dream, an Effinex colt, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.20 with Junior Alvarado up.
In the $150,000 Cupecoy's Joy Division for 3-year-old fillies, Sport Model pressed the pace, jumped out to a clear lead in the stretch and held off Funwhileitlasted for a 1/2-length victory. The early leader, Shaker Shack, salvaged show money.
Sport Model, a Freud filly, finished 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.16 with Luis Saez riding.
Jimmy Blue Jeans shadowed the early speed in Saturday's $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-bred 2-year-olds, got to the front in the stretch and held on to win by a neck from the favorite, None Above the Law. Ferrariano was just another nose back in third.
Jimmy Blue Jeans, a James Street gelding, finished 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.69 with Kent Desormeaux in the irons.
Fi Fi Pharoah started last of seven in Saturday's $150,000 Melaire Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, came four wide around the turn to take the lead at the top of the stretch and won by 1/2 length over Eddie's New Dream. I'm So Anna was third.
Fi Fi Pharoah, by American Pharoah, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:46.41 for jockey Umberto Rispoli.
Basic Chance took a slim early lead in Saturday's $60,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings, extended the advantage and won off by 3 lengths. Scrutinizer was best of the rest, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Minecraft Maniac.
Basic Chance, a 7-year-old Yes It's True gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.20 with Shane Laviolette riding.
Naughty Shirley raced just in front of the odds-on favorite, Kela's Turn, through the early furlongs of Saturday's $60,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for state-bred distaffers, slowly shook loose from that one cruising down the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths. Kela's Turn was second, 3/4 length to the good of Snapy Gal.
Naughty Shirley, a 5-year-old mare by Jamfil, reported in 1:09.66 with Ken Tohill up.
Authentic Cowtown set a pressured pace in Thursday's $75,000 George Lewis Memorial for Ohio-breds, started to edge away turning for home and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Mobil Solution, was second, 2 lengths better than Sammy Da Bull.
Authentic Cowtown, a 4-year-old Cowtown Cat gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.66 with Malcolm Franklin riding.
Moonlit Mission tracked the early leaders in Thursday's $75,000 J. William Petro Memorial for state-bred fillies and mares, got through an inside passage to assume the lead in the stretch and held off Drillit to win by 3/4 length. Call Dream was third.
Moonlit Mission, a 4-year-old Shackelford filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.22 with Jose Bracho up.