June 28 (UPI) -- Maxfield and Letruska took star turns in weekend horse racing, winning the big events on closing weekend of the Churchill Downs meeting and earning Breeders' Cup berths for their efforts.
Double Thunder and Behave Virginia put up early markers among the 2-year-olds, also with victories at Churchill Downs.
On the international front, Hurricane Lane blew by Lone Eagle in the closing strides to win the Irish Derby, Thundering Nights got the better of Santa Monica in the Pretty Polly and Chrono Genesis won the Takarazuka Kinen in Japan for the second straight year, earning of two international Breeders' Cup Challenge races contested Sunday.
Let's roll right on into it, shall we?
Maxfield ran the shoes off eight would-be rivals in Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old, Godolphin-bred Street Sense colt relaxed behind the early speed, quickly surged to the front entering the long stretch run and kicked clear, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Warrior's Charge was second with Sprawl another 2 lengths back in third.
Maxfield finished 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.53 with Jose Ortiz in the irons, winning for the seventh time in eight trips to the races. Five of the eight wins have come in graded stakes.
"It was a really good performance," winning trainer Brendan Walsh said. "It looks like he continues to improve all the time. Thankfully, now he's been good and healthy. Our goal has been to get a good string of races into him and that's starting to happen.
"We'll hope he comes out of today's race in good order and we'll move on to the next one," Walsh added.
The Stephen Foster was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic, but Godolphin's Jimmy Bell said a more immediate target likely is the Grade I Whitney on Aug. 7 at Saratoga.
At Thistledown, Masqueparade finished on top after a four-way stretch battle in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Ohio Derby.
The Upstart colt, trained by Al Sall Jr., worked his way past early leader Promise Keeper exiting the turn, battled that one into submission and held off the late runs of King Fury and Keepmeinmind, who rallied for second and third, 1/2 length and a nose in arrears.
Masqueparade ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.82 with Miguel Mena in the irons. King Fury and Keepmeinmind both played roles in the Triple Crown preps while Masqueparade was taking four tries to break his maiden at Fair Gounds.
That done, he came north to win a Churchill Downs allowance race on Derby Day in his most recent start.
Letruska rolled to an easy victory in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Fleur De Lis at Churchill Downs, leading most of the way and winning by 5 3/4 lengths without being asked. It was the fifth win from her last six starts, all graded stakes, for the 5-year-old Super Saver mare.
Antoinette applied as much early pressure as she could muster, then held on for second with Envoutante another 3/4 length back in third. Letruska ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.57.
Letruska's trainer, Fausto Gutierrez, was not shy about his regard for the mare or his ambitions for her.
"She's a spectacular horse," Gutierrez said. "I don't really like to say what's next but she was great today. We know she's a really nice dirt horse and is supposed to win at different racetracks and different conditions for a possible Horse of the Year campaign."
Saturday at Belmont Park, Zaajel, the longest shot in a field of five, caught pacesetting favorite Always Carina a furlong from home and ran on to win the $250,000 Grade II Mother Goose for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival.
Clairiere stumbled at the break, chased and finished third. Zaajel, a Shadwell homebred daughter of Street Sense, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.83 with Joel Rosario at the controls.
The Todd Pletcher trainee won the Grade III Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park in her second start in January but then was sixth in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks and seventh in the Grade II Edgewood at Churchill Downs.
Pletcher assistant Byron Hughes said Zaajel "had been training well and got back to one turn. We knew it was going to be a short field, and she ran well. Joel did a great job of keeping her right there and she responded well and got the win."
Up north of the border at Woodbine, Souper Escape led from the start in Saturday's $180,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes for fillies and mares and held on to win by a nose over the late-closing favorite, Crystal Glacier. Skygaze was third.
Souper Escape, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.12 with Luis Contreras up for trainer Michael Trombetta.
Crystal Ball pressed the pace in Saturday's $250,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown, got the advantage approaching the quarter pole and held off Miss Bigly for a 1 1/4-lengths victory. Jilted Bride came from last of seven to get show money.
Crystal Ball, a 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.80 for jockey Luis Saez. She now is 3-for-3 this year with the earlier wins achieved at Santa Anita and Churchill Downs for trainer Rodolphe Brisset.
Set Piece, last of 10 in the early going, chased down pacesetting favorite Somelikeithotbrown in the closing strides of Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs, winning by 1/2 length over that rival. It was another 1 1/2 lengths to Ride a Comet in third.
Set Piece, a 5-year-old, British-bred Dansili gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:40.50 with Florent Geroux riding for trainer Brad Cox. It was the third straight win for the Juddmonte Farms homebred and ninth from 16 career starts.
"A lot of credit goes to the Juddmonte team who kept this horse in training at 5-years-old," Cox said. "Today he was able to get by a very good horse late. We're very proud of him."
Filly & Mare Turf
Por Que No established a narrow early lead in Saturday's $75,000 Boiling Springs Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park, shook off the early pressure and got clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Shantisara, making her first U.S. start for trainer Chad Brown, was up late to relegate odds-on favorite Seasons to third.
Por Que No, a daughter of Wicked Strong, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.49 with Ferrin Peterson riding. She now has five win from seven starts for trainer J. Kent Sweezey.
Half the eight-horse field scratched out of Saturday's $150,000 War Chant Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs, leaving it for Next to turn his career around with a front-running, 3 3/4-lengths victory. Royal Prince was second, another 2 3/4 lengths in front of the favorite, Helium. Dyn O Mite completed the order of finish.
Next, a Not This Time colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.09 with John Velazquez up for trainer Wesley Ward. He finished last of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, then was a fading 11th in the Grade II American Turf at Churchill Downs in his only previous start this year.
"He's a really tough horse when he's on the front end and when he comes from behind he's just not the same horse," Ward said of Next. "I thought if he broke well and was on the front end we'd have a great shot today."
Three-year-old fillies tackled the turf mile in Churchill Downs' Saturday finale, the $150,000 Tepin Stakes, with Navratilova getting a hard-earned victory.
The Medaglia d'Oro filly jumped right to the lead, turned back a challenge from New Boss early in the stretch run, then held on to win by 1/2 length over Tobys Heart. New Boss was third.
Navratilova, with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons, finished the 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.56. Trained by Rusty Arnold, Navratilova won at first asking last summer at Ellis Park, but had come up short in three intervening races, albeit narrowly defeated in the last two.
It was 3-year-old fillies again in Saturday's $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes at Belmont Park. In that, Runaway Rumour rallied far out toward the center of the track to challenge in the stretch and got hom first by 1/2 length. Minaun closed with a rush to finish second, 1/2 length in front of Nevisian Sunrise.
Runaway Rumour, from the first crop of globetrotting superstar Flintshire, finished in 1:34.25 with Luis Cardenas riding. She remains undefeated after three starts.
At Gulfstream Park on Saturday, Fighting Force rallied to the lead in the stretch in the $75,000 Surprising Stakes for 3-year-olds and ran on willingly to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Perfect Silent Cat. Bright Devil was third and the favorite, King of Dreams finished fifth after contesting the early lead.
Fighting Force, an Air Force Blue colt, finished in 1:38.18 under Samy Camacho. It was his second win in his 10th start.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Abby Hatcher came with a late, wide run to post the 19-1 upset win in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Chicago Stakes at Arlington Park, finishing 1/2 length in front of Club Car. The favorite, Dreamalildreamofu, was another 1/2 length back in third.
Abby Hatcher, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Acclamation, finished 7 furlongs in 1:22.27 on an all-weather course that was saturated earlier in the day by drenching rains. Jockey Alex Achard celebrated his first graded stakes winner and trainer Anna Meah scored her first stakes win of any kind.
"Right after I got started, I won an overnight stakes but I got DQed to second," said Meah, who is in her fourth year on the job and hasn't had a lot of stakes-quality stock. "I thought, 'OK, this is going to be a nightmare.'"
Winning owner David Meah said the Chicago was the main goal for Abby Hatcher and he has not plotted a next race. He noted she defeated some good rivals and said, "This opens a lot of doors."
Guest Suite established a stalking position in Saturday's $100,000 Hanshin Cup at Arlington Park, moved up turning into the stretch and found another gear inside the final furlong to get by Background and win by a head. What's Up Dude was third.
Guest Suite, a 7-year-old Quality Road gelding, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:35.31 with Emmanuel Esquivel in the irons for trainer Cipriano Contreras. Guest Suite obviously found the Hanshin a bit of class relief after finishing seventh in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and sixth in the Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs in his two previous starts.
Double Thunder made some serious noise in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. The Super Saver colt, with John Velazquez up, was last of 10 early in the 6-furlong contest, saved ground into the stretch and then came around the leaders and got away to a 4 3/4-lengths win. Vodka N Water was second with Glacial third.
Double Thunder, trained by Todd Pletcher for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, finished in 1:11.17. The colt now is 2-for-2 with the first win coming June at Monmouth Park.
"I knew there would be a lot of speed in the race and wanted to keep him close -- just not last," Velazquez said. "You don't expect a 2-year-old to handle things like that as well as he did. He took dirt and handled it well and I think he can move forward a lot from that."
Behave Virginia rallied from a stalking position in Saturday's $150,000 Debutante Stakes at Churchill Downs, got through between rivals and edged away to win by 1 length. Ontheonesandtwos was No. 2 as the favorite, 1/2 lengths better than Wicked Halo.
Behave Virginia, a Unified filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.83 with Brian Hernandez Jr. up.
Trainer Kenny McPeek said Behave Virginia behaved beyond expectations. "I think we may have seen a Breeders' Cup contender," he said. "I'll point her to the Alcibiades and go from there." The Alcibiades is Keeneland's Grade I Breeders' Cup prep for 2-year-old fillies.
Around the world, around the clock:
It looked for all the world as if Frankie Dettori had stolen Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby as he guided Lone Eagle to a lonely lead in the stretch run. But then William Buick asked Hurricane Lane to do something about it and that colt quickly whipped up a gale force effort, got to even terms in the closing yards and won by a neck.
The others were well up the track with Wordsworth third. The favorite, High Definition, never came into focus, finishing next-last of 11 in a disappointing outcome for Coolmore and trainer Aidan O' Brien.
Hurricane Lane was coming off his only loss -- a third in the Cazoo Derby at Epsom in his last start. He prepped for that with a victory in the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York on May 13 and trainer Charlie Appleby said the colt now looks like a candidate for the St Leger.
Also Saturday at the Curragh, Go Bears Go was the upset winner of the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes for 2-year-olds. The Kodi Bear colt improved to two wins and a second from three starts as he scored by 1 1/4 lengths over Castle Star in the 6-furlongs tilt. He was second in his last start, the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and was supplemented to the Railway at a cost of 10,000 Euros.
"He's a proper horse, a Group 1 horse," trainer David Loughnane said.
Sunday it was Thundering Night's turn to provide the thrills in the Group 1 Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.
Just three weeks after finishing second to Mean Mary in the Grade II New York Stakes at Belmont Park, the 4-year-old Night of Thunder filly seized the lead in the stretch and was all out to hang on by a neck over Santa Barbara.
The latter, once the gleam in the eye of trainer Aidan O'Brien, did better against older rivals than in the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks, where she was fourth and fifth, respectively.
Thundering Nights had not exactly set the world ablaze either with a Group 3 win her previous high-water mark but trainer Joseph Patrick O'Brien said the statistics are deceiving.
"She was a bit unlucky in America and would have won in another stride," he said. "She has options back in America, like the Beverly D. [at Arlington Park], and she also has the likes of the Nassau and Matron. She's a Group 1 winner now so she's a very exciting broodmare prospect no matter what happens."
Chrono Genesis won her second straight Takarazuka Kinen, third Grand Prix victory and fifth overall Grade 1 race Sunday at Hanshin Racecourse, earning guaranteed spots in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf and the W.S. Cox Plate in Australia.
Her connections, though, are eyeing the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- the race that has eluded and frustrated Japanese racing connections for decades.
The Takarazuka Kinen was a breeze for the 5-year-old Bago mare. She raced in midfield while Unicorn Lion and previously undefeated 4-year-old filly Lei Papale slugged it out for the lead.
Inside the 200 meters, jockey Christophe Lemaire turned Chrono Genesis loose and suddenly Unicorn Lion and Lei Papale were slugging it out for second. Unicorn Lion won that battle by a neck but Chrono Genesis was long gone, a winner by 2 1/2 lengths.
"We were able to race in good position behind Lei Papale," Lemaire said. "She stretched really well and was able to run the last 200 meters easily. ... She can race really well in soft track, so I think she will perform well especially in France."
In Lima, Stud Arriba Arequipa's long shot 3-year-old filly Reina de Mollendo, trained by Luis Olivares and ridden by Miguel Vilcarima, went to the front early and held off the fast-closing Quinta Nota to win the 1 1/4-mile, Group 1 Gran Premio Pamplona at Hipodromo Monterrico and gained an automatic starting position into November's Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. (Thanks to Breeders' Cup's Jim Gluckson for this).
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Historically conceded the early lead in Saturday's $75,000 Daniel Stearns Cleveland Gold Cup for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, got serious about things heading for home and surged to a 3-lengths victory. To Win was second, 3/4 length in front of Uptown. Historically, a Carpe Diem gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:53.68 with Luis Saez aboard.
Desmond Doss raced near the rear of a compact field in Saturday's $100,000 Bertrando Stakes for California-breds then put in a late bid that found the 5-year-old son of Grazen in front by 1/2 length. Tom's Surprise was second and Luvluv finished third. Desmond Doss, with Abel Cedillo up, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.80.
Miss Stormy D, the odds-on favorite, ran away from four rivals in Saturday's $75,000 She's A Tiger Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 8 1/2 lengths. Clockstrikestwelve was second, 2 lengths better than Blue Diva.
Miss Stormy D, a 5-year-old daughter of Tapizar, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.26 with Geovanni Franco in the irons.
Lone Star Park
My Boanerges inherited the lead when odds-on favorite Archidust broke in the air in Sunday's $75,000 Grand Praire Turf Sprint and the 5-year-old, New Mexico-bred gelding made that stand up, winning by 3/4 length. Archidust made up ground to be second as My Boanerges finished 5 furlongs on firm going in 55.68 seconds with Rodolfo Guerra up.
Curlin's Journey rallied five-wide to reach the front in time in the $75,000 Wasted Tears Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 2 lengths. Valentines Day was best of the rest. Curlin's Journey, a 6-year-old Curlin mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:42.16 with Luis Quinonez in the irons.
Yes It's Ginger pressed the pace set by Uptownblingithome in the $75,000 Chicken Fried Stakes for fillies and mares, got by and went on to win by 4 lengths over that rival. Yes It's Ginger, a 5-year-old mare by Yes It's True, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.69 with Reylu Gutierrez riding.
Artie's Rumor came from last of eight to take the $75,000 Singletary Stakes by 2 3/4 lengths. Hard Attack and Carlea's Dream also ran well late to finish second and third.
Artie's Rumor, a 6-year-old, Iowa-bred gelding by Artie Schiller, got 1 1/8 miles on the green track in 1:48.05 for jockey David Cabrera.