Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Lexitonian, Dr. Schivel and Jackie's Warrior all posted big wins and potentially previewed a choice Breeders' Cup showdown as top-class sprints highlighted weekend horse racing.
Among the still-evolving 3-year-olds, Essential Quality was all out to win the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga, where the upcoming Travers Stakes might settle some matters, while Shedaresthedevil had no problem winning the Grade I Clement Hirsch at Del Mar, earning a Breeders' Cup spot.
Up north at Woodbine, both the Plate Trial winner and the Woodbine Oaks winner look like candidates for the $1 million Queen's Plate in three weeks' time.
Lets sprint right over to the sprinters to get this going.
As we noted here in Thursday's preview (ahem!), Lexitonian did not deserve to be the longest shot on the board going into the gate for Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.
Admittedly, not the most consistent of equines, the 5-year-old son of Speightstown nonetheless did finish second last year in the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar and second this May in the Grade I Churchill Downs Stakes. And some of the others in Saturday's race were getting a little long in the tooth.
On cue, Lexitonian took an early lead in the Vanderbilt, took back to allow Special Forces to show the way, then came again to win a tight stretch battle by 1/2 length over that rival. Defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champ
Whitmore, now 8, finished third and the favorite, Mischevious Alex, was eighth of nine. Lexitonian, with Jose Lezcano in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.38.
"I have to give Lexitonian a ton of credit," winning trainer Jack Sisterton said. "He ran in the Met Mile and he was eased. You'd think a horse that was eased and thrown in some clunkers, you'd sit back and think, 'Let's drop him down a grade and give him a confidence builder.'
"But I've run him in every Grade 1 and been hard on him and this is how he responds today."
A few hours after Lexitonian's score, Dr. Schivel won a three-way photo at the end of the $300,000 Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar with Eight Rings a neck back and the favorite, C Z Rocket, another head in arrears to collect show money.
All three rallied from behind a hot pace set by Brickyard Ride, who tired to finish fifth. Dr. Schivel, a 3-year-old Violence colt taking on older foes, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.47 with Flavien Prat riding. Dr. Schivel now has a four-race winning streak that stretches to last year and includes the Grade I Del Mar Futurity.
"They went fast early, maybe not as fast as we thought," said Dr. Schivel's trainer, Mark Glatt. "Flavien rode him perfectly, gave him a good trip, and the outside post was a benefit. This is a real racehorse.
"He beat the olders today and hopefully in November he'll be able to do it again [in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, also at Del Mar]." The Bing Crosby was a "Win and You're In" for that race.
The rains came to upstate New York before Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Amsterdam Stakes for 3-year-olds but the sloppy track didn't bother Jackie's Warrior one bit.
The Mclean's Music colt grabbed an early lead and wasn't troubled thereafter, winning off by 7 1/4 lengths. Drain the Clock was second-best, 1 length in front of Crowded Trade.
Jackie's Warrior, with Joel Rosario riding for trainer Steve Asmussen, splashed 6 1/2 furlongs in a snappy 1:15.46. It was his sixth win from nine starts with the results getting better as the distances have gotten shorter.
"With his performance today on top of what he did in the Pat Day Mile [a hard-fought win by a head], he'll have a lot to say in the one-turn division the rest of the year," Asmussen said.
"I wouldn't be scared to run him against anybody anywhere going one turn and how do I measure that? We've had some good ones, and he's one of them."
He will find some other good ones in his likely next start -- the $500,000 Grade I H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Aug. 28 at the Spa.
In other sprint news:
Souper Stonehenge was rock-solid in Sunday's $150,000 Vigil Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course, leading all the way and denying Pink Lloyd's bid for a fifth straight Vigil win, while holding that one safe by 3/4 length at the wire.
Nine-year-old Pink Lloyd was victimized by traffic, checking at the three-eighths pole behind a tiring rival and dropping back to last of six before launching a rebid. Souper Stonehenge, however, was not for catching and finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.52 with Patrick Husbands up.
The winner is a 5-year-old Speightstown gelding trained by Mark Casse.
On Saturday at Pimlico, Mucho stalked pacesetting Lebda in the $100,000 Challedon Stakes, found his best stride in the final furlong and scored by 1 length.
Lebda just did hold second by a neck over the late-running favorite, Whereshetoldmetogo. Mucho, a 5-year-old son of Blame, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.09 for jockey Reylu Gutierrez.
It was the first stakes win for a horse who went to the post as the favorite in the Grade I Hopeful in 2018, finished second to Mind Control in that and then never quite lived up to the promise.
Division leader Essential Quality got the job done in Saturday's $600,000 Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga -- but just barely, keeping the door open for any number of rivals to contend for year-end honors with a good late-season run.
Essential Quality, a Godolphin homebred colt by Tapit, rallied from a stalking trip to win the 1 1/8-miles Jim Dandy by 1/2 length over a stubborn Keepmeinmind. Masqueparade was third with Weyburn and Dr. Jack completing the order of finish. With Luis Saez up, Essential Quality finished in 1:49.92.
The final margin may not have told the full tale of the race as Saez kept Essential Quality wide the whole way around and well out of any potential trouble. He was five or six paths out from the rail by the time he made the lead with three-sixteenths to run.
But be it a nose or a furlong, a win is a win and this was Essential Quality's seventh from eight starts. The lone defeat was his fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Keepmeinmind, by contrast, has just one win, three seconds and two thirds from 10 starts as trainer Robertino Diodoro continues to send him out against the best of his generation.
"When they straightened up, I thought, 'Wow we've been wide both turns,' and then we see a horse [Keepmeinmind] slip up the inside who looked like he had some run left. It made for some anxious moments down the lane," winning trainer Brad Cox said.
"He's going to get more out of this than he is working in the morning. I'm glad we were able to get this in him as a tightener for the Travers."
That's the $1.25 million Grade I Travers Stakes, aka "The Midsummer Derby", also at the Spa on Aug. 28.
In other 3-year-old action:
At Saratoga on Friday, Dynamic One rallied from last of seven in the $120,000 Curlin Stakes, hit the front a furlong from home and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Miles D. The favorite, First Captain, was the third finisher, another 7 lengths back.
Dynamic One, a Union Rags colt trained by Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.36. Irad Ortiz Jr. had the ride. The race was restricted to non-winners of a graded stakes at longer than 1 mile in 2021 but that's in no way limiting Pletcher's thinking about the colt's future.
"I think he definitely showed that he is capable of stepping up," Pletcher said. "We were looking at this as a potential Travers prep and he gave us everything we could have hoped for today."
None Above the Law stalked the pace in Friday's $175,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds, advanced boldly to the lead in the lane and shook clear to win by 5 1/4 lengths.
The odds-on favorite, The Chosen Vron, settled for second, 1 length better than Letsgetlucky. Noneabovethelaw, a Karakontie gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.90 with Flavien Prat in the irons.
He was coming off a ninth-place finish in the Oceanside Stakes two weeks earlier while The Chosen Vron saw a three-race winning streak, including two Grade III efforts, snapped.
The 3-year-old fillies
At Monmouth Park on Saturday, Leader of the Band chased down pacesetting favorite Edie Meeny Miny Mo in the final furlong of the $259,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks and ran on to win by 2 lengths over that one. Midnight Obsession was third.
Leader of the Band, a daughter of Bandbox, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.44 with Frankie Pennington at the controls. The Pennsylvania-bred filly was last seen finishing third in the Grade III Delaware Oaks and has not missed a top-three finish in any of her seven starts for trainer John Servis.
Shedaresthedevil, the 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner, raced just back of the leader in Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar, took over when called on at the quarter pole and quickly put matters to rest. At the finish, the 4-year-old Daredevil filly was out front by 3 1/4 lengths.
Early leader Venetian Harbor held on for second with Paige Anne, As Time Goes By and Cover Version completing the order of finish. Shedaresthedevil ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.38 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
Shedaresthedevil added to a list of graded stakes wins that now includes a trio of Grade I events. She has won six of her last eight races, but has yet to contest any Breeders' Cup World Championship event -- a situation likely to change in November since the Clement Hirsch was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders Cup Distaff.
Eric Gary, assistant to winning trainer Brad Cox, said Shedaresthedevil was giving all the right signals and sent the right message with the win.
"Being around her this morning, I had a really good feeling that she was going to run big today," Gary said. "She flies back [to Kentucky] tomorrow with some other horses, and then I guess she'll be back in November."
Harpers First Ride had to battle for the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico but, once there, the 5-year-old Paynter gelding opened a daylight lead and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Magic Michael, was along late to take second from the early contender,
Cordmaker. Harper's First Ride, with Angel Cruz in the irons, ran 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:49.52. The winner of the Grade III Pimlico Special in 2020, the Claudio Gonzalez trainee made it back-to-back wins following an allowance score over the same surface June 27.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Hello Beautiful was quickly out front in Saturday's $100,000 Alma North Stakes at Pimlico and kept on going for a 3 3/4-lengths victory as the prohibitive favorite. Call on Mischief was second, a neck in front of Precious in third.
Hello Beautiful, a 4-year-old Golden Lad filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.63 with Sheldon Russell in the irons. She has won four of her last six starts for trainer Brittany Russell.
Cross Border rated nicely and saved ground down the backstretch run in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga, rallied four-wide to challenge and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths over Rockemperor. Shamrocket was third, a head in front of the favorite, Channel Cat.
Cross Border, a 7-year-old English Channel ridgling, ran 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf in 2:16.36 for jockey Luis Saez. Cross Border won the 2020 Bowling Green but had not tasted victory in eight intervening starts despite usually being right in the thick of things.
"He's a model of consistency and durability," trainer Mike Maker said of Cross Border. "Hopefully, we have another couple of years with him." He said the $750,000 Grade I Sword Dancer over the same course Aug. 28 is the likely next start.
Saturday at Monmouth Park, Founder found his best stride in the stretch in the $102,000 Tale of the Cat Stakes for 3-year-olds, advancing from last of seven to win by 1 1/4 lengths. It Can Be Done was second, 3/4 length to the good of Hot Blooded.
Founder, an Upstart ridgling, notched his first stakes win as he covered 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.81 under Paco Lopez.
Amalfi Coast outfinished Jeanie B in Sunday's $210,000 (Canadian) Grade II Royal North Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodine, winning by a nose in the final jump. The favorite, Change of Conrol, was another 1/2 length back in third.
Amalfi Coast, a 5-year-old Tapizar mare, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.15 under Justin Stein. She finished third in the Grade III Whimsical Stakes in her only previous start this year.
Lady War Machine pressed the pace in Saturday's $120,000 (Canadian) Alywow Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine, grabbed the advantage at the top of the lane and edged away to a 3-lengths victory. Honey Pants was second, a neck in front of La Libertee.
Lady War Machine, a Street Boss filly, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on good going in 1:15.40 with Patrick Husbands riding for trainer Josie Carroll. It was her second straight win this month after a third in her career debut last November.
Saturday at Woodbine, another Larry Rivelli shipper from Arlington brought home the spoils as One Timer overcame a poor start to win the $150,000 Victoria Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths over Twenty Four Mamba.
The rest of the field was well strung out, with Concealed Carry third, 4 1/2 lengths back. One Timer, a Trappe Shot gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.33,
Cajun's Magic conjured up a narrow victory in Saturday's $100,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park. After advancing three-wide in in the stretch, the Cajun Breeze gelding dueled to the line with Dean Delivers before subduing that one by a neck.
It was 10 more lengths to Gold Special in third. Cajun's Magic, with Jesus Rios up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.01, making it back-to-back wins after a second in his first start.
My Sassenach seized the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Sire Stakes and said goodbye to seven rivals, jetting off to win by 8 1/4 lengths. Demurely was best of the rest, 3/4 length in front of first-time starter Rufa Red Knot.
My Sassenach, an Uncaptured filly out of the Utopia mare Cynthia's Fury, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.17 with Miguel Vasquez in the irons. She won for the first time after finishing second in her debut.
Diabolic raced in mid-pack early in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) My Dear Stakes at Woodbine, rallied by Curlin Candy in the lane and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Curlin Candy saved second, a neck in front of Royal Engagement.
Diabolic, an Irish-bred Dark Angel filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:04.15 with Antonio Gallardo riding. It was her first start since May 20, when she won her debut engagement at Gulfstream Park.
On Sunday on the Monmouth Park turf course, Miss Alacrity dueled for the lead early in the $100,000 Colleen Stakes, got clear and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths as the solid favorite. Sail By was second with Tizplenty edging three others for third.
Miss Alacrity, a New York-bred daughter of Munnings, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.23 seconds with Paco Lopez riding for trainer Wesley Ward. She remains undefeated after two starts.
Around the world, around the clock:
Palmas kicked clear in the final furlong of Sunday's Group 1 Henkel-Preis der Diana or German Oaks at Dusseldorf and ran on to win by 6 lengths, improving her record to 2-for-2. Isfahani was an even second and Noble Heidi was just up for third as Palmas finished 2,200 meters on good turf in 2:12.15.
Owned by her breeder, Gestut Etzean, Palmas is by Lord of England out of the Surumu mare Peace Time. She won her first start over the same course in June.
Mother Earth looks to get back to the winner's enclosure Tuesday in the Group 1 Prix Rothschild at Deauville, a 1-mile test for fillies and mares.
The Zoffany mare, with Ryan Moore set to ride for Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien, finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland and won the Qipco 1,000 Guineas in her first start of 2021.
She then was second in the Emirates Poule d'Essai des Pouliches or French 1,000 Guineas, third in the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and second in the Group 1 Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket last month.
Tuesday's competition should be a little less fearsome. Novemba won the German 1,000 Guineas, but was fourth in the Coronation. Primo Bacio exits a fifth in the Falmouth.
Munnyfor Ro settled well behind the leaders after a slow start in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks, rallied four-wide into the lane and got by Emmeline a furlong out to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Emmeline held second by a nose over the ever-promising Il Malocchio.
Munnyfor Ro, a Munnings filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.31 -- more than 2.5 seconds faster than Avoman completed the Plate Trial earlier on the card. The win was just her second from nine starts, but she did finish second in the Grade III Selene on July 10.
The quality of the effort and final time weren't lost on trainer Kevin Attard, although Munnyfor Ro would have to be supplemented to the Plate.
"These are the races you want to win growing up as a kid here in Ontario," Attard said. "A mile and a quarter is going to be her trip. I'm not worried about the distance. We'll see how she comes out of the race and then we're going to have to sit down and talk, and see if supplementing her is the next move."
Avoman raced last of four in a tightly bunched field through the early furlongs of Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial at Woodbine, came around the leaders to make his bid and got home first by 3/4 length, setting up a shot at the $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate in three weeks' time.
Truffle King was home second but disqualified to fourth for ducking in during the stretch run. That ruling elevated H C Holiday to second and Derzkii, the victim of the foul, to third.
Avoman, an Old Forester gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:52.84 with Antonio Gallardo up. His only win in four previous starts also came in a stakes -- the Bull Page Stakes over the same course last September.
"The Queen's Plate is the game plan," said trainer Don MacRae, who co-owns Avoman with Jim and Graeme Bruce. "I had to stall Jim for a while. He was ordering 40 tickets and a bus. I said, 'Let's just get through today.'
"That's what we're in it for, that's what we dream of -- to walk into the infield and have these big days, and maybe dream of the Plate."