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Big North American weekend for Godolphin as Breeders' Cup races shape up

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Big North American weekend for Godolphin as Breeders' Cup races shape up
Godolphin filly Wild Beauty wins Sunday's Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, earning Breeders' Cup berth. Photo courtesy of Woodbine

Sept. 20 (UPI) -- It was Godolphin weekend on both sides of the border as Sheik Mohammed's powerhouse operation landed three Grade I races at Woodbine and $1 million event at Belmont Park.

Three of the Godolphin wins were Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events, among six such "challenge" races on the weekend program.

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Elsewhere around North American racing, Shedaresthedevil prepped for the Breeders' Cup Distaff and Sconsin for the Filly & Mare Sprint with victories at Churchill Downs. Local hero Town Cruise upset some classy invaders in the Woodbine Mile.

On the international front, Verry Elleegant got back to winning ways in Australia and Andvaranaut took a star turn among Japanese 3-year-old fillies.

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There were lots of stars all over so let's get going.

Turf Mile

The local hero upset the big-name foreign invaders in Saturday's $1 million (Canadian) Grade I Ricoh Woodbine Mile as Town Cruise was on cruise control, leading comfortably most of the way to a 2 1/4-lengths victory. Space Traveler was up for second, 3/4 length ahead of Raging Bull.

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Town Cruise, a 6-year-old, Ontario-bred gelding by Town Prize, finished in 1:35.14 over turf rated good. Daisuke Fukumoto had the mount for owner-trainer Brandon Greer.

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All 14 of Town Cruise's starts have come at Woodbine as he worked his way up the class ladder.

The Mile was his second stakes start following a second-place finish in the Grade II King Edward Aug. 15 and earned Town Cruise a "Win and You're In" spot for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile on the Del Mar turf in November.

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"It feels a little surreal at the moment, but I'm absolutely thrilled with him," winning owner and trainer Brandon Greer said. "This horse is amazing. I absolutely love him."

Greer, who also co-bred the horse with his father, said he will leave the Breeders' Cup decision up to the party best suited to make the call.

"We're going to take a couple of days and just take it slow, take it easy, see how everything is after the race, and then I'll ask the horse and see what he wants to do," he said.

Turf

Yibir came running from the rear of a seven-horse field in Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Belmont park, got by all six rivals in the stretch and strode out to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Soldier Rising was second, a neck in front of long shot Slicked Back.

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The favorite, Irish raider Bolshoi Ballet, was a flat fourth. Yibir, a Godolphin homebred colt by Dubawi, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:26.23. Jamie Spencer had the mount for trainer Charlie Appleby.

Appleby assistant Chris Connett noted Yibir won the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York in England in his previous race.

"As long as he handled the travel over here, we were very confident he would run a big race, Connett said. "Jamie gave him a great ride and coaxed him into it. Once he started to roll, he's got some engine on him."

The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf. "That's a decision for Charlie to make," Connett said.

Just some 15 minutes before the race at Belmont, Walton Street, with Frankie Dettori up, got by pacesetting Primo Touch at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine and ran on to win by 5 3/4 lengths in another Godolphin triumph.

Desert Encounter, the winner of the last two runnings of this race, was along to finish second with Primo Touch another 4 3/4 lengths back in third. Walton Street, a 7-year-old Cape Cross gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:29.17.

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"I think to be honest it worked out perfectly how we thought it would," Appleby assistant Alex Merriman said. "I thought he would go forward and slot in. Frankie has his game plan, and turning in he always knew he was going to kick on and he's gone and seen the race on nicely."

Filly & Mare Turf

Shantisara rallied by pacesetting stablemate Higher Truth at the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park and edged clear in the shadow of the wire to win by 1/2 length.

Those two, both trained by Chad Brown, were followed home 2 lengths back by Harajuku. Shantisara, an Irish-bred filly by Coulsty, ran 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf in 2:16.91 with Flavien Prat up.

Shantisara, previously raced in France, scored her second U.S. win after a score in the Grade III Pucker Up at Arlington Park Aug. 14.

La Dragontea pressed the pace made by Our Secret Agent in Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade II Canadian Stakes Presented by the Japan Racing Association, put that rival away and prevailed by a head over late-running Court Return. Barkin was third, followed by Merveilleux and the early leader.

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La Dragontea, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Lope de Vega, ran 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:50.33. Joel Rosario had the mount for trainer Christophe Clement.

On Sunday at Belmont Park, Spanish Loveaffair found her best stride through the final furlong to upset the $150,000 Pebbles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, defeating Jordan's Leo by 2 1/4 lengths.

The favorite, Plum Ali, checked in fifth. Spanish Loveaffair, a Karakontie filly trained by Mark Casse, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.13. Junior Alvarado rode. She won her first two starts in the summer of 2020 but had been winless in seven intervening tries, all in graded stakes.

Turf Sprint

On Friday at Belmont Park, Smokin' Jay rallied by pacesetting Momos in the stretch run of the $100,000 Allied Forces Stakes and won by a head over that rival. Jaxon Traveler also passed Momos to take a brief lead in the stretch, and then faded to finish third.

Smokin' Jay, a Cairo Prince colt, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.14 with Luis Saez up.

Three-year-old fillies faced the same conditions a race later in the Christiecat Stakes with Bay Storm leading all the way to a 3-lengths victory. Caldee and Tuscan Queen filled out the trifecta.

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Bay Storm, a Kantharos filly, was timed in 1:09.73 with John Velazquez in the irons.

Classic / Dirt Mile

Captain Bombastic had to fight for the lead through most of Saturday's $100,000 Polynesian Stakes, finally asserted himself in the stretch and won by 1 length.

Cordmaker finished second, but was demoted to sixth, promoting Phat Man and Roadster to second and third. Captain Bombastic, a 4-year-old colt by Forty Tales, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.11. Feargal Lynch rode for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Distaff

Shedaresthedevil got the job done as the odds-on favorite in Saturday night's $400,000 Grade III Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs -- but just barely. The 2020 Kentucky Oaks winner led throughout and held on in the final strides to win by a neck over Crystal Ball. Envoutante was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third.

Shedaresthedevil, a Daredevil filly, got the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.86 with Florent Geroux up. The victory was her fourth from her last five starts.

Neither trainer Brad Cox nor Geroux seemed concerned about the narrow margin of victory.

"Florent gave her a really good trip," Cox said. She's a very classy filly and knows how to fight to get things done. She's proven how well she's done here at Churchill and this was a good spot to get her ready for the Breeders' Cup."

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Dreamalildreamofu allowed Artful Splatter to take a big lead in Saturday's $100,000 Twixt Stakes at Laurel Park, and then came and got that rival in deep stretch, winning by a head. Josie ran third behind those two throughout the 1-mile race.

Dreamalildreamofu, a 4-year-old Commissioner filly from the Brad Cox barn, was timed in 1:36.28 with Jevian Toledo judging things perfectly. She was second in the Grade III Allaire DuPont Stakes in May at Pimlico and third in the Grade III Chicago Stakes at Arlington before finishing 11th in the Groupie Doll at Ellis Park in her previous outing.

Sprint

Jalen Journey was awarded the win in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park after finishing second, 3/4 length behind the favorite, Wondrwherecraigis.

The stewards ruled bumping at the sixteenth pole warranted the reversal. The early leader, Kalu, finished third as the 6 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:09.52.

Jalen Journey, a With Distinction ridgling, won his first graded stakes and now has three wins and a second from five starts since contesting the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March.

"I think I was going by and not just once, but the whole momentum of when I was coming to make my challenge, I lost my track. He took my grind," said Jalen Journey's jockey, Feargal Lynch. "Nobody likes to win like that, but he was the best horse in the race and he deserved to get put up."

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Just Might certainly did in Saturday evening's $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes, leading from the early yards and holding on late for a 3/4-length score. Endorsed put in a late run to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Bango.

Just Might, a 5-year-old Justin Phillip gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.74 with Rafael Bejarano up. Dennis' Moment defeated only one rival while finishing 9 3/4 lengths back of the winner.

The win was the fourth straight for Just Might, half on the dirt and half on turf. He finished last of 14 in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland.

"He's in unbelievable form this year," said Just Might's trainer, Michelle Lovell. "Turf or dirt, it doesn't really matter what the surface is. He runs so hard every time."

Filly & Mare Sprint

Sconsin got first run to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs and rolled home first by 1/2 length over late-running, odds-on favorite Bell's the One. The early leader, Mundaye Call, finished third, another 4 lengths back.

Sconsin, a 4-year-old Include filly, ran 6 furlongs on 1:08.75 with Tyler Gaffalione on Sconsin. She won for the fifth time in 15 starts. Four of those wins have come under the Twin Spires.

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"She deserves it," said Sconsin's trainer, Greg Foley. "Tyler gave her a great ride. He knew Bell's the One was coming and Sconsin just had her measured tonight. It was our turn."

Hello Beautiful said goodbye to a quartet of rivals early in Saturday's $100,000 Weather vane Stakes at Laurel Park, opening a big lead and sashaying off to win by 10 1/4 lengths. Coconut Cake and Never Enough completed the trifecta.

Hello Beautiful, a 4-year-old daughter of Golden Lad, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.56 with Jevian Toledo in the irons, scoring her ninth win from 17 starts.

Juvenile

Major General was the very model of a stakes winner in Saturday's evening's $300,000 Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, rating behind the speed, dueling the favorite, Stellar Tap, into submission a furlong out and holding on late to win by a neck. Tough to Tame was barely denied at odds of 37-1 and Red Knobs was third as a 30-1 chance.

Major General, a Constitution colt trained by Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.88 under Javier Castellano. He's 2-for-2 with the earlier win coming at Saratoga on Aug. 21.

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"This horse is just learning, Castellano said of Major General. "He seemed to enjoy going two turns and when the other horses got to him in the stretch he started to re-break."

Enbarr chased down pacesetting stablemate Montebello in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Capote Stakes at Los Alamitos and won by 1 length over that one. Olympic Legend was third, another 8 lengths back and Richards the Dream completed the order of finish 17 lengths farther back.

Enbarr, a Brody's Cause colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.33 for jockey Drayden Van Dyke. Enbarr was second in his only previous start at Del Mar on Aug. 1. Montebello won at first asking at Del Mar, and then was second in the Funny Cide Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28. Both are trained by the embattled Bob Baffert.

"The race didn't go exactly as we thought," Baffert assistant Mike Marlow said. "We thought Enbarr would be showing the way early and Montebello would be a couple of lengths off him.

"They broke and that's how it ended up with Montebello in front and Enbarr tracking. They're both good horses. I think Montebello is going to be better around two turns. He's got that high cruising speed while Enbarr is just a fast horse."

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Yukio battled to the lead in Saturday's $55,000 Manzano Stakes for 2-year-olds at the Downs at Albuquerque, then edged clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Groovy Huey. Creative Bid was third.

Yukio, a Kentucky-bred Frosted colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.87 with Tracy Hebert riding. He was sold to new owner-trainer Joy Martin after breaking his maiden at Belterra Park in his previous outing Sept. 18.

Juvenile Fillies

Hidden Connection certainly wasn't very well hidden from the punters heading into Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, leaving the starting gate as the solid favorite.

And the Connect filly was on full display at the end of the 1 1/16 miles, finishing first by 9 1/4 lengths. Mama Rina was best of the rest, a neck in front of Goddess of Fire.

Hidden Connection was timed in 1:43.78 with Reylu Gutierrez riding for trainer Bret Calhoun. She improved to 2-for-2. The career opener was a 7 1/2-length score at Colonial Downs going 5 1/2 furlongs on the dirt.

Calhoun said Hidden Connection was working well at Keeneland. "Then we went to Colonial and she won so impressively on debut. She didn't have as much experience as some of the horses in this race but she backed up that win very well. If she comes out of things OK, you'd have to think she's on to the Breeders' Cup."

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The Pocahontas was a "Win and You're In" for the Juvenile Fillies.

Diamond Wow stalked the pace in Saturday's off-the-turf $75,000 Our Dear Peggy Stakes at Gulfstream Park, took the lead when called on by jockey Romero Maragh and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Harper Be Good.

Diamond Wow, a Lookin at Lucky filly trained by Patrick Biancone, got the 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:24.67.

Juvenile Turf

Albahr overcame an awkward lead in Sunday's $400,000 (Canadian) Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine, swept to the lead a furlong out and romped home first by 2 1/4 lengths, ridden out by Frankie Dettori. Grafton Street was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Degree of Risk.

Albahr, a Godolphin homebred colt by Dubawi out of the Street Cry mare Falls of Lora, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:35.77.

Albahr was second in his career debut at York in May but since has reeled off four straight wins for trainer Charlie Appleby. The Summer was a "Win and You're In" race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

"Albahr had been in decent form, he's tough," said Appleby assistant Alex Merriam, adding that the Godolphin runners will be returning to England before decisions on the Breeders' Cup or any other engagements are finalized.

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Saturday's $75,000 Armed Forces Stakes came off the Gulfstream Park turf, but that didn't appear to discomfit the favorite, Eldon's Prince, very much.

The Cairo Prince colt, with Edgard Zayas at the controls, rallied from next-last of eight to deny No Nay Franklin by a head at the finish. It was another 6 lengths back to Golden Juan in third.

Eldon's Prince ran 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:25.02. He now is 2-for-3 and a winner on both Gulfstream surfaces.

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Wild Beauty was "pinballed," per the Equibase chart notes, at the start of Sunday's $400,000 (Canadian) Grade I Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, shuffled back to last of 10 and still rallied to an impressive, 2 1/4-lengths victory. Pizza Bianca was second with Eminent Victor third.

Wild Beauty, with Frankie Dettori up, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:35.08, earning a "Win and You're In" berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

Wild Beauty is a Godolphin homebred daughter of the immortal Frankel out of the Pivotal mare Tulips. She now boasts three wins and three seconds from six starts. Dettori said both Wild Beauty and Summer Stakes winner Albahr should be good prospects for the Breeders' Cup.

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"He's got a tendency to go left as well, so he'll be suited for Del Mar. For the filly, she needs more luck, because as you see she wasn't that fast with those. But they were both great today, and have both earned their shots," the irrepressible Dettori said.

Juvenile Turf Sprint

Diamond City took the lead in the lane in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Racing Stakes and pulled away to a 1 3/4-lengths victory. Silent Runner was second with San Costentino third.

Diamond City, a Shackleford colt trained by Mark Casse, finished 5 furlongs on firm going in 57.68 with Emma-Jayne Wilson aboard.

Derrynane swept by most of the field in the late going to win Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Cares Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 2 3/4 lengths. Fifth Anniversary finished second after holding a brief lead and Dufresne was third.

Derrynane, a New York-bred daughter of Quality Road, ran 5 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 57.04 seconds with Joel Rosario up.

Marathon

Locally Owned took the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $300,000 Grand Prix American Jockey Club Invitational at Belmont Park and got home first by 1 length over the 1-10 favorite, Lone Rock. Mo Gotcha was third, another 2 3/4 lengths in arrears.

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Locally Owned, a 5-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, ran 1 5/8 miles on a fast track in 2:44.60 with Dylan Davis up. He had been running at much shorter distances and was making his first-ever stakes start. Lone Rock worked his way up from the claiming ranks to win four in a row before Saturday's loss.

"We didn't know," said winning owner Jay Provenzano of the unfamiliar distance. "His pedigree says yes but I've seen pedigree that says turf, but then they can't stand on it. It was a chance and we took it. Sometimes you look like a genius."

Around the world, around the clock:

Australia

Sierra Sue put a nose in front on the wire to eke out a narrow, 11-1 upset over a deep field in Saturday's Group 1 Neds Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield. Dice Roll, at even longer odds, just missed while the favorite, I'm Thunderstruck, could only manage third with a late run from the back of the field.

Probabeel was fifth and Behemoth sixth as Sierra Sue, a 5-year-old Darcy Brahma mare, got the 1,400 meters on good going in 1:23.07 with Daniel Moor up.

At Royal Randwick on Saturday, Verry Elleegant dropped to the rail in the final 100 meters and got by runaway leader Ridoni to score a nearly 1-length victory over that rival in the Group 1 Fujitsu General George Main Stakes. Think It Over was a close third, also making up a lot of ground late.

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Verry Elleegant, a 6-year-old daughter of Zed, bounced back from a second-place finish in her first start of the season, the Group 1 Winx Stakes on Aug. 21.

Japan

Andvaranaut hit her best stride down the stretch run in Sunday's Grade 2 Kansai Telecasting Corp.sho Rose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Chukyo Racecourse, steadily closed on the front runners and was on the lead in the final 100 meters for a 1 1/4-length victory. A Shin Hiten was second, 1/2 length in front of the favorite, Art d'Vivre.

Andvaranaut, a King Kamehameha filly toting the Sunday Racing silks, ran 2,000 meters in 2:00.0 with Yuichi Fukanaga up for trainer Manabu Ikezoe.

The win was the third from six starts for Andvaranaut, to go along with a trio of runner-up finishes. The 2,000 meters was her longest trip to date. The race is a trial for the Grade 1 Shuka Sho at 2,200 meters at Hanshin Racecourse on Oct. 17.

Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St. Lite Kinen at Nakayama is a trial for the Grade 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger Oct. 24 at Hanshin.

Meanwhile, back in North America:

Woodbine

Where's Neal was easy enough to find in Friday's $100,000 (Canadian) Bull Page Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds. The Society's Chairman gelding was out front all the way and ran on to win by 3/4 length over Chairman Bob. Spring Mountain was another 1 length back in third.

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Where's Neal ran 1 mile on the firm inner turf course in 1:40.05 with Justin Stein up.

Swinging Mandy, the longest shot in the field of six 2-year-old fillies, came running late to win Friday's $100,000 Victorian Queen Stakes by 3/4 length from pacesetting Thatsitthatsall. The favorite, Lois Len, contested the early pace and finished third.

Swinging Mandy, a Giant Gizmo filly, got the 1 mile on firm going in 1:40.13 for jockey Kazushi Kimura. The was restricted to Ontario-sired fillies.

Evangeline Downs

Free Like a Girl pressed the pace in Friday's $60,000 D.S. Shine Young Futurity for Louisiana-bred 2-year-old fillies, moved to the lead in the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Buckley Bunny. Serape was third.

Free Like a Girl, a daughter of El Deal, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.87 with Pedro Cotto Jr. up.

Albuquerque

Restrainedvengence advanced to the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Handicap, and then was all out to survive the late bid of Tenfold, winning by a nose. It was another 8 3/4 lengths back to Sheriff Brown in third.

Restrainedvengence, a 6-year-old Hold Me Back gelding, finished 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.26 with Edwin Maldonado riding.

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The state-bred 2-year-olds did battle in Sunday's $235,079 New Mexico State Fair Thoroughbred Futurity with the favorite, Bella Donna, getting away late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Action Junky was second, 2 lengths better than Reads Pet Zenon.

Bella Donna, an Attila's Storm filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.87 with Jimmy Coates in the irons.

Charles Town

Run to Daylight, a Runhappy gelding, ran to a 5 3/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $75,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for West Virginia-bred 2-year-olds, finishing 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52.41 seconds with Arnaldo Bocachica riding. Roll Dem Bones was best of the rest.

Fancy Her Up was equally dominant in the companion Rachel's Turn Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, scoring by 5 lengths over O K Smarty Pants. Fancy Her Up, a daughter of Juba, finished in 51.60 seconds with Gerald Almodovar up.

Monmouth Park

Roselba showed the way in Saturday's $86,700 Pino Grigio Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares and held off the favorite, Bramble Bay, to win by a neck. It was a long way back to Ask Around in third.

Roselba, a 5-year-old daughter of Private Interview, got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.98 seconds with Ferrin Peterson up.

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Sunday, Golden Brown emerged from behind the early pace to win the $90,100 Joey P. Handicap for state-breds by 1 length. Like What I See was second, 4 lengths better than Lucky Jaime. Golden Brown, a 6-year-old Offlee Wild gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.55 seconds with Paco Lopez handling the reins.

Los Alamitos

Manhattan Up was up just in time to win Sunday's $100,000 Los Alamitos Special Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetting Sash. Bold Endeavor finished third.

Manhattan Up, a 5-year-old Street Boss gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.87 under Tiago Periera.

Samurai Charm led all the way in Sunday's $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes for fillies and mares and held on to win by a head over Velvet Slippers. The favorite, Paige Anne, was third.

Samurai Charm, a 4-year-old daughter of First Samurai, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.67 with Kyle Frey up.

News and Notes

Breeders' Cup announced this week it will hold a formal review to decide whether trainer Bob Baffert will be allowed to enter horses in the World Championships in November at Del Mar.

Churchill Downs already has banned Baffert and announced none of his horses will be allowed to accrue points toward a start in the 2022 Kentucky Derby as a result of a string of drug positives, including Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit.

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The New York Racing Association also imposed a ban, which has been put on hold by legal action pending formal hearings.

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