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Upsets rule in weekend horse racing from England to Kentucky to Japan

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Upsets rule in weekend horse racing from England to Kentucky to Japan
Shantisara wins Saturday's Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. Photo courtesy of Keeneland

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- Upsets were the rule in weekend horse racing from British Champions Day at Ascot to Hanshin Racecourse in Japan, but things were set right Down Under with Nature Strip winning the world's richest turf race and Incentivise prepping for the Melbourne Cup as favorites.

Trainer Chad Brown had another memorable weekend on the North American turf, winning two of the weekend's three Grade I events and just missing in the other.

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And no, you're not seeing double. There were two top-level races Saturday named for Her Majesty the Queen. She attended the one at Ascot, wearing a stunning royal blue ensemble, and was full of smiles as she passed out the hardware.

We'll break with tradition and start with the international goings-on.

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England

Qipco British Champions Day started with Trueshan confirming his status as Europe's top stayer, continued with an epic confrontation between Baaeed and Palace Pier and wound up with a statement race for the 3-year-olds in the featured Champion Stakes. Taking it from the top:

Trueshan and Stradivarius renewed their rivalry in the 2-miles Qipco Long Distance Cup with the 5-year-old Trueshan again taking the measure of his 2 years-older rival.

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Trueshan, under Hollie Doyle, had things in hand in the final 2 furlongs and won by 1 1/2 lengths over long shot Tashkhan. Stradivarius was third while racing over turf rated softer than he likes and jockey Frankie Dettori and trainer John Gosden both faulted race-riding tactics by rivals.

Gosden said owner Bjorn Nielsen and the horse himself will decide whether Stradivarius is retired or races at age 8. Still, Trueshan now looks to be the future of Cup races and trainer Alan King already is looking to Royal Ascot 2022.

"Everyone has said I've been too cautious with this horse, but I've only taken this horse out when it has been rock hard ground. I will run him on good ground, but not good to firm," King said. "Let's hope we get a wet Royal Ascot as it would be lovely to run him in the Gold Cup."

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Creative Force got Godolphin on the board in the Qipco Sprint, tracking the pace and asserting himself in the final furlong for a 1-length victory over Glen Shiel. Minzall was third with the favorite, Art Power, fourth.

Creative Force, a 3-year-old by Dubawi, got his fifth win from eight starts this season, the best of which was the Group 3 Jersey Stakes at the Royal Meeting.

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"Creative Force is a typical Dubawi who should get better with age," said trainer Charlie Appleby, who saddled his first Champions Day runner.

"The sprint division is there for someone to take the mantle next year and we've been looking for a new star sprinter since Blue Point was retired, so hopefully this horse can be a fun horse for the next year or two. There's a hole there to be filled and I think he is a young enough horse to do that."

The Qipco Fillies & Mares went to another long shot as Eshaada took a narrow lead inside the 2-furlongs mark and held gamely to edge Albaflora by a short head. The favorite, Snowfall, was third, another 3 1/2 lengths back, after a tardy start.

Eshaada, a 3-year-old Shadwell homebred filly by Muhaarar, rebounded from a seventh-place finish in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks, won by Snowfall. Earlier, she was second in the Ribblesdale at the Royal Meeting.

"Everything went right, really," said Eshaada's trainer, Roger Varian. "She broke and traveled well, always had a good position and she kicked in the straight but had to be very tough in the final two furlongs where she stuck her neck out and was really game."

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"I think a discussion will be had with Shadwell. She is a great, big scopey filly and I think her best days are ahead of her. I would like to keep her in training."

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes came down to a classic battle between undefeated Baaeed and the favorite, Palace Pier, after pacesetter Banbatl and last year's winner, The Revenant, faded from contention.

The result was in doubt until the final strides as Baaeed, another 3-year-old prospect for Shadwell, prevailed by a neck. Five-year-old Lady Bowthorpe was gaining on the outside to finish third at long odds in her final start.

Unraced as a juvenile, Baaeed has swept through the 2021 season and collected his second straight Group 1 victory after the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp in September. Palace Pier had won all four previous starts this year, three of them at the top level.

The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile, but with Shadwell downsizing after the death of Sheik Hamdan, Baaeed's future is uncertain.

Shadwell Racing manager Angus Gold called the Queen Elizabeth II "a stallion-making race, which is very important to the operation. ... I can't see why he wouldn't go on next year. He's done everything we could possibly ask him. We need him as a stallion and he doesn't have to prove himself by going there [the Breeders' Cup]."

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The day's feature, the Qipco Champion Stakes, was billed as a battle between versatile international star Mishriff and Derby and King George victor Adayar.

But at the end, it was French raider Sealiway taking the late lead and holding off another late-developing 3-year-old, Dubai Honor, by 3/4 length for the win. Mac Swiney made it a sweep for 3-year-olds with Mishriff and Adayar tiring to finish fourth and fifth.

Sealiway was a budding star at 2, but finished fifth in the 2020 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Keeneland and hadn't previously won this season, finishing fifth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in his last start.

The Galiway colt earned a "Win and You're In" spot in this year's Longines Breeders's Cup Turf, but trainer Cedric Rossi did not discuss plans.

"We had a good draw, he broke well, settled well and we had a good position. It was good," said winning rider Mickael Barzalona. "Sealiway showed plenty of stamina in the Arc, but today he showed plenty of speed. He is an excellent horse."

Japan

Akaitorino Musume found just enough in the final 50 meters of Sunday's Grade 1 Shuka Sho at Hanshin Racecourse and held off an onrushing Fine Rouge by 1/2 length as the popular white filly Sodashi faded through the stretch to finish 10th.

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Akaitorino Musume was in good position throughout the 2,000-meter race with jockey Keita Tosaki biding his time. When Tosaki gave his filly the go-ahead message turning for home, she surged to the lead and got home in 2:01.2. Andvaranaut was third.

Sodashi raced right behind the leader and had every chance heading into the uphill climb through the stretch but quickly retreated through the final 200 meters to taste defeat for just the second time in her career.

"I was able to settle the filly in good position and race her in good rhythm," Tosaki said of Akaitorino Musume. "She responded willingly and stretched really well in the lane. I think she is a strong horse and felt that she has stepped up to the next level."

Akaitorino Musume is regally bred, by the late Deep Impact out of the King Kamehameha mare Apapane, a four-time Grade 1 winner including a sweep of the 2010 filly Triple Crown.

Australia

Favorites won in the weekend's two biggest events, the rich TAB Everest at Royal Randwick and the Group 1 Caulfield Cup -- one easily and one hearing hoofbeats in the final yards.

Incentivise, the favorite, ran to his notices in Saturday's Group 1 Carlton Draught Caulfield Cup and more than ran to his notices, winning by 3 1/2 lengths with a late burst of speed that quickly put matters to rest. Nonconformist was best of the rest with Persan third.

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Incentivise, a 5-year-old gelding by Shamus Award, made it three straight wins this season, all Group 1 events, and nine in a row stretching back into last season.

"I was surprised," winning rider Brett Pribble said. "He came off the bridle a bit sooner than I would have liked, but I showed him the whip before the home turn and all that is telling me, is 'Look out Melbourne Cup.'

"He is going to eat up the 3,200 meters. He is exciting. He is probably one of the most exciting horses I've ridden."

At Randwick, it appeared the favorite, Nature Strip, was home free in the 1,200-meter TAB Everest, at AUS$15 million (US$11.1 million) the richest turf race in the world.

But then the 7-year-old Nicconi gelding had to withstand one last surge by Masked Crusader. When the dust cleared, it was Nature Strip by a neck with Eduardo just beaten 1/2 length.

Nature Strip was second in his previous start, the Group 2 The Shorts, also at Randwick, a heat won by Eduardo. In the Group 1 T.J. Smith Stakes in the autumn, Nature Strip, Masked Crusader and Eduardo also finished 1-2-3. Notably, Nature Strip had come up short in two previous tries at the Everest.

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"I am getting a bit emotional for a change," Thoroughbrednews.com quoted winning trainer Chris Waller as saying. "It is just a great race. It has captured the imagination of so many people, inside racing and out and what better way to get out of COVID."

As Australia slowly emerges from the pandemic restrictions, 10,000 fans were allowed in the course to watch the races Saturday at Randwick.

Hong Kong

Panfield, the Chilean-bred 5-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky who took last season's champion stayer award, kicked off the new campaign successfully, grinding out a narrow victory over most of Hong Kong's top mile specialists in the Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy.

With Karis Teetan up for trainer Tony Millard, Panfield raced handy to the moderate pace, advanced steadily through the stretch to lead inside the 100-meters mark and won by a neck over Preciousship.

Millard said Panfield's next target will be the Group 2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup at 2,000 meters Nov. 21 -- a prelude to either the Cup or Vase on Longines Hong Kong International Races day in December.

"It was a great ride," Millard said. "I've had most of the top jockeys jumping on and off him in a way that was a little bit unfortunate early on because I think maybe we could have got a better tune out of him if we'd just stuck to one jockey.

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"Karis has got a good association with him now and long may it last."

Also Sunday, Lucky Patch upset a field of more highly fancied rivals in the Group 2 Premier Bowl Handicap at 1,200 meters and trainer Francis Lui said he's looking forward now to the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint.

"He's been improving," Lui said of Lucky Patch. "I can't say he still has more improvement, but he can enter [the Hong Kong Sprint].

Meanwhile, back in North America:

Filly & Mare Turf

It was Chad Brown day again Saturday in American turf racing as the trainer's horses finished first and second and first and third in the day's biggest events.

Shantisara stalked the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland, blew by pacesetting stablemate Technical Analysis when asked by jockey Flavien Prat and drew off to a 5-lengths victory.

Technical Analysis finished second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Burning Ambition as Shantisara, an Irish-bred filly by Coulsty, finished 1 1/8 miles on yielding turf in 1:48.86.

"I expected her to run really well because of the way she breezed last time [5 furlongs in 1:03.40 on the turf at Keeneland]," said Brown's assistant, Baldo Hernandez.

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"She improves all the time. She's coming along. This filly, she has a really good talent. She handled the turf really well here."

The favorite, Irish-based Empress Josephine, prompted the pace, but then stopped in the stretch, finishing last of nine. Jockey John Velazquez said she "was going really well ... and then she didn't go anywhere. She didn't have it. She didn't show up today."

Fluffy Socks rallied four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and was up in the final jumps to win by a neck over Runaway Rumor.

The favorite, Higher Truth, led much of the way but could only finish third, another 1/2 length in arrears. Chad Brown trains both Higher Truth and Fluffy Sox, a Slumber filly out of the Kitten's Joy mare Breakfast Time. She ran 1 1/8 miles on the firm inner turf course in 1:48.48 with Joel Rosario riding.

Fluffy Socks, previously winless this year, was third in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her previous start.

"Last time when I rode her at Del Mar, she kept coming and coming and just missed," Rosario said. "It looks like she's getting better."

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Brown said Fluffy Socks likely will be pointed to the $300,000 Grade 1 American Oaks at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. "She already shipped well to California one time. I'd say that would be likely."

Mutamakina pressed the pace made by Kalifornia Queen in Sunday's $700,000 (Canadian) Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, advanced to the front with a sixteenth of a mile to run and held off the late bid of La Dragontea to win by a neck.

Kalifornia Queen held third, another neck back, denying Brown a sweep of the weekend's Grade I events.

Mutamakina, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Nathaniel, made it two in a row at Woodbine for trainer Christophe Clement, who also handles La Dragontea. Mutamakina won the Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes in her previous outing.

"She ran well over here about a month ago and we saw an opportunity again to bring her out here," winning jockey Dylan Davis said.

"Christophe, first off, did a great job of getting her here. I've been breezing her, setting up for this race, and she's been breezing well and maintained herself and we knew that she would be tough coming here."

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Turf Sprint

Avie's Flatter stalked the pace in Sunday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, swung four-wide to take the lead at the furlong pole and won a stretch battle by 1/2 length over Turned Aside. Olympic Runner was second and the favorite, Town Cruise, tired late to finish fifth.

Avie's Flatter, a 5-year-old son of Flatter, ran 6 furlongs on yielding going in 1:10.52 for jockey Luis Contreras.

Avie's Flatter won the Grade II Connaught Cup over the course in July but then was fourth in the Grade II King Edward and ninth in the Grade I Woodbine Mile before Sunday's victory.

"This is a good horse," trainer Carroll said of Avie's Flatter. "This horse, from the time he was 2, every year, he shows up and gets it done.

"We have him back to sprinting now and he's thriving on it. It's wonderful. This horse is kind of a barn favorite so it's very special for all of us when he wins."

Too Sexy was too good for seven rivals in Sunday's $150,000 Floral Park Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, rallying six-wide from next-last and drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

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Raven's Cry was second with a mild rally, Introduced was third after holding the lead briefly and the favorite, Robin Sparkles, didn't, finishing last.

Too Sexy, a 4-year-old Quality Road filly, ran 6 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:09.68. She won for the third time in her last four starts while making her stakes debut for trainer Christophe Clement.

Change of Control came with a late rush to win Friday's $150,000 Grade II Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland by 1 1/2 lengths.

Extreme long shot Ambassador Luna led much of the way and held second by a neck over late-running favorite Campanelle.

Change of Control, a 5-year-old Fed Biz mare, completed 5 1/2 furlongs on soft turf in 1:05.89 with Colby Hernandez riding.

The Franklin County was run in a driving rain, prompting some levity on the part of trainer Michelle Lovell.

"I knew we weren't going to be able to see much and we were laughing about what the horses thought about being out in this kind of rain -- whether it was fun or not, because it wasn't for us," she said. "But that was a lot of fun. I couldn't see anything. It's a good thing you had the numbers up on the board."

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Aug Lutes was bumped at the break in Friday's $100,000 Glen Cove Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, raced next-to-last into the turn, but then came six-wide to catch the favorite, Bay Storm, and win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Keeper of Time was third.

Aug Lutes, a Midnight Lute filly, got 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:20.23 with Jose Lezcano riding.

Around the ovals:

Remington Park

Friday was Oklahoma Classics day for state-bred steeds. The turf was firm and the dirt track fast.

Absoroka led all the way to a 4 1/4-lengths score over Number One Dude in the $175,000 Classic. The 5-year-old Flat Out gelding ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:43.19 with David Cabrera riding.

She's All Wolfe, a 4-year-old Magna Graduate filly, rallied from mid-pack to win the $145,000 Distaff by 1 3/4 lengths over Dipping In. She's All Wolfe ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:42.55 for jockey Richard Eramia.

Sunday Flashback, a 3-year-old Flashback filly, outfinished Our Musical Moment in the $130,000 Distaff Sprint, winning by a head as the odds-on favorite. Shannon C took charge in the stretch run, and the 6-year-old Latent Heat gelding went on to win the $130,000 Sprint by 3 lengths from Mesa Moon with the favorite, Welder, third.

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Pacific Typhoon, a 40-1 long shot, led all the way, turned back a challenge and won the $130,000 Turf by 1 1/2 lengths. Run Slewpy Run, a 3-year-old Den's Legacy filly, stalked the pace in the $130,000 Turf Distaff, pounced in the lane and won by 3 lengths over Alternative Slew.

Rowdy Rascal, a Den's Legacy gelding, was along in the final strides to catch pacesetting long shot Charming Oakie and win the $100,000 Juvenile by a head. Morning Twilight, a daughter of Morning Line, was lights out in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, kicking loose in the late going to win by 7 1/2 lengths over odds-on favorite Hits Pricey Legacy.

Delaware Park

Cooke Creek stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Rocky Run Stakes for 2-year-olds, rallied 4-wide to challenge and prevailed after a long drive, winning by 1/2 length from the favorite, Affable Monarch. Cooke Creek, an Uncle Mo colt, ran 1 mile on a fast, but sealed, track in 1:39.71 with Angel Suarez in the irons.

Santa Anita

Warren's Showtime, last of six early, split rivals while making her move to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 California Distaff Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and won by 3/4 length over Sedamar. The favorite, Bella Vita, finished fourth.

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Warren's Showtime, a 4-year-old Clubhouse Ride filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:13.76. Juan Hernandez had the mount for trainer Craig Lewis.

Long shot Indian Peak and favorite North County Guy dueled through the final sixteenth of Sunday's $100,000 California Flag Handicap for state-breds with Indian Peak prevailing by a head. It was only another head to Unbridled Ethos in third.

Indian Peak, a 4-year-old Comic Strip gelding, finished the downhill 6 1/2 furlongs of firm turf in 1:12.52, also with Hernandez riding, this time for Peter Miller.

Fresno

Zestful prompted the pace for the first half mile of Sunday's $75,000 Bull Dog Stakes, took over and gradually inched clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Honos Man was second and Tesoro third.

Zestful, a 6-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.19. Irving Orozco had the mount.

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