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European 2-year-olds make case for '22 Classics in weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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European 2-year-olds make case for '22 Classics in weekend horse racing
Titleholder is all alone at the end of Sunday's Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger. Photo courtesy of Japan Racing Association

Oct. 25 (UPI) -- Luxembourg emerged as the favorite for the 2020 European and UK Classics with a dominant win at Doncaster while Angel Bleu, Ancient Rome and El Bodegon made their mark in their 2-year-old finales in weekend racing in France.

It took the officials more than 20 minutes to sort out the result of the Group 1 Cox Plate in Australia after a thrilling finish. And Titleholder put on a title-worthy performance in the Japanese St. Leger as global racing helped fill a slow, pre-Breeders' Cup period in North America.

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That's not to say there was nothing noteworthy at North American tracks. There were significant races from New York to California and Canada to Florida. Keeneland was right in the middle of the action and Hawthorne Race Course resumed its stakes program after a few dry years.

Breeders' Cup festivities get going in the coming week. But, things being as they are, we'll start this report overseas.

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England

Saturday's Group 1 Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster extinguished the Group 1 flat turf racing season in England, but it also ignited the hot favorite for next year's 2,000 Guineas, Luxembourg.

The Camelot colt upped his record to 3-for-3 as Ryan Moore rode with confidence outside seven rivals. As the pace headed up with 2 furlongs left of the straight mile, Luxembourg dipped his head, dug in and looked in command every stride, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Sissoko was second, Bayside Boy third.

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It was the 10th victory in the Futurity for trainer Aidan O'Brien, matching the record of Sir Henry Cecil. The importance of the race is illustrated by the fact the last four Futurity winners, including the O'Brien-trained Saxon Warrior and Magna Grecia, have gone on to win either the English or Irish Guineas the following year.

"He's a real smart horse, very scopey," Moore said of Luxembourg, per Racing Post. "We're delighted with what he's done and he's an exciting horse to look forward to. It couldn't have gone smoother and there's more improvement to come."

In 1927, a different Luxembourg won the first race ever run at Arlington Park outside Chicago. It's nice to have the name back in prominence in the year of Arlington's apparent doom.

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France

Saint-Cloud hosted a pair of races Saturday for promising 2-year-olds with some heart-pounding results.

In the Group 1 Criterium International, contested at 1 mile over the very soft going, Angel Bleu and the favorite, Ancient Rome, came along outside rivals to take the lead at mid-stretch and battled things out to the finish with Angel Bleu and jockey Frankie Dettori getting the victory by a head.

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Ancient Rome and Mickael Barzalona held second on Ancient Rome, a Coolmore colt trained by Andre Fabre who went to the post favorite.

Angel Bleu, a Dark Angel colt trained by Ralph Beckett, backed up his victory over Godolphin's Noble Truth in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere three weeks earlier and now has five wins from eight starts.

Ancient Rome, by War Front, was third in the Lagardere. He has won half his six starts, finishing behind Angel Bleu in two of those defeats.

In the next race on the program, El Bodegon made all in posting an upset victory in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud for 2-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles.

The Kodiac colt, trained by James Ferguson and ridden by Ioritz Mendizabal, easily held off Coolmore's Galileo colt Stone Age by 1 1/2 lengths and the favorite, Godolphin's Dubawi colt, Goldspur, by another 1 1/4 lengths.

El Bodegon won for the third time in five starts while making his first appearance in a Group 1 event.

Australia

It only took 2 minutes, 6.9 seconds to run Saturday's Group 1 Ladbroke Cox Plate at the Valley, but it took the officials more than 20 more minutes to decide who'd be declared the winner.

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State of Rest, with John Allen up for trainer Joseph Patrick O'Brien, and Anamoe, with Craig Williams riding, spurted through between rivals at the top of the stretch and the battle was on.

The Irish-trained State of Rest was leading with the Godolphin gaining ground just to his inside at the 100 meters. Then, as Anamoe drew even, State of Rest came in on him. The two bumped. State of Rest was first home by a head.

Williams claimed foul. The stewards huddled, listened to the pleas, deliberated some more. Deliberated some more.

"Craig is always a good talker [in the stewards room]," Allen told Channel Seven. "The longer it was going, there were definitely a few anxious moments."

The ruling went the way of State of Rest and the result stood. Verry Elleegant was uninvolved in the contretemps and finished third. State of Rest, a 3-year-old colt by Australian-bred Starspangledbanner, was having his first Australian run.

One day short of a year earlier, he was fifth in the Vertem Futurity Trophy at Doncaster in England. He was shipped to Australia, amid rigid new importation requirements, after winning the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational Aug. 7.

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Jonker, the lukewarm favorite in a well-matched field, won a bang-bang finish by a short head over Bella Nipotina in Friday's Group 1 Ladbrokes Manikato Stakes at Mooney Valley. Ingratiating was third, nearly 3 lengths farther in arrears.

Jonker insisted on the lead, skimmed the fence and just did hold off the late challenge. Jonker, a 6-year-old son of Spirit of Boom, won for just the fifth time in 28 starts.

Japan

Titleholder not only took the title in Sunday's Grade 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger but did it via an early TKO. Flying out of the gate for jockey Takeshi Yokoyama, the Duramente colt set an early pace belying the 3,000 meters of the race.

Then, once firmly in command, he was able to dictate matters, slow it down and, eventually, coast home first by 5 lengths.

Orthoclase, Divine Love, the only filly in the 18-horse field, and Stella Veloce finished second through fourth, closely bunched. The favorite, Red Genesis, never got into the mix and finished 13th.

Titleholder entered the Kikuka Sho after finishing 13th with traffic issues in a Grade 2 event at Nakayama Racecourse.

"We had a terrible race last time out so I was determined to win it this time and I'm glad it panned out," jockey Yokoyama said.

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"I personally thought that the distance was maybe too much to ask from this colt but he showed otherwise and performed well above my expectations so I'm ashamed for doubting in him, anyway."

The race was the third leg of the Japanese Triple Crown but that title was not available to Titleholder, or anyone else, this year as Efforia and Shahryar split the first two legs of the series. Neither was involved in the Kikuka Sho.

Yokoyama indicated Titleholder might have a say against older rivals in the Oct. 31 Tenno Sho (Autumn) or the Nov. 28 Japan Cup, both Grade 1 events.

"He has a lot to look forward to in the future but it would require a little skill as a rider to conserve his energy depending on the situations," the rider said.

On Saturday at Tokyo Racecourse, a couple 3-year-olds not up to the Hanshin test nonetheless showed renewed promise in the Grade 2 Fuji Stakes at 1,600 meters.

Songline, a Kizuna filly, accelerated strongly through the stretch to win by a neck while 2020 Hopeful Stakes winner Danon the Kid also showed late interest to get up for fourth, beaten less than 3 lengths.

They were separated by 6-year-old Satono Wizard and 3-year-old Time to Heaven, both by Lord Kanaloa and both rallying from far back in a cavalry charge finish.

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Songline, bred by Northern Farm and campaigned by Sunday Racing, was well beaten in the Grade 1 Oka Sho or Japanese 1000 Guineas in April, but then rebounded to finish second in the Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup four weeks later. She was third in a Grade 3 event at Niigata on return in August.

Danon the Kid, a Just a Way colt, looked like the real deal last year, winning all three starts finishing with the Grade 1 Hopeful at Nakayama. He was third in his 2021 debut in the Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho Deep Impact Kinen in March, but then 15th in the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2000 Guineas in April and had not raced since.

France

Scope chased the leading pair into the final three furlongs of Sunday's Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp, mounted an attack when called upon by jockey Rob Hornby and got home first by 1 length.

The favorite, Skazino, was in the lead 100 meters out but couldn't maintain it, finishing second, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Glycon. Scope, a 3-year-old Teofilo colt trained by Ralph Beckett, finished 1 mile, 7 1/2 furlongs in 3:27.35 over turf rated very soft. It was his second straight win, following a listed event at Ascot on Oct. 1.

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Meanwhile, back in North America:

Turf

It's not quite Halloween, but that didn't prevent Spooky Channel from rallying late in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Sycamore Stakes at Keeneland to drive a stake through pacesetting Two Emmys' hopes for victory.

Spooky Channel, a 6-year-old English Channel gelding, came from just off the pace to win by a head over Two Emmys despite being herded out toward the middle of the track by that rival.

It was another 4 1/4 lengths to Ry's the Guy in third. Spooky Channel ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:29.71 with Julien Leparoux riding.

Spooky Channel, trained by Jason Barkley, backed up a victory in the Remington Green Stakes in Oklahoma in his previous start and also won the Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston in January.

In the $400,000 Grade II Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park on Saturday, Public Sector engaged pacesetting Never Surprised with a furlong to run and got the edge in the final strides, winning by a neck.

It was another 1 3/4 lengths to It Can Be Done in third and the favorite, Soldier Rising, chugged home fifth from the back of the pack. Public Sector, a British-bred colt by Kingman, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.68 under Irad Oritz Jr., giving trainer Chad Brown yet another notch on his turf graded stakes belt.

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Public Sector scored his third straight win following the Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes and the Grade III Saranac, both at Saratoga, and Brown said the Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on Nov. 27 "was really the plan, win or lose. As long as he ran well, we really thought he could follow the path Domestic Spending ended up getting out to the Hollywood Derby last year for his last start of the year."

Sunday at Belmont Park, Shamrocket took up station near the rear of the five-horse field in the $100,000 Point of Entry Stakes, moved up around the stretch turn to reach contention and outfinished Beacon Hill by 1/2 length for the win. It was another 3 3/4 lengths to Bluegrass Parkway in third.

Shamrocket, a 4-year-old Tonalist colt, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:26.70. Javier Castellano rode for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Filly & Mare Turf

Shifty She shifted right into gear at the start of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont Park, led all the way and won by 1 1/2 lengths over High Opinion.

Flower Point was another 1/2 length back in third, and trainer Chad Brown's two starters delivered a rare goose egg, finishing fifth and sixth in the seven-horse field. Shifty She, a 5-year-old Gone Astray mare, got 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.24. Edwin Gonzalez rode for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.

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All five of Shifty She's previous victories came at Gulfstream Park. She finished fourth in the Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf in her previous start. Part owner/trainer Chris Pallas said he looks forward to getting Shifty She back to South Florida for the $500,000 Grade III Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf on Jan. 29.

"With this win," he said, "she deserves to be there."

Sunday at Keeneland, Summer in Saratoga rallied from far back in the $150,000 Grade III Rood & Riddle Dowager Stakes, split rivals turning for home to take the lead and held off the favorite, Luck Money for a 1/2-length victory. Micheline was third.

Summer in Saratoga, a 5-year-old Hard Spun mare who spent her summer in the Midwest, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 1:30.02 with Corey Lanerie in the kip.

Turf Sprint

Rustler showed the way in Friday's $100,000 Carle Place Stakes for 3-year-olds and held gamely to post the 21-1 upset win by 3/4 length over Smokin' Jay. Snow House was just a nose farther back in third. Rustler, a Dominus colt, ran 7 furlongs on firm going in 1:20.79 with Kendrick Carmouche riding.

Turf Mile

Neptune's Storm waited behind the early speed in Saturday's $70,000 Lure Stakes at Santa Anita, edged in front of pacesetter Lambeau and carried on to victory. Order and Law was up for second, a neck back of the winner and 3/4 length in front of the tiring Lambeau.

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Neptune's Storm, a 5-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.49 with Flavien Prat up.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Caramel Swirl and Joy's Rocket dueled through the final sixteenth of Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Lexus Raven Run for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland with Caramel Swirl and jockey Junior Alvarado getting the nod by a head. Cilla held the lead briefly in the stretch run and finished third, another 2 lengths back.

Caramel Swirl, a Godolphin homebred filly by Union Rags, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.42. It was her first stakes win and followed a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Charles Town Oaks.

"Obviously, with the step up in company and class, Junior gave her a super ride," said Jimmy Bell, Godolphin's American overseer. "She showed true determination and grit and heart down the lane. Made it interesting, but we're happy to be here in the winner's circle."

Saturday at Woodbine, Our Secret Agent sat just off the pace in the $180,000 (Canadian) Hendrie Stakes, moved powerfully to the lead turning for home and won off by 3 1/2 lengths. Amalfi Coast was second, a head in front of La Libertee.

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Our Secret Agent, a 4-year-old filly by Secret Circle, got 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:15.68 for jockey Kazushi Kimura.

Sprint

He'smyhoneybadger rallied from near the back of the field to win Saturday's $150,000 Perryville Stakes for 3-year-olds at Keeneland by a head over Ram and another neck from the favorite, Pipeline.

He'smyhoneybadger, a Daredevil colt trained by Brad Cox, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.75 with Florent Geroux in the irons.

Juvenile Fillies

Eda, the prohibitive favorite, was well in command early in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Anoakia Stakes at Santa Anita, coasting home in front by 2 1/4 lengths. Lady T was second with Benedict Canyon another 7 1/4 lengths back in third.

Eda, a Munnings filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.41 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Bob Baffert. Eda was a fading fifth behind stablemate Grace Adler in her previous start, the Grade I Del Mar Debutante.

Around the ovals:

Hawthorne Race Course

Despite Churchill Downs Inc.'s assassination of Arlington Park, stakes racing made a modest return to the Illinois scene Saturday at the remaining Chicago-area track.

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After a three-year hiatus, the Hawthorne Derby resurfaced Saturday, a $100,000 heat contested at 1 1/8 miles on the excellent Hawthorne turf course. Mohs was away slowest of all six starters and raced well back until the field turned for home.

When jockey Jareth Loveberry found the Hard Spun colt room between rivals, he got through and ran on to win by 3/4 length. Grey Streak was along for second and Temper Tantrum was third after contesting the lead.

Mohs finished in 1:50.32 over firm turf on a glorious autumn day in the Chicago suburbs. Trained by Patrick McBurney, Mohs was second in a Monmouth Park allowance in his most recent start. Before that, he reported sixth in the Grade III Saranac at Saratoga.

In Saturday's $60,000 Illini Princess for state-bred fillies and mares, Bramble Queen raced amid nine rivals through the first half of the 1 1/16 miles of Hawthorne's nice turf course, rallied inside the speed into the stretch and got home first by 1 length.

Katie M'lady led the way early and held second, 4 1/4 lengths better than Embarrassing. Bramble Queen, a daughter of Silent Name, finished in 1:42.70 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons.

On Sunday, the former Buck's Boy Handicap also was returned to action, now known as The Pizza Man Handicap in honor of the only Illinois-bred winner in the history of the Arlington Million.

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Saturday's glorious weather turned to a cold rain and the race came off the turf. On the sloppy main track, Readthecliffnotes and Richiesgotgame slugged it out in the stretch run, swapping the lead before Readthecliffnotes inched clear to win by 3/4 length. It was another 9 3/4 lengths to Iwillpersevere in third.

Readthecliffnotes, a 6-year-old Read the Footnotes gelding, splashed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.23 for jockey Edgar Perez and trainer Michele Boyce.

Woodbine

Moira, a first-time starter, surged from next-last to first in the stretch run of Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Princess Elizabeth Stakes for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies and won by 4 1/4 lengths, ridden out by jockey Justin Stein.

Souper Flashy flashed to a brief lead at the top of the stretch before Moira blew by and held second, 1 length better than Intro.

Moira, a Ghostzapper filly from the Unbridled's Song mare Devine Aida, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.63.

Delta Downs

OK, then. Free Like a Girl got free like a bird in Friday's $100,000 Louisiana Jewel for state-bred 2-year-old fillies and flew home first by 18 1/2 lengths.

Eight others were strung out halfway up the stretch with the odds-on favorite, Wholelottamo, fourth and 21 3/4 lengths back of the winner.

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Free Like a Girl, a daughter of El Deal out of the Flashy Bull mare Flashy Prize, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:28.38 with Pedro Cotto Jr. up. It was her third win from seven starts, and she has never missed a top-three finish.

Unified Report dueled for the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Legacy for 2-year-olds, and then shook clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Family Creed pressured the winner until the final furlong, and then held on for second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Feisty Fist.

Unified Report, a Unified colt, finished in 1:28.81 with Timothy Thornton in the irons.

Penn National

Beren, the odds-on favorite, pressed the pace in Friday's $100,000 Danzig Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds, took over when the early leader folded and went on to win by 2 lengths. Marvalous Mike was along for second, 4 1/2 lengths better than Don't Losemymoney.

Beren, a Weigelia colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.80 with Frankie Pennington riding.

Just One Time was much the best in Friday's $100,000 New Start Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, drawing off through the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Oxana was best of the rest, 4 lengths ahead of Secret Banker in third.

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Just One Time, a Not This Time filly, was timed in 1:10.07 with Angel Rodriguez in the irons.

Woodbine

Lorena dueled for the early lead in Friday's $80,000 (Canadian) Thunder Bay Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies, opened a narrow advantage early in the stretch run and held on to score by 1 1/4 lengths. Jilli Marie kept coming to finish second despite some traffic with Meet the Soprano 3 lengths behind her in third.

Lorena, a Souper Speedy filly, ran 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:25.54 for jockey Gary Boulanger.

Secret Reserve saved ground the whole way in Friday's $80,000 (Canadian) Lake Superior Stakes for 3-year-old Ontario-bred colts and geldings, worked to the lead at mid-stretch and won off by 2 lengths over Dragon's Brew. Perfect Crime was third.

Secret Reserve, a Giant Gizmo gelding, was clocked in 1:24.70. Rafael Hernandez had the mount.

Gulfstream Park

Peter D raced close behind early leader Mr Rum Runner in Saturday's $60,000 Journeyman Stud Juvenile for Florida-bred 2-year-olds, got to the lead inside the furlong marker and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Mr Rum Runner held second.

Peter D, a He's Had Enough gelding, ran about 1 mile and 70 yards on Gulfstream's new all-weather track in 1:44.67 -- announced as a track record.

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She's So Beautiful engaged pacesetting Sea Art in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Khozan Juvenile Fillies Sprint for Florida-bred juvenile fillies and those two battled to the finish with She's So Beautiful prevailing by a neck. A late effort got Demurely up to finish third, another neck back.

She's So Beautiful, a daughter of Air Force Blue, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.28 with Samy Camacho up.

Laurel Park

Saturday was Maryland Million Day for state-bred stock. The main track was fast and the turf was firm. Other than the $150,000 Classic and the $75,000 Turf Sprint, the races were contested for $100,000 apiece.

The Classic produced an upset at Prendimi, under Mychel Sanchez, showed the way and held off the odds-on favorite, Tappin Cat, by a neck at the end. The Poser was third.

Prendimi, a 6-year-old Dances with Ravens gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.46.

Hello Beautiful, the overwhelming favorite, had things all her way in the Distaff, leading early en route to a 3 1/2-lengths victory. Malibu Beauty was second as the winner, a 4-year-old daughter of Golden Lad, finished 7 furlongs in 1:22.22 with Jevian Toledo in the irons.

Somekindofmagician pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the end of the Turf, winning a three-way blanket finish involving late-runners. The 7-year-old Street Magician gelding put a nose in front of Johng, who was a nose better than Street Copper. The 1 1/8 miles went in 1:49.00 with Angel Cruz aboard the winner.

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Air Token got the lead in the lane in the Sprint and easily held off the late bid of odds-on favorite Double Crown, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over that one. The 4-year-old Golden Lad gelding ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.63.

Grateful Bred led from gate to wire in the Turf Sprint, scoring by 1 1/2 lengths over Sky's Not Falling. The 5-year-old gelding by Great Notion got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.29 with Toledo riding.

Epic Idea, a 5-year-old Great Notion mare, raced just off the pace in the Ladies Stakes, got through a furlong out and won by 1/2 length over Maldives Model. The Michael Merryman trainee ran 1 1/8 miles on the grass in 1:49.46 with Daniel Centeno up.

Buff Hello set a pressured pace in the Nursery for 2-year-olds and cleared late, winning by 2 lengths as Costal Mission edged Local Motive for second.

Buff Hello, a Buffum colt, reported in 1:10.51. Buff My Boots, a Buffum filly, led early in the Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, was headed and came again to win by 1/2 length over My Thoughts.

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