Messier wins Sunday's Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar for trainer Bob Baffert. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Nov. 15, 2021 Trainer Bob Baffert saddled the winners of both 2-year-old races at Del Mar, Bell's the One was a popular winner at Churchill Downs, while Mandate scored a big upset at Aqueduct in highlights of weekend horse racing.
Graded stakes on the all-weather track dominated Woodbine's weekend with Churchill Downs, Aqueduct and Laurel Park also contributing to the festivities.
Grade 1 racing returned to Japan with a massive upset in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. The local brigade continued to evolve for next month's Longines Hong Kong International Races.
And in England, the All-Weather Championships continued to exert an outsize influence on racing from Hong Kong to the Middle East.
Starting with the youngsters:
Four 2-year-olds went to the post in Sunday's $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Three were saddled by Bob Baffert and one of those, Messier, dominated the stretch run to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
Forbidden Kingdom, the early leader, upset the Baffert parade by hanging on for second while Winning Map and Kamui completed the order of finish.
Messier, an Empire Maker colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.74 with Flavien Prat aboard.
Messier opened his account by finishing second June 27 at Los Alamitos. After a four-month break, he found the winner's circle at Santa Anita on Oct. 22 in his only other start.
"Messier shipped down this morning," Baffert said. "He didn't train here during the summer and had never been here. First time on a trailer, first time he'd seen Del Mar and he walked into the paddock like he owned it."
Rowdy Rascal rallied 4-wide into the stretch in Friday's $70,000 Don C. McNeill Stakes for Oklahoma-breds at Remington Park and drew off to win by 3 lengths. Cuatro Madres and Beckett's Luckyday filled out the trifecta.
Rowdy Rascal, a Den's Legacy gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast strip in 1:40.38 with Freddy Manrrique in the irons.
Local Motive, always prominent, took the lead in the lane in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel Park and held off long shot Beast or Famine to win by a head. No Sabe Nada was third.
Local Motive, a Divining Rod gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.16.
On Saturday at the Golden Gate Fields all-weather course, Dr Pescado chased Stanford Bay through the early furlongs of the $65,000 Golden Nugget Stakes, dueled with that one through the final furlongs and prevailed by 1/2 length.
The favorite, C'mon Man, came from last of five to finish third, another 1/2 length back.
Dr Pescado, a Fullbridled colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.51 with Pedro Terrero up.
Eda pressed the pace made by stablemate Under the Stars in Saturday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar, took over at the urging of jockey Flavien Prat and drew off to a 4 1/4-length victory. Tonito's rallied to finish second, 3/4 length in front of Under the Stars.
Eda, a Munnings filly, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.53. Bob Baffert trains both Eda and Under the Stars.
"It was kind of a last-minute decision to run Eda here because we also plan to run her back in the Starlet," Baffert said. "But, I loved the way she was able to relax and then kick away clear. Prat doesn't say much but he was really impressed with her."
The $300,000 Grade I Hollywood Starlet runs Dec. 4 at Los Alamitos at 1 1/16 miles.
Buy the Best took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park, kicking away to win by 3/4 lengths from Luna Belle. It was another 7 1/2 lengths to Click to Confirm in third.
Buy the Best, a Tapiture filly, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:09.99 with Jaime Rodriguez riding.
At Remington Park in Oklahoma, Hits Pricey Legacy surged right by the embattled leaders in the stretch run of Friday's $75,000 Slide Show Stakes for state-bred fillies and rolled on to a 5 1/4-lengths win. Morning Twilight, the favorite, was second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Circle Back Girl.
Hits Price Legacy, a daughter of Den's Legacy, negotiated 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.34 under Jose Alvarez.
Mighty Heart, winner of the 2020 Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes, took the early lead in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Autumn Stakes and held off Sir Winston, winner of the 2019 Belmont Stakes, by 3/4 length for the win. Special Forces was third, another 1 length back.
Mighty Heart, a Dramedy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.51 with Patrick Husbands in the irons.
Neither Mighty Heart nor Sir Winston has done much winning since their career highlights, but they went to the post as the favorites in Sunday's heat.
"He's just a good horse and he's an exciting horse," winning trainer Josie Carroll said. "He had a legit excuse last time when he lost a shoe halfway around the turn and I really felt vindicated to see him come back today and do what we've been expecting him to do."
Skygaze raced just behind the pace in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares, kicked into gear in the stretch run and won off by 4 1/2 lengths. Sister Otoole came from last of 10 to finish second, a head in front of Merveilleux.
Skygaze, a 4-year-old American Pharoah filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:03.65. Patrick Husbands rode for trainer Mark Casse.
"I was driving my Ferrari," Husbands said. "She gives you everything she has to give you."
One race later, Lady Speightspeare pressed the pace set by the favorite, Our Secret Agent, in the $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Bessarabian Stakes for filly and mare sprinters, got by that rival and raced clear to win by 4 lengths.
Our Secret Agent held second, 1 length to the good of La Libertee. Lady Speightspeare, a 3-year-old Speightstown filly, was clocked in 1:21.03 for 7 furlongs on the all-weather track with Emma-Jayne Wilson riding.
Lady Speightspeare was scratched at the gate before the Oct. 16 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and trainer Roger Attfield said he is grateful to have that problem sorted out.
"It was an important race, a Grade I race," Attfield said. "I wasn't really sure how well she'd handle the synthetic. ... We always thought that she was quite a bit better on the turf. I still think she is. But the main thing was to get this gate thing sorted out and it seemed like we did today."
The expected showdown between old rivals Bell's the One and Sconsin failed to materialize when Sconsin was a late scratch from Saturday's $300,000 Dream Supreme Stakes for fillies and mares.
That left Bell's the One as the odds-on favorite for the 6 furlongs, and the 5-year-old Majesticperfection mare took full advantage.
With Corey Lanerie up, she rallied from last of six, reeled in temporary leader Club Car in the final yards and won by 1 length Frank's Rockette was third. Bell's the One finished in 1:10.02 over a fast track.
Trainer Neil Pessin said Bell's the One is expected to return for her 6-year-old season with the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint the ultimate goal.
She might face Sconsin again -- it would be their seventh face-to-face -- as trainer Greg Foley said Sconsin "is doing fine but she wasn't acting like herself to run against these kinds of horses."
Mandate was the longest shot on the board for Saturday's $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes and, after the first few furlongs, he also was trailing all eight rivals. Then things clicked for the 4-year-old Blame gelding.
He advanced around the turn, made it to the front a sixteenth out and kept on willingly to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Tell Your Daddy was second with the favorite, Flavius, third. Mandate ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:39.07 with Andrew Wolfsont in the irons.
"His last race made him eligible for the Claiming Crown so we could still go there," winning trainer Robert Johnston said.
"Laurel still has grass, too. If we went to the Claiming Crown, we would go and come back. We're team players so if he needs to stay down there with someone else, so be it. Whatever is best for the horse."
The Claiming Crown returns to Gulfstream Park for the ninth time Dec. 4.
In Sunday's $150,000 Winter Memories Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Plum Ali took the early lead, shook off the challengers and went on to win by 3/4 length over the late running (and appropriately named) White Frost. Miss Dracarys and Gam's Mission were third and fourth, respectively, a pair of noses farther back.
Plum Ali, a First Samurai filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:45.11 with Manny Franco riding.
Flash of Mischief pressed the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Delta Mile, took the lead when asked by jockey Timothy Thornton, and ran on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Mocito Rojo. It was another 1/2 length to Bold Thirst in third. Flash of Mischief, a 3-year-old Into Mischief colt, finished in 1:39.93 over a fast track.
Flash of Mischief, trained by Karl Broberg, entered off a second-place finish in the Oklahoma Derby. Before that, he won the $250,000 St. Louis Derby at Fanduel Sportsbook And Horse Racing, the former Fairmount Park.
Miss Leslie came from next-last of nine to win Saturday's $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length as the even-money favorite. Double-digit longshots Lookin Dynamic and Villanell were second and third.
Miss Leslie, a Paynter filly, ran about 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:43.63 for jockey Angel Cruz.
Star of Night, a 1-10 favorite, stalked pacesetting longshot Boundtobebad through the first two thirds of Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares, got to the front leaving the final turn and won by 3 lengths, going away. Boundtobebad was second, 3/4 lengths ahead of Door Buster.
Star of Night, a 4-year-old Creative Cause filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:54.69 with Arnold Bocachica up.
Kela's Turn hooked up with Becca's Rocket and Shes Our Fastest rolling down the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Treasure Chest for fillies and mare, finally edging clear to win by 1 length. Becca's Rocket was second, a neck in front of Shes Our Fastest.
Kela's Turn, a 3-year-old filly by Kela, finished 1 mile over a fast track in 1:41.67 with Alex Birzer riding.
Fast Breakin Cash was the fastest finisher in Friday's $70,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for Oklahoma-breds. The 5-year-old Yes It's True gelding came from next-last in a field of six to win by 3/4 length with Euromantic second and Tommyhawk third.
Fast Breakin Cash, with Richard Eramia up, raced 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.88.
Hawthorne Race Course
W W Cookie Monster survived some bumping at the start, won a multi-horse struggle for the lead and drew off to win Sunday's $65,000 Lighting Jet Stakes for Illinois-breds by 2 3/4 lengths. Huey Attack was second at long odds, a head in front of What's Up Dude.
W W Cookie Monster, a 6-year-old gelding by Ghaaleb, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.42 for jockey Victor Santiago.
Racetothefinish drafted behind the early leaders in Saturday's $65,000 Powerless Stakes for Illinois-bred fillies and mares, picked it up turning for home and got there first by 2 lengths over odds-on favorite W W Fitzy. Jolina was third.
Racetothefinish, a 4-year-old Race Day filly, toured 6 1/2 furlongs of fast track in 1:16.81. Santiago had the mount.
Diva Power was quickly out front of nine rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Ohio Debutante Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares and wasn't caught, rolling home first by 1 length over Star Rules. Lexy Anna was third and the favorite, Mobil Lady, finished seventh.
Diva Power, a 4-year-old filly by Global Power, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:46.57 with Luis Batista riding.
Around the world, around the clock:
With Breeders' Cup winner Loves Only You resting in California before shipping to Hong Kong, Sunday's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup for fillies and mares at Hanshin looked like a pretty open race. But maybe not quite as wide-open as the result indicated.
Akai Ito, a Kizuna filly, dominated the final 200 meters to win the event at odds of nearly 65-1. She was trailed by Stellaria (at 25-1), Clavel (47-1), Soft Fruit (74-1) and Isu Jo no Kiseki (118-1). The favorites, Lei Papale, Akaitorino Musume and Win Marilyn, finished sixth, seventh and 16th, respectively
Akai Ito, with Hideaki Miyuki riding, was away a step slowly, raced well back of the leaders and didn't start to pick things up until the end of the trip down the backstretch. Then she found another gear, crossed in front of Akaitorino turning for home and hit the front with 200 meters to run. She won by 2 lengths.
Although the QE II Cup was her first start in a Grade 1 event and she had only four wins from 19 previous trips, Miyuki said he maintained confidence in his long shot contender.
"Though I could not break her smoothly out of the gate, I was able to eventually race her in the intended position at the backstretch. I was confident that she will stretch well at the end and, because it was a grade 1 race, I made my bid earlier than usual," Miyuki said.
"We were able to take the front earlier than I had expected and, as there was no horse right behind us, I just kept on urging her to go."
The All-Weather Championships continue expand their reach and importance as Pyledriver not only prepped for next month's Longines Hong Kong Vase with a win Saturday at Lingfield Park but also put up a flag for a possible flutter at Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
Admittedly sent to the post far from fully fit, Pyledriver emerged from behind the speed to take the lead at the furlong pole in the Betway Churchill Stakes and held off Harrovian to win by 1/2 length. Felix was third in the 10-furlongs event, a Fast-Track Qualifier for the Betway Easter Classic on the AWC Finals Day.
"He wasn't fit today and we brought him here purposely to improve from it," co-trainer William Muir said. "Hong Kong is our main target, and then beyond that, we are looking at the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic. Why not have a go at the Saudi Cup? They reckon it is the nicest dirt track in the world."
Pyledriver, a 4-year-old colt by Harbour Watch, has scored five of his six wins on the turf. He won the Group 1 Coronation Cup June 4 at Epsom going 1 1/2 miles, the same trip as the Hong Kong Vase.
A second Fast-Track Qualifier on the card, the Betway Golden Rose Stakes at 6 furlongs, also could impact the international scene as Good Effort, last year's winner, repeated rather easily while maintaining his undefeated record at Lingfield.
It was a rebound from a fourth-place finish in his last start, the Grade I Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park.
"Good Effort is a horse we have always believed is the best All-Weather sprinter in the UK," Jose Santos, assistant to trainer Ismail Mohammed, said of the 6-year-old by Shamardal. "He is a real natural sprinter and hopefully connections decide to keep him here for the All-Weather Championships."
Winning rider Jim Crowley added, "Good Effort is a handy horse, isn't he? He has won in France and run well in Dubai, and he didn't run too badly in Belmont last time. It just didn't quite work out for him because they went slow out there, which is unusual for an American sprint.
"It's just a question of whether he stays here for the All-Weather Championships or goes on his travels again. But it will take a quick one to beat him around here."
The clock is ticking toward the Longines Hong Kong International Races Dec. 12 and trainer John Size has another potential cog for the wheel after Lucky Express landed the Class 1 Panasonic Handicap Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.
With Zac Purton up, Lucky Express got a lovely, ground-saving trip in the 1,400-meters event, ducked through a hole on the rail at the top of the lane and prevailed by a head over Fast Most Furious. It was his first start of the season and just his second win in Hong Kong.
While expressing hope his charge will have matured as a Southern Hemisphere 5-year-old, Size wasn't quite ready to commit the Aussie-bred gelding to the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile after the race, saying, "I haven't even seen a replay yet. Just let me absorb that and then we'll make a plan."
The win the only score on the day for leading jockey Zac Purton and his closest pursuer, Joao Moreira, closed the gap slightly with a riding triple. Purton now has 33 wins to Moreira's 29.