Country Grammer posts an upset win Saturday in the $12 million Dubai World Cup. Photo courtesy of Dubai Racing Club
March 28 (UPI) -- Country Grammer's upset win in the Dubai World Cup shared the weekend racing stage with the emergence of Japanese colt Crown Pride as a legitimate prospect for the Kentucky Derby after his upset win in the UAE Derby.
In all, at least six horses technically qualified for the Run for the Roses through weekend races although a few are unlikely to show up in Louisville.
The weekend was packed with lots more action, including the stellar World Cup undercard at Meydan Racecourse and Fair Grounds' closing weekend featuring Epicenter front and center in the Louisiana Derby.
Center your attention on this:
The $12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup victory by Country Grammer was a badly needed triumph for trainer Bob Baffert, but the entire evening's supporting card was a dream come true for Japan's Yoshito Yahagi, who saddled three of Japan's five winners on the eight-race Thoroughbred card.
Country Grammer came from off the pace, reeled in the favorite, Life Is Good, in the final furlong and ran on to win the Cup by 1 3/4 lengths over Hot Rod Charlie.
Japan's dirt expert Chuwa Wizard was along to take third with Life Is Good fourth and Midnight Bourbon fifth.
Country Grammer came from a long layoff to finish a heartbreaking second in the $20 million Saudi Cup in his previous race and took the needed step forward from that.
Baffert remained in California, entrusting Country Grammer's care to assistant Jimmy Barnes. But there was no shortage of praise for the silver-haired trainer, who has been forced to relinquish some of his top 3-year-olds to other trainers because of a looming suspension and a Kentucky Derby ban imposed by Churchill Downs.
Barnes said Frankie Dettori "just rode him awesome. He couldn't have done any better. The speed worked out just as we thought it would. He put him in a close-enough spot that, when he called on him, he's a true mile and a quarter horse and it kicked in.
"I give a lot of credit to Bob Baffert for his ability to come back and perform. It's what we do."
The 1 1/4-mile distance always was a question mark for Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Pegasus World Cup winner Life Is Good, and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. said it made the difference.
"We led like we wanted," he said. "It was just the distance. The extra distance told."
Plans for Country Grammer will be complicated as, pending an appeal, Baffert's looming 90-day suspension could force him to temporarily disband his California-based stable.
While the World Cup was a fabulous high for Baffert, the entire day was a dream for Yahagi, who saddled Bathrat Leon, winner of the Group 2 Godolphin Mile, Stay Foolish, winner of the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup, and Panthalassa, dead-heat winner of the Group 1 Dubai Turf.
Bathrat Leon, a 60-1 long shot, led most of the way to victory in only his second start on the dirt. Desert Wisdom was second and the favorite, Al Nefud, never fired, finishing last.
Bathrat Leon, a 4-year-old colt by Kizuna, won for just the second time in his 12th start.
Stay Foolish pulled off another upset, albeit of much lesser magnitude. The 7-year-old son of Stay Gold took advantage of a pedestrian early pace, got the lead late in the 2-mile Gold Cup and won by 1/2 length.
The late-running favorite, Manobo, compromised by the lack of early pace, could only snatch second with a furious stretch charge. Stay Foolish backed up his last-race win in the Group 3 Red Sea Turf Handicap in Saudi Arabia.
Panthalassa was part of a near triple dead-heat in the Dubai Turf. He and Lord North both converged on pacesetting Vin de Garde in the shadow of the wire, and the judges could not find anything between two of them. Vin de Garde settled for third, a nose behind.
Panthalassa, a 5-year-old son of Lord Kanaloa, and Lord North, a 6-year-old Dubawi gelding, were both relative long shots while another Japanese runner, Schnell Meister, finished eighth as the favorite.
The Gold Cup was one of three tough beats for the Godolphin home team and trainer Charlie Appleby. Another came in the Al Quoz Sprint, where three of the favorites toted Sheik Mohammed's royal blue silks but it was Ireland's A Case of You leading through the final 2 furlongs to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Happy Romance.
The favorite, Man of Promise, with William Buick up for Appleby, was third. Despite the upset, the outcome of the race promises some interesting times for the European sprint season.
Switzerland took the lead in the lane in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at 6 furlongs on the dirt and held on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over yet another Japanese contender, Red Le Zele, who also finished second in the race last year.
U.S. hope Dr. Schivel, the favorite, finished third. Switzerland, an 8-year-old Speightstown gelding, formerly raced in the United States. He finished seventh in last year's Golden Shaheen.
It was Japan again in the night's secondary feature, the $6 million Group 1 Sheema Classic at 1 1/2 miles on the turf. And again, Godolphin took a hard lick.
Last year's Japan Derby winner, Shahryar, got to the front and held on as Godolphin's 2021 Breeders' Cup Turf and Eclipse Award winner Yibir fell just short with a late run. Another Japanese star, Authority, made the early going and held on for third.
Japan also won the Group 2 UAE Derby's 100 "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points with leading local trainer Bhupat Seemar's Summer Is Tomorrow also likely qualified for the Run for the Roses while finishing second. See more on that in:
The Road to the Roses
Epicenter jumped right into the middle of the Kentucky Derby picture with an intimidating, 2 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $1 million Grade II Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.
The Not This Time colt patiently tracked the early speed, came wide into the stretch and put the hammer down. Previously undefeated Zozos, making just his third career start, set the early pace and held on for second, 2 lengths in front of Pioneer of Medina.
With Joel Rosario riding for trainer Steve Asmussen, Epicenter covered 1 3/16 miles -- just a sixteenth shorter than the Kentucky Derby distance -- in track-record time of 1:54.38.
He earned 100 points toward a start in Louisville on May 7, and Asmussen credited the Fair Grounds 3-year-old series for setting the colt up for a run at the big race.
"Epicenter has made some great progress over the winter here," he trainer said. "He's done so well over the surface which has aided in his physical development. I just love the opportunity afforded to us with the series of races they have here."
Zozos also earned enough points to get into the Run for the Roses and trainer Brad Cox clearly was thinking along those lines.
"If we choose to go forward to the Derby, he'll get a lot out of this to propel him forward and that's what he'll need to take that path," said Cox, who otherwise is unrepresented on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard.
Saturday's Group 2 UAE Derby in Dubai was a classic setup for Crown Pride. Summer Is Tomorrow set a quick tempo on the lead while being pressured by Saudi Derby winner Pinehurst with Crown Pride parked behind those and in the clear.
Turning for home, Summer is Tomorrow ran on but lost just enough steam for Crown Pride to get by with 100 meters to run and win by a widening 2 1/4 lengths. Island Falcon rallied for third.
Crown Pride, owned by Teruya Yoshida, picked up 100 "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points and is nominated to the Triple Crown.
"I want to go to the Kentucky Derby," trainer Koichi Shintani said. "I just have to convince the owner to do it."
Bhupat Seemar, Dubai's leading trainer, said he also "would definitely consider the Kentucky Derby" with Saturday's runner-up.
"But I'd have to see if he's nominated or not first of all. That's the biggest thing. Why not, though? There were some good horses behind him -- a couple of Grade I horses from America -- so now that he's had that run, I think we'd have to think about it."
Memo to Seemar: Summer Is Tomorrow is not an early Triple Crown nominee, and a $6,000 late-nomination fee is due by Monday to make him eligible.
While he probably is the only one that counts, Crown Pride wasn't the only 3-year-old owned by Japanese racing kingpin Teruya Yoshida to earn a spot Saturday in the Kentucky Derby starting gate.
Delicada, a Pyro filly, secured the top spot in the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" series with a victory in the Fukuryu Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse.
The filly is not nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown. If Yoshida declines the invitation to Louisville, the offer will continue down to the fourth place in the standings. Geraldo Barows is the Triple Crown nominee with the most points, thanks to a second and a third earlier in the series.
Sunday in New Mexico, Santa Anita invader Slow Down Andy had a fight on his hands in the $500,000 Grade III Sunland Park Derby as local runner Bye Bye Bobby eyeballed him, put a head in front and only yielded in the closing strides.
Slow Down Andy got the job done for trainer Doug O'Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez by 1/2 length with Pepper Spray a distant third.
Slow Down Andy, a Nyquist colt, won the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity in December, but finished sixth in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in his only previous race this year. He earned 50 points to go with the 10 garnered in the Los Al win.
When the dust had settled, Epicenter was perched atop the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard with 164 points. Crown Pride was second with 100, followed by Tampa Bay Derby winner Classic Causeway and Slow Down Andy.
The next two weekends likely will set the Kentucky Derby field. Next Saturday features the Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park. A week later, it's the Santa Anita Derby, the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
All six are 100-point races. The series wraps up with the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland April 16, with just 20 points to the winner.
The Path to the Oaks
While Epicenter was a solid favorite in the Louisiana Derby, Echo Zulu was the overwhelming public choice in the $400,000 Grade II Twinspires.com Fair Grounds Oaks.
Unlike her Asmussen stablemate, though, the Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award winner was all out to preserve victory by a nose as Hidden Connection was wearing her down through deep stretch. A few more jumps could have reversed the order of finish.
Echo Zulu, with Rosario again on the job, led from the start in the Oaks and looked to be well in charge until things started to slide late.
That might have been a touch of rust, as the Gun Runner filly had not raced since her Breeders' Cup victory Nov. 5 at Del Mar, while Hidden Connection, fourth in that race, had an interim effort Feb. 19 in the Grade II Rachel Alexandra, albeit finishing a fading third.
"She got a little tired, but she got the job done," Rosario said of Echo Zulu. "She's a tremendous horse. She's a fighter and she likes to run."
Asmussen added, "It was a beautiful win with her here at Fair Grounds. The surface got her in this position. We will head to Churchill [Downs] to prepare for the next one."
In New Mexico, the out-of-towners looking for a quick, lucrative score in Sunday's $300,000 Sunland Park Oaks were reminded we run the races for a reason.
The favorite, Optionality, had nothing in the stretch run and finished fifth, a poor return on the trip from Oaklawn Park. California-based Queen of Thorns fared even worse, stumbling at the start and losing jockey Victor Espinoza.
All of that left the locals to pick up the big bucks with Cleopatras Charge, at odds of almost 80-1, rallying late to win by 3/4 length over 34-1 shot Ali Alley. Early leader Manorelli held third.
Cleopatra's Charge, a Will Take Charge filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.33 with Jorge Carreno in the irons. It was her second win from six starts.
In other action around U.S. ovals:
Two Emmys got loose on a leisurely lead in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Muniz Memorial Classic at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and wasn't for catching in the stretch. With James Graham rationing out the speed, Two Emmys was home first, 2 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Santin. Cavalry Charge was third.
Two Emmys, winless since taking the Grade I Mr. D. Stakes at Arlington Park in August, finished in 1:49.83. Cavalry Charge reported first and a close fourth in the Grade III Fair Grounds Stakes on Feb. 19.
"I knew it was over when he got into the turn and James never let him run," winning trainer Hugh Robertson said. "He'll run all day if they let him gallop along."
Olympiad raced just off the pace made by Promise Keeper in Saturday's $500,000 Grade II New Orleans Classic Stakes at 1 1/18 miles on the dirt, moved to the front at the top of the stretch when prompted by jockey Junior Alvarado and kicked on to win by 2 lengths. Proxy also got by Promise Keeper to take second.
Olympiad, a 4-year-old Speightstown colt trained by Bill Mott, was clocked in 1:47.74, just 0.1 second off the 10-year-old track record. He won his third straight and fourth from his last five starts.
"We've won a Grade III and Grade II with him so far so we'd like to get a Grade I under his belt," Mott said. "He's a very well-bred colt and could make a nice stallion prospect one day but we will worry about that for another day and let him do his talking on the racetrack first."
She Can't Sing sure could run in Saturday's $100,000 Tom Benson Memorial for fillies and mares.
The 5-year-old Bernardini mare raced in fourth, moved up nearing the furlong pole and worked clear through the stretch to a 1 1/4-length victory. Gam's Mission came from farther back to finish second, 3/4 length better than Clara Peeters. The favorite, Hendy Woods, reported sixth.
She Can't Sing ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.21, with Jareth Loveberry riding for trainer Chris Block. She won last month's Albert M. Stall Memorial at 24-1 in her first try around two turns after 19 previous sprints. After Saturday's win in another route, Block commented, "Maybe this is a new life for her."
Yankee Seven dueled with Bertie's Galaxy through most of Saturday's $75,000 Costa Rising Stakes for Louisiana-breds, then drew off to win by 2 lengths over that rival. With Marcelino Pedroza Jr. in the irons, the 6-year-old Yankee Gentleman gelding ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.78.
The $75,000 Crescent City Derby for state-breds was a case study in "the last shall be first" as Cosmic Train rallied from the back of the 10-horse field to score by a head. More Memories rallied to a brief lead in the lane, but could only hold second, 5 lengths better than Jack Bob and Larry.
Cosmic Train, a Klimt gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.78 with Graham at the controls. The modern-day Silky Sullivan now is 3-for-4 with all the wins coming from the clouds. In his debut, he made up a 24-length deficit.
Dreaming of Neany came from just off the pace to win the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks by 1 length over a pair of 60-1 long shots, keying a $1,886.70 return on a winning 50-cent trifecta ticket. Dreaming of Neany, a Distorted Humor filly, toured 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:44.05 with Pedroza riding.
And on Sunday:
Winning Romance was the winning filly in the $75,000 Shantel Lanerie Memorial for Louisiana-bred distaffers, pressing the early pace, then drawing clear in the stretch to win by 4 lengths. She's Gone d'Wild was second, a nose in front of pacesetting favorite Spirited Beauty.
Winning Romance, a First Samurai filly, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.38 with Deshawn Parker riding.
Ova Charged set a pressured pace in the $75,000 Page Cortez Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, then shifted to a new gear and jetted off to win by 7 lengths over Offspring.
Ova Charged, a 4-year-old Star Guitar filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:04.44 with Irwin Rosendo up.
Speaking of Star Guitar, Behemah Star drafted behind the pace in the $75,000 Star Guitar Stakes for state-breds, worked his way to the lead by the sixteenth pole and won off by 1 3/4 lengths over Highland Creek.
Of course, the winner is by Star Guitar. With Reylu Gutierrez aboard, the 4-year-old gelding ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.23.
Queen Goddess raced in front of all but a breakaway long shot in Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Santa Ana Stakes at 1 1/4 miles on the turf, reeled in that tiring rival and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Going to Vegas. Neige Blanche was third.
Queen Goddess, a 4-year-old Empire Maker filly, finished in 1:59.72 with Victor Espinoza riding. She won the Grade 1 American Oaks in December, but finished fifth in the Grade III Bayakoa in her 2022 debut.
Queen Goddess is a pretty imposing name and after Saturday's effort, trainer Michael McCarthy was thinking about landing his filly crown fitting the title -- the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November at Keeneland.
"I just think in these stamina-laden races, she'll be quite effective all year long in these types of spots," McCarthy said. "We've got to get through the summer first but, you know, you start thinking about a filly that handles the 10 furlongs like this, you'd have to be thinking about it."
Pretty Birdie was a gate-to-wire winner in Saturday's $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Bird Song, with David Cabrera in the irons, whipped through reasonable early fractions, then eased out to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Hypersport and Wicked Halo filled out the trifecta. The 6 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:09.01.
Pretty Birdie won her first two starts last year, including the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga, but then disappointed in two intervening starts.
"We kind of got to work after her last race, trying to teach her to relax a little bit," winning trainer Norm Casse said. "Even though she was on the lead today, she did it in a much more reserved, controlled manner.
"It makes a much bigger difference for her getting into her normal rhythm. ... She's thrown in some clunkers, so we've tried to do some things to figure her out. It feels good when you do."
There wasn't much to Saturday's $100,000 Serena's Song Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Odds-on favorite Marissa's Lady and jockey Rafael Bejarano saw to that. The Violence filly worked quickly to the lead and showed the way comfortably to get home first by 2 lengths. Querobin Dourada was second, 5 1/2 lengths better than Howdyoumakeurmoney.
Marissa's Lady ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.95. Trained by William Morey, she now has five wins and a second from six starts and the lone loss was a fading second in the Cincinnati Trophy when she was asked to go 1 mile.
Big Invasion, the odds-on favorite, left five rivals in his wake in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Texas Glitter Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning off by 3 lengths. Early leader Lucci held second, 1 1/4 lengths better than Brit's Candyman.
Big Invasion, a Declaration of War colt trained by Christophe Clement, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.03 seconds for jockey Javier Castellano.
In the companion Melody of Colors Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Last Leaf ducked to the rail in the final furlong, made up a big deficit and got home first by 1/2 length over the favorite, American Starlet. Fawning was third. Last Leaf, a Not This Time filly, reported in 57.40 seconds with Miguel Vasquez up.
Tampa Bay Downs
King Cab led all the way to a 4 3/4-length win in Sunday's $110,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Sophomore Stakes for Florida-bred 3-year-olds and won by 4 3/4 lengths. Lightning Larrywas second as King Cab, a Noble Bird gelding, completed 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.25 with Emisael Jaramillo up.
Treasure King came from well off the pace to capture the $110,000 Equistaff Sophomore Turf Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, racing by Tapthespeedofsound in the closing stages. Treasure King, a Treasure Beach colt, got 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.19 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Midnight Stroll led from gate to wire in the $110,000 Stonehedge Farm South Sophomore Fillies Stakes for Florida-breds, winning by 3 1/4 lengths from Rapturous. Pablo Morales guided the filly over 7 furlongs in 1:23.12.
Drama Chorus opened a big lead in the $110,000 Grey Goose Turf Classic, and then held on win by a neck over Max K.O. Drama Chorus ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.58 under Alonzo Quinonez.
Shifty She, the heavy favorite made all the going in the $110,000 Pleasant Acres Stallions Distaff Turf Stakes and won by 4 lengths with Edwin Gonzalez at the controls. Pudding dueled with Tap It to Win throughout the $110,000 NYRABETS Sprint Stakes before winning by a neck over that rival.
California invader Team Merchants had things all his own way in Sunday's $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial. Quickly on the lead, the 4-year-old Nyquist colt drew off to win by 6 lengths over Goddard. Mario Gutierrez rode for trainer Doug O'Neill as Team Merchants covered 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.13.
Another Californian, Sharapova, was along late to win the $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for fillies and mares by 1 length. Lady Commissioner was best of the rest.
Sharapova, a 4-year-old Outwork filly trained by Peter Eurton, ran 1 mile in 1:36.29 with Joel Rosario in the irons.
Cheese Tray led early in the $120,000 New Mexico State University Handicap for state-breds, took back to mid-pack and came again to win by 3/4 length over Jet N G. Cheese Tray, a 4-year-old Attila's Storm gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:41.82 with Rosario picking up the mount.
Bella Donna, the odds-on favorite, worked hard for the lead in the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks, then kicked away to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Corrina Corrina. Bella Donna, by Attila's Storm, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.23 for jockey Luis Fuentes.
Diabolical Storm, another by Attila's Storm, won a three-way fight to the wire in the $250,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby, scoring by 1/2 length over Massive Roar with Lonzo Who third. Diabolical Storm, with Edwin Maldonado up, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.92.
Yo Cuz, the odds-on favorite, led from the start in Sunday's $100,000 East View Stakes for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies and drew off through the lane to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Stone Creator held off Captain'sdaughter by a neck for second. Yo Cuz, a Leoban filly from Bill Mott's barn, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.94 with Jose Ortiz riding.
Saturday's Claiming Championship program was limited to horses who ran for a specified claiming price during 2021 or this year -- similar to the national Claiming Crown structure. The track was fast at the start of the card, later sealed and downgraded to good.
Easy to Bless romped home first by 9 3/4 lengths in the $75,000 Xtra Heat Stakes for fillies and mares, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.49 with Jacqueline Davis riding.
One race later, Witch Hunter was almost as good in the $45,000 Belle Gallantey Stakes for fillies and mares, winning the 7-furlongs event by 9 lengths in 1:27.08 with Dylan Davis aboard.
Dark Money, the odds-on favorite, rallied to score a 3/4-length victory in the $55,000 Kelly Kip Stakes, finishing 6 furlongs in 1:13.21 for Jose Gomez. Awesome Indra scored by 1 1/4 lengths in the $55,000 Videogenic Stakes for fillies and mares, getting the 6 furlongs in 1:12.91 with Gomez up.
Honey Money kicked away from a pace duel to win the $60,000, 1-mile Sis City Stakes for fillies and mares by 4 lengths in 1:40.17 under Trevor McCarthy. Doubly Blessed, the odds on favorite, won the $60,000 More To Tell Stakes at the same trip by 2 lengths with Manny Franco in the irons.
Baby I'm Perfect was good enough to come from off the pace for a 4 1/2-lengths win in the $70,000 Peeping Tom Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs with Dylan Davis at the controls.
Blewit, the odds-on favorite, dominate the stretch run of the $75,000 Stud Muffin Stakes at 1 3/8 miles, drawing clear to a 4 1/2-lengths victory in 2:22.84, also toting Dylan Davis. Whistling Birds got the lead a furlong out and went on to win the $80,000 Caixa Eletronica Stakes at 7 furlongs by 3/4 length for jockey Eric Cancel.
No Salt stalked the pace in the $45,000 Dads Caps Stakes at 7 furlongs, led when asked and won by 4 3/4 length for Dylan Davis, who had a nice day.
Sam Houston Race Park
Saturday evening's Texas Champions Day for state-breds had seven stakes races, each with a $100,000 purse. The dirt track was fast, the turf was firm.
Lethal Move used a late move past the front-runners to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the Richard King Turf Stakes at 1 1/8 miles for jockey Stewart Elliott.
Mr Money Bags was the overwhelming favorite in the Spirit of Texas Stakes at 6 furlongs and justified the support with a 3-length victory under Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez. Lucky's Special drew clear late to win the Groovy Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3 3/4 lengths with Weston Hamilton riding.
No Mas Tequila, another massive favorite, rolled to a 3 3/4-lengths win in the San Jacinto Turf Stakes for fillies and mares with Leandro Goncalves in the irons. Ima Discreet Lady rallied to a 1-length score in the Yellow Rose Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 furlongs with Ry Eikleberry in the irons.
Tolanda, the even-money mutuel choice, was up for a 1-length victory under Eikleberry in the Bara Lass Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs. And Gold Pilot capped the night by rallying from last of nine to take out the 1-mile Star of Texas Stakes by a neck over Algebra with Jose Alvarez up.
Flatter Her Again saved ground well back in the field in Saturday's $75,000 Southern Park Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, found another gear in the stretch and got off to win by 5 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Starlit Secret. Flatter Her Again, a Flatter filly trained by Jeffrey Radosevich, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:13.41 for jockey Sonny Leon.
Around the world, around the clock:
Sunday's Takamatsunomiyia Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse kicked off three months of Grade 1 racing and the enthusiastic Japanese fans likely hope things calm down as those races go along.
Long shot Naran Huleg, in his first-ever Grade 1 effort, rallied from far back, found a narrow opening on the rail and got through to win the 1,200-meters event by a neck over fellow outsider Lotus Land. Finishing a close third was 226-1 chance Kir Lord. The payoffs were astronomical.
How much of an upset was it? Glad you asked. Not only had Naran Huleg never won a graded stakes, trainer Yoshitada Munakata, who opened his stable in 1993, and jockey Kyosuke Maruta, in his 16th season, both claimed their first grade 1 score.
Maruta said there was nothing surprising about his tactics, though their effectiveness was novel.
"Racing from the rear is his usual style so I just concentrated on keeping the horse's rhythm," the jockey said. "He has never experienced heavy ground before but handled it well. I took him through the inner course with confidence as I did in the Tanzanite Stakes. I was really happy when we were able to break free before the wire."
September Run led an all-long shot finish in Friday's Group 1 3 Point Motors William Reid Stakes at Mooney Valley. The 4-year-old Exceed and Excel filly reported 1 length ahead of 60-1 shot Halverson with another 60-1 chance, General Beau, third. The favorite, Marabi, was fifth.
Racing was abandoned at Rosehill Gardens after the third race Saturday due to sodden turf. That put paid to a pair of scheduled Group 1's -- the Kia Tancred Stakes at 2,400 meters and the Vinery Stud Stakes for 3-year-olds at 2,000 meters. Those event were moved to Newcastle and rescheduled for Monday.