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Brilliant performances abound as Kentucky Derby field gathers

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Brilliant performances abound as Kentucky Derby field gathers
Stilleto Boy wins Saturday's Californian Stakes at Santa Anita. Benoit photo, courtesy of Santa Anita

May 2 (UPI) -- Stilleto Boy, Brickyard Ride, Beyond Brilliant and War Like Goddess turned in sparkling performances in weekend horse racing as the Kentucky Derby contenders put in their final workouts for Saturday's big race.

On the international front, Japan's Titleholder and Ireland's State of Rest emerged as potential superstars for the rest of the season while Godolphin runners -- and jockey James Doyle -- were dominant on Guineas Weekend at Newmarket in England. La Validada was victorious in a Breeders' Cup Challenge event in Argentina.

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Enjoy the separate Kentucky Derby coverage following the Monday post-position draw. In the meantime, there's this:

Classic

Stilleto Boy jumped out to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Californian at Santa Anita, and the odds-on favorite, Express Train, was unable to flag him down in the late going.

Stilleto Boy, with Juan Hernandez up, in fact extended his advantage through the closing strides to defeat Express Train by 2 1/4 lengths. It was another 22 lengths to Spielberg in third with Hold the Line fourth and last.

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Stilleto Boy, a 4-year-old Shackleford gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.07 for jockey Juan Hernandez.

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Stilleto Boy finished fifth in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, then got home third in the Grade I Malibu, the Grade I Pegasus World Cup and the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap before Saturday's win.

"We didn't tell Juan to go to the lead. We just said to hustle him out of there and get him into the race and things worked out good," winning trainer Ed Moger Jr. said.

"I thought he ran a winning race in Florida [in the Pegasus] ,and I think he ran just as good today. He beat a good horse today. We've been thinking about the Hollywood Gold Cup as long as he ran good here."

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The Gold Cup is a 1 1/4-mile Grade I event at Santa Anita on May 30.

Up north at Golden Gate Fields, Il Bellator relaxed behind the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby, came three-wide into the stretch to gain the lead and outfinished Boise to win by a head.

The favorite, Kentucky invader Cabo Spirit, got first run to the front at the top of the lane but could only finish third, another head behind Boise. Il Bellator, a Shackleford colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.27. Alejandro Gomez rode for trainer Jose Bautista.

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Distaff

Blue Stripe, making her first start since reporting seventh in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, outfinished the favorite, Miss Bigly, in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Margarita at Santa Anita, winning by 1 length over that rival despite being floated out toward the center of the track.

Varda reported third, another 6 1/2 lengths in arrears.

Blue Stripe, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred mare by Equal Stripes, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.52 with Tyler Baze aboard. It was her second start in the United States after winning at the Group 1 level in South America.

"When the filly came to me last year, six months before the Breeders' Cup, I kept in contact with the [South American] trainer," said Blue Stripe's new conditioner, Marcelo Polanco.

"So the trainer kind of gave me all the updates on her so it was easy. Plus, she's so easy, she's amazing. It's a dream for everybody, winning these kinds of races at Santa Anita."

Anthonys Cleopatra asserted herself in the final furlong of Saturday's $75,000 California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields, drawing off to score by 3 3/4 lengths as the favorite. Music Festival and She's Got a Way filled out the trifecta.

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Anthonys Cleopatra, a Constitution filly, got 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.36 with Frank Alvarado in the irons.

Turf / Turf Mile

Beyond Brilliant led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths win in Saturday's $225,000 Grade II Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita.

The 4-year-old Twirling Candy colt, sent to the post as the favorite, turned back a challenge from Masteroffoxhounds heading into the final furlong but that one held second, 1/2 length in front of Gold Phoenix.

Beyond Brilliant, with Victor Espinoza in the irons, ran 1 1/4 miles starting on the downhill course, in 1:58.72.

Beyond Brilliant won the Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar in November but finished second in the Grade II Santa Anita Mathis Mile and fourth in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile in his first two starts this year.

"It was a lot of fun and I always look forward to ride these kinds of horses," Espinoza said.

"It was one of those things that I had a good post outside and I thought that was great for this horse because he can get a little keen. And when he gets aggressive, it's tough to get him back. You know, to relax. But today, he did what I wanted."

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Evening Sun came with a rush through the stretch run of Saturday's $250,000 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields and won a battle to the wire by 1/2 length over the favorite, Vanzzy. Camino Del Paraiso held a brief late lead but finished third.

Evening Sun, a 5-year-old Muhaarar gelding bred in England by Her Majesty the Queen, was clocked in 1:35.36 with Brice Blanc riding for trainer Jeff Mullins.

Filly & Mare Turf

War Like Goddess, the heaviest of favorite, ran to her notices in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland, getting clear in the final furlong to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Family Way and Core Values filled out the trifecta.

War Like Goddess, a 5-year-old English Channel mare, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:31.26 with Joel Rosario riding for trainer Bill Mott.

The Bewitch was the first start for War Like Goddess since November's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, in which she finished third, and hopefully her first start toward this year's Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. The race also was the feature of the final day (yes, already!) of Keeneland's spring meeting.

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Mott said he wasn't as concerned about the long layoff as with the glacial early pace in the Bewitch.

"Actually, I'm not so sure I've been in a race on firm turf that was any slower than this," Mott said, "so it was quite a challenge for Joel to keep her in behind those horses and wait until they turned for home. ... It didn't set up for us, and the filly was good enough to win."

On Sunday at Santa Anita, Canoodling rolled to an early lead in the $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Stakes for fillies and mares and kept right on rolling to a 1 3/4-length victory. Eddie's New Dream was best of the rest with England's Rose another 1/2 length back in third.

Canoodling, a 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.90. Juan Hernandez rode for trainer Mike Puype. Raced earlier in New Mexico, Canoodling scored her second win from her last three California starts.

"This was a breakthrough race for us today," Puype said. "She ran huge. She had to run to real fractions and keep it going and she did. ... There was no easy pace today. She took heat the whole way and kicked away very impressively."

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Saturday at Golden Gate Fields, it looked like the favorite, Avenue de France, had run out of real estate while closing stoutly down the lane in the $75,000 Golden Poppy Stakes.

But with encouragement from jockey Assael Espinoza, the 5-year-old, French-bred Cityscape mare just did get there in time to put a nose in front of pacesetting Buyback for the win. Avenue de France ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.81.

Turf Sprint

Miss J McKay stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 License Fee Stakes for fillies and mares on the Belmont Park inner turf, turned on the afterburners in the stretch and won off by 3 1/4 lengths. Miss Majorette was second and the early leader, Igloo, cooled off to finish third.

Miss J McKay, a 5-year-old mare by Hangover Kid, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:07.94. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode for trainer Christophe Clement.

Sadie Bluegrass found another gear in the final furlong of Saturday's $75,000 Camilla Urso Stakes for fillies and mares at Golden Gate Fields and drew off to win by 2 lengths.

Rebalation came from last of 10 to finish second, 1/2 length better than Dynasty of Her Own. Sadie Bluegrass, a 5-year-old Bluegrass Cat mare, toured 5 furlongs of firm turf in 56.90 seconds with Armando Ayuso riding.

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Sprint

Brickyard Ride sped to the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita and wasn't for catching. The 5-year-old son of Clubhouse Ride opened a big advantage in the stretch and coasted home first, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Tigre Di Slugo.

Strike That and California invader Miles Ahead completed the order of finish.

Brickyard Ride ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.07 with Juan Hernandez up.

Brickyard Ride finished second in last year's Kona Gold and came into Saturday's tilt after three straight wins at Santa Anita.

"He's pretty fast," winning trainer Craig Lewis said of Brickyard Ride. "We're going race-to-race but our long-range plan is to be at Keeneland in November [for the Breeders' Cup].

"He's been showing so much versatility though, we don't know if he should go in the Sprint, the Turf Sprint or the Mile. A lot of options. We just hope he stays as good as he is now."

At Oaklawn Park, Arkansas-bred Whelen Springs displayed true grit in vanquishing the odds-on favorite, Cogburn, in Saturday's $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The homebred Street Sense colt, racing for John Ed Anthony's Shortleaf Stable, chased Cogburn through most of the 6 furlongs, got almost to even terms on the turn, and then fell back as the pair straightened into the lane.

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Jockey Emmanuel Esquivel asked for more and Whelen Springs responded, getting up in the final strides to win by a neck. It was another 9 3/4 lengths to Cairama in third as Whelen Springs finished in 1:09.68 over a fast track, backing up a win over state-breds in the Rainbow Stakes in his previous start.

"I told [Esquivel] he's going to break pretty good and to keep him in the race," trainer John Ortiz said. "Keep him close to him [Cogburn].

I said, 'You're going to win this race when you put a head in front,' and that's the same exact instructions I gave to (jockey) Gabe Saez when he won the Rainbow. I said, 'Make sure you put a head in front early' and he did.

"Take the race to him. It was a great race down the stretch. ... I love running here at Oaklawn and competing with these great trainers. It's a great feeling."

On Sunday at Woodbine, Nobals continued his success sprinting on the all-weather with a 2 3/4-lengths score in the $125,000 (Canadian) Woodstock Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The Kentucky-bred Noble Mission gelding, trained by Larry Rivelli, was quickly on the lead, never faced a serious challenge and got the 6 furlongs in 1:08.15, just 0.1 second off the course record held by Pink Lloyd. It was his third straight win following two on the Turfway Park all-weather.

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Scuttlebuzz rallied five-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes at Belmont Park, took over midway home and won by 1 length over Therapist. American Monarch finished third.

Scuttlebuzz, a 5-year-old gelding by The Factor, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.45 with Javier Castellano up. He got his third straight win in his first attempt in a stakes race.

At Golden Gate Fields, Ultimate Bango gave the plungers a nice return with a nose victory over the late-closing Strongconstitution in the $75,000 Lost in the Fog Stakes at 6 furlongs on the all-weather surface.

Ultimate Bango, a 7-year-old gelding by Uh Oh Bango, went to the post at odds just short of 33-1 and was timed in 1:09.71 with Catalino Martinez in the irons.

Filly & Mare Sprint


Only three faced the starter in Saturday night's $160,000 Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs and the punters got it right as Bayerness, the odds-on favorite, kicked away in the stretch run to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Club Car was second and the early leader, Cheetara, tired to finish third.

Bayerness, a 5-year-old Bayern mare, finished 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.75. Luis Saez rode for trainer Cherie DeVaux.

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Sixth in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks, Bayerness was making her first start since winning the Shine Again Stakes last summer at Saratoga.

"We thought this would be a good spot to bring her back to begin her 5-year-old campaign," DeVaux said. "We brought her back at the same time last year. She likes it here at Churchill, and we weren't too worried when it started to rain because she's won on a sloppy track here in the past."

Mark Casse saddled half of the six starters in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Star Shoot Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine and they were the first three finishers at the end of the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track, all rallying from behind a quick early pace.

Beautiful Empire, with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons, was first, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Aubrieta. Diabolic was third, a head behind that one. The race was clocked in 1:08.70.

Around the ovals

Belmont Park

Ny Traffic got the Belmont Park stakes season off to a chalky start Friday, leading all the way in the $100,000 Affirmed Success Stakes as the odds-on favorite. Lobsta raced second throughout the 6-furlongs event, contested over a fast track, and finished 3 3/4 lengths adrift of the winner but 6 3/4 lengths better than Reggae Music Man in third.

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Ny Traffic, a 5-year-old son of Cross Traffic, got home in 1:09.54 with Jose Ortiz riding for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.

Lone Star Park

Heavenly Rhythm started behind most of her rivals in Thursday's $85,000 Bluebonnet Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares, came six-wide around them entering the stretch and kicked away to win by 6 lengths over Zarelda.

The 5-year-old Congaree mare, with Gerardo Mora in the irons, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.08.

Thistledown

Edge of Night emerged from a stalking position in Thursday's $75,000 Dr. T.F. Classen Memorial, took the lead a furlong from home and ran on to win by 1 length. Catabout was second.

Edge of Night, a 5-year-old mare by Added Edge, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.48 with Guillermo Rodriguez up.

Golden Gate Fields

Royal 'n Rando outfinished Highland Ghost in the final strides to win Sunday's $75,000 Silky Sullivan Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds by a nose. The odds-on favorite, Worse Read Sanchez, was off last of five and finished third.

Royal 'n Rando, a Tamarando gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.28 with Frank Alvarado at the controls.

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Ellamira started last of seven in Sunday's $75,000 Campanile Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, circled five-wide to reach contention in the stretch and edged clear late to a 1-length victory. Vincero Grande was second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Tam's Little Angel.

Ellamira, a Street Boss filly, ran 1 mile on the lawn in 1:38.04, also with Alvarado in the irons.

Around the world, around the clock

England

Godolphin dominated the 3-year-old action on Guineas weekend at Newmarket, topping things with a dominating 1-2 finish in the Group 1 Guineas itself.

As the Guineas field hit the furlong marker, the Godolphin duo essentially bracketed the field with Coroebus and jockey James Doyle moving up on the far side and Native Trail, with William Buick, on the stands side.

For a few strides, it looked like a proper tussle but Coroebus asserted through the final 50 yards to win by 3/4 length, handing his stablemate his first loss after five wins.

Group 1 Vertem Futurity winner Luxembourg, a Camelot colt racing for the Coolmore lads, also suffered his first defeat, finishing another 1 1/2 lengths back in third after a troubled start.

Coolmore has dominated this race, a vital proving ground for future stallions, while Godolphin and Appleby have seen defeat after defeat in recent years.

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"Absolutely, it's a relief," Racing Post quoted Appleby as saying. "We were third with Pinatubo, second with Master Of The Seas, so we were getting close and we hoped our time was coming.

"I said to James, 'Hold him, hold him, hold him and then press the button,' and he's just got an electric turn of foot."

While Luxembourg likely is targeted for the Cazoo Derby at Epsom, Appleby has other targets for Coroebus and Native Trail.

"I'd say we'll go straight to the St James's Palace with Coroebus and we'll go to the Curragh for the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Native Trail where he's done well before," the trainer said.

Coroebus, a Godolphin homebred by Dubawi out of the Teofilo mare First Victory, scored his third win from four starts while making his 2022 debut. His only loss was a second in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes in September, a neck behind Royal Patronage, who finished eighth in the Guineas after leading for the first half mile.

A day earlier at the same venue, Nation's Pride, also partnered by Buick, strode out to win the Newmarket Stakes at 1 1/4 miles by 7 lengths, giving Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby yet another bullet -- should they need another -- in their sophomore ranks.

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"I'm pleased with that. He's progressed with every run," Appleby said of the winner, a Teofilo colt who now has four straight wins, also including the Jumeirah Derby in Dubai. "I think he's a nice horse and going up in trip further will only suit him. I see no reason he won't get a mile and a half."

One race later, Appleby and Buick landed the 7-furlongs King Charles II Stakes with Noble Truth, a Kingman 3-year-old. His margin of victory was "only" 6 lengths. He was coming off a failed experiment on the dirt in the Saudi Derby where he essentially was eased.

Sunday at Newmarket, Cachet made all in winning the Group 1 Qipco 1000 Guineas, holding on gamely through the final strides to win by a neck over Prosperous Voyage.

On Tuesday, the lesser of a well-fancied Coolmore pair was third under Frankie Dettori, with the favorite, Tenebrism and Ryan Moore, reporting eighth. Cachet, a daughter of Acclaim, won for the second time in as many months and gave jockey James Doyle a rare Guineas double.

"It's incredible," Doyle said as he added his name to the list of "double" winners that includes the likes of Moore, Lester Piggott, Roger Moore and Kieren Fallon. Cachet now is a likely one for the Coronation Stakes in June.

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The one that got away for Godolphin was Friday's Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes, universally conceded to last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner Yibir -- until Living Legend came along.

Living Legend, a 6-year-old Camelot gelding who missed more than two years of his career with a serious injury, got the lead 2 furlongs out and held off Yibir's late challenge to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

That made it two in a row for him, following the Group 2 Easter Classic on Finals Day of the All-Weather Championships on April 16.

"It couldn't happen to a better horse," owner Barbara Richmond said, interviewed post-race by Racing TV.

Yibir, meanwhile, is ticketed for a return to the United States and the Grade I Man o'War at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes day.

Japan

Sunday's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) always looked like a two-horse race despite a field of 18 but it turned into a one-horse affair as Titleholder blasted out of the gate and led the entire 2 miles, winning by 7 lengths.

The favorite, Deep Bond, was the official second, although a riderless Silver Tonic actually finished closest to Titleholder after dropping his rider while stumbling out of the gate.

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The victory moves Titleholder, a 4-year-old Duramente colt, into the mix of Japanese runners likely to take on international travel later in the year. Deep Bond, a 5-year-old by Kizuna, last year won the Group 2 Prix Foy at Longchamp in Paris before finishing 14th in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Jockey Kazuo Yokoyama, whose father and grandfather also won the Tenno Sho (Spring), said he could tell from training that Titleholder was peaking and predicted more to come from the colt.

"I felt that he was in good form when I rode him in the post parade so I just believed in him and concentrated on riding him in good rhythm," Yokoyama said.

"We were able to slow down the pace in the backstretch to conserve his stamina and I was not worried about the horses behind us in the last stretch."

Echoing the hopes of the Japanese racing establishment, Yokoyama added, "I think he will get stronger and stronger going forward."

Titleholder continued a pattern that has found winners of the Grade 1 Kikua Sho or Japanese St. Leger going on to score in the Tenno Sho (Spring) -- a roster that includes Gold Ship, World Premier, Kitasan Black and Fierement. The latter two both won the spring event twice.

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France

The punters didn't believe in the form on display for State of Rest going into Sunday's Group 1 Prix Ganay at Longchamp, no mind the Starspangledbanner colt's last two races had produced victories in the Grade I Saratoga Derby Invitational in New York and the Group 1 Cox Plate in Australia.

More fools they as State of Rest took the lead inside the 400-meter mark and held off Pretty Tiger for the win by 3/4 length. The 2021 Group 1 British Champion Stakes winner, Sealiway, was third and the favorite, and last year's winner, Mare Australis, settled for fourth.

The winner, trained by Joseph Patrick O'Brien, clearly came into his own midway through the 2021 season and now looms as a global force at middle distances, likely starting with the Tattersalls Gold Cup back in Ireland with a tilt at the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot also penciled in.

"I think you'd have to say that with those 10-furlong races, there's a pretty clear path for that type of horse through the summer," Racing Post quoted O'Brien as saying.

"He's owned by an Australian Group, Newgate Stud and their partners, so I would say that [another Cox Plate run] is likely at the end of the season. But hopefully he has some nice targets through the summer in Europe before then."

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Argentina

La Validada earned a guaranteed spot in November's Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff with a narrow victory over stablemate Sumer Rae in Sunday's Group 1 Gran Premio Criadores at Hipodromo de Palermo in Buenos Aires. The top two finishers are trained by Juan Saldivia.

With Gustavo Calvente up, La Validada came extremely wide into the stretch in pursuit of her stablemate, who had moved up along the rail around the turn to seize the lead. Only in the closing yards did La Validada get the advantage with Emirit Craf holding on for third.

La Validada is a 4-year-old filly by Valid Stripes, out of the Thunder Gulch mare La Subordinada. She ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.54, picking up her fifth win from 11 starts.

Should her connections choose to nominate her to the Breeders Cup program, she would have entry fees paid for the Distaff and receive a $40,000 travel allowance.

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