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Top-level racing from Ireland to Kentucky to Hong Kong surrounds Preakness

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Top-level racing from Ireland to Kentucky to Hong Kong surrounds Preakness
Ethereal Road wins Saturday's Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico. Photo courtesy of Pimlico Racecourse

May 23 (UPI) -- While Early Voting stole the weekend limelight with his Preakness victory, Ethereal Road validated his trainer's decision to skip the Kentucky Derby with a win at Pimlico as part of a stakes-rich, two-day extravaganza of racing.

Ethereal Road, in fact, ran so well that trainer D. Wayne Lukas was second-guessing his last-minute scratch in Louisville.

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There was action on the turf, too, at everything from 5 furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, during the busy weekend from coast-to-coast. The Preakness wasn't the only big win of the weekend for trainer Chad Brown, either.

Internationally, Russian Emperor impressed in Hong Kong, Stars on Earth shone brightly in Japan and Native Trail continued a stunning run of 3-year-old triumphs for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby.

RELATED Triple Crown becomes tale of rest rather than racing

We handled the Triple Crown situation separately so let's start with ...

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Classic

In winning Saturday's $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico by 4 3/4 lengths,

RELATED Early Voting wins Preakness Stakes by executing the perfect plan

Ethereal Road arguably franked the decision of his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, to pull out of the Kentucky Derby at the last moment, clearing the way for eventual upset winner Rich Strike to get into that field.

On the other hand, he won easily enough that Lukas also was second-guessing the Louisville decision.

The Quality Road colt, with two weeks' extra rest, rallied from next-last of eight to win the Sir Barton Stakes with consummate ease.

RELATED Top-level horse racing from Ireland to Kentucky to Hong Kong on weekend schedule

The morning-line favorite, B Dawk, did manage second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Mr Jefferson, as Ethereal Road and jockey Luis Saez finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.20.

It was the colt's second win although he has been competitive in graded stakes at Oaklawn Park and Keeneland.

"That's what we expected," Lukas said. "That's his style. It was a picture-perfect ride from Luis. We probably should have left him in the Derby but that's hindsight. He got a good trip. The fractions were realistic. We can definitely build off this."

First Captain rallied five-wide from mid-pack in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Pimlico Special and was along in the final jumps to nip Vindictive for the win.

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Vindictive, in turn, had taken over the advantage from pacesetting Untreated in the final sixteenth. First Captain, a 4-year-old Curlin colt, ran 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:56.24 with Luis Saez in the irons.

Trainer Shug McGaughey added blinkers after the colt finished last in the Grade I Carter Handicap in his most recent start.

"It wasn't surprising by any means," McGaughey said. "He had trained well. The Carter was a puzzler. All his other races were good. He's won five out of seven now with a third in a listed stakes."

Distaff

Interstatedaydream got first run to the lead in the stretch in Friday's $250,000 Grade II George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico and made that stand up, defeating the favorite, Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Adare Manor, by 1 1/4 lengths.

Radio Days was another 1 length back in third. Interstatedaydream, an Ontario-bred filly by Classic Empire, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.73 under Florent Geroux.

She now has three wins from five starts and finished third in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland before heading to Baltimore.

"She stepped up and ran a huge race, trainer Brad Cox said of Interstatedaydream. "I was very shocked to see she was the price she was going into the gate (6-1). She wasn't getting a lot of respect and I really thought she fit well with this group."

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Super Quick went quickly to the lead in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes at Pimlico, then quickly distanced her four rivals, winning by 14 1/4 lengths under continued urging by jockey Florent Geroux.

The favorite, Exotic West, was best of the rest, followed home by Frost Point, Quick to Confirm and Into Vanishing.

Super Quick, a 4-year-old homebred Marylou Whitney Stables homebred filly by Super Saver, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:47.78 -- 0.58 second off the course record set in 1989 by Private Terms.

Super Quick was last seen finishing third in the Grade III Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland and scored her first stakes win. Friday, she was seen by her rivals only at a distance.

Turf

Cellist worked by the pacesetter nearing the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs, then held on to defeat onrushing longshot Reigning Spirit by a head. Highest Honors came from farthest reaches to get show money.

Cellist, a 4-year-old gelding by Big Blue Kitten, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:32.12 with Julien Leparoux in the irons for trainer Rusty Arnold. The win was his first in a graded stakes and third from 10 career starts.

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Set Piece got firm turf and a decent pace in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico and made the most of it, closing from next-last to win by 1 1/4 lengths for his first win since last June. Tango Tango Tango was second, a neck in front of Atone.

Set Piece, a 6-year-old Juddmonte homebred gelding by Dansili, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.64 for jockey Florent Geroux.

"He's a good horse," trainer Brad Cox said of Set Piece. "He's a gelding but our goal is definitely to try to get a Grade I win at some point in his career. I just think it would be neat for him and obviously for Juddmonte."

Filly & Mare Turf

Pizza Bianca continued her ascendency with a late-running victory in Friday's $100,000 Hilltop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico.

With Jose Ortiz up for trainer Christophe Clement and celebrity chef owner-breeder Bobby Flay, Pizza Bianca came four-wide around rivals at mid-stretch, had the lead at the sixteenth pole and drew off to score by 1 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Diamond Hands was second, a head in front of Vergara.

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Pizza Bianca, the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner, a daughter of Fastnet Rock, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.54.

The win avenged a second-place finish in her last start, the Memories of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct, when she held a late lead, but couldn't keep it. Flay credited Ortiz' ride and said the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot beckons.

"I ran in that race in 2011 with More Than Real," he said. "She didn't run that well, but it doesn't matter. It was an amazing experience. To me, this is what this is all about. These horses can take you on experiences of a lifetime."

On Saturday at Pimlico, Technical Analysis went to an early lead in the $150,000 Grade III Gallorette Stakes and cruised through the rest of the 1 1/16 miles to win by 3 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Crystal Cliffs was second, 3 lengths better than In a Hurry.

Technical Analysis, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Kingman out of the Sea the Stars mare Sealife, was clocked in 1:41.40. Jose Ortiz had the mount for trainer Chad Brown.

"I was very interested to see how she responded after her first race of the year where she got a wide trip and got beat," Brown said.

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"It was a good, solid race, but the second race off the layoff would really tell the story to me where we are headed, and it looks like we are headed someplace good."

Turf Mile

Only three horses faced the starter in Sunday's $100,000 Seek Again Stakes at Belmont Park and Masen had the measure of his two rivals all the way.

The 4-year-old Kingman gelding, with Manny Franco up, conceded the lead to Wolfie's Dynaghost, who showed the way through the first half mile. The Franco pressed the button and Masen easily went by, shot clear and won by 5 lengths, well geared down.

Duke of Hazzard was along for second, 17 3/4 lengths in front of the pacesetter, who earned $12,000 for his effort.

Massen, a Juddmonte Farms homebred trained by Chad Brown, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:34.94. Raced last year in Ireland, Masen finished second in the Grade I Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in his first U.S. outing.

"It was a tough loss last time when he got beat by a really good horse over in the Maker's Mark Mile," Brown said. "It was his first time racing in the country, and he got nailed. I wanted to give him a confidence booster and it worked out perfect."

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Joe continued his domination of the Maryland circuit and expanded it to the turf with a victory in Saturday's $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico.

The Declaration of War colt came through between rivals near the quarter pole and outfinished the favorite, Ready to Perform, winning by a neck.

It was another 2 1/4 lengths to Crabs and Beer in third. Joe ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.26 with Victor Carrasco up. His only two losses in six previous starts came in his career debut and only previous try on the grass and in the Private Terms stakes, when he finished second to Shake Em Loose, who finished sixth in Saturday's heat.

Turf Sprint

The Critical Way got out to an early lead in Sunday's $100,000 Get Serious Stakes at Monmouth Park, held a clear advantage thereafter and won by 2 1/2 lengths, ridden out by Angel Rodriguez. High Limit Room was second, 1/2 length better than Discreet Tune.

The Critical Way, an 8-year-old Tizway gelding, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 55.52 second. A one-time $40,000 claimer, The Critical Way last year won the Grade III Parx Dash and finished third in the Grade II Shakertown at Keeneland.

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Leggs Galore showed the way down Santa Anita's hillside turf course in Saturday's $100,000 Mizdirection Stakes for fillies and mares, opened up a daylight lead after crossing the dirt track and held on for a 1-length win.

Bye Bye Bertie closed well after finding running room to finish second and Royal Address was third.

Leggs Galore, a 5-year-old Bayern mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.00 with Ricardo Gonzalez up. It was her third straight win and followed a victory in the Grade II Buena Vista Stakes in March.

Can the Queen got the lead in Friday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico and easily held off the favorite, Honey Pants, through the stretch run to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Whispurring Kitten ran evenly to finish second at a big price.

Can the Queen, a 6-year-old mare by Can the Man, ran 5 furlongs on the firm green course in 57.09 with Victor Carrasco riding for trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon.

Carotari blitzed to his third straight win in Saturday's $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint at Pimlico, leading from the start and winning by 1 1/2 lengths from Smokin' Jay. Seven Scents was a nose back of that one in third.

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Carotari, a 6-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, finished the 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.52 with Luis Saez aboard.

Saturday's $100,000 Politely Stakes for fillies and mares came off the Monmouth Park turf onto the fast main track with half the field scratching after the switch. Of the remainder, Robin Sparkles proved best, leading all the way to a 1 length win over Bold Confection.

Robin Sparkles, a 5-year-old Elusive Quality mare, got 5 furlongs in 57.78 seconds with Daniel Centeno riding.

Sprint

Jaxon Traveler, unable to hold a late lead in his last two starts, got the job done in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Maryland Sprint at Pimlico, not only turning back a challenge from Threes Over Deuces, but actually drawing clear in the final yards to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

Threes Over Deuces held second with War Tocsin third, another 3 lengths back.

Jaxon Traveler, a 4-year-old Munnings colt trained by Steve Asmussen, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.70 with Joel Rosario up.

Lightning Larry got by pacesetting favorite Cogburn with a furlong to run in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-olds at Pimlico and won by 3/4 length over that one. Chasing Time was another 2 lengths back in third.

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Lightning Larry, a Florida-bred colt by Uncaptured, negotiated the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.86 with Chantal Sutherland in the irons.

He made five of his previous eight starts against restricted company but also won the open Limehouse Stakes at Gulfstream Park Jan. 1 and the Chick Lang was a coming-out party both for him and trainer Jorge Delgado.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Lady Scarlet waited behind dueling leaders in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rolled by on their outside a furlong from the finish and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

The pacesetting favorite, Happy Soul, held second by 1 length over her early challenger, Gimmick.

Lady Scarlet, a Union Rags filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.07 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

Lady Scarlet finished fourth in the Grade III Beaumont at Keeneland in her previous start after taking an early lead, but won two in a row before that with off-the-pace moves.

This time, trainer Mike Maker said, "We left it up to Irad to be creative. If they hooked up on the lead, so be it. If they gave it to us, so be it. I think she can go either way. She's won on the lead before, and she's won from coming off it. So, it worked out perfectly."

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On Saturday at Pimlico, Joy's Rocket blasted right out of the gate in the $100,000 Skipat Stakes and wasn't for catching, extending an early lead through the stretch to post a 4 1/4-length victory. Fille d'Esprit was second with Time Limit third.

Joy's Rocket, a 4-year-old daughter of Anthony's Cross, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.76 with Joel Rosario up. She wintered in Arkansas where she was winless but finished second in three of five starts.

North of the border at Woodbine, Mark Casse saddled the trifecta in Saturday's $120,000 (Canadian) Ruling Angel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Summertime Magic led all the way under jockey Patrick Husbands, defeating stablemates Mrs. Barbara by 1 1/4 lengths and Join the Dance by another neck.

Summertime Magic, by Carpe Diem, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:22.26.

Around the ovals:

Gulfstream Park

Me and Mr. C rallied four-wide to gain a late lead in Saturday's $75,000 Mr. Steele Stakes and inched clear, winning by 1 length over Eamonn. Hot Blooded was a further 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Me and Mr. C, a 5-year-old Khozan gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Abiding, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.09 with Edgar Perez up.

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Spirit Wind stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Musical Romance Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, took over when asked by jockey Leonel Reyes, and shot away to a 5-lengths victory. Race Day Speed was second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Corey.

Spirit Wind, a daughter of Bahamian Squall, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.34.

Prairie Meadows

Jerry's Eighty came from off the pace to win a three-way photo at the end of Saturday night's $50,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds.

The camera found the Palace gelding a nose in front of Diamond Rim, who was a head better than the pacesetting, odds-on favorite, Feel the Fear. Jerry's Eighty, with Alex Birzer up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.27.

Charles Town

Silky Serena was along in the final yards to win Saturday night's $75,000 It's Binn Too Long Stakes for West Virginia-bred 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length. Lucylou Who surrendered the lead late, but held second, 3/4 length better than Fancy Her Up.

Silky Serena, a daughter of Fiber Sonde, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 51.75 seconds with Reshawn Latchman riding.

Around the world, around the clock:

Ireland

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Native Trail did what was expected of him in winning Saturday's Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas but the way he did it was particularly impressive.

Sent to the lead by William Buick with little more than a furlong to run, it appeared he would have to duke it out with a surging New Energy and Imperial Fighter.

But with only minor encouragement, the Oasis Dream colt shifted to another gear and rolled home a confident 1 3/4-lengths winner, confirming trainer Charlie Appleby's three-aces hand among 3-year-olds.

Native Trail's only loss came at the hands of stablemate Coroebus in the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas at Newmarket on April 30. Appleby also has Modern Games, winner of last weekend's Group 1 Poule d'Essai des Poulains or French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp.

What's next? "There are discussions to be had about the St James's Palace," Appleby said, according to Racing Post.

"It is the last race where 3-year-olds can take each other on at that level over a mile. You always like to see the best take each other on whatever the sport and you never know."

Also on the Saturday card at the Curragh, Brad the Brief triumphed by 1/2 length over Mooneista in the Group 2 Wetherby's Ireland Greeneland Stakes, with Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint winner A Case of You another 3 3/4 lengths back in third on his return from Dubai.

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On Sunday at same venue, Homeless Songs found another gear in the final furlong of the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas and quickly drew off from her rivals to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

The Aiden O'Brien-trained duo of Tuesday, the favorite, and Concert Hall had to be content with second and third. Homeless Songs, a Moyglare Stud homebred filly by Frankel out of the Dubawi mare Joailliere, ran her 2022 record to 2-for-2, while stepping up the 1-mile trip for the first time.

"Every Classic is very special and every Classic is very difficult to win," said Homeless Songs' trainer, Dermot Weld, according to Racing Post. "She is a very special filly. I have won this race with a number of good fillies and she rates right up there."

The Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot "has to be considered," Weld said.

In the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup, Alenquer just did catch High Definition in the final strides to win by a neck at the end of the extended 1 1/2 miles. State of Rest and Lord North, the joint favorites, were third and fourth.

Alenquer, a 4-year-old Adlerflug colt, won for the fifth time in 10 starts while returning from a sixth-place finish, beaten by just 1 1/2 lengths for it all, in the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic in March.

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Pearls Galore, sixth in the 2021 Breeders' Cup Mile at Del Mar, returned to winning ways in Sunday's Group 2 Lanwades Stud Stakes at the Curragh, battling most of the 1 mile before prevailing by a neck over Emphatic Answer.

Japan

Stars on Earth easily handled the 2,400 meters of Sunday's Grade 1 Yushun Himba or Japanese Oaks, rallying smartly through the final 100 meters to win by 1 1/4 lengths and set up a chance to sweep the Japanese filly Triple Crown series.

The Duramente filly, with Christophe Lemaire up, raced evenly just ahead of midfield through much of the race, started chasing the leaders after turning for home and made progress through the uphill climb toward the finish.

She still was running with enthusiasm as her rivals flagged, with Stunning Rose finishing second and Namur third.

The favorite, Circle of Life, appeared upset during a long prerace delay caused by a loose horse. She broke last of 17 and never got into contention, finishing 12th.

Stars on Earth posted a win, a second and a third last year. She was second in her first two races as a 3-year-old, both at 1,600 meters, before eking out the narrowest of wins in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Grade 1 Oka Sho or Japanese 1000 guineas.

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Now, she needs only the Grade 1 Shuka Sho in the autumn to complete the Triple Crown sweep. Lemaire said he sees no reason that can't happen.

"It was her first attempt at 2,400 meters," the rider said of the Oaks. "But her pedigree showed that she should be up to it in terms of stamina so I thought it shouldn't be a problem.

"She's already won at 1,600 meters and shown to handle 2,400 meters, so I think she has a pretty good chance to win her third Grade 1 over 2,000 meters."

Hong Kong

Russian Emperor, an Irish-bred gelding by Galileo, rallied from last to land the final Group 1 event of the Hong Kong season, Sunday's Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, by a convincing 1 3/4 lengths over Ka Ying Star.

Senor Toba, a 4-year-old who seems the coming thing among Hong Kong stayers, was along for third as Russian Emperor won his second Grade I of the term.

Winning rider Blake Shinn said the decision to run Russian Emperor without blinkers may have been the deciding factor in the race.

"After his last run at 2,000 meters, he pulled quite hard, and I thought going to 2,400 meters, we're not going to win if he pulls," Shinn said.

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"So I suggested considering taking the blinkers off. [Trainer Douglas Whyte] stewed over it, he thinks about it very carefully, and he said it was the right call and honestly the horse switched off the whole race and his turn of foot is electric when he switches off," Shinn said.

Whyte, who won the Champions & Chater three times as a jockey, nicked the event for the first time as a trainer and said the feeling was more stressful this way.

"It's the longest 2,400 [meters] of my life," the trainer said. "When you're a jockey, things unfold and you can see them unfolding in front of you. But when you're standing on the side and watching it, it gets quite daunting."

Whyte said Russian Emperor is done for the season but likely will return for the top 2,000- to 2,400-meter races in 2022-23.

That plan would have him back for the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December, either for the 2,000-meter Cup, in which he finished third this term, or for the 2,400-meter Vase.

The Champions & Chater was run without foreign competition as Hong Kong continues to combat the COVID epidemic. The government did, however, allow a limited number of fans to return to Sha Tin Racecourse for the event.

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"I am excited by the return of members of the public to our Sunday meeting," Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

"Hong Kong racing enthusiasts create incredible energy and atmosphere at the race track and their absence has been keenly felt since January when the pandemic compelled us to operate under closed-door mode."

England

At Haydock on Saturday, El Caballo eked out a narrow victory over Flaming Rib in a stirring finish to the Group 2 Cazoo Sandy Lane Stakes for 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs.

El Caballo, a Havana Gold colt, answered the surface question as the win followed four straight wins on all-weather tracks, including the All-Weather Championships 3-year-old finals on Good Friday.

More power to the AWC, which continues to impress as a wintertime bridge for flat racing, as El Caballo now is set for the Commonwealth Cup at the Royal Meeting at Ascot.

In the following heat, Her Majesty's King's Lynn prevailed by a head over Twilight Calls in the Group 2 Cazoo Temple Stakes at 5 furlongs.

The Cable Bay gelding also won at Handock last year en route to a double performance at Royal Ascot, finishing seventh in the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes, and then third in the Wokingham Stakes just four days later.

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