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Epsom Oaks and Derby, French Derby produce hopefuls for Arc de Triomphe

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Gam's Mission wins Sunday's Grade III Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs. Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs
Gam's Mission wins Sunday's Grade III Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs. Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs

June 6 (UPI) -- Dominating victories by Desert Crown in the Derby at Epsom Downs and by Vadeni in the French Derby at Chantilly had the weekend racing crowds buzzing about a potential showdown between the colts at season's end in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

Those races, plus a dramatic upset by Tuesday over Emily Upjohn in the Oaks, were the highlights one of the pinnacle days on the world racing calendar and promise much more excitement in the months to come.

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Back in North America, much of the top action was on the turf and there were some upsets at Churchill Downs, Belmont Park, Santa Anita and elsewhere.

But there's only one place to start the conversation.

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England

There was an odd kind of buzz around Desert Crown before Saturday's Group 1 Cazoo Derby. Most of the experts seemed convinced the Nathaniel colt was destined not only to win the race, but also on to greatness.

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But many of them also were looking at his lack of experience as a potential reason he wasn't going to win.

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Desert Crown put an end to any uncertainty once the gates opened. With Richard Kingscote riding for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, Desert Crown never looked like anything but the winner.

Racing comfortably off the pace, he kicked into gear with 3 furlongs left in the Derby and even the on-site announcer at Epsom Down immediately pronounced the race effectively over. Desert Crown loped home first, 2 1/2 lengths in front of the field, well geared down through the final strides.

Hoo Ya Mal, who should not have been let go at odds of 150-1, finished second, with a luckless Westover settling for third after being blocked through the stretch.

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Desert Crown, owned by Dubai businessman Saeed Suhail, remains undefeated after three starts with the world before him.

Sir Michael, who won his sixth Derby but first in a dozen years, was enjoying the moment before thinking about the future for his newest star.

"It's a wonderful thrill. They all are," Racing Post quoted the 76-year-old as saying. "It's just a delight to train good horses and fortunately we've come across another good one."

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While his connections weren't right about plotting the colt's summer, the betting shops were busy installing Desert Crown among the favorites for October's Qatar Prix d'Arc de Troimphe.

If Derby Day was about an emphatic win, Oaks Day was about an excruciatingly close finish as Tuesday and Emily Upjohn, with Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori up respectively, battled through the final furlong to a result decided by a head bob in favor of Tuesday.

Full credit to Tuesday, who prepped with a third in the Qipco 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and a second in the Tattersalls Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh, to Moore and to trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won his record 41st British Classic.

But the outcome probably was settled when Emily Upjohn slipped coming out of the gate, nearly went down and was shuffled to last.

After that, the eventual 1-2 finishers raced virtually side-by-side with only one rival in their wake until they rounded Tattenham Corner. Then, Moore got Tuesday through on the inside, while Dettori had to take Emily Upjohn around the field.

Emily Upjohn appeared to have the upper hand at mid-stretch, but Tuesday battled on and the two were on even terms both before and after the camera clicked.

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"The race was gone then," Dettori said of the start, according to Racing Post. "I was way too far back. Ryan had the rail and knew the field would open up on the inside. I had to go 'round them. Bless her, she took me there in great style but the damage was done."

Maybe so, although Moore pointed out Tuesday ran the length of the stretch alone near the center of the track and never quit while racing just a day after her actual third birthday.

And the two are likely to meet again down the road so the issue will be settled, as it should be, on the racecourse.

Meanwhile, British bookmakers were weighing in on the issue by dropping Emily Upjohn, along with the Derby winner, to favorite or near-favorite for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October in Paris.

Two races earlier on the card, jockey Jim Crowley produced Hukum through the final furlong to win the Group 1 Coronation Cup by 4 3/4 lengths over last year's winner, Pyledriver.

The O'Brien-Moore contender High Definition couldn't find another gear in the late going and flattened out to finish third.

Hukum, a 5-year-old Shadwell homebred by Sea the Stars, landed his first Group 1 triumph while rebounding from a seventh-place finish in his last, the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. It also was the first Group 1 for trainer Owen Burrows.

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Japan

Songline got a clear line to the finish in Sunday's Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse while rival Schnell Meister had to weave through traffic on the way home.

The difference in the trip was enough to let Songline claim the win, and the "Win and You're In" free pass to the November's FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile that came with it.

Songline got there first by a neck over Schnell Meister, reversing the order of finish from the last year's Grade 1 NHK Mile Cup and landing her first top-level victory.

With Kenichi Ikezoe up, the 4-year-old Kizuna filly was racing on just three weeks' rest after finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Victoria Mile for fillies and mares at the same 1,600 meters.

Both Ikezoe and trainer Toru Hayashi were cognizant of short rest, but Hayashi expressed confidence before the race that Songline was ready.

"The pace was slow in the Victoria Mile and those racing toward the front had the advantage," trainer Toru Hayashi said. "Even so, I think she did a good job gaining ground in the final stage."

Ikezoe ageed it was "a tight schedule for the filly. But the staff at the stables prepared her remarkably. She broke well and I decided to settle her behind Salios, who rushed up in front of us.

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"Trying not to make the same mistake as last time, we made an early bid before the last corner and she responded well and stretched all the way for a strong finish."

While her connections did not commit immediately to the Breeders' Cup, they have a template. Songline shipped to Saudi Arabia in February to win the 1351 Turf Sprint, a Group 3 event that was an international Group 1 in everything but the name.

Sunday's win also carried guaranteed entries for the first three finishers for France's top mile events, the Prix Jacques le Marois and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, both Group 1 affairs.

France

The theory was that rain would favor the locals in Sunday's Group 1 Qatar Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby at Chantilly and, whether it was the weather's influence or early pace pressure, the expectation proved to be fact.

Vadeni, a Churchill colt raced exclusively on French soil, took the lead just inside the 300-meters mark and drew off to win by 5 lengths over a course rated soft after overnight rain.

El Bodegon, another with extensive continental experience, was second and the favorite, Godolphin's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Modern Games, slogged home third after showing the way, franking trainer Charlie Appleby's fear that testing ground might be his undoing.

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Vadeni nonetheless is a worthy winner. The Aga Khan homebred, out of the Monsun mare Vaderana, came to the race victorious in three of his five previous starts for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, who saddled his fifth Prix de Jockey Club winner.

The ease of the victory, of course, also sparked an immediate rush on the bookmakers to get down on Vadeni for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, even with Rouget sounding a word of caution. The first priority, he said, is to get the colt a Group 1 win this year against older rivals.

"Maybe at the end of the year we might have a go at the Arc," he allowed.

Meanwhile, back in North America:

Turf

Emmanuel, making his first start on the grass, was away in good order in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pennine Ridge Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, led throughout and won by 1 length.

Napoleonic War made up some ground in the stretch run but finished second with Limited Liability another 1/2 length back in third.

Emmanuel, a More Than Ready colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:51.11 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the kip. Emmanuel finished fourth in the Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park and third in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland, both on the dirt, in his two previous starts.

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"He's bred for the turf but he's always trained really well on the dirt," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He's had some good dirt races, but we kind of wanted to experiment with this."

Pletcher said he's "thinking" about the $700,000 Grade I Belmont Derby on July 9, but hasn't ruled out a return to the dirt.

Admission Office, making his first start in nearly 16 months, rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $200,000 Arlington Stakes at Churchill Downs, getting there just in time to score by a head over the pacesetter, Get Smokin, and another neck from Field Pass.

Admission Office ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.52. John Velazquez had the mount for trainer Brian Lynch aboard the 7-year-old Point of Entry gelding.

"Being off a layoff, to run like that was phenomenal," Lynch said.

Turf Mile

Wow Whata Summer pulled the upset of the weekend in Friday's $400,000 Grade II Penn Mile for 3-year-olds. After tracking the early pace, the Summer Front gelding moved smoothly to the lead, opened a comfortable margin on the field and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths at odds of 83-1.

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The odds-on favorite, Annapolis, made a late run but could only manage second, 2 lengths in front of Uncaptured Spirit. Wow Whata Summer ran 1 mile on soft turf in 1:42.39 with Connor Tyler aboard.

It was just the second win for Wow Whata Summer, whose previous effort resulted in a third-place finish in a Laurel Park allowance.

As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game." Kitodan is a case in point.

Kitodan, claimed for $35,000 at Gulfstream Park in February, won the Rushaway Stakes on the Turfway Park all-weather course in April, then was claimed away from those owners for $80,000 in his next start at Churchill Downs on May 15.

A nice, quick, $45,000 profit on the sale prices plus the $117,420 winner's share of the Rushaway purse, right?

And the new owners are happy, too, as the Point of Entry colt stepped up Saturday at Churchill Downs to win the $200,000 Audubon Stakes, earning the $116,990 winner's share of that pot. So they're already $26,900 ahead and own a multiple stakes winner on two surfaces.

Kitodan, with Gerardo Corrales up, went to the post at odds of 40-1, race well back early and closed to win a duel to the wire by a head over Smokin T. He finished the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.85.

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"We claimed him for $80,000 and just wanted to try and win a race," trainer and part owner Eric Foster said of Kitodan. "This race came up and thought we'd give him a shot. What an absolute thrill for our team and these guys behind me."

On Saturday at Santa Anita, War at Sea tracked the pace made by Beef Winslow in the $100,000 Cinema Stakes for 3-year-olds, rallied to the front when called on by jockey Mike Smith and rolled home first by 3/4 length. Cabo Spirit came from last of five to deny second to Beef Winslow by 1 length.

War at Sea, a War Front colt trained by Ron Ellis, got 1 1/8 miles on firm going in 1:49.97.

Filly & Mare Turf

Gam's Mission launched a determined rally through the stretch in Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Old Forester Mint Julep Stakes at Churchill Downs, got by pacesetting Dalika in the late going and won by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival.

It was another 1 1/4 lengths to Take Charge Ro in third with the favorite, Petricor, settling for fourth.

Gam's Mission, a 4-year-old daughter of Noble Mission, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.53 with Adam Beschizza riding for trainer Cherie DeVaux. She won the Grade II Regret Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last year and was coming off a pair of second-place finishes at Fair Grounds and Keeneland.

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Speaking of the Regret Stakes, Walkathon did just enough running to get home first in Saturday's $200,000 renewal, defeating the late-running McKulick by 1 1/4 lengths. It was another 6 1/2 lengths to Beside Herself in third.

Walkathon, a Twirling Candy filly trained by Ian Wilkes, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.26 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. She made four starts on the dirt, improving with each, but not winning, to open her career. She now is 2-for-2 since moving to the green course.

"She can be a bit hyper and get worked up but that's just who she is," Leparoux said. "In the race she was able to settle in a good position and she was full of run at the end. She loves this turf and has really shown that her last few starts."

Haughty, the odds-on favorite, raced off pace early in Friday's $150,000 Penn Oaks at Penn National, advanced when asked by jockey Flavien Prat and won off by 4 3/4 lengths. Irie Empress, the early leader, held second with Belacqua a distant third.

Haughty, an Empire Maker filly trained Chad Brown, ran 1 mile on soft turf in 1:44.43.

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Haughty was making her first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar. She now has two wins and two thirds from four trips to the track.

Turf Sprint

Boardroom challenged pacesetting Souper Sensational in the stretch run of Saturday's $210,000 (Canadian) Royal North Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodbine and got a neck in front at the wire.

Souper Sensational then was all out to hold second by a neck over La Libertee, who arrived late on the scene. Boardroom, a 5-year-old Commissioner mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:13.55 with Rafael Hernandez aboard.

Racing exclusively at Woodbine for trainer Josie Carroll, Boardroom now has six wins, two seconds and a third from nine starts -- the last five of them in graded stakes.

Distaff

She's All Wolfe swung out into the four path turning for home in Saturday's $200,000 Shawnee Stakes at Churchill Downs and ran by all four rivals en route to a 1 1/4-length victory.

Pacesetters Ava's Grace and Army Wife filled the trifecta and the odds-on favorite, Pauline's Pearl, ran evenly to finish fourth in her first start since winning the Grade I La Troienne over the same track last month.

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She's All Wolfe, with Francisco Arrieta up, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.34, obliterating memories of a fifth-place showing in the La Troienne.

"We ran against her [Pauline's Pearl] the last couple of starts," winning trainer Donnie Von Hemel said. "But my filly was training really well, and I was willing to give her another chance."

Dreaming of Drew went right to the front in Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahoney Stakes for fillies and mares, never felt a challenge and coasted home on top by 2 3/4 lengths. Il

Malocchio ran in second all the way with Munnyfor Ro closing to get third, another 3/4 length back.

Dreaming of Drew, a 4-year-old Speightster filly, got 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.08 under Kazushi Kimura.

Classic

Dynamic One, the 18th finisher in last year's Kentucky Derby, completed a comeback with a late-running, 1-length victory over Scalding in Saturday's $200,000 Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs.

The Union Rags colt, trained by Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.54 with Tyler Gaffalione up. He finished third, and then second in his last two starts, each won by Scalding, who settled for third in the Blame.

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The Blame is the local prep for the $750,000 Grade II Stephen Foster on July 2. "We'll leave it up to Todd and the team to see if we stay here for the Stephen Foster, but we can't be more pleased with his race today," assistant trainer Stu Hampson said.

Sprint

Drafted had to come from last in a field of 9 to win Saturday's $106,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park.

The 8-year-old Field Commission gelding, with Luis Castro in the irons, came five-wide into the stretch to launch the winning bid and got home first by 3/4 length over Greeley and Ben.

Milton the Monster and Hollywood Jet dead-heated for third and fourth. Drafted ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.52.

At Churchill Downs on Saturday, Bango tracked the pace into the stretch in the $200,000

Aristides Stakes, got through traffic at mid-stretch and cleared, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Necker Island. Top Gunner and Long Range were third and fourth by a pair of noses.

Bango, a 5-year-old son of Congrats, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.57 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, winning the Aristides for the second straight year.

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"I guess they forgot how much he loves it here," winning trainer Greg Foley said of the Churchill Downs punters who let Bango go at odds of 10-1 even though he'd won half his previous starts there. "He loves this track."

Filly & Mare Sprint

Becca Taylor pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Desert Stormer Stakes at Santa Anita, dueled to the lead around the turn and drew off in the lane to win by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.

Dance to the Music, Samurai Charm and Dynasty of Her Own completed the order of finish.

Becca Taylor, a 4-year-old daughter of Old Topper, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.35 with Juan Hernandez up for trainer Steven Miyadi.

Around the ovals:

Hawthorne Race Course

Another Mystery launched a bid from the back of the pack in Friday's $75,000 Black Tie Affair Stakes for Illinois-breds, and then outfinished Temper Tantrum to win by 1/2 length. Richiesgotgame was third, 3 3/4 length farther back.

Another Mystery, a 6-year-old entire by Temple City, is a Team Block homebred, trained by Chris Block. He won the same race last year and since has competed at the graded stakes level, winning the Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston and finishing second in the Grade II Elkhorn at Keeneland.

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Cheetara fought for the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Crestwood Stakes for fillies and mares, got to even terms 3 furlongs out and eased away to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Charlie's Penny. Sharp Hero was third.

Cheetara, a 5-year-old, Chilean-bred mare by Daddy Long Legs, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.79 with Vincent Cheminaud riding for trainer Ignacio Correas IV.

Monmouth Park

I'm Listening took the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $85,000 Smart N Classy Handicap for New Jersey-bred fillies and mares and ran on to win by 1/2 length over the stubborn pacesetter Mia's Crusade.

I'm Listening, an 8-year-old Freud mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:41.84 with Angel Rodriguez up.

Belterra Park

Friday was "Best of Ohio" day. The track was fast but racing was off the turf.

Candlelight Hours stalked the pace in the $100,000 Norm Barron Queen City Oaks, took over when called on and got clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths over the early leader, Christmas. Candlelight Hours, a Dominus filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.86.

Dougie D Oro employed similar tactics in winning the $100,000 Babst/Palacios Memorial by 1 1/2 lengths over Startdfromdabottom. Dougie D Oro, a 6-year-old Mio d'Oro gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.04.

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Uptown rallied to the front in the stretch run of the off-the-turf $100,000 Sydney Gendelman Stakes and eased clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths with Henry Mac second. Uptown, a 4-year-old colt by Upstart, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.45.

Penn National

Maldives Model led all the way to a 1 1/2-length win over Love in the Air in Friday's $100,000 Lyphard Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Petionville filly ran 1 1/16 miles on soft turf in 1:48.40 with Tyler Connor up.

Buy Land and See went quickly to the front in Friday's $100,000 With Anticipation Stakes for state-breds and wasn't troubled thereafter, winning by 6 3/4 lengths. Lacco Ameno was second.

Buy Land and See, a 5-year-old son of Cairo Prince, finished the same turf trip in 1:50.00 with Flavien Prat in the irons.

Nimitz Class rallied from far back to sail home first in Friday's $100,000 Danzig Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, winning by 3/4 length over Uncle Buddy. Nimitz Class, a Munnings colt, ran 6 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:09.82 with Connor up.

Bazinga C started last of five in Friday's $100,000 New Start Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and finished first, chasing down Golden Tabby in the stretch to score by 1 3/4 lengths. The Exaggerator filly, with Horacio Karamanos in the irons, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.18.

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Prairie Meadows

Blaze Away N Hide blazed right by pacesetting favorite Shemeansbizness in the stretch run of Friday's $65,000 Bob Bryant Stakes for Iowa-bred 3-year-old fillies and got away to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. It was another 2 3/4 lengths to Simmering in third.

Blaze Away N Hide, a Run Away and Hide filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.21 with Wilmer Garciz up.

Shut Up Man set a pressured pace early in Saturday's $65,000 Gray's Lake Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, opened up a little daylight and then held on gamely to win by a nose over A Brush of Luck.

Shut Up Man, a Can the Man gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast strip in 1:11.88 for jockey Walter De La Cruz.

Evangeline Downs

Saturday night was "Louisiana Legends" for state-bred steeds. The track was fast the turf was firm.

Big Chopper led all the way to a 1/2-length victory in the $75,000 Cheval Stakes for 3-year-olds, running 1 mile in 1:37.71. Odds-on favorite Free Like a Girl dueled to the lead and ran on to win the $75,000 Soiree Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/4 lengths, finishing 1 mile in 1:39.41.

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Maga Man won a three-way fight to the wire in the $75,000 Legends Turf Stakes, scoring by 1/2 length while clocked in 1:43.33 for the 1 1/16 miles. Net a Bear rallied through the stretch to win the $75,000 Turf Distaff Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths, finishing 1 mile in 1:36.91.

Bertie's Galaxy blasted out of the gate first in the $75,000 Legends Sprint and wasn't headed, winning by 2 1/4 lengths, clocked in 1:03.52. Fame Feather found her best gear in the final furlong of the $75,000 Mademoiselle Stakes for fillies and mares, winning the 5 1/2-furlong tilt by 1 length in 1:04.49.

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