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Godolphin looks forward to Breeders' Cup after massive weekend of Grade I wins

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Modern Games wins the Grade I Woodbine Mile, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Photo courtesy of Woodbine
Modern Games wins the Grade I Woodbine Mile, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Photo courtesy of Woodbine

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Another profitable weekend visit to North America by the Godolphin juggernaut promises a strong presence by the same forces at the Breeders' Cup World Championships in November at Keeneland.

Godolphin went 3-for-3 Saturday, racking up two Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" slots at Woodbine in Canada and setting up another November bid with a third Grade I triumph at Aqueduct.

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The blue-clad minions landed a fourth weekend Group 1 victory in Australia, but that win was compromised when the winner, Anamoe, returned lame with a questionable racing future.

The Godolphin dominance headlined a weekend racing slate that also included the first event on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" schedule. The "European Road" starts next weekend.

RELATED Breeders' Cup, Arc d'Triomphe, contenders surface in weekend horse racing

There's even more, so let's get after it.

Turf

The Godolphin boys in blue were back in force in North America Saturday -- the "boys" this time being William Buick at Woodbine and Frankie Dettori at Aqueduct.

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Each won a $1 million turf race and, while the Canadian $1 million was worth "only" US$767,000, that victory also carried a "Win and You're In" slot for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.

Neither race was close.

Dettori piloted Nations Pride to a romping victory in the $1 million Grade III Caesars Jockey Club Derby Invitational at Aqueduct. The Teofilo colt raced in third as Daunt pressured Classic Causeway through the early furlongs.

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When asked to take on that pair, Nations Pride quickly picked it up, shot to the front and won off by 6 1/4 lengths with Dettori singing his praises.

The Grey Wizard was along for second with Classic Causeway saving third. Nations Pride ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in course-record time of 2:24.14.

Nations Pride has been in New York since mid-summer. He finished second in the Grade I Belmont Derby when Classic Causeway was left alone on the lead and stole the race.

When the Grade I Saratoga Derby was more hotly contested on the front end, Nations Pride took full advantage to win that event.

Trainer Charlie Appleby's assistant, Chris Connett, said Sunday morning that he colt will ship back to the Appleby training yard at Newmarket in England while the Godolphin brain trust maps out a plan.

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"He looked great this morning. I'm very happy with him," Connett said. "I spoke to Charlie last night, as we usually do after big races like this, and he was very pleased with the effort. The plan is to bring him back to the UK on Tuesday, and from there, Charlie will map out a plan for the rest of the year for him."

Last year, Sheik Mohammed's crew won the Belmont Derby with Yibir, who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Turf the Eclipse Award in the male turf division.

The second half of the rich double found Modern Games bursting out of the pack at the top of the stretch and jetting away to win the $1 million (Canadian) Grade I Ricoh Woodbine Mile by 5 1/4 lengths.

The Dubawi colt, the controversial winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar, was well back in the field and on the inside of rivals exiting the final turn. When he got room, he roared by rivals and quickly put matters to rest.

Modern Games ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.77 without being asked for his best. Ivar finished second with a late run and the other foreign entry, Finest Sound, was third.

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"He was back in the pack a little bit and he had to make a bit of room," Buick said. "But you saw he has that speed for a mile, you know, that you need to get yourself out of trouble. So, he picked up really fast and really good. It was a very good performance."

The win ensures Modern Games a spot in the starting gate for the FanDuel Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland Nov. 5,l and his connections are looking forward to the opportunity.

"Very excited," Buick said. "Of course, he's obviously a Juvenile Turf winner already last year, so you know he loves North American racing. We are very much looking forward to it."

On Sunday at Woodbine, Ready for the Lady rallied from last of six to win the $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Singspiel Stakes by 3/4 lengths over British Royalty. Collective Force, the pacesetter, held on for show money.

Ready for the Lady, a 3-year-old More Than Ready colt, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:18.12. Emma-Jayne Wilson had the mount for trainer Roger Attfield.

Filly & Mare Turf

McKulick and German invader Toskana Belle raced side-by-side through the stretch in Saturday's $700,000 Grade III Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Aqueduct, with McKulick getting the edge in the final sixteenth to win by 1/2 length. Miss Yearwood rallied from last of six to get third, another 3/4 length in arrears.

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McKulick, a Frankel filly trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Stables, ran 1 3/8 miles on the firm inner turf course in course-record time of 2:12.38 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.

McKulick won the Belmont Oaks Invitational over the Godolphin filly With the Moonlight and finished second to that rival in the Saratoga Oaks Invitational. With the Moonlight did not return for the Aqueduct rubber match.

On Sunday at Aqueduct, Faith in Humanity set a measured pace throughout the $150,000 Grade III Pebbles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and held on at the end to win by 1/2 length over Gina Romantica.

It was another 3/4 length to Bahamian Club in third, giving trainer Chad Brown a sweep of the top three positions.

Faith in Humanity, a French-bred filly by Lope de Vega, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.36 with Manny Franco up.

Distaff

Played Hard has been playing on the fringes of the big time but stepped up a notch in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs.

The 4-year-old Into Mischief filly broke sharply, rated just behind early leader Crazy Beautiful and owned the stretch run, drawing off to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Crazy Beautiful held second by 1 1/2 lengths over Li'l Tootsie with the favorite, Envoutante, last of five.

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Played Hard, with Joel Rosario up, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.50 to secure her first stakes win.

"This horse is getting really good at the right time," said trainer Phil Bauer, who got his first graded stakes win. "We'll see how she comes out of things in the morning and we'll leave it up to [owner Richard Rigney] to see where she takes us next."

Sprint

Miles Ahead outfinished pacesetting favorite Isolate by a head bob at the end of Saturday's $275,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Society Stakes at Churchill Downs. Necker Island was another nose back in third.

Isolate set the pace through blazing early fractions, hounded all the way by Top Gunner. That one faded late but Isolated never quit and the camera was needed to document the outcome.

Miles Ahead, a 5-year-old Competitive Edge gelding, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.02. Martin Garcia rode for trainer Paul McGee.

Filly & Mare Sprint

Lady Speightspeare asserted herself in the stretch run in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine, seizing the lead from the dueling front-runners, then hanging on to win by 3/4 length over Hazelbrook. Souper Sensational was third.

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Lady Speightspeare, a Speightstown filly owned and bred by Charles Fipke, finished 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.79 under Emma-Jayne Wilson. It was her third straight win at Woodbine, on both turf and all-weather. Overall, she's 7-for-12.

Saturday's $300,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs scratched down to three starters, of whom Bell's the One was the one.

The 6-year-old Majesticperfection mare trailed the two rivals into the stretch, got by them with a determined run and won by 1 length over Joyful Cadence. Sconsin finished third, another 3/4 length back.

Bell's the One, with Corie Lanerie in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.43 for her second straight win.

Trainer Neil Pessin said he hadn't planned on running Bell's the One in the Open Mind "but she told me she needed to run. If she tells me she wants to run in three weeks, we'll go to the Thoroughbred Club of America [Grade II, Oct. 8] at Keeneland. And if she's ready to run after that, we'll look at the Breeders' Cup."

Juvenile

Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs was the first leg of the long and winding "Road to the Kentucky Derby" and, as often happens with the youngsters, produced an upset.

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The favorites, Damon's Mound and Echo Again, went shoulder-to-shoulder into the far turn, well ahead of the other seven. As they faded from the lead after straightening out for the stretch run, it was 10-1 chance Curly Jack who rallied outside them, grabbed the lead and held on to win by 1 length from 54-1 shot Honed.

Jace's Road was third, and the favorites chugged in sixth and seventh.

Curly Jack, a Good Magic colt trained by Tom Amoss, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.62 with Edgar Morales up.

He won his first start at Churchill Downs June 2, and then was fifth in the Grade III Sanford at Saratoga and second by a head in the Ellis Park Juvenile. He earned 10 Kentucky Derby points to take the early lead on that long journey.

"I thought maybe going two turns is going to help our chances," Amoss said. "It was a great ride by Edgar Morales.... I don't have an issue with running horses off a layoff so it won't be a big deal going straight to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. We'll see how he comes out of things and make a decision in the coming days."

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At Canterbury Park in Minnesota, Two Phil's kicked away from seven rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $55,000 Shakopee Juvenile Stakes and ran on to win by 9 3/4 lengths. Runtoday beat the others with Coffee Caliente third.

Two Phil's is a Kentucky-bred Hard Spun colt trained by many-time Arlington Park champion Larry Rivelli. He came to Minnesota off a maiden win at Colonial Downs.

Juvenile Turf

Mysterious Knight provided the third weekend North American Grade 1 for Godolphin. He broke a bit flat-footed from the inside gate in Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Grade I Pattison Summer Stakes at Woodbine, saved ground around the turn and kicked away when asked by jockey William Buick to win by 5 3/4 lengths.

Appraise was second and Philip My Dear third. The victory earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 4 at Keeneland.

Buick said, "We knew the horse was going to like it, fast ground. He was giving me confidence through the race. It was perfect for him. He can move on from this going forward."

Saturday at Monmouth Park, Webslinger came with a late run to deny the odds-on favorite, Oxymore, by 1/2 length in the $500,000 Now Now Now Stakes. Let's Go Big Blue rallied from well back in the nine-horse field to get third.

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Webslinger, a Constitution filly trained by Mark Casse, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.09 with Dylan Davis up.

Webslinger entered the Now Now Now off a second-place showing in a maiden event at Saratoga where he was blocked, checked back to last and came flying late on the outside.

Oxymore won both his previous starts for trainer Chad Brown, including the Skidmore Stakes at the Spa in his previous start.

"Mark felt like he deserved a shot at this off his last race," Casse assistant Shane Tripp of Webslinger said. "It was a little bit of a gamble since this horse was a maiden, but the way he ran his last start, to get in all that trouble and still get second at 5 1/2 furlongs, Mark felt good about trying him here."

Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Blind Spot raced by the dueling Stephanie's Charm and Vai Via in deep stretch to win the $65,000 Our Dear Peggy Stakes by 3/4 length. Stephanie's Charm held second, 3/4 length in front of Vai Via.

Blind Spot, a Maryland-bred daughter of Cross Traffic from Saffie Joseph Jr.'s barn, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the all-weather track in 1:43.21 with Edgard Zayas riding. She won for the second time after finishing second in her first start.

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Juvenile Fillies

Fun and Feisty came from the clouds in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs, blew by the dueling leaders at mid-stretch and was in full flight to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Shoplifter was second and the favorite, Grand Love, settled for third after showing the way into the lane.

Fun and Feisty, a Midshipman filly trained by Kenny McPeek and ridden by Julien Leparoux, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.86. The win was the second straight for Fun and Feisty, both at Churchill Downs.

The victory put her atop the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks" standings.

"She's going to stretch out and go longer," McPeek said. "She's good minded, sound and healthy. I think you'll see her around here for a couple of seasons. The Alcibiades [Grade I, Oct. 7] will be the next spot for her at Keeneland."

Juvenile Fillies Turf

Last Call came with a four-wide move to get the last call in Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Grade I Johnny Walker Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Cairo Consort. G Laurie was third.

Last Call, an English Channel filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.49 for jockey Rafael Hernandez. Last Call entered the race still a maiden after finishing second, then fourth, in her previous starts at Woodbine.

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Around the world, around the clock

Australia

Jockey James McDonald had a nice afternoon at Royal Randwick, winning the Group 2 Bowermans Shorts with the world's top-rated sprinter, Nature Strip, and the Group 1 Fujitsu General George Main with Anamoe.

Nature Strip showed no ill effects from his travels after winning the Group 1 King's Stand at Royal Ascot in his last start. He rolled to the lead at the 100-meters marker and finished comfortably first by 1 1/4 lengths.

Overpass had the honor of finishing second to the superstar, a nose in front of Lost and Running.

Nature Strip used a victory in the same race a year ago as a springboard to claiming the world's richest sprint, the TAB Everest, and looks set to attempt the repeat next month at age 8.

"It's a good first-up run," Racing Post quoted trainer Chris Waller. "He'll take good improvement from it and be there [in The Everest) in four weeks' time."

One race earlier, Anamoe rallied to the front a furlong out in the George Main Stakes and went on to win by 3/4 length over Icebath as the odds-on favorite.

Anamoe, a Godolphin homebred 4-year-old by Street Boss, made it 2-for-2 on the young season but exhibited some lameness on return and will be evaluated for further racing.

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On Saturday at Caulfield, Callsign Mav and I Am Superman got home first and second in a tight, four-way battle in the Group 1 Neds Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes with the favorite, Tuvalu, third. Callsign Mav, a dual Group 1 winner at Hastings a year ago, finished sixth in his seasonal debut Aug. 27 at Caulfield.

Meanwhile, back in the States:

Albuquerque

Bella Donna dueled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Petticoat Stakes for 3-year-old New Mexico-bred fillies and then cleared to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Desert Spirit was second, a neck in front of Corrina Corrina.

Bella Donna, a daughter of Attila's Storm, stormed 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.34 with Luis Fuentes up.

Zia Zapper came six-wide into the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Manzano Stakes for 2-year-olds and quickly ran by most of the field to win by a neck over Yolanda Who. Fleet of Flags was third.

Zia Zapper, a Kentucky-bred colt by Ghostzapper, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.29 with Fuentes riding.

Canterbury Park

Tony's Tapit split rivals going three-wide on the turn in Saturday's $55,000 Tom Metzen H.B.P.A. Sprint, then wore down the pacesetters en route to a 2 1/4-lengths victory. Minister of Soul held a brief lead and finished second, 6 1/2 lengths in front of Exxel.

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Tony's Tapit, a 4-year-old Tonalist colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.07 with Ezequiel Lara in the irons.

Los Alamitos

The Chosen Vron stalked the pace made by Big City Lights in Saturday's $75,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes for California-breds, took over with a five-wide move into the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths. Big City Lights finished second with Crash Corrigan another 3/4 length back in third.

The Chosen Vron, a 4-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.19 with Hector Barios up.

Ganadora shook off a rough start, went quickly to the front in Sunday's $75,000 Dark Mirage Stakes for fillies and mares and extended the advantage throughout the 1-mile race, winning by 8 lengths. Empire House and Truville were second and third.

Ganadora, a 3-year-old Quality Road filly trained by Bob Baffert, finished in 1:36.30 with Juan Hernandez riding. She now has three wins plus a fourth in the Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita.

Golden Gate Fields

Natural Colour tracked the long shot pacesetter in Saturday's $67,000 Golden Gate Fields Turf Distaff, got to the front near the furlong marker and held off Charges Dropped to win by 3/4 length. Northwest Factor, the early leader, held third.

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Natural Colour, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Exceed and Excel, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.47 with Pedro Terrero up.

Charles Town

Lightnin Runner was up in the closing yards to win Saturday's $75,000 Rachel's Turn Stakes for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies. Strong Willed yielded late to finish second, a neck back but 3 1/2 lengths better than the odds-on favorite and early leader, Sail On Breze.

Lightnin Runner, a daughter of Battalion Runner, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 52.93 seconds for jockey Antonio Lopez.

Paymengold got away from five rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Henry Mercer Memorial Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds and won off by 3 lengths at odds of 23-1. Xcellent Start and Juba's Notion completed the trifecta with the favorite, Teachintherelease, fading to finish fifth.

Paymengold, a Golden Lad colt, got home in 52.18 seconds under Fredy Peltroche.

Emerald Downs

Pappa's Golden Boy opened a big lead in Sunday's $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic for Washington-breds and held on gamely to win by a neck over the odds-on favorite, Slew's Tiz Whiz. It was another 10 1/4 lengths to Naval Escort in third.

Pappa's Golden Boy, a 6-year-old Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.82 with Kevin Radke up.

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Blazingbellablu dueled with Zippin Sevenz through the final furlong of Sunday's $50,000 Washington Cup Filly & Mare Stakes for state-breds before prevailing by 1/2 length. Emerald Sea was well back in third.

Blazingbellablu, a 4-year-old Grazen filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.70 with Radke in the irons.

Lloyds Logic humbled 10 rivals in Sunday's $70,000 Gottstein Futurity for 2-year-olds, leading all the way to a 7 1/4-lengths victory. Chuckanut was best of the rest, another 7 1/2 lengths in front of It's Turbo.

Lloyds Logic, a Kentucky-bred colt by The Factor, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.38 with Jose Zunino up.

Monmouth Park

Smithwick's Spice pressed the pace made by Like What I See in Sunday's $88,400 Joey P. Handicap for New Jersey-breds, got clear of that one late and won by 3 lengths. I Like What I See held second with Jesters Honor third.

Smithwick's Spice, a 6-year-old gelding by Frost Giant, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.84 seconds with Jairo Rendon riding.

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