Kentucky horses dominate Claiming Crown

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Our Flash Drive wins Saturday's Grade II Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine. Michael Burns photo, courtesy of Woodbine
1 of 2 | Our Flash Drive wins Saturday's Grade II Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine. Michael Burns photo, courtesy of Woodbine

Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Kentucky-based horses ably defended their home turf in the weekend Claiming Crown series at Churchill Downs, while 2-year-olds, some still eyeing a shot at next year's big races, were at work at tracks from coast to coast.

Del Mar swung back into operation, and Woodbine and Churchill Downs had rich stakes offerings.


On the international front, Geraldina scored a minor upset in Japan, a new sprint contender emerged in Dubai and favorites claimed two Fast-Track Qualifiers in the U.K.'s All-Weather Championships.

Onward ho!

The Claiming Crown

Saturday's Claiming Crown brought horses from around the eastern half of the country to Churchill Downs to compete in the Breeders' Cup-like events for the sport's work-a-day horses.

But, after Mother Nature turned the main track sloppy and forced abandonment of the already questionable turf course, Kentucky-based horses won six of the eight events.


Petit Verdot and Towing, coming out of Keeneland races, finished 1-2, a head apart, in the off-the turf $170,000 Tom Metzen Memorial Canterbury at 5 1/2 furlongs. Petit Verdot, a 6-year-old Vancouver gelding, got home in 1:05.52 with Florent Geroux up.

Invaluable opened a daylight lead in the stretch and held off Maoilin by 1 1/2 lengths to win the $110,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares. Both were last seen at Keeneland. Invaluable, a 5-year-old Include mare, finished the sloppy mile in 1:39.84 for jockey Luis Saez.

It was last-time Keeneland starters 1-2 again in the $110,000 Iron Horse at 1 1/16 miles with Time For Trouble opening up a 3 1/4-length margin over Bless the Kitten while finishing in 1:46.79 under Joe Talamo.

The string was broken emphatically in the $150,000 Tiara for fillies and mares, originally slated for 1 1/16 miles on the turf, but switched to the sloppy main course.

Out of Sorts seemed anything but out of sorts over the switch, running clear in the lane to win by 10 lengths in 1:47.34 with Paco Lopez riding. The 4-year-old Dramedy filly last ran at Parx Racing.

Parx also served up the prep for Hero Tiger, winner of the $113,000 The Ready's Rocket Express at 6 furlongs. The 6-year-old Hero of Order gelding won by 1 1/4 lengths from Joyful Heart, clocked in 1:11.89 with Saez up.


The Queen's Jules just did hold on at the end of the $140,000 Rapid Transit, beating late-running Divine Leader by a nose, while covering 7 furlongs in 1:25.21 with Geroux in the irons. Both of the first two last ran at Keeneland.

Keystone Field survived the late bid of Intrepid Heart to claim the $200,000 Jewel by 1/2 lengths over that rival. Keystone Field, a 7-year-old Candy Ride gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.29 under Gerardo Corrales.

And in another off-turf event, Palace Coup was home first by 2 lengths in the $170,000 Emerald with Big Agenda a clear second. Lopez steered the 5-year-old Bernardini gelding over 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.40.


Recruiter pressed the pace early in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis Stakes at Laurel Park, swept to the lead near the three-eighths pole and won by 2 3/4 lengths, ridden out by Angel Cruz. Honeyquist and Heldish filled out the trifecta. Recruiter, an Army Mule colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.70.

At Delta Downs, Mazing Mark blazed by pacesetting favorite Toddchero in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes and got away to a 1 1/2-length win. Toddchero held second, 1 length better than Mangum.


Mazing Mark, a Kentucky-bred Mo Town colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.96. Juan Vargas rode for trainer Lonnie Briley.

Ghost Hero was out on the lead early in Friday's $75,000 Don C. McNeill Stakes for Oklahoma-breds at Remington Park and held off Send the Boss through the final strides to win by a head. Eakly was 5 3/4 lengths farther back in third.

Ghost Hero, a Shaman Ghost colt, toured 1 mile on a good track in 1:39.20 with Stewart Elliot at the controls.

Clovisconnection stalked the pace early in Saturday's $66,000 Golden Nugget Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, shot to the lead in the lane and drew off to win by 4 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Passarando, was second with a belated move.

Clovisconnection, a Vronsky gelding, ran 6 miles on the all-weather course in 1:10.73 for jockey Kevin Radke.

2-year-old fillies

Twice as Sweet stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes at Laurel Park, took command when asked by jockey Feargal Lynch and drew off smartly to a 6 1/2-length victory. Miss Georgie was second, with the favorite, Dissolute, fading from the lead to finish fifth.

Twice as Sweet, a Godolphin homebred by Candy Ride, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.48.


Tensas Candy and odds-on favorite Stellar Lady ran by pacesetting Taylor's Tap in the stretch in Friday's $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes at Delta Downs with Tensas Candy getting the better of things in the final strides for a 1/2 length victory. Taylor's Tap held third.

A Louisiana-bred filly by Twirling Candy, Tensas Candy finished 1 mile on a muddy track in 1:42.26 with Alexander Castillo up.

Mom's Town was along in the late going to win Saturday's $75,000 Showtime Deb Stakes at Hawthorne Race Course by 1 3/4 lengths over Joyzella. The favorite, first-time starter Cat Royale, settled for third.

Mom's Town, a Speightstown filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.80 with Jareth Loveberry riding as a cold front swept through the Chicago area, ending a string of unseasonably warm days.

Doudoudouwanadance stalked the pace in Friday's $75,000 Slide Show Stakes for Oklahoma-bred fillies at Remington Park, opened up through the stretch and waltzed home first, 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Nice Neighbor.

Doudoudouwanadance, a daughter of Magna Graduate, ran 1 mile on a good track in 1:39.66 for jockey Leandro Goncalves.


Il Malocchio finished full of run in Saturday's $180,000 (Canadian) Grade III Maple Leaf Stakes for fillies and mares, getting to the line 1 length in front of Angelou. The long-time leader, Transient, yielded grudgingly to finish third.


Il Malocchio, a 4-year-old daughter of Souper Speedy, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:02.55 with Sahin Civaci in the irons.

Our Flash Drive dominated the final furlong of Saturday's $210,000 (Canadian) Grade II Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 5 3/4 lengths, eased up through the final strides. Hazelbrook was second, with Loyalty and Awesome Treat a close third and fourth, respectively.

Our Flash Drive, a 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper, was clocked in 1:20.76 for 7 furlongs of all-weather track. Patrick Husbands had the ride.


Salimah came four-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $135,000 Winter Memories Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, hit the accelerator and won off by 3 lengths. Candy Light was second, a nose better than Veronica Greene.

Salimah, an Irish-bred daughter of El Kabier, ran 1 1/16 miles on the yielding outer turf course in 1:44.69 for jockey Jose Ortiz.

Big Everest led all the way in Sunday's $135,000 Artie Schiller Stakes for 3-year-olds and held off Shadow Sphinx by 1/2 length at the end for the victory. Pao Alto was third.

Big Everest, a British-bred gelding by The Gurkha, finished 1 mile on the yielding turf in 1:37.19 with Joel Rosario riding.


Churchill Downs

The beleaguered turf track got another break Sunday as the $300,000 River City Handicap was moved to the main track with seven resulting scratches. Hozier proved best of the seven left to tackle 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track.

Leading all the way, the 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile gelding drew off late to win by 3 1/2 lengths from Starting Over with In Love another 3 lengths back in third. Hozier, with Julien Leparoux in the irons, finished in 1:51.67, notching his fourth win from 18 starts.

Bango was up in the final strides to win Sunday's $300,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes for 3-year-olds and up by 3/4 length over Sibelius. Top Gunner led early and finished third.

Bango, a 5-year-old son of Congrats, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.00 with Tyler Gaffalione aboard.

Coppelia pressed the pace in Sunday's $200,000 Dream Supreme Stakes for fillies and mares, took the lead when prompted by jockey Martin Garcia and surged clear, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Joyful Cadence. Sconsin finished third, another 5 1/2 lengths back as Coppelia ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.90.

Del Mar

The surfside track got the stakes portion of its Bing Crosby season off to a slam-bang start in Friday's $100,000 Let It Ride Stakes, a conditioned one-mile affair on the turf for California-breds.


The two favorites, Handy Dandy and Script, came from well back in the field to battle to the wire with Handy Dandy prevailing by nose and three others finishing virtually side by side, 3/5 to 1 length behind them.

Handy Dandy, a 5-year-old Fury Capcori gelding, finished in 1:37.08 with Juan Hernandez up for trainer Peter Miller.

Bipartisanship was along late to win Saturday's $100,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over Gold For Kitten. Royal Address was a close third but the favorite, Burgoo Alley, lacked a rally and finished fifth.

Bipartisanship, a 4-year-old, British-bred filly by Bated Breath, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.27. Juan Hernandez had the mount for trainer Graham Motion.

Fun to Dream, the odds-on favorite, survived a bit of a rough trip to win Sunday's $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares by a head over persistent long shot Taming the Tigress.

Fun to Dream, a 3-year-old Arrogate filly trained by Bob Baffert, was bumped repeatedly at the start and again at mid-stretch before eking out the win. With Juan Hernandez in the irons, Fun to Dream ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.14.


Laurel Park

Hybrid Eclipse started last of seven in Saturday's $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes for fillies and mares, came three-wide to take the lead and cleared all six rivals, winning by 3 lengths. Berate was second, 2 lengths in front of Champagne Toast.

Hybrid Eclipse, with Sheldon Russell up, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:45.05.

Remington Park

Fly to the Bank took an early lead in Friday's $75,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for Oklahoma-breds, turned back a couple of challenges and held sway by 1 3/4 length over Salt Creek Kid. Dicey was third as Fly to the Bank, a 5-year-old gelding by Euroears, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:17.09 with Cristian Torres up.

Charles Town

Muad'dib took the lead at the 3-furlongs pole in Saturday's $75,000 Randy Funkhouser Memorial Stakes for West Virginia-breds, was headed in the stretch but came back to win by 3/4 length. C R's Mandate came with a rush to take second.

Muad'dib, a 5-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a good track in 1:53.98 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the kip.

Mahoning Valley

Aunt Bee prevailed after a long drive against several rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Ohio Debutante Handicap, defeating Mobil Lady by 1/2 length. Aunt Bee, a 4-year-old daughter of Tidal Volume, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:47.80 with Yan Aviles up.


Around the world, around the clock


Geraldina, apparently enjoying her first-ever spin on rain-softened turf, rallied to the lead in the stretch run of Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hanshin Racecourse and posted a mild upset win.

Win Marilyn and Lilac finished in a dead heat for second while the sole foreign entry, Magical Lagoon, tired in the stretch to finish last.

Several other promising fillies and mares, including the favorite, Daring Tact, also finished well up the track as Geraldina landed her first Grade 1 score.

A daughter of Maurice out of the super mare Gentildonna, the 5-year-old had not previously lived up to her breeding but now has a modest, 2-race winning streak.

"The filly was traveling very well in the last corner, came out and gave a good turn of foot," winning rider Cristian Demuro said. "The last time when she won, it was a good race, so I was pretty confident with her."

Shane Foley, who rode Juddmonte Irish Oaks (G1) winner Magical Lagoon for trainer Jessica Harrington, said his filly couldn't handle the off-going despite enjoying a forward placing through most of the race.

"We were able to race in good position, but she likes quick ground, and the rain, unfortunately, took her chance away," Foley said. "I urged her to go from the third corner, but she didn't respond."



The second meeting of the Meydan season featured what might have been a breakout performance by Raaeb. The 5-year-old son of Raven's Pass, making his first start on dirt, ran by the early leader,

Meshakel, and held off Island Rule for a convincing, 3 1/2-length victory in the 1,400-meters Nahkeel Handicap.

Trainer Musabbeh Al Mheiri inherited Raaeb from Saeed bin Suroor, who used the gelding largely on British all-weather courses earlier in his career.

"I didn't expect this performance tonight as he's a new horse in the stable and we're still getting to know him," winning rider Antonio Fresu said. "It was his first run on dirt and they usually improve for that."


Missed The Cut and Summerghand won Fast-Track Qualifier spots for the All-Weather Championships Finals Day with last-gasp victories Friday at Lingfield Park.

Missed The Cut, winner of the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot, rallied late through the stretch to nail Algiers at the line in track-record time of 2:00.29 for the 1 1/4 miles of the BetUK Churchill Stakes.

Harovian was third, with 2021 Belmont Derby winner Bolshoi Ballet fourth while making his first start in nearly a year.

The BetUK Golden Rose Stakes at 6 furlongs went to another heavy favorite, Summerghand with Judicial yielding through the final strides. The margin was 1/2 length.


It was the second win for Summerghand at the course and distance, following victory in the All-Weather Sprint Championships on Finals Day in 2021, for which Friday's contest was a Fast-Track Qualifier.

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