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Late-blooming 2-year-olds shine in weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
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Havnameltdown wins Sunday's Bob Hope Stakes for 2-year-olds at Del Mar. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Havnameltdown wins Sunday's Bob Hope Stakes for 2-year-olds at Del Mar. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club

Nov. 21 (UPI) -- One of the more interesting subplots of late-year racing is the emergence of late-blooming 2-year-olds and Del Mar's weekend program featured two of those -- Havnameltdown among the colts and Justique in the filly ranks.

Those results were supported by some nice performances in state-bred 2-year-old races around the country, with a scattered few other graded stakes before the big Thanksgiving weekend.

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And speaking of big, Hong Kong superstar Golden Sixty served notice Sunday he's not nearly ready for the rocking chair as he won his 7-year-old debut.

Three-year-old Serifos won the Grade 1 Mile Championship in Japan and, coincidentally, could be headed to a showdown next month with that same Golden Sixty.

RELATED Kentucky Derby trail moves front and center as Fair Grounds opens

And Godolphin finally won the Bahrain International Trophy, finishing 1-2 to make up for three years of futility.

The turkey's almost ready, so let's get this thing going.

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Juvenile

Havnameltdown rolled home an easy winner in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar, chased by stablemate Newgate. Bob Baffert trains both and extended his visegrip hold on Southern California 2-year-old races.

Havnameltdown, a Florida-bred colt by Uncaptured, allowed yet another Baffert trainee, Hard to Figure, to make the early pace, but easily went by that one heading into the turn was never in trouble thereafter.

Havnameltdown, with Juan Hernandez riding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.68. It was his third win from four starts to go with a second in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity.

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The Futurity was won by another of Baffert's deep talent pool, Cave Rock, who went on to finish second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Hernandez said the colt is learning his lessons.

"Before in his races he was slingshotting out of there," Hernandez said. "Today he was more professional. Our other horse [Hard to Figure] inside of us on the rail was trying to get out into us, but my horse took it well. He's learning how to run. After we cleared that other horse, I had a nice trip from there."

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No Love for Juba came from the back of the nine-horse field to win Saturday night's $75,000 West Virginia Futurity at Charles Town by 1 1/4 lengths over Music Lass.

A Juba gelding, No Love for Juba ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:29.26 with Orlando Bocachica riding. He took five tries to get his first win but now has back-to-back victories.

Not on Herb pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Joseph R. Peluso Memorial for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds, got the lead in the lane and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Calicoco.

A First Samurai colt, not on Herb ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:05.47 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons.

Dangerous Ride was promoted to victory in Saturday's $60,000 Juvenile Stakes for Florida-bred 2-year-olds at Gulfstream Park when the first finisher, Anamnestic, was set down to fifth for drifting in during the stretch run, causing contact with rivals.

Big Save and Cheerful Charlie were moved up to second and third.

Dangerous Ride, a Lord Nelson colt, won for the second time in six starts.

Aptly named Rivzonaroll led all the way to a 1 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $75,000 Sun Power Stakes for Illinois-breds at Hawthorne Race Course.

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With E.T. Baird in the irons for trainer Larry Rivell, the Good Samaritan colt ran 6 furlongs on a fast track on a cold and blustery day in 1:12.23. Lookin for Bala and Chi Town Hustler finished second and third.

Juvenile Fillies

Justique did a passable Zenyatta impersonation in Saturday's $100,000 Dezi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar. Trailing all six rivals by double-digit lengths down the backstretch, the Justify filly got going heading into the turn, came around rivals into the stretch and confidently strode out to a 2 1/4-lengths victory as the favorite.

Blessed Touch and Naughty Lottie filled the trifecta.

Justique ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.41 with Victor Espinoza up for trainer John Shirreffs, winning for the second time from three starts while coming from last each time.

"I don't try to encourage her away from the gate," Espinoza said. "I just let her do her thing. I just want her to be happy in her races. The idea is to just get her in her rhythm, to let her do it her way. ... She's something. And if she goes longer? I think she'll be better."

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On Sunday at Aqueduct, odds-on favorite Stonewall Star led from gate to wire in the $100,000 Key Cents Stakes for New York-bred fillies, winning by 4 lengths over Weekend Rags.

A daughter of Flatter, Stonewall Star ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.48 with Jose Ortiz up. She picked up her second win while coming off a third in the New York Breeders' Futurity at Finger Lakes.

Free Drop Maddy, a solid favorite, dominated Friday's Donovan L. Ferguson Memorial for state-breds at Fair Grounds, jetting off down the stretch to win by 6 3/4 lengths.

Addi Bug was best of the rest, while Free Drop Maddy, a Free Drop Billy filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.29. Reylu Gutierrez rode for trainer Bret Calhoun. It was her second win and she has not been worse than third in any of her five starts.

Navy Goat surged past pacetting Oh Darlin in the stretch run of Saturday's $60,000 Juvenile Fillies Stakes for state-breds at Gulfstream Park and ran on to win by 2 1/2 lengths on the all-weather course. Oh Darling held second by a neck over Luck in the Dusk.

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An Army Mule filly, Navy Goat broke her maiden in her second start in September on the Kentucky Downs turf.

Churchill Downs

She Can't Sing took an early lead in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares, shook off an early challenge and went on to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Ice Orchid was second, followed by Liberty M D and the favorite, Coach.

Trained by Chris Block for her owner-breeder Lothenbach Stables, She Can't Sing ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.38. The 5-year-old Bernardini mare won for the fourth time this year while picking up her first graded stakes win. She was third in the Mint Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs in her previous start.

"This mare has been really consistent on both dirt and turf, so I've been able to try a couple of different things with her," Block said. "She loves this dirt track. Last year, she won an allowance at seven-eighths but ended up having a really tough trip in the Chilukki [finishing fifth]. So, I decided to make it a goal to get her back for this race.

"I think we'll see her back next year. She'll head to Fair Grounds after this and get a little bit of a freshening before we start looking at a spring campaign."

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Aqueduct

Churchtown was on the lead quickly in Saturday's $135,000 Gio Ponti Stakes for 3-year-old turfers, maintained a narrow advantage and held on at the end to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Steady On, was second, a neck in front of Grand Sonata.

Churchtown, an Air Force Blue gelding trained by Roger Attard, got 1 1/16 miles on the firm outer turf course in 1:44.48 under Junior Alvarado.

Miss Dracarys got to the front shortly after the break in Sunday's $135,000 Forever Together Stakes for fillies and mares, opened a sizeable lead and turned back a stretch challenge from Evvie Jets to win by 1 length. It was another 4 lengths to Coconut Cake in third.

A 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, Miss Dracarysran 1 1/16 miles on the firm outer turf course in 1:42.40. Dylan Davis had the mount for trainer Neil Drysdale.

Woodbine

Full Screen found running room inside rivals in the stretch run of Friday's $100,000 (Canadian) Lake Ontario Stakes for 3-year-old, Ontario-bred colts and geldings and took full advantage, winning by a neck from Hunt Master and another head over Bossy Holiday.

Full Screen, a Big Screen gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.95 with Jeffrey Alderson in the irons.

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Strega led all the way, albeit under pressure, in Friday's $100,000 (Canadian) Ashbridges Stakes for 3-year-old, Ontario-bred filies and persisted, winning by 3/4 length over Totally in Charge.

Strega, a Silent Name filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.46 with Kazushi Kimura up.

Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes, a sprint on the all-weather course, was canceled along with most of the rest of the card because of the abysmal weather.

Del Mar

The Chosen Vron tracked pacesetting Big City Lights through the early furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes for California-breds, blew by that one and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

Big City Lights held second, a head in front of Coalinga Road with None Above the Law completing the order of finish.

The Chosen Vron, a 4-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.66 with Hector Berrios riding.

Fair Grounds

A G's Charlotte outfinished Winning Romance by a neck to win the first stakes race of the season, Friday's $75,000 Big World Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares. Fort Polk was third.

A G's Charlotte, a 3-year-old Mo Tom mare, got 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.56 with Marcelino Pedroza Jr. up.

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Ova Charged charged to the lead three-wide in Friday's $75,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and went on to win by 2 lengths from Spirited Beauty. The 4-year-old Star Guitar filly, an odds-on favorite, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.04 for jockey Jose Rodriguez.

Who Took the Money came from well off the pace to get the winner's share in Saturday's $75,000 Scott's Scoundrel Stakes for Louisiana-breds, defeating Behemah Star by 2 1/4 lengths.

The winner, a 4-year-old Street Boss gelding, ran 1 1/6 miles on a sloppy track in 1:42.09. Deshawn Parker rode.

Brian's Iron Mike was away last of 10 in Saturday's $75,000 Monte Man Stakes for state-breds, made up all the ground and won by 1 3/4 lengths. Scarlettsblackjack was best of the rest.

Brian's Iron Mike, a 3-year-old Iron Fist gelding, ran 6 furlongs in the slop in 1:10.32 toting Joe Stokes.

Golden Gate Fields

Top Harbor chased down pacesetting longshot Irrefutable in the stretch run of Saturday's $66,000 Oakland Stakes, got by and went on to win by 3/4 length over that rival. Psycho Dar, the favorite, settled for third.

Top Harbor, a 4-year-old Harbor the Gold colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:09.70 with Frank Alvarado riding.

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Around the world, around the clock

Hong Kong

Sunday's local preps for the Dec. 11 Longines Hong Kong International Races were all anyone could have hoped for -- a dramatic victory by reigning champion Golden Sixty and continued brilliance from younger stars such as California Spangle, Romantic Warrior and the up-and-coming Lucky Sweynesse.

Golden Sixty was the star of the three Group 2 races. Giving 5 pounds and three years to California Spangle, the 7-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding overcame a glacial early pace to catch that rival in the final strides, winning by a neck.

Coming off a seven-months layoff, the two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year notched his third straight win in the Group 2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile and set himself up to shoot for a third straight win in the Group 1 Longines Hong Mile on Dec. 11 -- likely against some tough foreigners.

"I knew Golden Sixty would have the heart to run him down but he's only 80% fit, so the last bit is his mental toughness," winning rider Vincent Ho said. "Definitely all credit to him and the team. We're looking forward to December now."

Trainer Danny Shum saddled the favorite, Romantic Warrior, and Tourbillon Diamond to a 1-2 finish in the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup.

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Romantic Warrior, winner of last season's BMW Hong Kong Derby, now has eight wins from nine starts in Hong Kong and his versatility ensures that Shum will be able to place him appropriately going forward.

"It was a really tough to decision whether to run him at 1,600 meters or 2,000 meters," Shum said of Romantic Warrior. "It is very hard to fight with Golden Sixty and California Spangle, so I talked to the owner about changing the plan and running at 2,000."

The Grade 2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint devolved to a fight between the "lucky" runners with Lucky Sweynesse getting the better by a neck of Lucky Patch. The favorite, Wellington, who defeated Lucky Sweynesse in their last start, faded through the final yards to finish sixth.

"He's done a good job," jockey Zac Purton said of Lucky Sweynesse, who was starting in his first group-level race.

Japan

Serifos rallied from far back in the 17-horse field to score a minor upset win in Sunday's Group 1 Mile Championship at Hanshin Racecourse, defeating older horses for his first top-level score.

Danon the Kid was second at long odds, 1/2 length in front of the popular white filly Sodashi. Soul Rush was fourth and the favorite, Schnell Meister, finished fifth.

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Serifos, a 3-year-old colt by Daiwa Major, won his first three starts as a juvenile and finished second in the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity but reported fourth in his first two races this year.

"I'm very happy," winning rider Damian Lane said. "The horse was super today. He's very consistent and I knew he would improve after watching his videos. I wanted to show how competitive he is. The pace was good and he was a bit keen early, but I was always confident."

The Mile Championship is a key factor in determining year-end honors and also has been a springboard to participation in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile.

Several of Sunday's runners, including Serifos and Schnell Meister, are entered for that event but connections will have to decide whether they want to face Hong Kong's monster, Golden Sixty, who awaits.

In Saturday's Grade 2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Tokyo Racecourse, Gastrique kicked into gear in the stretch, hit the front inside the final 50 meters and held off Danon the Tiger and the favorite, Heart's Concerto, by a neck and 1/2 length. Gastrique, by Just a Way, improved to 2-for-2.

Baharin

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Godolphin came up dry in each of the first three editions of the Bahrain International Trophy, but was rewarded for persistence in Friday's fourth running of the Group 3 fixture as Dubai Future defeated stablemate Passion and Glory in a stretch run dominated by royal blue silks.

It would have been a 1-2-3 sweep for Sheik Mohammed's forces had Riocorvo not edged Magny Cours for third in the final strides.

Saeed bin Suroor, who trains the first two, said the outcome was meaningful and race organizers acknowledged the importance of Godolphin's participation.

"I have won in most countries in the world," bin Suroor said. "But this is the first time in Bahrain, and it is great for us."

Sheik Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, chairman of the Bahrain Turf Club, added, "His Highness Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has supported our race strongly since its inception and we were delighted to see him have success."

Jockey Daniel Tudhope saved ground with Dubai Future while running in fourth position into the final 500 meters. He then split horses, edged by his stablemate and won convincingly.

"I had a good draw so I was able to park him wherever I wanted to, said Tudhope, who also won the Wolferton Stakes aboard Dubai Future at Royal Ascot in June. He doesn't really need a strong pace but he's a decent horse on his day and he turned up today."

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Attention now shifts to the Bahrain Turf Series, starting in December and structured to attract international competition.

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