Bal Harbour wins Saturday's $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Coady Photography, courtesy of Oaklawn Park
Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Practical Move upset three of trainer Bob Baffert's 2-year-olds in the weekend's feature race, the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity, adding his name into the mix of candidates for the 2023 Kentucky Derby.
Things went a bit more to expectations among the Japanese 2-year-olds as the three favorites reported 1-2-3 in Sunday's Grade 1 Asahai Hai Futurity, a natural prep for next year's Japanese Derby.
There was more action on turf and dirt from coast to North American coast as things gear down for the holidays. But fear not, as Santa Anita's traditional Boxing Day opening is chockablock with important graded stakes, including a few that could bear on year-end honors.
And don't miss the "Around the world" section with news from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong and elsewhere.
But first things first, so here 'tis:
Practical Move took the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity and kicked away to win by 3 1/4 lengths, while the odds-on favorite and best of the Baffert trio, Arabian Lion, faded to get home last of five. Carmel Road, Fort Bragg and Tall Boy occupied the spots in between.
Practical Move, a Practical Joke colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.65 with Ramon Vazquez up for trainer Tim Yakteen.
Practical Move, out of the Afleet Alex mare Ack Naughty, won for the second time in his fifth start. He was third in the Grade III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar in his previous outing.
The outcome of the Futurity was unusual in that Baffert didn't train the winner. Baffert has won the race 13 times, including seven straight from 2014 through 2020. His three starters in Saturday's renewal finished second, third and fifth.
"I'm surprised because we were going up against the king [Baffert]," Yakteen said. "But I'm not surprised because my horse was doing really well. That it all worked out is just fantastic.
"This one's really special because Bob is a good friend and we have a great relationship. I hate to take him down, but it ended up that I got the better of him today and usually he gets the better of me."
Yakteen said Practical Move will get "a breather" now while he plots a schedule for him.
On Saturday at Remington Park in Oklahoma, Wildatlanticstorm got to the lead on the turn for home in the $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile and wasn't challenged through the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths.
The odds-on favorite, Giant Mischief, an impressive winner over Arabian Lion at Keeneland in his previous start, missed the break, spotted the field at least six lengths and was not able to sustain a late rally, settling for second. Echo Again showed the way and finished third.
Wildatlanticstorm, an Iowa-bred Stormy Atlantic colt, finished in 1:38.24 under Leandro Goncalves. He now has four wins and two seconds from six starts.
The Los Alamitos and Remington races were both "Road to the Kentucky Derby" events, and the winners each got 10 points, moving them into a tie for fifth on the leaderboard.
Two state-bred events are worth a look.
On Saturday at Aqueduct, General Banker took to the muddy track like a duck to water, showing his heels to 10 rivals through the stretch to win the $500,000 Great White Way Division of the New York Stallion Stakes by 8 1/2 lengths. Ramblin' Wreck was the best of the rest, 1 length better than Lifetime of Chance.
General Banker, a Central Banker colt, finished 7 furlongs in 1:25.49 with Eric Cancel riding for trainer James Ferraro. He entered the race still a maiden after seven starts.
On Sunday back at Los Al, Giver Not a Taker stalked the pace in the $100,000 King Glorious Stakes for California-breds, got going late along the rail for jockey Flavien Prat, and was up just in time to win by a head as the odds-on favorite. Crypto Ride was second.
Giver Not a Taker, a Danzing Candy gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.16. He now has three wins and a second against fellow Cal-breds, but was ninth in the Grade III Zuma Beach Stakes in October.
Next up in the "Road to the Roses" series: The Gun Runner Stakes on Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds and the Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park on New Year's Day -- the official birthday of Northern Hemisphere Thoroughbreds.
Les Bon Temps worked to the lead a sixteenth out in Saturday's $500,000 Fifth Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct and edged clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths as the favorite. Midtown Lights was second and Little Linzee added a little value to the trifecta payout.
Les Bon Temps, a Leoban filly trained by Mike Maker, covered 7 furlongs on the muddy track in 1:27.28 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. Part-owner Deuce Greathouse said the filly "at some point ... deserves a chance" in open company, adding, "Two turns is going to be her friend."
On Saturday at Remington Park, Olivia Twist waited behind the early speed in the $100,000 Trapeze Stakes, launched her bid entering the stretch and won off by 2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Demi was second, 1/2 length better than Lucky Deputy.
Olivia Twist, a daughter of Mshawish, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.14 with Cristian Torres up.
Bal Harbour shot to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Tinsel Stakes, showed the way and held off Last Samuri to win by a neck. Scarlet Fusion was another 3 lengths back in third.
Bal Harbour, a 7-year-old First Samurai gelding, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.22 with Cristian Torres up. Frequently in the money, but infrequently in the winner's circle while spending the bulk of his career on the East Coast, Bal Harbour won for the eighth time in 34 starts.
And lest there be any confusion, Last Samurai is by Malibu Moon out of the First Samurai mare Lady Samuri. Got it? There will be a short quiz next period.
Pretty Birdie also went right to the front in Saturday's $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes for fillies and mares and never relinquished the lead. At the wire, the 3-year-old Bird Song filly was out front by 2 lengths over Sarah Harper with the favorite, Caribbean Caper, another 3 1/4 lengths back in third.
Pretty Birdie, with David Cabrerra in the irons, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.46 with David Cabrerra in the irons.
Wudda U Think Now dueled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for state-breds at Aqueduct, opened up a big lead and coasted home first by 3 1/4 lengths. Sea Form and Perfect Munnings filled out the trifecta slots.
Wudda U Think Now, a 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding, got 1 muddy mile in 1:39.33.
Venti Valentine stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Bay Ridge Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, advanced four-wide to get the lead with a furlong and a half to run and won off by 3 3/4 lengths. Know It All Audrey was second, another 6 3/4 lengths in front of Spungie.
Venti Valentine, a 3-year-old Firing Line filly, ran 1 mile on the muddy track in 1:39.19.
The turf marathons came off the turf onto the all-weather track, which was installed to cover just such situations.
The $100,000 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes also was trimmed from 2 miles to 1 5/8 miles, with the surface switch cited as the cause of three of the five scratches.
Value Engineering came from a pace-stalking spot to take the lead at the quarter pole and drew off to score by 1 1/4 lengths over Wicked Fast. Barberini was third.
Value Engineering, a 6-year-old gelding by Lemon Drop Kid out of the Dynaformer mare Frozen Treat, finished in 2:43.01 with Jose Ortiz at the controls.
Value Engineering was making his first start for Michael Hui, Phil Forte and trainer Michael Maker since they bought him for $35,000 at the Keeneland November sale. It also was his first race on anything but turf.
"I was hoping it would stay two miles, which was my concern more than the surface change," said Maker, who also trains Wicked Fast. "A Lemon Drop Kid out of a Dynaformer mare says 2 miles."
With no off-turf scratches in the $100,000 Via Borghese Stakes for fillies and mares, Vibumum rallied four-wide to take the lead turning for home and rolled in first by 2 1/4 lengths. Lisheen and Flying Fortress were second and third.
Vibumum, a 4-year-old daughter of Include, finished 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.64 with Irad Ortiz Jr. at the controls.
In Love stuck close to the early leaders in Saturday's $125,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes, got through between rivals in the lane and won by 3/4 length over traffic-troubled Cellist. Price Talk was third.
In Love, a 6-year-old, Brazilian-bred gelding by the Japanese-bred stallion Agnes Gold, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.19 under Gerardo Corrales.
Nine-year-old Rated R Superstar rallied six-wide into the lane in Saturday's $100,000 Jeffrey A. Hawk Memorial and prevailed by 1/2 length after a long drive. Number One Dude was second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Shadrack.
Rated R Superstar, a Kodiak Kowboy gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.51 with Isaac Castillo in the irons. The old guy won for the fourth time in nine starts this year and the 13th time in his 65-start career, much of it against quality competition around the Midwest. He's earned nearly $1.8 millon.
Famed blew by pacesetter Hailey's Melody at mid-stretch in Saturday's $100,000 She's All In Stakes for fillies and mares and swept home in front by 6 3/4 lengths. Hailey's Melody held second, a neck in front of Cleopatras Charge.
Famed, a 3-year-old Godolphin homebred by Uncle Mo, ran 1 mile, 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.17. Florent Geroux had the mount for trainer Brad Cox.
Rowdy Rascal led all the way to a 1 3/4-length upset win in Saturday's $70,000 Jim Thorpe Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 3-year-olds. The favorite, Beckett's Luckyday, settled for second.
Rowdy Rascal, a Den's Legacy gelding, got 1 mile in 1:40.03 with Alfredo Triana Jr. in the irons.
Hits Pricey Legacy dominated the stretch run in the Saturday's $70,000 Useeit Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 3-year-old fillies, getting home first by 2 lengths over Plenty of Vision. Hits Pricey Legacy, by Den's Legacy, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.70.
Around the world, around the clock
Dolce More got a perfect trip to win Sunday's Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at Hanshin Racecourse, leading near the 100-meter mark and gamely holding off Danon Touchdown by a neck. Labeling was third. The race, along with the Grade I Hopeful Stakes on Dec. 28, points the way to next year's Japanese Classics.
Dolce More, a Rulership colt with Ryusei Sakai riding, finished 1,600 meters in 1:33.9, keeping his record perfect with three wins from as many starts.
He's bred for the Classics. Rulership's earlier progeny have won at the top level in both Australia and Japan and include Kiseki, winner of the 2017 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St. Leger. Dolce More is out of Ayusan, winner of the 2013 Oka Sho or Japanese 1,000 Guineas, and she, in turn, is by Triple Crown winner Deep Impact.
Danon Touchdown, who now has finished second twice with late runs, looks like he would benefit from longer distances. He is a half-brother to Danon the Kid, winner of the 2020 Hopeful Stakes, who finished second last weekend in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) at Sha Tin Racecourse. Both of those were at 2,000 meters.
The 2021 Futurity winner, Do Doce, was named best 2-year-old and went on to win this year's Yushin Himba or Japanese Derby.
The Punisher got by El Musical in the final yards to win Saturday's Group 1 Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini Internacional at Hipodromo de San Isidro in Buenos Aires, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in next year's Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.
The Punisher, a 3-year-old by Cityscape, sat midfield through much of the 1 1/2 miles, got going along the rail approaching the stretch and dueled with El Musical down the lane before prevailing 3/4 length. El Cid Campeador was third.
The winner, trained by Carlos Etchechoury and ridden by Martin Valle, got his third win from six starts.
James Doyle last rode at King Abdulazziz Racecourse at the Saudi Cup meeting in February but obviously hasn't forgotten the lessons learned as he piloted My Frankel to a front-running win in Saturday's Crown Prince Cup, a domestic Group 1 event.
The 5-year-old Frankel gelding, previously trained in England by Sir Michael Stoute, took the lead heading into the long straight and won comfortably, signaling good things for the remainder of the season.
"The straight in Saudi is quite long," Doyle said. "So when you're in front for the whole way, it does seem a long way. But he had plenty left and was a ready winner. I think the penciled in plans for him are to drop back to 2,000 meters and be targeted at the King's Cups [Jan. 14]. The drop back in trip wouldn't be a worry."
Zac Purton booted home four winners on Saturday's program at Sha Tin Racecourse, boosting his total for the season to 64. With 28 race meetings completed and 60 go in the 2022-23 term, Purton is well on his way to surpassing the record of 170, established in 2016-17.
Moreira, suffering lingering effects of injury, bid farewell to Hong Kong last weekend without certainty about his next steps. Purton hinted during the same Longines Hong Kong International Races that his career might end soon, too.
The two have been Hong Kong's leading riders for the best part of a decade. Should both depart, the way would be clear for locally developed riders to take a more prominent role in the weighing room -- long a goal of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which invests heavily in developing local talent for many racing roles.
The Dubai Racing Club announced Monday that 147 horses from 17 countries have been accepted for the World Cup Carnival, including nine individual Group 1 or Grade I winners.
California-based Doug Watson, whose horses shipped in early last year and racked up four wins, nominated 11 this year, including Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile third-place finisher Slow Down Andy.
The Carnival opens Jan. 6 at Meydan and runs for nine weeks to Super Saturday on March 4, the final prep for the March 25 World Cup program.