Golden Sixty wins the Group 1 Stewards' Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse over Romantic Warrior and California Spangle. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Art Collector won the $3 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park and Golden Sixty brushed aside his two main rivals to win again in Hong Kong, but otherwise, it was a good weekend to be Bob Baffert or Mike Maker.
Maker had three big wins on the Gulfstream Park program. Baffert saw one of the year's most promising 3-year-olds win for fun and also set up a couple older horses for chances at the upcoming big races in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
Lots to cover. Let's get going.
The Road to the Roses
Arabian Knight lined up for Saturday's $750,000 Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park with only one race to his credit.
But that romping win on Breeders' Cup weekend at Keeneland - not to mention his $2.3 million purchase price at Ocala last year -- made him the heavy favorite. And the Uncle Mo colt delivered for owner Zedan Stables and trainer Bob Baffert.
After dueling with long shot Frosted Departure over the sloppy track, jockey John Velazquez just let Arabian Knight do his thing through the stretch and the colt easily strode out to win by 5 1/2 lengths.
Red Route One rallied from last of eight to get second, 2 lengths in front of Frosted Departure. Trainer Brad Cox's two runners, Jace's Road and Corona Bolt, finished fifth and sixth.
Baffert reported Sunday Arabian Knight cooled out from the race "great. His first performance was off the charts, but I gave him a lot of time in between. I've been just bringing him along at a very easy pace. It was good. You give them time between races."
The race is part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, but since Baffert is banned this year from the Derby and from Churchill Downs, Zenden will have to find a temporary substitute trainer to get Arabian Knight onto the grounds in Louisville.
"There's no rush," Baffert said -- a comment about the colt's next race that also could apply to a trainer swap. "I just want to keep him healthy and happy. You saw what he did today. It was like an American Pharoah-type race."
Baffert's minions were back in action Sunday in the $200,000 Grade III Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.
Three of the four starters were from the Baffert barn and they finished 1-2-3, led home by Havnameltdown, who led all the way. Faustin was second, 1 1/2 lengths back and it was a long way to the other two.
Havnameltdown, an Uncaptured colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.29 with Juan Hernandez up. He now has four wins and a second from five starts, four of them graded stakes, but has not been asked to go beyond 7 furlongs.
On Sunday in New Mexico, One in Vermillion led early in the $100,000 Riley Allison Derby, coughed up the lead briefly and came again to win by 1 length over How Did He Do That.
One In Vermillion, a California-bred Army Mule colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track with Harry Hernandez riding for trainer Estiban Martinez. It was his third straight win, also including the Lost in the Fog Juvenile at Turf Paradise.
The Path to the Oaks
Wet Paint dropped back to last of six shortly after exiting the starting gate for Saturday's $200,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park, moved up on the turn and came like a flash down the lane to win by 2 lengths over Taxed.
The favorite, Defining Purpose, gained a brief lead early in the stretch run, then settled for third.
Wet Paint, a Godolphin homebred by Blame, finished 1 1/16 miles on a track rated wet-fast. Brad Cox trains and Flavien Prat had the mount. It was her second win from four starts and first in a stakes race.
Art Collector, previously a confirmed front-runner, switched up tactics for Saturday's $3 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the change paid off.
After rating behind the early speed, the 5-year-old son of Bernardi rallied four-wide under jockey Junior Alvarado and quickly put matters to rest, drawing off to a 4 1/2-lengths upset victory.
Defunded and Stilleto Boy were second and third and the favorite, Cyberknife, could only manage a sixth-place showing.
"We made a conscious decision yesterday to not run him off his feet and see if he could do it that way, and it worked out well. He's had a good year already," trainer Bill Mott said Sunday morning.
The Pegasus and its predecessor Donn Handicap long have been not only excellent races in their own right but also springboards to even bigger riches in Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
That won't be the case this year, at least for Art Collector, Mott said if he stays in training, as expected, it will be for a North American campaign.
Mott reported all was well with his new star and added he was neither surprised nor not surprised by his performance.
"It's strange. I knew he was doing well going into the race. I felt like he was training well, but you can't really predict the outcome in a race like that," Mott said. "Did he exceed expectations? I wouldn't say that because I didn't know what to expect."
On Saturday in California, Newgrange found a second wind in the final furlong of the $200,000 Grade II San Pasqual Stakes, caught pacesetting Hopper and ran on to win by 1 length over that one. Parnelli was third.
Newgrange, a Violence colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.97 with Juan Hernandez riding. Ironically, Newgrange now is trained by Phil D'Amato but started his career with Bob Baffert, who trains both Hopper and Messier, who finished fourth in the San Pasqual.
Baffert may not be welcome at Churchill Downs, but with Defunded second in the Pegasus, Hopper making an encouraging comeback from a seven-month layoff and Country Grammer and Taiba preparing for their seasonal debuts, he seems to have plenty of options for the $20 million Saudi Cup and $12 million Dubai World Cup at the end of March and April.
Pauline's Pearl settled close behind the leading trio in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Houston Ladies Classic, swept around the front-runners to get the lead in the stretch and won off by 1 3/4 lengths over Hidden Connection.
She Can't Sing was third, and the favorite, Sixtythreecaliber, faded to finish last of seven.
Pauline's Pearl, a Stonestreet Stables homebred mare by Tapit, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:45.69. Stewart Elliott had the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen. She also won the Ladies Classic last year but had not raced since finishing third in the Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs in July.
Atone saved ground in mid-field down the backstretch in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf, swung out to get room as the field turned into the stretch and outfinished Ivar in a hot duel through the final sixteenth.
Speaking Scout was third as Atone, a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding, finished the 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.19. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. won his fourth race of the stellar program; trainer Mike Maker scored his third.
Atone, bred by Godolphin and owned by Three Diamonds Farm, was making his first start of the year after a 2022 campaign that was successful by any standards although short on wins. He tallied just two wins from eight starts after starting with a fourth-place finish in the Pegasus Turf.
"He was a hard-luck horse last year," Maker said. "He's always been right there and today was his day. "It's been a great day and I've got two more tonight at Turfway."
Things went south up north in Kentucky, though, as the Maker pair finished eighth and ninth in the Wishing Well Stakes at Turfway Park.
At Sam Houston Race Park, Scarlet Fusion found just enough in the final yards of Saturday's $200,000 Grade III John B. Connolly Turf Cup to collar Another Mystery for a 3/4-length victory.
Another Mystery held second by a neck over the favorite, Spooky Channel. Scarlet Fusion, a 5-year-old by Tapit, ran 1 1/2 miles on soft turf in 2:33.50 with Adam Beschizza up for trainer Joe Sharp.
He finished third in the Tinsel Stakes on the dirt at Oaklawn Park in his previous start - the first two stakes tries in his 20-race career.
Red Knight came from last of 11 in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III William L. McKnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park to win by 1 length over Value Engineering.
Wicked Fast was a long-shot third, and the favorite, Abaan, faded to finish ninth.
Red Knight, a 9-year-old Pure Prize gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.11 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up for trainer Mike Maker, who had three big wins on the quality program. The veteran proved he's not done at his advanced age despite finishing 11th in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf in his previous start.
Filly & Mare Turf
Queen Goddess seized the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf and easily held off the late run of Shantisara to score by 1 1/2 lengths. Lady Rockstar was third, well ahead of Dalika in fourth.
Queen Goddess, a 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker, shipped in from California where she won two of her last three starts and three of her last five, dating to the Grade I American Oaks at Santa Anita in December 2021 -- a race that was rained off the turf.
Luis Saez landed the mount on Queen Goddess for trainer Michael McCarthy and said, "She ran pretty big. Today she proved she's a beautiful and special filly. The plan was to try to follow the speed and be right behind and everything went according to plan."
Personal Best loomed up three-wide rolling down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III La Prevoyante Stakes at Gulfstream Park and rallied by Transient in the final strides to win by a neck.
Adventuring, who led most of the 1 1/2 miles, yielded reluctantly to finish third. Personal Best, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, backed up a victory in her last start in the Tropical Park Oaks at 1 1/16 miles over the same course.
Shug McGaughey trains the winner and Irad Ortiz Jr. had the winning ride.
"She's still kind of lightly raced and has some things to learn," McGaughey said. "I think as we go along, I think we should have some fun with her."
Andthewinneris was the winner in Saturday' $100,000 Bob Bork Texas Turf Mile for 3-year-olds at Sam Houston Race Park.
The Oscar Performance colt started his journey one from the back of the seven-runner field and came with a late rush to catch the favorite, Private Creed, in the final jumps, winning by a head bob.
Andthewinneris finished in 1:39.47 over soft turf with Corey Lanerie up for trainer Wayne Catalano.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Trainer Steve Asmussen dropped Gunite back to 6 furlongs for the first time in his career in Saturday's $150,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn Park and the 4-year-old Gun Runner colt responded perfectly.
Making his first start since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Gunite stalked the longshot pacemaker, blew by that one when asked by jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. and kicked away to win by 4 lengths. Tejano Twist and Miles Ahead filled out the trifecta.
Gunite finished in 1:08.89 while handling a sloppy track for the first time.
Endorsed came from the clouds to romp home first in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Fred W. Hooper Stakes at Gulfstream Park, defeating runner-up Octane by 2 3/4 lengths. Dean Delivers was third.
Endorsed, a 7-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, finished the one-turn mile in 1:35.67 with Luis Saez up for trainer Mike Maker. Endorsed finished fourth in the 2022 Pegasus World Cup but had only once in 19 previous starts.
Repo Rocks took complete charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Toboggan Stakes at Aqueduct, winning by 8 1/2 lengths over Little Vic.
Repo Rocks was let go at odds of more than 10-1 despite a two-race winning streak and finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.42 with Andrew Wolfsont riding.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Maryquitecontrary did nothing in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Inside Information Stakes to derail her bid for stardom.
The First Dude filly, with Luca Panici riding confidently, came from back of the field, accelerated sharpy through the stretch and got home first by 2 1/2 lengths with Colorful Mischief and Fire On Time filling the trifecta slots.
Obligatory, in her first start since finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, never got enough momentum from the back of the pack and reported sixth.
Maryquitecontrary won her fifth straight race while stepping up to a graded stakes for the first time. All of her starts have been at Gulfstream Park and apparently the rest of the racing world won't have to fear her - at least for now.
"She keeps getting better and better," said Maryquitecontrary's owner, Joseph Catanese III. "We'll keep finding races for her here."
At Turfway Park in Kentucky, Opening Buzz rallied from far back to win Saturday's $125,000 Wishing Well Stakes by 1 length over pacesetting long shot Awesome Treat.
Another long shot, Altered Shot, was third while the favorite, Ready to Venture, beat only one rival.
Opening Buzz, a 4-year-old daughter of Stanford, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.65 with Walter Rodriguez in the irons.
Around the world, around the clock
Golden Sixty did it all in Sunday's Group 1 Stewards' Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse.
The 7-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding avenged his loss to California Spangle in last month's Longines Hong Kong Mile. He definitively defeated rising star and Hong Kong Cup winner Romantic Warrior.
He also set himself up with a good chance for a third straight Horse of the Year title. And he gave his connections courage to consider shipping their two-time Horse of the Year to Dubai and maybe to Japan.
After the December International Races, the Stewards' Cup was eagerly anticipated as a showdown among by far the three best horses in Hong Kong.
It started, as expected, with California Spangle and jockey Zac Purton off to the lead and Romantic Warrior shadowing him. Golden Sixty was just behind them and the others were an afterthought.
Charging down the stretch, Romantic Warrior edged ahead only to have Golden Sixty and jockey Vincent Ho rally smoothly between them to score the 1-length victory.
"He was very comfortable and this year he has not pulled," Ho said. "So when he jumped very well, he still dropped the bit and made it even easier for me to handle him and decide what position I wanted to get.
"If I wanted him to be faster, he will be and if I drop my reins, he will relax. So, when Zac picked the pace up at the half mile, he [Golden Sixty] still followed through very nicely without any effort. I think Golden Sixty still has the best turn of foot out of the three."
Ho added that Golden Sixty is nominated to the Group 1 Dubai Turf on March 25 at 1,800 meters and to the one-mile Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen June 4 at Tokyo Racecourse.
The Dubai Turf, Ho said, would be "a good race for him and it can be a prep race for him if we go to Japan because it's left-handed and he can get used to the heat and all that. There are a few options for us."
Jet Dark and Kommetdieding proved again in Saturday's Group 1 World Sports Betting Cape Town Met that they top the list of South African runners. The two familiar rivals battled to the line before Jet Dark prevailed by a head.
Going back a bit more than a year, Jet Dark won the Group 1 L'Ormarin's Queens's Plate with Kommetdieding second. They repeated that finish in last year's Met. In July, Kommetdieding turned the tables, winning the Group 1 HKJC World Pool Champions Cup by a neck over Jet Dark.
Both now reportedly are headed to second careers at stud.
"Him and Kommetdieding, what can you say? It is an incredible way to send these great horses to stud," The Citizen quoted winning jockey Richard Fourie.
The two will need replacing as none of their younger rivals showed a lot in the Met. The two 3-year-olds in the big field, Cousin Casey and Make It Snappy, finished fifth and ninth.
Jet Dark, a 5-year-old son of Trippi, is trained by Justin Snaith.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Sam Houston Race Park
Vietnam Victory shot out to a big lead in Saturday's $100,000 Groovy Stakes for Texas-bred 3-year-olds and had enough left in the stretch run to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Lil Sweet Thang.
Vietnam Victory, a Klimt gelding, got 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:11.73 with Jose Alvarez up.
Izatiz shook free from 11 rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Bara Lass Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and crossed the line first by 7 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Blushing Belle was best of the rest. Izatiz, by My Golden Song out of a Tiznow mare, ran 6 muddy furlongs in 1:13.44.
Golden Gate Fields
Rose Maddox lagged behind most of the field in Saturday's $75,000 Moscow Burning Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, kicked into gear in the stretch and ran by pacesetting favorite Chancery Lane in the late going to win by 1 length.
Rose Maddox, a 4-year-old Grazen filly, got 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.67 with Assael Espinoza riding.