Lucky Sweynesse wins Sunday's Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
Feb. 6 (UPI) -- It was another big weekend for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita, as the white-haired wizard trainer saddled all four runners in the big Kentucky Derby prep and two more big stakes winners.
And what Baffert wasn't winning, Phil D'Amato had cornered.
On the international front, the Dubai World Cup Carnival hit its midpoint, youth finally was served in Hong Kong, England's All-Weather Championships are nearing the boiling point and we'll have a look in the "Around the World" section at a potential 3-year-old star in Japan.
And away we go ...
The Road to the Roses
Since all four starters in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes were saddled by the aforementioned Baffert, there's no point in trying to draw firm conclusions from the results. Baffert typically says there were no instructions to the riders but, even if that's the case, they know their jobs and roles.
So John Velazquez knew Arabian Lion, adding blinkers, was the pacemaker. It wasn't hard for Ramon Vazquez to figure that Hard to Figure was meant to press that pace. And that left Frankie Dettori aboard Newgate and Juan Hernandez, up on Worcester, to try to go get 'em. That's like the setup for morning trackwork.
Hard to Figure, the longest shot of the bunch, looked like the upsetter in the stretch run after catching and putting away pacesetting Arabian Lion. But it was the even-money favorite, Newgate, who was up in the final yards to win by a neck from Hard to Figure. Worcester was third and Arabian Lion looks like a sprinter.
It was the second win for Newgate, an Into Mischief colt. In his two previous starts he finished second in the Grade III Bob Hope behind yet another stablemate, last weekend's Grade II San Vicente winner Havnameltdown, and second in the Grade III Sham, just a neck back of Reincarnate -- yes, still another of Baffert's charges.
"I think this is why we have these races, these preps," Baffert said. "You're trying to figure out their styles.
"Newgate, before when we were sending him, he wasn't finishing. I wasn't sure how far he wanted to go. It was Hard to Figure's first time going long, and he almost pulled it off.
"So much improvement in all these horses. Worcester is still a maiden, but we had to get a two-turn race into him, so he's got a bright future ahead of him.
"I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen. What if the gate malfunctions or something? But I can relax now."
No "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points were allocated for the Robert B. Lewis because Baffert remains under the Churchill Downs interdict.
Unless a Kentucky court before the end of February grants him relief through a temporary injunction, decisions will have to be made soon about farming the colts out to other trainers to get them into the Louisville starting gate.
At Gulfstream Park, Rocket Can kicked off his 3-year-old season with a 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Holy Bull Stakes.
Another Into Mischief colt, he tracked the frontrunners, came four-wide to get the lead nearing the quarter pole and won by 3/4 length, holding off long shot Shadow Dragon.
Another long chance, West Coast Cowboy, was third and the favorite, Cyclone Mischief, beat only one rival.
Junior Alvarado rode Rocket Can for trainer Bill Mott, who also trains Shadow Dragon. Although Rocket Can finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in a slow time of 1:44.97, Mott said the agenda includes the March 4 Grade II Fountain of Youth, also likely the spot for the 2022 2-year-old champ, Forte, to make his 3-year-old debut.
"I think we'd want to do that with one of them, for sure," he said.
Rocket Can moved into No. 3 on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard.
Next week's schedule includes the $250,000 Grade III Withers at Aqueduct, the $250,000 Grade III Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather course.
The Path to the Oaks
Red Carpet Ready looks to make her name a reality after scoring her third straight win without a loss in Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park.
The Oscar Performance filly stalked the pace into the turn, hit the gas in the stretch run and won by 2 1/4 lengths from Undervalued Asset. It was another 1 length to Atomically in third.
Red Carpet Ready, with Luis Saez up, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.54. The Rusty Arnold trainee scored both previous wins at Churchill Downs
Interpolate notched her first stakes triumph for trainer Chad Brown in Sunday's $100,000 Ruthless, a 7-furlongs sprint for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct.
Ridden by Eric Cancel, Interpolate stalked and pounced under a well-timed ride to pass pacesetter Girl Trouble down the stretch and post the 2 1/2-lengths score.
"She's always shown a lot of potential in the mornings and it's one of those things with young horses where she's developed week-to-week and month-to-month mentally," Brown said.
"Eric allowed her to really put her development all together today by allowing her to run how she wanted."
Around the divisions:
A Mo Reay wore down pacesetting Lovely Ride through the final furlong of Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park, eventually inching out to a 1/2-length victory. Le Da Vida was third as A Mo Reay finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.07.
Florent Geroux rode for trainer Brad Cox. A Mo Reay, a 4-yaer-old Uncle Mo filly, backed up a victory in the Pago Hop Stakes at Fair Grounds on New Year's Eve.
Filly & Mare Sprint
A few races after sweeping the Robert B. Lewis, Baffert returned to the winner's circle after Fun to Dream came from last of six to win the $200,000 Grade II Santa Monica Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths for her fourth straight win.
Awake at Midnyte and Samurai Charm filled the exacta as Juan Hernandez guided the winner over 7 furlongs in 1:22.75.
Fun to Dream is a family project. She's owned by the trainer and his wife, Jill, and Jill and her friend, Connie Pageley, bred the filly. Further, she's a daughter of Arrogate, one of the most successful horses of Baffert's wildly successful career.
"I was worried at about the three-eighths," Baffert said. "But she was looking good today and doing the best I've seen her do. It just goes to show that she's ready to go a mile or two turns."
And it was Baffert again in the weekend's final Santa Anita stakes race, the $200,000 Grade III Palos Verde. Hopkins, 5-year-old son of Quality Road pressed the pace, took over nearing the furlong pole and pulled away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Radical Right and Straight No Chaser were second and third.
Hopkins, with Juan Hernandez up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.80.
General Jim dropped back to 7 furlongs for Saturday's $125,000 Grade III Claiborne Farm Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park and pulled off the upset, chasing down pacesetting favorite Super Chow to win by 1 length.
It was 11 lengths back to Two of a Kind in third. General Jim, an Into Mischief 3-year-old colt, got home in 1:23.34 with Luis Saez in the irons. He had only two previous wins, both at 1 1/16 miles on turf. Super Chow entered with a record of five wins from six starts, all sprinting.
Candy Overload rallied five-wide through the stretch to capture Saturday's $125,000 Forego Stakes at Turfway Park by 1/2 length. Here Mi Song was second, Night Time third and the odds-on favorite, Visitant, finished fourth.
Candy Overload, a 5-year-old Reload gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.49 with Luan Machado riding for trainer Mark Casse.
Filly & Mare Turf / Turf Mile
Surprisingly chased down the pacesetting trio in the final furlong of Saturday's $175,000 Grade III Endeavour Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, scoring by a neck over Scotish Star. The favorite, Marketsegmentation, was third and the early pacemaker, Panama Red, finished fourth.
Surprisingly, a 4-year-old Phipps Stable homebred filly by Mastery, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.08 with Paco Lopez aboard for trainer Shug McGaughey. She was second in the Tropical Park Oaks at Gulfstream Park in her last start Dec. 26.
Cairo Consort broke awkwardly in Saturday's $175,000 Grade III Sweetest Chant Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, trailed the field down the back stretch and had to come seven-wide around rivals with a late drive to win by 3/4 length. Alpha Bella was second, 1/2 length in front of Heavenly Sunday.
Cairo Consort, a Cairo Prince filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:40.95 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. She now is 2-for-2 as a 3-year-old after finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to wrap up the 2022 season.
Quattroelle rallied from last of seven to post a rare win in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Megahertz Stakes at Santa Anita.
With Hector Berrios riding, the 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare saved ground into the stretch, tipped out to seek running room and got through between rivals to win by 1/2 length. Bay Storm and Closing Remarks were second and third.
Quattrolle ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.04, winning for the fourth time in 14 starts. The wins go with three seconds and four thirds.
Turf / Turf Mile
Emmanuel raced wide in the middle of the pack to the final turn of Saturday's $175,000 Grade III Tampa Bay Stakes, picked things up through the top of the stretch and was along in time to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Winfromwithin was second, a neck in front of Golden Alchemist.
Emmanuel, a 4-year-old colt by More Than Ready, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:39.25. Javier Castellano had the mount for trainer Todd Pletcher.
If the winner's name is familiar, it's because he was on the Triple Crown trail a year ago, finishing fourth in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Blue Grass. He had been idle since being eased home last in the Grade I Saratoga Derby last August.
Major Dude tracked down the center of the stretch in Saturday's $175,000 Grade III Kitten's Joy Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, got by two rivals to his inside in the late going and cleared, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Candidate was second and long shot pacesetter Dude N Colorado held on for third.
Major Dude, a Bolt d'Oro colt, got 1 1/16 mile on good turf in 1:40.22 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. The result reversed the finish of the Jan. 7 Dania Beach Stakes, in which Candidate defeated Major Dude by 1 3/4 lengths.
Earls Rock prevailed by a nose over late-running Du Jour in a ding-dong finish to Saturday's $100,000 Thunder Road Stakes at Santa Anita with the favorite, Air Force Red, just another neck back in third.
Earls Rock, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.05 with Flavien Prat up. The Phil D'Amato trainee was away from the races for 19 months, returning last November, and now has back-to-back wins.
When Baffert wasn't dominating weekend proceedings at Santa Anita, D'Amato was. He sent out Prince Abama, Master of Foxhounds and Say the Word to finish first, second and fourth in Sunday's $200,000 Grade III San Marcos Stakes. Prince Abama put a neck in front of Masteroffoxhounds for the victory and Opry was third.
Prince Abama, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles starting on the downhill course in 2:01.42 with Flavien Prat up.
Around the world, around the clock
Friday marked the midpoint of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, and the excellent card, with four group 1 Thoroughbred events, turned up some live prospects for the March 25 main event.
Algiers doubled down on his victory in the Maktoum Challenge Round 1 with a 6-length domination of the Group 2 Round 2, thoroughly outclassing an accomplished field for jockey James Doyle, who had three winners on the evening.
Doyle and trainers Simon and Ed Crisford said the performance stamps the 6-year-old Shamardal gelding the local favorite for the $12 million Dubai World Cup.
"This is the best we have in the UAE," Doyle said. "He showed there he can get the distance so this opens up options, whether it be Saudi [the $20 million Saudi Cup] or here or wherever."
Simon Crisford said owner Hamdan Sultan Ali Alsabousi will make the targeting choice, adding, "On the back of that effort, we'll obviously be pushing for the World Cup."
The Group 2 Cape Verdi at 1,600 meters on the turf for fillies and mares marked the return of With the Moonlight, a 4-year-old Frankel filly who made a mark for Godolphin last summer in New York.
With William Buick up, With the Moonlight rallied professionally through the stretch to nail pacesetting stablemate White Moonlight, winning by 3/4 length.
"It was a nice place to start her back," Buick said. "She'll come on for that."
Trainer Charlie Appleby said With the Moonlight will contest the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes Feb 24 at Meydan and, "After that, she'll have a bit of a break and head back to America. We'll hope to have a filly or two to join her there."
Doyle scored again in the Group 2 Singspiel Stakes at 1,800 meters, booting home Valiant Prince a short head of Alfareeq after a long stretch drive. Valiant Prince, another from Godolphin' deep pool of turf runners, now looks to the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night.
"He loves it here," Doyle said of Valiant Prince, now 4-for-4 at Meydan. He's growing up all the time. It was another step in the right direction."
In the night's opening group event, trainer Bhupat Seemar saddled Tuz and Freedom Fighter to finish first and third, respectively, in the Group 3 Al Shindagha Sprint. Tuz, always prominent, won by 3 lengths with Isolate second. All can be considered for the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night.
California-based trainer Doug O'Neill sent out his first three Carnival runners without much success. I'll Stand Taller finished sixth in the Al Shindagha, Sifting Sands was last in the Maktoum Challenge and Get Back Goldie, who had a win at last year's Carnival, finished 11th in the night's final race.
Lucky Sweynesse got a clean run in Sunday's Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse and that's all he needed to prove himself king of the hill among Hong Kong sprinters.
The 4-year-old, with Zac Purton up, raced second into the stretch, took over 200 meters out and rolled home 1 1/2 lengths in front. The reigning Hong Kong sprint champ, Wellington, settled for second. That outcome put paid to a controversy going back nearly two months to the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint when Lucky Sweynesse, favored to win his first Group 1, instead was bottled up on the rail and finished sixth, 7 lengths back of Wellington.
Jockey Zac Purton took racing luck out of the equation in the rematch.
"There was nothing I could do in the International Sprint. We drew the wrong gate (No. 3) and we just got locked away," Purton said. "It was pretty painless today. As soon as he begun as well as he did and I was able to get outside the leader, I was fairly confident from there. He still had to turn up and do it and Sight Success gave him a good race."
Winning trainer Manfred Man dismissed thoughts of international travel despite the breakthrough, assessing the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai would interfere with a shot at another win in Hong Kong and compromise chances for this season's sprint crown.
Wellington could have become just the second horse to sweep Hong Kong's Group 1 sprints. The All Too Hard gelding already has victories in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint, the Chairman's Sprint Prize and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup and lacks only the Centenery Sprint Cup for the sweep. Only the immortal Silent Witness has turned that trick, back in 2004-05.
Annaf and Manaafith earned spots in the rapidly approaching Good Friday All-Weather Championships finals at Newcastle with victories in Fast-Track Qualifiers Saturday at Lingfield Park.
Annaf, with Rossa Ryan up for trainer Mick Appleby, missed the break in the 6-furlongs Kachy Stakes but benefitted from some traffic issues in front of him to overcome that and get home first by a neck for his third win of the season. The win got him a spot in the £150,000 All-Weather Sprint Championship.
"He's quite small but pretty nippy. Hopefully, we can go on to Finals Day and he can win there," Appleby said. "Newcastle will definitely suit him better than here, so we will freshen him up and go straight there."
Manaafith, a Shadwell homebred, won her second Fast-Track Qualifier of the season, taking the 1-mile Tandridge Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths from Sir Busker.
The Shadwell homebred, trained by Roger Varian, had already booked her Good Friday place thanks to a Filly & Mare Fast-Track Qualifier success at Southwell on New Year's Day, one of five previous all-weather wins.
Saturday's victory means the 4-year-old also has the option of running in the £150,000 All-Weather Mile Championship.
Hrimfaxi made some noise on the 3-year-old front Sunday at Chukyo Racecourse, rallying from a perfect pace-stalking trip to lead in the lane in the Grade 3 feature, then holding off Open Fire to win by a head.
Hrimfaxi, a Rulership colt, finished second in his debut in October, won his second start in November and was away for two months before winning again at Chukyo. All his starts have been at 2,000 meters.
Hrimfaxi sold for US$1.17 million at the 2021 January Select Yearling Sale.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Saturday was Louisiana Premier Night for state-bred horses. The track was fast.
Jack Hammer, a Jimmy Creed gelding, rallied by pacesetting Mark's Promise to win the $100,000 Premier Prince for 3-year-olds by 1 1/4 lengths. Alpine Mist ruled the stretch run to upset the $100,000 Premier Starlet by 1 length over Oliva G.
Bron and Brow came from last of nine to win the $100,000 Premier Sprint by 1 1/2 lengths with Takes Two to Tango second. Odds-on favorite Ova Charged dead-heated with long shot Snowball for the win in the $100,000, 5-furlongs Premier Matron for fillies and mares.
Free Like a Girl, the odds-on favorite, won the $125,000 Premier Distaff, holding on by 1 length over Winning Romance. Touchuponastar stalked the pace, pounced in the stretch and won the feature, the $150,000 Premier Championship, by 2 1/2 lengths as the favorite.
Quatro drafted behind two speedy rivals in Sunday's $100,000 La Coneja Stakes for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares, moved to the lead when asked by jockey Luis Fuentes and was in control in the stretch, winning by 1 length over Corrina Corrina. Bikini Time and Tight Fittin Jeans were third and fourth, respectively.
Quatro, a 5-year-old Mr. Gold Mover mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.39.