1 of 2 | Litigate wins Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, jumping into the Kentucky Derby picture. SV Photography, courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs
Feb. 13 (UPI) -- So where did we see a serious Kentucky Derby during weekend horse racing -- Hit Show winning in New York, Litigate in Florida, Chase the Chaos in California or Tall Boy in Dubai?
None of them looked quite ready for the starring role yet. And, with the early favorite, Forte, still gearing up for his 3-year-old debut and other prominent candidates beginning to fall to attrition ... we probably saw some clues, but no answers.
On the international front, Do Deuce returned to winning ways in Japan and might be headed for Dubai. In Dubai itself, in addition to a potential Kentucky Derby prospect, Friday's Carnival program had clues to some turf events on upcoming big nights.
The Road to the Roses
New York form didn't hold up too well in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct as the only long-range shipper, Hit Show, easily blew by pacesetting local star Arctic Arrogance in the stretch and ran on to win by 5 1/2 lengths.
It was another 6 1/4 lengths to General Banker in third and 14 3/4 more to Andiamo a Firenze in fourth.
Hit Show, a Candy Ride colt based at Oaklawn Park, wouldn't be considered near the top even of trainer Brad Cox's Kentucky Derby hopefuls. He was making his stakes debut, while Arctic Arrogance was second in the Grade II Remsen and second again in the Jerome Stakes in his last two starts.
Hit Show didn't set any speed records, finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.71 but jockey Manny Franco had him wrapped up well before the finish.
Cox said he was encouraged enough by the effort to consider sending Hit Show along to the $750,000 Grade II Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 8, a race offering 100 "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points to the winner.
"He'll go back to Belmont tonight and chill out there for a while and recover and we'll come up with a game plan for him," Cox said. "It very well could be the Wood Memorial. He obviously likes the racetrack there and we'll see how things go."
The Big Apple form took an even stouter hit in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
While Arctic Arrogance at least salvaged second in the Withers, the horse that beat him in the Jerome, Dubyuhnell, never ran a lick at the Tampa oval and checked in eighth as Litigate rallied around rivals to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Litigate, a Blame colt trained by Todd Pletcher, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.83 with Luis Saez up.
Litigate and Dubyuhnell were the favorites with the rest at boxcar odds even though Litigate was making his stakes debut after finishing second, beaten almost 6 lengths, in his last start.
"I'm very pleased with Litigate," Pletcher said. "He got a good position early and finished well. We thought he would appreciate two turns."
Chase the Chaos came with a strong stretch run to win Saturday's $100,000 El Camino Real Derby on the Golden Gate Fields all-weather course, easily holding off Southern California raider Gilmore by 1 1/2 lengths.
Harcyn was third, followed by Passarando and Nularbor, who opened a big early lead and faded late.
Chase the Chaos, an Astern gelding, has two wins, a second and a third since arriving in the Bay Area last autumn.
Tall Boy, winless in four starts in California as a 2-year-old, wasted no time getting on the board in Dubai.
The Lookin At Lucky colt, trained by Doug O'Neill, chased down well fancied Shirl's Bee in the final 100 meters of Friday's Group 3 UAE 2000 Guineas at Meydan Racecourse and beat that one by 1 length, looking ready for more.
Shirl's Bee, trained by Doug Watson for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, had won his only previous start over the same course.
Tall Boy and Shirl's Bee are nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown and both now look certain to move along to the Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night, March 25. That race is part of the Churchill Downs qualifying series, with 100 points to the winner and 40-30-20-10 for the next four finishers.
Shirl's Bee was the even-money favorite on the international markets (no wagering in Dubai), and Tall Boy's professional run through the tiring Meydan stretch, albeit in slow time, might have been the most professional performance of the weekend Derby preps.
All said and done
Hit Show and Litigate and litigate moved into a three-way tie behind Forte and Holy Bull winner Rocket Can on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard.
None of the El Camino Real's top five finishers is officially on the list because the winner, Chase the Chaos, and third- and fourth-place finishers are not nominated to the Triple Crown.
The points remain on the board in case they are made late nominees. The Baffert-trained horses did not and will not get points for their effort as the trainer remains under the Churchill Downs interdict, at least pending a court ruling.
The series moves back to New Orleans on Feb. 18 for the $400,000 Grade II Risen Star Stakes with the ante bumped up to 50-20-15-10-5 points.
The "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" resumes Sunday with the 1-mile Hyacinth Stakes on the Tokyo Racecourse dirt. The race is worth 30 points to the winner.
With a record number of Japanese nominations to the U.S. Triple Crown and a stated desire on the part of Japanse racing officials to upgrade their dirt program, it's worth a look.
The Path to the Oaks
Dreaming of Snow, a 38-1 long shot, got the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and refused to relinquish it.
The 2022 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Eclipse Award winner, Wonder Wheel, gave it a go in the final furlong but fell a neck short in her 3-year-old debut.
It was another 1 1/4 lengths to Julia Shining in third as Dreaming of Snow, a daughter of Jess's Dream, finished 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:40.18 under Sammy Camacho.
"She just got a little tired," said Wonder Wheel's jockey, Tyler Gaffalione. "Today wasn't the end goal. We've got bigger things ahead."
Next weekend: The $300,000 Grade II Rachel Alexandra at Fair Grounds and the $150,000 Group 3 UAE Oaks at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, each with 50 points for the winner.
Divining the Divisions:
Drew's Gold remained undefeated with a romping, 4 1/4-lengths, front- running victory in Saturday's $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct.
With Jose Gomez riding for trainer James Chapman, the Violence colt shook off early pace pressure on the turn and was never in trouble through the stretch.
He finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.09. He won at Churchill Downs and Laurel Park before Saturday's victory.
Sibelius fought Doctor Oscar into submission after a long pace battle in Saturday's $100,000 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and kicked away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival.
Sibelius, a 5-year-old Not This Time gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.75, just 0.12 second off the track record, with Junior Alvarado up.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Klassy Bridgette and Pate turned Saturday's $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies into a stretch-running match race with the former prevailing by a neck.
The favorite, Key of Life, had a head in front turning for home but tired to finish third, another 2 3/4 lengths in arrears. Klassy Bridgette, an Army Mule filly, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:11.63 for jockey Francisco Arrieta.
The Dixie Belle was the filly's third win of the Oaklawn meeting and trainer Chris Hartman acknowledged he now faces a question: "Whether we'll stretch her out. I've been wanting to stretch her out, but she's been doing so well sprinting. I don't know. We're going to have to ask that question. We're going to have to answer it someday, right?"
On Saturday at Turfway Park, 42-1 long shot B G Warrior got a daylight lead in the stretch in the $125,000 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and held off the favorite, Murky, to win by 3/4 length.
Tammy Tap Tap Tap was along from last of nine to get show money. B G Warrior, a daughter of Run Away and Hide, toured 6 1/2 furlongs of all-weather track in 1:17.65 with David Haldar in the irons.
The Valdale was only her second win from 10 starts but she did finish first in the Gowell Stakes at Turfway on New Year's Eve, only to be set down to second.
Manhattan Jungle surged to a clear lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita and fended off a late run by Ragtime Rose to win by 3/4 length. It was another 3/4 length to pacesetting Itzel in third.
Manhattan Jungle, an Irish-bred filly by Bungle Inthejungle, got 6 1/2 furlongs starting on the downhill course in 1:14.08 with Frankie Dettori up for trainer Michael McCarthy.
Manhattan Jungle raced in good company in France before coming to contest the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland, where she finished eighth for trainer Aidan O'Brien. She finished second in the Blue Norther Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 30 in her only previous start for McCarthy.
Yes I Am Free sprinted to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint and held on late, winning by 1/2 length over the favorite, Carotari. Shekky Shebaz was another 3/4 length back in third.
Yes I Am Free, a 7-year-old Uncaptured gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 55.72 seconds with Miguel Vasquez at the controls.
One Identity split rivals late to get up at the wire in Saturday's $100,000 Ladies' Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park. Charlie T held a brief lead, then settled for second, a neck in front of Mamba Wamba. One Identity, a 4-year-old Uncaptured filly, reported in 55.92 seconds with Paco Lopez in the irons.
Filly & Mare Turf
Ag Bullet stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Lady of Shamrock Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, got by to a clear lead in the stretch and held on to win by a neck over The Wild Grazer. Princess Bettina was third.
Ag Bullet, a Twirling Candy filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.82 with Frankie Dettori riding for George Papaprodromou.
Around the world, around the clock
Friday's Carnival program provided a peek at some potential contenders for Super Saturday and World Cup night beyond the 3-year-old set.
The Curlin Handicap is designed as an alternative route to the World Cup and trainer Bhupat Seemar took full advantage Friday, saddling the 1-2 finishers, Franz Strauss and Sanad Lybia.
Some better-known names, including Hypothetical and Thegreatcollection, finished well back, though they may have needed the race off layoffs.
Franz Strauss, a 4-year-old by Golden Horn, is not bred for the dirt, but Seemar said he's taken to it well, winning for the second straight time on the surface and now is a candidate for the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 on Super Saturday.
The Group 2 Blue Point Sprint shaped up as a prep race for two Godolphin speedsters, Lazuli and Man of Promise. Both were in contention until the final stages of the 1,200-meters dash but Man of Promise ran out of gas, finishing last of 12 while Lazuli was edged back to a fourth-place finish.
The winner, Miqyaas, was on few radar screens as he lined up for the race. Ladies Church, a Group 2 winner in Ireland, finished second with a good effort off a long vacation.
The upcoming Friday card has the Group 3 UAE Oaks, the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes at 2,000 meters on the turf and the Group 3 Nad Al Sheeba Trophy at 2,810 meters on the grass.
The Millennium Stakes is a logical prep for the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic at 2,410 meters and the Nad Al Sheeba for the Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup at 3,200 meters, both on World Cup night.
Put Do Deuce back on the path to stardom in Japan, perhaps with a detour to Dubai.
The 4-year-old Heart's Cry colt won the Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity at age 2 and the Grade I Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby last summer. Then he was off to France to chase that unicorn of Japanese racing, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Faced with soft turf, he managed a gallant fourth in the Group 2 Prix Niel but slogged home 19th in the Arc itself.
All was forgotten and forgiven as Do Deuce, in his first start since the Arc, came like a shot from near the back of a decent field to win Sunday's Grade 2 Kyoto Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse by 3 1/2 lengths.
The victory was all the more impressive as he started from the No. 12 gate and was wide throughout as jockey Yutaka Take kept him in the clear and out of trouble. Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi reportedly plans to slot Do Deuce into the Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night as his next test.
Matenro Leo was second with Pradoria third in Sunday's heat. Japan's 2021 Horse of the Year, Efforia, was pulled up in deep stretch and failed to finish the race.
As the 3-year-olds get ready for the Classics season, Phantom Thief put in a good effort in winning Sunday's Grade 3 Kyodo News Hai at Tokyo Racecourse, but none of the first half-dozen finishers was in any way disgraced.
Phantom Thief, a Harbinger colt, conceded the lead to Touch Wood on the backstretch and loped along in second place into the uphill climb in the stretch. Rallying from the 200-meters mark, he wore down Touch Wood and got by to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Touch Wood held second with Danon the Tiger, Tastiera and Win Odin all in close attendance. The 1,800 meters on good to firm turf went in 1:47.0 with Christophe Lemair aboard the winner, who finished fourth in the Grade 1 Hopeful to finish his 2-year-old campaign.
Jacquinot was sandwiched between rivals for the final 500 meters of Saturday's Group 1 C F Orr Stakes at Sandown and could never quite get to terms with first-finisher Gentleman Roy.
The stewards reversed that finish after a look at the crowded final stages of the 1,400-meter event. The victory makes the 3-year-old Rubik colt 2-for-2 this season and 5-for-10 overall.
"Win them any way you can," said Jacquinot's jockey, Damien Lane. "But he should have won it out here so the right decision was made."
Meanwhile, back in the States ...
Funny How was off a step slow in Sunday's $100,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, got pinched back and raced last of six early.
Rallying around rivals, she made up all the ground through the stretch and got away to win by 4 1/4 lengths with Betsy Blue best of the rest. Funny How, a 4-year-old Overanalyze filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.82 with Katie Davis in the irons.
Tampa Bay Downs
Drifaros dueled to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares at Tampa Bay Downs, slowly eased away from her rivals and won by 1 1/4 lengths from Olivia Darling. The odds-on favorite finished fourth while returning from a long layoff.
Drifaros, a 4-year-old Kantharos filly, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.85 with Daniel Centeno riding.
Sonny Smack rallied from last of nine to win Saturday's $60,000 Turf Paradise Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Zestful with Tartini third. Sonny Smack, an 8-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.02 for jockey Jose Zunino.
Yankee Dollar took the opposite approach in the companion $60,000 Molly P. Stakes for fillies and mares, leading comfortably throughout and winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Miss Hard Knocks was second.
Yankee Dollar, a 4-year-old California Chrome filly, finished in 1:35.48 under Harry Hernandez.