Voyage Bubble (No. 4) wins Sunday's BMW Hong Kong Derby. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
March 20 (UPI) -- It was an unlikely weekend in horse racing: A surprise potential Kentucky Derby candidate emerged in Maryland, a 16-1 chance won the rich Golden Slipper for 2-year-olds in Australia and a 45-1 shot took out the Hong Kong Derby.
The Ryan Moore world tour found the star jockey winning two Group 1 events in Australia on Saturday, then posting a second and third in Hong Kong on Sunday. He heads for Dubai with a chance for more this coming weekend.
Back in the United States, Last Samurai and Tejano Twist were victorious in big-money races at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.
Today's quiz: When is an Emu not a bird? See the Japan section of "Around the world, around the clock," which is where we'll start this treatise.
Around the world, around the clock
Upsets, mild to major, were the order of day Saturday at Rosehill Gardens with the notable exception of Anamoe. He was all out after a wide trip to win the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes by 1/2 length as the odds-on favorite.
The 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Street Boss, with James McDonald riding for trainer James Cummings, made it three in a row on the season. A year ago, he was winning the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas at the same meeting. Since then, he's bagged seven wins from nine starts.
This year's Guineas went to Linderman, a Woppitt Bloodstock homebred colt by Lonhro. With Nash Rawiller up, Linderman made all and held off Godolphin's short-priced favorite, Pericles, by a nose in a thrilling finish to the 2,000 meters.
Linderman finished second in the Group 1 Randwick Guineas March 4 in his seasonal debut and looked like the real deal at Rosehill.
Dubai Honor exploded down the stretch in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Montefilia with the favorite, Mo'unga, fading late to finish third. Dubai Honor, a world traveler for trainer William Haggas, was having his first go since finishing sixth in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot last October.
A year ago, he finished 10th, albeit only 4 1/2 lengths back of the winner, Shahryar, in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night. Ryan Moore had the winning ride before departing for Hong Kong to ride in Sunday's program at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Mariamia skimmed the fence in the Group 1 Kia Ora Galaxy Stakes and got the jump on favorite Uncommon James in the last 100 meters. That was enough as the 6-year-old Toronado mare held well to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival, notching her third win from four starts on the season, first in a Group 1.
Moore booted home another long shot in the Group 1 Longines Golden Slipper, at AUS$5 million (US$3.5 million) the richest race in the world for 2-year-olds.
Shinzo, a Snitzel colt owned in partnership by Coolmore, found a big opening on the rail at mid stretch, drove through and held off the favorite, Cylinder, another Godolphin homebred, by a decisive 1 1/4 lengths at the end of 1,200 meters.
King's Gambit was coming like a freight train down the middle of the track but settled for third.
"Golden Slippers are so hard to win," Racenet quoted Coolmore's Tom Magnier as saying.
"This is the race we wanted to win more than any other this year. We asked Ryan Moore to come out and ride Shinzo at short notice and what can you say about him. Thank God for Ryan Moore. He is on another level. He is so patient."
For his part, Moore said he is "sure [Shinzo] is not just an out-and-out six furlong sprinter. I'm sure he's going to be more comfortable when he gets over more ground. It feels like he's improving and he'll continue to improve and all being well he'll have a good future."
Moore, whose two Group 1 wins were his only rides of the day, credited Magnier.
"Tom called me last week at this time and asked if I'd like to come down. If it wasn't for him I wouldn't be here,'' Moore said.
Sunday's BMW Hong Kong Derby always looked like a relatively wide-open race with the two lead-in races going to different winners and nothing in the big field a sure thing to get the 2,000 meters.
Still, few reckoned it was wide open enough for Voyage Bubble, a 45-1 chance who was sixth in his previous start, to come from dead last to win by a nose over Tuchel. The favorite, Beauty Eternal, finished third.
Alexis Badel rode the winner for trainer Ricky Yiu, with the aforementioned Ryan Moore on Tuchel and Hong Kong's leading jockey, Zac Purton, on Beauty Eternal.
It was sweet irony for Badel, who lost the mount on Wellington in the day's co-featured Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup in favor of Moore.
Badel said he and Yiu plotted the last-to-first voyage for Voyage Bubble after he drew the outside gate.
"Everybody thought the gate was bad, but it was actually probably the reason I won the race because I had to come back," Badel added.
"We had to change our plan and the tempo wasn't very quick and I had my horse relax early and I saved ground and then I had no hesitation to improve a bit on the back straight."
Yiu won the Derby for the first time. In seven previous tries, he had nothing better than a seventh-place finish.
"Of course, this is the most prestigious race in Hong Kong racing and I'm very, very happy and grateful to win this Derby race," the trainer said.
The Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup looked very much like a changing of the guard as 4-year-old Lucky Sweynesse defeated 6-year-old reigning champion Wellington for the second straight race.
Lucky Sweynesse chased pacesetting California Spangle into the final 100 meters, edged past that one and won the 1,400-meters race by 1 1/4 lengths. Wellington finished well back in third.
Winning trainer Manfred Man said Lucky Sweynesse will tackle the Chairman's Sprint Prize (G1) at Sha Tin o April 30 with an eye on the Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse on June 4.
Bellagio Opera upped his record to three wins from as many starts with a tidy, off-the-pace victory in Sunday's Grade 2 Spring Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse.
The Lord Kanaloa colt, with Takeshi Yokoyama up for trainer Hiroyuki Uemura, settled well off the pace but out of trouble through the first turn and down the backstretch.
When called on, he swung wide around the field and reached the front at the end of the uphill climb through the stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Ho O Biscuits. Bellagio Opera ran 1,800 meters on yielding turf in 1:48.9.
The colt won at first asking Nov. 20 and returned with a win in the SaintPaulia Sho at Tokyo Racecourse on Jan. 29. The Fuji TV Sho is a trial heat for the Japanese 2000 Guineas.
On the filly front, circle the name Emu. The Harbinger filly was squeezed back at the start of Saturday's Grade 3 Flower Cup at Nakayama, raced last down the backstretch and still had the stuffing to rally for a 1/2-length victory over Hip Hop Soul.
Emu, trained by Shoichiro Wada, took three tries to get her first win in 2022, reported eighth in her 3-year-old debut and won the Daisy Sho at Nakayama Feb. 26.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
The Road to the Roses
It's a bit of a stretch to get from Saturday's $100,000 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park to the Kentucky Derby. But Hayes Strike's off-the-pace, 1 1/4-lengths victory over the favorite, Coffeewithchris, may have set him on that course.
The Connect colt, trained by Kenny McPeek for owner/breeder Dixiana Farms, has had more downs than ups while posting just a maiden win from eight previous starts. His last start was a dismal effort on the Turfway Park all-weather surface.
But Hayes Strike did finish third, beaten just 1 1/4 lengths, in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs in November and he is an early Triple Crown nominee.
"We couldn't be more pleased," McPeek said after the Laurel race. "He's had some races that were tosses. ... He really wanted to run on the dirt. We'll probably bring him back in the Blue Grass. He's got a Kentucky-based owner. Dixiana will probably give him a shot back home."
The $1 million Grade I Blue Grass on April 8 at Keeneland offers "Road to the Kentucky Derby" Points on the 100-40-30-20-10 scale. With the 7 points already banked, Hayes Strike almost certainly would qualify for the Run for the Roses with a top-three finish and, perhaps, even with a fourth.
The Blue Grass will feature much stiffer competition than the Private Terms.
Classic / Dirt Mile
Last Samurai stalked the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Essex Handicap at Oaklawn Park, came outside rivals and wore down pacesetting Classic Causeway to win by 1 length over that one. Forza Di Oro was third.
Last Samurai, a 5-year-old by Malibu Moon, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.17 with Cristian Torres up. He is 2-for-2 at the Hot Springs track since finishing fourth in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational in January at Gulfstream Park.
"I actually felt that the race was smoother and more professional today than the last one," said Last Samurai's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. "He got a beautiful ride from Cristian. ... It was a very smooth run. I don't think it took that much out of him for his next run."
At Laurel Park, Nimitz Class continued his steady improvement with a third straight win, taking the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel Park by 6 1/4 lengths over Double Crown.
Nimitz Class, a 4-year-old Munnings colt, stalked the pace under Jevian Toledo, moved when asked and was clearly best. He finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.43. The colt, formerly working in the state-bred ranks, caught fire during the winter and has improved his numbers steadily in six straight starts while moving up the class ladder.
Lady Lowery maintained her undefeated record with a dominating victory in Saturday's $100,000 Beyond the Wire Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Laurel Park. The Munnings filly went quickly to the front, opened a daylight lead and reported first by 3 lengths over Happy Clouds. She got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.29 with Jack Gilligan aboard.
Her first two wins came on the Turfway Park all-weather at 6 1/2 furlongs. Trainer William Walden said Lady Lowery could come back in the Grade II Eight Belles at 7 furlongs May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Tejano Twist started near the rear of the 10-horse field in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Whitmore Stakes at Oaklawn Park, came five-wide around rivals heading for home and won going away, by 1 1/2 lengths over Miles Ahead. Edge to Edge surrendered the lead in the lane and finished third.
Tejano Twist, a 4-year-old Practical Joke gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.27 with Francisco Arrieta up. It was his fourth win from his last five starts with a second in the King Cotton Stakes in his most recent.
"He's a nice horse," Arrieta said of Tejano Twist. "He's got a great kick, man, that horse. I just let him run. So impressed how fast he went."
Super Chow missed a beat at the start in Saturday's $100,000 Hutcheston Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park but still was too good for three rivals, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. Live Is Life was second.
Super Chow, a Lord Nelson colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.95 under Chantal Sutherland. Trained by Jorge Delgado for Lea Farms LLC, Super Chow has won six of eight starts and was second in the Grade III Swale Stakes in his previous outing when asked to try 7 furlongs.
Delgado said Super Chow will be pointed toward the 6-furlongs Grade III Chick Lang on the Preakness Stakes undercard at Pimlico.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Downtown Mischief, the odds-on favorite, took charge in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct, winning off by 1 1/2 lengths from Tappin Josie.
Downtown Mischief, a daughter of Into Mischief, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.72 and remains undefeated after three starts. Jose Lezcano rode for trainer Linda Rice.
Filly & Mare Turf
Princess Bettina surged out to a big lead in Saturday's $100,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita and wasn't caught. With Frankie Dettori in the irons, the Will Take Charge filly scampered home first by 4 1/4 lengths with the favorite, Comanche Country, best of the rest.
Princess Bettina ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.19, earning just her second career win.
Big Invasion, making his first start since September, resumed his customary winning ways by capturing Saturday's $100,000 Silks Run Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 3/4 lengths over Yes I Am Free. Carotari was third.
Big Invasion, a 4-year-old Declaration of War colt, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.02 seconds for jockey Joel Rosario. He finished third in the $600,000 Franklin-Simpson Stakes at Kentucky Downs in his last start Sept. 10, but before that he had reeled off six straight wins including the Grade III Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga last summer.
Around the ovals:
Friday's $100,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares came off the downhill turf course and two of the original six entries decided to pass on the switch to dirt. Of the four left, odds-on favorite Alice Marble ran to her notices, taking the lead in the lane to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Rose Maddox.
Alice Marble, a 6-year-old Grazen mare, got the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.95 with Flavien Prat up for trainer Phil D'Amato.
Sunday's $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for state-breds stayed on the grass and The Chosen Vron just did justify his odds-on favorite status.
The 5-year-old Vronsky gelding raced behind the leading trio, and then won a three-way sprint to the wire by a nose over pacesetting Kings River Knight and another head from Indian Peak. The Chosen Vron, with Hecto Berrios up, finished the gravity-aided 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.97.
Opening Buzz and Baby No Worries closed with a rush in the final furlong of Friday's $125,000 WEBN Frog Stakes for fillies and mares with Opening Buzz prevailing by a neck.
The 4-year-old, California-bred daughter of Stanford ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.62 with Luan Machado in the irons.
Mavilus was pinched back at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Conniver Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares, raced at the back of the field and then came seven-wide into the stretch, passed them all and won by 1/2 length over Sweet Lute.
Mavilus, a 5-year-old Orientate mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.16 with Jaime Rodriguez up.
Breezy Gust blew his rivals away in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Not For Love Stakes for state-breds, winning by 1 1/4 lengths from Kenny Had a Notion. The even-money favorite, Eastern Bay, had traffic issues and finished third.
Breezy Gust, a 5-year-old Great Notion gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.30 for jockey Dexter Haddock.
Golden Gate Fields
American Farmer outfinished Crazy Dreams in Saturday's $75,000 McCann's Mojave Stakes for California-breds, winning by 1/2 length. Jimmy Blue Jeans was third.
American Farmer, a 6-year-old son of Bluegrass Cat, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:51.20.
Looms Boldly dueled to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Damon Runyon Stakes for New York-breds, opened a good lead and then dueled to the wire with Andiamo a Firenze before winning by 1/2 length. What's Up Bro was third.
Looms Boldly, a Goldencents colt trained by Brad Cox, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.75 with Manny Franco in the irons.