1 of 2 | Master of The Seas wins the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Michael Burns photo, courtesy of Woodbine
Sept. 18 (UPI) -- Sheik Mohammed's Godolphin empire had another good weekend raiding North American turf races, landing a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" spot in the process, while Churchill Downs kicked off the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" at its flagship track.
Godolphin almost completed a hat trick with victories in the Grade I Woodbine Million and the Jockey Club Oaks at Aqueduct and a traffic-troubled third in the Grade I Natalma Stakes, one of two "Win and You're In" races for turf-running 2-year-olds at Woodbine.
Aqueduct, Delaware Park and Pimlico also were in the mix of weekend stakes races.
On the global scene, Coolmore's Continuous won the Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster, boosting his stock for the Arc d'Triomphe. Down Under, Mr Brightside burnished his Cox Plate resume with a win in the Group 1 Makybe Diva at Flemington.
And Monday in Japan, Sol Oriens will attempt to do the same for his chances in next month's Japanese St. Leger.
And yes, since you asked, some jurisdictions have it "St Leger" and others punctuate it to "St. Leger." We struggle to keep that straight as we move straight to business.
Master of The Seas easily was master of Saturday's $1 million (Canadian) Grade I Woodbine Mile. After a slow start, jockey William Buick smoothly guided the 5-year-old Dubawi gelding around rivals at the top of the stretch and kicked away to win by 3 3/4 lengths over old foe Shirl's Speight.
It was a virtual replay of last year's Mile when Buick rode now-retired Modern Games to victory in the stretch. Modern Games went on from that to win the Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland and Master of The Seas earned a "Win and You're In" spot in that race in November at Santa Anita.
Buick said he was not concerned about the tardy start, adding that Master of the Seas seems to be regaining the form that saw him a close second in the Group 1 Qipco 2000 Guineas in 2021.
Alex Merrian, assistant to winning trainer Charlie Appleby, said Master of the Seas will return to England to await a decision about returning to North America for the Breeders' Cup.
"He has been very relaxed over here and settled in well," Merriam said. We see the result of that. He is professional and he's done it nicely.
"He will ship home, then we'll see how he comes out of the race and see how he is at the end of October. Hopefully if all is well, maybe go back to the Breeders' Cup."
At Pimlico, Highestdistinction got by pacesetting King Vega in the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III BWI Turf Cup and jetted away for a 3 3/4-length win. King Vega, Smokin' T and He'spuregold completed the order of finish.
Highestdistinction, a Point of Entry gelding, has clawed his way up from the claiming ranks this year and now has three straight wins. He took the Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth Park in his most recent start.
Cross Border saved ground near the back of the field through the first mile of Saturday's $200,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes at Delaware Park, came around rivals heading into the stretch and was in command by the sixteenth pole.
At the wire, the 9-year-old English Channel ridgling was out front by 2 1/2 lengths with pacesetting favorite Tawny Port pushed back to second. Tough Tickets added value to the trifecta payout.
Cross Border, trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Ruben Silvera, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:33.31. The veteran started in the claiming ranks and climbed up to win stakes on both turf and all-weather tracks, earning more than $1.3 million to date. He won a jumps race at Aiken in March.
Filly & Mare Turf
Eternal Hope did her part in Godolphin's weekend American turf blitz with a last-to-first victory in Saturday's $350,000 Grade III Fasig-Tipton Jockey Club Oaks at Aqueduct.
The Teofilo filly, with Jamie Spencer up, rallied six-wide around the field on the stretch turn and edged Neecie Marie by a neck. Speirling Beag was third. Eternal Hope ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:16.47.
It was her third win from six starts for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby in a career that also includes a seventh-place showing in the Epsom Oaks.
"She struggled a lot from the three-eighths to the straight," Spencer said. "Once it straightened up, she was able to get balanced, then she surged up.
"It's a difficult track and there's not a track in Europe as tight as this. It's really fast ground, so it's a speed test. I think you can up her performance based on what happened today."
Sacred Wish rallied around rivals into the stretch run of Friday's $135,000 Winter Memories Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct and ran by to win by 1 1/4 lengths from Silver Skillet.
Sacred Wish, a Not This Time filly, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.46 with John Velazquez up. Second in the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga, she got her second career win.
West Saratoga worked his way to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs and expanded the advantage to win by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Risk It. Liberal Arts and Seize the Grey were a close third and fourth.
West Saratoga, a gray colt by Exaggerator, needed five starts to find the winner's circle but now has two straight victories for trainer Larry Demeritte.
He also zips to the top of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard. The Iroquois was the first race in that series and West Saratoga earned 10 points for winning it.
"It's very special to get started on the Road to the Kentucky Derby," winning owner Harry Veruchi said.
Carson's Run earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf with a last-to-first victory in Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Bet365 Summer Stakes at Woodbine.
With Dylan Davis up, the chestnut son of Cupid got rolling midway around the turn while swinging well out into the center of the course and caught pacesetting favorite My Boy Prince in the final strides. Go With Gusto, a Medaglia d'Oro filly, was third.
Carson's Run finished second in his previous start and Davis said he was "intimidated between horses. This time we wanted to go the outside route."
Christophe Lorieul, assistant to winning trainer Christophe Clement, didn't make any Breeders' Cup commitments, but noted Carson's Run "had a clear run from the quarter pole to the wire and he really showed what he is today."
V V's dream drew off in the final furlong of Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs to win by 8 3/4 lengths as the favorite. Youalmosthadme was best of the rest, 3/4 length in front of Hot Beach.
V V's Dream, a Mitole filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.45 for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. The Kenny McPeek charge won her first start at Churchill Downs in May, and then was second to Brightwork in the Debutante at Ellis Park.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
She Feels Pretty found another gear in the stretch run in Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Grade I Johnny Walker Natalma Stakes at Woodbine, leaving a dozen rivals behind in a 4 1/4-length win.
The Karakontie filly improved to 2-for-2 while giving her trainer, Cherie DeVaux, her first Grade I win.
She Feels Pretty also earned a "Win and You're In" spot in November's Breeders' Cup. She was picked out of last year's Keeneland September sale for $240,000 by bloodstock agent David Ingordo, who also spotted Flightline, Zenyatta and others for his clients.
She Feels Pretty already has repaid her purchase price to her owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, owners-breeders of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
"Every single day that she has trained she physically matured, she mentally matured, " DeVaux said. "She goes out there and you can't tell that she is a 2-year-old filly.
"She looks like she is one of the older fillies and, more impressively, just how she trains. Every single day, she is happy to do it. It gave me confidence going into this, especially taking this big step."
Search Results went quickly to the front in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Locust Grove Stakes at Churchill Downs and wasn't challenged, winning by 3 3/4 lengths over Hidden Connection. Misty Veil was a long-shot third.
Tyler Gaffalione rode the Chad Brown trainee over 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.40. Search Results finished second to Malathat in the 2021 Kentucky Oaks and, since then, has posted a top-three finish in all but one of 12 starts, missing only with a sixth-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Bango took the lead in the lane in Saturday's $300,000 Louisville Thoroughbred Stakes at Churchill Downs and held on to win by a head over Gulfstream Way.
Bango, a 6-year-old son of Congrats, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.02 with Tyler Gaffalione aboard for trainer Greg Foley. He got his fifth win from his last eight starts with the other two being seconds.
Patches O'Houlihan was all out to extend his winning streak to six with a victory in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Vigil Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course.
The 3-year-old Reload gelding dueled for the lead through the first 5 furlongs, put away that competition and then just did hold off the late run of Last American Exit by a nose.
Patches O'Houlihan now has seven wins from eight career starts, but trainer Robert Tiller said he missed it while stuck in a Woodbine elevator. "First one I missed in 50 years," he said.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Yuugiri ran by pacesetting Fire On Time in the stretch run of Saturday's $300,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs and opened up to win by 3 lengths over that one.
The odds-on favorite, Wicked Halo, was never in contention and finished third, another 5 3/4 lengths behind.
Yuugiri, a 4-year-old Shackleford filly, has been tough on dirt throughout her career but finished up the track on turf and all-weather courses in two of her last three starts.
Ready to Venture got a nice trip behind an early speed duel in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine, got through between rivals in the stretch run and won by 1 1/4 lengths over latecomer Millie Girl.
Ready to Venture, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Kingman, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:21.60 with Rafael Hernandez in the irons. The Lael Stable homebred won for the sixth time in 20 starts and got her first graded stakes victory.
Around the world, around the clock
Ryan Moore, one of the world's best jockeys, rationed out the speed and stamina of his mount, Continuous, to score a front-running victory in Saturday's Group 1 St Leger at Doncaster with Arrest second under another of the globe's best riders, Frankie Dettori.
For good measure, the king and queen were on hand to cheer on their Desert Hero, who finished a game third.
It was trainer Aidan O'Brien's seventh St Leger win, Moore's third, the first St Leger run as owners for the Royals and the last for Dettori unless he changes his mind about retiring at year's end.
It also boosted the stock of Continuous for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The son of the late Japanese sire Heart's Cry has improved markedly since finishing eighth in the French Derby on June 4.
He was second in the Group 2 King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, then won the Group 2 Great Voltigeur at York.
On Friday at Doncaster, Trueshan lumbered to the lead a half mile out in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup -- a 2 1/4-mile test run on soft turf -- and held on thereafter to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Sweet William.
Broome was third with The Grand Visir and Coltrane completing the order of finish.
Trueshan, a 7-year-old Planteur gelding, won the Group 2 British Champions Long Distance Cup last October with Coltrane second. Friday's race was his second since that triumph. In the interim, he finished fourth in a Cup trial won by Coltrane, then underwent minor throat surgery.
Mr Brightside, the hot favorite, furthered his case for the Cox Plate with a determined victory over Alligator Blood in Saturday's Group 1 PFD Food Services Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington.
Alligator Blood led most of the way, yielding only in the final 100 meters. Osipenko was third with Princess Grace fourth.
The 6-year-old winner now has five straight wins dating back to last season. He finished seventh in the 2022 Cox Plate.
Winning co-trainer Ben Hayes outlined plans: "We are leaning towards Sydney, the King Charles (Group 1, 1,600 meters Oct. 14 at Royal Randwick). He's undefeated over a mile at weight-for-age and just won here very impressively, so I think it's a good race to head to, and I think that's two weeks into a Cox Plate which would be pretty good for him."
Sol Oriens, winner of the Grade 1 Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) and second in the Grade 1 Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) returns from a four-month break in Monday's Grade 2 Asahi Hai St.Lite Kinen at Nakayama Racecourse.
The race is a prep for the third leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Grade 1 Kikuka Sho (Japanese St. Leger) on Oct. 22. Should he deliver there, year-end options at home and winter chances in the Middle East would be open for the Kitasan Black colt.
The major threat seems to be Lebensstil, who has two wins from five starts and finished third in the Grade 3 Radio Nikkei Sho at Fukushima in his last outing.