Ace Impact wins the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Stakes at Longchamp in Paris. Eclipse Sportswire photo, courtesy of Breeders' Cup
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Sunday's Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe was all that can be expected from the Continent's premier race, and for the local team it was even more.
Ace Impact's dominating victory for his French connections was the highlight of a Parisian weekend that produced thrills for the moment and plenty of prospects for the rest of 2023 and beyond.
It also was the highlight of a jam-packed weekend of horse racing around the globe that offered, among other goodies, 10 "Win and You're In" spots for next month's Breeders' Cup World Championships.
Meanwhile, the torrential rainstorm that swallowed New York City forced Aqueduct to move most of its Saturday program to Sunday, Sunday's Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic to next weekend and Sunday races to Wednesday. Got it?
Let's dive right in -- to the action, not the flood.
Ace Impact was the favorite for the 1 1/2-mile Longchamp set piece, but many had doubts.
Despite his nifty victory in the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club or French Derby, the Cracksman colt had never raced beyond 1 1/4 miles, had never tested the Longchamp turf and faced a "jinx" that has seen a dearth of Derby winners go on to win the Arc since the distance of the former was shortened.
None of it made a bit of difference. Jockey Cristian Demuro idled Ace Impact near the back of the field until the stretch loomed, then let him run outside rivals to reach the front with some 200 meters to go.
In the final 100, he pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths from England's Westover with Onesto a sliver behind that one.
Fabled trainer Jean-Claude Rouget celebrated his second Arc win, cheered wildly by the big crowd on a lovely day in Paris.
"In racing you never know what can happen, even if you are confident," Racing Post quoted Rouget as saying. "My last reflection before the start of the race was that it was too good to be true. Yet it was true!"
The Derby-Arc double, and the way he accomplished both wins, vaults Ace Impact into the realm of the greats of European racing.
But it also makes him so valuable as a stallion prospect that it's an open question whether he will be risked again on the track, although the race was a "Win and You're In" for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
That does not necessarily mean Breeders' Cup is out of luck for its turf centerpiece. Trainer Fabrice Chappet said Onesto, who missed much of the first half of the year for this reason and that, might be ready for more.
"The logical next step is the Breeders' Cup," Chappet said.
Frankie Dettori's last Arc found him finishing 13th. but proud of his six wins from 34 rides in the race. Demuro nodded to the veteran with a flying dismount of his own when he returned Ace Impact from the victory.
Japan's record of failure in the Arc continued although the only Japanese runner, Through Seven Seas, finished a good fourth. German Derby winner Fantastic Moon didn't stay the trip and faded to report 11th.
Back in North America, weekend races in New York, Kentucky and California perhaps helped shape next month's Breeders' Cup Classic.
Clapton, making his second start for trainer Chad Summers, outfinished Trademark in a battle of long shots to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs by a head.
Yet, another long chance, Blue Devil, was third, and the favorite, Rattle N Roll, was fourth, beaten more than 5 lengths.
Clapton, a 4-year-old Brethren colt, negotiated 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.89 with Cristian Torres in the irons, improving on his last-out, fourth-place finish in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Saratoga.
Trainer Chad Summers said Clapton's owners have big ambitions: "The goal is getting to the Dubai World Cup. If that means taking us to the Breeders' Cup, that would be great. But the goal is getting him over to Dubai in March."
At Santa Anita, Slow Down Andy went straight to the lead in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again Stakes and glided over the wet-fast track to an untroubled, 2 1/4-length victory.
Defunded, last year's winner, was best of the rest with an even effort and Senor Buscador finished third.
Slow Down Andy, a 4-year-old Nyquist colt trained by Doug O'Neill, got his first win since the Grade II Del Mar Derby, his only start on the turf, nearly 13 months ago. He earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"He's becoming better with age," said Slow Down Andy's rider, Mario Gutierrez. "You can see it on his record. His last few races he's just given us his all. Right now, he's fit, he's ready to run in the Breeders' Cup."
Zandon had some early traffic trouble in Sunday's storm-delayed $400,000 Grade II Woodward at Aqueduct, still lagged behind most of the field on the stretch turn but had it when it mattered, sweeping by outside rivals in the lane to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
Film Star was second, a neck in front of Law Professor.
Zandon went off as the even-money favorite after finishing second in four of his previous five starts, and had not won since taking the Grade I Blue Grass at Keeneland in April of 2022. He was third in that year's Kentucky Derby and two of his recent seconds came in Grade I races.
"He'll probably have his last career start in the Breeders' Cup Classic," trainer Chad Brown said of Zandon. "Obviously, it's going to be a much, much tougher race than today, but at least we're going in off of a decisive victory and [with] a horse that's had a very consistent year."
Trainer Bob Baffert had a few bad beats during the weekend but got some consolation in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita as Adare Manor ran her winning streak to five with a 5 1/4-length victory.
Desert Dawn, who defeated Adare Manor by a neck in last year's Grade II Santa Anita Oaks, has finished behind that rival now in three straight races.
Overall, Adare Manor, an Uncle Mo filly, has won seven of 13 starts and is pushing $1 million in earnings, and Baffert said she did the necessary to get Breeders' Cup consideration.
Trainer Brad Cox shipped Interstatedaydream up the Interstate highway from Kentucky to win Saturday's $125,000 Twixt Stakes at Laurel Park in Maryland by 2 1/2 lengths over Miss New York.
The 4-year-old Classic Empire filly ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.02. She won the Allaire DuPont at Pimlico in May in her only previous experience in the land of crab cakes and NatBo beer.
Forever Dixie, under Patrick Husbands, found an extra gear in the stretch run of Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Damsel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, pulling away from four rivals to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Solo Album was second.
Forever Dixie, a Kentucky-bred Quality Road filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.96. Mark Casse trains for owner-breeder John Oxley.
Filly & Mare Turf
The action here was in France, where French Oaks winner Blue Rose Cen, after two disappointing starts, got back on track with a victory in Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines.
The Churchill filly led, was headed and made another run in the late going to get home first by a neck over Jackie Oh after a tight duel.
She earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Maker's Mark Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, and trainer Freddy Head said, according to Racing Post, "I'll talk to her owner about whether that's it for the year. The Breeders' Cup is a possibility."
Hong Kong Harry chased down pacesetting Astronomer in deep stretch and inched by that one in the closing strides to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile by a neck. Twist was gaining at the end to get show money.
Hong Kong Harry, an Irish-bred, 6-year-old gelding, finished in 1:33.77 on good turf with Juan Hernandez riding for trainer Phil D'Amato. The horse won five of six starts in 2022 but was 0-for-3 previously this season, with all three starts coming in Grade I events.
More Than Looks continued a nice progression for trainer Cherie DeVaux in Saturday's $200,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs, rallying from well back, clearing the field late and winning by 2 3/4 lengths.
The More Than Ready colt ran the one-turn mile in 1:36.55, scoring his third win from his last four starts.
Highfield Princess, fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, earned a "Win and You're In" return trip with a victory in Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp Longines.
The 6-year-old Night of Thunder mare went to the lead in deep stretch and won by 1 length over long shot Perdika, reversing a mild mid-year slump. She came to the 2022 Breeders' Cup off a victory in the Group 1 Flying Five Stakes in Ireland that capped a three-race, all Group 1, win streak.
"She's shown she's probably as good and as tough a sprinting mare as there is in training in the world," trainer John Quinn said of Highfield Princess. "I wouldn't rule out the Breeders' Cup or the big sprint in Hong Kong in December."
Lane Way dueled to the lead outside Noble Reflection midway down the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita and inched clear to win by 1/2 length. Bran was just up to deny Noble Reflection for second.
Lane Way, a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding with Mike Smith up, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:14.47. The race was moved off the hillside course after rain.
Lane Way finished second in the 2022 Eddie D. He had been off the course for seven months until he finished fifth in the Grade III Green Flash Handicap at Del Mar going 5 furlongs Sept. 2.
Sunday's $100,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies stayed on the hill and saw Ruby Nell outfinish Fast and Shiny to win by 1 length. Ruby Nell, by Bolt d'Oro, finished fourth in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks in her last start going two turns. Before that, she had two straight wins for trainer Richard Mandella.
As noted, Saturday's Joe Hirsch Turf Classic was postponed by a week because of torrential rain.
Baladeer led comfortably all the way to a mild upset victory in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt easily held off the late run of Masteroffoxhounds with Speaking Scout third. The favorite, Gold Phoenix, settled for fifth with no late rally.
Baladeer has been a useful allowance type for trainer George Papaprodromou but tipped his hand in his previous race with a 5 1/2-length victory over the tough Kentucky Downs turf.
At Laurel Park, Yamato appropriately won Saturday's $100,000 Japan Turf Cup, rallying by the lead leading trio late to score by 2 1/2 lengths. Eons and Bear Oak filled the trifecta.
Yamato, a 6-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:31.69. He was claimed by trainer Michael Maker for $50,000 in March.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
After a failed try at 1 1/8 miles put an end to his six-race winning streak, Cody's Wish was back sprinting and winning in Sunday's rain-delayed $250,000 Grade II Vosburg Stakes at Aqueduct.
The 5-year-old son of Curlin, the odds-on favorite, shadowed pacesetter Accretive into the stretch, went by and won by 1 1/2 lengths while dominating the final sixteenth. It was the 10th win from 15 starts for the Bill Mott charge, a Godolphin homebred, who has never finished out of the first three.
He earned a "Win and You're In" ticket to the Qatar Racing Breeders' Cup Sprint, although last year he won the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Zozos led from the git-go in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Ack Ack Stakes at Churchill Downs, turned back a long shot challenge and ran on to win by 1 length over Stage Raider.
Zozos, a 4-year-old Munnings colt, has been dynamite in distances around 1 mile since finishing a fading 10th in the 2022 Kentucky Derby and the Ack Ack was his fourth win from his last five starts for trainer Brad Cox.
The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Big Ass Fans Breeders' Cup Dirt Sprint, but Cox said that's not a commitment -- at least not yet.
Dr. Schivel skimmed the rail around the turn in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Anita Sprint Championship, grabbed a narrow lead and held off the late charges of Speed Boat Beach and Fort Bragg to win by a head and 1 1/4 lengths.
The 5-year-old son of Violence won this race last year, too, and went on to finish second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland, a nose behind Aloha West. He traveled to Dubai during the winter to finish third in the $2 million Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.
Filly & Mare Sprint / Dirt Mile
Caramel Swirl needed a double DQ to get the victory in Sunday's delayed $250,000 Grade II Gallant Bloom Stakes at Aqueduct, but those verdicts merely set things right.
Sterling Silver finished first by 4 lengths in the 6-furlong affair, but only after crossing right in front of the fast-closing Caramel Swirl, forcing her to check hard and eventually finish third. Headland, who finished second, also was found guilty and placed third, behind those two.
Caramel Swirl, a 5-year-old Union Rags mare, had been knocking heads with the likes of Goodnight Olive and might have found this easier with a clean trip. She nonetheless got her sixth win from 16 starts.
Kirstenbosch let four rivals slug it out well in front down the backstretch in Friday's $100,000 Chillingworth Stakes at Santa Anita, swept around them turning for home and kicked away to win by 1 3/4 length from Clearly Unhinged. The odds-on favorite Eda, settled for third, ending a seven-race winning streak.
Kirstenbosch, a 4-year-old Midnight Lute filly, ended a six-race losing skein dating to January.
Juvenile / Juvenile Sprint
Mattingly stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Hollywood Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, responded nicely when asked by jockey Samy Camacho and kicked by the leader to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Okiro was along for for second.
Mattingly, a Bucchero colt trained by Joe Orsino, ran 5 furlongs on the all-weather track in 56.67 seconds.
Ghostwriter emerged winner of Saturday's hotly contested Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket, scoring by 1 1/4 length from Al Musmak with the favorite, Capulet, third.
Ghostwriter, an Invincible Spirit colt from Clive Cox's yard, improved to 3-for-3 and earned a "Win and You're In" bid to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
Vandeek was last in a tightly bunched field with 2 furlongs to go in Saturday's 6-furlongs, Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket, burst through between rivals and won going away, by 2 1/4 lengths from Task Force, with River Tiber third.
Vandeek, a Havana Grey colt resident in the Simon and Ed Crisford yard, made it four straight wins, also including the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in his previous start.
On Sunday's Arc undercard at Longchamp, Rosallion took the lead late in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for colts and geldings and won by 1 length from Unquestionable, earning a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The winner is from the first crop of crack sprinter Blue Point.
Back in the United States, Air Recruit obviously enjoyed stretching out to two turns for the first time in Saturday's $150,000 Laurel Futurity. The Air Force Blue colt stalked early, and then used the added distance to air out to a 5 1/2-length victory, his second from three starts for trainer Arnaud Delacour.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Pilgrim at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, was put back to Wednesday because of the weather-related rescheduling.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
On Friday at Newmarket in England, Carla's Way earned a "Win and You're In" ticket to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf with a nifty victory in the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Rockfel Stakes.
The Starspangledbanner filly, with James Doyle up for trainers Simon and Ed Crisford, tracked the early speed, exploded to the front at the furlong marker and scored by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Shuwari. It was her second win from four starts.
Porta Fortuna, with Oisin Murphy up for trainer Donnacha Aidan O'Brien, rallied to the lead inside the final furlong of Saturday's 6-furlongs, Group 1 Juddmonte Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket and strode out through the closing yards to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Pearl and Rubies, trained by patriarch Aidan O'Brien.
Porta Fortuna, a daughter of Caravaggio, was undefeated in three starts in the springtime, then second in the Group 1 Phoenix and third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud, both at the Curragh.
On Sunday at Longchamp, Opera Singer hit all the right notes for the Coolmore-O'Brien-Moore combine in the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac.
The Justify filly led most of the way and shook loose from rival Rose Bloom in the final 100 meters to win by 5 lengths over that foe. Opera Singer now has three wins from her last four starts and, although she earned a "Win and You're In" berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, likely is due a break.
Back in the States, Brocknardini swept to a stretch-running, 2 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Selima Stakes at Laurel Park.
The Palace Malice filly, from the George Weaver barn, won her first start, but then was never involven in the Grade I Natalma at Woodbine after a horrible trip.
Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Miss Grillo Stakes at Aqueduct, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, was reshuffled to Wednesday.
Around the world, around the clock
The Arc was far from the only important contest on the Continental racing card.
Veteran stayer Trueshan, with Hollie Doyle calling the shots, led throughout the 4,000 meters (2 1/2 miles) of Friday's Group 1 Qatar Prix du Cadran Stakes and just kept going to a 4-length victory over Moon Wolf.
Trueshan, a 7-year-old gelding by Planteur, has won the British Champions Long Distance Cup three years running and also landed the Cadran in 2021, defeating the legendary Stradivarius.
Fillies and mares were tasked with 2,800 meters in the Group 1 Qatar Prix de Royalieu with Sea Silk Road and jockey Aurelien Lemaitre coming from the back of the pack to win by 3 lengths.
The 4-year-old Sea the Stars filly notched her first Group 1 victory for trainer William Haggas after a third behind Warm Heart in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille three weeks earlier.
Poker Face, a 4-year-old Fastnet Rock gelding, dominated the final 200 meters in Saturday's 1,600-meters Group 2 Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein and saw off the favorite, Isaac Shelby, by a comfortable 2 lengths.
Horizon Drive gave eight rivals more than they could handle in the about 2,000-meters Group 2 Qatar Prix Dollar, leading late and eased home first by 1 1/4 lengths over Jack Darcy.
On Sunday, long shot Kelina got to the lead in the final 100 meters of the Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret and held off the odds-on favorite, Kinross, by 1/2 length. In the process, the 3-year-old Frankel filly denied Kinross' pilot, Frankie Dettori, in his shot at a final Arc-day victory.
Mutasaabeq led the way in Friday's Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Joel Stakes for 3-year-olds and up and just did hold on to win by a head over Regal Reality at the end of 1 mile in 1:35.18. The 5-year-old Shadwell homebred by Invincible Spirit won for the second time this year after struggling in Group 1 races much of the summer.
A quartet of 4-year-olds filled the first four positions in Sunday's Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse, led by Mama Cocha, a full sister to the popular white mare Sodashi.
Irish-bred Mad Cool just missed in the final jumps and those two were trailed home by the favorite, Namura Clair, and the promising Jasper Krone.
The Japanese sprint division is seeking new leadership after some key retirements and the Sprinters Stakes looked like offering replacements in the hierarchy.
Mama Cocha had five wins from 12 starts and finished second to Jasper Krone in one of the three key preps for the big race. It was her first run in a Grade 1 event and first victory in a graded stakes.
"This filly is a completely different type of horse compared to her famous sister," winning jockey Yuga Kawada said.
"But she has a good potential in her own right to become a good sprinter and while still winless in grade-race level coming into this race, I felt she had a good chance when I first rode her in her speedwork and at the post-race parade."
Trainer Yasutoshi Ikee agreed, adding: "She's a horse to think about from now. ... We'll see what she can do."
Randwick on Saturday handled three Group 1 affairs and one Group 2 with implications for the immediate future.
Tropical Squall landed the Darley Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3/4 lengths over Kimochi; Rediener won a three-way photo in the TAB Epsom Stakes by a nose over Kovalica; and Just Fine, the odds-on favorite, eked out a head victory over 40-1 long shot Spirit Ridge in the James Squire Metropolitan.
Think About It, also at odds-on, also was all out to win the Group 2 Precise Air Premier Stakes by a head from Hawaii Five Oh, extending his win streak to eight and reaffirming his status among the best fancied for the Everest.
It was his first start since June and a relief to trainer Joe Pride, who commented: "It felt like there was more to lose today than to gain."