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2-year-olds hit Kentucky Derby trail in weekend horse racing

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer
Planetario (foreground) wins the Hollywood Turf Cup. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Planetario (foreground) wins the Hollywood Turf Cup. Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The 2-year-olds had the center stage in Thanksgiving weekend racing around the United States, while much of the rest of the world was caught up watching the world's top-rated horse, Equinox, demonstrate what his jockey called "perfection" in the Japan Cup.

Juvenile

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Honor Marie started last of eight in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs and had to swing wide around the field heading for home.

But once there, he won by 2 lengths over Real Men Violin.

The Honor Code colt, trained by D. Whitworth Beckman, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.31 for jockey Rafael Bejarano, winning for the second time in three trips and earning 10 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard, currently topped by Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Fierceness.

Veteran Derby campaigner D. Wayne Lukas sent out Just Steel to win Saturday's $225,000 Ed Brown Stakes, a 6-furlong sprint at Churchill Downs. The Justify colt gained the lead with a four-wide move and cleared, winning by 2 1/2 lengths under Joel Rosario.

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The "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" launched with Saturday's Cattleya Stakes at Tokyo Racecourse and a victory by a pure white colt, Amante Bianco.

The son of Henny Hughes, rallied from well off the pace for Japan's leading rider, Christophe Lemaire, and both Clement and trainer Keisuke Miyata said they see no reason Amante Bianco could not become the first white horse to win the Run for the Roses.

"Possible," Lemaire said. There are options for the winner, including staying home for the next three races in the series or trying the rich Saudi Derby in February and/or the UAE Derby in Dubai in March.

Juvenile Fillies

Intricate sat comfortably behind a breakaway front-runner in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs, got through to the front running for home and won by 5 1/4 lengths, ridden out by jockey Tyler Gafralione.

The Gun Runner filly, trained by Brendan Walsh, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast strip in 1:45.01.

Youalmosthadme overcame a slow start from the inside gate to win Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong $225,000 Fern Creek Stakes at Churchill Downs by 3/4 lengths.

Classic

Friday's $600,000 Grade II Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs came down to a stretch battle between Trademark and the favorite, First Mission, with Trademark all out to grab the advantage. Mission accomplished, but only by a nose in a tight photo.

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A 4-year-old Upstart gelding, Trademark ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track with Fernando De La Cruz in the irons. His only previous victory this year was in the Michael G. Schaefer Memorial at Horseshoe Indiana in July.

Distaff

Xigera stalked the pace in Thursday's $400,000 Grade III Falls City Stakes at Churchill Downs, responded when set down by jockey Julien Leparoux and won off by 6 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite.

A 3-year-old Nyquist filly from the Black Tie Affair mare Argent Affair, Xigera ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.75. The Philip Bauer trainee now has three straight wins and five from her last six starts.

Raging Sea rallied to take a late, narrow lead in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct and held off Julia Shining by a nose at the end. The Curlin filly, with Manny Franco up for Chad Brown, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.86.

Turf

Planetario prevailed in a multinational, three-way photo at the end of Friday's $200,000 Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar.

The camera found the 5-year-old Brazilian-bred a nose in front of the favorite, Irish-bred Francisco Clemente, with Chilean-bred Lukka another nose in arrears.

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All three came from well off the pace as Planetario finished the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:28.02 with Hector Berrios in the irons.

Easter led home a trio of Phil D'Amato-trained turfers to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar by 1/2 length. Hong Kong Harry was second with stablemate Balnikhov third.

A French-bred gelding, Easter ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:39.96 with Antonio Fresu up.

Filly & Mare Turf

On Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs, Star Fortress rallied from last of six and hit warp drive in the stretch, scampering off to a 10-length victory in the $300,000 Grade III Cardinal Stakes. The favorite, Saffron Moon, was best of the rest.

Star Fortress, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Sea the Stars, got 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:51.10 with Luis Saez up for trainer Cherie DeVaux. It was her first U.S. start after going 1-for-7 in England.

Linda's Gift led all the way to a 3/4-length victory in Thursday's $100,000 Grade III Red Carpet Stakes at Del Mar. Musical Rhapsody was second as Linda's Gift, a 4-year-old Arrogate filly, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:17.80 with Tiago Periera up.

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Friday's $300,000 Grade II Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs came off the grass, which bothered Heavenly Sunday not at all.

The Candy Ride filly stode out through the stretch on the fast main track and won by 5 lengths as the solid favorite. With Florent Geroux up for trainer Brad Cox, Heavenly Sunday covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.69.

Sprint

Miles Ahead was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of his closest rival at the finish of Thursday's $200,000 Thanksgiving Classic at Fair Grounds. The 5-year-old gelding took over from pacesetting Super Ocho at the top of the lane and quickly put matters to rest.

The high weight of 135 pounds may actually have caught up with the favorite, Durante, at the end of Friday's $200,000 Grade III Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, as he just failed to hold the lead at the end, succumbing to late-running Bold Journey by 1 length. The winner shouldered 128 pounds, including Jose Ortiz.

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