Amazing Maria was amazing in England but Lovely Maria not so much at Delaware Park in just a few highlights of weekend Thoroughbred racing.
Arlington International Racecourse found some candidates for its upcoming International Festival of Racing. Monmouth Park moved another notch closer to welcoming Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. And Tightend Touchdown and Fantastic Style provided the sprint highlights.
Hong Kong wound up another season with records, both in financials and on the racetrack.
Away we go.
The Pizza Man ground out a narrow victory in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington, wearing down pacesetter Roman Approval through a long stretch battle to score by a neck. Calvados had to change course at midstretch for running room, then got up for third. The Pizza Man, a 6-year-old English Channel gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on good turf through some showery weather in 2:34.13 with Florent Geroux in the irons. "I think this horse is very good mentally," Geroux said. "He's a horse that can be anywhere during the race and he just knows where the wire is. That's a big plus. The horse does the race and I make sure I'm nice and smooth." The dependable veteran also won this race last season, en route to a victory over Dandino in the American St. Leger on Arlington Million Day. This year, he is shooting higher, aiming for the Million and the Breeders' Cup Turf.
Quiet Force sat quietly behind the leader in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Arlington Handicap, seized the lead a furlong out and held off Middleburg to win by 3/4 length. Up With the Birds, the favorite, rallied late after being bumped mid-course but settled for show money. Quiet Force, a 5-year-old son of Dynaformer, ran 1 3/16 miles on good turf in 1:56.50 under Julien Leparoux. It was his second start of the year, following a close third in an allowance race at Parx Racing. "On paper it didn't look like too much pace so I just wanted to make sure he broke good," Leparoux said. "Actually, when (Dramedy) went, it was great for us. We got a target and finished up strong." Trainer Mike Maker said Sunday Quiet Force is likely to return for the Arlington Million. Drayden Van Dyke, who rode Up With the Birds, said he had a rough trip out of the gate, was bumped later and still thought turning for home that he could prevail. "But I couldn't get to them."
Last time World Approval ran, he stuck close to the pace in the Penine Ridge Stakes at Belmont Park and weakened to finish fourth. Saturday at Arlington International Racecourse, the 3-year-old Northern Afleet gelding stuck close to a slower pace, then had enough stuffing to outduel Crittenden for the victory in the $100,000, Grade III American Derby. The margin was a neck with Nun the Less third after showing the way. King of New York filled out the superfecta. World Approval, a striking grey, scored his third win from seven starts and first in a graded stakes. "I was confident the whole way," said winning jockey Jose Lezcano, who guided the gelding over 1 1/8 miles of good turf in 1:52.92. Katheryn Sullivan, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse, noted World Approval arrived at Arlington from Louisville on the morning of the race. "He's a really sensible horse," she said. "He handles everything well." Sullivan said it will be up to Casse and the owners to decide whether World Approval returns for the Grade I Secretariat Stakes on Arlington Million Day.
And, speaking of the Million, California Chrome apparently won't be part of this year's edition. The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner has a bruised cannon bone and likely will be out of action for the remainder of the year, it was reported Sunday. The colt finished second in the Dubai World Cup in March, then missed both scheduled starts in England. He currently is stabled at Arlington.
Filly & Mare Turf
Ceisteach shadowed the early leader in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park, surged to a clear lead in the lane and held on to score by a head over Queen's Parade. Kitten's Point was third as part of a favored entry with Chat, who got home fifth with a late effort. Ceisteach, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by New Approach, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:16.97. "She took a nice couple of deep breaths for more around the three-eighths pole and she really fired turning for home," said winning rider Channing Hill. "She is just real game. I still had plenty of horse left but for a second I thought (Queens Parade) was going to go by me. But she dug in and was really game." Ceisteach was coming off a win in the tougher division of the Keertana Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 16 -- a race that is proving a key heat in this division.
Walk Close ran well behind the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Modesty Handicap at Arlington International Racecourse, then found room between rivals in the stretch and went on through to win by 1/2 length over Mango Diva. Gaga A finished third. Walk Close, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, ran 1 3/16 miles on good turf in 1:57.08. Winning rider James Graham reported Walk Close had "a beautiful trip and followed the pace around there, picked up the speed to home and did it well. The ground is a little soft but she did it the right way. She's a really nice filly." It was the filly's first win in more than a year but in her last outing she ran third, beaten only 1/2 length, in the same division of the Keertana won by Ceisteach.
King Kreesa raced behind the early pace in Saturday's $150,000 Forbidden Apple Stakes at Belmont Park, moved to the lead on cue from jockey Jose Ortiz and kicked away to win by 2 1/2 lengths from Wicked Strong. Vyjack was third and the favorite, Reload, didn't fire, finishing fourth. King Kreesa, a 6-year-old King Cugat gelding, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.34. "Even as a fan I was impressed today," said winning trainer David "Slam" Donk. "Today was his best race for me. It was a pretty loaded field. Today, we needed to find out a little more." Having found it, he said, he will look at the $400,000, Grade II Fourstardave on Aug. 15. "Why not? It's Saratoga," he added.
Stanford ran by pacesetting Souper Collosal in the late going in Saturday's $100,000 Long Branch Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Total Joint was third. Stanford, a Malibu Moon colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:44.31 with Joe Bravo at the controls. It was the first stakes win for the Todd Pletcher trainee, who came to the Jersey shore after finishing second in the Grade II Louisiana Derby and, after a break, second again in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont Park. "He's a really classy horse," Bravo said. The race is the traditional local prep for the $1 million, Grade I Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2. "If he comes back for the Haskell," Bravo added, "the good thing is that we know he likes the course." The Haskell, however, is the designated comeback race for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, who might put up a little more fight than Souper Collosal.
Gallery led throughout Sunday's $100,000 Manila Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and held off the odds-on favorite, A Lot, by a little -- a nose, in fact. Croninthebarbarian and Aplomb completed the order of finish. Gallery, a Munnings colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.35 with Jose Lezcano aboard.
Tightend Touchdown outfinished Mongolian by a head in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Parx Dash with Mongol Bull third. The favorite, Power Alert, settled for fourth and Ben's Cat got home sixth. Tightend Touchdown, a 6-year-old Pure Precision gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.19 seconds under Frankie Pennington, well off the course record of 54.96 seconds established by Ben's Cat in 2012. Tightend Touchdown finished second in this event last year but had not won since taking the Pennsylvania Governor's Cup in May of 2014. Ben's Cat's owner, King Leatherbury, said Sunday, "He ran a bad race and we're not used to that ... But he's fine this morning."
Calamity Kate led all the way to a 54-1 shocker in Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Delaware Oaks as Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria never got going and finished fifth. Peace and War was along for second, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner and 3 lengths ahead of Hip Hop Jazz. The parade of long shots produced prodigious payouts, featuring massive returns in the show pool -- $79.40, $29.40 and $59.40 -- as a result of "bridge jumper" show wagering on Lovely Maria. It was the third career win for Calamity Kate, a Yes It's True filly who was trounced in the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park in her last race. Edgar Prado provided the winning ride, getting home in a sparkling 1:41.79 over a fast track. "The horse has been training good and in her last start she got a bad break," said winning trainer Kelly Breen. "So the last race was probably a throw out and she has been training great for this race ... I told Edgar just to ride his race, that she is sharp. It was just a matter of being in right spot at that right time." Lovely Maria's trainer, Larry Jones, added, "The winner can run ... We just got beat."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Fantastic Style came three-wide into the lane in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos and kicked away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Living the Life was second, another 3 1/4 lengths to the good of the favorite, Sunday Rules. Fantastic Style, a 3-year-old Harlan's Holiday filly running against older rivals, finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.78, just 0.18 second off the track record. "My filly has speed," said winning rider Rafael Bejarano, "but I didn't want to give her too much to do ... I just let her settle and she gave me a real nice finish." She now has four wins, a second and a third from six starts and owner Kaleem Shah credited trainer Bob Baffert. "I'm not much of a handicapper but Bob is a very astute one and he felt this was the right spot for her," Shah said.
Swipe got by pacesetter Mrazek in the shadow of the wire to win Sunday's $100,000 Summer Juvenile Championship at Los Alamitos by a nose. Dubdubwatson was 7 1/4 lengths up the track in third. Swipe, a Birdstone colt, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.89 with Kent Desormeaux in the irons. "He's bred to close," said trainer Keith Desormeaux. "The decisive move was when Kent got him off the rail from behind. He got him to the outside and he rallied. Both horses were running at the end."
In 2-year-old races for state-breds: Cale's Gold was an easy, 7-lengths winner as the favorite in Saturday's $100,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity at Evangeline Downs; Texas Chrome survived a rough break and came from far back to win Saturday's $100,000 TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park by 2 1/4 lengths; R Dub, a Fort Prado gelding, ran by the favorite in the stretch to win Sunday's $40,000 CTBA Futurity at Arapahoe Park by 2 3/4 lengths; two parts of a three-horse entry -- Kiosk's Cause and Blingitonagain -- finished 1-2 in Sunday's $75,000 Hoover Stakes for Ohio-breds at Belterra Park.
In state-bred events: Caren stalked the pace in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Shady Well Stakes at Woodbine, then outfinished Crumlin Spirit, winning by a head; Cajun Conoseir drew off late to win Saturday's $100,000 D.S. "Shine" Young Futurity at Evangeline Downs by 3 1/2 lengths; Fleet Grey scored a gritty, narrow win as the odds-on favorite in Saturday's $100,000 TTA Sales Futurity at Lone Star Park.
Amazing Maria got by Euro Charlene in the late going in Friday's Group 1 Falmouth Stakes for fillies and mares at Newmarket and held on to win by 1 length over that rival. Avenir Certain was a head farther back in third. Amazing Maria, a grey, 4-year-old Mastercraftsman filly, backed up her upset win last month in the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot and trainer David O'Meara, who recently took over from Ed Dunlop, said the filly likely will seek more targets at the top level. Trainer Marco Botti said he was pleased with Euro Charlene's effort and sees no reason she shouldn't head to Arlington International Racecourse next month to defend her 2014 victory in the Grade I Beverly D. on the Arlington Million card. Coincidentally, Just the Judge, who was third in last year's Beverly D., has been retired with a tendon injury, it was reported Friday. The 5-year-old daughter of Lawman followed the Arlington effort with a win in the Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine and a third in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
Muhaarar needed every jump of Saturday's Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket, catching Tropics on the line. Eastern Impact finished third and Sole Power, going a furlong more than his preferred 5, was a credible fourth. Muhaarar, a 3-year-old Oasis Dream colt, backed up his victory last month in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot while running his record to five wins from nine starts. Trainer Charlie Hills said Muhaarar didn't appreciate the firm ground and may not have been fully recovered from his Ascot effort. So, he said, improvement can be expected after a brief respite and with the prospect of more forgiving ground.
Territories put up a hoof for consideration among Europe's stellar collection of milers with an impressive win in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Jean Pratt at Chantilly. After being reserved early, Territories went behind the late move of Dutch Connection, then passed that one to win by 1/2 length for jockey Mickael Barzalona. Sir Andrew finished third. Territories, an Invincible Spirit colt trained for Godolphin by Andre Fabre, was second to Gleneagles in May in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, then missed the St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot with a bruised foot. Fabre said the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville could be the next target.
Able Friend's flop at Royal Ascot didn't dim his popularity one bit back home as he scooped up the Hong Kong Horse of the Year award at a festive awards ceremony Friday. A four-time Group 1 victor during the 2014-15 season at Sha Tin, Able Friend also was named Champion Miler and, with 59 percent of the public vote, claimed the Most Popular Horse title. He wound up his season with a disappointing sixth-place finish in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot but remains in a tie with Shared Belief for No. 3 on the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings, behind only Golden Horn and American Pharoah.
The Hong Kong racing season ended Sunday with overall turnover of HK$107.9 billion (US$13.92 billion), up 5.8 percent from last year and up 79.7 percent since the 2005-2006 season. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the HKJC CEO, noted that resulted in record tax payments of HK$12.3 billion (US$1.65 billion), "which means that horse racing has again been able to make a significant positive contribution to the Hong Kong community." The Hong Kong Jockey Club is the SAR's largest single taxpayer as well as its biggest charitable agent. On the track, Hong Kong-based horses won nine of 10 Group 1 races at Sha Tin, turning back some impressive foreigners. And Englebrecht-Bresges noted that quality translated overseas, where "Dan Excel and Aerovelocity gave us a third consecutive Group 1 double in Singapore, Aerovelocity also became the first overseas horse to win Japan's (Group 1) Takamatsunomiya Kinen and Rich Tapestry gave Hong Kong a first Group 1 win in the U.S." Also, Able Friend was for a time rated the best horse in the world. "With only 1,200 horses, to be that successful speaks for the world-class racing product we have in Hong Kong," he said.
Brooklynsway won a three-horse photo in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Bison City Stakes for Canadian-foaled 3-year-old fillies. The camera found the daughter of Giant Gizmo a nose better than Galina Point and another neck in front of the odds-on favorite, London Tower. Brooklynsway, with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.06.
Phodi Phodi had 'em all the way in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Passing Mood Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Hot Cross Buns. Miss Sea was a nose short of that one in third. Phodi Phodi, an Old Forester filly, got 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:22.32 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Kitty Wine stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes for fillies and mares, took over entering the stretch and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over late-running Notte d'Oro. Julie Darlin was along for third. Kitty Wine, a 6-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, raced about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.97 with Corey Lanerie up.
Lanerie also was aboard Pumpkin Rumble, who came from last of nine to post a 10-1 upset win in the $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile, winning by a nose over the favorite Az Ridge. Red Zeus finished third. Pumpkin Rumble, a 4-year-old English Channel gelding, got home in 1:35.89 while making his first start since Feb. 7 at Fair Grounds.
Lady Shipman quickly worked her way to the lead in Sunday's $60,000 Klassy Briefcase Stakes for fillies and mares and wasn't caught, winning by 6 1/4 lengths over Jewel of a Cat. The favorite, Joya Real, was another 2 lengths back in third. Lady Shipman, a 3-year-old daughter of Midshipman, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.59 with Eduardo Nunez in the irons.
Galiana rallied widest of all into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Dashing Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares and finished best, winning by 3/4 length from Keep Crossing. Satan's Mistress was third. Galiana, a 5-year-old mare by Stonesider, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.35 with Carol Cedeno in the irons.
Holiday Star pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Cape Henlopen Stakes, got a head in front in the stretch and held on gamely, winning by a head over Montclair. Set to Music was 2 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Holiday Star, a 5-year-old gelding by Harlan's Holiday, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:33.76 after tracing glacial fractions.
Lone Star Park
Lasting Bubbles led much of the way in Saturday's $50,000 Valor Farm Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares and lasted to win by 1 length over Everything Bling. Infectious was third. Lasting Bubbles, an 8-year-old daughter of Pulling Punches, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.75 with Luis Quinonez in the irons.
Texas Bling held on late in Saturday's $50,000 Assault Stakes for Texas-breds, winning by 1/2 length over Texas Air. He Has Bling was another 3 lengths back in third. Texas Bling, a 5-year-old son of Too Much Bling, ran 1 mile in 1:38.74 with Ricardo Santana Jr. up.
Bad Moon pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Iowa Stallion Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds, then kicked in during the stretch run to win by 1 1/4 lengths over late-running Desanctus. Holdmegold led early and held third. Bad Moon, a Tactical Cat gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast tracing 1:45.58 for jockey Alex Birzer.
Esperanza led all the way to a 2 3/4-lengths victory in the companion $65,000 Iowa Stallion Filly Stakes. Raegen Harper ran second all the way and Zealous Vision finished third. Esperanza, a Rockport Harbor filly, got 1 mile in 1:40.37 with Ramon Vazquez riding.
Handful led all the way to a 1/2-length victory over Tizakay in Saturday's $50,000 California Governor's Cup for fillies and mares. Princess Bertrando and Cast in Silver completed the order of finish. Handful, a 6-year-old Comic Strip mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.96 with Russell Baze in the irons.
Colinda Dawn led all the way in Sunday's $40,000 Colorado Derby, then drew off at the end to win by 9 lengths. Prater Sixty Four beat the others, with Dewey third. Colinda Dawn, an Idaho-bred filly by Lucks Mine, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.84 with Dennis Collins up.
Shestwiceasnice also was plenty good in Sunday's $75,000 Cincinnatian Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, leading from the early jumps and winning off by 16 1/2 lengths. Pistolannie and Dramatic Sky filled the trifecta slots while the odds-on favorite, Senorita Dominguez, was eased. Shestwiceasnice, a Parents' Reward filly, got 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy main track in 1:48.48 for jockey Luis Martinez. The race came off the turf.
Presque Isle Downs
Dynamic Strike struck the front in the stretch run in Sunday's $75,000 Leemat Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds and held on to win by 3/4 length over Roadhog. Forward Thinker rallied to get third. Dynamic Strike, a 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.60 with Willie Martinez up.
Henny Jenny came running in the lane in Sunday's $75,000 Northern Fling Stakes for state-bred distaffers, caught front-running favorite Power of Snunner in the final sixteenths and won by 3/4 length over that one. Bound was third. Henny Jenny, a 4-year-old Henny Hughes filly, ran 1 mile on the all-weather in 1:37.73 with Ronald Allen Jr. in the irons.
Betrbegone set a pressured pace in Sunday's $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings, was headed by Prime Engine, then came again to win by 3/4 length over that rival. O B Harbor was third. Betrbegone, a Parker's Storm Cat gelding, was let go at 33-1 odds and finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.79 with Leonel Camacho-Flores up.