It was a bit of a wacky weekend in horse racing, from England to upstate New York to California, featuring upsets and weather woes, spiced with official rulings.
Disqualifications settled two of the weekend's top races at Saratoga.
In England, Derby champ Golden Horn missed the King George. That didn't prevent a thrilling finish in the important race but a mixup in payoffs in an earlier race caused a bit of chaos at Ascot.
And the 2-year-olds -- as 2-year-olds are wont to do -- mixed things up.
Before things get any stranger, let's get going.
Postponed edged Eagle Top in Saturday's thrilling renewal of the Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, using one last surge to get home first after Eagle Top had headed him near the wire. Undefeated Derby winner Golden Horn skipped the race after torrential rains on Friday left the course too soft for trainer John Gosden's liking. Postponed, with Andrea Atzeni taking over riding from Adam Kirby, took the lead from fading pacesetter Romsdal and appeared on his way to a clean score. But Frankie Dettori, who switched from Golden Horn to Eagle Top, got a nose in front before Postponed found just enough more. The judges needed photographic evidence to confirm the win. Romsdal held third. Snow Sky finished sixth and Dylan Mouth was seventh and last under the wire. Postponed, a 4-year-old Dubawi colt, ran 1 1/2 miles on soft turf in 2:31.25. Postponed was coming back from a third-place finish behind Snow Sky and Eagle Top in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot -- a heat that generated some heat from Gosden, who also saddles Eagle Top. Gosden was sharply critical of Kirby's ride on Postponed in the Hardwicke. Having shown his affinity for softer ground, said trainer Lucca Cumani, Postponed becomes a candidate for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe -- a race Golden Horn also is targeting. Eagle Top will go to the Arc without further preliminaries, Gosden said. Golden Horn, for the shorter term, will head north to York for the Juddmonte International on Aug. 19, presumably assuming firmer going there.
Earlier in the day, it took officials some 90 minutes to issue a clear ruling after Speculative Bid, the favorite, left the gate riderless in the Gigaset International Handicap. Amid conflicting announcements, bookmakers wound up paying what they felt was too much on winning wagers after failing to take a deduction that would have been due had Speculative Bid been declared a non-running in a timely fashion. "It's a total shambles," Racing Post quoted an official of the wagering giant Coral.
York had the opposite of Ascot's conditions on Saturday -- ground too fast for the liking of the connections of Tullius for the Group 2 Skybet York Stakes. But trainer Andrew Balding bit the bullet and let the 7-year-old run and was rewarded with a late-running victory. Bouncing back from a fifth-place showing in the Coral Eclipse, Tullius caught Top Notch Tonto near the wire, scoring by 1/2 length. Prince Gibraltar also had a turn out front earlier in the stretch run but faded to finish third. The 1 1/4 miles plus 88 yards went in 2:06.25 with Philip Makin aboard the winner.
Guilliani worked to the front inside the final 100 yards and held off the late bids of Ajalo and Wunder to win Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Dallmayr-Preis-Bayerisches at Munich by 1/2 length. Guilliani, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred colt by Tertullian, ran 1 1/4 miles on good footing in 2:07.52 with Filip Minarik up. It was his first group race win, though he had finished second in his two previous starts, a Group 2 and Group 3.
Back in North America:
Catch a Flight caught a perfect ride from Gary Stevens en route to a narrow but decisive victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar. Catch a Flight, a 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred son of Giant's Causeway, raced behind embattled leaders Bayern and Appealing Tale well into the stretch run. Bayern, the defending Breeders' Cup Classic winner, then started to fade and it appeared Appealing Tale was on his way to victory. But Stevens by then had Catch a Flight steadily closing in on the leader and he went by in the final strides, a clear winner albeit by only a head. Bayern held third, just a nose in front of his stablemate, Hoppertunity. The 1 1/16 miles on a fast track took 1:43.08. Catch a Flight, after a successful career in Brazil, has turned into a Southern California ATM for his owners, posting four wins and three thirds already this year, with earnings of more than $500,000. "He won a lot of races in Brazil, not against the highest competition, but it gave him a good bit of experience," said winning trainer Richard Mandella. "He came here and he just keeps getting better and better. He was meant to sit back, but it looked like they were kind of getting away from him at the last turn and I was a little worried. But I guess they used themselves enough that he caught them. The Pacific Classic is next."
Filly & Mare Turf
Hard Not to Like rolled down the lane in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Diana at Saratoga and was just up to win by a nose over Tepin. Kitten's Queen was a long shot third after setting the pace. My Miss Sophia, Stephanie's Kitten, Lady Lara and Waltzing Matilda completed the order of finish. Hard Not to Like, a 6-year-old Hard Spun mare, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in course-record time of 1:45.22. It was her fifth win from her last six starts -- all but one of them graded stakes. Winning trainer Christophe Clement said he thought at the eighth pole his chances "to get a place, pretty good; to win, slim. The last 50 yards suddenly I got a bit excited because I thought, 'She's going to get there!' Remarkable ride from Johnny Velazquez. Life is good." Velazquez said Hard Not to Like appreciated every yard of the distance. "The horse is a little small and doesn't have the speed to stay with the other horses in the first part of the race," he said. "The longer the race went on, the longer the horse's strides became."
Mrs McDougal raced four-wide and midway back in the pack into the stretch in Friday's $200,000, Grade II Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then was just up late to catch pacesetter Feathered, for a 1/2-length victory over that one. Cara Marie, who dueled for the lead through the lane, finished third in a blanket finish behind the winner, with less than 1/2 length separating the second through the sixth finishers. Mrs McDougal, a Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.5. "I got a good trip, a little wide, but it worked out good," said winning rider Irad Ortiz Jr. "I just rode my race. I was comfortable and in a great spot. She's a nice filly. She can go to the lead, she can come from off the pace. It doesn't matter." She finished a close-up fourth in her last start, the Grade I American Oaks and now has three wins from five starts. Feathered also was edged into second after setting the pace in her last start, the Grade I American Oaks at Santa Anita.
Wild Dude rolled by the favorite, Masochistic, in deep stretch to take Sunday's $300,000, Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths at 11-1 odds. Masochistic had moved to the lead earlier in the stretch run but had no answer for the winner's late move. Kobe's Back rallied for third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Masochistic. Wild Dude, a 5-year-old son of Wildcat Heir, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.51 with Flavien Prat aboard. Wild Dude was beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Masochistic in June in the Triple Bend Handicap. "I let him get a little too far back," Prat said of that race. "This time I was closer and the pace was a better one for us." Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer noted the race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, adding, "That's the goal ... We wanted to win the Crosby, then look at some other races."
Hebbronville was along just in time to nip W V Jetsetter by a neck in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Jersey Shore for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park. Joe Franklin was third and the odds-on favorite, Blame Jim, faded to finish fourth. Hebbronville, a Majesticperfection colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.65 with Trevor McCarthy in the irons. It was his second straight win, the previous victory coming at Ellis Park. The colt is trained by Lynn Whiting, also the trainer of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee. "We've been trying to ease him off the pace," Whiting said. "Today, with all the speed in there, we thought that was the only option and it worked. He's faced some real nice runners in the past and today."
Ageless ran down pacesetting Leigh Court in the final furlong to win Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Royal North Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. Leigh Court, in from Arlington Park, held on for second, 5 1/2 lengths better than Zensational Bunny. Ageless, a 6-year-old Successful Appeal mare, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in course-record time of 1:07.17 with Julien Leparoux up for trainer Arnaud Delacour. Ageless finished fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. She now has two wins, a second and a third from four starts this year. "She's getting better all the time," Leparoux said. "Today, she won very impressively," said Leparoux. "Today, the way she came after those horses was great."
Curalina was bumped as she was trying to get by pacesetting I'm a Chatterbox in deep stretch in Sunday's $300,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks and finished second by a nose. That result was overturned by the stewards, promoting Curalina, the odds-on favorite, to the win. "When she got bumped and went to her left lead, she lost her balance, I lost my balance," said Curalina's rider, John Velazquez. "I had to get back on her and just missed it. No doubt in my mind, I was going to get her." Include Betty, meanwhile, was gaining a lot of ground late from the back of the seven-filly field and finished third, 2 lengths farther back. The 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in went in 1:49.74. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher admitted he'd rather have won on the track. "Ideally, you'd like to cross the wire first and have no doubts about it," he said. Curalina, a Curlin filly, finished second in her only start as a 2-year-old, also at Saratoga. She won at Gulfstream Park and again at Churchill Downs before taking the Grade I Acorn at Belmont Park in June.
Uchenna trailed most of the field into the stretch turn in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Matron, moved up along the rail and went on to win by 3/4 length over the odds-on favorite, Strut the Course. Skylander Girl made all the early going and finished third. Uchenna, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Fastnet Rock, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.74 with Alan Garcia in the irons. "She was always travelling well," said winning trainer Roger Attfield. "I was very pleased with where she was sitting and how she was travelling. Going along the top, I knew she'd stay on and was quite confident she would run a real big race."
Uncle Vinny ranged up boldly on the outside in deep stretch to finish second in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Sanford at Saratoga and was promoted to second at the expense of Magna Light, who finished first after ducking out badly inside the eighth pole. Magna Light was set down to third behind Percolator, the victim of the adjudged interference. The favorite, Cocked and Loaded, never fired (sorry, but it had to be said), finishing sixth. The other well-fancied starters, He's Comin In Hot and Twirling Cinnamon, were fifth and eighth, respectively. The stewards took some time deciding on the disqualification, which appeared to hinge on whether Magna Light was sufficiently clear of Percolator. Jockey Jose Ortiz appeared to look over his right shoulder for traffic just as his colt veered sharply right. "My horse was much the best," Ortiz said. "I hit him left-handed and he ducked out a little bit, but I was clear. Everybody could see that I was clear." Well, not quite everybody. Uncle Vinny was running outside and behind that action. Uncle Vinny, by Uncle Mo, won at first asking at Belmont in May and then was a well-beaten sixth in the Tremont, won by Cocked and Loaded. "He was running coming down the lane," said Uncle Vinny's rider, John Velazquez. "We were getting to the point where he was rolling from the eighth pole to the wire, and he inherited the win. Nothing I can say. He definitely was coming running."
Riker led from the git-go in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Colin Stakes at Woodbine and held on to win by 1/2 length over Arlington invader The Zip Zip Man. First-timer Tizarunner finished third, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the favorite, Hollywood Hideaway. Riker, an Include colt, completed 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09, remaining undefeated in two starts. "He broke a step slow the first time out and I actually had to use him a bit to go after the pace horse," said winning rider Jesse Campbell. "Today, we were supposed to let speed go, but he made up my mind for me real quick and we went to 'Plan B'. The horse prevailed. He fought real hard down the lane and he's just a neat little horse."
The 2-year-old races early in the Saratoga meet usually are "watch and learn" events, with many of the contestants showing promise. So it was in Friday's $150,000, Grade III Schuylerville, as Off the Tracks, a winner at first asking in June at Gulfstream Park, bested seven well-bred rivals, drawing off to win by 3 1/4 lengths in a handride by Luis Saez. She went to the post at odds of nearly 9-1 while the nearly even-money favorite, Positively Royal, finished positively last. Banree, Decked Out and Moment Is Right filled out the superfecta, which returned $1,444 for a $2 investment -- a case of "earn while you learn". Off the Tracks, a Curlin filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.27. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez his filly's maiden win wasn't against much but she did it with style. "I think she's going to be better going longer, so I was expecting just to finish strong but the race presented itself different," Rodriguez said. "She was right there second and that surprised me, that she was right there so soon. I was just hoping for a good finish."
Big Book dueled to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old, California-bred fillies, then drew clear in the stretch, winning by 2 1/4 lengths from Kiss at Midnight. The odds-on favorite, Sheer Pleasure, salvaged show money. Big Book, a daughter of Mr. Big, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.77 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons. The filly remains undefeated after three starts for trainer Tim Yakteen, who said she didn't race as a 2-year-old so she could grow into her body. "Waiting on her is a key factor in the success we're having right now," he said.
Weewinnin was on the lead but under pressure the whole way in Sunday's $150,000 California Dreamin Stakes for state-breds, then finally held off a late rally by the favorite, Rock Me Baby, to win by a neck. Poshsky was only a nose farther behind in third. Weewinnin, a 5-year-old Comic Strip gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.14 with Joe Talamo at the controls.
Conquest Pacemaker made all the pace in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup for 3-year-olds and never relinquished the lead, winning by 1 1/2 length over Lucky Lindy. Flashaway finished third as Conquest Pacemaker got about 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:46.08 under Eurico Da Silva.
Dust Alert dueled for the lead in Saturday's $165,000 Rio Grande Senorita Futurity for New Mexico-bred juvenile fillies, then kicked away to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Tijuana. The early leader, Blaze to Glory, held on for show money. Dust Alert, a daughter of Right Rigger, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:06.22 with Irwin Rosenda up.
Storm Warrior found room on the rail turning for home in Sunday's $195,000 Rio Grande Senor Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Diabolical King. Stormin the Jewels finished third. Storm Warrior, a Weather Warning gelding, covered 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:04.77 for jockey Isaias Cardenas.
Ecleto Red led from the start in Saturday's $75,000 Prairie Meadows Handicap, edged out to a clear lead in the lane and then just survived the late bid of Hazards of Love to win by a neck. Street Spice was well back in third. Ecleto Red, a 5-year-old Master Command gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.16 with Alex Birzer up.
Stormy Regatta set sail five-wide into the stretch in Sunday's $60,000 Little Silver Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and was up at the wire, besting pacesetting Rachel Wall by a nose. Kawfee Fa Marla was third. Stormy Regatta, a daughter of Midshipman, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.68 with Joe Bravo in the irons.
First-time starter School Board Prez was up in the final strides to win Saturday's $75,000 Miss Ohio Stakes for state-bred juvenile fillies by a head over Ibelieveinmiracles. Purple Flowers was third and the favorite, Flashy G, settled for fourth. School Board Prez, a Courageous Cat filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:06.86 with Jerome Lermyte riding.
Saham stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Crowd Pleaser Handicap for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds, got by the leader and drew off to a 2 1/4-lengths win. Cat Humor was along for second, another 2 1/2 lengths better than Street Fashion. Saham, a Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.91 with Frankie Pennington handling the reins.
Kiss the Daddy saved ground behind the leaders in Saturday's $75,000 Power By Far Handicap for state-bred distaffers, came off the rail for running room late and went on to win by 3/4 length over Previous Honor. Royal Renege finished third. Kiss the Daddy, a 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 57.57 seconds with Hector Caballaro up.
Potomac Fever rallied wide from last of six and was up in time to win Saturday's $75,000 Sunset Stakes by 3/4 length over Help From Heaven. The odds-on favorite, Stormdriver, finished third. Potomac Fever, a 6-year-old son of English Channel, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.37 under Carlos Marquez.
Welcome Aboard also came from last to win Saturday's $75,000 Opelousas Stakes for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. In My Time was second, a head better than hot tempo. The favorite, Haunted Heroine, checked in fourth. Welcome Aboard, a 5-year-old daughter of Rock Hard Ten out of the Rahy mare Recherche, covered 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.29 for jockey Filemon Rodriguez.
Quick Dagger was just quick enough to nip the favorite, Heitai, by a head after a long stretch battle in Saturday's $75,000 Turf Express Stakes. Win Lion Win won show money. Quick Dagger, a 4-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 55.29 seconds with C.J. McMahon up.
Redstart gave a couple rivals a little head start in Sunday's $75,000 Norm Barron Queen City Oaks for Ohio-breds, then quickly made up the difference and went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. U Rock Robin and Beth's Bling completed the trifecta. Redstart, a daughter of Blame, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.94 with John McKee up.
Hold the Giant tracked the pace three-wide in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Edmonton Juvenile, dueled for the lead in the stretch and worked clear to win by 2 lengths. N.Y. Smoke rallied from off the pace to finish second with Macho North third. The favorite, Awesome Slate, led early but then bolted, dropping his rider. Hold the Giant, a Hold Me Back gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.05 with Ismael Mosqueira in the irons.
My Heart Goes On recovered quickly from a bobble at the start of Sunday's $50,000 Angie C. Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, opened a daylight lead and just got home first by a head over Princess Kennedy. Kiss My Lulu, the odds-on favorite, was 2 lengths farther back in third. My Heart Goes On, a daughter of Albertus Maximus, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.25 with Juan Gutierrez up.