Honor Code narrowly won a star-studded renewal of the Whitney at Saratoga, highlighting a weekend of Thoroughbred racing that provided a few early peeks into potential late-season showdowns.
Internationally, Muhaarar picked up a third straight Grade I win Sunday in France and could be ticketed for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
No need for a ticket to board this train.
Honor Code was all out in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $1.25 million, Grade I Whitney at Saratoga, ranging up from last of nine, then just getting by pacesetter Liam's Map in the final jumps to win by a neck. Tonalist, the lukewarm favorite, was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, followed by Wicked Strong, V.E. Day, Lea, Normandy Invasion, Moreno and Noble Bird. Honor Code, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy ridgling, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.82 with Javier Castellano at the controls. The Shug McGaughey trainee scored his fourth win in his last five starts, with the wins including the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap and the Grade I Met Mile. "It was a spectacular race," McGaughey said. "A spectacular horse. People have always held him in high regard but wondered if he could run around two turns. He's got some quirks about him. Could he overcome them? I guess he answered all that today. I'm glad it's over with and I'm glad we won so I don't have to worry about that part of it." McGaughey assistant Robby Medina said Sunday morning Honor Code emerged from the race in good shape and could run back in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont before the Breeder's Cup Classic. The Whitney is a "Win and You're In" for the latter. Todd Pletcher trains Liam's Map, a lightly raced Unbridled's Song colt who was stepping way up in class after four straight wins and set a blistering pace. "He ran unbelievably well, setting those fractions to start and being there to the end," Pletcher said. John Velazquez, aboard Tonalist, said he had a hard time getting the 4-year-old rolling and, once he did, "he kept running."
Bay of Plenty showed the way in Sunday's $100,000 Alydar Stakes at Saratoga, opened a plenty big lead in the lane and coasted home first by 2 1/2 lengths over Mylute. Neck 'n Neck finished third. The favorite, Palace Malice, started a step slow and finished fourth as trainer Todd Pletcher said he needed the race. Bay of Plenty, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.92 with Joel Rosario up. "Excellent effort, said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. It's a tough spot, but we would consider (the Woodward). Obviously, timing-wise it would be okay and he's won on this track. But it's a tough, tough race."
The Pickett Factor got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Super Derby Prelude at Louisiana Downs and held off the favorite, Allied Air Raid, winning by 1 1/4 lengths from that one. Mobile Bay was up late for show money. The Pickett Factor, a Gold Tribute gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Dynaspice, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.42 with Donnie Meche up for trainer Ralph Irwin. He has won three straight races and four of five for his young career.
Takeover Target won a three-way scramble to the wire in Friday's $200,000, Grade II National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, beating A Lot by 1/2 length and Courtier by another 1/2 length. The favorite, Startup Nation, got home fifth with a belated rally. Takeover Target, a Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.00 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. "I'll see if he can get a mile and an eighth in the Saranac," said winning trainer Chad Brown, referring to the Grade III event on Sept. 5. "It's a big purse at the end of the meet. I'll have to evaluate it. I think an extra sixteenth would be okay but we'll have to just evaluate it."
Prospect Park shot by pacesetting favorite Om turning for home in Sunday's $150,000, Grade III La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds at Del Mar and kicked away to a 4 1/4-lengths win. Om held second, 2 1/2 lengths better than Royal Albert Hall. Prospect Park, a Tapit colt trained by Cliff Sise, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:41.54 with Kent Desormeaux riding. It was a bit of a breakthrough for the colt, who was second in the Grade II San Felipe, fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, second in the Grade III Affirmed and second in the Grade II Los Alamitos Derby.
Filly & Mare Turf
Only about 2 lengths covered the lot at the end of Saturday's $250,000, Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar with Elektrum the winner by a head while driving between rivals. Queen of the Sand was second, a neck in front of Emotional Kitten and another neck to the good of the early leader, Fanticola. Elektrum, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of High Chaparral, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.55 with Victor Espinoza up. The filly, formerly raced in France, scored her first stakes win and fourth overall. "She'll go up to Santa Anita in the mile and a quarter Rodeo Drive," said winning trainer John Sadler. That's a $300,000, Grade I event on Sept. 26. "We think more distance is right in her wheelhouse. She had to make a little earlier run today than I thought, but she ran really well." Gary Stevens, who rode Emotional Kitten, commented, "It was a great race -- classic turf finish."
Goldy Espony slowed things down on the front end in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes at Saratoga and scooted away late, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Eastern Belle. White Rose was third and the favorite, Danza Cavallo, faded to finish next-last of seven. Goldy Espony, a 4-year-old, French-bred filly by Vespone, ran 1 1/2 miles on the firm inner turf course in 2:29.04 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons. Winning trainer Chad Brown said Carmouche rode a similar race in a stakes at Belmont and "had a plan when he came to the paddock -- he was going to try to do the same thing and he did. He pulled it off again. He just set really easy fractions and she had plenty left coming home."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Cavorting came from last of nine to win Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Longines Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, edging away late to score by 2 1/2 lengths over Bar of Gold. By the Moon was third and Irish Jaspar completed the superfecta. Cavorting, a Bernardini filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.81 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. She now has back-to-back wins after a couple of rough outings during the winter. "I had the perfect trip," Ortiz said. "The trainer (Kiaran McLaughlin) told me before the race to relax her and stay steady in the back. We had a strong pace in the front and when we turned the corner, I just let her go."
Marbre Rose nailed pacesetting Endless Light at the wire in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Seaway Stakes at Woodbine, winning by a nose. Cactus Kris was third and the even-money favorite, Hillaby, ran evenly to finish fifth. Marbre Rose, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Smart Strike, struck the wire in 1:22.32 for 7 furlongs on the all-weather track with Alan Garcia riding. It was her first start on an all-weather track after previously racing only on the grass. "I was comfortable that I got up," Garcia said of the tight finish. "I was always comfortable with my filly. Her last two times she had a good kick at the end. I was waiting for the turn for home, looking for room, and letting her run."
Ready for Rye got to the front three-wide in the stretch run in Thursday's $100,000 Quick Call Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga and edged clear to a 1 1/2-length victory. The Great War, making his first start since falling off the Triple Crown trail at Turfway Park in February, got a brief lead in the lane and held second by a nose over Disco Partner and another head over Cyclogenesis. Ready for Rye, a City Zip gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:01.47 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Shrinking Violet rallied three-wide to the lead in Friday's $80,000 Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar and quickly put paid to her seven rivals, winning off by 4 3/4 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Home Journey. Our Pure Creation was third at a huge price. Shrinking Violet, a 4-year-old Congaree mare owned and trained by Wesley Ward, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.53 seconds under Kent Desormeaux. Birdlover was scratched.
Nyquist, the even-money favorite, tracked the early pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar, then shot to the lead late and drew off to score by 5 1/4 lengths. Swipe was second with Annie's Candy third. Nyquist, an Uncle Mo colt out of the Forestry mare Seeking Gabrielle, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.84 with Mario Gutierrez up. He's 2-for-2 for trainer Doug O'Neill. "I think it's safe to say he stays No. 1 of our 2-year-olds," O'Neill said. "Physically and mentally he's the best. But you never know, things can change so quickly, good and bad, for 2-year-olds." Asked about the $300,000, Grade II Futurity at 7 furlongs on Sept. 7, he replied, "I like the sound of that."
Pinnacle Peak jumped out to the lead in Friday's $100,000 Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile and opened up in the stretch to win by 10 lengths. Royal Lion rallied to finish best of the rest, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Better Than Magic. The favorite, Cash Bonus didn't provide any for his backers, chugging home a tired sixth. Pinnacle Peak, a Yes It's True colt out of the Indian Charlie mare Charlie Girl, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.95 with Shane Laviolette up. It was his second start, following a runner-up finish going 5 1/2 furlongs over the same track on July 16. Michael Stidham trains the colt at stakes-light Arlington International Racecourse.
Dream Of Me stuck close to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Dr. Fager Division of the Florida Sire Stakes, took charge after turning into the stretch and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Mr. Kisses. Brighton Lane rallied from well back to get show money, 3/4 length ahead of the favorite, Mr. Meatball. Dream of Me, a High Cotton colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.11 for jockey Eduardo Nunez. He scored his second straight win and now is 2-for-3.
Icy Gentleman rallied to the lead in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile for state-breds at Louisiana Downs and held off the odds-on favorite, Cale's Gold, winning by a neck. Wonder Run was another 1 length back in third. Icy Gentleman, a Yankee Gentleman gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.82 with Hector Del-Cid in the irons. He won at first asking last month and now is 2-for-2.
Master Mick might be looking for more challenging competition after demolishing a field of fellow Ohio-breds in Saturday's $75,000 Cleveland Kindergarten at Thistledown. The Two Step Salsa colt, with Ricardo Feliciano up, was in command every step of the 6 furlongs and won by 5 1/4 lengths without being asked for much. Blingitonagain and Kiosk's Cause completed the trifecta. Master Mick finished in 1:12.28 and remains undefeated in two trips.
On the turf, Expected Ruler posted a very unexpected win in his first career start in Sunday's $60,000 Tyro Stakes at Monmouth Park. The Leroidesanimaux colt, with Wilmer Garcia in the irons, tracked the pace, found room on the rail and shot through to a 2 1/2-lengths victory at odds of 46-1. The favorite, Full Salute, was along late to finish second with Bravura third. Expected Ruler ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.84 seconds.
It's High Time dueled to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Desert Vixen Division of the Florida Sire Stakes, then took over and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Silent Prayer. The prohibitive favorite, Ballet Diva, dropped from contention at the top of the stretch but held on for show money. It's High Time, by Gone Astray, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.59 with Harry Hernandez up. She's 2-for-3 with the only loss a third-place showing in the Cassidy Stakes -- behind Ballet Diva.
Get Rhythm got by Arlington invader Amira J in the final yards of Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Debutante at Woodbine, winning by 1/2 length over that rival. Londie Lou was a nose farther back in third. Get Rhythm, a Street Boss filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.82 with Eurico Da Silva up.
Cajun Conoseir rewarded those with the good taste to back her in Saturday's $50,000 Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies for state-breds at Louisiana Downs. The even-money favorite, a daughter of Closing Argument, pressed the early pace, then blasted off to win by 8 3/4 length over Social Factor, finishing 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.89 under Gerard Melancon. She remains undefeated in three starts, also including the D S "Shine" Young Futurity at Evangeline Downs.
Muhaarar, with Paul Hanagan up, took a while to get going in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. But once in gear, he gutted out a victory, besting Esoterique by 1/2 length. Gordon Lord Byron was third. Muhaarar, trained by Charlie Hills and owned by Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum, picked up his third straight Group 1 win, following the Coronation Cup at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket last month. Hills said he's eyeing the Haydock Sprint Cup and, all things equal, might get a try at the Breeders' Cup Mile at Keeneland -- a bit of a stretch for him, distance-wise.
Also, dual Guineas winner Gleneagles apparently will not head for York to contest the Juddmonte International (and meet Golden Horn). Instead, trainer Aidan O'Brien said Sunday, Gleneagles will target Sundsay's Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville -- provided the ground isn't too giving. O'Brien said the colt is in good form but will be best off on firmer going and at the 1-mile distance of the Deauville fixture.
Air Force Blue continued Aidan O'Brien's domination of the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes for 2-year-olds at the Curragh on Sunday, giving the trainer his 14th win in 18 years. He did it with style, too, moving from well off the pace to take the lead with a furlong left, then working clear to win by 2 lengths. Another O'Brien charge, Washington DC, finished second, 1/2 length clear of Buratino in third. Air Force Blue, a War Front colt, has two wins and a second from three races and O'Brien said his immediate future is not yet set in stone. However, the trainer is no stranger to the Breeders' Cup, with his winners there including Johannesburg in the 2001 Juvenile at Belmont Park.
Second Step got by Ito to take the lead late in Sunday's Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin at Hoppegarten and held on to win by 3/4 length from that rival. Nutan was third, another 3/4 length in arrears. Second Step, trained by Luca Cumani, was making his first appearance in a Group 1 event after a couple of good efforts in Group 2 affairs at Newmarket.
News and notes:
Stuart S. Janney III was elected chairman of The Jockey Club at the Aug. 8 meeting of the Board of Stewards and will succeed Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, who earlier this year announced his resignation after more than 30 years as chairman. Phipps will become chairman emeritus and will continue on the board of stewards. Janney had served as vice chairman. That position will be filled by William M. Lear Jr. Ian D. Highet will remain secretary-treasurer.