Golden Horn denied Treve an historic third win in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Straight Girl won the Sprinters Stakes in Japan and a dozen horses qualified for Breeders' Cup positions in a stellar weekend of racing.
Among the big names moving up during a weekend beset by unpleasant weather were Tonalist and Grand Arch in the weekend's two $1 million races, Stephanie's Kitten, Runhappy, Tepin, Takeover Target, Wild Dude, Fioretti and Appealing Tale.
Several winners from the Arc weekend, possibly including Golden Horn, also may resurface at Keenland for the Breeders' Cup Oct. 30-31.
There were some new-ish names, too, likely to resurface in a few weeks' time.
Godolphin had another good week, particularly in Australia. And there was a spot of good news in Hong Kong.
First, to Longchamp.
Treve was primed and ready to make history Sunday with a third straight victory in the Continent's premier race, according to trainer Criquette Head-Maarek. She had carried all in her prep races and was training beautifully. Unfortunately for her, the rain stopped in Paris and by Sunday the Longchamp turf had dried to good, perhaps good-to-firm, condition -- harder than suits Treve. So when the golden colt, Golden Horn, emerged from his stalking position behind Treve's pacemaker late in Sunday's race, he had the advantage and went on to win by 2 lengths, with Flintshire second and New Bay nipping Treve for third. Treve made a valiant run to mid-stretch but clearly was struggling and flattened out. "I think she's given a good performance," her disappointed trainer said gracefully. "She was beaten by better horses. That's all." Head-Maarek refused to cite the quick going as an excuse. "If there are records today, it's not because of the ground. It's because of better horses," she said. But Golden Horn's trainer, John Gosden, said his colt was "very happy with the ground. Probably on soft ground, she'd have blown us all away." Maybe not, because Golden Horn is awfully good. The Galileo colt, ridden by Frankie Dettori, has won seven of his eight starts, including the Epsom Derby, the Coral-Eclipse and the Irish Champion Stakes -- all Group 1 events. His only loss was a mysterious second to Arabian Queen in the Group 1 Juddmonte International at York.
The question now is whether the Golden Horn has blown his last note on the track. The Oppenheimer family, which owns him, has said he will not race at 4. Gosden would like him back and on Sunday wouldn't say whether, at a minimum, Golden Horn might tackle the Breeders' Cup Turf on Oct. 31 at Keeneland. At least one British betting shop is offering him as the favorite for that heat.
Treve, who was headed for retirement at this time last year before her owners reconsidered, surely is done now. She will not be forgotten. Only six others have won as many as two Arcs -- Ksar in 1921 and 1922, Kotrico in 1930 and 1932, Corrida in 1936 and 1937, Tantime in 1950 and1950, Ribot in 1955 and 1956 and Alleged in 1977 and 1978.
We will return to international competition shortly. First, the Breeders' Cup divisions:
Tonalist was just toying with his five rivals in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Jockey Cub Gold Cup. After idling down the backstretch, the 4-year-old Tapit colt picked it up around the sweeping Belmont Park stretch turn, hit the front with a quarter mile to run and drew off to win by 4 3/4 length over Wicked Strong. Effinex was 6 3/4 lengths further in arrears in third and Constitution faded from the early lead to finish last. Tonalist ran 1 1/4 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 2:02.16 with John Velazquez at the controls. It was Tonalist's second straight win in the Gold Cup. Last year's victory was followed by a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic and he earned a return trip to that event in the "Win and You're In" event Saturday. "He's back to what I always believed," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "He's a top-class horse. It's a wonderful race. It's great to win it two years in a row. Every start this year, I wouldn't have traded my position with anyone else, even when we got beat. People forget about him, but I never forgot about him." Clement said the Breeders' Cup Classic is a "logical" next step. "I think we belong in the group and we'll be there," he said.
Golden Sabre rallied from last on the far outside in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian), Grade III Durham Cup at Woodbine and easily held off the favorite, Lukes Alley, by 2 1/2 lengths. Are You Kidding Me was a close third. Golden Sabre, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in course-record time of 1:48.33 with Emma-Jayne Wilson at the controls. He was coming off second-place finishes in a pair of local Grade II events. "I knew we'd have a little bit of pace to chase, so he just needed to settle and be where he's happy," said Wilson.
Grand Arch got the lead in the lane in Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland and just did hold off the late rush of The Pizza Man to win by a neck over that rival. Tourist was a neck farther back in third and the favorite, highly regarded British invader Dutch Connection, ran evenly to finish fifth, hampered by the heavy going and unaccustomed tight turns. The other Euro, Kelinni, led early and got home seventh, though neither was by any means embarrassed. War Envoy was scratched. Grand Arch, 6-year-old gelding by Arch, finished the 1 mile on soft going in 1:37.45 with Luis Saez up. He was coming off a victory in the Grade II Fourstardave at Saratoga and finished second behind Wise Dan in this event last year. The Pizza Man won the Grade III Stars and Stripes and the Grade I Arlington Million in his two previous starts. "We had this race in mind this year after a game effort last year," said winning trainer Brian Lynch. "I was worried about the turf getting a little soft today, but he handled it well. Very exciting finish. Makes for a great race." He said to look for Grand Arch in the Breeders' Cup Mile. Saturday's win guaranteed him a spot. Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds, which campaigns The Pizza Man, said he "couldn't be happier" with the race as a prep for the 1 1/2-miles Breeders' Cup Turf. "He got more out of this race than you could ever imagine for going into the Breeders' Cup and that's why we ran here instead of any other race," Papiese said. "It's about bigger and better things down the line." The Pizza Man also is pointed toward the Group 1 Japan Cup in November in Tokyo.
Tepin tracked the pace in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I First Lady Stakes for fillies and mares at Keeneland, kicked into gear on the turn and went on to win by 7 lengths. Crowley's Law beat the rest with My Miss Sophia third. The European contingent was disappointed despite Crowley's Law finishing second, as Outstanding finished fourth after lunging at the start and Easter got home eighth. Tepin, a 4-year-old Bernstein filly, ran 1 mile on soft turf in 1:37.04 under Julien Leparoux. She now has four wins and two just-missed seconds from her last six starts. "She was fired up today," said winning trainer Mark Casse. "She went a little wild in the paddock. I told Julien when I put him up, 'She's on her game.' She was impressive. I guess we'll probably go back in the Breeders' Cup Mile."
Takeover Target saved ground into the stretch turn in Saturday's $500,000, Grade III Hill Prince for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, advanced steadily to mid-stretch and finally took charge in the final sixteenth, winning by 1 3/4 length over pacesetting Perfect Vision. Great Dancer was third and the favorite, Tale of Life, finished eighth. Takeover Target, a Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 9 furlongs on the soft inner turf course in 1:51.42 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. He won the Grade II Hall of Fame at Saratoga this summer but then finished sixth in the Grade III Sarnac later in the Spa meeting. He has four wins from seven starts. "He was training so well going into the Saranac and he just didn't fire," said winning trainer Chad Brown. "In hindsight, he might have bounced a little bit out of the Hall of Fame win. He had a little time to recover for this race, got soft ground and a great trip. It all came together for this horse today."
Filly & Mare Turf
Stephanie's Kitten tracked pacesetter Danza Cavallo in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Flower Bowl Stakes at Belmont Park, went by when asked by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and won by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Mutatis Mutandis finished third, followed by Watsdachances and the favorite, Curvy. Stephanie's Kitten, a 6-year-old Kitten's Joy mare, got 1 1/4 miles over soft turf in 2:06.23. In her last race, she was placed second behind Watsdachances in the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington after being whacked in the stretch run. She was second in last year's Breeders' Cup and earned a return trip with Saturday's win. "It's a little similar to last season when in her first couple starts she didn't run well, and then she rounded into strong form, right into the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer Chad Brown, who supplemented her to the race with the prospect of deep going. "She's a different animal on soft ground. She's a quality filly," he added. Wayne Lordan, who rode Curvy, said, "She didn't like the ground at all. It was too soft for her."
Got Lucky rallied from the back of the field in Sunday's $500,000, Grade I Juddmonte Spinster and was up just in time to nip the favorite and last year's Breeders' Cup winner, Untapable, by a neck. The early leader, Yahilwa, was only a head farther back in third in the "Win and You're In" qualifier for the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Got Lucky, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.44. The 4-year-old A.P. Indy filly has had a few ups and downs but now has three wins and two seconds from her last five starts. "It's a huge win," said breeder and co-owner John Sikura. "She's by A.P. Indy and just getting better and better with each race as she's gotten older. To win a Grade I with that pedigree is amazing." Untapable's trainer, Steve Asmussen, admitted his filly has had "an extremely disappointing year."
Amelia's Wild Ride led the way in Saturday's $150,000, off-the-turf Woodford Stakes at Keeneland and kept going to the wire, scoring a 2 1/2-lengths victory over Mongolian Saturday. Stacked Deck finished third. The favorite, Shore Runner, fell in the stretch and did not finish. Amelia's Wild Ride, a 4-year-old colt by D'Wildcat, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the muddy main track in 1:02.97 under Jose Lezcano.
No Silent came four-wide into the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Eddie D Stakes at Santa Anita by 1 3/4 lengths over Melatonin. Jimmy Bouncer finished third but was set down to fourth behind Toowindytohaulrox. No Silent, a 6-year-old gelding by Silent Name, ran about 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:13.04 with Gary Stevens up. The race is named for retired jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, who presented the trophy. "It feels great (at the track), Delahoussaye said. "Not only that, old man Gary Stevens won the race and I'm going to present the trophy." Asked how much No Silent might have won by if he'd been riding, Delahoussaye said, "About a nose."
Runhappy broke a step slow in Friday's $250,000, Grade III Stall Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland. But that was the only slow thing about his performance as the 3-year-old Super Saver colt quickly shot up the rail to take the lead and never looked back. Jockey Edgar Prado's silks stayed clean as Runhappy was in command through the stretch and won by 1 3/4 lengths, covering 6 furlongs in the slop in 1:09.96. Barbados was a long shot second, edging defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champ Work All Week. Holy Boss finished third. Runhappy has won four straight races since being turned over to trainer Maria Borel at mid-year, jumping up from the optional claiming ranks to win the Grade I King's Bishop at Saratoga in his previous start. He was 11-1 at the Spa; the 7-5 favorite on Friday. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. "He broke a step slow. I had to get him running out of the gate. Sloppy track, a lot of speed in the race. I had to get in position and let him do his thing," Prado said. "He did it. He's a nice horse, came running, very fast."
Wild Dude outfinished Kobe's Back after racing far off a quick pace in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship, winning by a neck. Glacken Too, Masochistic and Distinctiv Passion completed the order of finish. Gimme Da Lute, Indexical and San Onofre were late scratches. Wild Dude, a 5-year-old son of Wildcat Heir, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.45 with Rafael Bejarano in the irons for owner-trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Wild Dude won the Grade I Bing Crosby at Del Mar, then was narrowly defeated in the Grade II Pat O'Brien in his last previous start. The race was a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" event and Hollendorfer said, "I think we will" go.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Fioretti wore down the leaders with a late outside charge to take Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland by 3/4 length. Heykittykittykitty also ran well late, finishing second. The favorite, Judy the Beauty, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, was bottled up on the rail through much of the stretch run and could only salvage third when she got room to run. Fioretti, a 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.04 with Sophie Doyle in the irons. She finished second in the Grade III Groupie Doll at Ellis Park in her last start. "We knew she was strong coming in," said winning trainer Anthony Hamilton Jr. "But this was a tall order." Asked if he'd take advantage of the "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, he said, "If everything goes right, yeah. That would be the plan."
Ben's Duchess rallied from last of five to win Sunday's $100,000, Grade III L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita, beating Uzziel by 3 1/4 lengths and the favorite, Taris, by another 1/2 length. Ben's Duchess, a 3-year-old Munnings filly, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.79 with Joe Talamo up. She has never finished worse than third in nine career starts. The L.A. Woman was her first try in a graded event.
Appealing Tale came from sunny California to find rain and a sloppy track for Saturday's $400,000, Grade II Kelso Handicap. No matter. The 5-year-old Tale of the Cat gelding shot to the lead under Joe Talamo, opened a daylight advantage and won in hand, 1 3/4 length ahead of Red Vine. The favorite, Met Mile and Whitney winner Honor Code, settled for third. Appealing Tale ran 1 mile on the sealed track in 1:34.86, backing up his win in late August in the Grade II Pat O'Brien at Del Mar. "It's on to the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer Peter Miller from California. "We'll cross-enter in the Sprint and the (Dirt) Mile but we'll probably lean more on entering in the Mile."
Greenpointcrusader, fresh off his maiden win at Saratoga, overcame a stumbling start in Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, came wide into the stretch and kicked away to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Sunny Ridge was second and Portfolio Manager third. The favorite, Grade I Hopeful winner Ralis, battled for the lead for the first 6 furlongs and tossed in the towel, finishing sixth. Greenpointcrusader, a Bernardini colt, ran 1 mile on the sloppy, sealed track in 1:36.25 with Joe Bravo up, earning a berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. "His first two races, even though he won, he had tight trips down inside," said winning trainer Dominick Schettino. "We talked about the track, being inside, I basically left it up to Joe. He got a little shuffled back at the break and the rest was up to Joe." He said he expects to ship to Keeneland about a week before the Breeders' Cup. Jockey Javier Castellano said Ralis didn't handle the track and trainer Doug O'Neill called the performance "a head-scratcher."
Brody's Cause rallied from the back of the pack to take Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland by 1 length over the favorite, Saratoga Special winner Exaggerator. Rated R Superstar finished third. Brody's Cause, a Giant's Causeway colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the muddy track in 1:43.27 with Corey Lanerie in the irons, winning his second straight after a career-opening misadventure on the turf. The race was a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" and trainer Dale Romans seemed surprised to be asked if he'll compete there. "What do you think?" he asked. "If they put on a big show, I'll be there." Romans said Brody's Cause is "just a damn good horse. You can't train speed into them. He's fast ... I don't know if there's a better 2-year-old in the country right now." We'll find out in a few weeks.
Riker jumped out to a big lead in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grey Stakes at Woodbine and held sway, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Kasseopia. Tizzarunner finished third. Riker, a Kentucky-bred colt by Include, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.31 with Jesse Campbell handling the reins. He remains undefeated in four starts, three of them stakes and all over the Woodbine all-weather. As a Kentucky-bred, Riker is not eligible for the Queen's Plate and trainer Nick Gonzalez said a trip south for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is in the cards. "That will be our plan now," he said. "We'll see how he comes out of the race but we're dreaming the dream."
Fellowship rallied from last of 14 to win Saturday's $500,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park, drawing off late to defeat Abercorn by 4 1/2 lengths. Li'l Meatball finished third in a wide-open affair that found the lukewarm favorite, Tribal Drama, getting home a fading 10th. Fellowship, an Awesome of Course colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.13 with Jose Caraballo up. He won at first asking at Gulfstream in May but was winless in three intervening starts, including the first two legs of the FSS.
Sunday's $250,000, Grade III Dixiana Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland was so wide open that Airoforce was the post-time favorite at 5-1. On the other hand, Colonel John colt did win, rallying from a stalking trip to score by 2 1/2 lengths over Camelot Kitten. Siding Spring finished third. Airoforce, with Julien Leparoux in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:44.12. It was his second win in as many starts, following a 6-furlongs maiden event at Kentucky Downs. "Going in, we thought he was a good horse," said winning trainer Mark Casse. "I think he proved it today." Casse said Airoforce will move along to the Breeders' Cup. The race was a "Win and You're In."
Gomo rallied to the lead three-wide in the stretch run in Friday's $400,000, Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland and shook clear, winning by 2 3/4 length over Dothraki Queen. Ma Can Do It tracked the early pace and held on for show money. Gomo, a daughter of Uncle Mo, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45 with Mario Gutierrez up. She obviously had no issues with the raw autumn weather in the Bluegrass after shipping in from sunny Southern California, where she finished third in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in her previous start. In fact, trainer Doug O'Neill indicated the sloppy going moved his filly up, especially as a prelude to the Breeders' Cup. "It's pretty important," he said of the Keeneland experience. "It's pretty nice. I don't know if we'll have this weather. But if we do, we'll be even more confident." Gomo earned a free pass to the Breeders' Cup with the win. Florent Geroux, aboard Work All Week, said, "He broke sharp. He just couldn't keep up. He was struggling a little bit."
Nickname, fresh off her maiden win at Saratoga, ran by pacesetting favorite She's All Ready in the stretch run in Saturday's $400,000, Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Nemoralia, in from England, finished second and She's All Ready salvaged third. Nickname, a Scat Daddy filly, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:37.76 with Javier Castellano up. The race was a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" but trainer Steve Asmussen was a bit cautious. "We'll make sure she's 100 percent," he said. "I do know the last time we won the Frizette it was with My Miss Aurelia, who went on and won the Juvenile Fillies."
Gamble's Ghost ran to her notices in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine despite traffic problems and having her rider lose the whip. At the wire, the Ghostzapper filly was in front by 3/4 length with Stoop and Strike second and Garavogue Colleen another 3/4 length in arrears in third. Gamble's Ghost, under Luis Contreras, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.62. She's now 2-for-3, with the only loss a second-place finish in the Grade II Natalma. "When I saw her trapped in there," said winning trainer Josie Carroll, "I was pretty concerned. She is a very brave filly and she went through and pricked her ears and had fun."
Flora Dora rallied four-wide into the lane in Saturday's $500,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park and edged clear, beating Enterprising Lady by 1 1/2 lengths. Silent Prayer finished third and the favorite, Ballet Diva, was sixth after setting a pressured pace. Flora Dora, a daughter of First Dude, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.22 under Matthew Rispoli. She finished sixth in her only previous start, a maiden event at Saratoga.
Detouring back to the international scene:
Esoterique slipped through between a pair of rivals late in Saturday's Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and rolled home a winner by 1/2 length over pacesetter Integral. Irish Rookie finished third. Esoterique, a 5-year-old mare by Danehill Dancer, ran 1 mile on good to firm turf in 1:35.87 with Pierre-Charles Boudot up for trainer Andre Fabre. She was second to Solow Queen Anne at Ascot and second again, this time behind Muhaarar in Group 1 Prix Maurice do Gheest, before winning the Group 1 Prix Jacqes Le Marois. Esoterique could head for the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot or for the Breeders' Cup Mile.
Covert Love overcame a slow start to take the lead in the Group 1 Prix Opera for fillies and mares and made most of the subsequent going. She was headed by Jazzi Top in the final furlong but battled back to win by a head over that rival. We Are finished third. The 2,000 meters took 2:04.43 with Pat Smullen riding the winner. Covert Love had four straight wins before finishing second in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in her previous start. Owner Hugo Palmer said she "probably will run in the Breeders' Cup one day," adding that day might be in 2016, when the event moves back to Santa Anita.
Ballydoyle asserted herself in the final furlong of the Group 1 Marcell Bousac for 2-year-old fillies, drawing away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Turret Rocks. Qemah was third. Ballydoyle, a Galileo filly, won for the third time in her last four starts. She covered the 1,600 meters on good turf in 1:35.44 and clearly justifies the name assigned by Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Goldream allowed Rangali first run to the lead in the final furlong of the Group 1 Prix Abbaye de Longchamp, then just nailed that foe at the end, winning by a short neck. It was a distance back to Muthmir in third. Goldream, a 6-year-old Oasis Dream gelding, ran 1,000 meters in 54.79 seconds. He also won the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June and trainer Robert Cowell said he will head for Dubai to sprint in the spring.
Make Believe raced close to the pace in the Group 1 Prix De La Foret, surged to the lead as the field entered the final furlong and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Limato. Toormore was third. Make Believe, a 3-year-old colt by Makfi, ran 1,400 meters in 1:17.05 with Olivier Peslier up. He could be headed for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Ultra held off Cymric in the final strides to take the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere by a short neck with Galileo Gold third. Ultra, a Manduro colt trained by Andre Fabre for Godolphin, remained undefeated in three starts, covering 1,600 meters in 1:37.27.
In the day's marathon, Mille Et Mille made led basically the entire 4,000 meters of the Group 1 Prix Du Cadran, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Kicky Blue. Fun Mac was third. Mille Et Mille, a 5-year-old Muthathir gelding, finished in 4:22.61 with Thierry Thulliez in the irons.
Impassable got by the pacesetting favorite, Miss France, with little more than a furlong left and went on to win the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein by 1/2 length over that foe. Akatea finished third. Impassible, with Olivier Peslier up, covered 1,600 meters on good turf in 1:37.65. It was the third straight win for the 3-year-old Invincible Spirit filly while stepping up in class.
Free Port Lux was along late to capture the Group 2 Prix Dollar, finishing 3/4 length to the good of Fractional. Air Pilot was third and the favorite, Cirrus Des Aigles, could not find another gear in the final furlong and finished fifth, beaten just less than 2 lengths. Free Port Lux, a 4-year-old colt by Oasis Dream, ran 1,950 meters in 1:59.48 with Thierry Jarnet up. It was his first win since the Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange a year ago at Longchamp.
Vazirabad got clear in the final furlong in the Group 2 Prix Chaudenay, a 3,000-meters marathon for 3-year-olds, and won by a comfortable 3 lengths over Tiberian. Pilansberg was third. Christopher Soumillon steered the winner, a French-bred gelding by the German-bred sire Manduro, finishing in 3:09.36.
Soumillon also rode Candarliya to victory in the Group 2 Prix Royallieu for fillies and mares, coming from the back of the field to score by 1 1/2 lengths from Lady of Kyushu. Candarliya, a 3-year-old Dalakhani filly, got 2,500 meters in 2:37.05. She finished third in her career debut a year ago and since has five wins and three seconds in eight starts.
Straight Girl was stuck in mid-pack behind traffic at the start of the stretch in Sunday's Group 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse. But when jockey Keita Tosaki showed her a seam, the 6-year-old mare quickened immediately, took the lead nearing the finish and scored by 3/4 length over Sakura Gospel. Ukiyono Kaze was third. The only foreign entrant, Hong Kong's Rich Tapestry, finished sixth, beaten only about 1 length after starting from a disadvantageous inside post. "The barrier killed him," said Rich Tapestry's trainer, Michael Chang. Straight Girl was runner-up in this race last season. Trainer Hideaki Fujiwara said he now has his eye on the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin in December before Straight Girl goes to the breeding shed. "Now that she has accomplished this victory in her last run in Japan," Fujiwara said, "I hope to be able to condition her and prove her ability against the world's top sprinters in Hong Kong. That would be so cool!" The race was another leg in the Global Sprint Challenge, which offers a US$1 million bonus for a horse winning three legs in three jurisdications. Aerovelocity will be gunning to win the bonus in Hong Kong -- likely facing Straight Girl and Rich Tapestry among other top world sprinters.
A spot of good news in the wake of Singapore Turf Club's decision to abandon its two international races. The Hong Kong Jockey Club announced Sunday the Chairman's Sprint Prize, already the final leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series, has been elevated to international Group 1 status and will move to May 1, the same day as the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin. The race also gets a commensurate purse increase. The race is 1,200 meters, as was the KrisFlyer Sprint at Kranji in Singapore, usually run two weeks into May. The change was approved by the International Grading and Race Planning Advisory Committee at its meeting in Paris. "The Chairman's Sprint Prize has a storied recent history and the race's consistently high ratings meant that it met the criteria for international Group 1 status," said William Nader, executive director of racing for the HKJC. The KrisFlyer was a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge but Nader said no decision has been taken whether to slot the Chairman's Sprint Prize into the series. Hong Kong now has 11 international Group 1 events on this season's schedule.
Godolphin Racing's Australian team swept all before it on Saturday at Royal Randwick, winning five stakes including the Group 1 Metropolitan. Trainer John O'Shea and jockey James McDonald were the immediate architects of the blitz. Magic Hurricane carried the Godolphin blue to victory in the Metropolitan, a 2,400-meters event leading to the Caulfield Cup. Magic Hurricane could be joined in that fixture by several other Godolphin runners including Havana Cooler, who was third in the Metropolitan, and Complacent and Hauraki, who finished 1-2 in the Group 3 Craven Plate at the same trip on the Saturday card. Godolphin's other winners on the day were Exosphere in the Group 2 Roman Consul Stakes, Calliope in the Gimcrack and Ambiance in the Dulcify Quality. "I've never had anything remotely like that," said O'Shea, who took over Godolphin's Australian operations 18 months ago.
Also on Saturday at Randwick, Winx landed the Group 1 The Star 150th Epsom by 2.3 lengths over Ecuador, running 1,600 meters in 1:34.58 under Hugh Bowman, and Speak Fondly won the Group 1 Coolmore Flight Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, also at 1,600 meters, by a short head from Honesta, clocked in 1:35.91.
Godolphin's run didn't carry over to Sunday's Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington as the favorite, Hartnell, settled for a sixth place as Chris Waller saddled the 1-2 finishers, Preferment and Royal Descent, who were separated by the narrowest of margins after 2,000 meters in 2:01.34. Waller said Preferment moved up in estimation for the Melbourne Cup after Sunday's race with the Cox Plate a potential stepping stone.