As final preparations were under way for the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, weekend racing action focused on the hot action in Australia and Hong Kong, with occasional detours elsewhere around the globe.
Winx defended Australian honor in the Cox Plate while Chautauqua emerged as the top sprinter Down Under. The Racing Post Trophy for 2-year-olds in England resulted in an upset. Able Friend rebounded from his unsuccessful trip to Ascot to resume dominating Hong Kong rivals. And the third leg of the Japanese Triple Crown produced a dramatic finish.
Dortmund successfully returned to the races at Santa Anita with a promising victory. And top New York-bred were on display at Belmont Park.
Let's return our attention to this:
In the wink of an eye, the Cox Plate was over. The wink occurred turning into the straight in Saturday's Group 1 when Winx got by the leaders on the inside and, in a matter of a few strides, settled the matter. The 4-year-old daughter of Street Cry went on to a decisive victory for the home team over a group of talented but, ultimately, disappointed overseas challengers. Criterion was second, 4 3/4 lengths in arrears, and Highland Reel finished third. Winx finished in course-record time of 2:02.98 with Hugh Bowman up for trainer Chris Waller. Bowman said he actually moved earlier than he would have liked at the key moment but felt he had no choice. "You have to take the cards you're dealt," he said. Winx now has five straight wins and Waller added, "She's just something different ... You keep raising the bar and she keeps answering."
In the companion Group 1 William Hill Manikato Stakes, Chautauqua came from dead last in the final furlong to win with such ease that jockey Tommy Berry was celebrating before the finish and trainer Wayne Hawkes was thinking Hong Kong and Royal Ascot. The 5-year-old Australian-bred scored his eighth win from his last 11 starts while winning by 2 lengths from Srikandi. "We'll see how he travels to Hong Kong first," Hawkes said of plans for world conquest. But, he added, "Ascot has been in the back of our minds for the past 12 months."
The Group 1 season ended with an upset in the Racing Post Trophy for 2-year-olds at Newmarket as the favorite, Foundation, was trapped behind a wall of tiring horses late and long shot Marcel cruised home first in the clear in the middle of the Doncaster greensward. Johannes Vermeer finished second and Foundation's late run netted third. Deauville led briefly 2 furlongs out but was among those retreating in front of Foundation and finished fifth of seven. Marcel, a Lawman colt, is trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam, who said he's more likely for next year's French Derby than the Epsom classic. Andrea Atzeni found the winning path for Marcel, who finished in a rather undistinguished 1:42.19 over going rated good to soft. The result was a controversial disappointment for Foundation's rider, Frankie Dettori, who otherwise has had a spectacular year. Foundation's trainer, John Gosden, didn't blame Dettori, saying, "That's life. That's horse racing."
Able Friend came roaring from last in the final 300 meters of Sunday's HK Group 2 Premier Bowl, putting away Hong Kong's best sprinters with ease. Gold-Fun, who looked a winner until Able Friend downshifted to his best gear, held on for second with Peniaphobia third and Charles the Great fourth. Aerovelocity faded badly to finish last of 14 in the 1,200-meters event. "He just obliterated our better horses today," said winning trainer John Moore. Referring to Able Friend's disappointing trip to Royal Ascot -- a sixth-place showing in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes -- he added, "Winning so facile like that just shows the world that he is an out and out champion. He may not be able to travel but boy, here in Hong Kong, let the people come and take us on in the Mile coming up." Able Friend, who won six in a row at Sha Tin before the England trip, is being prepped to defend his title in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint in December.
In the companion feature, Contentment tracked the pace in the HK Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, powered to the lead when asked by jockey Joao Moreira and held off Beauty Only to win by 3/4 length. Military Attack finished third with proven stars Dominant, Helene Super Star, Blazing Speed and Dan Excel in their wake. Contentment looks like the crest of the wave of new talent as he backed up his last-race win in the HK Group 3 Celebration Cup. "He has always shown me that he was a very good horse, from the first day that he walked into the stable," said winning trainer John Size. "I've made no secret of the fact that I thought he was a good horse before he raced. He always did everything correctly. He's always presented like a good horse." He's another candidate for the international Mile.
Kitasan Black squeezed through a narrow opening between rivals in the desperate drive for home in Sunday's Group 1 Kikuka Sho or Japanese St Leger, got to the lead and held on to win by a neck over Real Steal with Lia Fail third. Kitasan Black, a Black Tide colt, saved ground all the way under Hiroshi Kitamura before shifting out a lane in the late going for the victory. "There were horses chasing us on the outside after we took command," Kitamura said, "so I just hoped that he will hold on until the wire." The race was the third leg of the Japanese Triple Crown. Kitasan Black finished third in the Satsuki Sho, or Japanese 2,000 Guineas, and 14th in the Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby.
Cirrus Des Aigles could do no better than fourth in his first try at a marathon distance in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud. Vazirbad outfinsihed Siljan's Saga to win the nearly 2-miles event. But Cirrus Des Aigles ran well enough, said trainer Corinne Barande-Barbe, that a trip to the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase and on to Dubai is not out of the question for the 9-year-old gelding.
In North America:
Om ran to his notices in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Twilight Derby, leading all the way to a comfortable 2 1/4-lengths victory as the odds-on favorite. Mister Brightside was second, 1/2 length ahead of Royal Albert Hall. Om, a Munnings colt, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.90 with Gary Stevens along for the ride. The victory backed up his win in the Grade I Del Mar Derby. "The race set up just like Del Mar Derby," said winning trainer Dan Hendricks. "It just looked like he did it easier than Del Mar. He seemed to mature a little more and he's coming into his own at the right time of year. It looks like we're headed to the Hollywood Derby." That's a Grade I event at 9 furlongs on Nov. 14 at Del Mar.
Dortmund, making his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness, pressed the pace in Saturday's $70,000 Big Bear Stakes, took charge in the lane and won by 1 3/4 lengths, ridden out by Martin Garcia. Point Piper and Motown Men completed the trifecta. Dortmund, a Big Brown colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.42. Dortmund won six straight races to start his career, including the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, then finished third in the Kentucky Derby. "It was a good race for him," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "We wanted to prep him for the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Thanksgiving weekend. After that, we'll look at the Malibu here on opening day." The Grade I Clark is 1 1/18 miles; the Grade I Malibu, 7 furlongs on Dec. 26. Baffert said Dortmund was taken out of training after the Preakness to allow him to mature and gain some weight to match his lofty stature.
Tiger Ride got first run to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View for 3-year-old fillies, and outfinished the favorite, Include Betty, by 1 length. Mrs McDougal was third. The race came off the turf onto the fast main track, with several resulting scratches. Tiger Ride, a Candy Ride filly, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.99 with Edgar Prado riding. "I felt pretty comfortable running her on dirt," said winning trainer Graham Motion. "I would have preferred the grass. I think she's eventually going to be a better filly on the grass. But obviously she handles both, which is pretty unique."
Forevamo worked his way to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes for 2-year-olds, then held on to win by 3/4 length over the fast-closing Harlan Punch. Texas Jambalaya, at 75-1 odds, added some spice to the trifecta with a late run. Forevamo, a Florida-bred colt by Uncle Mo, ran 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:42.36 with Colby Hernandez at the controls.
La Appassionata kicked away from the field in the stretch run in Friday night's $100,000 My Trusty Cat Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and won off by 7 lengths. Above Fashion beat the other seven with Jet Black Magic third. La Appassionata, a Stonestreet Stables homebred by Bernardini, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:27.83 under Gerard Melancon. She broke her maiden Sept. 13 at Churchill Downs.
Empire Dreams, appropriately, seized the lead in the stretch in the $300,000 Empire Classic and held on to win by 3/4 length over Royal Posse. Full of Mine was well back in third and the favorite, Saratoga Snacks, faded throughout to finish seventh. Empire Dreams, a 4-year-old gelding by Patriot Act, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.35 under Manuel Franco. He won the New York Derby last year at Finger Lakes but visited the winner's circle only once in seven intervening races.
Super Surprise got by Frosty Margarita in the final jumps to prevail in the $250,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The odds-on favorite, She's All Ready, was 4 lengths farther back in third. Super Surprise, a daughter of Giant Surprise, ran 1 mile in 1:37.76 with John Velazquez up.
Get Jets rallied by pacesetting Fish Trappe Road at the end of the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for 2-year-olds and edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that foe. Governor Malibu was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Get Jets, a Scat Daddy colt, ran 1 mile on the main track in 1:36.21 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.
Palace got by Captain Serious in deep stretch to take the $150,000 Hudson Handicap by 1/2 length, going 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.68 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. Captain Serious held second, a neck in front of Weekend Hideaway. Palace is a 6-year-old son of City Zip.
La Verdad was easily best in the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares, drawing off in the lane and winning by 3 3/4 lenths, geared down. Tricky Zippy and Willet completed the skimpy trifecta. La Verdad, a 5-year-old Yes It's True mare, finished in 1:15.96 with Jose Ortiz up.
Lubash won the $200,000 Mohawk by a head bob over the favorite, Kharafa, after rallying from well off the pace. Iron Power was third. Lubash, an 8-year-old son of Freud, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in a course-record 1:39.08 under Junior Alvarado.
Wonder Gal stalked the pace in the $200,000 Empire Distaff, then took command in the lane and won by 2 1/2 lengths from Temper Mint Patty. Jc's Shooting Star finished third. Wonder Gal, a 3-year-old Tiz Wonderful filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:42.31 with Jose Lezcano up.
Invading Humor got the plungers out with a 29-1 upset win in the day's final event, the $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes for distaffers at 1 1/16 miles on the greensward. The 5-year-old Invasor mare, with Lezcano up, led all the way and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Distorted Beauty. Neck of the Moon and Swear by It finished in a dead heat for third and fourth. The favorite, Discreet Marq, beat only one rival, who was eased. Invading Humor finished in 1:40.09.
Gulfstream Park West
Kitten's Dumplings tracked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Little Miss Magic Stakes for fillies and mares, moved to the outside entering the stretch and got clear to win by 2 lengths over Zloty. Lori's Store finished third. Kitten's Dumplings, a 5-year-old Kitten's Joy mare, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.02 with Rafael Hernandez aboard.
Hawthorne Race Course
Bold Rally certainly lived up to his name in Saturday's $50,000 Cicero Handicap for Illinois-breds, rallying from last of nine in the final furlongs to finish in a dead heat for the win with Yankee Dealer. The favorite, Peej, was only a head farther back in third. Bold Rally, a 6-year-old Yankee Gentleman gelding, and Bold Rally, a 4-year-old Fort Prado gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.05.
The companion $50,000 Stickney Handicap for distaffers wasn't quite as exciting as Lovely Loree led from the early jumps and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Lots o' Lex. Be Playful was third in a formful finish. Lovely Loree, a 4-year-old daughter of Cactus Ridge, reported home in 1:42.81.
Hawthorne is located in Stickney, Ill., west of Chicago and next door to Cicero.
Justalittlesmoke rallied down the stretch to smoke seven rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Diana Stakes for Ohio-bred distaffers, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Needmore Flattery was second, followed by Floral Sky. Justalittlesmoke, a 3-year-old Smoke Glacken filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.62.
Awesome Slate drew off smartly in the stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Canadian Juvenile by 7 3/4 lengths. Ready Intaglio finished second, 8 lengths in front of Perfect Gentleman. Awesome Slate, a Summer Bird gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.63 with Rico Walcott in the irons.