It was a week for looking ahead in Thoroughbred racing, with some rising stars turning heads in Australia and Hong Kong and 2-year-olds on display in Florida, Canada and elsewhere.
French-breds finished 1-2 in the New York feature while it was an all-American finish at Churchill Downs.
Things continued apace in Australia with two Group 1 events on the Saturday card at Flemington, either or both of which might lead to further international travel. And Sunday's Sa Sa Ladies' Purse Handicap at Sha Tin may have been only a local Group 3 event but it might portend an engagement in December in the International Group 1 blockbusters.
Check out the Derby purse wars saga -- and American' Pharoah's asking price -- in News and Notes.
The following, of course, is priceless:
Goldy Espony gunned right out of the inside gate in Saturday's $200,000, Grade III Long Island Handicap and wasn't caught, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Danza Cavallo. Gotachancetodance came from far back to finish third. Rosalind was never in the mix and finished next-last of 10. The top two finishers are French-bred. Goldy Espony, a 4-year-old Vespone filly, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:31.10 with Kendrick Carmouche keeping things nice and slow. The first 6 furlongs went in 1:07.10 and the mile in 1:42.93. Goldy Espony had won four straight races before finishing last in the Grade III Glens Falls late in the Saratoga meeting, when she encountered a lot more pace. "Kendrick gets along really well with this filly," said winning trainer Chad Brown. "He's able to set a slow pace and wire them again. I'll speak to Peter Bradley who heads the ownership group and figure out what we're going to do with her. She's had a great season."
Spelling Again tracked the early speed in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Chilukki Stakes for fillies and mares, easily took over the lead when asked and went on to win by a comfortable 4 1/2 lengths. Ahh Chocolate was second, a head in front of Gold Medal Dancer. The favorite, Birdatthewire, finished fifth after a slow start. Spelling Again, a 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Again, ran the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:35.75 with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons. She has won three of her last four starts but trainer Brad Cox said two turns might be asking a little too much. "She is a high-energy filly," Cox said. "But sometimes she doesn't want to rate. To rate around two turns is a lot different than it is around a one-turn mile or seven-eighths. We'll let her tell us."
My Monet prompted the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, advanced to the lead on the inside on the turn and held on for a 1/2-length win. Kiss at Midnight was second and Ashley's Sassy finished third. My Monet, a 4-year-old filly by Decarchy, ran 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:23.16 with Santiago Gonzalez in the irons.
Full Ransom, at 17-1 odds, ran by the pacesetting favorite, Chaulk O Lattey, in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes for fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Beat of The Drum ran evenly to finish third. Full Ransom, a 4-year-old Full Mandate filly, got 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.72 with Gonzalez up.
Are You Kidding Me stuck close behind the pace in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Autumn Stakes, then outfinished the favorite, Luke's Alley, winning by 1/2 length. Royal Son showed the way early and held on for show money. Are You Kidding Me, a 5-year-old son of Run Away and Hide, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.41 with Alan Garcia riding. He won two consecutive Grade II events here this summer, then was close in three intervening races without winning. "He's a very genuine horse," said winning trainer Roger Attfield. "He's had a couple of rough trips, but he trained really well to the race and I knew if he got a fair run he would be very tough."
A prelude to the Queen's Plate 2016? Shakhimat went quickly to the fore in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Coronation Futurity for 2-year-old Canadian-breds and got away from the field at the end, winning by 9 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Conquest Twister, beat the others, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of Scholar Athlete. Shakhimat, a Lonhro colt, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:51.10 with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons. He won at first asking in September, then finished third in the Cup and Saucer last month at 1 1/16 miles. " "He's showed me a lot of ability, but I've always questioned what his best distance would be eventually," said Attfield, who saddled another winner. "I was feeling he might be a sprinter or miler type horse. After the Cup and Saucer, I'd decided I was going to put him away until next year. I was trying to let him down and he wouldn't let me let him down. I kept taking him to the track, and the horse was doing so well I decided to give him a go at it." Attfield trained Norcliffe to victory in the 1975 Coronation Futurity and he went on to win the Queen's Plate the following year. That was the most recent Futurity-Plate double.
Strong Incentive moved to the lead at the top of the lane in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Jammed Lovely Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies and eased home first by 3 1/4 lengths, ridden out. Green Doctor and Peggy O filled out the trifecta. Strong Incentive, a daughter of Warrior's Reward, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.36 with Garcia up.
Gulfstream Park West
In Saturday's Millions Preview races:
Old Time Hockey looks like being back to his good form, scoring a second straight win in Saturday's $100,000 Turf Preview. The 6-year-old Smarty Jones gelding came from off the pace, hit the lane five-wide and prevailed in a three-way battle by a head over One Step Salsa and another head over Rizwan. The odds-on favorite, Reporting Star, reported home fourth, another head in arrears. Old Time Hockey, with Ronald Allen Jr. aboard, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:44.60.
Jewel of a Cat dueled briefly for the lead in the $100,000 Turf Sprint Preview, cleared and drew off to win by 3 lengths. The favorite, Katie's Kiss, chased her home and finished second, a head in front of Delta Bluesman and Noble Prince, who dead-heated for third and fourth. Jewel of a Cat, a 5-year-old mare by Wildcat Heir, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.80 with Paco Lopez up.
Saraguaro took over late to win the $100,000 Classic Preview, beating Nauset Beach to the line by 1 1/4 length. Southern Barbecue ran evenly to finish third. The favorite, East Hall, finished a dull fifth. Saraguaro, a 3-year-old colt by Express Tour, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.65 with Eddie Castro in the irons. He now has won two in a row, both restricted stakes in South Florida.
Legal Laura and My Miss Venezuela came from behind a hot pace duel to finish 1-2 in the $100,000 Distaff Preview, with Legal Laura 2 1/2 lengths on top. The embattled leaders, Flutterby and Moment of Delight, paid the price and finished third and fourth respectively. Legal Laura, a 4-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir, ran 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:23.48 with Antonio Gallardo in the irons. It was her second win of the year.
In Saturday's heats for Florida-bred juveniles:
Brandy's Girl led all the way to an easy, 4 3/4-lengths victory in the $100,000 Juvenile Filly Sprint, scoring her second win from three starts. Silent Prayer was second-best with Rontos Lily third at a big price. Brandy's Girl, a Posse filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.59 with Lopez letting her lope home late.
Little Nick V. had the outside position in a three-way dash to the wire in the $100,000 Juvenile Turf Stakes and got the nod by a nose over Light the Night. Ian Smith, on the inside, finished third and Leonardo da Vinci was fourth with a late move, just a neck farther back. Little Nick V. a Colonel John colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:39.69 with Jeffrey Sanchez up. It was his first win after a third and a second.
Pancake tracked pacesetter Lupo's Way into the lane in the $100,000 Juvenile Filly Turf, then took the lead late, scoring by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Catira Rock finished third. Pancake, a daughter of Corinthian, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:40.46 with Jose Caraballo at the controls.
Li'l Meatball led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over the favorite, Fellowship, in the $100,000 Juvenile Sprint. Bullet Gone Astray was third. Li'l Meatball, a Graeme Hall gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:18.21 with Miguel Vasquez up.
Suddenbreakingnews interrupted what looked like a winning move by Cash Bonus in Friday's $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes for 2-year-olds, outfinishing that rival by 1/2 length. Royal Lion was only a neck farther back in third and the favorite, Bravura, faded from the point to get home fourth. Suddenbreakingnews, a Mineshaft gelding out of an Afleet Alex mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.01 under Luis Quinonez.
Deniro's Saint came from last of five to win Saturday's $75,000 Ohio Debutante Handicap for Ohio-bred fillies and mares by 3 1/4 lengths. Startin Something finished second, a neck in front of Sugar Marie. Deniro's Saint, a 5-year-old daughter of Saints n' Sinners, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:51.98 with Luis Gonzales in the irons.
Golden Gate Fields
Code Warrior pressed the pace set by Algenon in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Nugget Stakes for 2-year-olds, then went by that one to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Algenon was second, 5 length to the good of Gold Rush Dancer. Code Warrior, a Florida-bred filly by Society's Chairman, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.68 with Anne Sanguinetti in the irons.
Mecke's Madalyn was away sluggishly in Friday's $50,000 Shesastonecoldfox Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies. But the Desert Party filly then came with a rush four-wide down the stretch and won by 3/4 length over Finger Painter. Crazy Love finished third. Mecke's Madalyn, by Desert Party, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:13.44 with Kaylia Albright aboard.
Red Hot Diva hit the accelerator in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred distaffers and ran on to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Spa Creek and Dimples got the minor awards. Red Hot Diva, a 5-year-old mare by Devon Deputy, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:55.69 under Travis Dunkelberger.
Ride Hard Kowboy did just that in the lane in Saturday's $35,000 Jeff and Jack Coady Sr. Stakes for 3-year-olds, kicking away to a 4 3/4-lengths score over Shrewd Move. Carouse was third. Ride Hard Kowboy, a Kodiak Kowboy gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.30 under Scott Stevens.
My Blue Sky found clear sailing between rivals in Saturday's $35,000 Chandler Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got through and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Springsprangsprung. Cup of Soup was third. My Blue Sky, a Sky Mesa filly, covered 1 mile on the green course in 1:36.49 with Geovanni Franco up.
Turn Me Loose was turned loose at the start of Saturday's Group 1 Emirates Stakes at Flemington and wasn't to be denied. With Kerrin McAvoy at the controls, the New Zealand-bred survived pressure through most of the mile and got home first by a head over Politeness. Rock Sturdy was another neck back in third. English invader Arod duplicated his Cox Plate disappointment, pulling early and then fading from contention to beat only one of his 14 rivals. Turn Me Loose now is a live candidate for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin in December.
On the same card, long shot Delectation got the better of Manikato Stakes winner Chautauqua in the Group 1 Darley Classic, winning by by a short head over that rival. James McDonald found a way between rivals to get the lead in the 6-furlongs test and Chautauqua, taking the outside route, couldn't overcome that advantage. Terravista came with a late rush to finish a close third. Trainer Chris Waller took Brazen Beau to Royal Ascot last year to finish second in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee and said he wants to go back, whether with Delectation or another runner. But, he added, "It's good prize money at home and we won't lose sight of that."
Sunday's Sa Sa Ladies' Purse was run for the first time in 1846 and perhaps is better known as an audience "chic fest" than a noteworthy race. Nonetheless, when Top Act got home first in Sunday's renewal, the prospect was for good things on the track, as well as in the stands. "He's been great today," said winning trainer Tony Millard after the 5-year-old held off Romantic Touch and Ensuring before a chic crowd of more than 72,000. "We planned this path for him at the end of last season. He won five races for us and has really come into it ...We will take him for the 2000-meter race (Longines Jockey Clup Cup) next and if he goes well there, maybe we can supplement for the HKIR meeting."
The richest Purebred Arabian race in the world -- the 1.2 million Euro Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayyan Jewel Crown, kicked off the season in style Sunday aas Olivier Peslier booted home Qatar-based Kalino to a narrow victory. A French runner, Sahabba, was second. "The horse was very brave," said Peslier. "He was tiring at the end but found just enough and this is a great result for Qatar, Alban and the whole team." The winner is trained by Alban de Mieulle. Purebred Arabian racing, more popular in the Middle East than elsewhere, nonetheless has a worldwide following and includes sporadic but well-funded races at major venues in North America. A Purebred Arabian race traditionally opens the card on World Cup night at Meydan in Dubai.
News and notes:
Epsom Downs announced Friday the purse for the 2017 Investec Derby will be increased to 1.5 million pounds, or slightly more than US$2.25 million at the current exchange rate. By comparison, the Kentucky Derby and and the UAE Derby are worth US$2 million each. The purse for the 238th running of the Epsom classic earlier was advertised at 1.325 million pounds -- about US$1.99 million. "We are proud the Investec Derby is the most prestigious Flat race in the world and the one owners, trainers and jockeys want to win," said Andrew Cooper, head of racing for Jockey Club Racecourses' London Region. "We are continuing to invest in its status and one aspect of that -- important both to us and to our long-term partners, Investec -- is to ensure the Classic remains the richest race in Britain." The purse structure for the 2016 running already is fixed because of the yearling-entry system. Lest the British get too pumped up about exceeding the purses offered in Louisville and Dubai, let it be noted this year's Hong Kong Derby offered HK$18 million, or about US$2.3 million, and the Japanese Derby was worth 200 million yen, or about US$1.6 million, after taking a relative price hit because of currency fluctuation vis-à-vis the dollar.
Speaking of money, if you have a really nice mare and $200,000, you might be able to arrange a meeting with Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner American Pharoah this spring. That's the opening stud fee for the recently retired, soon-to-be Horse of the Year announced this week by Coolmore. Too rich? Mare not quite up to snuff? Or just willing to wait a while? Coolmore also stands 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus with a published fee of $7,500. He started his second career in 2001 at Ashford Stud with a published fee of $150,000.