A massive upset at Churchill Downs, a controversial finish at Laurel Park, a potential future star at Aqueduct and some promising 2-year-olds from coast to coast highlighted weekend racing action.
Internationally, Marialite took the lead late in Sunday's Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Japan and held on for the victory.
And ... just when you thought you'd figured out how to use the Beyer Speed Figures, Andy Beyer now says American turf racing has improved enough over the past quarter century that he needs to revise them. See "News and Notes".
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Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Mrs. Revere for 3-year-old fillies looked pretty wide open. But a $2 exacta paying $1,799.20? Isabella Sings, at odds of 27-1, led all the way to a 1/2-length victory over 45-1 shot Rainha Da Bateria. Devine Aida, at 6-1, completed a $2 trifecta payoff of $19,029.20. Season Ticket, a 50-1 chance, checked in third and the $1 superfecta paid $63,817.90. The favorite, Onus, finished ninth, never reaching contention. Despite the outrageous payouts, all of the top four finishers are previous stakes winners. Isabella Sings, a daughter of Eskendereya, won two straight stakes races at Monmouth earlier this season and Rainha Da Bateria was a fast-closing fourth in the Commonwealth Oaks at Laurel in her last start. In Saturday's race, Isabella Sings finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.74 with Paco Lopez riding. "She can be kind of a headstrong filly," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher by phone, "and Paco was able to kind of coax her along a bit and get her to settle ... I was hoping she could continue on. She had been training really well and coming into it in good shape and we felt like she had a fighting chance in what appeared to be a deep and competitive field." He said she will be freshened in hopes of a big year as a 4-year-old.
Mr Maybe started last of eight in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Red Smith Handicap, rallied around the turn and took flight in the stretch, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Kaigun. Holiday Star added a few bucks to the trifecta. Mr Maybe, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:17.49 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up. He went to the post as the favorite after winning his two previous starts. He was, however, running in his first stakes race. "We knew he was sitting on a really good race but how easily he won surprised me," said winning trainer Chad Brown. "We'll go down to Florida and freshen him up a little bit. After this performance today, we have big plans for him next year."
Sheriffa settled off the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Staten Island Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, advanced through the turn and outfinished Saythreehailmary's, winning by 1 length over that one. Old Harbor finished third. Sheriffa, a 4-year-old Posse filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.57 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons.
Gentlemen's Bet was elevated from second to the victory after Saturday's $350,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash when the stewards ruled the aptly named Trouble Kid, who finished first, was guilty of interference on the backstretch. The favorite, Palace, also was victimized by the bumping but he was left to his third-place finish. Gentlemen's Bet, a 7-year-old horse by Half Ours, finished only 3/4 length behind Trouble Kid despite the infraction. The 6 furlongs over a fast track went in 1:09.34. Joshua Navarro rode Trouble Kid, who was looking for his fifth straight win since being claimed in July for $12,500. Daniel Centeno piloted Gentlemen's Bet, who was credited with his first win since the Hot Springs Stake at Oaklawn way back when winter was giving way to spring. He finished third in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Sprint, then was off for more than a year. "I just thought that if it hadn't been for the interference, we would have seen a pretty good show," said winning trainer Ron Moquette. "This was his Breeders' Cup because he didn't get in this year. This by no means was a letdown. This race is so historic. It's something I've always wanted to win."
Trainer Todd Pletcher shipped Lost Raven down from New York for Saturday's $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the trip was worth the effort as the youngster kicked away in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Twirl Girl. Table Jumper was third. Lost Raven, another in a growing string of stakes winner for freshman sire Uncle Mo, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.09 with Manuel Franco up. It was her second career start after a victory at Belmont Park last month.
Awesome Speed pressed the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes for 2-year-olds, battled for the lead and then held off a late run by Never Gone South before securing a 3/4-length victory. The early leader and odds-on favorite, King Krantz, finished third. Awesome Speed, an Awesome Again colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.67 with Horacio Karamanos up for trainer Alan Goldberg. He now has won two straight races.
Page McKenney tracked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes at 9 furlongs on the grass, took the lead three-wide at the top of the lane and was home first by 4 3/4 lengths over Strong Stipulation. Catholic Cowboy finished third. Page McKenney, a 5-year-old Eavesdropper gelding, was clocked in 1:50.26 over firm going with Karamanos riding.
El Kabeir put a nose on the wire that far in front of Roxbury N Overton to win Saturday's $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes for 3-year-olds. Duff was third. El Kabeir, a Scat Daddy colt, ran 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:23.58 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons. He won the Gotham at Aqueduct but was scratched from the Kentucky Derby with a foot injury and out for more than half a year. Owned by Ahmed Zayat, El Kabeir could help fill the void left by the retirement of American Pharoah.
Hot City Girl led from the early jumps in Saturday's $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and kicked away late, winning by 8 1/4 lengths. Stroke Play was second, just a nose in front of Paulassilverlining. Hot City Girl, a City Zip filly, got 7 furlongs in 1:22.70 with Velasquez aboard, serving notice she will be a factor in the female sprint division next year.
Speaking of good 2-year-olds, Toews On Ice was all out to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Bob Hope Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths, finally disposing of a stubborn Mac Daddy Mac after a spirited stretch duel. I'malreadythere was third, 3 1/4 lengths farther back. Toews On Ice, an Archarcharch colt, ran 7furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.27 with Martin Garcia up. He picked up his third straight win for trainer Bob Baffert, following victories in the Barretts Juvenile at Los Alamitos and the Speakeasy Stakes at Santa Anita. "Tougher race for him today, but he responded," Garcia said. That other horse got in front of him in the stretch for a little bit but he dug in and went and got him. Changed his leads perfectly. He's been a little green but he did real well today." Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes contributed, "You're always worried when a horse gets headed like he did ... Martin did a good job. You want to see a horse come back like he did. It was gratifying.
Baffert's juvenile filly hopeful, Pretty N Cool, didn't fare as well in Sunday's $100,000 Dezi Arnez Stakes, weakening late to finish last of five while Gary Stevens piloted Lucky Folie to a front-running victory. Lucky Folie, a Distorted Humor filly, opened up a 5-lengths lead turning for home, then held off Baffert's second starter, Treasuring, winning by 1/2 length over that one. Street Fancy, Surfside Tiara and Pretty N Cool completed the order of finish as the 7 furlongs went in 1:23.86. Lucky Folie won at first asking at Del Mar on Sept. 6, then finished third in the Surfer Girl at Santa Anita. "She's super quick," said Stevens, who never stops learning. "She fooled me. I thought I had it under control early. I thought maybe it was going to be a Beholder thing. But then I thought maybe I didn't ... I thought they were going to run by me. But she heard those other two coming up and her ears went up and she came on again. I can fix this for next time. She's a good one." Garcia, who rode Pretty N Cool, said she seemed okay after the race but "just didn't have it today."
Miss Mischief took the lead a furlong out in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian), Grade II Bessarabian Stakes for fillies and mares and got clear, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Paddle Board. Elusive Collection was third, Cactus Kris fourth and the favorite, Marbre Rose, last of seven. Miss Mischief, a 5-year-old Into Mischief mare, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.72 with Eurico Da Silva aboard. She had made her four previous starts at Presque Isle Downs, finishing in the money each time, but also had run well in the past at Woodbine. Da Silva said trainer Dale Capuano "said to just try and give her a clear trip outside. She was keen and following the race pretty good, just waiting for me to turn her loose."
Trini Brewnette rallied from last of nine to win Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies by a nose over the favorite, Neshama. The latter grabbed the lead in the lane from early pacesetter Audacious Bear but couldn't quite hold on. Audacious Bear did hold on for show money. Trini Brewnette, by Milwaukee Brew, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:47.00 under Alan Garcia. "She likes to make that big, solid run," said winning trainer Daniel Vella. "Being a lanky Milwaukee Brew, that's kind of her style."
Star Student advanced stoutly down the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Oakland Stakes and outfinished Ankeny Hill, winning by 1/2 length. Glacken Too finished third. Star Student, a 5-year-old gelding by Student Council, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.35 with Julien Coulton up.
Charitable Annuity provided a modest, albeit dependable, return for his backers while winning Saturday evening's $50,000 A Huevo Stakes for West Virginia-breds by 1 length over Prince of Windsor. Little Big Sime was well back in third. Charitable Annuity, a 3-year-old gelding by Charitable Man, went to the post as the mutuel favorite and ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.03 with Antonio Lopez in the irons.
Absolutely Cool outfinished long shot Jamaican Memories in Saturday's $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, winning by a nose over that rival after a wide move into the lane. Redsolocup also finished with good energy to get show money. Absolutely Cool, an 8-year-old gelding by Absolute Harmony, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.69 with Jack Barton riding.
Winning Vision surged quickly to the lead in Saturday's $35,000 City of Phoenix Stakes for fillies and mares and cruised home first, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Always a Chance. Missdang Sally was third. Winning Vision, a 4-year-old Pollard's Vision filly, got 6 furlongs in 1:09.73 under Scott Stevens.
Sunday's races were for horses with a South Carolina residency of at least 90 days and made eligible through the SCTOBA.
Big Louie D was an easy winner, by 4 1/2 lengths, over heavy favorite Morning Fire in the $75,000 Christopher Elser Memorial for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The Kentucky-bred Stormy Atlantic colt led all the way under Joshua Navarro and finished 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.38. Balk was 3/4 length farther back in third.
Eighth Wonder had an even easier time of it in the $75,000 Donna Freyer Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, leading throughout and kicking away to win by 9 1/4 lengths as the prohibitive favorite. Kylbrylie beat the others with Aye d'Eclaire third. Eighth Wonder, a Pioneerof the Nile filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.81 with Jose Flores up.
Marialite surged to the lead with less than 100 meters to run in Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup and was all out to hold on for a neck victory over the favorite, Nuovo Record. Touching Speech and Rouge Buck also were in hot pursuit, finishing third and fourth. Last year's winner, Lachesis, finished 10th. Marialite, a 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, raced in mid-pack, well behind two breakaway leaders. She quickly moved into contention on the turn and accelerated quickly as the field turned for home under a well-timed ride by Masayoshi Ebina. She finished the 2,200 meters or about 11 furlongs in 2:14.9 and won her first Group 1 victory. "I'm so delighted with her achievement because I've been training her towards this goal all along and she's built up into a great filly," said winning trainer Takashi Kubota. "I left all the tactics to Ebina and she ran such a smooth race. I was really excited watching her charging down the home stretch. She held on so well."
Two more runners gained automatic berths in next Good Friday's All-Weather Championships with victories at Lingfield on Saturday. Godolphin's promising 3-year-old, Let's Go, won the Coral.uk Churchill Stakes at 10 furlongs, racing near the lead and closing well for a 3/4-length victory over Grenisar. French challenger Metropol was third. James Doyle had the mount for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He is qualified for Finals Day now and everyone will sit down and have a chat whether he will go to Dubai to see how he takes to the dirt out there," Doyle said. "He is certainly one to look forward to." Graham Lee partnered Goken to victory in the 6-furlongs Unibet Golden Rose Stakes, securing a place in the sprint division on Finals Day. The Kevin Ryan trainee came home handily after biding his time and finished 1 1/2 lengths clear of Jamesie in the good time of 1:09.59.
News and notes:
Andy Beyer is changing -- slightly -- the way his team calculates the Beyer Speed Figure for turf races. Writing in Daily Racing Form, his primary outlet, Beyer said the calculation for grass races historically have been set in such a way that they produce figures lower than those generated for dirt races. Since turf racing in the United States has improved markedly in the quarter century since the figures first appeared in DRF, he said, modifications were in order. The new calculation should generate equivalent figures for similar races no matter the surface, Beyer said. But, he added, "Making figures on grass will never be as precise as it is for dirt." Anyone using Beyer Speed Figures would do well to read Beyer's book, "Picking Winners," to put them into proper context.