Shonan Pandora scores a narrow victory in 11/29 Japan Cup at Tokyo. (JRA Photo)
Local runners dominated the Japan Cup again, Effinex and Hopperturnity may head for Dubai after Kentucky success, Tonalist wins a dramatic Cigar Mile and Stormy Lucy takes the Matriarch at 65-1 -- all in a big Thanksgiving weekend of racing.
There were no Black Fridays at the track, as the action came hot and heavy. Getting right to it:
Shonan Pandora put away the favorite, Lovely Day, approaching the finish in Sunday's Group 1 Japan Cup, then just did hold off a late run along the rail by Last Impact to win by a neck as the four overseas horses failed to make an impression. The 2,400-meters race, run before a cheering crowd of 102,960 at Tokyo Racecourse, was predicted as a chance for the foreigners to snap a nine-year winning streak by Japanese horses. Instead, Shonan Panda, a 4-year-old Deep Impact filly, not only upset the globetrotters but also upset the local favorite and one of the world's top riders, Ryan Moore, who rode Last Impact.
With Kenichi Ikezoe up, Shonan Pandora started from gate No. 15 in the 18-horse field, established position near the outside in mid-pack and raced there down the backstretch of the undulating, left-handed grass oval. On the turn, fan favorite Gold Ship started a bold move from well back in the field, spurring the other contenders to seek position as they entered the long, uphill stretch run. For a time, it appeared Lovely Day would score his fifth straight win. But Ikezoe extracted Shonan Pandora from tight quarters at mid-stretch, edged past the favorite and set sail for home down the middle of the course. Moore, meanwhile, gave Last Impact a perfect ride, saving every step of ground, and by the time Ikezoe noticed him along the rail, he could only hope he had enough horse. He barely did, winning by a neck. "I knew I had Lovely Day pinned down," Ikezoe said. "I didn't even know who that was on the inside. I was just praying we had crossed the wire first." The 2,400 meters, or about 1 1/2 miles, went in 2:24.7 over firm turf.
It was a tough go for the visitors -- two representing Germany and one each France and England. The best showing was by Erupt, a 3-year-old filly who finished fifth in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomph. Trip to Paris, who had a very successful visit to Australia, finishing second in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup, finished 14th. Nightflower and Ito got home 11th and last, respectively. That outcome could impact the field for the Dec. 13 Longines Hong Kong Vase, also at 2,400 meters. Trip to Paris's trainer, Ed Dunlop, said it was clear after the Japan Cup his horse "didn't have the same spark as he had in Australia. He'll have a holiday now but he will be in training next year." Ito and Erupt also were ticketed for Hong Kong. Shonan Pandora, by contrast, appears likely to stay home next year. She won the Group 1 Shuka Sho last fall at Kyoto over 2,000 meters for her only previous win at the highest level. In her last start before the Japan Cup, however, she was fourth in the Group 1Tenno Sho (Autumn) over the Tokyo course -- a race won by Lovely Day. She has won five of 16 career starts. Asked about her next start, trainer Tomokazu Takano, said, "She is a very small-built filly and there are a lot of races in Japan where she could show her strength. It will be totally up to the owner."
Effinex rallied from mid-pack entering the stretch run in Friday's $500,000, Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs, battled by the early leaders and inched clear to win by 3/4 length over Hoppertunity. Looks to Spare was with the leaders late at 88-1 odds and spoiled some trifecta tickets by hanging on for third, a head in front of Keen Ice. The early leader, Mr. Z, finished last. Effinex, a 4-year-old Mineshaft colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.92. The $2 trifecta, with the two favorites on top, paid $962.60 for those who gave a second look to Looks to Spare -- who was claimed for $5,000 in April at Hawthorne Race Course. In his previous three races, Effinex finished fourth in the Grade I Woodward at Saratoga, third in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont and second behind American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Smith said Effinex is a quirky horse, given to doing unusual things during a race. "I just go with him," he said, "and it works. So far, so good." Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said the late-blooming 4-year-old "ran a hard race in the Breeders' Cup, but he shipped all the way back (to New York) on the van and acted like a fresh horse so we decided to come back." He said he will consider sending Effinex to Florida for the winter. Dale Romans, trainer of Keen Ice, said he was pleased with his run and would love to go to the Dubai World Cup in March with the Curlin colt, who defeated American Pharoah in the Travers this summer. Hoppertunity, meanwhile, is definitely headed for Dubai. "That's our long-term goal," trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday. "He'll go back to California and we'll start getting him ready for Dubai."
Commissioner rallied from behind the pace to take the lead a furlong out in Saturday's $250,000, Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup, then went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Neck 'n Neck was second and Majestic Harbor third with the other five far back. Commissioner, a 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt, ran 1 1/4 miles on a track rated good in 2:02.09 with Florent Geroux in the irons. It was his last race before heading off to stud and brought his career earnings to just under $1 million. "He's a very big horse a heavy horse," Geroux said. "That's why I tried to keep him fairly close early. I wanted to make sure I had a forward position and I had him in the clear so when I asked him to go, there wouldn't be any problems."
Dortmund tracked a quick pace in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Native Diver Handicap at Del Mar, took the lead when asked by jockey Gary Stevens and kicked away to win by 4 1/2 lengths. It was the second straight win for the Santa Anita Derby winner following a rest after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness. Imperative finished second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Iron Fist, followed by Big Cazanova and Majestic City. The 9 furlongs on a fast track took 1:48.06. Dortmund now is 8-for-10 for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Kaleem Shah.
Poshsky outfinished Pepper Crown to take Sunday's $100,000, Grade III Berkeley Handicap on the all-weather at Golden Gate by a neck with the favorite, G.G. Ryder, third. Poshky, a 5-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:4.70 with Russell Baze up.
Tonalist hit his best stride with a sixteenth of a mile to run in Saturday's $670,000, Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and found just enough to get home first by a neck over Red Vine and another neck from Matrooh. Mshawish was only 3/4 length farther back in fourth and the favorite, Private Zone, faded from the lead to finish fifth of six. Tonalist, last year's Belmont Stakes winner, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.14 with John Velazquez in the irons. Private Zone won this heat last year after finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. This year, he came to New York after a narrow loss to Runhappy in the Breeders' Cup. Christophe Clement trains the top two. "The race was run in a funny way," he said. "They went so slow early on, which I didn't think was great for us. But that's what good horses do. They win and they overcome things. Great ride by Johnny ... The fun thing for me, as a trainer, was having the two best horses in the race."
Taris attended the pace in Friday's $300,000, Grade III Go For Wand Handicap at Aqueduct, drifted out around the turn while taking the lead and powered home first by 2 1/2 lengths. Mei Ling, floated wide outside the winner, finished second, 3/4 length in front of the early leader, Spelling Again. Taris, a 4-year-old Flatter filly out of the Theatrical mare Comedy, completed the 1 mile in 1:36.10 on a fast track with Joel Rosario up, subbing for Gary Stevens. The Simon Callaghan trainee was coming off a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. "She got a perfect trip," Callaghan said. "She did it very well. It was a nice race with a solid field and we're glad she performed today. Gary was dehydrated and we ended up with Joel who's also a terrific rider and I was pleased with his performance." He said Taris may get a brief break before returning in California in February.
Forever Unbridled is back. The Unbridled's Song filly, making just her second start since a sad performance in the Kentucky Oaks, rallied by the early pace and outfinished the favorite, Carrumba by a head in Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Comely for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct. It was another 7 1/2 lengths back to Wonder Gal in third. Forever Unbridled showed promise in the spring while chasing I'm a Chatterbox through the Oaks preps at Fair Grounds. She was rested after the Kentucky Oaks and returned to finish a close fifth in a tough Grade II Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland. "We gave her a break after the Oaks and she'd been training great," said winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "She came up there ready to run. There are a lot of Grade I's next year and at Saratoga and I think she's capable if we handle it right."
Chiropractor outfinished March and the favorite, Om, to take Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Hollywood Derby at Del Mar by a head. March finished second, 1/2 length ahead of Om, who in turn was just 1/2 length better than Fundamental. Chiropractor, a Kitten's Joy gelding out of the Theatrical mare Eversmile, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.87 with Corey Nakatani up. It was his first try in a stakes race but followed an excellent second-place showing in an allowance event when stretched out beyond a mile in his previous start, also over the Del Mar lawn, by trainer Tom Proctor. Om had two straight graded stakes wins, both while running on the lead, but was rated Saturday behind a long shot rival and did not hit the front until the start of the stretch turn. He then battled on along the rail while unable to maintain the advantage. Nakatani said Proctor told him, "'Get him to settle and you'll be fine.' With these kind of races, the pace is the key. And that worked well for us today. The colt was full of himself today and when it came time he fired."
Almasty led from the start in Friday's $100,000, Grade III Commonwealth Turf Handicap for 3-year-olds and kicked away late to post a mild upset win. Saham was second, 4 1/4 lengths in arrears and 3 1/2 lengths in front of Quality Bird. The favorite, Nucifera, finished well back in seventh. Almasty, a Scat Daddy ridgling, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:45.41 for jockey Jon Court. Claimed for $30,000 at Fair Grounds in March, Almasty picked up his first stakes win. "I liked the inside post," Court said. "I was going to utilize the speed to his favor -- that's not necessarily the plans I would go with but that's how it worked out today."
Midnight Storm tracked the pace in Friday's $250,000, Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap at Del Mar, took the lead turning into the stretch and carried on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Bat a Ball. Toowindytohaulrox was a long shot third, a nose in front of the favorite, Seek Again. Midnight Storm, a 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.70 under Victor Espinoza. He won the Grade II Del Mar Derby to close out his 3-year-old season and scored again in his first start this year at Santa Anita but had not won in four intervening starts, mostly against tougher foes. "All we've been doing is trying to get him to rate," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "Victor has been working with him on that in the mornings and today he had him so relaxed on the backstretch. Then they pulled away when he asked. He looked like the Midnight Storm of old."
Filly & Mare Turf
Stormy Lucy, at 65-1 odds, was just up at the wire to win Sunday's $300,000, Grade I Matriarch at Del Mar. Recepta led briefly and held second, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of the favorite, Filimbi. Queen of the Sand was fourth at a long price is a wide-open race. Stormy Lucy, a 6-year-old Stormy Atlantic mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.16 with Kent Desormeaux at the controls for trainer Ed Moger Jr., who demonstrated the value of persistence. "She was doing great and she's such a good horse," he said. "We've been trying to get a Grade I win for her all year. It's the first Grade I for me and I've been waiting for it for a long time. I've been training for 40 years. We wanted to run her in the Breeders' Cup and then go to the sale. But then she didn't get in and we really wanted to win a Grade I, so that's why we're here."
Melmich went to the lead with a bit more than a quarter mile left in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Valedictory Stakes at Woodbine and drew off easily, winning by 10 1/4 lengths as the even-money favorite. Patrioticandproud was best of the rest with Pender Harbour up for third. Melmich, a 4-year-old Wilco gelding, ran 1 3/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:55.81 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Airoforce moved off the turf for the first time and rewarded his connections with a late-running victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. The Colonel John colt, second to the impressive Euro invader Hit It a Bomb in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, rather easily disposed of the favorite, Mor Spirit, who finished second after leading briefly. Mo Tom was third. Gun Runner also led for a few strides before facing to get home fourth. Airoforce, with Julien Leparoux in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.48. The colt won at first asking at Kentucky Downs, then took the Grade III Bourbon before just missing at Keeneland. "He was always one of our better horses and we knew that he liked the dirt and it was just a matter of getting him on it when the time was right and tonight was the best time to do it," said Norman Casse, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. One race earlier, the Casses saddled another Conquest Stables 2-year-old, Conquest Big E, who won a first-level optional claimer in 1:37.62. "We've never been in this position before where we've had two horses that are already awesome and came in and delivered the way that they were supposed to and that we can take down to Palm Meadows very optimistic about," said Norman Casse. "And now the real fun begins."
Mohaymen moved to the top ranks of Kentucky Derby contenders with a pace-stalking victory in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct -- his third win in as many starts. With Junior Alvarado up, the Tapit colt waited behind an honest pace, came to duel with Flexibility at the head of the lane and edged away in the final furlong to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Flexibility held second, another 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Gift Box. The 9 furlongs on a fast track went in 1:50.69. Mohaymen won at first asking at Belmont in September, then took the Grade II Nashua at the Big A, going 1 mile in a trip similar to Saturday's. "I did like last time, sat behind, just tried to wait," Alvarado said. "By the quarter pole, horses were starting to pick it up and I still had a lot of horse. I just tried to find my way and every time I pushed the button, he's there for me." Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he added Lasix for the Remsen because Mohaymen bled slightly after his last start. "We actually wait right up until they require Lasix to use it and today it worked out great," he said.
Jan's Reserve took back to last of five early in Friday's $150,000 King's Swan Stakes at Aqueduct, rallied four-wide into the stretch and quickly drew off to a 7 1/2-lengths victory. Salislaw was along for second and the early leader, Mo for the Money, held on for show money. Jan's Reserve, a Ready's Image colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.43 with Joel Rosario riding. He took four tries to find the winner's circle, finally breaking through at Belmont last month, and now has a two-race winning streak. Winning trainer Michael Dilger said the quick early pace "was the ideal scenario for us. Joel just made the comment that he might (go farther) but there's a lot of opportunities for one-turn horses so we'll see what happens."
Don't Be So Salty led from the start in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Display Stakes at Woodbine and just held on, beating Greatest Game by a neck. Crescent Drive was third and the favorite, Bear'sway, faded to finish fourth. Don't Be So Salty, a Florida-bred gelding by Tiz Wonderful, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.60 with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons.
Dressed in Hermes rallied by pacesetting Collected to win Sunday's $100,000 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes on the turf at Del Mar by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Frank Conversation, always close, held on for third. Dressed in Hermes, a Hat Trick gelding, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.13 with Mike Smith riding. In his last start, he finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf
Lewis Bay, fresh off a dominating maiden win at Belmont Park, won like a favorite should -- albeit slowly -- in Saturday's $300,000, Grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct. After tracking the pace under Irad Ortiz Jr., the Bernardini filly circled wide into the stretch, hit the front a furlong out and went on to win by 1 3/4 length over Thrilled. Disco Rose was third. Lewis Bay ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in a rather tardy 1:53.41 while negotiating two turns for the first time. "Turning for home, I sent her out and she went really fast," Ortiz said. "When she got the lead, she was a little green. I think she was waiting for company." Trainer Chad Brown said she "passed the two-turn test, at least."
Carina Mia led from the start in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs, turned back a challenge from the favorite, Stageplay, and went on to win by 4 1/2 lengths over that rival. Dream Dance was third and Dothraki Queen finished fourth. Carina Mia, a Malibu Moon filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:45.42 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. She finished second to Stageplay in her career debut at Keeneland, then came back to win by nearly 10 lengths in her second outing a month ago. Stageplay went on from the Keeneland triumph to win the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs. "You'd have to have confidence in her after her two starts over Keeneland," said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to winning trainer Bill Mott. "Obviously she's a really nice filly so our only question mark today was how she would handle the distance and the two turns and I think that she handled it pretty emphatically there." He said Carina Mia will ship to Florida where Mott will map out a Kentucky Oaks campaign.
Family Meeting shipped all the way from Maryland for Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Jimmy Durante on the turf at Del Mar, was let go at odds of 37-1 and won by 1/2 length, outfinishing Mokat. Sutton's Smile finished third and the favorite, Riri, faded throughout and finished 10th. Family Meeting, a Sky Mesa filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.14 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons. She's now 2-for-3. "She's a little green," Van Dyke said. "She hasn't quite figured it all out yet. She was idling on me. But I could feel I had a ton of horse under me, so I just wanted to keep her calm. When it came time, she went. She's a good one. Can't wait to see what she does next."
Go No Go rallied three wide to win Friday's $75,000 Slide Show Stakes for Oklahoma-bred fillies at Remington Park, outfinishing the favorite, Hailstorm Slew, by 1 length. Another Bond Girl was another head back in third. Go No Go, a daughter of Archarcharch, ran 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:43.27 with C.J. McMahon up.
Amis Gizmo dueled for the lead early in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds, then edged away and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Aye Aye Captain. Conquest Cavalry finished third. Amis Gizmo, a Giant Gizmo colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.64 with Luis Contreras at the controls.
Sparkles' Girl tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Lassie for Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies and took over in the lane for a 3-lengths victory. Garavogue Colleen was best of the rest, 3/4 length in front of Zermatta. Sparkles' Girl, a daughter of Society's Chairman, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.82 under Emma-Jayne Wilson.
Super Saks showed the way in Friday's $80,000 Dream Supreme Stakes for fillies and mares and held on to win by 3/4 lengths over the favorite, House of Sole. Miss Melinda showed late interest to get up for show money. Super Saks, a 3-year-old Sky Mesa filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.33 with Robby Albarado up.
Loki's Vengeance worked to the lead in the lane and held off Geaux Mets to win Sunday's $125,000 Thunder Rumble Division of the New York Stallion Series by 1/2 length. Empire Dreams was third. Loki's Vengeance, a 4-year-old Frost Giant colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.13 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Royal Lion started slowly in Friday's $75,000 Don C. McNeill Stakes for Oklahoma-bred 2-year-olds but came roaring down the lane to win by 5 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Mr. N was second and Weknewuweretrouble finished third. Royal Lion, a Kitalpha gelding, got 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:40.80 with Deshawn Parker in the irons.
Gulfstream Park West
Saturday's card featured a half dozen races for 2-year-olds, on both the fast dirt track and the firm turf.
Ballet Diva stalked the pace in the $75,000 House Party Stakes for fillies, went by and won by 2 lengths over Dad's Kiddo. Fabulous Dream finished well back in third. Ballet Diva, a Hear No Evil filly, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:11.96 with Jose Caraballo up.
Rafting kicked away late to take the $75,000 Smooth Air Stakes at 1 mile on the dirt, winning by 2 1/4 lengths from the favorite, Fellowship. Sumpter was third. Rafting, a Tapit colt, finished in 1:40.00 with Edgar Prado riding.
Swagger Jagger outfinished Life Imitates Art to win the $75,000 Pulpit Stakes on the turf by a neck. Mountain Music Man was third. Swagger Jagger, a Crown of Thorns colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:37.56 with Eddie Castro in the irons.
Lira got the money in the $75,000 Wait a While Stakes for fillies on the green course, getting by the leaders a furlong out to score by 2 1/4 lengths. Recognition was second with Sapphire Kitten third. Lire, a Giant's Causeway filly, ran 1 mile in 1:38.85 with Castro at the controls.
Full Salute got by Cat Tree in the late going to take the $75,000 Buffalo Man Stakes by 1 length, going 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:11.31. Pirellone was third as the favorite. Full Salute, a Speightstown colt, was ridden by Edgard Zayas.
Bella Flor came from far back to win the $75,000 Hut Hut Stakes for fillies by a head over Royal Story. Bonita was third. Bella Flor, a daughter of Eurosilver, got 1 mile on the main track in 1:42.66 for jockey Mario Pina.
Hawthorne Race Course
Recount didn't need one after Saturday's front-running, 5 1/2-lengths victory in the $50,000 Blackhawk Stakes for Illinois-breds. Purely Given and Creative Art picked up the minor awards. Recount, a 3-year-old Limehouse gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:08.96 with Timothy Thornton up.
Puntsville drew off late to take Saturday's $50,000 Pershing Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares by 3 3/4 lengths from Rosie My Rosie. Canette finished third. Puntsville, a 3-year-old Cashel Castle filly, got 6 furlongs in 1:10.00 for Victor Santiago.
Geppetto put a head in front of Jac's Fact in the final strides to win Saturday's $75,000 Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial for Ohio-breds. Plain Ol' Willard was third, 7 3/4 lengths farther in arrears. Geppetto, a 4-year-old Mercer Mill gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:56.02.