While many of Thoroughbred racing's stars took a weekend break, the blue-collar runners had their moments in the spotlight in the Claiming Crown races at Gulfstream Park.
The event also provided a nice forum for jockey Javier Castellano, who rode four winners on the stakes card.
On the flip side of the leger, two of last year's top 3-year-olds -- Shared Belief and Toast of New York -- are gone from the racing scene. And so, soon, will be one of the iconic race callers. See News and Notes, below.
On the international front, there was top-level action in Japan and a top-shelf 3-year-old filly was on display in South Africa while final preparations were under way for next Sunday's Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin.
Before we take wing to Sha Tin, let's consider this:
Saturday's Claiming Crown races were for horses offered for a claiming price -- the amount varied by race -- since Jan. 1, 2014. The event was impacted by the weather, with several races off the turf and the main track being downgraded from good to sloppy during the program. That didn't detract from the performances. And the results proved beyond any doubt that claiming a horse can be very profitable.
Quiet Kitten stalked the pace in the $150,000 Tiara for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the good turf course, went by when asked by jockey Matthew Rispoli and won by 2 lengths over Seneca Destiny. The favorite, Wild Swava, was 3 lengths farther behind in third. Quiet Kitten, a 3-year-old Kitten's Joy filly, finished in 1:48.51. She was claimed twice this year, each time for $25,000.
Runs With Bulls edged by the favorite, Twocubanbrothersu, in the late going of the $110,000 Iron Horse, winning by 3/4 length. Roll On the Navajo rolled up from well back to take second, a nose behind Twocubanbrothersu. Runs With Bulls, a 6-year-old Flashy Bull gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:43.63 with Javier Castellano riding. He was claimed for $12,500 in March at Oaklawn Park and offered for a $20,000 tag at Thistledown as recently as August.
Silver Sashay won her fourth straight race, taking the off-the-turf, $110,000 Distaff Dash for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Sunrise Kitty. Katie O. finished third. Silver Sashay, a 5-year-old daughter of Eurosilver, ran 5 furlongs on the good main track in 57.90 seconds under Edgard Zayas. She was claimed for $12,500 in July of 2014 and since has won five of eight starts.
Stallwalkin' Dude outfinished the favorite, Trouble Kid, to take the $110,000 Rapid Transit by a neck. Rockinn On Bye was third. Stallwalkin' Dude, a 4-year-old City Place gelding, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.34 with Castellano up. In his three previous starts he finished third in the Grade I Vosburgh, a close eighth in the Breeders's Cup Sprint, and fourth in the De Francis Dash at Laurel. Trouble Kid had won five straight races previously, including the De Francis, since being claimed for $15,000 in July. Since the claim, he has earned almost $400,000.
Moonshine Promise kicked away in the final furlong of the $110,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares at 1 mile, winning by 5 lengths. My House and long shot Roll It Gal completed a $1 trifecta payout of $1,396.50. Moonshine Promise, a 6-year-old Will He Shine mare, finished in 1:37.67 with Castellano continuing his tour de force. She was claimed last December for $8,000 and so far this year has banked $142,490.
The $110,000 Canterbury for 3-year-olds and up was taken off the turf and it was Successful Native the winner, outfinishing the favorite, Delta Bluesman, by 3/4 length. Officer Griffin and Dreaming of Neno were in close attendance in third and fourth. Successful Native, a 4-year-old colt by Successful Appeal, ran 5 furlongs on a track downgraded to sloppy in a prompt 57.09 seconds under Juan Leyva. He was claimed for $25,000 in April.
Dodd'sprivatelabel won a three-way dash to the wire in the $110,000 Express, defeating the favorite, Slan Abhaile, by a neck and Big Legacy by another head. Dodd'sprivate Label, a 4-year-old Suave gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the sloppy track in 1:10.77 with Jorge Vargas Jr. in the irons. He could have been taken for $55,000 at mid-year.
Key to Power came from last to win the $125,000 Emerald, carded for the turf but moved to the sloppy main track. With Corey Lanerie up, the 6-year-old son of A.P. Indy out of the Rahy mare Exotic Wood, finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.61, besting Roman Approval by 1/2 length and the favorite, Ghost Hunter, by another neck. Key to Power was claimed for $35,000 in February and has been good ever since, winning four intervening races including the Teleprompter Stakes at Arlington Park this summer.
Royal Posse capped the day with a 2 1/2-lengths victory over Mr Palmer in the $200,000 Jewel. The 4-year-old Posse gelding gave Castellano his fourth winner on the card, taking over the lead at the three-eighths pole. African Fighter rallied from far back to finish third. Royal Posse got 9 furlongs in the slop in 1:50.77 and may have been the biggest bargain purchase on the entire program. Claimed for $6,500 on May 30, he earned $110,000 for Saturday's win. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee has been heard to say, "It's an easy game."
It's only five months until the Kentucky Derby and the first futures pool already is in the books with the ever-popular "all others" the overwhelming favorite. So we pay attention to as many of those "others" as we can.
Vorticity got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Marylander Stakes for 2-year-olds at Laurel Park and held off the favorite, Never Gone South, winning by 3/4 length over that foe. Runningfromthefeds ran fast enough to beat the others. Vorticity, a Distorted Humor colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.63 under Victor Carrasco. He's now 2-for-3 after breaking his maiden at Aqueduct last month. "First time out we were using the race as an education," said winning trainer James Lawrence. He said he told owner Matthew Schera "not to expect to win. He's good enough to win, but we wanted to see a good effort first time out. Then after that pretty sharp maiden race we started looking at a campaign."
At Golden Gate Fields in California, Mana Strike rallied from last of six to take Saturday's $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths from Algenon. Marqula was third and the odds-on favorite, Allaboutaction, faded from a pace duel to finish fourth. Mana Strike, a Washington-bred gelding by Papa Clem, ran 1 mile on the all-weather surface in 1:38.36 with Pedro Terrero in the irons. He won at first asking at Golden Gate, then finished sixth in the Golden State Juvenile at Del Mar in his only other start.
My Pardner Cal stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Joshua Radosevich Stakes for Ohio-breds at Mahoning Valley, eased by pacesetter Magnum Mills and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. Buckeye Bullet got show money with an even trip. My Pardner Cal, a Big Atlantic gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast but sealed track in 1:14.80 with Perry Ouzts in the irons. He now has two wins and two thirds from four starts.
Bird of Trey was much the best in Saturday's $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery for state-breds at Parx Racing, winning by 7 1/4 lengths, pretty much as jockey Joshua Navarro wished. Morning Fire and Wychmere were second and third. Bird of Trey, a Birdstone colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.15. It was his second win from five starts and he has never finished out of the money.
Coolidge battled down the lane between rivals in Saturday's $50,000 Arizona Breeders' Futurity for state-breds at Turf Paradise and prevailed by 1/2 length. Two the Punch was second and Bushrod finished third. Coolidge, an El Mirage gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.02 with Jorge Bourdieu in the irons.
Cathryn Sophia looks like the real thing. Her 16 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park followed a 12 3/4-lengths win in her career bow at Parx on Oct. 30. The Street Boss filly shot right to the front Saturday and wasn't challenged. She completed 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.17 with Roberto Rosario up. Prognosis and Thundering Sky were second and third. "She does everything so easy and she's very well behaved and acts like a race horse," said winning trainer John Servis. "She was a little bit of a challenge getting there, but once we got over the hump and she started training on a regular basis she showed some talent. But I had no idea she was going to be this good."
Roo's Valentine led all the way to a 1/2-length win over the favorite, Just Google Me, in Saturday's $100,000 Soviet Problem Stakes for California-bred juvenile fillies at Los Alamitos. Run for Retts was another 9 1/2 lengths back in third. Roo's Valentine, a Vronsky filly, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.75 under Martin Pedroza, picking up her second win in a row. "This filly has always shown a lot of ability in the morning and she's shown now she will run on anything," said winning trainer Kristen Mulhall. "She's better going long, but she can sprint as well." Her last race was a victory going 1 mile on the Del Mar turf.
Silver Lode was off slowly in Saturday's $50,000 Pat Whitworth Illinois Debutante Stakes for Illinois-breds at Hawthorne Race Course, had some traffic issues and still got home first by 1 1/4 lengths as the favorite. Partay was second, 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Lakota Rose. Silver Lode, a daughter of Cashel Castle, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.45. "We got into some trouble early but I wasn't really worried," said winning rider Santo Sanjur. "I knew I had a lot of horse." It was her second win to go with a second in the Arlington Washington Lassie at Arlington Park in August.
Heidi's In Charge survived a slightly messy start in Saturday's $50,000 Arizona Breeders' Futurity for state-breds at Turf Paradise, took charge in the stretch and won by 2 lengths over Sugar Pine Point. Lady Tam was third. Heidi's In Charge, a daughter of Ez Dreamer, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.34 with Israel Hernandez riding.
Sambista, a 6-year-old mare, posted a 66-1 upset victory in Sunday's Group 1 Champions Cup -- formerly the Japan Cup Dirt -- at Chukyo Racecourse. After saving all the ground behind the first flight, Sambista came off the rail as the field entered the stretch, found a seam and got by the leaders in the final 100 yards, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Nonkono Yume. Sound True finished third and the favorite, Copano Rickey, finished seventh. The only foreign starter, Hong Kong's Gun Pit, finished last after his trainer, Caspar Fownes, had expressed some concern about the deep and tiring surface at Chukyo. Sambista, a daughter Suzuka Mambo, ran 1,800 meters, or about 9 furlongs, in 1:50.4. Mirco Demuro rode the winner for trainer Katsuhiko Sumii. Sambista was fourth in this race last year and Sumii commented, "I did have my worries as she had put on another year in age and nearing the age of becoming a broodmare. Otherwise, she did not require much in terms of training. I will have to discuss her future with the owner but she may have another couple of starts before retiring."
Silver Mountain was a most impressive winner in Saturday's Grade I Cape Fillies Guineas. With Aldo Domeyer riding, the Silvano filly bided her time, accelerated on command and won pretty much at will. Our Destiny was best of the rest with Taffety Tart third. Silver Mountain, bred by Highlands Farms Stud and owned by Main Chance Farms, now has won four of five starts. Trainer Mike Bass has entered Silver Mountain for the Group 1 Grand Parade Cape Guineas at Kenilworth on Dec. 19. She is out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Our Table Mountain.
Quatrieme Ami qualified for the All-Weather Championships finals next spring with a handy win Saturday in the Fast-Track Qualifier over 5 furlongs of Tapeta at Wolverhampton. The Equiano colt, ridden by Danny Tudhope, raced in third behind the embattled leaders, rallied to the lead in the final 100 meters and held off Sign Of The Kodiac to win by a head. The race, formally the "Download The New Unibet Racing App Conditions Stakes" was Quatrieme Ami's third straight win.
Room For Me worked her way to the front turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Garland of Roses Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Princess Violet was second and La Madrina finished third. Room For Me, a 5-year-old Harlington mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.87 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. She finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint in her last start but now has six wins this year. "She banged her head on the gate in the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer David Jacobson. "Victor (Espinoza) said that took her out of the race. But she still ran a really good race, getting beat 5 lengths after coming from dead last ... She'll let me know where to go next."
Lady Sabelia, the prohibitive favorite, ran to her notices in Saturday's $100,000 Willa On the Move Stakes for fillies and mares, stalking the pace before taking command to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Disco Chick finished second, 2 lengths ahead of Lionhearted Lady Lady Sabelia, a 5-year-old daughter of Majestic Warrior, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.17. "Around the turn, she wanted to go and I didn't want to stop her," said winning rider Horacio Karamanos. It was her 10th straight win, seven of which have come at Laurel.
Deniro's Saint took command in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Bobbie Bricker Memorial Handicap for Ohio-bred fillies and mares and won by 3 3/4 lengths, going away. Hope's Frog Song showed the way early and held on for second, a nose in front of Startin Something. Deniro's Saint, a 5-year-old mare by Saints n' Sinners, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast, sealed track in 1:51.35 with Luis Gonzalez in the irons.
Spanish Pipedream set a pressured pace in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Inaugural Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on to win by a neck over Rachel's Ready. The favorite, Fioretti, flattened out in the lane to finish third, 2 1/2 lengths farther in arrears. Spanish Pipedream, a 3-year-old daughter of Scat Daddy, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.01 with Albin Jimenez at the controls for trainer Wesley Ward. "She broke good so I just tried to get her to relax and she relaxed very good down the backside," Jimenez said. It's nice to have the northern Kentucky track back in action and, with the promise of Historical Racing revenue soon, perhaps Turfway's fortunes will improve.
News and notes
Two of the top 3-year-olds of 2014 are gone. Shared Belief died in California this week after a suffering a brief bout of colic. Toast of New York was retired to stand in Qatar.
Shared Belief showed signs of distress after a Thursday morning workout and was taken to the University of California-Davis Veterinary School of Medicine but veterinarians there were unable to save him. He won the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male of 2013. He missed the 2014 Kentucky Derby with a minor injury but came back to win five straight races before finishing fourth as the favorite behind Bayern, Toast of New York and California Chrome in the controversial 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic. This year, he won the Grade II San Antonio, defeating California Chrome, and the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap before suffering another injury in the Grade II Charles Town Classic in April. He had been training toward a return.
Toast of New York, owned by Al Shaqab Racing, won the Group 2 UAE Derby at Meydan in March of 2014, then finished second in both the Grade I Pacific Classic and Breeders' Cup Classic. He was injured while preparing for the Dubai World Cup this past March, sidelining him for the remainder of the season, and the decision was taken this week to retire him. "Toast of New York was a fantastic racehorse and it is sad that his career was cut short," said Nasser Al Kaabi, General Manager of Qata Racing and Equestrian Club. "But we are obviously delighted that he will be standing as a stallion in Qatar ... Toast of New York will further enhance our evolving breeding industry."
And, away he goes. Trevor Denman, whose race calls have been synonymous with Southern California racing for decades, has announced he will not return for the Santa Anita meeting that starts in three weeks. Denman, known for many catch phrases, including, "And ... away they go" at the start, said he will spend time at his Minnesota farm and travel. He will call the Del Mar meeting next summer. Santa Anita said it will search for a permanent replacement and, meantime, will lean on Frank Mirahmadi, who has subbed for Denman when needed, and Michael Wrona, long-time announcer at Golden Gate Fields. Denman's tenure has included many exceptional moments, including a "guest voice" appearance as himself in the "Saddlesore Galactica" episode in season 11 of "The Simpsons".