UPI Horse Racing Roundup

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Jan. 19, 2016 at 12:45 PM
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Even as last year's stars were honored at the Eclipse Award ceremonies, promising newcomers Mo Tom, Frank Conversation and Never Gone South were starting to make their case in weekend Kentucky Derby preps.

In the same vein, some of those who fell short in 2015 made a good start on hitting the top of the 2016 award charts -- among them Taris, with a win in California, and last year's Louisiana Derby winner, International Star.

American Pharoah, to the surprise of none, was the unanimous choice for 2015 Horse of the Year and also for the Eclipse Award as top 3-year-old male. His owner, Ahmed Zayat, and trainer, Bob Baffert, also took home hardware from Saturday night's ceremony.

In Dubai, it was the old guys -- ages 10 and 11 -- who lit up the board at Meydan as the World Cup Carnival rolled on.

Speaking of rolling ...

Kentucky Derby preps

Mo Tom, already slotted as a confirmed closer, got off to a rough start in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II TwinSpires LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds, hitting the gate and exchanging bumps. But that was forgotten in the final charge down the long stretch as the Uncle Mo colt got to the front inside the final furlong and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Tom's Ready. Uncle Walter, another by Uncle Mo, attended the pace but settled for third. Mo Tom, trained by Tom Amoss (Toms everywhere in this one!) and ridden by Corey Lanerie, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.18. He won two of his first three starts last fall, skipped the Breeders' Cup and then finished a close third behind Eclipse Award finalist Airoforce in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

"Great way to start his 3-year-old season," said Amoss, an 11-time Fair Grounds champion trainer. "Today's race was a mile and 70. I'm sure Corey would agree, when the distance gets further, the better our horse is going to get. So we're really excited about that." Both Mo Tom and Tom's Ready are owned by Gayle Benson, wife of the owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.

Frank Conversation had no trouble with five opponents or the Golden Gate Fields all-weather course as the Quality Road colt rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win Saturday's $100,000 California Derby by 2 1/2 lengths. Marqula was second, 2 lengths to the good of Algenon. The favorite, Allaboutaction, faded from a pace duel to finish fourth. Frank Conversation, owned by Reddam Racing and trained by Doug O'Neill, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.37. It was his first try on the all-weather. Earlier, the colt finished third in the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille at Del Mar and fifth in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity.

"The speed took off and I was able to relax and sit behind the speed," said winning jockey Mario Gutierrez. "It was a good trip for him. Last time (at Los Alamitos) he was a little rank. Today he was more calm, and it was good for us."

Frank Conversation has the same owner, trainer and jockey as Nyquist, last year's 2-year-old champion.

"We had a dream year with 2-year-olds and now everybody wants to be in the Kentucky Derby," said Leandro Mora, assistant to O'Neill. "This is a nice horse and he's bred top and bottom for grass and synthetic."

Never Gone South never got challenged in Saturday's $75,000 Frank Whiteley Jr. Stakes at Laurel Park, leading all the way to a 7 1/4-lengths victory as the odds-on favorite. Marengo Road and Henry the King completed the trifecta. Never Gone South, a Munnings colt, ran 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:23.92 with Trevor McCarthy in the irons. He now has three wins and two seconds from five starts.

"Trevor came into the paddock and said, 'We're just going to lead,' and I said, 'That's a plan,'" reported trainer Cathal Lynch. "There wasn't a whole lot of speed in there and he's been ding-donging against some really nice horses."

Lynch said the $75,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Feb. 15 at a mile could be next for Never Gone South.

The proceedings continue Monday at Oaklawn Park with the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes, which is named for the 2004 Kentucky Derby winner and last year launched American Pharoah's 3-year-old year. Bob Baffert, who orchestrated American Pharoah's Triple Crown campaign, shiped in Towes On Ice from California for Monday's race and is the morning-line favorite. Synchrony, trained by Donnie K. Von Hemel, is the second pick on the morning line in his stakes debut.

"There's always a bit of Derby fever that takes over this time of year," Von Hemel said. "I'm sure a lot of people are seeing the success horses have had that have come through Oaklawn in the Triple Crown series. It would be hard to rival it right now, I think."

{b: Kentucky Oaks preps}

Stageplay jumped to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, opened a daylight lead and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Midnight On Oconee. Jet Black Magic finished third. Stageplay, a Curlin filly owned and bred by Mike Rutherford, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.76 under Florent Geroux, running her record to three wins and one second from four starts.

"She's a very intelligent filly. Very smart," Geroux said. "She broke very sharply from the gate and from there I just sent her along. She did the rest and dragged me to the lead and collected the win."

Constellation led from the start in Sunday's $100,000 Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct and raced off to a 10-lengths victory, well in hand. Kalabaka, Mo d'Amour and Wave of Glory completed the order of finish after four scratches. Constellation, a Bellamy Road filly, got 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.89 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up. Last year, she was third in the Grade 1 Spinaway at Saratoga and second in the Grade II Matron at Belmont before winning the Furlough Stakes at Aqueduct in her 2-year-old finale.

"She's very straightforward," said Toby Sheets, assistant to winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "She thinks she is the boss and we let her be the boss." Asked about leaving Constellation in New York rather than shipping south, he said, "We were kind of indecisive. But the weather's been really nice, so that's helped a lot. We're just going to enjoy the win today and move on from there."

Marquee Miss dueled her way to the lead in Friday's $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes at Oaklawn Park, shook clear and sailed home first, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of the odds-on favorite, Durango. Catalust rallied from last of seven to finish third. Marquee Miss, a Cowboy Cal filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.74 with Channing Hill in the irons. The filly won the Arlington-Washington Lassie in her first start in August, then finished well out of the money in three starts in Kentucky.

"I was surprised to see her so up close because she's actually towing Channing around there early," said winning trainer Ingrid Mason. "That's when I got real excited because I thought she's going that comfortable early. He had a lot of horse left."

Mason said the $100,000 Martha Washington at Oaklawn on Feb. 6 is a "very real possibility."

Karen's Silk emerged from behind a pace duel to win Saturday's $75,000 Marshua Stakes at Laurel Park by 1 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Lost Raven, paid the price for fighting the early battle, finishing second. Aye a Song made the lead and finished third. Karen's Silk, a daughter of High Cotton, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.53 under Jevian Toledo. She now has three straight wins. Karen's Silk and Lost Raven both scratched out of the Ruthless at Aqueduct in favor of this heat.


Dubai (By Richard Gross)

Reynaldothewizard proved there is still some magic left in his 10-year-old hooves by powering to a 2 3/4-lengths win over Cool Cowboy to take home his second consecutive and third overall win in the 6-furlongs Dubawi Stakes in the Thursday feature at Meydan.

The son of Speightstown had to overtake third-place finisher Let'sgoforit 200 meters from the finish line for the win with Richard Mullen aboard. "He loves it here at Meydan," said the winning jockey. "He is a special horse to me since he gave me my first Group 1 win."

The veteran magician's seasoned nose now will be pointed toward the Al Shindagha Sprint on Super Saturday March 5 and potentially to the Golden Shaheen on World Cup day March 26, the sprint race he won in 2013 over what was then Meydan's Tapeta, a surface returned to dirt last year.

That could set up an intriguing meeting with young American star Runhappy, the latest entry on a growing list of American horses reported to be on their way to Dubai for a World Cup day races. Runhappy, a 4-year-old Super Saver colt and winner of seven of eight starts including four graded stakes during 2015, took home the trophy as Champion Male Sprinter during Saturday's American Eclipse Award ceremonies.

The wizard's winning run gave trainer Satish Seemar three victories on the evening, but his sprint star's feat may not have been the most impressive of the hat trick. Tiz Now Tiz Then proved "then" can still be "now" as the 11-year-old opened the evening's card with a long shot, 2-lengths win over seven youngsters in the non-Carnival Thoroughbred dirt mile handicap. The horse -- probably the oldest active son of Hall of Fame and two-time Breeders' Cup Champion Tiznow -- took home win No. 7 from his 34 starts and neared the half million-dollar mark in career earnings.

More Aspen gave trainer Seemar one more win with his length-victory over Big Baz and favored Mujaarib in the 9-furlongs Singspiel Stakes on the turf with Richard Mullen again piloting the winner.

The ladies also had an opportunity to sprint to center stage on the dirt in the UAE 1,000 Guineas Trial, a 6-furlongs test won by Polar River, who scored her second win in as many starts. The Doug Watson charge shone the more promising run, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over Promising Run and Pure Diamond. She won her maiden outing in December at Meydan by 14 lengths over the same trip and seems blessed with great potential.

"I was delighted with her," gushed winning jockey Pat Dobbs. "She'll be even better over a longer distance and is a very smart filly."

The hometown Godolphin team punched their winning tickets on the evening with a 1-2 finish in the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial won by Steady Pace with stablemate Rouleau a nose behind. Though in different races, filly Polar River ran the same distance nearly two seconds faster than Steady Pace, which may set up an interesting future meeting.

Last week's star trainer Ali Rashid Al Raihe added a fifth Carnival season win to his account with a short head victory by Munaaser over Good Contact with Think Ahead 1 1/4 lengths behind in the 1 1/4-miles Mina Al Hamriya Handicap on the dirt. Rarely denied trainer Mike de Kock scored a win in the evening's closing turf handicap outing when Forries Waltz was a neck better than Flash Fire over a mile with Musaddas 1 1/4 lengths back.

The Dubai World Cup Carnival has 9 remaining meetings, including Super Saturday March 5 and concluding Saturday March 26 on Dubai World Cup night, when eight Thoroughbred races will be run for a total of $29 million in prize money, including the $10 million Dubai World Cup, the richest single day in horseracing.


Sunshine Millions

The main track was fast and the turf rated "good" for Saturday's renewal of the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park. This year's edition was limited to Florida-breds, including some very good ones.

Mexikoma tracked pacesetter Mr. Jordan through most of the $250,000 Classic, came to even terms in the stretch and got by to win by 1 1/2 lengths despite being forced out slightly in the final sixteenth. Mr. Jordan held second, 12 lengths clear of Catholic Cowboy in third. Mexikoma, a 5-year-old son of Birdstone, negotiated 9 furlongs in 1:48.19 with John Velazquez up. Two of his three previous wins had come on wet tracks.

Mom'z Laugh got first run to the lead at the top of the stretch in the $200,000 Distaff, was quickly hooked by the favorite, You Bought Her, and prevailed by a head after a long stretch battle that included some bumping back and forth. Legal Laura finished 5 1/2 lengths further back in third. Mom'z Laugh, a 4-year-old filly by Leroidesanimaux, ran 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:22.96 with Javier Castellano up. She now has won five of her last eight starts with previous victories coming at Monmouth, Saratoga and Gulfstream Park West.

X Y Jet, the best bet of the day, ran to his notices in the $150,000 Sprint, clearing early from the outside post position and leading all the way to a 4 1/4-lengths win. Wildcat Red was second, 3 1/2 lengths to the good of C. Zee. X Y Jet, a 4-year-old gelding by Kantharos, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.58, less than half a second off the track record, with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons. X Y Jet now has won four straight, including the Grade III Mr. Prospector in mid-December. Wildcat Red was coming off decent runs in two Grade I events in New York.

Manchurian High found another gear in the final yards of the $150,000 Turf and surged by Reporting Star, winning by 1/2 length. The even-money favorite, Fundamental, got home third, another 1 3/4 lengths back. Manchurian High, an 8-year-old gelding by My Daddy, ran 1 1/16 miles on the good turf in 1:44.89 with Luis Saez at the controls.

Lori's Store took the lead a sixteenth out in the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf and held off the onrushing E B Ryder, winning by 1/2 length. Pink Poppy, last year's winner, was another 1/2 length back in third. Lori's Store, a 6-year-old El Prado mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on the grass in 1:45.93 with John Velazquez riding, picking up her first win since last August.

Amelia's Wild Ride got through between rivals at mid-stretch in the $150,000 Turf Sprint and edged clear, winning by 1/2 length over Summation Time. It was another 1/2 length back to Jewel of a Cat and Simon Bar Sinister, who dead-heated for third and fourth. Amelia's Wild Ride, a 5-year-old son of D'Wildcat, got 5 grassy furlongs in 58.51 seconds under Jose Lezcano.

Santa Anita

Taris had no trouble with a short field in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II La Canada Stakes for fillies and mares, emerging from a pace-stalking ride to win by an easy 5 1/4 lengths. Birdatthewire and Yahilwa finished second and third, respectively. Oscar Party was eased after her reins broke. Taris, a 5-year-old Flatter mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.38, ridden out by Gary Stevens. Taris, owned by the Coolmore partners, has missed finishing in the top three only once in her 11-race career and finished third in last fall's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

"The question was if she could go long and she proved it today," Stevens said. Trainer Simon Callaghan said he had "no worries" about the distance and added he will consider the Grade I Santa Margarita at 1 1/8 miles on March 19.

Havanna Belle led a parade of long shots across the wire in Sunday's $75,000 Astra Stakes for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Teofilo stalked the pace, then took over and won by 2 1/4 lengths from Energia Fribby. Sweet as a Rose completed a trifecta that returned $987.40 for a $1 investment. Havanna Bell ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.03 with Brice Blanc up. The nine-horse field included two bred in Uruguay, two in Ireland and one each in England and Brazil.

Oaklawn Park

Streamline came between rivals in a determined stretch run to take Sunday's $100,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares by a neck over the favorite, Theogony. Tosha Talifero finished third. Streamline, a 4-year-old, Illinois-bred daughter of Straight Line, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.70 with Chris Landeros in the irons. She won twice at the Hawthorne meeting before departing Illinois under the care of trainer Brian Williamson.

"Her last race was her first race on dirt," Williamson said. "I was crossing my fingers that she'd like it and she did. I was so glad I could bring her down here." Oaklawn does not have a turf course.

Street Strategy outfinished the favorite, Departing, by a head to take Saturday's $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes. Raagheb finished third and the early leader, Ecleto Red, faded to finish fourth. Street Strategy, a 5-year-old son of Street Sense, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.76 with C.J. McMahon in the irons for trainer Randy Morse. He finished fifth in last season's Grade II Oaklawn Handicap and seventh in last fall's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Street Strategy had been pointed to the Fifth Season since December, but his status was questionable after coming out of a Jan. 6 work with a foot bruise.

"Luckily, it was a minor deal," Morse said. "In a couple of days, he was good. But we were still on the fence whether to run him or not. Luckily, we did."


Majestic Affair posted a rather majestic victory in Saturday's $125,000 Jazil Stakes, leading all the way and winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Royal Posse gave chase but settled for second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Lucky Lotto. Majestic Affair, a 4-year-old gelding by Majestic Perfection, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on the muddy inner track in 1:42.08 under Kendrick Carmouche. He posted his second straight win.

"I think as he's gotten older and he matured, he has gotten himself more into the game especially going long," said Cherie De Vaux, assistant to winning trainer Chad Brown. "When he was sprinting, he was coming from behind or falling back a little bit. As he's gotten older he has put himself closer and especially going longer."

Fair Grounds

International Star, last year's Louisiana Derby winner, saved ground down the backstretch in Saturday's $75,000 Louisiana Stakes, advanced around the turn and came out for room, getting home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Eagle. Ride On Curlin finished third. International Star, a 4-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus colt bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.44 with Miguel Mena in the irons. After winning all three Kentucky Derby preps in the Big Easy last spring, International Star was scratched from the Kentucky Derby on the morning of the big race and did not return until November, when he faded badly in the Zia Park Derby in New Mexico, finishing fourth, beaten 13 lengths. He had not raced since.

"He's a nice horse," Mena said. "We were on the rail on the turn and I swung him out so he wouldn't get stopped today and he was full of run."

Chocolate Ride led the way in Saturday's $125,000 Col E.R. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds, then held on late to win by 3/4 length over Roman Approval. Blarp was third. Chocolate Ride, a 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, ran about 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.21 with Florent Geroux riding. It was his fifth win from his last six starts, a run interrupted only by an eighth-place finish in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs last May -- after which he got a six-months rest.

Street of Gold rallied from far back to take Saturday's $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares, overhauling pacesetter Mizz Money to win by 1/2 length. Haunted Heroine ran evenly to finish third. Street of Gold, a 6-year-old Street Sense mare, ran about 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.94 with Robby Albarado up.

Laurel Park

Sonny Inspired rallied wide from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $75,000 Fire Plug Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Majestic Hussar. Beach Hut was third and the favorite, Jake N Elwood, faded to finish fifth. Sonny Inspired, a 5-year-old Artie Schiller gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.95 with Jevian Toledo in the irons.

Turfway Park

Dingdingdingding set up a clangor on the mutuel line with a 25-1 upset victory in Saturday's $50,000 Forego Stakes. The 4-year-old Candy Ride gelding stalked the early speed, then urged to the lead in the lane and got home first by 1 3/4 lengths over Batten the Hatches. Six Spot finished in the three spot and the favorite, Doubledown Again, finished ninth. Dingdingdingding, with Gabriel Lagunes in the irons, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:17.53.

Delta Downs

Oh Baby Oh Baby jumped to a comfortable lead in Friday night's $70,000 El Dorado Stakes for fillies and mares and held off Pacific Pink by 1 length under the wire. Private Promise was along to pick up show money. Oh Baby Oh Baby, a 5-year-old Orientate mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.32 under Ashley Broussard. It was her fourth straight win.

Teniente Coronel dueled his way to the lead on the turn in Saturday's $70,000 Fremont Stakes and was home free late, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Freestyler. Hazards of Love was along for third. Teniente Coronel, a 5-year-old Colonel John gelding, completed 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:39.12, also with Broussard up.

Sunland Park

Rising Giant rose to the occasion in the stretch run of Saturday's $85,000 Albert Dominguez Memorial Handicap, edging Streaks Bro by 1/2 length and pacesetting favorite Song of Laura by another neck. Rising Giant, a 5-year-old gelding by The Way Home, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.70 with Enrique Gomez aboard.

Turf Paradise

Somethings Unusual outfinished Az Ridge to win Saturday's $75,000 Cotton Fitzsimmons Memorial Handicap by a head. Perfectly Majestic rallied from last to get show money. Somethings Unusual, an 8-year-old gelding by Vronsky, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.01 with Iggy Puglisi in the irons.

Eclipse Awards

There were no surprises in the 2015 Eclipse Awards announced Saturday night at Gulfstream Park in Florida, starting with Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner American Pharoah as the unanimous Horse of the Year. The results:

Two-Year-Old Male (Name, First-Place Votes) Nyquist, 255; Mohaymen, 3; Voter Abstentions, 3.

Two-Year-Old Filly Songbird, 260, Catch a Glimpse, 1.

Three-Year-Old Male American Pharoah, 261, all others, 0.

Three-Year-Old Filly Stellar Wind, 108; I'm a Chatterbox, 47; Found (IRE), 46; Lady Eli, 34; Lovely Maria, 12; Curalina, 11; Include Betty, 2; Voter Abstentions, 1.

Older Dirt Male Honor Code, 126; Liam's Map, 95; Tonalist, 14; Effinex, 12; Shared Belief, 9; California Chrome, 3. Voter Abstentions, 2.

Older Dirt Female Beholder, 256; Stopchargingmaria, 4; Sheer Drama, 1.

Male Sprinter Runhappy, 255; Private Zone, 2; Rock Fall, 2; Mongolian Saturday, 1; Secret Circle, 1.

Female Sprinter La Verdad, 98; Wavell Avenue, 90; Lady Shipman, 41; Cavorting, 19; Unbridled Forever, 5; Ageless, 1; Birdonthewire, 1; Fantastic Style, 1; Voter Abstentions, 5.

Male Turf Horse Big Blue Kitten, 134; Golden Horn (GB), 63; The Pizza Man, 41; Flintshire, 18; Chiropractor, 1; Grand Arch, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

Female Turf Horse Tepin, 211; Found (IRE), 38; Stephanie's Kitten, 8; Lady Eli, 2; Curvy (GB), 1; Voter Abstentions, 1.

Steeplechase Horse Dawalan (FR), 165; Bob Le Beau (IRE), 47; African Oil (FR), 2; Demonstrative, 2; Grinding Speed, 1; Voter Abstentions, 44.

Owner Zayat Stables, 220; Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, 26; Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc., 6; Reddam Racing, 2; Godolphin Racing, 1; Voter Abstentions, 6.

Breeder Zayat Stables, 190; Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, 39; Darley, 13; WinStar Farm, 5; Adena Springs, 4; Spendthrift Farm, 1; Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, 1; Voter Abstentions, 8.

Trainer Bob Baffert, 200; Todd Pletcher, 44; Chad Brown, 12; Karl Broberg, 1; Jerry Hollendorfer, 1; Voter Abstentions, 3.

Jockey Javier Castellano, 184; Victor Espinoza, 70; Joe Bravo, 1; Pedro Monterrey, Jr., 1; Irad Ortiz, Jr., 1; Joel Rosario, 1; John Velazquez, 1; Voter Abstentions, 2.

Apprentice Jockey Tyler Gaffalione, 149; Eric Cancel, 63; Angel Cruz, 9; Ashley Broussard, 6; David Lopez, 3; Jorge Robles, 1; Voter Abstentions, 30.

Horse of the Year American Pharoah, 261. All others, 0.

For the record, I voted for all the winners except for Breeder, where I opted for Darley. I abstained in the categories of Steeplechase (total unfamiliarity) and apprentice jockey (which perhaps should be decided within that profession). Congratulations to all.

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