Haveyougoneaway, with Jareth Loveberry riding, wins the 1/23 American Beauty at Oaklawn Park. (Oaklawn Park photo)
Weather wreaked havoc on the weekend U.S. racing schedule, forcing cancellations from New Orleans to New York, leaving California and Florida to pick up much of the slack.
Cancellations included the Friday card at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and Fair Grounds' "Friday Starlight" program. The East Coast blizzard put paid to Laurel Park's last four Friday races, Turfway Park's Friday night program and Aqueduct's Saturday and Sunday cards. Aqueduct's cancellation, ironically, also forced postponement until next Saturday of a giveaway involving caps and "smart" gloves.
Now, Hong Kong hasn't seen snow in more than 40 years -- and then, just a flurry. But Blizzard was very much on the punters' minds on Sunday on a cold afternoon. Why? See the international section, which also includes Dubai doings, South Africa and the fascinating British All-Weather Championships.
Sunland Park in New Mexico, meanwhile, has put racing on hold for at least two weeks because of an outbreak of equine herpes. Any recurrence of the disease could extend the suspension of racing.
We're not suspending anything, so let's get going.
(By RICHARD GROSS)
Safety Check had no time to brake coming from far behind to win the Group 2 turf feature Al Fahidi Fort for the second consecutive year in his seasonal debut Thursday at Meydan. The Godolphin-owned son of Dubawi had the smarts to put up a 1 3/4-lengths win over Harry's Son by overtaking tiring third-place finisher Mastermind in the final 200 meters of a track record-setting 1:22:77 performance, putting trainer Charlie Appleby in the winner's circle for the first time this Carnival season.
"That was a good first outing," said a pleased Appleby, who added his horse is equally pleased about being at Meydan. "He just loves it in Dubai. The track itself and the style of running really suits him. The Zabeel Mile (Feb. 25) will be his next target, but after that maybe we'll try him on dirt." That could suggest a Godolphin Mile start as trainers begin to sort their entries for Dubai World Cup Day March 26.
Respect Me gained some with a 1 1/4-lengths 1 1/8-miles win on the dirt track over Etijaah and Grand Argentier to open the evening sponsored by District One. Roiceread won the 1/2-mile turf sprint over Saayerr and Caspian Prince. Special Fighter was special enough to gain a 5-length win over Plantagenet with Romansh in third over a dirt 1 1/4 miles in the Meydan Sobha.
Top Clearance finished on top a length ahead of American Hope and Success Story in the dirt mile District One Mansions. Sanshaawes ensured trainer Mike de Kock was not sans a win, taking the turf 1 1/4-miles District One Trophy with Whistle Stop stopping 3/4 of a length short and Elleval in third. Haafaguinea cruised over 1 1/2 miles to win the District One turf handicap with Al Saham 1/2 length back and Quarterback a further short head arrears to close the card.
And no, District One is not something from "The Hunger Games." It's the latest residential building project in Dubai, officially named Mohammed bin Rashid City after Dubai ruler and Godolphin owner Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.
Chromie alert! While winter snows battered much of the eastern United States, familiar California-like weather and sunshine greeted California Chrome on his arrival in Dubai Jan. 22. He left home at Los Alamitos and boarded a plane at LAX with a personal veterinarian and a large complement of his own food. He arrived safe and sound if a little bleary-eyed via Copenhagen.
"He's a good shipper," said trainer Art Sherman, who will remain in California for now with his other charges. "Sometimes horses don't like to travel, but he's a trooper. He has his passport," joked Sherman. "He'll be in quarantine for two days and then we'll get him ready to run in one of the Carnival races as a prep for the March 26 World Cup."
Already among the 181 horses accepted into the Carnival, California Chrome's likeliest prep race would be in the Maktoum Challenge Round 3, a Group 1 dirt race over 1 1/4 miles run March 5, Super Saturday. Seven winners of the Dubai World Cup have used this as their final prep race. His regular rider, Victor Espinoza – he of American Pharoah fame – is expected to be on board in new chrome-colored silks.
"We've got unfinished business," said co-owner Perry Martin, wearing his Dubai World Cup cap. "We've got to go win the Dubai World Cup. We were thinking about retiring him last year," said Martin, "but when the new partners at Taylor Made vetted him, the veterinarian said the x-rays of his legs looked like a 2-year-olds. He's healthy, he's sound, he travels well, so let's go for it."
Race fans will recall that as the basic plan followed by the connections of Curlin leading up to his hand-ride win in the 2008 Dubai World Cup in Dubai at Nad Al Sheba, Dubai's course before the 2010 opening of Meydan.
More American-centric World Cup news: Godolphin-owned Frosted is expected to arrive shortly in Dubai as is the surprising new American possibility, New York-bred 2015 Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up and Clark Handicap winner Effinex. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is also targeting the World Cup, a race that is shaping up to be a who's who of American talent that may also include Keen Ice and Hoppertunity.
Illuminator collared the leaders in the final 100 meters to take Saturday's inaugural CTS Million Dollar at 1,400 meters. South Africa's star filly, Silver Mountain, had every chance in the stretch run but settled for second, 3/4 length in arrears. Victorious Jay was third. Illuninator, a 3-year-old Trippi colt, finished in 1:26.21. Apprentice rider Heavelon van der Hoven inherited the ride on the winner when Weichong Marwing became indisposed.
Long shot It's My Turn, under Piere Strydom, rallied late to take the Cape Derby by 2 lengths from Brazuca. Marinaresco was third. It's My Turn, a Dynasty gelding, ran 2,000 meters in 2:04.03. It's My Turn originally had not been scheduled to contest the Derby but trainer Justin Snaith was persuaded when the sponsor, Investec, flew owner Fred Crabbia in for the day's racing at Kenilworth. And Strydom thus inherited this ride.
Inara won the 1,600-meters Majorca for the second year in a row, surging to the lead in the final few meters to win by 3/4 length. She is a 4-year-old Trippi filly.
Hong Kong logged its coldest day since 1957 on Sunday but that didn't stop the sun from shining on the backers of Sun Jewellery in the HK Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile. The 4-year-old, with aid from Ryan Moore, overcame the No. 14 post position with a late move to win by a neck over Werther. Blizzard finished third, appropriately for the shivering patrons at Sha Tin. Sun Jewellery now has won five of six Hong Kong starts and entered the race with the top rating of 110. Nonetheless, the Snitzel gelding, an Australian import, went to the post at odds of 9.2-1, reflecting either dissatisfaction with the draw or brain freeze by the punters.
Winning trainer John Size was warm enough in his post-race assessment.
"I'm not sure what the future holds for him but, previously, horses that have run in this race with a very high rating and have won have turned out to be Group horses," Size said. "I would think he's got a big future. He's always promised to step up but this is a good test today, he's come up against some nice horses and he's beaten them fair and square."
Anglophile will get a chance to avenge last year's narrow loss in the All-Weather Championship Finals Day thanks to a victory in Saturday's Fast-Track Qualifier at Lingfield Park. The Godolphin 5-year-old won the same 32Red.com Conditions Stakes last season to qualify for the finals in the marathon division, only to fall by a head to Mymatechris. Anglophile settled in fourth in Saturday's event before producing a strong burst for jockey Martin Lane to lead a furlong out. He ran on to win by 1/2 length from Ballynanty with the favorite, Pinzolo, third after making most of the running. The 2 miles went in 3:20.40.
"He will be coming against better horses again on Good Friday (in the Finals), so hopefully we will be guaranteed a strong pace," Lane said. "Whether he is good enough is another question but, if they go half a stride too quick, he will always pick them up."
Back in North America:
The Road to the Roses
Morning Fire shot out of the gate in Saturday's $100,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, showed the way and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Epic Journey was a stubborn second, yielding only grudgingly and finishing 9 lengths better than Awesome Slate. Morning Fire, a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Friesan Fire, has never been worst than third in eight career starts -- a string that now includes three wins. He ran 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:24.76 with Daniel Centeno up.
Winning trainer Keith Nations said Morning Fire now will be pointed to the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Feb. 13 Festival Preview Day, which would put him squarely on the Kentucky Derby trail.
"We've had to push him to get him to sprint and we put the blinkers on him to hustle him a little bit," Nations said. "But he has a big stride and I think he is bred to go two turns."
Kentucky Oaks hopefuls
R Girl's a Charmer was quickly out front in Saturday's $100,000 Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and extended the margin through the stretch to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Cosmic Girl was best of the rest, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Missalaney. The winner, by In Summation, ran 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:25.61 under Antonio Gallardo. The victory was her second from three starts.
R Girls a Charmer was purchased privately by Gary Barber through trainer Mark Casse after her maiden victory Jan. 2 at Gulfstream, a 6 3/4-lengths triumph in 1:10.10.
"She was very impressive that day and ran a big figure, and they thought this was the right spot for her," said Casse assistant Mitch Downs. The distance may have been more of a concern than the track, because there isn't a lot of distance in her pedigree. We'll just take her back to Palm Meadows and see what's next."
Charming Kitten stalked the pace ... and stalked the pace ... through most of the 2 miles of Saturday's $100,000 Allen Jerkens Stakes, then went on about his business and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Xaverian, who had attended the pace a bit more closely. St. Albans Boy was third as the field strung out down the stretch. Neutronstar was eased after the first 12 furlongs. Charming Kitten, another of the many Kittens Joy offspring bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, finished in 3:33.87 with John Velazquez ticking off the furlongs. Charming Kitten made it two in a row, following the W.L. McKnight Handicap a month ago at 1 1/2 miles.
"It's fun. It's a different kind of race and it's an honor to win a race named after Mr. Jerkens," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who also won the 2015 edition with Unitarian. "He's such a legendary guy and a kind man, and a genius horse trainer. I'm honored to win it again."
Lost Bus apparently got lost among the handicapping chores before Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Santa Monica for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Bring the Heat filly was let go at nearly 65-1, then gamely battled to a hard-fought victory, beating Finest City by a head and the favorite, Tara's Tango, by another neck. Lost Bus, with Fernando Perez in the irons, ran 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:21.78, keying a $1 trifecta payout of $3,229. She had only two previous wins and was claimed last Nov. 19 at Del Mar for $32,000 by trainer Terry Lovingier for owner Gary Sherlock. Her share of Saturday's purse was $120,000. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee has been heard to say, "It's an easy game." Sherlock, however, said he was "kinda lost for words. I didn't expect this and not too many others did either."
Haveyougoneaway hooked up in a tight duel with favored Sarah Sis in Saturday's $100,000 American Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares and, at the wire, she had not gone away, winning by a neck over her slightly more popular rival. Meshell was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Haveyougoneaway, a 5-year-old Congrats mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.32 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons. A consistent performer from Arkansas through Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico,
Haveyougoneaway now has 14 in-the-money finishes from 20 career starts.
"The pace set up perfect for him," said winning trainer Allen Milligan. "Jareth, he loves this filly. This is his favorite horse. He just really gets along good with her." Milligan said Haveyougoneaway "definitely" will make her next start in the $100,000 Spring Fever Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs Feb. 20 at Oaklawn.
Tampa Bay Downs
White Clover showed the way in Saturday's $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for fillies and mares and kicked away at the end, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Savings Account. Her Majesty's Flag was third. White Clover, a 4-year-old daughter of Exchange Rate, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.38 with Victor Lebron in the irons.
It was Texas Champions Weekend at the Houston oval, with three races on Friday night for fillies and mares and three for the males on Saturday.
Everything Bling battled Prada's Bling into submission in Friday night's $50,000 Yellow Rose Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares, opened a comfortable lead and won by 4 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Lasting Bubbles. Prada's Bling saved show money. Everything Bling, a 4-year-old Too Much Bling filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.77 with Glen Corbett up.
Seneca Destiny stalked the pacesetting favorite, Molly's Honour, through the early furlongs of Friday night's $50,000 San Jacinto Stakes for Texas-bred distaffers, took over as they hit the top of the lane and went on to win by 1/2 length over the late-running Whiskey Strong. Molly's Honour held third. Seneca Destiny, a 5-year-old mare by Seneca Jones, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.54 with Deshawn Parker in the irons.
Too Much Prada set a pressured pace in Friday night's $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes for Texas-bred 3-year-old fillies and held on at the end to score by a neck over the favorite, Indygo Rocket. Easter Ellie finished third. Too Much Prada, a daughter of Too Much Bling, got 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:13.25 with Corbett at the controls.
I Am Jane Dough beat the boys in Saturday's $50,000 Richard King Stakes at 9 furlongs on the firm turf course. Advancing five-wide after trailing the field, the 5-year-old daughter of My Golden Song was up in the final yards to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Rule Breaker was second and Magna Breeze finished third. I Am Jane Dough finished in 1:50.85 with Corbett riding.
Bravura battled to the lead in Sunday's $50,000 Groovy Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and finally kicked away to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Silver Doddge was second, 1 length in front of Imma Bling. Bravura, an Early Flyer colt, flew home in 1:11.69 with C.J. McMahon riding.
F J Uncle Vic tracked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Star of Texas Stakes for state-breds and rallied late to score a 23-1 upset win. Texas Air and Witt Six completed the trifecta with the favorite, Texas Bling, checking in fifth. F J Uncle Vic, a 5-year-old Uncle Abbie gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.03 with Ernesto Valdez-Jiminez in the irons.