UPI Horse Racing Roundup

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  Feb. 29, 2016 at 2:21 PM
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Dubai contenders were everywhere in weekend racing, from Hong Kong to Florida to Japan Dubai itself, while on the Kentucky Derby trail, Mohaymen won convincingly in the Fountain of Youth, setting up a showdown with Nyquist in the Florida Derby.

In Japan, Duramente returned from an injury layoff with an impressive win. And 2-year-olds in Australia and 3-year-olds in South Africa showed promise.

The aforementioned Mohaymen and Kentucky Oaks prospect Cathryn Sophia led a parade of heavy favorites winning on Saturday's stakes-rich Gulfstream Park card. The cavalcade of chalk also produced a sprint contender for next month's Dubai World Cup card -- and an absurd $3.40 payout for a $1 Pick Six wager.

But let's not quibble. It was a beautiful day in Hallandale Beach and a perfect stop along:

The Road to the Roses

Mohaymen came into Saturday's $400,000, Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park undefeated and relative untested in four previous starts. He exited the race the same way after winning by a convincing 2 1/4 lengths after shaking off a stubborn challenge from the lightly raced Zulu. Fellowship was third, followed by Awesome Speed, Awesome Banner and Golden Ray. Jockey Junior Alvarado took Mohaymen a bit wide into the first turn to avoid some trouble, then worked his way up from fifth to get into contention on the far turn. He challenged Zulu entering the stretch and kicked away from the that one after a brief tussle but came home in a hand ride. Mohaymen, a grey colt by Tapit, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.84 and did not give any indication he will have trouble going farther. His four earlier victories included the Grade II Remsen, at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. "You just never know," said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Mohaymen for Sheik Hamdan's Shadwell Stable. "Awesome Banner and Zulu were undefeated, but we faced them and we won and everything is great. There will be other ones going forward. We're going to have to face a lot of them." Among that "lot" apparently will be undefeated, California-based Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award winner Nyquist. He, like Mohaymen, is targeting the $1 million, Grade I Florida Derby on April 2.

Concord Fast rallied quickly from well back to take Friday's $100,000 Mine That Bird Derby at Sunland Park by 4 lengths over Cowboy Cool. Deputy's Echo finished third and the favorite, Bruntino, was fifth after a slow start. Concord Fast, a West Virginia-bred gelding by Concord Point, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.75 with Ry Eikleberry up. The race had been postponed while racing was suspended at Sunland because of an outbreak of EHV on the backstretch.

The Kentucky Oaks

Cathryn Sophia, a 1-5 favorite, left five rivals well in her wake in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, winning by 7 lengths after tracking the early leaders. Lewis Bay was along for second and Dearest held third after leading early in the contest. Cathryn Sophia, a daughter of Street Boss, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.61. She remains undefeated in four starts and appears to be the main Kentucky Oaks rival for California-based Songbird. "I was concerned today about the distance a little bit," said winning trainer John Servis. "Obviously, the way she ran, I feel a whole lot better now. She galloped out super. Javier thinks she'll get two turns, no problem." Chuck Zacney of Cash is King, the owner, said the Gulfstream Park Oaks will be Cathryn Sophia's next start.

Mo d'Amour tracked the pace in Saturday's $125,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct, worked her way to the lead at mid-stretch and inched away to win by 2 lengths over Dreams to Reality. Katniss the Victor led briefly in the stretch but faded to finish third as the favorite. Mo d'Amour, an Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:47.37 with Christopher DeCarlo riding. Ed Stanco of King of Prussia Stable, the winning owner, said they have been patient with Mo d'Amour and was noncommittal about the chances the filly could make it to the Kentucky Oaks. "We'll see," he said. "It's all up to (trainer Todd Pletcher) and how the horse trains -- if she's ready. We have a long way to go before that. This was a nice performance."

K P Wildcat was last of six after a stumbling start in Saturday's $75,000 Island Fashion Stakes at Sunland Park, surged to the lead turning for home and went on to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Sweet Bea was the best of the rest with L J's Awesome Girl third. K P Wildcat, an Include filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.46 under Ry Eikleberry.

Detouring across the waters:

Dubai Doings (By Richard Gross)

California Chrome was assigned nearly the 16-pound weight of a bowling ball more than his competitors for his 1 1/4-mile dirt handicap Dubai World Cup preview. But regular rider Victor Espinoza, in from California with trainer Art Sherman and the new Chrome team, still managed to find an outside lane after being boxed in early and rolled to an easy 2-lengths victory over an overmatched field at Meydan Thursday. Storm Belt held on to second with Korean invader and early leader Success Story a less successful 2 1/4 lengths back in third.

"It did look easy, right?" said Espinoza of the win. "It was a little bit of a challenge for me out of the gate because we were out of the one hole on the rail and they tried to close the gap pretty quick. But after the first turn I was comfortable. I eased him at the end because of the short time to the World Cup and I wanted to leave something in the tank."

Trainer Art Sherman at then-age 77 was the oldest to win a Kentucky Derby in 2014 with California Chrome, the first California-bred to win a Derby since Decidedly in 1962. He clearly was pleased with his star's second consecutive win since recovering from a bone bruise last year.

"That was just great," beamed Sherman. "We decided the best way to win a Dubai World Cup was to come early and have a prep at Meydan and this race was ideal with four weeks before the big one."

Chrome's shining debut almost overshadowed the evening's feature race, and its most exciting as stewards had to check the photo finish before awarding the win to Safety Check by an official short head over Ghaamer with Zahee a length back in third in the Group 2 turf Zabeel Mile. It was a repeat win for Godolphin's 5-year-old son of Dubawi and another successful ride for William Buick in a likely preview of a trip to Hong Kong and a May 1 run in the Group 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin.

"He was on fumes towards the end but he is a very tough horse and got the job done," said Buick. "He is a horse that wants to win," explained equally admiring trainer Charlie Appleby. "He just wears his heart on his sleeve. It was a great performance. I think we will go to Hong Kong now and aim for the Champions Mile in May," said Appleby checking his plan. "He deserves a crack at a Group 1 race."

With two stars scoring in stirring races, it would be easy to forget there were five other Thoroughbred events on the card, all important because of possible implications for World Cup day runs, and that Buick drove another three winners for Godolphin in a superb Carnival season.

The evening opened with the largest-margin win of the card as heavy-weighted One Man Band scored another Carnival win for trainer Doug Watson with a 6-lengths victory over a very Heavy Metal with Over The Ocean wavering a half-length back in third in the 3/4-mile dirt handicap sprint.

That was followed by a 1 3/4-lengths win by Brabbham over Active Spirit with Etijaah a head back in third in the 1 1/4-mile HSE Trophy dirt handicap. Watson's horses claimed second and third place in the contest.

Buick scored the first of his three wins on the evening for Godolphin and a mark for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin making Marking 2-lengths better than Kifaah in the 3/4-mile dirt National Plant Trophy sprint with Kasb planted 3 1/2 lengths back in third.

The 1 1/4- mile turf Division Trophy went to trainer Watson's Basateen with Buick aboard Think Ahead 4 1/4 lengths behind in second, Zamaam 1 3/4 lengths back in third and Watson's Slumdogmillionaire a not-so-rich fourth by 3 1/4 lengths.

The closing 3/4-mile turf handicap was a third win for Buick and Godolphin and a second for trainer Appleby as Baccarat was 1 3/4 lengths clear of Naadiir with Jamesie a length back in third.

Next up: One more Thursday Carnival meeting including the Group 2 Balanchine and the Group 3 UAE Oaks before a really Super Saturday that will see Keen Ice, Mubtaahij and a few more World Cup hopefuls in the gates for the Maktoum Challenge Round 3 and a final prep in advance of March 26 Dubai World Cup day.

Australia

Extreme Choice raced three-wide and just behind the leaders in Saturday's Group 1 Ladbroke's Blue Diamond Stakes for 2-year-olds, jumped out to a big lead early in the stretch and held off stablemate Flying Artie by 1 3/4 lengths. Zamzam was third at a generous price and Power Trip, at 100-1, was fourth. The disappointments included Concealer, who finished 11th of 16, and Samara Dancer, who beat only two rivals. Extreme Choice, a Not a Single Doubt colt, really has produced no doubts as he blazed through three straight wins, starting in December at Randwick, for trainer Mick Price. "He's just got a motor and a half," said winning rider Craig Newitt. "You can ride him for speed. You can take a sit off him." Price said both his charges will be pointed to the Golden Slipper.

Hong Kong

Contentment, with Brett Prebble up for the first time, stalked the pace in Sunday's Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, powered past pacesetter Beauty Flame with 200 meters to run and drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Beauty Flame held on to take second with Beauty Only running late to finish third. Contentment finished 1,400 meters in 1:21.24. "He showed a great turn of foot and when he got there he actually waited. He had more underneath him," Prebble said. "He's put his hand up as the next best thing." Perhaps Contentment's first Group 1 win did just that. But the 5-year-old gelding has little chance to capitalize on the breakthrough as the season winds down. "We'll go towards the Champions Mile now and then see if there's anything left for him," said trainer John Size. "But there's not much to do now. The season's nearly over for him."

In the day's co-feature, the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, the venerable Designs on Rome swooped by the leaders with 150 meters left and drove home first by 1/2 length over stablemate Helene Happy Star. Military Attack was third. It was the second win for Designs On Rome in the Gold Cup and the 11th for his trainer, John Moore. "He's so talented," Moore said. "He's got to be the No. 1" among his winners. "The way this horse does it -- coming from last, right around the field and winning. He's just an equine champion." Tommy Berry rode Designs On Rome for the first time since May of 2014. "He feels the same as when I rode him in the past," said the Australian rider. "He doesn't give any sort of feel from the gates, but as soon as I give him a click up at the half-mile, he gets going and finds three or four lengths." It was Designs On Rome's first win since taking this race last year and, in the interim, he had arthroscopic surgery on both front legs and had a lazy trial. "Everyone said his trial wasn't good enough but I knew exactly where he was, what he'd done, and it was enough to just top him off and he's returned today the horse he's been over the past few seasons," Moore said. "He's the best." Moore said he has no travel plans for Designs On Rome. "He'll go into the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at the end of April. Then we'll just look after him."

Japan

Duramente seized the lead at the top of the short stretch run in Sunday's Grade 2 Nakayama Kinen and survived a dramatic late challenge to win by a neck over Ambitious. Real Steel finished third. Jockey Mirco Demuro had Duramente well in back of the pace and out of trouble. He came quite wide to circle the leaders and had just enough to hold on in the final jumps. He finished 1,800 meters on firm turf in 1:45.9. The 4-year-old son of King Kamehameha, winner of last year's Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2,000 Guineas and Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby, was sidelined by injury after winning the Derby last May 31. His eagerly anticipated return drew a huge crowd to Nakayama Racecourse and the win ensures he will be a popular force in Japanese racing for the remainder of the year. Real Steel, ticketed for Dubai and a run in the Group 1 Dubai Turf, did nothing to hurt his chances there as his late move was equally dramatic as that of Ambitious.

South Africa

Abashiri took some time to get the right gear in Saturday's Group 2 Betting World Gauteng Guineas at Turffontein. But when he did, the budding star more than justified his favorite status, running on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Champagne Haze in a fashion that indicates he will enjoy the longer distances to come in the next two legs of the Triple Crown. The Go Deputy gelding sits now with four wins from six starts. "He's a machine. He's a pleasure to work with," said winning trainer Mike Azzie.

Returning to the American wars:

Sprint

"Dubai, here we come," said trainer Jorge Navaro after X Y Jet survived a stumbling start to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. The 4-year-old Kantharos gelding recovered quickly from his mishap out of the gate, shot to the lead and set a blistering pace. When he was challenged by Candip at the head of the stretch, however, he had enough left to regain a daylight lead and coast home. Candip held second with Ready for Rye another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. X Y Jet ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.95 with Emisael Jaramilo up. It was his fifth straight win but first in graded stakes company. Navaro said the gelding has had problems before getting out of the machine. "I thought, 'Oh God, we're back again to last year,'" when X Y Jet stumbled out of the gate in the Grade II Swale and eventually was eased, he said. "We're going to have to work on that before we go to Dubai." That would be for the 6-furlongs, Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night, March 26. {b: Turf Mile}

Heart to Heart, another odds-on favorite, led all the way to an easy, 2 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $150,000, Grade II Canadian Turf Stakes at Gulfstream Park. With Julien Leparoux up, the 5-year-old son of English Channel had no problems scoring his third straight graded stakes win and fourth in his last five starts. Long On Value was second, a neck in front of the stretch-running Divisidero. Heart to Heart finished in 1:33.52 over firm turf. "The horse has come into himself as a 5-year-old," said winning trainer Brian Lynch. "He's gotten bigger and stronger. We're looking for big things from him this year." He said Keeneland's Grade I Maker's 46 Mile on April 15 is the next target.

Converge rallied from last of 12 to take Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Palm Beach Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park by 3/4 length over Giant Run. Ousby was just a nose farther back in third. Converge, a Sidney's Candy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:40.64 with Javier Castellano in the irons. It was his first start of the year after a win and a second in two starts as a juvenile. "There are some big races for him down the road at a mile and a quarter," said winning trainer Chad Brown. Those could include the Grade I Belmont Derby in July and/or the Grade I Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Arlington Million day in August.

On the distaff side, Faufiler came flying down the middle of the track to post a rare upset win in Saturday's $100,000 Sand Springs Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred Galileo mare started last of 11 and had only one rival beaten turning for home before jockey Edgar Prado got to work on a perfectly-timed run. The favorite, Partisan Politics, looked like a winner until the final jumps, finishing 1 length behind. Celestine was third. Faufiler finished in 1:33.01. It was her first win from three U.S. starts after a productive career in France. {b: Filly & Mare Turf}

Catch a Glimpse rated just behind the early speed in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park with jockey Florent Geroux's feet firmly against the floorboards. When he let go, the City Zip filly zipped right to the front and justified her odds-on favorite status with a 2 1/2-lengths victory. It was her first race since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland last Oct. 30. Lira, always close, finished second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Gone Away. Catch a Glimpse ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.63. "She's still learning and not 100 percent professional," said Norman Casse, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "But she's obviously talented and she'll get even better as she goes on. We're excited to have her back and we look forward to moving on from here."

Turf Sprint

Manhattan Dan blitzed out of the gate in Saturday's $75,000 Texas Glitter Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park and reported home first by 5 lengths with Noholdingback Bear the closest pursuer. Monster Bea was third. Manhattan Dan, a Big Brown colt, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 54.97 seconds with Javier Castellano up. He broke his maiden sprinting on the turf at Saratoga last summer but had not fared as well at longer distances, including a fade from first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, where he finished seventh.

Boozer was up in the final strides to win Saturday's $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds down the Santa Anita hillside turf course. Richard's Boy led right up to the end, succumbing by a head. Forest Chatter finished third. With Gary Stevens up, the 6-year-old Unusual Heat gelding ran about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.03 and picked up his first win since October of 2014.

Otherwise:

Oaklawn Park

Weast Hill set a pressured pace in Sunday's $100,000 Nodouble Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred colts and geldings and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Bumpy Cat. We Be Stormin stormed home third with a belated move. Weast Hill, a 4-year-old Rockport Harbor gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.10 with Joe Rocco Jr. in the irons.

Easter Indy, under Walter De La Cruz, cruised to a 5 1/2-lengths victory over Pink Flash in Saturday's $100,000 Downthedustyroad Breeders' Stakes for Arkansas-bred fillies and mares. Sophias Big Girl was third, 2 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Lady Lake. Easter Indy, a 4-year-old daughter of A.P. Million, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.66. It was her second straight win. She was fifth in this race last year.

Fair Grounds

Hail to the Nile dueled Next Event into submission in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes for Louisiana-breds, winning by 2 3/4 lenghts. Another double-digit long shot, McGehee's Mercy, finished third with the favorite, Sunbean checking in fourth. Hail to the Nile, a 5-year-old Pioneerof the Nile gelding, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.20 with Francisco Torres up.

Oscar Nominated, appropriately, took the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $60,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds and edged away in the final sixteenth, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over One Mean Man. Extra Credit completed the trifecta. Oscar Nominated, a Kitten's Joy colt, ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:29.63 under Robby Albarado -- just 0.37 second off the course record.

Sam Houston

Mobile Bay started last of 11 in Saturday's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, then made up all the ground, catching Jessica's Star in the shadow of the wire for a neck victory. It was but another neck back to Hawaakom in third. Mobile Bay, a 4-year-old colt by Lone Star Special, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.35 with Francisco Torres up.

Mexican Miss rallied from off the pace to win a three-way photo in Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares. The favorite, Cassat, finished second but was set down to third for interfering with Expect Royalty, who was awarded place money. Mexican Miss, a 5-year-old More Than Ready mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.75 with Mitchell Murrill in the irons.

American Sailor was away quickest from the far outside in Saturday's $50,000 Bucharest Turf Sprint and was never caught, winning by 1 length over El Botas. Meme Jo finished third. American Sailor, a 4-year-old City Zip ridgling, covered 5 furlongs of firm turf in 56.92 seconds for jockey Miguel Mena.

Two Step Time outfinished Berniestrike in the final strides of Saturday's $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for 3-year-olds, winning by a neck over that one. The favorite, Crescent Drive, was another neck back in third at the wire. Two Step Time, a Two Step Salsa colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:43.90 with Robby Albarado at the controls.

Sunland Park

Dirt Monster took command in the stretch run in Sunday's $75,000 Budweiser Stakes, drawing off to a 4-lengths victory Forin Sea was second, 2 3/4 lengths better than Forest Mouse. Dirt Monster, a 4-year-old colt by Line of David, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.90 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. up.

Ol Winedrinker Who dawdled at the back of the pack early in Sunday's $75,000 Curribot Handicap, swung five-wide into the stretch and moved on to a 2 3/4-lengths victory over Streaks Bro. The favorite, Pain and Misery, put in a bid at the top of the lane but flattened out to get home third. Ol Winedrinker Who, a 7-year-old Sligo Bay gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.41 with Ken Tohil riding.

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