UPI Horse Racing Roundup

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  March 7, 2016 at 12:16 PM
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A major upset on Super Saturday scrambled the outlook for the Dubai World Cup, another Kentucky Derby prospect popped up in New York and super filly Songbird continued to soar in California -- all in weekend racing.

Turf races at Gulfstream Park hinted at a changing of the guard in those ranks while Blofeld scored a small upset in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Saturday was Barbados Gold Cup day. And Guineas were on the loose in Japan and Australia.

Easy -- but unwise -- to overlook amid the hoopla of Super Saturday: One of the world's top horses, Solow, overcame a little trouble in running to stage a successful 2016 debut at Chantilly in France and is on his way to defend his title in the Group 1 Dubai Turf.

Don't get lost in the following hoopla:

Dubai (By Richard Gross)

Super Saturday's Maktoum Challenge Round 3 at Meydan was billed as a special fight between Keen Ice, U.S. winner over Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic champion American Pharoah in last August's Travers Stakes, and Mubtaahij, last year's UAE Derby winner and an American Triple Crown contender. But Special Fighter apparently misread the memo.

Borrowing on the 2009 Dubai World Cup strategy of jockey Aaron Gryder aboard gate-to-wire winner Well Armed, Fernando Jara guided the 5-year-old son of Teofilo to the rail early to take the lead. He never relinquished that advantage in a going-away, 4 1/2-lengths win in this final prep for the Dubai World Cup to be run over the same 1 1/4 miles on the Meydan dirt on March 26.

Hong Kong-based Gun Pit ran out of ammunition in the stretch, finishing second, while Faulkner wrote a third, 2 3/4 lengths arrears. Mubtaahij was a neck farther back in fourth. Running out of gate No. 11and absent regular rider Javier Castellano, Keen Ice was trapped in mid-pack early and never challenged, finishing a chilly seventh with Ryan Moore aboard.

"I didn't expect to get such an early lead," said a somewhat surprised Jara. "Then, he just relaxed and picked it up well when I asked for it. It was a great performance."

But Super Saturday was not absent other great or surprising performances. Let's begin at the end with another great performance as Godolphin picked up its single win in the evening's closing race. William Buick guided Tryster into a favored late 1 1/2-lengths win in the 1,800-meters Jebel Hatta and a ticket into a Dubai Turf gate on World Cup night. In that race, the 5-year-old Shamardal colt joins a field of upset-seekers against formidable Euro-star Solow, a 6-year-old Singspiel gelding who has won seven consecutive Group 1 events.

Tryster is unbeaten this year since returning to turf. He earlier scored a typical last-to-first win in the Feb. 18 Dubai Millennium Stakes at Meydan after collecting six wins in Europe on Polytrack and Tapeta last year. "We brought him out here with a view to trying him on dirt," explained trainer Charlie Appleby, "but he never showed the same acceleration. So we decided to have another crack on the turf." There apparently is no acceleration problem on the grass as Tryster again settled in last behind eight opponents before surging to the front when urged by Buick.

"I have ridden a lot of horses in my life that have a great turn of foot but I can safely say that I have never ridden a horse with a turn of foot like his," extolled Buick, "one that can switch on like him. You find yourself in last place and next thing, you are a length and a half or two lengths in front. Tryster is a very, very good horse."

At the outset of the evening, Market Rally scored well into positive territory with an easy 4 3/4-lengths gain over Lazzam in the 1 1/8- mile dirt Al Bastakiya with Godolphin's Blue Creek a neck back in third after breaking his maiden earlier this year, and Hombre Rojo the last guy across the line by a distant 8 1/2 lengths in a four-horse race. Market Rally, by Unbridled's Song, is likely headed to the UAE Derby on the World Cup card where he may face Carnival filly sensation Polar River, who has already qualified for the Kentucky Oaks. The winner in the UAE Derby will earn 100 points toward a Kentucky Derby start.

The Group 3 Al Shimaal sprint at 6 furlongs on the dirt track provided a bigger surprise as Muarrab took a 5 1/4-lengths' advantage over Kifaah with Hong Kong-based Rich Tapestry running a poorer third by 1 1/4 lengths.

The 1,000-meter Meydan Sprint provided the only close finish on the card as Fityaan proved a nose fitter when Jungle Cat lost the lead in the final furlong, but still managed to remain a short head more fierce than Sole Power. Cool Cowboy was 3 3/4 lengths more chill than Ross with Le Bernardin a mere 1/2 length back and Long River another short 1/2 length longer in the Burj Nahaar dirt mile sprint.

Postponed wasn't late in his prep for the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup day, taking a 3-lengths advantage over Dariyan in the 1 1/2-mile turf City of Gold with Haafaguinea a full length back in third.

Super Saturday winners and other qualifiers will take three weeks off and get gussied up for hopeful super performances on March 26 Dubai World Cup day when the traditional $1 million Al Kahayla Classic for Purebred Arabians will precede an eight-race Thoroughbred card of five Group 1 and three Group 2 races, capped by the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Altogether, the night's nine races will deposit $30 million in the winners' bank accounts, making it the world's richest single day in racing.

Super Saturday, super though it was, wasn't the only weekend action impacting World Cup night.

On Friday at Jebel Ali, Morawij led most of the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over Spin Cycle going 1,000 meters and Dhruba Selvaratnam, who trains the winner for Sheik Ahmed bin Rashid al Maktoum, said he thinks the 6-year-old Exceed and Excel gelding should have a chance on World Cup night. "The way he ran today, he deserves a crack at the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen," the conditioner said.

In France, Solow made a successful 2016 debut in Thursday's Prix Monjeu at Chantilly on the all-weather. The race obviously was designed solely to set the 6-year-old Singspiel gelding up for Dubai but it turned into a bit of a sticky wicket when a hole on the rail closed just as Solow was headed there in the stretch. Jockey Maxime Guyon quickly went to Plan B, switched Solow to the outside and he easily ran on to win his 10th straight race. That string includes last year's Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night, where he won by 4 1/4 lengths, trailed home by the likes of The Grey Gatsby, Mshawish and Euro Charline.

And, Racing Post reports that Duramente, last year's dual-classic winner in Japan, is on his way to Dubai to contest the Sheema Classic. Duramente was injured after winning the Japanese Derby last year but returned to win the Nakayama Kinen last month. "It's an important meeting watched by the world and the prize is big," Racing Post quoted Shunsuke Yoshida, representative of owners Sunday Racing Co Ltd. Yoshida said if all goes well, he also would like to try Duramente in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe this fall. The 4-year-old colt is by King Kamehameha.

Meanwhile, back in the States:

The Road to the Roses

Shagaf tracked down pacesetting California raider Laoban in the stretch run in Saturday's $400,000, Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, ran by and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Laoban held second, 3/4 length ahead of Adventist. Sunny Ridge weakened late and finished fourth. Shagaf, a Bernardini colt bred and owned by Shadwell, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:45.90 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. He now is 3-for-3 for trainer Chad Brown with a maiden win at Aqueduct in November and an allowance victory at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 29. "I'm very proud of his effort today," Brown said. "Coming into the race it was our plan to be able to teach him something and possibly still win the race ... The fact he can secure a spot early with his positional speed is going to come in handy later on." Brown said Shagaf's Florida vacation is over. "Absolutely the plan is stay here in New York for the Wood Memorial," he said. "I didn't even book a flight back for him regardless of how he fired today. We were always going to commit to leaving him here."

Icy Gentleman beat only fellow Louisiana-breds in Saturday's $100,000 Pelican Stakes at Delta Downs. But he beat them pretty convincingly, by 9 lengths, while coming from off the pace. Hunker Down was second and So Sorry Ruston got show money. Icy Gentleman, a Yankee Gentleman gelding, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:33.73 with Jorge Guzman in the irons. It was his second straight win and he has been worse than third only once in eight starts -- when he stumbled and lost his rider in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte last fall.

Preparations continue at Oaklawn Park for the Grade II Rebel on March 19. After all the purse increases at the Hot Springs oval, the race now is worth $900,000. Suddenbreakingnews and American Dubai, the first- and third-place finishers, respectively, in the Feb. 15 Southwest Stakes, worked over the track Saturday morning. Smarty Jones winner Discreetness worked Friday. The remainder of the field is still taking shape.

Although Sunland Park in New Mexico seems to be working out of its equine herpes virus problems, the lingering impact has claimed the Grade III Sunland Derby and its companion Sunland Oaks. The races have been downgraded, stripped of their names, grading and points offerings for the Churchill Downs races. Last year, Firing Line won the Sunland Derby, then finished second to American Pharoah in the Run for the Roses.

The Lane to the Lilies

Songbird continued her undefeated flight to glory with an easy victory over eight rivals, all of whom always were running for second, in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Santa Ysabela at Santa Anita. The Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award winner went right to the front for jockey Mike Smith and was never challenged. She led by 6 lengths in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths, well geared down. Land Over Sea was best of the rest, finishing 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Mokat. Songbird, a Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.02. "It was incredible," Smith said. "I got a bit star struck when I looked over at the big screen to see if I needed to do a little bit of work and I was just in awe of how easily she was doing things, again." Asked what's next and about the prospects for the Kentucky Oaks, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said, "The Santa Anita Oaks would be next and if she looks real good, we'll try to think about Kentucky. I don't like to think too far ahead but that's our long-term goal. The intermediate (races) are what we've been doing." The Grade I Santa Anita Oaks is April 9.

Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies are looking pretty good this season with Jet Black Magic turning the tables on Smittys Cougar in Friday night's $100,000 Azalea Stakes for that group at Delta Downs. Jet Black Magic, a daughter of Hold Me Back, tracked down front-running Smittys Cougar in the stretch and drew off to win by a convincing 3 lengths. Thegoodwitch put mild pressure on the leader but then faded to get home third. Jet Black Magic, last fall's Grade II Delta Princess winner, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:34.01 with Colby Hernandez up. She has three wins, two seconds and two thirds from seven starts. In their last outing, Smittys Cougar was allowed to take a bigger lead and held on to beat Jet Black Magic by 3 lengths.

Classic

Blofeld got through along the rail in the final sixteenth to post the upset win in Saturday's $500,000, Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap while odds-on favorite Valid was knocked to his knees in the stretch run, losing all chance. Stanford missed by just a head in a driving finish. Anchor Down, who came out into Valid, finished third but was set down to fourth behind that rival after recovering from the impact. Blofeld, a 4-year-old Quality Road colt, saved ground into the stretch, followed Stanford inside as pacesetter Anchor Down began to fade and run erratically, then had the strongest finish. He ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.03 with John Velazquez up. It was the first win since the Grade II Nashua at Aqueduct in November of 2014 for Blofeld, who had returned from a layoff of nearly seven months to finish fourth in an optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Jan. 27. "We were expecting a big performance from him. I thought he got a race off the layoff, so we were looking for a big effort from him," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher saddled four of the starters in the race and said he has no firm plans for any of them.

Distaff

Mei Ling led them a merry chase in Saturday's $100,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational at Aqueduct, leading by a wide margin throughout and winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Saythreehailmary's was best of the rest with Pangburn a neck farther back in third. Mei Ling, a 5-year-old Empire Maker mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:45.07 for jockey Jose Ortiz. It was her first win since stepping into the stakes ranks last summer at Monmouth Park in the Lighthouse Stakes.

Turf

Grand Tito stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park, moved to the lead in the lane and won off by 1 1/4 lengths over Kaigun. The favorite, Mr Maybe, raced in last and fell short with a late run, finishing third. Da Big Hoss finished fifth and Twilight Eclipse was home last of seven. Grand Tito, a 6-year-old son of Candy Ride, finished 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:12.55 with Emisael Jaramillo riding. It was his second victory of the season. "That's the best horse we have in the barn, for sure," said assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr. "Last year he got beat by some good horses. He had a nice race in Saratoga behind Ironicus when he set the track record. This year he is showing us a little more. We're very happy."

Filly & Mare Turf

German-bred Orlorda made her 4-year-old debut a successful one with a pace-setting, course-record win in Saturday's $150,000, Grade III The Very One at Gulfstream Park. One of three entered by trainer Chad Brown, the Lord of England filly shot right to the lead under Julien Leparoux, set a brisk pace and held off stablemate and odds-on favorite Dacita for the victory. Guapaza was third, giving Brown a sweep of the trifecta. "She broke good so I let her do her thing," Leparoux said. "She's a big filly, a grinder, and she never stopped." Orlorda finished the 1 3/16 miles in a course-record 1:51.54 with Leparoux noting the course was very firm and conducive to quick times.

Sprint

There was nothing subtle about Subtle Indian's winning trip in Saturday's $100,000 Hot Springs Handicap at Oaklawn Park. The 4-year-old Indian Charlie gelding jumped out of the gate, seized the lead and held onto it, winning by 1 length over Den's Legacy. Alsvid finished a neck farther back in third. Subtle Indian, with Ramon Vazquez handling the reins, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.28. He now has six wins from eight starts on the Oaklawn-Canterbury circuit. "We were all cheering," said winning trainer Robertino Diodoro. "It made me a little nervous around the turn when (Alsvid) put a little pressure on us early. But this horse is just getting better and better. He proved it today again." He said the $400,000, Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap on April 10 is "definitely the plan. We don't have any plans of taking him anywhere in the near future."

Fair Grounds

Princess Erindelle rallied from last of 13 to post the 26-1 upset victory in Saturday's $60,000 Allen Black Cat LaCombe Memorial, edging Pancake, who flattened out in the final strides to finish 1/2 length in arrears. More Than Most finished third and the odds-on favorite, Sapphire Kitten, ran evenly to finish fifth. Princess Erindelle, a Divine Park filly, ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:32.37 under Marcelino Pedroza.

Aqueduct

Awesome Gent stalked the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes for 3-year-olds, then assumed command in the stretch, drawing off to a 4-lengths victory. Quijote finished second, 1 length better than King Kranz. The favorite, Sudden Surprise, dueled for the lead, then suddenly gave way, fading to finish last. Awesome Gent, an Awesome Again gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.60 with Manny Franco in the irons. "He's been here all winter long and it's been great to have him in the barn," said Bryon Hughes, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "Hopefully his success over the inner continues to the outer track."

Let's go back across the waters, starting with lovely:

Barbados

Dorsett, with Jalon Samuel aboard, bested Watchyourownbobber by 3 lengths to take Saturday's Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup at Garrison Savannah. War Envoy finished third and last year's winner, Saylor's Creek, settled for fourth. Trainer Robert Peirce picked up his third win in one of the Caribbean's most prestigious races. Dorsett, a 6-year-old son of Artie Schiller, finished 1,800 meters on firm turf in 1:49.4. The race was broadcast worldwide for the first time by Horse Racing Radio Network (www.horseracingradio.net) with Mike Penna and Jude Feld on hand to capture the unique ambiance in their unique style.

{b:Japan } Makahiki rallied wide from last of 12 to win Sunday's Grade 2 Hochi Hai Yayoi Sho, or Japanese 2,000 Guineas Trial, at Nakayama. The Deep Impact colt got to a challenging position turning for home and bested the favorite, Leontes, by a neck in a sprint to the wire. Air Spinel was third in a generally formful finish. Christophe Lemaire provided the perfectly timed winning ride.

The judges needed a close look to sort out Saturday's Grade 2 Tulip Sho, or Japanese 1,000 Guineas Trial, at Hanshin Racecourse. But the picture showed Sinhalite a nose better than the favorite, Jeweler, with the winner getting up in an outside rush. Lavender Valley was a long-priced third. Sinhalite, a Deep Impact filly, scored her third win from as many starts with Kenichi Ikezoe in the irons.

Australia

Palentino narrowly defeated Tarzino on Saturday at Flemington in the Group 1 Australian Guineas, then survived an inquiry into an eventfully run race before the result was declared official -- a déjà vu all over again for his large ownership group. Two weeks earlier, Palentino was disqualified from apparent victory in the Grade III C S Hayes Stakes. This time around, the stewards found there was plenty of blame to be shared among the participants and let the result stand. Risque was less than 1 length farther back in third and the favorite, Xtravagant, got home eighth. Palentino, a Teofilo colt, covered 1,600 meters in 1:35.28 under Mark Zahra.

At Randwick, Le Romain got the lead in the final furlong of the Group 1 Randwick Guineas and held off Press Statement, winning by a head. Gold Ambition was along for third. Le Romain, an Australian-bred Hard Spun gelding, covered 1,600 meters in 1:33.83 with Christian Reith in the irons.

England

With the All-Weather Championship Finals set for the day before the Dubai World Cup, qualifying races are winding down to a precious few.

Notarised, trained by Mark Johnston in Yorkshire, won the final Fast-Track Qualifier for the All-Weather Marathon on Finals Day at Lingfield, taking Thursday's 2-mile event at Chelmsford City. The 5-year-old son of Authorized, ridden by Joe Fanning, broke the track record for 2 miles, finishing in 3:22.37. "Notarised has come on for his first run of the year. They went a hell of a gallop and it suited him," Fanning said.

Johnston and Fanning made it two Fast-Track Qualifier victories on consecutive evenings when Watersmeet led all the way in one of two All-Weather Championships preps Friday. At Dundalk in Ireland. Watersmeet, a 5-year-old grey son of Dansili, resisted two strong challenges in the straight, winning by 1/2 length. "Watersmeet is likely to be aimed at one of the races on Finals Day now. He stays further than this," the trainer said. Friday's other Fast-Track Qualifier today was over 5 furlongs on Tapeta at Wolverhampton and went, narrowly, to Wolowitz, a 3-year-old by Intense Focus.

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