UPI Horse Racing Roundup

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer  |  May 2, 2016 at 9:41 AM
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Two world-class events in Hong Kong, Guineas weekend in England, Champions Day in South Africa and the Tenno Sho in Japan filled an international racing weekend.

Even the onrushing Kentucky Derby had an international flavor with Japanese-based UAE Derby winner Lani demonstrating a mind of his own while preparing at Churchill Downs for the Run for the Roses.

Let's start with a global perspective, retreat to Churchill Downs and then pick up the rest of a fascinating few days around the U.S. ovals, where, by the way, Ben's Cat won on the first try of his 10-year-old season. {i: Around the world, around the clock, starting with:}

Hong Kong

Stars from Japan and Australia took home top prizes in Sunday's Group I events at Sha Tin but the races could hardly have been run more differently.

Chautauqua, a striking grey sprinter from Australia, kicked things off by dropping to the back of the field in the Group I Chairman's Sprint Prize. He stayed there, well behind a hot pace, until jockey Tommy Berry swung him out to the middle of the track as the field turned into the stretch. At that point, Chautauqua kicked into overdrive, eased by up-and-coming local runner Lucky Bubbles in the final 50 meters and went on to win by a neck over that rival. Strathmore was third as the 1,200 meters went in 1:08.69. The early leaders, including Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint winner Buffering and Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Mongolian Saturday, were left gasping in the stretch. Mongolian Saturday finished ninth and Buffering could see all 13 of his rivals as they crossed the line.

As they pulled up, Berry said, a fellow rider told him, "I don't think I've ever been in a race where they went that hard."

The sectional times were 23.34 and 45.49 with the final time of 1:08.69. The victory could send Chautauqua off on an international quest, starting at Royal Ascot. The Chairman's Sprint Prize is newly elevated to Group 1 status and replaced the defunct KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore as a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which offers a US$1 million bonus to a horse winning three of its races in three countries. Chautauqua won the first leg, the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning, in Australia and could claim the swag with a win in either of the two sprints on the Royal Ascot card.

"We do have plans in progress," said winning trainer Michael Hawkes. "But, the way he's going, he's headed off to Europe and not to home."

The hard-fought Sprint was followed by a tour de force in the Group 1 Champions Mile. Japanese runner Maurice, who capped a six-race winning streak last season with a win in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile in December, returned in peak form to repeat that score. Under Hong Kong's "Magic Man," Joao Moreira, the 5-year-old relaxed well behind the early pace, found daylight early in the stretch run and ran right through and on to a 2-lengths victory. Contentment and Packing Pins filled the top three slots. Maurice ran the 1,600 meters on good turf in 1:34.08.

"When I gave him the daylight, he went on his own," Moreira said, adding Maurice "could step up in distance ... The feeling he gave me today, very few horses could give to their jockeys," said Moreira, who has ridden some of Hong Kong's brightest recent stars.

Japan

Kitasan Black led all the way in Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho (Spring) at Kyoto Racecourse, then courageously battled head-to-head with Curren Mirotic through the final 50 yards before prevailing by a scant nose. The Japan Racing Association reckoned the actual difference to be 4 centimeters. Cheval Grand finished third while the favorite, Gold Actor, struggled home 12th. Kitasan Black, a 4-year-old colt by Black Tide, finished the 3,200 meters in 3:15.3 with Yutaka Take taking a break from his Kentucky Derby duties to apply the winning ride. Kitasan Black was coming back from a narrow second in the Group 2 Sankei Osaka Hai.

"I was intending to settle him in a good position after the start," Take said. "He ran an ideal race. He responded beautifully. He's not the type with an enormous burst of speed, so we made an early bid. It was so close but I'm glad he never gave up and stretched the way he did."

France

Dariyan didn't exactly have clear sailing in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Ganay at Saint-Cloud but jockey Christophe Soumillon got him through traffic in the final 200 meters in time to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Silverwave was second with Garlingari another 3 lengths adrift in third. Dariyan, a 4-year-old Shamardal colt owned and bred by the Aga Khan, finished 2,100 meters on good turf in 2:07.72. It was his first win at the top level, though he did produce an excellent third in last December's Group 1 Longines's Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. Sunday's festivities also included a farewell to recently retired Cirrus Des Aigles, whose globetrotting efforts earned him fans from France to Hong Kong. Cirrus's trainer, Corine Barande-Barbe, saddled Garlingari. {b: England}

Galileo Gold pulled the upset in Saturday's Group 1 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, charging home first by 1 1/2 lengths under Frankie Dettori as the odds-on favorite, Air Force Blue, showed nothing and beat only one of his 12 rivals. Massat was in the mix until the final yards but couldn't quite stay with the winner and settled for second. Ribchester was third. Galileo Gold, a Paco Boy colt owned by Al Shaqab Racing and trained by Hugo Palmer, ran the 1 mile over good to soft turf in 1:35.91. After a clean getaway, Dettori kept Galileo Gold near the front of the pack. Two furlongs from the winning post, he asked for more and Galileo Gold quickly delivered, equally quickly boosting his stock for the Derby.

"I wanted to be the first to make my way home," Dettori said. "He galloped out really strong and he's done it well."

Galileo Gold won three straight races last year following a first-up second. He completed his 2-year-old campaign with a third-place finish in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp. Air Force Blue was 4-for-5 last year, winning three Group 1 events, and had been the early Derby favorite before Saturday's flop. His poor effort was echoed by Stormy Antarctic, who finished 11th, and last year's Racing Post Trophy winner, Marcel, who came home last.

Harry Herbert, representing Al Shaqab, said about plans for Galileo Gold, "You always want the dust to settle. But the Derby is the Derby so we'll give it serious consideration."

On Sunday, trainer Aidan O'Brien's string took the sting out of Air Force Blue's disappointment with a 1-2-3 sweep in the Group 1 1,000 Guineas. The charge was led by Minding, a Galileo filly who was followed across the line by Ballydoyle and Alice Springs. Minding was such a convincing winner, scoring by 3 1/2 lengths, that jockey Ryan Moore already had her plugged in as a Derby hope -- a notion quickly quashed by co-owner Michael Tabor.

"I'm a purist and I don't like winning that type of race with a filly," he said. O'Brien called the Epsom Oaks "the obvious race for her now."

But he said he first will consider the Irish 1,000 Guineas and see how the yard's other runners are doing. Minding is from the Danehill Dancer mare Lillie Langtree. She has four wins from six starts and three of the four victories came in Group 1 races.

Exosphere came with a late run to take Saturday's Group 2 Jockey Club Stakes as last year's Irish Derby winner, Jack Hobbs, was pulled up mid-race. Exosphere, with Ryan Moore riding, shadowed Simple Verse through the opening stages of the 1 1/2-miles event, followed that one past pacesetter Big Orange and then went on to make the lead and win by 4 lengths in 2:30.92.

"The way he did that today I don't think there is any doubt 12 furlongs is his trip," said Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for owner Khalid Abdullah. "It's a very long season but he's set out the right way and we couldn't be more pleased. We can raise our sights now."

Godolphin's John Ferguson said Jack Hobbs came back in good condition and will be checked out.

Sole Power, 10th in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan in March, made no impression on his return in Saturday's Group 3 Palace House Stakes at Newmarket, finishing 11th in a big field. The race went to Profitable, a 4-year-old colt by Invincible Sprit, who was profitable indeed for his backers at 20-1 odds. Jungle Cat and the favorite, Waady, finished second and third.

South Africa

Trainer Sean Tarry had a champion's day on Champions Day Saturday at Turffontine, saddling the 1-2 in the Group 1 Champions Challenge and the winners of the Group 1 World Sports Betting Computaform Sprint, the Group 1 S A Nursery and the Group 2 Gerald Rosenberg Stakes.

In the 2,000-meters Champions Challenge, heavy favorite Legal Eagle defeated stablemate by 2 lengths. Brazuca, one of just two 3-year-olds in the field, finished third. Anton Marcus rode the winner for Tarry, finishing in 2:01.77. Legal Eagle scored his fourth Group 1 win, earlier taking the SA Derby, the L'Ormarins Queen's Plate and the Horse Chestnut Stakes. He was blocked in last year's Group 1 Durban July in a rough stretch run and Tarry said the prospect of top weight for this year's renewal of that race could be a concern.

Carry On Alice was 1 length in front at the end of the Sprint, defeating Talk to the Stars with Barbosa third. S'Manga Khumalo had the winning ride for Tarry. Carry On Alice was second in this race last season and went on from that to win the Group 1 City of Pietermaritzburg at Scottsville in her next start. That, however, was her last victory before Saturday's race.

Cloth of Cloud, the favorite, won Saturday's Group 1 S A Nursery Stakes at Turffontine, vesting Rivarine by 1 length. Double Appeal was well back in third. Cloth of Cloud is a filly by Captain Al, out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Our Table Mountain. She finished in 1:07.23 with Khumalo up. It was her third straight win, including the Group 3 Pretty Polly.

Tarry also gave a leg up to Khumalo on Trophy Wife, who took the Rosenberg by 1/2 length from Centenary. Patshit Up Baby was third in that event.

Abashiri won the day's other Group 1 event, the S A Derby, completing a sweep of the South African Triple Crown while defeating Rocket Ball by a narrow margin after coming from near last at the top of the lane. Samurai Blade was third. Abashiri's victory backed up his win early in the month in the Group 1 S A Classic and in the Group II Gautang Guineas. Abashiri now is a candidate for the Vodacom Durban July. {i: Meanwhile, back in the States:}

Kentucky Derby

Not much to report from Churchill Downs. The trainers pretty universally express satisfaction with preparations and there have been no changes in the prospective 20-horse field since Bob Baffert ruled Cupid out more than a week ago.

Nyquist, the undefeated 2-year-old champ and likely Derby favorite, arrived at Churchill Downs and went out on a sloppy track on Sunday morning. "He jogged to day and he'll jog tomorrow," said trainer Doug O'Neill. O'Neill said owner Paul Reddam plans to arrive in Louisville Wednesday and attend the post position draw on Wednesday evening.

The exception to the calm week was the Japanese runner Lani, winner of the Group 2 UAE Derby on World Cup night. On Wednesday, the Tapit colt apparently decided on his own that a 5-furlongs work was 2 furlongs more than he wanted and he stopped after 3.

"It was supposed to be five furlongs, but he wanted to stop," jockey Yutaka Take said. "Back home in Japan he has done that before, so it is not a concern.

"His temperament is that he is not willing to run always. If he does, he has a big chance."

But Take admitted he won't know until the gate opens if Lani feels like running on the first Saturday in May. By Sunday, Take was back in Japan winning a Group 1 event there and Lani was back on the Churchill Downs track, more or less behaving himself during a peaceful four circuits of the oval.

Filly & Mare Turf

Olorda led comfortably throughout Friday's closing-day feature, the $100,000, Grade III Bewitch Stakes for fillies and mares, and held on to win by 1/2 length over Al's Gal. Songoficeandfire, the favorite, finished third. Olorda, a 4-year-old German-bred filly by Lord of England, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:30.09 with Julien Leparoux riding. It was her second win from five starts since coming to the United States from Europe. She broke through with a victory in the Grade III The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream last month. Winning trainer Chad Brown said putting Olorda on the lead in the Florida win proved the key to success but he also credited Leparoux. "She can be difficult," Brown said of Orlada. "A big part of her success is getting Julien on her. Putting her in the front in her races and having him ride her ... they're a great combination. He rode a perfect race and timed it just right today."

Turf Sprint

Lady Shipman, showing no lingering effects from her trip to Dubai, dueled to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 License Fee Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park and kicked away to a 2 3/4-lengths win. Zindaya was second while Shrinking Violet and Vicki's Dancer completed the order of finish. Lady Shipman, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, ran 6 furlongs on good turf on a rainy day in 1:07.49. The 4-year-old Midshipman filly was second in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, won the Ladies' Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park in February but then finished seventh in the seventh at Meydan on World Cup night in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint, beaten less than 3 lengths by the winner, Buffering.

"You never know how much a trip like that, shipping there and back, will impact a horse," said Joe Lee, assistant to winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, referring to the Dubai journey. "But Kiaran's program had her settled and we worked her when she ready."

A Lot and Green Mask rallied together in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Elusive Quality Stakes at Belmont Park with A Lot hitting the line a nose in front of that rival. Mosler held the lead with a furlong left but could do no better than show money. A Lot, a 4-year-old Tapit colt owned by Amerman Racing and trained by Chad Brown, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in course-record time of 1:19.23, erasing a record set the day before. Irad Ortiz Jr. rode. It was only the fourth lifetime win for the colt, who had not had his picture taken since last May. He finished second in the Grade II American Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes at Saratoga last summer.

"The course is very firm, obviously," said Brown's assistant, Cherie DeVaux, "and luckily he appreciated is firmness."

Turf Mile

Smokem Kitten led the way in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Miami Mile at Gulfstream Park and held on to win by a head over Middleburg and another neck from Hothersal. Smokem Kitten, a 4-year-old Kittens Joy colt, finished in 1:33.01 under Edgar Prado. The Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred is trained by Mike Maker. He now has three wins from five starts.

"When he broke so sharp and got the lead so easy, I didn't want to fight him," Prado said. "He was moving along so good every step of the way. At the top of the stretch, he found another gear."

Cali Thirty Seven made all the going in Saturday's $100,000 Powder Break Stakes for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park and coasted home a winner by 1 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Notte d'Oro, made up ground late but settled for second. Susie Bee rallied from last of 11 to complete the trifecta. Cali Thirty Seven, a 4-year-old Eskendereya filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.84 for jockey Joe Bravo. She has won two in a row and three of her last five starts.

Alert Bay pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields, surged to the front and held off a late rally from far back by Gabriel Charles, winning by a neck. The favorite, Bal a Bali, was only a head farther back, also with a late effort. Alert Bay, a 5-year-old City Zip gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.39 with Tyler Baze at the controls. Alert Bay posted a three-race winning streak last fall, including the Grade II City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita, but had not won since an allowance event at Golden Gate last November. {b: Classic } Uncle Lino set a pressured pace in Saturday's $150,000 California Chrome Stakes for 3-year-olds at Los Alamitos and held at the end to win by 1/2 length over Rare Candy. Touched by Autism was third, 5 1/4 lengths farther back. Uncle Lino, an Uncle Mo colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in track-record time of 1:40.82 with Fernando Perez in the irons. The race was a step back from the Kentucky Derby trail after Uncle Lino finished second in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis, fourth in the Grade II San Felipe and third in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

Trainer Gary Sherlock, a part-owner of the winner, said, "Somebody asked me if this horse should win today. I said, 'Well, the horses that have been beating him are running in the Kentucky Derby, so I think he's got a pretty good chance." Sherlock said the Preakness now is a possibility for Uncle Lino.

Sprint

The Chicago Blackhawks are done for the season but Toews On Ice certainly is not. The Archarcharch colt battled to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 William Walker Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs and splashed away to a 2-lengths victory over the sloppy, sealed track. Entertainer rallied from last of five to get second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Sheikh of Sheikhs. Toews On Ice, with David Lopez up, finished in 1:10.91. After a successful 2-year-old season that included a win in the Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar, the colt opened his 2016 campaign finishing sixth in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park in January. He had been idle since.

Jimmy Barnes, assistant to winning trainer Bob Baffert, said, "We brought David (Lopez) here to work some horses for us. We gave him a mount today. He did good with it. I don't know what happens next with the horse. Bob makes that call. I just get them ready and then hopefully get a picture taken."

Otherwise:

Fonner Park

Sweet Stuff, at 26-1 odds, rallied by 25-1 shot Go Gold in the final jumps of Saturday's $30,000 Boselman Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes, winning by a neck over that rival. It was another 5 3/4 lengths back to the favorite, Diamond Joe, in third. Sweet Stuff, a 6-year-old Candy Ride gelding, got 1 1/16 miles on a muddy, sealed track in 1:51.20 with Mike Luark up.

Belmont Park

Weekend Hideaway skimmed the rail into the stretch, then got first run to the lead in Friday's $100,000 Affirmed Success Stakes for New York-breds, cleared the field, and won by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Loki's Vengeance. Drama King was another 3/4 length back in third. Weekend Hideaway, a 6-year-old son of Speightstown, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.30 with Luis Saez up. {b: Prairie Meadows}

Cashel Rock opened the stakes season at the Iowa track with an off-the-pace victory in Friday's $65,000 Golden Circle Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Illinois-bred Cashel Castel gelding was off a step slow, circled the leaders to gain in the lead in the stretch and won by 1/2 length over pacesetter Victory Arch. Pistone Steel was only a nose back of that one in third. The 6-furlongs event went in 1:10.24 over a fast track with Santo Sanjur up on the winner. Cashel Rock now has three straight wins -- at Fair Grounds, Hawthorne and Prairie Meadows -- for trainer Doug Matthews.

D R C's Pretty Sky stalked the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Goldfinch Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got first run to the lead in the final furlong and outfinished the favorite, Lovable Lyss, by 1/2 length. My Master Plan completed the trifecta. D R C's Pretty Sky, a Sky Mesa filly, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:10.75 with Ramon Vazquez in the irons.

Thistledown

Deniro's Saint dueled to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Dr. T.F. Classen Memorial for Ohio-bred fillies and mares and carried on to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Ebby. Derby Day Storm was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Deniro's Saint, a 6-year-old Saints n' Sinners mare, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.86 with Luis Gonzalez up.

Woodbine

Crumlin was away slow but fast at the end in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Lady Angela Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies, winning by 1 length over the favorite, Caren. Trini Brewnette was third. Crumlin, a Court Vision filly out of the Unbridled mare Heart Lake, finished 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.53 with David Moran aboard.

{b:Laurel Park } Ben's Cat made a successful 10-year-old debut in a Sunday allowance race, rallying in the final sixteenth to catch pacesetting Rapid Dan and win by a neck. Night Officer was 1 length farther back in third. Ben's Cat, a Parker's Storm Cat gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:03.21 with Trevor McCarthy up. He went through a bit of a dry spell at the end of 2015, leaving a question mark about the effects of aging.

"This is our comeback race," said owner, breeder and trainer King Leatherbury before the heat. "He's doing well for an old boy. And me, too."

Leatherbury said he plans to use the win as a stepping-stone to the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint on May 20 at Pimlico -- a race Ben's Cat has won three straight years and four of the last five. The venerable crowd-pleaser has had 53 starts, winning 30 of them, with nearly $2.5 million in earnings.

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