Royal Ascot ended with a win for Her Majesty, although Ireland and Dubai smiled through the soggy conditions.
Meanwhile, back in North America, Songbird, Obviously and Gun Runner all had big weekends. Not faring so well were Effinex, Untapable and The Pizza Man.
Two of the weekend races at Churchill Downs were Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" events. Songbird's race at Santa Anita might as well have been one, too.
Let's finish up with the top hat-and-tails meeting, move along to the stylish French Oaks and classy Hong Kong, then get back down to business in North America. Away we go:
Irish-based trainer Aidan O'Brien and his go-to rider, Ryan Moore, were the easy champions at Royal Ascot with O'Brien saddling seven winners, four seconds and four thirds during the five days. His closest competitor, Sir Michael Stoute, went 2-2-2. Moore booted home six winners, including some of the biggest, four seconds and seven thirds. Frankie Dettori was next up with a mark of 4-1-2.
Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al Maktoum's Godolphin Racing landed four winners and numerous placings with an ambitious slate of runners throughout the five days.
In closing day action on Saturday:
The Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at 6 furlongs was a truly international affair with runners from Hong Kong, Australia, the United States and France. But it was a local boy, Twilight Son, who got the spoils, winning a desperate sprint to the finish by a neck over Hong Kong hope Gold-Fun and another short head from French raider Signs of Blessing. Undrafted, the American runner who won the event last year, reared at the start and finished an honorable fifth, beaten less than 2 lengths.
Twilight Son, a 4-year-old colt by Kylachy, is trained by Henry Candy and benefitted from a strong ride by Moore. Candy said the force has been strong with Twilight Son.
"It's not been easy recently with this one," he said. "I took him to Newbury recently to do a piece of work with him and he decided that he wanted to do two bits of work. He got rid of his work rider and did a piece of work himself and then we did what we'd come there to do. Looking at him now after the race, he doesn't even want to come back! He's a strong character."
He said Moore's ride was superior. "He's a top man, isn't he?" the trainer said.
Gold-Fun's trainer, Richard Gibson, clearly found the narrow defeat tough to swallow after the long and ambitious trip but said he remains proud of his veteran runner.
"He really did finish well," Gibson said, "It's not quite our day but we are very satisfied with a second place and it's a great credit to (owner) Sutong Pan for allowing us to bring him here."
He said Gold-Fun will return to Hong Kong and prepare for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint in December.
Her Majesty took the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes as Dartmouth won a nip-and-tuck stretch battle with Highland Reel by a head. Almodovar, who made all the early going, held third, 3 1/4 lengths back. Olivier Peslier had the winning ride for Sir Michael Stoute, who saddled his 10th Hardwicke winner.
Highland Reel, on the inside, and Dartmouth, moved together at mid-stretch and blew by Almodovar without much of a struggle. The issue remained in doubt between those two until the final yards and the tussle was so intense that the stewards later warned Peslier for causing interference -- but let the result stand, marking the Queen's 23rd Royal Ascot winner and Sir Michael's 75th, tying him with the late Sir Henry Cecil for the record.
"I couldn't see the stewards taking it away from him," Sir Michael said. "The Queen loves a winner anywhere but particularly here, of course ... Royal Ascot carries much more importance now than in the past because there is so much international presence and there is so much more international coverage -- there's a big build-up."
He said he is not sure what to do with Dartmouth and his other runner, Exosphere, who finished a dull eighth as the favorite. Either or both could return for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth over the same course next month and Highland Reel's trainer, O'Brien again, said he may try that, too.
O'Brien, Moore and pre-eminent Irish stallion Galileo won the first two races on closing day.
Moore sent Churchill to the lead with a couple furlongs left in the opening Chesham Stakes and held off Isomer by 1/2 length under the wire. Cunco finished third in the 5-furlongs event for 2-year-olds. Churchill, a Galileo colt, finished third in his career debut at the Curragh.
The trio landed their final blow of the meeting in the Listed Wolferton Handicap as Sir Isaac Newton found a seam as the field turned into the stretch, ran quickly to the lead and held off Second Wave, one of three Godolphin runners, by a half-length. Revolutionist finished third. Sir Isaac Newton, a 4-year-old colt by Galileo, posted just his second win but had been a consistent earner in his previous seven starts.
In the final two races of the Royal meeting, Outback Traveler outfinished Brando by a head to take the 6-furlongs Wokingham Stakes and Commissioned came from off the pace to take the Queen Alexandra Stakes, at something more than 2 miles and 5 furlongs, by 1 3/4 lengths from Cayirli in 5:00.77.
La Cressonniere finished strongly in Sunday's Group 1 Prix de Diane-Longines at Chantilly, edging Left Hand by a half-length. Volta was third as the Aidan O'Brien team finished fifth and sixth with Coolmore and Ballydoyle respectively. While the victory was a letdown for O'Brien after the hugely successful Royal Ascot, it continued a hot streak for winning trainer Jean Claude Rouget and for La Cressonniere, who remained undefeated in five starts. She is a daughter of Le Havre out of the Galileo mare Absolute Lady. Cristian Demuro had the mount and waited patiently to make his move in the late going in the race, run at something more than 1 1/4 miles.
"I was slightly worried where she was in the race," Rouget said. "She was a bit far back. But the main thing is that you relax your horse, no matter where you are."
Asked about plans for La Cressonniere, he said, "I don't want to say anything about where next. We will see how she is over the next few days."
Almost any horse winning a big race in France, of course, is considered for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. After the race, William Buick was given a 30-day suspension for causing interference that affected several rivals and caused one of them to fall late in the race. Buick's mount, Highlands Queen, was set down to last.
Helene Paragon ran so well in winning Sunday's HK Group 3 Premier Plate at Sha Tin that jockey Joao "Magic Man" Moreira forecast "a bright future" and trainer John Moore said he will be entered in both the Group 1 Mile and the Group 1 Cup at December's Longines Hong Kong International Races. The 4-year-old, French-bred son of Polan started his career in Spain, where he garnered his maiden win. Sunday, Moreira let Helene Paragon settle last of seven, then unleashed a burst of speed that saw him first by 1 1/4 lengths over Flame Hero in course-record time of 1:48.83. Secret Weapon was third.
In Sunday's companion HK Group 3 Premier Cup at 1,400 meters, the final pattern race of the Hong Kong season, Sun Jewellery used the entire length of the stretch to catch pacesetter Dashing Fellow, winning by a short head over that rival.
It was the fourth win from six starts this season for Sun Jewellery -- a campaign that also saw him victorious in the HK Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile and the HK Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Cup. Moreira had the mount on this one for trainer John Size. Rewarding Hero finished third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Sun Jewellery and just edging Dundonnell.
"He's aimed at a race like the Hong Kong Mile in December," Size said. "So we'll ask him to do a little bit more in the new season and see if he shapes up for it."
Meanwhile, back in North America:
Bradester led from gate to wire in Saturday night's $500,000 Grade I Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic. Eagle flew late to edge Majestic Harbor for second. Effinex was a disappointment, finishing a fading sixth as the odds on favorite.
Bradester, a 6-year-old son of Lion Heart, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.85 with Joe Bravo up. Since finishing 13th in the Group 2 Godolphin Mile on World Cup night last year at Meydan, Bradester has run only one bad race -- the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, where he finished ninth. That aside, he has four wins, a second and a third from the other six starts.
"This race came up with a shorter field than in past years, so we figured it was a good opportunity for him to take a shot at some Grade I horses," said winning trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Gary Stevens rode Effinex, who finished second to American Pharoah in last fall's Breeders' Cup Classic.
"I hate to say it," Stevens said after Saturday's "Downs After Dark" feature. "I wasn't traveling like a winner at any point during the race ... We got into the turn and I was empty. I was done early."
As expected, Gun Runner was too much for a quintet of rivals in Saturday evening's $100,000 Grade III Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Louisiana Derby winner, third in the Kentucky Derby in his last start, went quickly to the lead in the Winn, turned back a bid by Gray Sky and cleared, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. Gray Sky held on for second, a half-length to the good of Texas Chrome. Gun Runner, a Candy Ride colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.12 -- just 0.08 second off the track record put up by Successful Dan four years ago.
"His confidence should be exactly where we're hoping for going into an extremely competitive Haskell, it looks like," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "I do think that he is of the highest quality and this is only his seventh lifetime race. He is faster now than he has ever been and that's a great thing."
He was beaten in the Derby only by Nyquist and Preakness winner Exaggerator.
Speaking of the Haskell, Donegal Moon rallied from last of seven to win Sunday's $150,000 Pegasus Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park, the local prep for that $1 million fixture. Extinct Charm was a long shot second, a neck in front of Awesome Slew.
The odds-on favorite, previously undefeated Unified, separated the halves of a lot of mutuel tickets by finishing an uninvolved fifth. Donegal Moon, a Malibu Moon colt, split rivals at the top of the lane, took command and got home in 1:44.15 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track with Joe Bravo up. He notched only his third career win and first in a stakes. Unified won the Grade III Bay Shore and the Grade II Peter Pan in New York before Saturday's fizzle.
Songbird missed the Kentucky Oaks as a result of a fever but showed no lingering ill effects upon her return to action in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Summertime Oaks at Santa Anita. Quite the contrary. After allowing Bellamentary to show the way until about midway down the backstretch, jockey Mike Smith gave the unbeaten Medaglia d'Oro filly just enough rein to take the lead and jog home untroubled by any serious opposition. Bellamentary barely held on for second, beating 31-1 long shot Kay Kay by a nose.
Songbird finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.63 in what amounted to a well-compensated workout. Asked if she could have run faster, Smith said, "A lot faster. If I'd even just gathered her up and asked her, there's no telling how fast she can run."
The only difference from her previous seven victories was that Songbird did not immediately seek the lead.
"It was beautiful the way she just settled in," said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. "I was very happy with the way she looked going down the backside. She was very comfortable, with her ears up, looking for something. The opportunity presented itself to be just a little off the pace and now we've shown everyone that we can do that."
With talk flying all around racing circles that Songbird is this year's best 3-year-old, Hollendorfer tossed some cold water on suggestions she might resurface in the $1 million, Grade I Haskell at Monmouth on July 31 against male opponents.
"I think we'll stick with the girls for now and see what happens. I'm thrilled, really," he said.
Owner Rick Porter has said in the past that Songbird might not run against the boys at all this year.
Paid Up Subscriber earned a free subscription to November's Breeders' Cup Distaff with a victory in Saturday night's $200,000 Grade II Fleur de Lis for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs, a "Win and You're In" for the big race. With Ricardo Santana Jr. up, the 4-year-old Candy Ride filly drafted in behind a good early clip, advanced between rivals in the stretch and drew off to win by 3 lengths. Brooklynsway and Engaginglee also ran well late to take second and third. The odds-on favorite, Untapable, finished fourth.
Paid Up Subscriber ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.44. It was her first stakes win.
"She's supposed to do (two turns) on paper but you never know until you try," said trainer Al Stall Jr. "We just didn't want to ship anywhere to try it so we decided to stay home in a short field. Even though we knew that there were some tigers in here, the way she trained up to it really gave us a lot of confidence going in."
He noted her sire, Candy Ride, won the Pacific Classic and her grandsire, Street Cry, won the Dubai World Cup, both at 1 1/4 miles.
"So it stands to reason that she can handle two turns, no problem," he added.
Florent Geroux, who rode Untapable, said she "was just very keen during the race. I had a really tough time relaxing her."
Obviously had 'em all the way in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Poker Stakes at Belmont Park. Leading from the early jumps under Jose Lezcano, the 8-year-old, Irish-bred gelding took the field right along and went on to win by 3 3/4 lengths. He finished the 1 mile in 1:31.65 -- just 0.02 second off the course mark set by Elusive Quality in 1998. Force the Pass and Offering Plan gave futile chase, settling for second and third.
Obviously, trained by Phil D'Amato, had not won since taking the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita last June 14. He was second in his last two starts, the Grade II San Gabriel and the Grade II Arcadia. Nothing if not persistent, he has finished third, fifth, fifth and ninth in the last four editions of the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile.
"He seems like he's starting to relax better," said D'Amato assistant Chris Davis. "He really is just maturing. He's one of those horses that you don't want to run every two or three weeks. You've got to hand-pick the best races for him. But he's really doing well."
Pleuven tracked down pacesetting Kasaqui in deep stretch to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs by 3/4 length over that rival. Thatcher Street was third and the favorite, The Pizza Man, settled for third when his typical late run didn't get him there in time.
Pleuven, a 5-year-old, French-bred gelding by Turtle Bowl, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.96 with Channing Hill aboard. It was his third start and first win of the year, though he was within 1 length of the winner in each of the two previous outings.
"He's really on it all the time," said victorious trainer Phil Sims. "He loves to train and loves to run. He's very competitive. We knew that it would be tough but we were kind of like, 'Hey this horse deserves a shot.' Channing gets him to relax real well."
He said he hasn't plotted out the next race.
Filly & Mare Turf
Auntie Joy, starting from the outside gate, surged to the lead early in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Regret Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Noble Beauty. The favorite, Try Your Luck, finished third.
Auntie Joy, an Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.24 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. It was her third career win and first in a stakes race.
"As she develops, she's going to turn into a good filly," said winning trainer Brendan Walsh. "And now she looks like she can take on the best of them, so we'll find some decent spots, the Belmont Oaks maybe. We'll have a look at that. A mile and a quarter, it looks like it'd be right up her street."
Cheekaboo got the nod in a four-way photo at the end of Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, winning by a head over Be Mine. Stays in Vegas was another nose back and a head in front of Decked Out in fourth.
Cheekaboo, an Unusual Heat filly, was let go at odds of nearly 24-1 and finished 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.88 with Mike Smith up. She scored her third win and first in a graded stakes event.
"Wasn't that awesome?" Smith asked. "I don't know what it looked like, but it was fun as hell to ride. I kind of feel like, 'Okay, now people can see I can ride a little bit. I can do more than just hang on to Songbird.'"
Owner Joe Ciaglia, noting the Santa Anita turf course is due for a complete overhaul, said, "This is the last race on this turf course and I said 'If she wins, I'm gonna go out there and take a piece of grass off the course and plant it in my backyard."
A.P. Indian dueled with Roxbury N Overton through the initial furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Donald LeVine Memorial at Parx Racing, put that one away and went on to win by 3 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Roxbury N Overton held second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Rockinn on Bye. A.P. Indian, a 6-year-old Indian Charlie gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.33 with Joe Bravo at the controls.
Otherwise and elsewhere:
Cammack led throughout Saturday's $50,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap for Illinois-breds and had enough at the end to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Peej. Revolt was third.
Cammack, a 6-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.82 with Francisco Torres aboard. The race is named for the 1991 Horse of the Year, who used the Grade II Washington Park Handicap at Arlington as a springboard to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Stormin Elle got first run to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Mike Spellman Memorial for state-bred fillies and mares and held off the odds-on favorite, Lovely Loyree, by 1 length. Smiling Gambler was third.
Stormin Elle, a 6-year-old Stormello mare, got 1 1/16 miles on the green course in 1:43.05 with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons. The race is named for the late Arlington Heights Daily Herald turf writer, who died suddenly in 2015, one day before his 51st birthday.
The 70 or so people who ponied up $500 each to buy into the first Arlington Racing Club got a quick lesson in ownership economics Friday. The program offered shares in a mid-priced claimer, with perks such as free track admission for the season. Trainer Larry Rivelli claimed Miss Swift Kitty as the object of the exercise on May 13, paying $12,500 as the Tale of the Cat filly (out of a Dynaformer mare, no less!) scored her first win. Running for the first time in the ARC colors on Friday, however, Miss Swift Kitty found winners harder, finishing fourth as the favorite. She earned $900. And she was claimed for $16,000 by trainer Michael Stidham. Spellman would have loved this story.
Hot Kiss made a nicely timed late run to win Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 3/4 lengths over Sweater Weather. Galina Point finished third. Hot Kiss, a Philanthropist filly out of the Hennessey mare Kiss of Fire, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.10 with Jesse Campbell riding.
Calgary Cat rallied from last of nine with a rush through the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Achievement Stakes for Ontario-breds, got the lead and won by 1 1/2 lengths, ridden out. Sweet Grass Creek held a brief lead in the lane and finished second. Seffeara was third. Calgary Cat, a 6-year-old Cowtown Cat gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.66 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
Ancient Secret came four wide around her rivals in the upper stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and was up in time to score by a head over Thundering Sky. Welcoming was third, a neck in front of the favorite, Ava's Kitten. Ancient Secret, a Kantharos filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.92 with Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard. She now is 3-for-3 while moving up in class and stretching out a furlong in each race.
Aztec Brave raced just behind the early leader in Sunday's $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile, moved to a daylight lead in the lane and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Granny's Kitten. Nun the Less and Majestic Pride were a pair of necks farther back in third and fourth. Aztec Brave, a 5-year-old, French-bred gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.95 with Chris Rosier in the irons.
Secret Someone moved into contention on the stretch turn in Sunday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes for fillies and mares, moved right by pacesetting Calypso Runner and went on to win by 2 lengths over that foe. American Mon Ami was third and the favorite, Stoupinator, finished next-last of 10. Secret Someone, a 5-year-old A.P. Indy mare, ran 1 mile on the lawn in 1:36.85 for jockey Alex Canchari.
Mr. Roary, at 38-1 odds, made all the going in Saturday's $75,000 Rainbow Stakes for 3-year-olds and held on to deposit a pot of gold upon his backers, winning by a nose over Ralis. The favorite, Liam the Charmer, fell short with a late run, finishing third. Mr. Roary, a Scat Daddy gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.48 with Edwin Maldonado in the irons.
One Fine Dream seized the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $65,000 Cyclones Handicap for Iowa-breds, hooked up in a ding-dong duel with odds-on favorite Net Gain and came out on top by a neck. It was another 7 3/4 lengths back to Rushin Rubietta in third. One Fine Dream, a 3-year-old Woke Up Dreamin gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.46 with Shane Laviolette up.
O B Harbor led most of the way, under some pressure, in Sundays $50,000 Budweiser Stakes, then held off Betrbegone by 1/2 length at the wire. Stryker Phd finished third. O B Harbor, a 6-year-old Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.73 with Jose Zunino in the irons.
Keystoneforvictory found the key to victory was taking the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Forty Niner Stakes for 3-year-olds. The Shakespeare colt had to fight to get the advantage but, once taken, it was not relinquished and he won by 3 1/4 lengths over Tizarunner. Fleming, continuing the raging trend to name horses after the James Bond books, finished third. Keystoneforvictory, with Rafael Hernandez aboard, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.15.
Fuzzy Muzzle put his muzzle in front of the favorite, Here's to Mike, at the wire in Saturday's $60,000 Dan Horn Stakes, winning by a neck over that one. Oak Bluffs finished thid. Fuzzy Muzzle, a 7-year-old Closing Argument gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.65 with Antonio Gallardo up.
Presque Isle Downs
Disco Barbie outfinished Cactus Kris in Sunday's $100,000 Satin and Lace Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by a neck. Late Spring finished third. Disco Barbie, a 6-year-old Pure Prize mare, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:03.14 with Antonio Gallardo in for the winning ride.
More Than Most stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Lane's End Stallion Scholarship Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares, then got by to win by 3/4 length. Expect Royalty was along for second, a head in front of Whiskey Eyes. More Than Most, a 3-year-old Indygo Mountain filly, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:26.99 -- just 0.06 off the course record.
Oak Tree at Pleasanton
Uptown Twirl raced by pacesetting Moment is Right at the right moment in Saturday's $50,000 Pleasanton Oaks and edged away to win by 2 lengths over that rival. Andean was up for third. Uptown Twirl, a Twirling Candy filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.80 for rider Juan Hernandez.
Plain Ol' Willard chased down the early leader, My Pardner Cal, in the closing stages of Saturday's $75,000 George Lewis Memorial for Ohio-breds and went on to win by 1 length over that foe. Eightthehardway rallied to finish third, just a head farther in arrears. Plain Ol' Willard, a 6-year-old Pacific Waves gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:55.40.
Blue Dancer dueled down the stretch with Killin Me Smalls in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Spangled Jimmy Handicap before putting that one away by a hard-fought 1/2 length. Private Money Game finished well back in third. Blue Dancer, a 4-year-old Bluegrass Cat gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.07 for jockey Quincy Welch.
Onestaratatime led from the git-go in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) R.K. (Red) Smith Handicap for 3-year-old fillies and kicked away in the final furlong, winning by 8 3/4 lengths. Bootlegger's Wife outfinsihed the odds-on favorite, C U At Eau Claire, for second. Onestaratatime, a Cape Canaveral filly, ran 1 mile in 1:37.06 with Rico Walcott up.
Quality Lane came from last of eight to take Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) John Patrick Handicap for fillies and mares by a head from Truvi. Blameitontheknight finished third. Quality Lane, with Rafael Zenteno Jr. up, ran 1 mile in 1:38.64. She is a 4-year-old Quality Road filly.
Ready Intaglio won a three-way stretch battle at the end of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Ky Alta Handicap for 3-year-olds, besting Hold the Giant by a head and Autumn Song by another nose. The favorite, Reason for Being, finished next-last of nine. Ready Intaglio, an Indygo Shiner colt, finished in 1:38.16 with Shamaree Muir riding.