Super mare Tepin and crowd-pleaser The Pizza Man scored big wins on the turf at Woodbine during the weekend.
Not This Time and Daddys Lil Darling won juvenile contests at Churchill Downs. Good Samaritan and Victory to Victory won 2-year-old races at Woodbine, with all four earning Breeders' Cup spots.
Pakistan Star has become an instant sensation in Hong Kong -- and worldwide, though social media. Winx won again in Australia. And there was an "angelic" 1-2 finish in the Mill Reef Stakes for 2-year-olds at Newbury in England.
Off we go:
Tepin overcame a three-months layoff and a successful Transatlantic trip to win Saturday's $1 million (Canadian) Group 1 Ricoh Woodbine Mile.
The 5-year-old Bernstein mare waited calmly in the second flight during the early furlongs, took the lead nearing the eighth pole and won more comfortably than the 1/2-length final margin would indicate. Long shot Tower of Texas made up ground late to finish second, a neck in front of Mutakayyef.
With Julien Leparoux in the irons, Tepin ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:34.13. It was her eighth straight win. In her last start, the 2015 Breeders' Cup Mile winner captured the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
"She got a little tired today," Leparoux said. "She's been off for three months." Asked about the pressure exerted throughout the race, he added, "I knew they weren't going to give us the race easy."
Owner Robert Masterson indicated Tepin will seek a repeat win in the Breeders' Cup but could have an interim run at Keeneland on Oct. 8 -- in either the $400,000 Grade I First Lady or the $1 million Grade I Shadwell Turf mile. Assistant trainer Norm Casse elaborated: "We're going to look at it and pick the easier of the two." Meanwhile, Saturday's win ensured Tepin of a spot in the Breeder's Cup Mile starting gate.
The Pizza Man took up an unaccustomed position right behind the plodding favorite, World Approval, in Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade I Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine, then found another gear just in time to put a neck in front at the wire.
Wake Forest made a late run on the outside to take second, another neck in front of World Approval. Big Blue Kitten was never in contention and finished last -- his fourth straight loss.
The Pizza Man, normally seen closing from far back, finished 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:31.75 after tracking a glacially slow early pace.
"There was no pace and he was just comfortable close to the lead so that was just fine with me," said Flavien Pratt, who rode The Pizza Man for the first time. "I didn't think I was going to be able to catch the leader but when the horse (Wake Forest) came on my outside, it help me to pass him. He's a really good horse."
Richard Papiese of the owning Midwest Thoroughbreds, admitted The Pizza Man was "a little closer than we like to be. But with the track the way it is, that's where he had to be ... Hopefully we'll be back for the International," he added, referring to the $1 million (Canadian) Grade I Pattison Canadian International Oct. 16.
Filly & Mare Turf
Rainha Da Bateria waited behind a breakaway early leader in Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) Grade II Canadian on the Woodbine green, worked to the front midway down the stretch and just did hold on to win in a photo over the even-money favorite, Dacita. Faufiler was third. The first two are trained by Chad Brown.
Rainha Da Bateria, a 4-year-old Broken Vow filly, ran about 1 1/8 miles on good turf in 1:45.42 under Julien Leparoux, picking up her third career win and first since Oct. 8, 2014, and earning a trip to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf courtesy of the "Win and You're In" challenge program.
"She wants to be where she puts you," said Leparoux, rode Rainha Da Bateria for the first time in Saratoga's July 23 Diana, won by Dacita. "She was very comfortable, she broke sharp and then she settled and was relaxed. She did good until she came down the stretch and started looking around a little bit and getting out. That was a new thing I learned about her but at least she won."
On Leave scored her fourth straight win, leading all the way in Saturday's $500,000 Grade II Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and edging clear at the end, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Diamond Fields, Tintype Gal, Al Jazi and Galileo's Song were all bunched in that order in second through fifth positions.
On Leave, by War Front, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.82 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
"If everything works out right, I'd love to run her at Keeneland in the Queen Elizabeth," said winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "We'll let her tell us that and see how she comes out of that. Hopefully she came out of it fine and we'll go on to Keeneland and try things there." (That would be the $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup on Oct. 15.)
The all-consuming team of jockey Florent Geroux, trainer Mike Maker and owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey added the final stakes of the 2016 Kentucky Downs meeting to their trophy case as odds-on favorite Al's Gal swept to a 1 1/2-lengths score in Thursday's $350,000 Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon.
The 5-year-old English Channel mare dueled for the lead into the stretch, then edged clear to victory, finishing 1 5/16 miles on firm turf in 2:12.16. Paige and Oakley Girl made up ground in the lane to fill the trifecta slots.
"She wasn't the most attractive thing when we got her," Maker said of Al's Gal. "She's still not, but more ground has really helped her." Al's Gal came to Kentucky Downs off second-place showings in the Grade II Modesty Handicap and the Grade I Beverly D., both on the Arlington Park grass.
Maker, Geroux and the Ramseys all took Kentucky Downs titles in their respective areas of endeavor.
Not This Time hopped at the start of Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, had no problem passing most of the field and jetted off in the stretch to win by 8 3/4 lengths. The Giant's Causeway colt collected not only the $90,210 winner's share of the purse but also the first 10 points awarded toward a starting position in the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
But wait. There's more.
He also won a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile starting gate through the "Win and You're In" deal.
With Robby Albarado up, Not This Time ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:45.22, advancing his record to 2-for-3. Lookin at Lee was best of the rest with Recruiting Ready a head farther back in third.
"He's the real deal," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "Robby rode him well. He just sat outside. I usually say to stay inside and eat them if you have to in order to save ground. But when I think I have tons the best, I tell them to keep them in the clear and keep them in a nice, long gallop and just try to overtake them and that's what he did."
Albarado added, "He's got a future."
California Diamond was shifting lanes like an impatient driver looking for room at rush hour in Sunday's $100,000 Barretts Juvenile at Los Alamitos. He finally got clear sailing in the final furlong and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Crosscheck. The odds-on favorite, Big League, finished third.
California Diamond, a Harbor the Gold colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.37 with Kent Desormeaux riding. He now has three wins and two seconds from five starts, all sprinting.
"He's young and a little green, but Kent said he's got a lot more left," said Gary Hartunian, who bought the colt at the Del Mar Paddock Sale on July 25.
Even Thunder was bumped at the break and shuffled back in Saturday's $75,000 Shakopee Juvenile at Canterbury Park, advanced around the turn and got to the front a furlong out. From there, the Kentucky-bred Even the Score colt had no problems, accelerating to a 4-lengths win. Jack Snipe's was second, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Warrior's Kid. Even Thunder, with Erick Cruz up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.92.
Kermode rallied by pacesetting Strate Remark in the stretch run of Sunday's $75,000 (Canadian) Jack Diamond Futurity for 2-year-old Canadian-bred colts and geldings at Hastings Park and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over that foe. The favorite, All Under Control, finished third. Kermode, a Cause to Believe gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:18.69 with Amadeo Perez up.
Good Samaritan saved ground while racing last in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Summer Stakes at Woodbine, swung out for racing room in the stretch and got by them all, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Conquest Fahrenheit. Channel Marker finished third. Good Samaritan, a Harlan's Holiday colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.38 with Joel Rosario up for trainer Bill Mott.
The colt, owned by the China Horse Club and WinStar Farms, now is 2-for-2. The victory carries a "Win and You're In" guarantee for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.
"He's very professional," said Rosario, who also was aboard for Good Samaritan's first-out victory over 1 1/16 miles of grass at Saratoga. "When he starts running he's very focused. When I rode him last time he was the same way. He's shown that he had a lot of talent. He may have a good future."
Daddys Lil Darling came five-wide to the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs and raced gamely through the stretch run to win by 1/2 length over Ever So Clever. Bling on the Music was third and the favorite, Dream Dancing, settled for fourth.
Daddys Lil Darling, a Scat Daddy filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:47.19 under Corey Lanerie. She now is 2-for-3 and possessed of the first qualifying points for next year's Kentucky Oaks.
Trainer Kenny McPeek said he's disinclined to give the filly another race before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov 5 at Santa Anita. "She's a real lean filly," he said. "She doesn't carry much weight. I think we'd be a lot more prudent to wait for the Breeders' Cup."
Daddys Lil Darling earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies by virtue of Saturday's victory.
Bitzka forced the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Barretts Debutante Stakes at Los Alamitos, then took over in the stretch and won off by 5 1/4 lengths over Adorable. The favorite, first-time starter Spooky Woods, was third after a slow start. Bitzka, an Ohio-bred daughter of Tiago, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.29 with Tyler Baze in the irons.
She won with equal ease in her career bow at Del Mar Aug. 25 and was claimed out of that heat for $62,000 by Peter Hronis and trainer John Sadler.
"This is the level where, if you want to get an Iotapa-type horse, you have to claim the first time because they are like a good stock. You have to get them when they are attainable," said Sadler assistant Larry Benavidez.
Sadler claimed Iotapa for $50,000 from her first start in 2012 and she went on to finish in the money in 10 graded stakes, including victories a pair of Grade I events.
"Tyler said she's still kind of green," Benavidez said of Bitzka. "So it is encouraging that there is room for improvement."
Spirit Bay was under pressure the whole way in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Sadie Diamond Futurity for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies at Hastings Park but held resolutely and prevailed by 1/2 length over Anstrum. The favorite, Yukon Belle, closed belatedly for show money. Spirit Bay, a daughter of Gayego, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a good track in 1:18.93 for jockey Dennis Araujo.
Tulsa Queen rallied from last of five to upset Sunday's $100,000 Mrs. Henry D. Paxson Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred juvenile fillies at Presque Isle Downs, drawing off to a 5 1/4-lengths win. Spanker was second and the odds-on favorite, Diamond Dollar, was 2 more lengths back in third. Tulsa Queen, by Cactus Ridge, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.89 with David Delgado up.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Victory to Victory surged to the lead midway down the stretch Sunday in a wide-open edition of the $200,000 Grade I Natalma Stakes at Woodbine and worked clear to a 2 1/2-lengths victory. Stormy Perfection rallied from far back to take second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of yet another closer, Beat the Benchmark.
The early speed was nowhere to be found at the end of 1 mile with the favorite, Red Lodge, finishing 12th of 14 after prompting the pace. Victory to Victory, a Florida-bred Exchange Rate filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.24 with Florent Geroux up and notched her first win in her third start while adding blinkers.
"I think the blinkers made a big difference today," said assistant trainer Norman Casse. "We knew she was a very talented horse and she's finally starting to figure things out."
Prince of Wales winner and Queen's Plate runner-up Amis Gizmo dominated Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Derby at Woodbine, shooting right to the lead and never threatened en route to a 6-lengths victory. Dragon Bay was second with English Illusion third.
Amis Gizmo, a Giant Gizmo colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in course-record time of 1:48.30 under Luis Contreras. Noting Contreras' decision to put Amis Gizmo on the lead, trainer Josie Carroll said, "It just fell out that way. He knows the horse so well."
Amis Gizmo was bred by his owner, Ivan Dalos, and is in the fifth generation of his breeding operation.
"Thirty-five years of hard work," the Hungarian native said. "But the proof is in the pudding."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Covey Trace edged pacesetting Mia Torri by a neck in Saturday evening's $350,000 Grade III Charles Town Oaks. The heavy favorite, Sophia's Song, just missed with a late run, finishing third, another nose in arrears. Covey Trace, a Stevie Wonderboy filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.99 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons. She was taking a huge class jump but now has won three of her last four starts.
"I knew she had ability back when she was a baby," said trainer William Denzik. "She's always been a smooth-moving filly that we always thought might be really okay." Denzik said he is pondering the $250,000 Grade II Lexus Raven Run at Keeneland Oct. 22. "It's close," he noted. "And it's a Grade II and we're sure it'll be tough but we might look at that."
Fioretti and Ramona's Wildcat, a pair of long shots, dueled through the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Open Mind Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs, with Fioretti holding a slim edge right up to a 1/2-length win. Mayla was third and the favorite, Spelling Again, checked in fifth. Fioretti, a 6-year-old Bernardini mare, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.67 with Sophie Doyle aboard.
"She loves this track and if you look back at her past performances a lot of those big races had a little bit of moisture in the race track so we felt pretty good coming in here," said winning trainer Anthony Hamilton Jr. He said the $300,000 TCA Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 8 is next on the agenda.
Engaginglee rallied from last in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Locust Grove Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs, then won a stretch battle with Miss Pink Diva, prevailing by a head. The early leader, Innovative Idea, held on for show money and the favorite, Ahh Chocolate, was never in the mix, finishing last.
Engaginglee, a 5-year-old mare by Fusaichi Pegasus, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:46.24 with Luis Saez up. It was her first stakes win and followed a 10th-place finish in the Grade III Groupie Doll at Ellis Park.
"She was coming into the race in real good shape," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "I thought that she was on the verge of a breakthrough race ... I have no explanation for the performance at Ellis but it's good to make her a graded stakes winner now. She and I have one thing in common and that's that we both love Churchill Downs."
Ghost Hunter split rivals heading into the stretch in Sunday's $200,000 Presque Isle Mile, took the lead a furlong from the finish and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Tale of the Nile. Choctaw Chuck finished third but was set down to fourth behind Great Minds. Ghost Hunter, a 6-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.00 with Antonio Gallardo up.
Winx took another, seemingly easy, step toward a defense of her Cox Plate crown with a 1 1/4-lengths win in Saturday's Group 1 George Main Stakes at Royal Randwick. It was her 11th straight win. Trainer Chris Waller has the 5-year-old Street Cry mare scheduled to move to Melbourne and tackle the Caulfield Stakes on Aug. 8 before trying for the repeat in the Oct. 22 Cox Plate.
Brando was sent to the lead inside the final furlong in Saturday's William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, kept to his task by jockey Tom Eaves and got home first by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Growl, and 22 others. The 4-year-old Pivotal gelding, ninth in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York in his previous outing, will have another chance at the top level before year's end. Trainer Kevin Ryan's son and assistant, Adam Ryan, said Brando will play one more role this season -- in either the Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye at Chantilly Oct. 2 or the Group 1 British Champions Sprint two weeks later at Ascot.
Harry Angel, idle since May, broke his maiden in style Saturday in the Group 2 Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes, drawing off to score by 2 1/2 lengths from Perfect Angel. Global Applause was third.
Trainer Clive Cox said Harry Angel suffered a minor injury in his career debut while finishing second by a nose and took a while to get back to racing shape. The word clearly was out, as Harry Angel, a Dark Angel colt, went off the favorite.
"He's pretty good," Cox told Racing Post. "I knew a long time ago but we've been trying to keep a lid on his antics. I'm overjoyed."
Cox said Harry Angel is done for the year: "He'll keep us warm this winter," he said.
Algometer barely held off Her Majesty's star, Dartmouth, in Saturday's Group 3 Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup -- formerly the Arc Trial -- winning by 3/4 length with Jim Crowley up for trainer David Simcock. Algometer, a 3-year-old colt by Archipenko, was making his first start since getting home seventh in the Derby.
Pakistan Star, a dramatic last-to-first winner in his previous start, added a full hood and ear muffs for Saturday's return. To the total enjoyment of the big Sha Tin crowd, the outcome was the same.
Under Matthew Chadwick, the 3-year-old Shamardal gelding strolled out of the gate, spotted the field a bit lead, swooped to the outside entering the lane and roared by, winning by 1 1/4 lengths despite drifting in significantly in the final 100 meters. His final 400 meters was clocked in 21.44 seconds, almost unheard of in Hong Kong racing.
Trainer Tony Cruz compared Pakistan Star to "a catapault, full of power to the finish ... He's definitely going places. He's a Class 1 horse and these were only Class 3 horses, so I hope he doesn't jump that slowly in the future. Jump with the field, stay with the field. If we can have him race midfield we can win the race more easily."
Pakistan Star was purchased by Kerm Din for HK$6 million (US$773,000) at the Hong Kong International Sale in March.
Rise Up led all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Wild and Wonderful Stakes and drew off to a 6 1/4-lengths score over Grande Shores. Rise Up, a 5-year-old son of Rockport Harbor, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.84 with Javier Castellano up.
She's Hot Wired made all the going in the $100,000 Pink Ribbon Stakes for fillies and mares and just lasted, holding off Sweet on Smokey to win by a neck. She's Hot Wired, a 5-year-old, New Jersey-bred mare by Cable Boy, finished in 1:27.27 for jockey Trevor McCarthy.
A slew of stakes for state-breds accompanied Saturday evening's three major events.
Unrideabull, a Bullsbay gelding, led all the way to a 6-lengths victory in the $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for West Virginia-bred 2-year-olds. Unaquoi also made all the going in the $50,000 Rachel's Turn Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies and won by 1 1/2 lengths.
In the Fairway won a stretch battle with Ello Govna in the $50,000 Frank Gall Memorial at 7 furlongs for West Virginia-breds. Navy Ribbon won the companion $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares after a prolonged tussle with Candy Man's Girl.
Eutaw Street was along late to take the 4 1/2-furlongs It's Only Money Stakes for state-breds.
Not My Note held off the favorite, Weappear, by 1 1/2 lengths in winning Saturday's $60,000 Casey Darnell Pony Express Stakes for New Mexico-breds. Storm of Roses led early and finished third. Not My Note, a 4-year-old gelding by Fusaichi Zenon, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.42 with Glen Murphy up.
Justalittlesmoke easily smoked five rivals in Saturday's $75,000 Scarlet and Gray Handicap for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, drawing off with ease to a 7 1/4-lengths score. Proper Discretion and Needmore Flattery filled the trifecta slots. Justalittlesmoke, a 4-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.32.
Seven stakes were on tap Saturday, all for Alberta-foaled horses. Each was worth $50,000 (Canadian). The track was fast.
Saveitforarainyday rallied stoutly in the lane to win the Sturgeon River Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Norm's Big Bucks contested the pace in the Alberta Premier's Futurity, then won by 2 1/4 lengths from Captain Will.
For Cash rallied from behind the pace to take the Alberta Breeders' Handicap by 3/4 length from Water Wagon. Xtreme Denigray needed the length of the stretch to best Keene on Demand in the 6 1/2-furlongs Red Diamond Express. Blameitontheknight stalked the pace, then drew away to win the 1 1/16-miles Fall Classic Distaff by 2 3/4 length over the favorite, Smart Fix.
Northern Locomotive edged away late to take the Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles by 1 3/4 lengths from the favorite, Victory Day. Onestaratatime led all the way to a 9-lengths thumping of three rivals in the Alberta Oaks.
Kentucky Downs closed its five-date meet Thursday with total wagering up nearly 34 percent. Betting on the closing-day card of $3,660,588 brought all-sources handle to $22,540,761.22 for an average of $4,508,152 a day. The final numbers reflect an increase of 33.92 over last year's previous record total of $16,831,333.
"It's gratifying," said Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen. "We've had this vision since 2007 to be a meaningful presence in the Thoroughbred racing world. Because everybody in the industry has worked together, we're able to accomplish that. What's even more exciting is that there's still more room to grow."
On-track handle at Kentucky Downs totaled $929,409, a 48-percent increase over last year's $628,145 total. Overnight purses, stakes and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund monies totaled $7,885,979 for an average of $1,577,195 a day, up 19 percent over 2015. A total of 548 horses ran at the meet, for an average of 10.96 per race, largest in the country and an increase from last year's 10.60.
In Minnesota, Canterbury Park's 69-day race meet came to a close Saturday afternoon with good news and bad news. Handle for the meet totaled $43.3 million, an increase of 5.3 percent over 2015. Average daily handle increased by 6.8 percent overall with on-track average decreasing by 1.5 percent but out-of-state showing an increase of 10.5 percent daily. Attendance averaged 6,560 daily, down 2 percent from last season.
Despite those numbers, the results were disappointing because Canterbury had hoped a significant reduction in takeout would lure more wagering and boost the net. Instead, the wagering increase did not cover the revenue lost by trimming the takeout percentage, President Randy Sampson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
"We knew going in that was a significant risk," Sampson said. "I'm surprised. We wouldn't have gone forward with this if we weren't very optimistic that horseplayers would spend more money. Now, we have to regroup, but I still think we can grow the handle."