Songbird ran her undefeated record to 11 straight in weekend racing while Connect upset the Pennsylvania Derby, beating the Kentucky Derby and Preakness heroes and further muddling the 3-year-old picture.
In England, Lady Aurelia was defeated for the first time. Black Heart Bart won easily in Australia, setting up a showdown with super mare Winx.
Don't wink. Don't blink. You might miss some of this:
Saturday's $1 million Grade I Cotillion at Parx Racing was supposed to be the first stern test for Songbird, who ran through the fields in her first 10 starts like a hot knife through butter. But when the Medaglia d'Oro filly was done demolishing Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia and Acorn winner Carina Mia in the Cotillion, it appeared top older horses Beholder and Stellar Wind will have to take up the chase in November in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Jockey Mike Smith got Songbird out of the gate cleanly, loped alongside Carina Mia down the backstretch and then just let his filly run. At the end, without much urging, she was 5 3/4 lengths out front. Cathryn Sophia was never involved and finished third, another 6 3/4 lengths back.
In her 11 starts, Songbird has never won by less than 3 3/4 lengths.
"When you ride a filly like this, just about anything works," said Smith, who has ridden some of the greatest.
Owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm said he and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will stick with their plan to move along to the Breeders Cup Distaff, where they likely will meet multiple champion Beholder and Stellar Wind, among others. But he has announced Songbird will remain in training next year, when she might seek tougher competition among males.
"All along we've thought about sticking with the girls" this year, Porter said. "The time will come next year when we talk about it. I hope that she stays healthy, and it looks like she can beat Grade I boys. I think I can talk (Jerry) into taking a shot."
Meanwhile, Hollendorfer said he's not looking beyond the Distaff.
"You come to a point in the road where you have to meet the big ones," he said. "And there's a couple of big ones out there at Santa Anita -- Beholder and Stellar Wind. Those horses can really run. Our horse can really run, so we'd like to try those, and I think that's good competition."
Unbridled Mo saved ground throughout Sunday's $200,000 Remington Park Oaks, got inside the leaders in the stretch run and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Ready to Confess. The favorite, Family Tree, contested the lead, then weakened and finished third. Unbridled Mo, an Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:42.03 with John Velazquez up for trainer Todd Pletcher. She came to this race off a victory in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks and now has four straight wins to her credit.
Connect jumped up as the latest force in the wide-open 3-year-old division, utilizing a ground-saving trip to win Saturday's $1.25 million Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Racing by 1/2 length over Gun Runner as Triple Crown heroes Nyquist and Exaggerator both ran out of gas late.
Connect, a Curlin colt, scraped the paint throughout the race with Javier Castellano up and took the inside path around the stretch turn while Gun Runner was forced about six-wide turning for home. The better trip was worth more than the margin of victory, though Gun Runner was not gaining on Connect in the final yards.
Connect won for the fourth time in his last five starts for owner Paul Pompa. The defeat in that string was a sixth-place finish in the Grade I Travers behind Arrogate.
Cherie DeVaux, assistant to trainer Chad Brown, noted Connect "broke really well and found himself in a really good position on the rail saving ground. Javier was really patient with him, took his time and made his run and the horse was really gutsy to hang in there."
Added Castellano: "I think he put it together today."
Wild About Deb, an extreme long shot, was up to get show money. Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist bid for the lead on the turn but faded badly, finishing sixth. Preakness winner Exaggerator never got in gear and finished seventh, 7 lengths behind Nyquist, seemingly demonstrating once and for all he performs only on a sloppy track. Cupid pressed the pace and gave way, finishing eighth.
Nyquist's owner, Paul Reddam, said, "That was definitely the worst performance of his life, so that's not how you want to go into the Breeders' Cup. Maybe it'll somehow look different tomorrow, but I'm not sure how."
Gun Runner's trainer, Steve Asmussen, said his colt "ran a solid race and beat the horses that beat him in the Derby. He was second, but I kind of planned on winning today."
Accelerate sped into contention in deep stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Los Alamitos Derby and pulled out a narrow win over Semper Fortis despite drifting in late. Blackjackcat finished third. Accelerate, a Lookin at Lucky colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.48 with Tyler Baze riding, picking up his third straight win.
"He was much the best in my opinion," said winning trainer John Sadler. "He was really wide and never got a chance to save ground. It was a really game effort. We always thought this horse would improve going long."
Are You Kidding Me stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Durham Cup at Woodbine, seized the advantage in the lane and drew off to score by 2 1/4 lengths. Freitag was second, 1 3/4 lengths better than Up With the Birds.
Are You Kidding Me, a 6-year-old horse by Run Away and Hide, got 9 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:49.10 with Alan Garcia up. He was third in last year's Durham Cup and has been uniformly tough over the Woodbine greensward -- less so elsewhere.
"He's had a few little problems along the way," said trainer Roger Attfield. "But I can train him any way I want to train him. He can work in :58 or in 1:03. He's just a lovely horse and I really love him."
Texas Chrome powered down the stretch to win Sunday's $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park by 1/2 length over Sticksstatelydude. The favorite, Fish Trappe Road, settled for third, lacking any late punch. Texas Chrome, a Grasshopper colt, ran 9 furlongs on a good track in 1:48.94 for jockey C.J. McMahon. The win was his third straight, following the Super Derby and the Super Derby Prelude. He was second in the Grade II Iowa Derby and third in the Grade III Matt Winn at Churchill Downs.
Cyrus Alexander found another gear in deep stretch and was just up in time to win Saturday's $75,000 Pa Derby Champion Stakes by a head over War Story and another neck from Mr. Jordan. Cyrus Alexander, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.27 with Rafael Bejarano up. The victory completed a massive road trip that took the colt from Santa Anita to Lone Star Park in Texas, Prairie Meadows in Iowa, Emerald Downs in Washington State and back to Del Mar.
Deeply Undervalued took the outside path down the lane in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park and won a four-way scramble to the wire. Isoterm was second, 1 length back and a head in front of He'll Pay. The latter was only a nose better than the favorite, American Patriot.
Deeply Undervalued, a Kitten's Joy colt, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.63 for jockey Manny Franco. He has improved steadily through six starts but took a big jump in class for Saturday's effort.
"It was a nice win," said winning trainer Chad Brown. "I'm really proud of Manny and the way he rode this horse. We've been really high on this horse and it's nice to win this following up his summer campaign. He got a great trip and a patient ride."
Taghleeb rallied from last of eight to nip the favorite, Pumpkin Rumble, at the end of Sunday's $100,000 Remington Green at Remington Park. Golden But Stormy led most of the way and salvaged show money. Taghleeb, a 5-year-old son of Hard Spun, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.97 with Joel Rosario at the controls. He was making his first stakes appearance.
Filly & Mare Turf
My Impression found room on the inside at the top of the lane in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Commonwealth Oaks at Laurel Park, shot to the front and went on to win by 3 1/4 length. Noble Beauty rallied for second, a head in front of Pricedtoperfection. The favorite, Stella Rose, was fourth.
My Impression, a Stuart Janney homebred daughter of Sky Mesa, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:46.57 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. In her previous race, the Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga, My Impression stumbled, lost position and was never in contention.
Janney said the mishap at the Spa was a combination of wet grass and the filly's flat feet. "The way they shoe her is a little different, and she just couldn't stand up that day," he said. "Fortunately, she came out of it just fine and she's been training well. I don't know what we'll do next. This is obviously a step forward."
Blacktype and Top of Mind both rallied from far back in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Commonwealth Turf Cup at Laurel Park and finished that way, separated by 1/2 length. The favorite, Force the Pass, seized the lead briefly early in the stretch run but could only manage to hold on for show money.
Blacktype, a 5-year-old, French-bred gelding by Dunkerque, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.43, breaking the course record by nearly a full second. Trevor McCarthy rode Blacktype, who racked up his third straight win.
"He won his last race, which was a Grade III at Monmouth," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "But it's nice because today's race confirmed that he is a nice horse without a doubt ... Sometimes that happens. When horses get good, they get really good and by winning they get better. In this case, that's what happened."
Mrs McDougal led from the first jumps in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Noble Damsel Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, was never seriously threatened and won by 2 lengths. Zindaya was second, 2 1/2 lengths better than Stormy Victoria.
Mrs McDougal, a 4-year-old Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.99 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding. She has missed the board only once in five starts as a 3-year-old.
Chad Brown, who trains both Mrs McDougal and Zindaya, commented, "Both fillies are real quality fillies. A mile seems to fit both of them well and we'll try to keep both at that middle distance now."
Caren went right to the lead in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Colleen for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine and held on gamely to defeat Shake Down Baby by a nose. Thundering Sky ran evenly to finish third. Caren, a daughter of Society's Chairman, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.26 with Jesse Campbell up, scoring her third straight win.
"This filly, she's tough," said Campbell. "She popped out of there running a little harder than I expected her to and I just went with it. I know her and I know she's going to go down swinging."
Noholdingback Bear continued his ascent through the division with a pace-stalking 1 1/4-lengths win over Mind Your Biscuits in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes for 3-year-olds at Parx. Threefiveindia was third.
Noholdingback Bear, a Put It Back colt based at Woodbine, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.61 under Eurico Da Silva. He thrived earlier in the year on the all-weather tracks at Woodbine and Presque Isle Downs, then finished a good third on the dirt in the Grade I King's Bishop at Saratoga before posting his first win on the natural surface in Saturday's effort.
"He's a spectacular horse," said trainer Mike DePaulo. "We were thinking of skipping this race and heading straight to the Breeders' Cup. But he's such a good-feeling horse we thought we needed to get a race into him. He did it pretty easy and we're very happy with him."
Ivan Fallunovalot tracked the pace in Sunday's $150,000 David M. Vance Sprint at Remington Park, waited for running room in the lane and went on to score by 1 length over Wings Locked Up, Candip finished third. Ivan Fallunovalot, a 6-year-old Valid Expectations gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.29 with Lindey Wade in the irons. He has won five of his last six starts.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Mines and Magic bided her time in Saturday evening's $100,000 Dogwood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, split rivals a furlong out to take a daylight lead and held off Wonderment by 3/4 length for the win. Grade's Treasure finished third.
Mines and Magic, a Mineshaft filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.29 with Robby Albarado aboard. It was her third win from seven starts and followed a seventh-place showing in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks.
"We've always thought the world of the filly," said trainer Vicki Oliver "We took a shot going out to California and running her in the Oaks and she had a lot of turf pedigree so we figured maybe try her and we didn't get in the race at Kentucky Downs so this worked out very well for us."
Cool Arrow was easily best in Sunday's $75,000 Kip Deville Stakes at Remington Park, stalking the pace, then drawing off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Mannford. Cu Rahy was third. Cool Arrow, an Into Mischief colt, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.76 with Joel Rosario riding.
On the international front:
La Cressonniere, undefeated in eight starts and among the favorites, will not contest next weekend's Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe due to an injury, according to trainer Jean-Claude Rouget. Rouget said the injury was diagnosed after a Saturday morning exercise and requires anti-inflammatories, which rules the Le Havre filly out of the Arc. He said she will race in 2017.
Brave Anna, at long odds, ran by previously undefeated favorite Lady Aurelia in the final furlong of Saturday's Group 1 Connolly's Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket and went on to win by a short head over Roly Poly. Lady Aurelia, winner of the Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville in her last start, faded to finish third, another 2 lengths back, as jockey Frankie Dettori did not persevere with her late. The others were well beaten.
Brave Anna, with Seamie Heffernan up for trainer Aidan O'Brien, won the Group 3 Albany Stakes at Royal Ascot but had finished up the track in two intervening outings. The War Front filly now has three wins from six starts.
Brave Anna is owned by Evie Stockwell, who also has last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It a Bomb. O'Brien said the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita is "a possibility."
Lady Aurelia's trainer, Wesley Ward, said Sunday she bled during the race and will be rested after a challenging year. "Hopefully, we'll come back next year for the Commonwealth Cup and be all smiles then," Ward said.
The Last Lion was the first horse all the way in Saturday's Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes for 2-year-old colts and held well, beating the favorite, Blue Point, by 3/4 length. Mehmas was a non-threatening third. The Last Lion, a Choisir colt, scored his third win from nine starts. The Mark Johnston trainee has been in the top three in each of his outings. Blue Point was coming off a victory in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York. The upset provided jockey Joe Fanning his first Group 1 score -- on his birthday, no less.
In the Group 2 Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, jockey James Doyle urged Best of Days to the lead with a furlong to run and held off The Anvil, winning by a neck. Arcada was third. Best of Days, an Azamour colt, scored his second win in his third start. Hugo Palmer trains the colt for Godolphin.
Spark Plug fired in the final furlong to win Saturday's Betfred Cambridgeshire going away, defeating 30 rivals in the 9-furlongs heritage handicap.
Black Heart Bart, the red hot favorite, was an easy winner in Saturday's Group 1 Hyland Race Colours Underwood Stakes at Caulfield, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of He Or She. Lucia Valentina was third and reigning Melbourne Cup champ Prince of Penzance continued to struggle, finishing next-last of 10.
Black Heart Bart, trained by Darren Weir and ridden by Brad Rawiller, settled off the pace, moved to challenge with 300 meters to go and drew off in the final 200 meters. He improved on his runner-up showing last time out in the Group 1 Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington. The victory promises a showdown with super mare Winx as she prepares to defend her Cox Plate crown with the pair scheduled for a preview in the Group 1 Caulfield Stakes on Oct. 8.
Raweiller said Black Heart Bart had a great trip in the Underwood but he was afraid he might have made his move too soon. At the end of the day, he added, "He was just traveling well and there's no point waiting for him."
Bon Aurum edged Voodoo Lad in the Group 1 Yulong Park Sir Rupert Clark Stakes with Fast 'n' Rocking third. The favorite, Counterattack, finished sixth. Bon Aurum, a 4-year-old son of Bon Hoffa, made it two straight, following a win in the Tontonan Stakes at Flemington.
Sacred Elixir scored his second straight win in Saturday's Ladbrokes' Caulfield Guineas Prelude, defeating Revolving Door by 1/2 length. The favorite, Saracino, got home fourth.
Legless Veuve outfinished La Luna Rossa in the Schweppes Thousand Guineas Prelude, winning by 1/2 length with the favorite, Whispering Rock, finishing seventh. Legless Veuve, a Pins filly, scored her second straight win.
Nightflower outfinished Red Cardinal to take a 3/4-length victory in Sunday's Group 1 Preis von Europa at Cologne. Kasalla finished third and the Godolphin invader, Elite Army, was victimized by traffic issues twice and faded late to finish sixth. Nightflower, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred Dylan Thomas filly, scored only her third career win and first since she traveled to Japan last fall to finish 11th in the Group 1 Japan Cup.
Granny's Kitten shadowed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap for Pennsylvania-breds at Parx, then edged pacesetter I'll Call by a neck after a stretch duel. Uncle Dave was 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Granny's Kitten, a 4-year-old Kitten's Joy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.21 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
On Commonwealth Day at the Maryland track, five $60,000 stakes on the turf for Virginia-breds supported the graded stakes.
Moon River was a dream maker for his backers in the Punch Line Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, finding his best stride late to score by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetting Available. The odds-on favorite, Two Notch Road, flattened out to finish third. Moon River, a 4-year-old Bluegrass Cat colt out of the Capote mare Hepburn, finished in 1:02.03 with Feargal Lynch aboard.
Skipalute set a pressured pace in the Brookmeade Stakes for fillies and mares, edged clear and then held on to win by a neck over Complete St. with My Dinah Lee third. Skipalute, a 4-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.60 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Lime House Louie stalked the pace in the Jamestown Stakes for 2-year-olds, rallied by the favorite, Hold Me Back, and went on to win by 1 length over that rival. Brainchild made a late bid to finish third. Lime House Louie, a Limehouse gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.09 with Gabriel Saez riding.
Rapid Rhythm, the odds-on favorite, took command in the lane to win the Oakley Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over pacesetting Trish's Wish. Tiz Our Time was thid. Rapid Rhythm, a 4-year-old Successful Appeal filly, got 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.38 with Trevor McCarthy up.
Rose Brier, the heaviest of favorites, performed to his notices in the Bert Allen Stakes, getting clear in the final furlong to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Jump Ship beat the others with Irsaal third. Rose Brier, a 7-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.36 for McCarthy.
Fourstar Crook rallied stoutly down the lane to take Sunday's $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over The Tea Cups. Selenite finished third. Fourstar Crook, a 4-year-old Freud filly, ran 9 furlongs on the fast inner turf course in 1:49.27 with Javier Castellano in the irons.
Kharafa settled in mid-pack in Saturday's $75,000 Ashley T. Cole Stakes for New York-breds, jumped to a big lead early in the stretch run and kept on, winning by 3/4 length from Offering Plan, the favorite. Tapitation rallied from last of six to finish third. Kharafa, a 7-year-old Kitalpha gelding, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.61 for jockey Antonio Gallardo.
Jurojin, at 21-1 odds, won a long stretch duel in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds, beating the favorite, Lokinforpursemonee, by a head. Pachi Cruz was third. Jurojin, a Giant Gizmo gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:45.87 with Luis Contreras in the irons.
Sweater Weather found her best stride late in Sunday's $125,000 Classy 'n Smart Stakes for Ontario-sired distaffers, sweeping by rivals in the lane for a 1 1/4-lengths win. Hot Kiss, the favorite, settled for second and pacesetting Generous Touch held third. Sweater Weather, a 5-year-old Milwaukee Brew mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:45.11 with Jermaine Bridgmohan up.
My Queen Olivia switched out for running room entering the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Elge Rasberry Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and cruised home first by 2 3/4 lengths. Smiley Briley rallied behind the winner to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of pacesetter Holiday Song. The favorite, Jet Black Magic, finished fifth with a belated move. My Queen Olivia, a daughter of Half Ours, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.60 under Jorge Guzman.
Rock N Sake started last of 11 in Saturday's $75,000 A.L. (Red) Erwin Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds but was quickly in contention and got by pacesetter He's a Lady Tamer in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 over that one. Ruston Vow was third, a nose in front of favorite Southern Argument. Rock N Sake, a Half Ours gelding, finished the 1 mile of firm turf in 1:34.80 with Jansen Melancon up.
Eightthehardway rallied to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Catlaunch Stakes for Ohio-breds and rolled on to a 6 1/4-lengths victory. Pyrite Mill and Wild Pacific filled the trifecta slots behind the odds-on favorite. Eightthehardway, a 4-year-old Parents' Reward gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.54 for jockey Luis Gonzalez. The race is named for the Noble Cat gelding who compiled a record of 40-22-15 from 108 starts on the Ohio circuit between 2003 and 2013.
Waltzing Attila led all the way in Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico State Fair Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds and won by 3 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Indian H Who. Tinys Storm was third. Waltzing Attila, an Attila's Storm filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.73 with Roimes Chirinos in the irons.
On Sunday's Oklahoma Derby undercard (turf firm, main track, good):
Chocopologie kicked away in the stretch to upset the $125,000 Governor's Cup, winning by 5 lengths over the even-money favorite, Smack Smack. Bold Conquest was third. Chocopologie, a 4-year-old Candy Ride colt, ran 9 furlongs on the main track in 1:49.32 with Colby Hernandez doing the honors.
Penguini came from far back to upset the Rick's Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by a neck over Emerald Pond. The early leader, Stormquility, got home third. Penguini, a 4-year-old Omega Code filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:42.05 under Geovanni Franco.
Moment Is Right led all the way to a 1 1/4-lengths victory over Wheatfield in the $50,000 Flashy Lady Stakes for filly and mare sprinters. Steel Cut was a nose farther back in third. Moment Is Right, a 3-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:09.92 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
Ibaka was quickly out front in the $50,000 Red Earth Stakes for Oklahoma-breds and held nicely through the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Runandyrun and Ten Speed filled the trifecta spots. Ibaka, a 5-year-old Uncle Abbie gelding, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.86 with C.J. McMahon up.
Gianna's Dream separated herself from the field in the final furlongs of the $50,000 Bob Barry Memorial for state-bred fillies and mares and won off by 4 lengths over Miss Oreo. Lingering Smoke finished third. Gianna's Dream, a 3-year-old Twirling Candy filly out of the Rahy mare Untamed Beauty, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass in 1:29.31 with Joel Rosario up.