Other than California Chrome, favorites and Breeders' Cup champs had a tough weekend at the track with Flintshire, Beholder, Runhappy, Wavell Avenue and even Japanese Sprinter Big Arthur going down to defeat.
The tales of woe:
Last year's Breeders' Cup Turf winner, Found, had been nursing a bad case of "seconditis" this year -- finishing the runner-up in five straight Group 1 events leading up to Sunday's Group 1 Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly. That all changed in a bit more than 2 minutes and 23 seconds as jockey Ryan Moore drove the 4-year-old filly home first in Europe's richest race, leading stablemates Highland Reel and Order of St George in an unprecedented 1-2-3 finish for Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Found got through between her stablemates and that trio then went by the early pacemaker and finished in the same order over the Chantilly course that is a temporary home to the Arc while Longchamp is being rebuilt.
The favorite, Postponed, weakened through the final furlong and finished fifth behind Siljan's Saga. New Bay was seventh, dual Derby winner Harzand ninth and Japanese hopes were dashed again -- this time severely -- as Japanese Derby winner Makahiki struggled home 14th of 16. The Grey Gatsby trailed the field.
O'Brien, who keeps finding new ways to excel, said, "It's unbelievable. You couldn't even dream of that. How can you say anything is higher than this?"
British bookmakers, one day after seeing Flintshire defeated in New York, immediately trimmed their odds on Found defending her title in the Breeders' Cup.
There's more from France in the international section.
California Chrome made the lead, setting a good clip in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita while shadowed closely by Dortmund. A half mile into the race, Dortmund had enough and dropped back, leaving California Chrome and Victor Espinoza to enjoy the run. The pair won by 2 1/4 lengths with Espinoza keeping a tight hold on his eager mount.
Dortmund finished second, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Win the Space. Hard Aces and Soi Phet completed the order of finish. Hoppertunity and El Huerfano were scratched.
California Chrome, a 5-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit, ran 9 furlongs in his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1:48.07. The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner hasn't been beaten since finishing second to Prince Bishop in the 2015 Dubai World Cup.
"He's a challenging horse to run against because he's versatile on top of his talent," Espinoza said. "He can run on the front end and can come from behind. That's difficult to run against, he's so tactical. If someone wants to try and run with us again, maybe I'll take back the next time. That's the best part, he doesn't have to be up there on the lead."
Added trainer Art Sherman, "He took Dortmund's game plan away from him. He tried and ran a hell of a race, but you're looking at maybe the best horse in the world right now. I can't say enough about him. I'm just blessed to be able to train him."
Speaking of the Breeders' Cup, Sherman added, "I'm looking forward to it and hope everything goes according to plan. Each race seems a little bit better. It's a little scary."
Noble Bird led from gate to wire in Saturday's $175,000 Lukas Classic at Churchill Downs and easily held off a late run by long shot Hawaakom, winning by 1 1/2 lengths. Bradester was third and the favorite, Breaking Lucky, beat only one.
Noble Bird, a 4-year-old son of Birdstone, ran 9 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:49.03 with Julien Leparoux up.
"Lucky enough I could find a spot to kind of be in the clear with Noble Bird and he relaxed beautifully on the lead. That's the key with him," said Leparoux.
Stellar Wind edged by Beholder with a furlong left in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita and held the narrow advantage the rest of the way to the wire, winning by a neck. It was her second win in three meeting with the multiple Eclipse Award winner and presages a fabulous renewal of the Breeders' Cup Distaff, which also is expected to include the undefeated 3-year-old filly Songbird.
In the Zenyatta, with no other pace, Gary Stevens got Beholder out to the front. But Stellar Wind, under Victor Espinoza, was quickly prompting the action and shadowed Beholder until the dramatic final furlong. Vale Dori was third, 11 3/4 lengths behind Beholder.
Stellar Wind, a 4-year-old Curlin filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.80. In their previous meetings, Beholder beat Stellar Wind by 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade I Vanity Mile in June and Stellar Wind returned the favor, beating Beholder by 1/2 length in the Grade I Clement Hirsch at Del Mar in July.
"She ran so well last time," said winning trainer John Sadler. "I thought this race would be very similar to what it was -- another battle, and we were lucky enough to prevail a second time."
Beholder's rider, Stevens, said, "Nothing really went wrong, except I was on the lead and a sitting duck once again. No pace except for me, and realistic fractions. I flat got out-run. I have no excuses ... She's pretty special for me, and hopefully we can bounce back and get some pace in the Breeders' Cup, or the stars will change."
Forever Unbridled settled behind the leaders in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Beldame at Belmont Park, swung five-wide into the stretch and easily proved best, winning by 2 1/4 lengths, ridden out, scoring her third win from her last five starts. Tiger Ride was second, followed by Penwith.
Forever Unbridled, a 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song, ran 9 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:50.24 for jockey Joel Rosario. "She's tough, she really is," said winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "So long as she comes back good and everything's good (she will run in the Breeders' Cup Distaff). It's a great race and we're going to be right in there with them and give them a fight. There's going to be a lot of tough ones in there, and she's one of them."
Ectot shot right to the front in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park and the reigning star of the U.S. turf wars, Flintshire, could not catch him while struggling over the yielding course. At the end, it was Ectot victorious for the first time in three U.S. starts. Flintshire was 5 lengths behind in second, trailed by Twilight Eclipse and Money Multiplier.
Ectot, a 5-year-old son of Hurricane Run, got 1 1/2 miles in 2:28.76 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. Two of his wins in France came over soft turf, including the Group 1 Criterium International at Saint-Cloud in 2013. Flintshire, by contrast, was relocated to the United States this year in hopes of finding firmer going.
"We thought the key was if we could get him to settle," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "He was a little keen last start. We thought it would help when it rained."
Flintshire's trainer, Chad Brown, said, "He didn't handle the ground. We knew the risk going into the race running on soft ground."
"He has a poor record on it. I didn't see another option," the trainer continued. "I didn't feel comfortable going into the Breeders' Cup without a prep. So, we gave it a shot and it didn't work out. Hopefully he'll come out of the race sound and will get a chance to redeem himself in the Breeders' Cup on firm ground."
Ashleyluvssugar waited patiently in second behind the early pace in Sunday's $200,000 Grade II John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita, then won the scramble to the wire by 1/2 length over Texas Ryano. Twentytwentyvision was third and the favorite, Metaboss, checked in fourth with a late run from the back of the field. Ashleyluvssugar, a 5-year-old Game Plan gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in a sparkling 1:58.35.
"This is his kind of track," said winning trainer Peter Eurton. "You gotta think this horse is just full of heart. When he's healthy like he is right now, he's great."
Saturday's $100,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds came off the Churchill Downs turf but that didn't seem to bother One Mean Man, who rallied from a pace-stalking trip over the wet-fast main track to win by 1 1/2 lengths from Zapperini. Seeking the Soul finished third. One Mean Man, a Mizzen Mast colt, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.23 under Robby Albarado.
Trainer Bernie Flint said he wasn't worried about the surface switch: "I said, 'We're here. It's a short field. I like the track. He breezed on it all time. Let's go.' So we went. I guess we'll run on the dirt some more."
Filly & Mare Turf
Avenge led every jump of the way in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Rodeo Drive Stakes at Santa Anita and got home first by 3/4 length over the favorite, Zipessa. Frenzified was third. Avenge, a 4-year-old War Front filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 1:58.52 with Flavien Pratt up. It was her third straight victory following a pair at Del Mar.
"She's getting better with each race," Pratt said. "She really surprised me out there today. Once I let go she really got comfortable and took the lead. Honestly, that was a lot of fun and we'll see how she does for the Breeders' Cup."
Joking made it four in a row, using a strong stretch move to land Saturday's $350,000 Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park by 1 length over Stallwalkin' Dude. Weekend Hideaway was third and the favorite, X Y Jet, faded from the lead to finish fifth in his first race since finishing second in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan on March 26.
Joking, a 7-year-old gelding by Distorted Humor, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.18 with Manny Franco in the irons. His winning skein saw him moving up from a $100,000 claimer to a minor stakes event in the mud at Belmont Park in May and then the Grade II True North in June, his last previous start.
"Super! Super! That's the word to describe it," said winning trainer Charlton Baker. "We're definitely going to go on the Breeders' Cup from here."
Tom's Ready and Breeders' Cup champ Runhappy wasn't in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. Tom's Ready, a 3-year-old More Than Ready colt, rallied three-wide down the lane and won by 1/2 length over Iron Fist. Schivarelli was third and Runhappy, making his first run since December, faded from the front to finish fourth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths. Tom's Ready, with Brian Hernandez Jr. up, ran 1 mile on a wet-fast track in 1:34.86.
"He ran big," said winning trainer Dallas Stewart. "It couldn't have worked out any better. Everybody was worried about Runhappy and some other real tough horses in here but I said, 'Hey listen, the horse is focused up.'"
He said he now will point Tom's Ready to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Paulassilverlining stalked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, fanned six-wide entering the lane and edged ahead in the final sixteenth to win by 3/4 length. Quezon was along for second with 2015 Breeders' Cup winner Wavell Avenue finishing third.
Paulassilverlining, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a muddy, sealed track in 1:15.92 with John Velazquez up. I don't see why she shouldn't," trainer Michelle Nevin said about a Breeders' Cup go.
"This filly has shown up all year, except her last race when she was only beaten two lengths and she might not have gotten the trip she really wants. We'll have to discuss things and see what happens."
Belvoir Bay led down the Santa Anita hillside course in Saturday's $75,000 Unzip Me Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, opened up a daylight lead crossing the dirt and held on to win by 1/2 length over Miss Katie Mae. Nodiac was chewing up ground in the final sixteenth to get show money. Belvoir Bay, a British-bred filly by Equiano, ran about 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:12.16 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. in the irons.
Gormley, fresh off a maiden win at Del Mar, took the lead right out of the gate in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I FrontRunner at Santa Anita and drew off in the stretch to win by 3 length over the favorite, Klimt. It was another 4 1/2 lengths back to Klimt in third.
Klimt entered the race after winning the Grade II Best Pal and the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, both times coming from off the pace. He did make a late effort Saturday but too little, too late.
Espinoza said he hadn't planed to go to the lead but just let Gormley go after a scrambling start.
"This horse can run well wherever he runs. He's a very talented young horse and he's going to improve for the future," Espinoza added.
Three Rules led all the way in Saturday's $500,000 In Reality Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park and kicked cleanly away in the stretch, winning by 10 lengths. Thegreatcollection was second, another 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Dont Come Knockin. Three Rules, a Gone Astray colt, completed the sweep of the FSS series, getting home in 1:44.63 over a good track with Cornelio Velasquez up.
"He's great. He's not tired at all. He came out perfect from the race," trainer Jose Pinchin said Sunday morning. "If everything works out well his next race will be the Breeders' Cup." He has won all five of his starts by a combined margin of 31 lengths.
Mirai dueled to the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds at Belmont Park and edged away, winning by 2 lengths over Pat On the Back. Haul Anchor disputed the lead and finished third. Mirai, a Trappe Shot colt, ran 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:23.62 with Jose Ortiz up.
Gold for the King was away a bit tardily in Saturday's $200,000 New York Breeders' Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds at Finger Lakes, then used a wide trip to get by the leaders and win by 2 3/4 lengths. Machio Miah and Eddie's Gift were second and third. Gold for the King, a Posse gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:10.95 with Eric Cancel up.
Oscar Performance led from the start in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Pilgrim at Belmont Park and kicked away in the late going, winning by 6 lengths as the favorite. J.S. Choice was along for second with Kitten Cat third. Oscar Performance, a Kitten's Joy colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the yielding inner turf course in 1:42.88 with Jose Ortiz aboard. It was his second straight win, both by big margins, for trainer Brian Lynch.
Asked about the Breeders' Cup, Lynch said, "I think it was a decent field behind him, so there's plenty to look forward to. I'd certainly say he's on the wagon headed that way."
Whiskey Train rallied from well back to take Saturday's $75,000 Armed Forces Stakes for 2-year-olds at Gulfstream Park by 1/2 length over Sonic Mule. Gemologister was third. Whiskey Train, a Bullet Train gelding, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:40.09 with Luis Castillo up.
Noted and Quoted shadowed pacesetter With Honors in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita, took the lead turning for home and fought gamely through the stretch, winning by 1/2 length. The favorite, Zapperkat, rallied from well back to finish third and American Cleopatra, American Pharoah's little sister, was eighth.
Noted and Quoted, a Florida-bred filly by The Factor, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.88 with Rafael Bejarano aboard. It was her second win from four starts and followed a fourth-place finish in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante.
"I don't have to do a lot with her," said winning trainer Bob Baffert. "But the fact that she's already proved she can go two turns, that's what we were trying to find out with her. I'm pretty proud of her effort, because she ran against a really great filly (With Honors)."
Dude Fantasy rallied from off the pace in Saturday's $500,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes and won a three-way battle to the wire by 3/4 length over Surprise Wedding. Fleet Dude was third and the favorite, Cajun Delta Dawn, saw her hopes of a series sweep dashed with a fourth-place finish. Dude Fantasy, with Tyler Gaffalione up, ran 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:46.39.
Filibustin ended the debate early in Sunday's $150,000 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, drawing clear through the stretch to win by 4 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Tiznow's Smile. Iron Mizz finished third. Filibustin, a daughter of Bustin Stones, got 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:24.38 with Jose Lezcano up.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
New Money Honey tracked the pace under Javier Castellano in Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Miss Grillo Stakes at Belmont Park, moved closer through the early part of the stretch run and found another gear late to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Rymska. The favorite, Coasted, ran evenly to finish third. New Money Honey, a Medaglia d'Oro filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the yielding inner turf in 1:44.58.
Silver Diva rallied to challenge for the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Our Dear Peggy Stakes at Gulfstream Park and outfinished Devilish Romance, winning by 1/2 length. Bahama Halo, the favorite, was third with traffic problems in the lane. Silver Diva, a daughter of Circular Quay, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:38.64 with Tyler Gaffalione riding.
Scuba shadowed pacesetter Baccelo in Sunday's $200,000 Temperence Hill Invitational at Belmont Park, inherited the lead when that rival had enough and wasn't challenged thereafter, winning the 1 5/8-miles event by 3 lengths. Melmich was second, Extinct Charm third and the aforementioned Baccelo fourth. Scuba, a 5-year-old Tapit gelding, finished in 2:44.73 with Kendrick Carmouche at the controls.
Speedy Boarding held off the late run of Pleasach to win Sunday's Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines for fillies and mares by a short head over that rival with the favorite, So Mi Dar, third, another 1/2 length in arrears. Speedy Boarding, a 4-year-old Shamardal filly trained by James Fanshawe, backed up her victory in the Group 1 Prix Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville in August.
Marsha got the lead in the late going in the Group 1 Qatar Prix de 'lAbbaye Longchamp and held on to win by 3/4 length over Washington DC at huge odds. The favorite, Mecca's Angel, was only a short head farther back in third. Marsha, a 3-year-old daughter of Acclamation, scored her first Group victory with Luke Morris in the irons.
Limato drew off late to a 3-lengths win in Sunday's Group 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret at 7 furlongs. Karar and Suedois were second and third, followed by Jimmy Two Times. Limato, a 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Tagula, earlier won the July Cup at Newmarket, then finished second to Mecca's Angel in the Group 1 Nunthorpe at York.
In Sunday's 2-year-old races: National Defense led all the way to win the Group 1 Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere for trainer Cricket Head-Maarek, trailed by Salouen and the favorite, Whitecliffsofdover. Wuheida upset the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac for the Godolphin team, defeating Promise to Be True by 3/4 length.
On Saturday, Quest for More rallied from well back in the final furlong to take the Group 1 Qatar Prix du Cadran by a short head over the big favorite, Vaziribad. Nearly Caught led early, was caught halfway through the 2 1/2 miles and finished third. George Baker rode the winner for trainer Roger Charleton.
Potemkin put on a burst of speed in the final 100 meters to take Saturday's Group 2 Qatar Prix Dollar by 1 3/4 length over Heshem with the favorite, Zarak, third. Potemkin, with Eduardo Pedroza up, was making his first start outside Germany for trainer Andreas Wohler.
Taaref was a clear winner in Saturday's Group 2 Qatar Prix Daniel Wildenstein, scoring by 1 3/4 lengths over Hello My Love with Moonlight Magic third. Taaref, a Kitten's Joy colt, is trained by Jean-Claude Rouget for Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum.
Alice Springs worked to the lead inside 2 furlongs in Saturday's Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket and came home in a hand ride under Ryan Moore, winning by 3/4 length over Always Smile. Ervedya was third. Alice Springs, a 3-year-old daughter of Galileo, scored her third win from her last four starts. She was eighth in the Prix Rothschild while venturing across the Channel. After finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, she now is a candidate for this year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, where she might find more suitable firm going. Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget said Ervedya may be headed for the breeding shed.
Red Falx came around the turf widest of all in Sunday's Group 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama and got home first by a head over Mikki Isle, earning not just the winner's share but also a guaranteed spot in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge. The 5-year-old son of Swept Overboard, with Mirco Demuro up, finished 1,200 meters on firm turf in 1:07.6. The race developed into a cavalry charge, with all 16 finishing within 4 lengths of the winner. The favorite, Big Arthur, had an unfortunate run from the inside gate and never got to run his race, finishing 12th.
Hartnell fanned out four wide turning for home in Sunday's Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington and quickly put matters to rest, drawing off to an easy 3 1/4-lengths victory. Jameka was second and Tally rolled home third. Hartnell, a 6-year-old Authorized gelding owned by Godolphin, set himself up for whatever target trainer John O'Shea might prefer -- the Cox Plate or the Melbourne Cup.
"I think he'll be pretty competitive wherever he goes," O'Shea said after Hartnell's third straight win by open lengths.
In other action:
Killin Me Smalls led all the way to a head victory over Venetian Mask in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Grade III BC Premier's Handicap. Shooting Jacket finished third. Killin Me Smalls, a 6-year-old Marcavelly gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on a fast track in 2:17.41 with Keishan Balgobin riding.
Snuggles rallied three wide in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ballerina Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and finished 3/4 lengths better than Victriss. Touching Promise was a similar margin back in third. Snuggles, a 3-year-old Rosberg filly, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.26 for jockey Rico Walcott.
A stakes-filled program supported the end of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Saturday.
Awesome Banner stalked the pace in the $150,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and was up in the final jump over pacesetting Mr. Kisses. Minute Madness was another 4 lengths back in third. Awesome Banner, an Awesome Again colt, ran 1 mile on a track upgraded from sloppy to good in 1:36.84 with Tyler Gaffalione riding.
She's Incredible came to the lead three-wide in the $150,000 Meadow Star Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies and drew off to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Silent Prayer. R Kinsey Doll was third. She's Incredible, by High Cotton, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:37.77 with Jesus Rios up.
Diamond Bachelor opened a huge lead in the $75,000 Mr. Steele Stakes and held on late, winning by 1 1/2 lengths from Aire Bueno. Enterprising finished third. Diamond Bachelor, a 5-year-old War Front gelding, ran 1 mile on the good turf track in 1:36.96 with Lane Luzzi in the irons.
Josdesanimaux came from the back of the pack to take the $75,000 Panama City Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Dad's Princess. Pink Poppy led briefly in the stretch and held on to finish third. Josdesanimaux, a 4-year-old daughter of Leroidesanimaux, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.29 with Luca Panici riding.
Thor's Rocket got by Conquest Cavalry in deep stretch in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Vice Regent Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds, winning by a head over that rival. That's a Stretch was up late to get show money. Thor's Rocket, an Old Forester gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.49 under David Moran.
Cindervella was along in the final yards to take Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over Crumlin Queen. Princess Bullet was third. Cindervella, a daughter of Silent Name, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.81 with Eurico da Silva aboard.
Lovable Lady rallied to the lead in deep stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Politely Stakes for staste-bred fillies and mares and won by 1 length over Deliver Me. Candida H. finished third. Lovable Lady, a 5-year-old Not For Love mare, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.33 with Horacio Karamanos up.
Chief Istan was always close in Saturday's $75,000 Challedon Stakes, got the lead in the lane and won by 3/4 length over Rockinn on Bye. Big Guy Ian led early and finished third. Chief Istan, a 4-year-old Istan colt, ran 7 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:23.62 with Gabriel Saez aboard.
Pyrite Slew was never challenged on the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Emerald Necklace Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies and ran on to a 3-lengths victory over True Cinder. Mygirlfriday was well up the track in third. Pyrite Slew, a daughter of Lunarpal, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.36. Luis Rivera rode.