With North American racing catching its breath before the Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita, international events were in the spotlight the weekend.
Maurice surged to an impressive win over a talented field in Sunday's Group 1 feature in Japan, setting up the 5-year-old for another raid on the Hong Kong International Races in December.
In Australia, Oceanographer earned a spot in Tuesday's Group 1 Melbourne Cup with a handy win on Saturday at Flemington while, on the same card, Prized Icon won the Group 1 Victoria Derby. Two-year-olds were on display in France.
And racing resumed in the United Arab Emirates.
We'll resume with the international front:
Look out, Hong Kong. Maurice is headed back your way.
The 5-year-old, winner of last season's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile and Group 1 Champions Mile, both at Sha Tin, was dominant in Sunday's Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse. Under Ryan Moore, Maurice swung into contention as the field hit the long straight and was along in time to win by 1 1/2 lengths despite drifting out a bit through mid-stretch.
In his wake were the likes of this year's Group 1 Dubai Turf winner Real Steel (second), last year's Tenno Sho (Autumn) runner-up Staphanos (third) and Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan runaway victor A Shin Hikari (12th).
It was the fifth Group 1 win for Maurice but his first beyond the 1,600-meters distance, prompting a decision for trainer Noriyuki Hori and owner Kazumi Yoshida -- a return to the Longines Hong Kong Mile or an assault on the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup at 2,000 meters on the Same Dec. 11 card?
"He's strong at a mile and very hard to beat," said Moore, who is well familiar with both the horse and the Tokyo layout. "Today, I thought 2,000 meters was probably his best performance ... He has a big heart, big lungs and he could go farther," Moore added.
A Shin Hikari has not come close to duplicating his Prix d'Ispahan performance or his win in the Hong Kong Cup last December and was coming off a rest after a sixth-place showing in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. He led the way after acting up significantly before the start in the Tenno Sho, then began to fade 400 meters from home. Jockey Yutaka Take said the 5-year-old "wasn't in his usual spirit today. He's a complicated horse and I hope we'll do better in our next start." Maurice is by Screen Hero, out of the Carnegie mare Mejiro Frances.
Another instance of "small world": Moore piloted Real Steel to victory in the Dubai Turf in March, defeating 2014 Beverly D. winner Euro Charline by 1/2 length.
With most eyes fixed on Tuesday's Melbourne Cup, Prized Icon pulled off an upset win Saturday at Flemington in the Group 1 AAMI Victoria Derby, defeating the favorite, Sacred Elixir, by 2 1/2 lengths with a powerful stretch run.
Sacred Elixir had seized the lead at the top of the straight but had no answer when the winner blew by. Inference was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third at the end of the 2,500 meters. Glyn Schofeld provided the winning ride for trainer James Cummings.
Prized Icon, a More Than Ready colt, won the Group 1 Champagne Stakes at Randwick to close out last season. But in five previous starts this season, he hadn't been able to get closer than third, most recently beaten only a bit more than 1/2 length in the Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes at Randwick.
Cummings said he in no way is tempted to consider running Prized Icon back in the Melbourne Cup.
By contrast, Saturday's Group 3 Lexus Stakes winner, Oceanographer, will be among the favorites as he lines up Tuesday for "the race that stops a nation." The 5-year-old Sea the Stars gelding, owned by Godolphin and trained by Charlie Appleby, sent all the right signals as he improved on his third-place showing in the Group 3 Geelong Cup in his first Australian start earlier this month.
Also Saturday at Flemington, I Am A Star bested French Emotion by 1/2 length in the Group 1 Myer Classic at 1,600 meters with the favorite, Don't Doubt Mama, 12th in a field of 15; and Flying Artie won the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at 1,200 meters with the favorite, Astern, 1 1/4 length astern in second.
Thunder Snow provided a sunny forecast for Godolphin Racing with a driving victory in Sunday's Group 1 Criterium International for 2-year-olds at Saint-Cloud. With Christophe Soumillon up, the Darley-bred son of Helmet gave up the early lead, switched across to the stands side in the stretch run and came again to win by 5 lengths, geared down. South Seas was second and the Aidan O'Brien-trained favorite, Promise To Be True, finished third after passing up the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf to run in this.
After a pair of promising seconds in Group 2 events, Thunder Snow got home fourth behind Churchill in the Dubai Dewhurst in his previous start. The trainer was in Australia preparing for the Melbourne Cup but Godolphin's managing director, Hugh Anderson, said Thunder Snow had no trouble with the soft ground and promises to get a mile or more next season.
Two races later, it was the Andre Fabre-trained Waldgeist home first in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud for 2-year-olds going 2,000 meters over the soft turf with Godolphin's Best Solution 1 length back in second. Again, an O'Brien-trained runner, Capri, was favored but could do no better than third. Waldgeist, a Galileo colt, scored his second win from three starts with a late effort to reel in Best Solution. He was partnered by Pierre-Charles Baudot, who was unseated by Capchop shortly after the start of the Criterium International.
Racing returned to the United Arab Emirates Friday as Jebel Ali hosted a six-race card. The featured 1,000-meters handicap was sponsored and won by Sheik Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum as Mushir scored his first local win, leading from 300 meters out. The 5-year-old son of Oasis Dream won by 2 3/4 lengths over High On Life.
"He has so much natural speed and burst out of the gates," said winning apprentice rider George Buckell. "He had so many problems last season we could not really get him spot on and he did most of his training on the treadmill. Even with a troubled preparation he was fifth in the Jebel Ali Sprint and he is like a new horse this season. He should be capable of progressing from this."
The slightly revamped Dubai World Cup Carnival, which leads up to World Cup night on March 25, kicks off Jan. 5.
Meanwhile, back in North America:
This year's Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will miss the $6 million Classic because of a "puffy ankle" discovered after a workout, according to trainer Doug O'Neill. O'Neill said the colt is fine and otherwise healthy but the timing precludes a run in the Classic. Had he run, the race would have featured the reigning Derby winner, the reigning Dubai World Cup winner, California Chrome, this year's Traver's Stakes winner, Arrogate, and possibly the reigning Prix de l'Arc de Tromphe winner, Found.
Stonetastic led all the way to an easy, 2 3/4-lengths victory in Sunday's $100,000 Pumpkin Pie Stakes for fillies and mares. With Paco Lopez up, the 5-year-old Mizzen Mast mare was never threatened and won in a hand ride. Saharan and Disco Chick completed the trifecta. Stonetastic ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.51, bouncing back from a second to Irish Jaspar in the Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland on Oct. 8.
"I know this isn't the Breeders' Cup but we wanted to go out on a winning note," said winning trainer Kelly Breen, who is slated to lose the mare to retirement. "I don't know if today's the winning note or one more. It's nice to have such a classy filly like this. She's just a fast filly, just really classy."
Create a Dream raced in mid-pack early in Sunday's $100,000 Chelsey Flower Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, came five-wide to challenge for the lead and edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Beat the Benchmark was second, a neck ahead of Noble Ready. Create a Dream, an Oasis Dream filly, ran 1 mile on good turf under Javier Castellano in 1:37.52.
Create a Dream finished fourth in the Grade III Miss Grillo earlier this month in her first U.S. start after racing in top company in England. "I just tried to save some ground going into the first turn and we were able to execute that and swing out coming for home and look good heading for home to win," Castellano said.
Odds-on favorite Lewis Bay led all the way to a 5 1/4-lengths victory over Flora Dora in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares. Eskenformoney was another 7 1/4 lengths in arrears while finishing third. Lewis Bay, a 3-year-old Bernardini filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.09 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up. Linda Mimi finished sixth after prompting the early pace. Lewis Bay finished third in the Kentucky Oaks and second in the Grade I Mother Goose earlier this year. "She's had a long season," said winning trainer Chad Brown. "I'll have to talk to the owner, John Clay, about if she'll get a break and return next year or continue racing this year."
Stallwalkin' Dude raced in mid-pack into the turn in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap, tipped out four-wide turning for home and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Threefiveindia. The favorite, Economic Model, rallied from well back to get show money. Stallwalkin' Dude, a 6-year-old City Place gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.66 under Irad Ortiz Jr. It was his 17th win but first in a graded stakes. Trainer David Jacobson said he hadn't realized that 'factoid' "until I read it in the papers. He's won so many races for us and he's been competing against some of the really good horses, and he's a millionaire now, it's great."
Frostmourne was under a strong hold through the early stages of Saturday's $100,000 Awad Stakes for 2-year-olds, checked several times before finding running room in the lane and finally got clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. The early leader, Royal By Nature, held on to second, 3 3/4 length to the good of Bonus Points, while the favorite, Heaven Is Waiting, settled for fourth. Frostmourne, a Speightstown colt, ran 1 mile on yielding turf in 1:38.12 with Jose Ortiz riding. It was his second win from three starts and followed a fourth-place in the Grade III Pilgrim on the Belmont inner turf course.
"He's always trained like a nice horse," trainer Christophe Clement said of Frostmourne. "We were disappointed in the results from the Pilgrim, but that was won by a good horse. Today, I knew Jose had to fight him a little but he was more restrained and finished very well. We'll put him away and come back sometime next year in the spring. I'm not sure where yet, it could be Tampa, Gulfstream or Keeneland."
Noble Bird led the way in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes and drew away in the stretch, winning by 5 3/4 lengths as the Lexington track prepared the mothballs for the long winter. Divining Rod appeared ready to mount a challenge at the top of the lane but raced erratically thereafter and settled for second, another 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Hawaakom.
Noble Bird, a 5-year-old son of Birdstone, ran 9 furlongs in a track-record time of 1:47.75 with Julien Leparoux up. Noble Bird scored his second straight win and third of the year. He also took the Pimlico Special in the springtime.
"I think we are figuring him out a little bit," said Norm Casse, assistant to his trainer father Mark Casse. "He is a horse that if there is a lot of speed in the race, he is a little bit more compromised. We have to pick races where he can take things on his own and that is what we did today."
He said Noble Bird is being pointed to the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs Nov. 25.
As the Twin Spires track took the Kentucky racing baton Sunday with a "Stars of Tomorrow" program, Lovely Bernadette rallied from last of seven to win the $80,000 Rags to Riches Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 1/2 length from China Grove. Farrell was third and the favorite, Sailor's Valentine, faded from the lead to finish fourth. Lovely Bernadette, a daughter of Wilburn, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.51 with Robby Albarado up. Winning trainer Jimmy DiVito said the Grade II Golden Rod is next for the filly. "Hopefully, we can get through that and everything goes well," he said.
McCracken came running in the lane in Sunday's $80,000 Street Sense Stakes for 2-year-olds and shook free to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Balandeen was second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Guest Suite. The odds-on favorite, Speedmeister, led early but threw in the towel in the final furlong, finishing fifth. McCracken, a Ghostzapper colt, ran 1 mile on the main track in 1:35.55 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. "I thought that this was a solid group of horses so to beat them like he did, I think he's a nice horse," said winning trainer Ian Wilkes. He said the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 26 will be the next step. That's a Kentucky Derby points-earning race.
Warrior's Club led throughout Sunday's $300,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes and got clear at the end, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Cool Arrow. Lawton was 5 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Warrior's Club, a Warrior's Reward colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.31 for jockey Miguel Mena. The race was restricted to 2-year-olds sired by a Spendthrift-owned stallion standing at a Spendthrift farm. Warrior's Club is trained by D. Wayne Lukas for the 200-member Churchill Downs Racing Club.
Cover Song, at 31-1 odds, outfinished favorite Danilova in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by a nose. Barley Sugar was third, another 1/2 length back. Flavien Prat, aboard Danilova, claimed foul for some bumping in the stretch but the stewards ruled no change. Cover Song, a daughter of Fastnet Rock, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.73 with Kent Desormeaux up. It was only her second win and followed a 10th-place finish in the Unzip Me Stakes down the hillside course Oct. 1. Trainer Carla Gaines said the decision to go longer was a close one.
"She's been training well but we did come close to scratching her and running her down the hill," she said. "I'm glad we decided to stay with our first choice of race."
A Red Tie Day emerged from a tightly bunched field at the top of the stretch to win Sunday's $70,000 Lure Stakes by 1/2 length over Perfectly Majestic. Twentytwentyvision and Little Curlin were a close third and fourth. A Red Tie Day, a 6-year-old Indygo Shiner gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.82 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. up.
Touch of Disney rallied from last of seven to provide a long-shot, storybook ending for Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Overskate Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up. Kingsport was second, a head back, and Jacks Escarpment was third. Touch of Disney, a 6-year-old Mr. Scotty gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.51 with Omar Moreno in the irons. It was his fourth win from his last five trips. It also was his first stakes start. "We picked out some allowance races and he happened to get home," said winning trainer Norm McKnight. "He's had some unsoundness issues in the past," continued McKnight. "But (owner Bruno Schickedanz) has given the horse a lot of time. We've done what we had to do this year and he's responded."
Conquest Vivi got the lead late in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victorian Queen Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies and held off the late charge of Dilly Dally Darby to win by a neck. Silver Princess was third. Conquest Vivi, a Court Vision filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:10.55 with Patrick Husbands aboard. She remains undefeated after three starts, which also include the Nandi Stakes. Owner Conquest Stables will offer Conquest Vivi with the rest of their stock at next month's Keeneland sale.
Sunbean was just up in the final strides to win Saturday evening's $100,000 Gold Cup for Louisiana-breds by 1/2 length over Mobile Bay. The pacesetter, Sir Genghis, was only a head back in third. Sunbean, who has been a force among state-breds throughout his career, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.39 with Richard Eramia up. The 6-year-old gelding is by Brahms.
Big World settled just off the pace in Friday's $100,000 Magnolia Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares, advanced as the field neared the turn and seized control in the stretch, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths. Sunny Oak was second with Forest Lake running well late to snatch show money. Big World, a 3-year-old filly by Custom For Carlos, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.29 with Gerard Melancon in the irons.
Defining Hope jumped to a big lead in the stretch run in Saturdays' $100,000 Miss Indiana Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies and easily held off the favorite, Midnight Blvd, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Kitty Corner was 3 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Defining Hope, a daughter of Strong Hope, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:42.98 with Malcolm Franklin up.
Reverend John pressed the pace set by Candy Snatcher in Saturday's $100,000 Indiana Futurity for state-bred juveniles, got by that rival and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Candy Snatcher finished second, 6 3/4 lengths better than Ron. Reverend John, a Noble's Promise colt, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:41.33 with Rodney Prescott in the irons.
Lady Fog Horn drew off in the final stages of Saturday's $100,000 Frances Slocum for state-bred fillies and mares, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Heart's Song. She Mabee Wild was third. Lady Fog Horn, a 4-year-old filly by Zavata, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.77 under Albin Jimenez.
Bucchero led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Too Much Coffee Stakes for Indiana-breds and kicked clear in the lane en route to a 4 1/2-lengths score. Huntstown was second and Success Is Racing finished third. Bucchero, a 4-year-old Kantharos colt, finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.05 with Fernando De La Cruz in the irons.
Mo Don't No capped Saturday's "Best of Ohio" series for state-breds with a narrow victory over Bucket Beat after a dramatic stretch duel in the $150,000 Endurance. The margin at the wire was a head with Gone Too Soon third, another 3 1/4 lengths back. Mo Don't No, a 3-year-old Uncle Mo gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:08.53 with Luis Colon up.
Ohio Gold kicked into gear in the lane in the $150,000 Distaff and ran down pacesetting long shot Star Mabee to win by a neck over that one. Bold Cait also came with a rush but could do no better than third. Ohio Gold, a 3-year-old Wilburn filly, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.49 with Christian Pilares in the irons.
Rivers Run Deep outfinished Justalittlesmoke after a ding-dong duel in the $150,000 Sprint, winning by a nose over that rival and another head from the early leader, Candy Bites. Rivers Run Deep, a 5-year-old son of Ready's Image, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.75 for jockey Albin Jimenez.
Someday Soon drew off in the final furlong to win the $100,000 John W. Galbreath for 2-year-old fillies by 5 lengths over Miz Quoted. Ali Blue was another 11 3/4 lengths up the track in third. Someday Soon, a daughter of Proud Citizen, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.13 under Walter De La Cruz.
Tough It Up started well back from an outside post in the $100,000 Juvenile, dropped to the inside on the second turn and got through to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Mister Peppers. Shine Your Light finished third. Tough It Up, a Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:49.00 for jockey John McKee.
Golden Gate Fields
Simmy's Temple rallied from last of five to beat the odds-on favorite, Tapped, by 3/4 length in Saturday's $75,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Sweet Rafaela was third. Simmy's Temple, a British-bred filly by Royal Applause, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.79 under Juan Hernandez.
John Barleycorn duked it out with a pair of rivals through the first few furlongs of Saturday night's $50,000 Tri-State Futurity for 2-year-olds, then went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. I Need You and Lasso the Man rallied from off the pace to finish second and third. John Barleycorn, a Spring At Last colt, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:27.97 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons.
Can't Be Wrong ran by pacesetting favorite Supermason in deep stretch of Saturday night's $50,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for state-breds and inched away to a 1 1/2-lengths score over that foe. Bully Good was third, 3 lengths farther in arrears. Can't Be Wrong, a 3-year-old Broken Vow gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.51 with Ted Gondron up.
More Than Most was on the engine throughout Saturday eve's $50,000 Fiesta Mile for Texas-bred fillies and mares, shook off some pressure and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Whiskey Eyes. Dagny was third at long odds. More Than Most, a 3-year-old Indygo Mountain filly, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.27 for jockey C.J. McMahon.
Saturday was New Mexico Classic Cup day for state-breds.
Streaks Bro got the lead in the stretch in the $170,000 Classic Cup Championship and held off the odds-on favorite, Proceed, posting the 12-1 upset win by 2 3/4 lengths. Zasha led all the way in the $170,000 Peppers Pride New Mexico Classic Championship Fillies & Mares and won by 1 length from Tylers Dixie Chick.
D E Lover stalked the pace in the $170,000 Sprint Championship, then went on to win by 3 lengths over Infinite Bull. Diabolical Dame had the best late foot in the $140,000 Distaff Sprint, drawing off to win by 6 1/4 lengths over Sassy Silk Pet with My Bikini Fell Off third.
Tilla Cat, under pressure on the lead, won the $140,000 Oaks Championship by a neck over Dust Alert. Ten Penny Cents came from next-last of 12 to take the $140,000 Derby Championship by 2 lengths over Get Er Done.
Sippin pressed the pace in the $140,000 Lassie Championship for 2-year-old fillies before going on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over M G M's Valentine. Another Brother rallied from well back to take the $140,000 Juvenile Championship by 1 1/4 lengths over Thunder Dome.