An early favorite for the 2016 Queen's Plate, a speedy contender for the Sunshine Millions Classic in January, a potential rising sprint contender in Hong Kong -- this and more in a catch-all of great weekend racing.
King and His Court is the Queen's Plate contender after a victory in Sunday's Coronation Handicap. Mr. Jordan was a record-setter Saturday at Gulfstream. Racing Supernova burst on the scene in Hong Kong.
In addition to all that royalty, Queen's Ring won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Japan.
No need to bow or curtsy before reading this:
King and His Court rallied through the final furlong to win Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Coronation Futurity for Canadian-foaled 2-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths over State of Honor. Escondera was third. The winner, a Court Vision gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.76 under Gary Boulanger.
Mark Casse trains the first two finishers. Escondera is conditioned by Attfield. In victory, King and His Court has stamped himself an early favorite for the 2017 Queen's Plate. The last horse to win the Coronation Futurity and then the Queen's Plate was the Attfield-trained Norcliffe, who turned the trick in 1975-76.
Ghostly Presence got by pacesetting favorite Enstone in deep stretch to take Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Princess Elizabeth Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over that rival. Mythical Mission finished third.
Ghostly Presence, a Ghostzapper filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.90 with Steven Bahen up. It was her second win from four starts.
"She had enough speed to get out and get over before the turn without having to use her," said winning trainer Roger Attfield. "From then on out, I was happy with where she was in the race. She's a nice little filly."
Saturday's program featured three preview races for January's Sunshine Millions events plus four stakes for 2-year-olds.
Mr. Jordan, the odds-on favorite, bided his time in Saturday's $100,000 Millions Classic Preview, moved to the front on cue and won off by 3 3/4 lengths. The pacesetter, Piloting, held on for second, 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Saraguaro. Mr. Jordan, a 4-year-old Kantharos gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in track-record time of 1:42.52 with Paco Lopez in the irons.
Mr. Jordan was in the frame in four straight stakes at Monmouth and Parx this summer and fall, then prepped for this with a victory in a Parx allowance race last month. "As he's gotten older, he's learned to rate behind horses," said winning trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "Some horses get better with age. Some of them hit their peak at 2 and never go on. It looks like he's the first choice, so we're just thankful."
The win moves Mr. Jordan right into contention for the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 21.
Moment of Delight went quickly to the front in the $100,000 Millions Distaff and provided 1:22.65 of delight for her backers, winning by 1/2 length over the favorite, You Bought Her. Lucky Switch was third with a late run. Eddie Castro rode Moment of Delight, a 4-year-old A.P. Warrior filly, for trainer Stanley Gold.
Moment of Delight finished ninth in last year's Sunshine Millions Distaff but has been runner better this fall than last. "The thing that's missing from her resume," said part-owner Adam Lazarus, "is hitting the board in a graded stakes race and we've got to figure a way to do that without interrupting the Sunshine Millions."
Enterprising rallied four-wide to take the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Million Turf Preview and kicked away to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Little Nick V. and Charlie Mops filled out the trifecta. Enterprising, a 5-year-old Elusive Quality gelding, toured 1 1/16 miles on the turf in 1:45.21 under Tyler Gaffalione.
"Midway around the second turn, the spot opened up to get him outside and I just followed the horse in front of me," Gaffalione said. "When I put him in the clear, he just took off and ran home from there."
Squadron came to the leaders on the turn in Saturday's $100,000 Juvenile Turf Stakes for Florida-bred 2-year-olds, dueled to the lead and drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Front Loaded, was second, 3/4 length in front of Salute With Honor. Squadron, a Midshipman gelding out of the Skip Away mare Skip the Storm, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:39.59 with Castro in the irons.
Compelled waited right behind the leading duo in the $100,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf, easily moved to the lead when asked and went on to win by 6 1/2 lengths without ever being asked for her best run. Southern Sis, the early leader, beat the others with Majestic Gale a neck back in third. Compelled, a War Front filly, got home in 1:38.47 with Paco Lopez riding.
Sweetontheladies settled well off the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Juvenile Sprint for state-bred 2-year-olds, rallied to the lead five-wide and got clear, winning by 3 lengths over the favorite, Storming My Way. Red Crescent was third. Sweetontheladies, a Twirling Candy colt, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.73 with Marcos Meneses up.
R Angel Katelyn tracked the pace established by the favorite, Wildcat Kate, in the $100,000 Juvenile Fillies Sprint for Florida-breds, fell well behind at mid-stretch and made up the ground in the final sixteenth to win by 1/2 length. Wildcat Kate salvaged second, 3 3/4 lengths to the good of Rashette. R Angel Katelyn, a daughter of High Cotton, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.30 with Lopez up.
Bigger Picture tracked the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Red Smith Handicap, made his move turning for home and inched away in the final furlong to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Danish Dynaformer made a late run to finish second, a nose in front of the odds-on favorite, Wake Forest.
Bigger Picture, a 5-year-old gelding by Badge of Silver, ran 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:15.46. He picked up his first stakes win, following a runner-up in the Grade III Sycamore at Keeneland in his last start. He's a very game horse," said winning rider Jose Ortiz. "When he felt the horse (Danish Dynaformer) coming towards him, he flicked his ears and tried to kick on."
Sticksstatelydude led from the start in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Discovery Stakes for 3-year-olds and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Neolithic ran second all the way for a long shot second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of My Man Sam. The favorite, Gift Box, checked in fifth. Sticksstatelydude, a Virginia-bred colt by First Dude, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.58 with Joel Rosario up. He was coming off a second-place showing in the Grade III Oklahoma Derby.
"We thought he was going to be 1-2 and I got out of there and he was in the lead," said winning rider Joel Rosario. "He was going pretty easy and I just let him do his thing. It's exactly how he likes to go. We stayed up front and it looked like easy fractions and it left him with something in the end." Kiaran McLaughlin, who took over training duties after the Oklahoma Derby, said Sticksstatelydude will remain in New York for the immediate future.
Highway Star stalked the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Staten Island Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred distaffers, took the lead away from Frosty Margarita in the stretch and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over that rival. Super Surprise was third. Highway Star, a 3-year-old Girolamo filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.18 for jockey Angel Arroyo.
Hay Dakota came running late from the back of the pack to upset Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Commonwealth Turf Stake for 3-year-olds. At the wire, the Haynesfield gelding, with Denny Velazquez timing it perfectly, was a neck in front of Bondurant. Scholar Athlete ran third. Hay Dakota finished 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:43.60. The Chicago-based invader was coming off an allowance win at Hawthorne and earlier finished third in the Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park.
"This was one of my things to accomplish," said winning trainer Joel Berndt. "I've won some training titles and won some stakes races, but I thought, 'What's next on my to-do list in my career?' and of course it was to win a graded stakes race. And to do it here at Churchill Downs is very special for me. I'm numb, kind of ... I've never won a race at Churchill Downs, let alone a graded stakes race."
Chao Chom dueled with the heavy favorite, Enola Gray, through the first 6 furlongs of Sunday's $75,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares, then finally put that one away, drawing off in the final yards to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Enola Gray held second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Cuddle Alert. Chao Chom, a 3-year-old Tizbud filly, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.53 with Kent Desormeaux up.
Defiantly rallied from last of six to take Saturday's $75,000 Let It Ride Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over Mittersill. Camino Del Paraiso was third. Defiantly, an Exchange Rate colt out of the Dynaformer mare Perfectforthepart, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.80 with Gary Stevens in the irons.
Golden Gate Fields
Right Hand Man stalked a brisk early pace in Saturday's $50,000 Golden Nugget Stakes for 2-year-olds, took over when called upon by jockey Juan Hernandez and went on willingly to win by 3 lengths. Silver Assault was second with Aqua Frio third. Right Hand Man, a Street Boss colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.84. It was his third win from five starts with the two previous victories coming at Santa Anita.
O Dionysus broke last of five in Saturday's $75,000 Christopher Elser Memorial for 2-year-olds but jumped immediately into competition and raced away in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The Walk was second, a head in front of the favorite, Greatbullsoffire. O Dionysus, a Bodemeister colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.19 with Jevian Toledo up. The race was restricted to horses who had spent 30 days in South Carolina.
Kaabraaj took charge in the lane in Saturday's $30,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, winning off by 6 1/4 length. Rockin Home rocked home second at long odds and Storm Power was third. Kaabraaj, a 4-year-old gelding by Abraaj, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.58 with Eswan Flores up. The race is named for the late track announcer at Turf Paradise, Hollywood Park, Churchill Downs and others who died suddenly during the Ellis Park race meeting in 2008.
Red Hot Diva dueled to the lead late in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares and got clear, winning by 2 lengths over Romantic Cork. Candy Man's Girl was only a nose farther back in third. Red Hot Diva, a 6-year-old mare by Devon Deputy, got 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:54.86.
Over the waves:
Team Talk, representing Team Godolphin, was up late to take Saturday's Betway Churchill Stakes on the Lingfield all-weather course, a qualifier for the All-Weather Championship finals next spring. Educate and Master the World were second and third with the favorite and last season's champion, Grendisar, fourth. Team Talk, a 3-year-old Teofilo gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.56 with Sean Levey up for trainer Saeed bin Suroor in his first try over the all-weather .
RB Burn pulled off the big upset in Sunday's Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahan Jewel Crown at Abu Dhabi -- the world's richest race for Purebred Arabians -- as the heavy favorite, Al Mourtajez, finished a fizzling sixth. RB Burn, an American-bred, won by 3/4 length over Mabrooka with Gerard Avranch up. He scored his third win from nine starts and becomes an early candidate for the Dubai Kahayla Classic, the traditional opening race on the World Cup card at Meydan.
Racing Supernova, with jockey Joao Moreira scoring his fifth win on the card, took Saturday's Class 1 Panasonic Cup Handicap at Sha Tin. The 5-year-old gelding proved himself at the 1,400-meters distance, giving trainer Chris So plenty of options for the future. Racing Supernova tracked the pace along the inside until Moreira got him going in the lane and he went on with a quick turn of foot in the final 50 meters to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Mr. Bogart.
"A lot of people wanted me to keep him to the 1,000 meters," So said. "But every time he raced down the straight he seemed to find a lot of trouble. He didn't have room, he'd only get clear late, and it was becoming tough. Every time he'd run over the 1,200 meters, he'd run well, and so I knew the bend was no concern."
So said the race gives him hope the horse can be a group contender, perhaps even at the level of the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint -- just not this year. I didn't enter him for the internationals the first time around because I thought it would be too soon and I didn't think the races would suit him, not yet. There's plenty of time for that."
Queen's Ring found a narrow opening at the top of the lane in Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto, shot through and was just up in time to nip 60-1 long shot Sing With Joy by a neck. Mikki Queen was third and the favorite, Marialite, settled for sixth in a well-matched field.
Queen's Ring, with Mirco Demuro up, skimmed the rail well off the pace until the field hit the final turn. Confronted with traffic, Demuro urged the 4-year-old daughter of Manhattan Café between rivals and had her in full flight just as the wire loomed. She finished the 11 furlongs on firm turf in 2:12.9.
"She missed her break and I would have liked her to race a little more in front," Demuro said. "But since the distance was over 2,200 meters, I knew we had time to make up the loss. I wanted to take her out a little more for the stretch run but there was a horse outside of us so I had her go inside. She has a terrific turn of speed and quickened really well," Demuro said.