Arrogate's performance for the ages crowned a massive night of racing in Dubai, including the promotion of a likely contender for the Kentucky Derby.
The racing weekend also included Kentucky Derby doings at Turfway Park and Sunland Park and Group 1 racing in Australia and Japan.
No need to wait. Away we go.
Sunday breakfast conversations in Dubai went well beyond how stunningly Arrogate ran, against all odds, to win the previous evening's $10 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup. Many discussions were along the lines of, "Is this the best horse ever?" or "Is he better than Secretariat?"
That argument may be premature as the Unbridled's Song colt really has only four major races under his girth. Granted, those were a record-setting win in last summer's Travers Stakes; edging reigning U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Breeders' Cup Classic; dominating a credible field in January's Pegasus World Cup; and Saturday night's "Miracle in the Desert."
Facing a world-class field on a track that was soggy from days of rain, Arrogate completely missed the break and was last heading into the first turn. No one at Meydan thought at that point he had a chance. But jockey Mike Smith figured he might as well give it a go. "I said, 'I'm just going to ride her like Zenyatta," Smith said. "I had no choice but to just sit there and let him collect himself."
Arrogate not only collected himself, he started picking up horses midway down the backstretch and was in a competitive position by the time the field hit the stretch turn. At that point, Smith said, "I actually kind of geared him down a little bit because I didn't want him to hit the lead at the quarter pole."
Finally given his cue, Arrogate ran right by a gallant Gun Runner and won by 2 1/4 lengths, apparently well within himself.
The performance was so stunning that Smith compared it with Zenyatta's dramatic last-to-first victory in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, widely regarded as one of the best races in the history of the sport. "I think this was better," Smith said, solemnly. And he would know, as the winning rider in both races.
"Everybody who was here tonight is going to say, 'I'm glad I was here to see that,'" said Arrogate's trainer, Bob Baffert, who scored his third Dubai World Cup victory. "If anybody wasn't super impressed with that, they just don't like horse racing," Baffert added. "I still can't believe he won the race."
Best horse ever? There would be a heated debate on that even among those at his owner, Juddmonte Farms. They, after all, also campaigned the great Frankel.
The World Cup was the glorious finale to a great night of racing at Meydan, only slightly dampened by the freakish storms that inundated the United Arab Emirates during the week.
Second Summer, a Grade II winner at Santa Anita last spring, rallied inside the favorite, Sharp Azteca in the stretch run of the $1 million Group 2 Godolphin Mile and went on to win by a neck over German-trained Ross. Sharp Azteca, winner of the Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap in his previous effort, salvaged third.
Second Summer, a 5-year-old son of Summer Bird, ran 1 mile on a rain-soaked course officially listed as "muddy" in 1:35.62 with Patrick Dobbs up, after spotting the early leaders a significant advantage. Second Summer, trained by Doug Watson, was making his third start of the Dubai season. He finished second in the Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 and a well-beaten seventh in Round 3, both going longer.
"We thought we'd run well," Watson said, whose horses finished 1-2-3 in last year's running of this race. "We thought it might be a little short for him." Watson said he had "never run on such a wet track before in 22 seasons in Dubai."
Vazirabad rallied from far back in a big field to win the $1 million Group 2 Dubai Gold Cup for the second year in a row. With a final effort, the 5-year-old Manduro gelding got by outside Beautiful Romance in the final strides to win by a neck with Sheikhzayedroad a further 1 1/2 lengths adrift in third. The 3,200 meters, or about 2 miles, went in 3:22.56 over yielding turf softened by intermittent heavy rains during the week over the desert track.
Vazirabad, ridden by Christophe Soumillon and trained by Alain De Royer-Dupre, finished second to Beautiful Romance in the season-opener for both of them, the Grade III Nad Al Sheba Trophy on Feb. 23. Sheikhzayed road also was third in that race. Vazirabad is owned by The Aga Khan.
"He was nervous in the gate," Soumillon said, explaining the slow start. "He was sitting down when the gate opened." Once he got into stride, Soumillon said, he had to be sure Vazirabad was okay before he asked him to make a move on the stretch turn.
"When he came in the straight, I saw he was ready to change legs and I knew he would run well," he added. De Royer-Dupre said he is not committed to a summer campaign for the 5-year-old. "We don't want to run him when the weather is too hot or the ground is too hard," he said. "We don't need to run him too much."
French-trained The Right man nipped American runner Long On Value in the $1 million Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint down the turf straight. The margin was a nose with locally trained Ertijaal third. The race was lengthened to 1,200 meters this year and replaced the Golden Shaheen as the Dubai leg of the Global Sprint challenge.
"I was always confident," said winning rider Francois-Xavier Bertras. "I knew in the prep race that the horse was not 100 per cent fit and would come on from that. I got a good position and my horse was very brave right to the end. You live your life for moments like this."
The Right Man's owner and trainer said they are considering Group 1 sprints in Hong Kong and possibly Royal Ascot for the 5-year-old gelding.
Mind Your Biscuits provided some gravy for American interests on World Cup night with a dominating, 3-lenghts victory in the $2 million Group 1 Golden Shaheen. Godolphin hopeful Comicas was second and Morawij settled for third. Two other U.S. horses, St. Joe Bay and Stallwalkin' Dude, finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
Chad Summers recently took over training duties for Mind Your Biscuits, who has developed into one of the top American sprinters, and the Golden Shaheen was his first-ever win as a trainer.
"It's a remarkable horse and it was a remarkable ride," Summers said. "I think he is the best sprinter in the country, in the world. He proved it today. It's unbelievable."
Japan got a win as the filly Vivlos emerged from the pack in the stretch run to win the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf by 1/2 length over Heshem. Ribchester was third in the 1,800-meters event which found some of the European star middle-distance names well out of sight at the end. Zarak was fourth. Deauville and Cougar Mountain, both trained by Aidan O'Brien, finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Vivlos benefitted from the services of star Hong Kong jockey Joao Moreira.
"She was probably one of the lightest horses in the race," Moreira said. "If the ground was soft, which is probably what the people were thinking about, she wasn't sinking (into the turf) the most. I think that is why she was able to let down and was able to get there."
The $6 million Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic was supposed my many to be a showdown between star international stayers Highland Reel and Postponed. And so it seemed as those two raced in that order to the top of the stretch in the 2,410-meters event.
But then Highland Reel, evidently tiring from the heavy turf, had enough and it was Jack Hobbs bolting through on the inside to score the upset win. Seventh Heaven followed him to take second, salvaging something for the Irish raiders trained by O'Brien. Postponed was a gallant third after chasing the pace.
See the "Road to the Roses" section for the Group 1 UAE Derby results.
The Road to the Roses
Saturday's $2 million Group 2 UAE Derby was worth 100 points toward a Kentucky Derby start and Godolphin Racing had to be pleased that, earlier in the week, they had paid a $6,000 late nomination fee to make the Helmet colt eligible to the Triple Crown races. He repaid the investment and much more as he just barely caught Japanese 3-year-old star Epicharis in the final jumps to win by a short head. Master Plan, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, made a late run to finish third.
"It just shows how international the whole thing is," said John Ferguson, Godolphin's CEO. "From Thunder Snow's point of view, he did it in a good time, he showed he is very brave and it was a great performance. And His Highness (Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and master of Godolphin) has just mentioned that the Kentucky Derby is a possibility. It could be a great idea."
Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said the French, Irish "or even the English Derby" are alternatives. "We are keeping our options open and we will make a decision when I talk to Sheik Mohammed again, the trainer said.
Hence rallied from near the back of the field to win Sunday's $800,000 Grade III Sunland Derby in New Mexico, beating previously undefeated Conquest Mo Money by 3 3/4 lengths. Hedge Fund was third, another 4 1/2 lengths back. Irap finished fourth.
Trainer Bob Baffert's 3-year-old woes continued as Bronze Age stumbled badly at the start, was rushed into contention, faded and eventually was eased by jockey Martin Garcia.
Hence, a Street Boss colt trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.10 with Alfredo Juarez Jr. in the irons. Hence was coming off a seventh-place finish in the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, where he also scored his only previous victory.
Fast and Accurate bounded into Kentucky Derby contention with a 24-1 upset win in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
The light gray Hansen colt raced just behind the pace set by En Hanse, another Hansen offspring, shifted out to take the lead turning for home and worked clear for a 3/4-length victory Blueridge Traveler was along for second and Convict Pike finished third. The favorite, Kitten's Cat, had a troubled trip and reported home fourth.
"The race set up beautifully," said winning rider Tyler Gaffalione. "My horse broke well ... We had a beautiful trip going into the far turn. I put him on the outside and he just hit another gear. Down the lane he just kept lengthening in stride."
Fast and Accurate, out of the Green Dancer mare Heidi's Dance, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:50.96. He came to this race from a victory in a 7 1/2-furlongs turf stakes at Gulfstream Park. The colt is owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen, who also owned Hansen, the sire, who won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2011. Hansen stood only one season in the United States before being sold to South Korea's burgeoning breeding program.
Montu led all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Rushaway Stakes for 3-year-olds at Turfway Park, met a challenge from Capture the Glory in deep stretch and pulled away to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Gorgeous Kitten was third, a nose farther behind. The favorite, Sailing Home, plodded home sixth. Montu, a Dialed In colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather surface in 1:44.85 with Rodney Prescott riding. It was his third win from four starts over the Turfway Park course.
At the end of the weekend's action, Thunder Snow was atop the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard with the 100 points earned in the UAE Derby. Hence moved into the No. 5 spot with 50 points. Fast and Accurate also has 50 points but is lower on the earnings list and would have to be supplemented for $200,000 to get into the Derby.
Several Japanese outlets indicated Epicharis is unlikely to contest the Run for the Roses, opting instead for the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes. That would open the door for Mont Saint Legame, who sits in second spot on the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" standings.
The Kentucky Oaks trail
Ghalia was off last in Sunday's $200,000 Sunland Park Oaks, moved up through the turn for home and prevailed by a neck over Kell Paso. What What What ran evenly to finish third. Baffert's 3-year-old woes extended to the filly division as Noted and Quoted, the favorite, was eased in the stretch run, eventually walking off. Ghalia, a Medadlia d'Oro filly out of the Rahy mare Verdana Bold, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.24 with Jose Ortiz aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher. She remains undefeated in three starts, the first two coming at Gulfstream Park.
Purely a Dream stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, took command early in the stretch run and eased home first by 2 lengths over Awesome Boss. Darkwingsoverdubai finished third and the favorite, Delphinia, beat only one rival in the 12-filly field. Purely a Dream, a Pure Prize filly, ran 1 mile on the all-weather course in 1:37.40 with Robby Albarado up for trainer Kenny McPeek, who also saddled Awesome Boss. It was her first start of the season. She broke her maiden at Keeneland last fall.
Turning our attention back overseas:
Seiun Kosei took back from an early pace scramble in Sunday's Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo Racecourse, found a big seam near the middle of the track as the field turned for home and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Let's Go Donki rallied along the rail from near the back of the big field to finish second, a neck in front of the favorite, Red Falx. Injuries and retirements left the field fairly wide open and Seiun Kosei, a 4-year-old son of Admire Moon, went to the post at odds of 8.1-1. It was his fifth win from his last seven starts but those had been considerably down the class ladder.
"He felt really good from the beginning and although I was afraid that I may have slipped him out too early, I believed in him and urged him to go until the wire," said winning rider Hideaki Miyuki. The Takamatsunomiya Kinen is the third leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, which now has three winners from three events.
Silent Sedition, with Katelyn Mallyon aboard, upset Friday's Group 1 Keogh Homes William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley, edging Hellbent by a short head. The lukewarm favorite, Star Turn, was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Silent Sedition, a 4-year-old War Chant mare, backed up her second-place finish behind Heavens Above last time out in the Group Coolmore Stakes.
Jameka, with Hugh Bowman up, ran off with Saturday's Group 1 The BMW at Rosehill Gardens, smoking runner-up Humidor by 6 1/2 lengths. Exospheric and Who Shot the Barman finished third and fourth. Jameka, a 4-year-old daughter of My Boy Charlie, ran 2,400 meters in 2:35.65, slogging through turf officially rated heavy. It was her first win since the Group 1 Caulfield Cup last October.
The United Kingdom
A pair of British raiders got home 1-2 in Friday night's All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier at Dundalk in Ireland. Six-year-old mare Elbereth had the best late foot, defeating the favorite, Fire Fighting, by 1/2 length, earning a spot in the Betway Easter Classic on finals night at Lingfield Park April 14. Fire Fighting went off into a clear lead and turned back one challenge, only to yield to Elbereth in the closing yards. Elbereth finished third in her previous start, finishing 3 lengths behind Ventura Storm in the Premio Jockey Club at San Siro, Milan, in October.
In Friday's other Fast-Track Qualifier, another British invader, Sign Of the Kodiac, prevailed, earning a pass to the 6-furlongs event on Finals night. The Kodiac colt finished second, a neck back, in last year's 3-year-old Sprint Final at 5 furlongs on 2016 Good Friday.
Itsinthepost tracked pacesetting favorite Ashleyluvssugar through most of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Luis Rey Stakes, got by entering the stretch for the second time and held off a late run by Syntax to win by 1 length. Ashleyluvssugar finished third. Itsinthepost, a 5-year-old, French-bred gelding by American Post, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:25.43 with Tyler Baze in the irons for trainer Jeff Mullins. Since moving up to stakes company this year, Itsinthepost has two seconds and Saturday's win from three starts. "I had four different people tell me this horse couldn't go a mile and a half," Baze said, adding it was his goal to keep pressure on Ashleyluvssugar. "I know he gets a big heart when he's able to open up by two or three early, so I wanted to be sure he knew I was there all the way around," Baze said.
Skye Diamonds collared pacesetting Roo's Valentine at mid-stretch in Sunday's $100,000 Dream of Summer Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over foe. Dressed to a T rallied from last of eight to get show money. Skye Diamonds, a 4-year-old filly by First Dude, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.34 with Tiago Pereira at the controls. "There's no telling how good she is," said part owner Jeff Bloom. "She just keeps getting better and better."
Only three faced the starter in Saturday's $100,000 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and two were running for the minor shares shortly after the gate opened. The third, Bluegrass Flag, quickly assumed command and drew off to win by 6 lengths. Heavenly Score was second, 1 length ahead of Tiz Rae Anna. Sounds Delicious and Wilburnmoney were scratched. Bluegrass Flag, a daughter of Bluegrass Cat, ran 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:11.99 with Kendrick Carmouche up.
Fear the Cowboy rallied to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Skip Away Stakes and drew off, winning by 3 lengths over the even-money favorite, Zulu. Flashy Jewel was a neck farther back in third. Fear the Cowboy, a 5-year-old son of Cowboy Cal, shipped in from Delta Downs for the race and ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:51.81 under Jose Rios. It was his first try in a graded stakes.
Who's the Lady made all the going, albeit slowly, in Saturday's $75,000 Any Limit Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, opened a comfortable advantage in the lane and coasted home first by 3/4 length over Cursor. Fashion Runway added value to the trifecta. Who's the Lady, a Munnings filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.29
Golden Mischief was awarded the victory in Saturday's $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes for 3-year-old fillies as Our Majesty, first across the wire, was set down to fourth for interference on the backstretch. Chanel's Legacy and Vertical Oak, the victim of the interference, were promoted to second and third. Golden Mischief, a daughter of Into Mischief, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.55 with Ricardo Santana Jr. riding.
Redneck Humor was sent quickly to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial, opened a daylight lead and sailed home first by 3 3/4 lengths. Indexical gave chase but could get no better than second, 1 length ahead of Real Heat. Redneck Humor, a 6-year-old gelding by Da Stoops out of the Nureyev mare Dame Sylvieguilhem, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.01 with Miguel Perez in the irons.
Go For a Stroll and Storming back were the two trailers early in Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Derby for state-breds. But both came storming back in the final furlongs with Go For a Stroll prevailing by a neck. The favorite, He's Another Who, was third, 4 1/4 lengths farther behind. Go For a Stroll, an Attila's Storm gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.78 with Tracy Hebert up.
Pink Cadillac rallied from behind a pace battle to win Sunday's $100,000 New Mexico Breeders' Oaks for state-breds by a neck. Sippin, who contested the lead, held second and McAway was a distant third. Pink Cadillac, a Diabolical filly, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.73 with Ken Tohill riding.
K P Wildcat closed strongly through the stretch to catch Catsadiva and win Sunday's $100,000 Harry Henson Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. African Rose was third and the favorite, Danzatrice, faded from the lead to beat only one eased rival. K P Wildcat, a 4-year-old Include filly, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.50 with Roimes Chirinos in the irons.
Wouldacouldadid, in fact, did in Sunday's $100,000 La Coneja Stakes for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares. Dispatched at odds of 35-1, the 6-year-old Minister Eric mare got first shot at the lead in the stretch and held off the favorite, Diabolical Dame, to win by 1/2 length. Bryn's Fancy Pants was third and My Bikini Fell Off finished fourth. Wouldacouldadid ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.65 for jockey Elvin Gonzalez.
Nikki My Darling took back at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Southern Park Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies and tracked the early leader. She advanced to the lead in deep stretch and won by 2 lengths over Conumdrum. My Ticket Home was well back in third. Nikki My Darling, a Creative Cause filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.65 with Luis Colon up.