Hopes for another U.S. Triple Crown winner vanished into the clouds Saturday while elsewhere in Thoroughbred racing, Japanese-breds Soul Stirring and Yoshida offered promise of future stardom.
Demonstrating racing's international reach, Soul Stirring's sire is the English juggernaut Frankel. Yoshida, racing in the United States, is a grandson of 1989 Kentucky Derby winner Sunday Silence, whose bloodlines pervade Japanese racing.
Shaman Ghost's victory at Pimlico edged him farther up the ladder among older horses on the American circuit. Richard's Boy and World Approval starred on the turf on Preakness weekend.
Ribchester and Hawkbill flew home first in the weekend's biggest races in England.
We've plenty of ground to cover, so let's get flying ourselves:
Cloud Computing ended Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming's Triple Crown hopes in Saturday's Preakness. Now the question is: Will either of them make an appearance in the third jewel of the Classic series, the Belmont Stakes?
Cloud Computing, with Javier Castellano up for the first time, got a perfect trip in the Preakness. Castellano let the favorites, Always Dreaming and Classic Empire, fight it out into the stretch turn. By then, Always Dreaming was finished -- he finished eighth, beaten 14 lengths -- and the battle was between Cloud Computing and Classic Empire.
The margin was a head and the time was an unremarkable 1:55.98 over a drying-out track listed as "good."
"We got a beautiful, beautiful trip in the Preakness and the horse really responded," trainer Chad Brown said Sunday morning as both he and the Maclean's Music colt were safely ensconced in their Belmont Park barn.
"The horse looks well and our team here is just so happy with the race," Brown added.
Although he returned to Belmont immediately after the Preakness, there's no guarantee Cloud Computing will make his fifth career start in the 1 1/2-miles Belmont Stakes on June 10.
"We haven't ruled it out," Brown said. "By next weekend we may have a decision.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said he had no explanation for Always Dreaming's misfire after four consecutive victories. "It just wasn't his day, I suppose, is the best I can come up with," Pletcher said. He said the Belmont Stakes remains an option.
Classic Empire, a troubled fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is a likely prospect for the third jewel, barring any unexpected developments, said trainer Mark Casse. Ditto for a few of the others who finished up the track on Saturday.
In other 3-year-old action:
No Mo Dough rallied from well behind the early speed to win Saturday's $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico by 2 3/4 lengths, going away. Time to Travel was second, a nose in front of True Timber. The favorite, Hedge Fund, finished fourth but then was disqualified out of the superfecta and down to sixth for interference early in the stretch run.
No Mo Dough, by Uncle Mo, advanced his record to 3-for-4 while running 1 1/16 miles on a good track in 1:44.13 under Jose Ortiz. Trainer Graham Motion said he is high on the colt but unlikely to consider running him back in the Belmont Stakes. "To come back in three weeks would be a lot," Motion said. "I want to look after him now. He's a really cool horse."
Dragon Bay got first run to the lead in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Sir Barton Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine and held off the odds-on favorite, Are You Kidding Me, by a neck under the wire. It was another 3 3/4 lengths back to Unbridled Juan in third. Dragon Bay, a Parading gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.79 with Gary Boulanger riding. He was second in last year's Ontario Derby, then won the English Channel Stakes at Belmont Park. Turf experiments at Gulfstream Park and Keeneland didn't work out earlier in the year.
"Last year, it was a process," said winning trainer and part-owner of Dragon Bay, Stuart Simon. "When we got the blinkers off him and the earplugs in him, he seemed to settle and run straight. He's always been wildly talented and once we got him straightened out, he's taken care of the rest."
Shaman Ghost continued his march through the top ranks in the handicap division with a hard-fought victory in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Pimlico Special. With Javier Castellano up, Shaman Ghost had to work out of a box around the first turn, raced well back of the pace the backstretch and then needed the length of the stretch to put away a stubborn Dolphus by a neck. It was a long way back to Conquest Windycity in third.
Shaman Ghost ran 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:54.55. In his previous start, the 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper won the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap. In January, he was second behind only the world's No. 1-ranked horse, Arrogate, in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. His resume also includes wins in the 2015 Queen's Plate at Woodbine and the Grade I Woodward during last summer's Saratoga festivities.
Jimmy Jerkens, who trains both Shaman Ghost and Dolphus, said, "The way the track was playing today, I thought (Dolphus) had a shot to hang on. Shaman had a little too much for him, but Dolphus ran terrific. It's terrific to run 1-2. That's what we came down here for."
Terra Promessa was on the lead as the field hit the first turn in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Alaire DuPont Distaff at Pimlico and led the rest of the way. Despite drifting way out in the final furlong, the Curlin filly won by 7 1/2 lengths over Carrumba with Mo' Green third. Terra Promessa, with Jose Ortiz aboard, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.12. It was her seventh win from 12 starts and followed a quite respectable runner-up showing to Stellar Wind in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park April 14.
"I was more than happy to be in front early," Ortiz said. "I didn't think anybody was going to go with her. I asked her to run about the three-eighths pole and I just showed her the whip in the stretch. She's really nice."
Actress entered Friday's $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico a maiden and finished as a Grade II winner. Actress, a Tapit filly, finished second in her two previous starts, both at Gulfstream Park and one of those a restricted affair. Friday, under jockey Nik Juarez, she raced well off the pace, moved up along the rail around the turn and got to the lead a furlong from the wire. She then outfinished Lights of Medina, winning by a head. Corporate Queen was third and the favorite, Shimmering Aspen, tailed off late to finish seventh. After a week of nice weather, rain fell in the late afternoon and Actress ran 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track in 1:51.87.
Winning trainer John Servis said he wasn't concerned about the track conditions or his filly's record. "With her pedigree she should run on anything," Servis said. Her status as a maiden? "It didn't make any difference. I like my filly." None of the Kentucky Oaks competitors participated in the Black-Eyed Susan.
Walkabout rallied from far back in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Matron at Churchill Downs and stuck a head in front of pacesetting Improv at the wire. Divine Elegance took back early, then ran well late to finish third while the odds-on favorite, Curlin's Approval, was never a factor while finishing seventh. Walkabout, a 4-year-old filly by Stroll, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.06 with Brian Hernandez Jr. in the irons. It was her first stakes win and fourth overall. "It took us this last year to figure her out," said winning trainer Ian Wilkes. "She originally ran closer to the pace but she made us understand to be patient."
Grizzel got by pacesetting favorite Enstone in the stretch run in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Selene Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine and won by 1 1/2 lengths over that one. Sister Nation was third, just a neck back of Enstone. Grizzel, an Irish-bred filly by Kodiac, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.29 with David Moran up. It was her second straight win after a long drought.
World Approval tracked a pacesetting long shot into the stretch in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Longines Dixie at Pimlico, swept to the lead and won with authority. Projected showed a bit of late foot but could do no better than second, 2 1/4 lengths back. Blacktype was another 2 1/4 lengths behind in third. World Approval, a 5-year-old Northern Afleet gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:43.15 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. It was his eighth win from 20 starts, many of those against graded stakes rivals, and pushed his lifetime earnings north of $1 million.
"I just said to Julien, 'We want to be close.' That's all," said winning trainer Mark Casse. "This horse got into trouble a couple of times getting too far back. And he's gotten to where he's got a little gas now." Leparoux said he feels World Approval has improved as a 5-year-old. "We'll have a good year with him."
Some In Tieme, a "new shooter" in a crowd of familiar faces, rallied from last of 12 to win Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Louisville Handicap at Churchill Downs by 3 lengths over pacesetting Reporting Star. Bullards Alley was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Well beaten were the likes of Kaigun, Danish Dynaformer, Twilight Eclipse and Generous Kitten, who finished last.
Some In Tieme, a 5-year-old Brazilian-bred by the German-bred sire Shirocco, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.25 with Manoel Cruz in the irons. Kenny McPeek is the winning trainer. It was his first North American win although he did account for the Group 1 Longines Gran Primio Latinoamericano in March of 2016.
"I really like this horse," Cruz said of Some In Tieme. "Kenny had me work him on Sunday and he trained very well. Once we got clear of the traffic, he cruised home."
Filly & Mare Turf
Cambodia tracked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Stella Artois Gallorette Stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico, took the lead when given her cue by jockey Florent Geroux and got away to a 2-lengths win. On Leave was second, 1/2 length to the good of the favorite Elysea's World. Cambodia, a 5-year-old War Front mare, toured 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:44.35 while posting her fourth win from 10 starts. "From where she was at, I'd have been disappointed if she got beat," said winning trainer Tom Proctor. I had a perfect go, slow pace. It was nice to have it work out."
Now comes Yoshida, a Japanese-bred colt by Heart's Cry, who bounced right out of his maiden win at Keeneland to score a last-to-first victory in Saturday's $100,000 James Murphy Stakes at Pimlico -- by 4 lengths. Chubby Star, also rated near the back of the field, was along to take second, a head in front of Mo Maverick. Yoshida, now 2-for-3, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.83 with Joel Rosario riding the son of Heart's Cry for the ownership group headed WinStar Farm and the China Horse Club. Winning trainer Mott said he was impressed with the effort. "Any time you've got to go through the field, you have opportunities to back out of it, and he actually got checked a little bit around the second turn nearing the quarter pole," he said. "He had to take up a little bit and wait and finally got through and found his room."
Elliott Walden, president of co-owner WinStar Farm, said he bought Yoshida as a yearling in Japan and named him in tribute to the seller, Northern Farm's Katsumi Yoshida, and his brother, Teruya. Walden said he was looking for "new blood," somewhat ironic as Heart's Cry is a son of 1989 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Sunday Silence. "Just a really nice horse," Walden said. "He's a serious horse. Serious."
Happy Mesa, after racing last behind a hot pace, made a bold outside move down the stretch to win Friday's $100,000 Hilltop for 3-year-old fillies by 1 length over Compelled. Dynatail was third and the favorite, Victory to Victory, faded to finish fourth after blazing the trail into the turn. With Javier Castellano riding his third consecutive winner at Old Hilltop, Happy Mesa completed 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.61 -- less than a half second off the course record. Trainer Graham Motion said Happy Mesa may have found her sweet spot. "I think this mile might be a really good distance for her," Motion said. "I'm not certain how much farther she wants to go."
What a View found the San Gabriel Mountains a pleasant sight after another unsuccessful trip to Kentucky. The 6-year-old Vronsky gelding, sixth in the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland in his last start, led all the way to a 1-length victory Saturday in the $100,000 Crystal Water Stakes for Cal-breds at Santa Anita. Pee Wee Reese stalked the pace and made up a little ground at the end. Smokey Image and Grazen Sky completed the order of finish. What a View, with Tyler Baze in the irons, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.25. He has raced outside California only twice in 20 starts, both times finishing up the track at Keeneland. Bar a 14th-place finish in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile, he frequently has been in the money in graded stakes company in California.
"You don't give too many instructions," said What a View's trainer, Kenny Black. "A good rider doesn't need them and a bad rider can't follow them. I thought Pee Wee Reese would be on the lead, but Tyler read it right and took the initiative." He said the Grade I Shoemaker Mile on June 3 is on the agenda.
Pacific Heat got there first in Sunday's $125,000 Fran's Valentine Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares but then was set down to sixth for interference. That ruling promoted Moonless Sky to first, Roo's Valentine to second and Ticaboo to third. The adjudged winner, Moonless Sky, is a 4-year-old Bold Chieftain filly. Kent Desormeaux had the mount for trainer Peter Eurton. The 1 mile went in 1:33.57 over firm turf.
Richard's Boy attended a quick pace through a driving rain in Friday's $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, moved up to engage Pay Any Price entering the turn and battled that one to the wire before winning by a neck. Amelia's Wild Ride was third, 1 3/4 lengths farther back. The sentimental favorite, Ben's Cat, a five-time winner of this event, finished eighth with some late interest.
Richard's Boy, a 5-year-old gelding by Idiot Proof, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 56.20 seconds while making his first start since a good fifth-place effort in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. Winning trainer Peter Miller said the effort might have earned Richard's Boy yet more frequent flyer miles.
"When I saw the rain start to come down, I thought it might affect other horses but would not affect him," Miller said. "He's a bulldog. We're thinking of using this race as a prep for Royal Ascot." Trevor McCarthy, who rode Ben's Cat, said the 11-year-old wasn't disgraced. "He made a good run at the end when I asked him to. He galloped out well, so I was happy with him," McCarthy said.
Morticia pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Soaring Softly Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, moved to the lead exiting the turn and held off Lull by a nose at the wire. Bellavais was third. Morticia, a Twirling Candy filly, got 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:19.33 -- just 0.10 second off the course record -- with Jose Lezcano in the irons. Previously, she won twice at Gulfstream Park and finished second in the Grade III Appalachian at Keeneland. "She's perfect for these short races," said Claudio Cortez, assistant to winning trainer Rusty Arnold.
Everything Lovely led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 The Very One Stakes for fillies and mares at Pimlico and coasted home first, 1 length in front of Sunnysammi. She, in turn, was a head in front of Elusive Joni and another nose to the good of Pretty Perfection. Everything Lovely, a 5-year-old mare by Pollard's Vision, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 57.93 seconds for jockey Javier Castellano. It was her first start since January in Florida, where she was a facing second behind Pretty Perfection at the same trip on firm going.
Ransom the Moon rallied five-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Kona Gold Stakes at Santa Anita and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Moe Candy was second, 1/2 length in front of the favorite, Lord Simba. Kobe's Back was fourth with a late run after a tardy start. Ransom the Moon, a 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.12 with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Phil D'Amato. The Ontario-bred, who spent most of his career on the turf at Woodbine, was making his first stakes start. "Every time I put him on the dirt, he trained like a good horse," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "More often than not with turf horses, they'll train well on the dirt, but in the afternoon, they get lost out there. This horse is just getting better and better."
Whitmore flagged down pacesetting A.P. Indian in the late going to take Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Maryland Sprint Stakes by 1/2 length over that rival. The enigmatic Awesome Banner turned in a good effort to finish third, just a head farther behind. Whitmore, a 4-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, got 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:09.90 with Ricardo Santana Jr. riding. It was his fifth straight win -- a string that also includes the Grade III Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park. "I've got a lot of confidence in Ricardo," said winning trainer Ron Moquett. "I told him that he was on the best horse and ride him with confidence. I know how he finishes. He closes like a freight train. Our goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint."
Recruiting Ready blazed right away on the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Preakness undercard and kept right on going down the stretch, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Aquamarine and the favorite, Three Rules, followed in that order. Recruiting Ready, an Algorithms colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.35 with Horacio Karamanos up. Recruiting Ready was the morning-line favorite after winning the $150,000 Bachelor at Oaklawn Park in his previous start.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Vertical Oak, who sprang to life in the slop at Prairie Meadows in April, came to full leaf in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Adena Springs Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico. After tracking a quick early pace, the Giant Oak filly found another gear in the lane, hit the front and won by 3 3/4 lengths, going away. The favorite, Our Majesty, trailed and the early trailblazer, My Miss Chiff, held on for show money. Vertical Oak, with Jose Ortiz in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.06. She ran fourth in her first two stakes bids, both at Oaklawn Park, then won the Goldfinch at Prairie Meadows by 7 3/4 lengths despite sloppy conditions. "She got away from the gate cleanly," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. That's been key for her."
Clipthecouponannie stalked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico, rallied to the lead in the lane and worked her way clear to a 1 1/2-lengths win. Summer Reading was along for second and Sweet On Smokey was another 1/2 length back in third. Clipthecouponannie, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track after a late-day rain in 1:10.93 with John Velazquez in the irons. "I was a little concerned when it rained, only because she had never run on an off track," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "But we felt that with her pedigree she would handle it. Uncle Mo won the Kelso won impressively in slop."
Ribchester made all the going in Saturday's Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury and won easily by 3 3/4 lengths over Lightning Spear with Breton Rock third. Somehow and Galileo Gold finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Ribchester, the heavy favorite with William Buick up for trainer Richard Fahey, ran the straight mile on soft turf in 1:43.00. The 4-year-old son of Iffraaj, owned by Godolphin, has never finished worse than third in 11 starts but was set down once for interference. In his previous start, he finished third in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan on World Cup night.
Hawkbill was a dominant winner in Saturday's Group 2 Al Rayyan Stakes at Newbury, leading all the way to a 2-lengths victory, ridden out by Buick. My Dream Boat was second, another 2 lengths to the good of Midterm. Hawkbill, a 4-year-old American-bred colt by Kitten's Joy who races in Godolphin Blue, won last year's Group 1 Coral Eclipse but since that July 2 race has been eclipsed while running in top company.
Soul Stirring broke alertly in Sunday's Group 1 Yushun Himba, or Japanese Oaks and took up a pace-stalking position along the rail. Swung out two-wide into the long, uphill stretch run, the Frankel filly hit the lead, appeared to surrender it briefly to long shot Mozu Kachan, then spurted ahead again as the ground leveled, winning by 1 3/4 lengths. Soul Stirring, one of the most promising of Frankel's progeny, scored her fifth win from six starts and atoned for a third-place finish in the Group 1 Oka Sho, or Japanese 1,000 Guineas, in her previous start. Mozu Kachan held second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Admire Miyabi.
Soul Stirring ran 2,400 meters on firm turf in 2:24.1 under Christophe Lemaire, who rode her dam, Stracelita, to victory in the 2009 Prix de Diane, or French Oaks. Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa scored his 100th group-level win, the first trainer to do so since the current system was put in place in 1984.
"Soul Stirring certainly has inherited the power both from her sire and her dam," Lemaire said. "I was quite confident coming into this race. I wasn't sure yet about the distance as it was her first time so I wanted her in a good position, which I did because she is quick out of the gate."
Gentildonna won the Yushun Himba in 2012 and continued to win the Japan Cup twice and the Group 1 Sheema Classic in Dubai in 2014. There is room for a successor to a long line of Japanese female stars and Soul Stirring appears to have the potential to fill that role.
Quijote got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Big Drama Stakes for Florida-breds and kicked away to a 2-lengths victory. The favorite, settled for second, 1 length to the good of French Quarter. Quijote, a 4-year-old Pomeroy gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.98 under Tyler Gaffalione. He scored his third win from his last four starts while traveling from New Orleans to New Mexico and back to the Sunshine State.
Itsallaboutyou tracked the early leader in Saturday's $60,0000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-breds, got the lead in the stretch and just did hold on, winning by a nose over One Fine Dream. It was 3 1/2 lengths to Net Gain in third. Itsallaboutyou, a 6-year-old Harlington gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:10.44 with Ramon Vazquez up.
Dreamin took the lead in the stretch run in Friday's $60,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for Iowa-bred fillies and mares and held off Mywomanfromtokyo, winning by 1/2 length. Native Princess was another 3/4 length back in third. Dreamin, a 4-year-old daughter of Woke Up Dreamin, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.56 with Vazquez in the irons.
Hold For More was along late to win Saturday's $50,000 10,000 Lakes Stakes for Minnesota-bred colts and geldings. Bourbon County vied for the lead early in the stretch run but tired to finish second, 2 1/2 lengths back. A.P. Is Loose was third and the favorite, Smooth Chiraz, was distanced and eased. Hold For More, a 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.19 with Orlando Mojica up.
Honey's Sox Appeal pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Lady Slipper Stakes for Minnesota-bred distaffers, took over when called upon by jockey Alex Canchari and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Rockin the Bleu's and Thunder and Honey filled the trifecta slots. Honey's Sox Appeal, a 4-year-old Successful Appeal filly, finished in 1:11.91.
Will Rogers Downs
Hyperdrive kicked in the hyper drive in the stretch run in Tuesday's $55,000 Cherokee Nation Classic Cup for Oklahoma-bred colts and geldings, rallying between rivals to score by 4 1/2 lengths over the favorite Tuff Kid. Johnny Whip was another 3 lengths behind in third. Hyperdrive, a 4-year-old Don't Get Mad gelding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:41.85 with Lindey Wade in the irons.
Inagoodway led into the stretch in Monday's $55,000 More Than Even Stakes for Oklahoma-bred fillies and mares, widened the advantage and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Hailstorm Slew. It was another 6 lengths to Chaparella in third. Inagoodway, a 4-year-old filly by Save Big Money, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:41.23 under Curtis Kimes.
Moonlit Song was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Fancy Buckles Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares and ran on to win by 2 lengths over Nay's Back. Jacky's Notion was third. Moonlit Song, a 3-year-old filly by Fiber Sonde, ran 4 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 51.44 seconds for jockey Christian Hiraldo.
Citizen Kitty stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Hastings Stakes for fillies and mares, edged to the lead and won by 3/4 length over B C Z Middleton. Five lengths farther back, Protective Shield got show money. Citizen Kitty, a 5-year-old Proud Citizen mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.15 with Eswan Flores in the irons.
Barkley raced well back in Sunday's $50,000 Governor's Stakes, rallied around the early speed at the three-sixteenths pole and went on to win by a neck over Mach One Rules. Togrammashousewego finished third. Barkley, a 4-year-old Munnings colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.92 with Javier Matias up.