An upset win by Bigger Picture in the United Nations, a filly wins the Queen's Plate, top sprint action on both turf and dirt and Group 1 action from South Africa to Ireland highlighted a busy weekend of Thoroughbred racing.
Diving right in:
Bigger Picture rallied from last of nine to score an upset win in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park. Can'thelpbelieving also found a late burst of speed to get by pacesetting favorite Beach Patrol, finishing second by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival. Bigger Picture, a 6-year-old Badge of Silver gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles in 2:10.81 with Joe Bravo up, scoring his first Grade I win. "The plan was to run out of there and let him find himself," Bravo said. "But they were really smoking early. He's an old horse. He knows how to run. I definitely didn't expect to be that far back but once he started running, he was really rolling."
Aldous Snow put a neck in front of Bullards Alley on the line in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. Pumpkin Rumble was third and the favorite, Reporting Star, finished fourth after leading in the early going. Aldous Snow, an 8-year-old Theatrical gelding owned and bred by Sam-Son Farm, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:27.42 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons. He won the 2015 Singspiel and finished third last year.
Enola Gray, the even-money favorite, led from the start in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Wilshire Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita and coasted home first by 2 lengths. Madame Stripes was second 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Juno. Enola Gray, a 4-year-old, gray daughter of Grazen, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.03 with Flavien Prat riding. "She was ultra-impressive today," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "To set those kind of fractions and finish like she did. When she kicked in, I said 'Wow, maybe this is what she wanted to do all along,' and he still couldn't pull her up on the backside!"
On Leave got through a narrow hole on the inside during the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park and was up just in time to win by a neck over Off Limits. Ancient Secret finished third. On Leave, a 4-year-old War Front filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.06 with Jose Ortiz riding. Shug McGaughey trains the Stuart Janney III homebred.
Go Bro tracked the pace, then outfinished Hootenanny in the final sixteenth to win Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine by a head. The favorite, Tower of Texas, finished third. Go Bro, a 5-year-old Proud Citizen gelding, scored his fourth career win at 44-1 odds while jumping into graded stakes company. With Jesse Campbell up, he finished 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.09.
Yorkton worked to the lead a furlong out in Sunday's $100,00 (Canadian) Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine and fought off multiple challenges before winning by a neck over Conquest Lemonraid. Woodbridge was third and the favorite, Made You Look, finished fourth. Yorkton, a Speightstown colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.55 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
Green Mask rolled from off the pace to take Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Highlander Stakes at Woodbine by 2 lengths over Calgary Cat. Commute, the early leader, finished third. Green Mask, a 6-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:07.59 with Javier Castellano up. Green Mask has been first or second in all five starts since finishing fifth in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, where he was beaten only 2 3/4 lengths.
Pay Any Price, the odds-on favorite, led from the early jumps in Saturday's $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park and prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths. Partly Mocha and Padilla completed the all-P trifecta. Pay Any Price, a 7-year-old Wildcat Heir gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm going in 54.30 seconds under Edgard Zayas.
Filly & Mare Turf
Rainha Da Bateria settled in mid-field through the early furlongs of Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Dance Smartly Stakes for fillies and mares, advanced three-wide into the stretch and wore down Starship Jubilee in the final strides to win by 1/2 length. Involuntary was another 1/2 length back in third at a big price and the favorite, Suffused, finished fourth. Rainha Da Bateria, a 5-year-old daughter of Broken Vow, covered 1 1/4 miles of firm turf in 2:01.91 with Javier Castellano up. She won last year's Grade II Canadian and has been close twice in Grade I events.
Imperial Hint waited patiently behind pacesetting Awesome Banner through the early furlongs of Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park, hit another gear when asked by jockey Javier Castellano and got away to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Awesome Banner held second, 2 3/4 lengths to the good of Very Very Stella. Imperial Hint, a 4-year-old Imperialism colt, went to the post as the odds-on favorite and finished 6 furlongs in 1:09.23. "It was awesome," said winning trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. "I knew he was doing really good, and I wanted to see him win like this. He'd been training super. I was very confident coming into this race." He said he may take Imperial Hint to Saratoga. He earned a berth in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint with the Smile victory.
Danzing Candy, under pressure all the way, held on in the final strides to win Saturday's $250,000 Grade II San Carlos at Santa Anita by a neck over Ransom the Moon. Kobe's Back was third, another 6 1/2 lengths back. Danzing Candy, a 4-year-old Twirling Candy colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.17 with Mike Smith riding for trainer Bob Baffert. "The older they get, the better they get. He was always a good horse last year and I'm just fortunate to have him," Baffert said. He said he will consider the Pat O'Brien at Del Mar in August, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race.
Three Rules bided his time behind the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, swung six-wide entering the stretch and was up to win by a neck over pacesetting Mo Cash. Benefactor was third. Three Rules, a Gone Astray colt, finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.63 with Cornelio Velasquez in the irons, winning his first graded stakes. The colt swept last year's Florida Sire Stakes series in a run of five straight wins but then was winless in five intervening starts.
Limousine Liberal chased the early pace in Friday night's $70,000 Kelly's Landing Stakes at Churchill Downs, came around the leaders into the stretch and drew clear late, winning by 2 3/4 lengths under Robby Albarado. Limousine Liberal, a 5-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:23.08. It was his third straight win with the previous two coming in graded sprints under the Twin Spires. Limousine Liberal finished fourth in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. "We know he loves the track here and the only worry was the post position," said winning trainer Ben Colebrook. "He doesn't typically like to be inside horses but Robby did a great job to get him outside and rode him perfectly."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Curlin's Approval pressed the pace in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Princess Rooney Stakes at Gulfstream Park, collared the leader with 3 furlongs to run and then dominated in the stretch, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Distinta was best of the rest with the favorite, Lightstream, another 1/2 lengths behind in third. Curlin's Approval, a 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.68 with Luis Saez up. "It's nice to win here, in front of people that we know," said breeder and co-owner Happy Alter. "I know they'll be rooting for us when we go to the Breeders' Cup, too." The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Who's the Lady was up in the final strides to win Saturday's $75,000 Azalea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park by a head over Lirica. R Angel Katelyn finished third, another nose back and 1/2 length ahead of the favorite, Firefoot. With Luis Saez up, Who's the Lady ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.58. Kathleen O'Connell trains the Munnings filly.
Unchained Melody led from gate to wire in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and won by 3 lengths despite drifting out in the lane. Lockdown and Moana completed the trifecta. Unchained Melody, a Smart Strike filly, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.45 with Joel Rosario up.
Melmich raced last of six early in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine, circled the field turning for home and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Gigantic Breeze was second after showing the way and Are You Kidding Me settled for third. Melmich, a 6-year-old Wilco gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:03.48 with Eurico Da Silva riding.
Ten City got the best of some traffic issues on the turn in Friday night's $100,000 Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs and held on through the long stretch run to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Copperbullet and Hardworkcleanlivin were second and third. Fig Jelly was next and I'm Corfu, who caused the problems, faded to finish last of five. Ten City, a Run Away and Hide colt trained by Kenny McPeek, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.45 with Robby Albarado in the irons. He won at first asking at Keeneland in April, his only previous start. McPeek said Ten City is "a horse that trainers dream to be around. I've sort of changed up my training over the last couple of years with these younger horses so there's a good chance we'll take it easy on him over the summer and wait to run him next in the Iroquois" during the fall meeting at Churchill Downs.
Diamond Oops drew clear in the lane in Saturday's $100,000 Kiss a Native Stakes at Gulfstream Park, winning by 3 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Bobby Ax was second, 3/4 length ahead of Dial One. Diamond Oops, a Lookin at Lucky colt, negotiated 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.34 with Luis Saez up for trainer Patrick Biancone.
Sunny Skies was hustled to the lead in Friday night's $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs, slowly edged clear and held on to win by 1 3/4 lengths from late-running Upset Brewing. Waki Patriot was a neck farther back in third. The race was delayed for nearly an hour because of a severe thunderstorm that swept across Louisville, turning the track from fast to sloppy. Sunny Skies, a daughter of Animal Kingdom out of the Marquetry mare Skyscape, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.83 with Robby Albarado up. It was her second start, following a first-up win at Keeneland April 27. "We'll probably keep her here this summer and point towards the Pocahontas in the September meet," said winning trainer Kenny McPeek. "I think you'll see her and Ten City as workmates this summer."
Surrender Now had to battle to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Landluce Stakes at Santa Anita. But once she got the edge, it was all over but the shouting as the daughter of Morning Line shot away to an 8-lengths victory. Gorgeous Ginny was second, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Spirit of Shanghai. Surrender Now ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.84 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. aboard.
Rose to Fame won a three-filly dash to the wire in Saturday's $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes at Gulfstream Park, scoring by a neck over Diamonds R Trump and the same margin over Di Maria. The favorite, Classy Dancer, finished fifth. Rose to Fame, a daughter of Gemologist, got home in 1:07.41 with Edgard Zayas riding.
Around the ovals:
Holy Helena easily completed the Oaks-Queens Plate double Sunday, drawing off in the stretch to take the $1 million (Canadian) Queen's Plate by 3 1/2 lengths under Luis Contreras after stalking the early pace. The Ghostzapper filly won the Woodbine Oaks June 11 with a similar move in only her third career start. On the basis of that performance, she was a solid favorite in Sunday's race and ran to expectations while finishing 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:02.87. "I got a dream trip, really," said Contreras. "She broke really good. She gave me a lot of time to see the horses outside of me, what they are going to do, what they are trying to do. She was so nice and relaxed behind those horses and I had a lot of horse at the three-eighths, so I took a look back to see where everybody was. I waited for the quarter pole to run." Holy Helena was the eighth filly to complete the Oaks-Plate double.
Skylander Girl rallied to the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Zadracarta Stakes for Ontario-bred fillies and mares and carried on, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Jennifer Lynnette. Niigon's Eclipse was third. Skylander Girl, a 6-year-old Stroll mare, got 7 furlongs on good turf in 1:21.70 with Rafael Hernandez up.
Financial Recovery came from eighth and last to take Saturday's $125,000 Canadian) Ontario Damsel Stakes for province-bred 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length from Greek Justice. Listenlindalisten was third. Financial Recovery, a Street Cry filly, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.48 with David Moran in the irons.
On the international front:
Marinaresco got home a nose in front of the favorite, El Sahem, in Saturday's Group 1 Durban July, dubbed "Africa's greatest horseracing event." With Bernard Fayd'herbe in the irons, the 4-year-old Silvano gelding was well positioned heading down the narrow Greyville stretch but faced a wall of horses virtually from the inside fence to the grandstand.
"I thought, 'I just need to get a split," Fayd'herbe said. When a gap opened, he drove through. "'I think I'm going to get there,'" he quoted himself.
He did, but just barely, winning by only a short head over Al Sahem, finishing the 2,200 meters in 2:12.51. Edict of Nantes was a close third, followed by Krambambuli another 1/4 length in arrears.
Marinaresco, trained by Candice Bass-Robinson, finished second in last year's Durban July, behind The Conglomerate, who reported home a fading 13th in this year's edition despite the services of jockey Callan Murray, who flew in from Hong Kong to take the ride. Marinaresco came into this year's race off an 11th-place finish in the Group 1 Rising Sun Gold Challenge, run at 1,600 meters.
Marinaresco and El Sahem are both by the globetrotting 2001 Arlington Million winner Silvano, whose progeny finished 1-2-3 in the 2015 running of the Durban July.
In the day's other Group 1, well-favored filly Bela-Bela found a big opening on the inside in the stretch run and shot through to win the Jonsson Workgear Garden Province Stakes over She's A Giver. Bela-Bela, a grey, 4-year-old daughter of Dynasty out of the Royal Academy mare Mystic Song, rebounded from two straight defeats. Trainer Justin Snaith said Bela-Bela was not at her peak of fitness earlier in the season and, for that reason, he decided on the 1,600-meters as opposed to the longer July. Jockey Anthony Delpech is was "a truly run race. She's a great filly."
Desert Rhythm took the Group 2 Gold Circle Golden Slipper for 2-year-old fillies as jockey S'Manga Khumalo produced a sustained run down the center of the track, topping Let It Flow by 1 length at the end of 1,400 meters. Desert Rhythm, a daughter of Mambo in Seattle, scored her third win from six starts for trainer Sean Tarry.
Tarry also saddled the winner of the Group 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe for 2-year-olds as Purple Diamond won a head-bobbing duel to the wire over Ancestry. Captain and Master was third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears. Purple Diamond, with Nooresh Juglall in the irons, won for just the second time in four starts.
Capri got first run past pacesetting stablemate The Anvil in Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh and the Galileo colt refused to concede after that, holding off Cracksman by a neck and Investec Derby (G1) winner Wings of Eagles by another short head. French invader Waldgeist was fourth, another 1 1/2 lengths behind. Irish master Aidan O'Brien trains Capri, Wings of Eagles and The Anvil, all for the Coolmore partners and the outcome represented his 12th victory in the Irish Classic. But it also denied him a fifth English-Irish Derby double. Capri is a 3-year-old Galileo colt. He finished sixth in the Investec Derby, one-paced at the end. His determined effort, finishing 1 1/2 miles over yielding turf in 2:35.45 under Seamie Heffernan, moved him well up on the list of potential claimants for the Group St Leger in September.
Nezwaah rallied from well back to win Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes for fillies and mares at the Curragh, beating another late-runner, Rain Goddess, by a comfortable 3 1/4 lengths. Turret Rocks was third and the second-favorite, Zhukova, a recent Belmont Park Grade I winner, settled for fourth. Sunday's favorite, Journey, beat only the pacemaker in the 11-horse field. Nezwaah, a 4-year-old Dubawi filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on good turf in 2:06.19 with Andrea Atzeni up for trainer Roger Varian.
Zarak, held up early by jockey Christophe Soumillon, started making up ground with a quarter mile to run in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, took the lead from the favorite, Silverwave, inside the furlong marker and went on to win by 3/4 length. Silverwave held second and Armande finished third. Zarak, a 4-year-old Dubawi colt owned and bred by the Aga Khan, finished fourth in the Group 1 Dubai Turf at Meydan on World Cup night and second in the Group 1 Prix Ganay on May 1. He was last of five in his most recent start, the Group 1 Prix d'Ispahan
Windstoss closed late to defeat Enjoy Vijay by 1 length in Sunday's Group 1 Deutches Derby at Hamburg. Rosenpurpur was third. Windstoss, by Shirocco, winner of the Derby Trial at Dusseldorf, scored his third victory from five starts for trainer Markus Klug and owner-breeder Gestut Rottgen.