Diversify defeated Keen Ice in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and French import Suedois captured the Shadwell Turf Mile in the final round of Breeders' Cup prep races during a busy weekend of racing.
On the international front, Winx won again in Australia and heads for a try at her third straight Cox Plate. And Roly Poly won the Sun Chariot Stakes and might be headed for the Breeders' Cup.
We're headed right to business:
Diversify was sent right to the lead in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the favorite, Keen Ice, fell 1 length short of catching him with a late run from the back of the field. Pavel, who tracked the early pace, held on for third. Diversify, a 4-year-old Bellamy Road gelding, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:00.96 under Irad Ortiz Jr.
Diversify's last three races -- which resulted in two wins and a second -- came against fellow New York-breds and now trainer Rick Violette said he's eying the Breeders' Cup Classic. "We did pick up the 'Win and You're In' for the Classic today, but we're going to enjoy today's race and give it a couple of days," he said. "I'll talk it over with Lauren Evans and Ralph Evans (owners) and we'll come up with a decision next week." Trainer Todd Pletcher said Keen Ice was too far back early and the pace worked against him. Pavel's connections said they're still looking at the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Romantic Vision prompted the pace in Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, eased by the long shot leader turning for home and was off and winging to a 2-lengths victory. Martini Glass made up some ground in the stretch to finish second, 5 1/2 length ahead of Blue Prize. The favorite, Bar of Gold, was a non-threatening sixth. Romantic Vision, a 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, got 9 furlongs over the sloppy, sealed track in 1:49.70 with Hernandez Jr. in the irons. She also won her last race, the Grade III Locust Grove at Churchill Downs.
"She ran great," said winning trainer Rusty Arnold. "I was surprised with how it played out. She was a little closer than I thought she would be, but she just seemed to relish this going." The Spinster is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Distaff but Arnold said owner G. Watts Humphrey Jr. will make the call whether his mare takes that opportunity.
Whitmore was the survivor in the middle of a three-horse photo at the end of Friday's $250,000 Grade II Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix at Keeneland. With Manny Franco in the irons, the 4-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding barely nailed rail-skimming pacesetter Awesome Banner, winning by a nose, and held off Limousine Liberal's outside rally by another neck. Whitmore ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.90. He had a five-race winning streak broken in June, finishing third in the Grade II True North at Belmont Park, then was third again in the Grade III De Francis Memorial after a short layoff for trainer Ron Moquette.
"I'm going to relish this Phoenix win," Moquette said. "The Breeders' Cup has been our goal. So if everything's great, we're going." The Phoenix is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Roy H tracked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship, another Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In," worked to challenge for the lead at mid-stretch and prevailed by 1 length over Mr. Hinx. The early leader, American Anthem, finished third. Roy H, a 5-year-old More Than Ready gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.68. "He always had this ability," said winning trainer Peter Miller. "As a colt, as a younger horse, he just never seemed to put it together. Once we gelded him and gave him some time off, he just blossomed into a different horse. He's all business and just a very, very good horse. Hopefully we get to see this horse again in the Breeders. Cup."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Finley'sluckycharm took up an unaccustomed stalking position in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes for fillies and mares, waited patiently until she was straightened for home, then rallied determinedly to get home first by 1 3/4 length over Chalon. True Romance was third and Ivy Bell was a late scratch after rearing in the gate. Finley'sluckycharm, a 4-year-old daughter of Twirling Candy, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.01.
Normally a front-runner, Finley'sluckycharm normally runs on the lead and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. said her poor break on Saturday forced him to change that game plan. "She's a good filly and I guess you can do that with these good fillies," he said. "I was really proud of her that last eighth of a mile, how fast she came home." It was her ninth win from 12 lifetime starts with a pair of seconds into the mix. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar.
Unique Bella was off a bit slowly in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III L.A. Woman for fillies and mares at Santa Anita, then waited patiently until she was called on in the stretch turn. Asked by jockey Mike Smith, the 3-year-old Tapit filly quickly assumed command and was in complete control thereafter, winning by 3 1/2 lengths ridden out. Princess Karen and Cuddle Alert were second and third. Unique Bella ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.66. It was her fifth straight win, the last four coming in graded stakes.
Smith, looking forward to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, with Unique Bella, said, "Sometimes things happen for a reason. I think she got a whole lot more out of this than if she had broke two in front. I don't think she would have gotten anything out of that type of race. What are you going to do? Get after her when she's already six or seven in front?" Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the Breeders' Cup is "definitely" in the plans.
Yoshida, winless since Preakness weekend at Pimlico, got through a tight opening in the stretch run of Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Hill Prince for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park and was up just in time to win by a neck from Lucullan. The favorite, Bricks and Mortar, rallied late to take third. Yoshida, a Japanese-bred colt by Heart's Cry, ran 9 furlongs on the firm inner turf course in 1:47.07 with Manny Franco up. "The horse and rider both showed good courage," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "The rider showed good patience and when he asked him he had enough horse to get in there. It looks like Bricks and Mortar went for the same hole and we were able to get there first."
Filly & Mare Turf
War Flag took over the lead in the stretch run of Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park and held off a late bid by Dacita to win by a head, earning a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf through the "Win and You're In" deal. War Flag, a 4-year-old daughter of War Front out of the Arch mare Black Speck, drafted behind early leaders Grand Jete and Zhukova, dueled down the stretch outside Grand Jete and held well. Dacita, winner of the Grade I Beverly D. at Arlington Park in her last outing, lagged early, had the widest trip of all and just missed with her late move. War Flag finished the 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:00.26.
War Flag won the Group 3 Prix Chloe at Chantilly in France in her final start as a year-old. Turned over to Shug McGaughey in the United States, she won at first asking at Monmouth Park in June, then was a close second in the Grade II Matchmaker there and third in the Grade III Glens Falls at Saratoga. To the surprise of many racegoers, McGaughey said, "I have never been to Del Mar so I can't comment on the turf course out there, but I think she'd probably like the California turf course, you know the way they get over the ground the way they do."
Zipessa caught pacesetting Hawksmoor in deep stretch to win Saturday's $400,000 Grade I First Lady at Keeneland by 1 1/2 lengths. Hawksmoor held second, a neck in front of Roca Rojo. Zipessa, a 5-year-old City Zip mare, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.99 with Joe Bravo in the irons, earning a spot in the 9-furlongs Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf via the "Win and You're In" program. Zipessa went one better on her runner-up finish behind Miss Temple City in the Grade III Ladies Turf at Kentucky Downs in her previous start. She finished a closing fifth after a terrible start in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, which was run at 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita. "She had this one coming," trainer Mike Stidham said of Zipessa's first Grade I win. "She worked hard for it. She's a really sweet, special filly. Joe Bravo is definitely the key to her success today along with a really nice filly." Asked if he will consider using the "Win and You're In" pass to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf that came with Saturday's win, he said, "We're certainly going to be looking at it hard."
Suedois raced off the pace in a tightly bunched field through the stretch turn in Saturday's $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, advanced outside the early leaders and got past pacesetting Heart to Heart, winning by 1/2 length. Ballagh Rocks also ran well late and finished third, just a head back of Heart to Heart. Suedois, a French-bred 6-year-old gelding by Le Havre, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.94 with Daniel Tudhope riding. The David O'Meara trainee was fresh off a victory in a Group 2 race in Ireland Sept. 9. O'Meara said he's tempted by the chance to use the "Win and You're In" option for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. "We'll chat with the owners and see what they want to do," he said. Suedois missed last year's Turf Sprint after sustaining a stress fracture the week before that race.
Blackjackcat pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Obviously Mile at Santa Anita, dueled to the lead when prompted by jockey Kent Desormeaux and worked clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Bird is the Word was along for second, 1 length to the good of Cistron. Blackjackcat, a 4-year-old Tale of the Cat gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.70.
Bucchero waited well behind a breakaway leader in Saturday's $200,000 Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, made up ground at the top of the stretch and went by to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Hogy was along late to finish second, 1/2 length in front of Mongolian Saturday, the 2015 Breeder's Cup Turf Sprint winner, who produced his usual good Keeneland run to finish third. Bucchero, a 5-year-old, Indiana-bred son of Kantharos, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.06 with Fernando De La Cruz in the irons. He won his last race, the Brickyard Stakes, at Indiana Grand, Sept. 13.
Disco Partner rallied four-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational and worked clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Ready for Rye held the advantage briefly and held on for second, a neck in front of Snowday. Disco Partner, a 5-year-old son of Disco Rico, ran 6 furlongs on the firm inner turf in 1:06.97, just 0.1 second off the course record. Irad Ortiz Jr. had the winning ride. Disco Partner won three straight races before catching a yielding course at Saratoga in the Grade I Fourstardave in his last race, finishing a fading fourth.
"I'm very lucky I have two top-class sprinters," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "We won the race at Parx with Pure Sensation and he (Disco Partner) wins here. So, (the owners) can make the decision on who goes to the Breeders' Cup ... It's a great problem to have. If they want, I'll take both of them."
Free Drop Billy inherited the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity and went on to win by 4 lengths over long shot Bravazo. Lone Sailor was third. Free Drop Billy, a Union Rags colt, was second in both the Grade III Sanford and the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga before Saturday's victory. He qualified for a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile through the "Win and You're In" offering and likely will be among the favorites for that heat. Free Drop Billy was hot in the post parade but trainer Dale Romans said that was no cause for concern. "I'd rather him not do that, but he does it, and that's just him," Romans said. "I think if he changed, I'd worry about it at this point. He's done it in all four of his races. He gets hot. It's not nerves. He just sweats." The Breeders' Futurity was marred by the breakdown late on the turn of Ten City, who had just taken the lead. Jockey Corey Lanerie was able to pull up the Run Away and Hide colt but he had suffered a fractured left front leg and was euthanized.
Firenze Fire was off slowly in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park. Turning for home, he came five-wide and began moving forward, finally outfinishing Good Magic to win by 1/2 length. Enticed ran evenly to finish third, three lengths farther behind and the favorite, Aveenu Malcainu, faded from the early lead to finish seventh. Firenze Fire, a Florida-bred colt by Poseidon's Warrior, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:35.91 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. He was 2-for-2 after winning the Grade III Sanford early in the Saratoga meeting but finished fourth in the Grade I Hopeful before heading south to Long Island. "He was flat," trainer Jason Servis said of the Hopeful. "The week before the race the horse was coughing, but sometimes you've got to run them. Everything's there, it's in the moment. You run them and you move on." The Champagne was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. "I have to think about it," Servis said of the prospect.
Sunday's $250,000 Dixiana Bourbon came off the soggy Keeneland Turf, threatening its Grade III rating. No matter to Flameaway, who was just up in the final jumps to win by a nose over Tigers Rule with Tap Daddy third by another nose in a tightly bunched finish. Florent Geroux, who rode Tap Daddy, lodged an objection against both Flameaway and jockey Julien Leparoux and Tigers Rule, ridden by Miguel Mena. Tigers Rule did veer out in the final yards, causing tight quarters among the three and the stewards reversed their order of finish but did not take down the winner's number. Flameaway, a Scat Daddy colt out of the Fusaichi Pegasus mare Vulcan Rose, ran 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy main track in 1:45.77. Flameaway came to the Bourbon after a rather dismal effort in the Grade III Iroquois at Churchill Downs, where he finished a fading sixth. Before that, he won the Skidmore Stakes in the Saratoga mud. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Breeders' Cup officials confirmed that status despite the surface switch.
Heavenly Love stalked the pace in Friday's $400,000 Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland, easily took the lead at the quarter pole and jetted home first, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of the favorite, Princess Warrior. Dancing was third. Heavenly Love, a Malibu Moon filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.32 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. She broke her maiden over the Kentucky Downs turf by a similarly impressive margin, coming from much farther back in the field.
"When she gets to the lead, she kinda looks around," Leparoux said of Heavenly Love. "She's still a little baby, but she's a very nice filly. She impressed me at Kentucky Downs when she won. She repeated it today." David Carroll, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse, said Casse and owners John and Debby Oxley will talk about the Breeders' Cup. Heavenly Love earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies through the "Win and You're In" scheme.
Separationofpowers rallied outside the early leaders in Sunday's $400,000 Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park, took command and went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths over long shot Caledonia Road. Maya Malibu was third, narrowly in front of Purrfect Miss. Separationofpowers, a Candy Ride filly, ran the one-turn mile in 1:38.66 on a good track with Jose Ortiz in the irons. She won at first asking at Saratoga for trainer Chad Brown, then faded in the final furlong in the Grade I Spinaway, finishing third. Separationofpowers earned a "Win and You're In" spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. "We're confident," Brown said of the big race. "I know it's a tough division, there's some horses out west who look very good ... I'm excited to get her around two turns."
Wonder Gadot left nothing to doubt in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Mazarine Stakes over the Woodbine all-weather course. The Medaglia d'Oro filly quickly took the lead, was never challenged and drew off to a 6-lengths victory. Shamrock Rose, Ladies Night and Avie's Mineshaft completed the order of finish. With Patrick Husbands up, Wonder Gadot ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.14. The Ontario-bred filly, trained by Mark Casse, now has two wins and a third from three starts. Her first two races were on the turf.
Despite her dominating victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, her fifth straight Group 1 victory, Enable is only in third position on the latest Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings, behind Arrogate and Winx. Arrogate's ranking of 134 dates back to his remarkable, last-to-first win in the Dubai World Cup in March. Winx continues to build her winning streak in Australia in quest of a third straight Cox Plate and is rated 132.
Following Winx are Gun Runner and Ulysses, tied at 127. Arrogate and Gun Runner will be among the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar Nov. 4. Ulysses will be near the top of the list for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf that same day. Neither Enable nor Winx is under consideration for America's biggest day of racing.
Speaking of Winx, it's not news when she wins but her 21st straight victory Saturday in the Group 1 Seppelt Turnbull Stakes was a reminder that she's on the cusp of a very newsworthy third straight Cox Plate.
The Turnbull was just business as usual for the 6-year-old Street Cry mare, jockey Hugh Bowman and trainer Chris Waller. Winx idled well behind the early speed in the 2,000-meters race at Flemington, advanced as they rounded the bend and easily shot to the lead. She was 6 1/2 lengths in front at the end and was never asked to run. Ventura Storm was 3/4 length ahead of Humidor for the minor prizes.
Speaking of ahead, Waller said he expects even more from Winx and continued to look toward a European campaign -- and perhaps more -- for her 2018 season. "We're keen to get her overseas to represent Australia, or this part of the world," he said. "So we'll see what happens."
Roly Poly rolled to a comfortable win in Saturday's Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newarket, bringing trainer Aidan O'Brien within two Group 1 wins of Bobby Frankel's all-time single-year record. O'Brien said there is a chance Roly Poly could travel to California for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf where she would be one of quite a string that could push the Irish trainer past Frankel.
Roly Poly, a War Front filly out of the Galileo mare Misty For Me, led early under Ryan Moore. She was headed briefly by longshot Dawn of Hope with 2 furlongs to run but found the needed extra gear. Persuasive, with Frankie Dettori up for trainer John Gosden, took over second with a furlong to run but could not make further progress toward the winner. Roly Poly, ninth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, raced in the shadow of stablemates Winter, Rhododendron and Hydrangea earlier in the season. She picked up her third win from her last four starts, all of them Group 1 events.
"I think so," O'Brien said of the prospects of taking Roly Poly to Del Mar. "The lads (Coolomore partners) will decide what they want to do but her and Rhododendron could be trained for the Filly And Mare race if that's what the lads want to do."
Around the ovals:
Power of Snunner was up in the final strides to win Saturday's $100,000 Plum Pretty Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares by a head over Trace of Grace, after trading gentle bumps with that rival in the stretch run. It was another 14 lengths back to Mama Jones in third. Power of Snunner, a 7-year-old mare by Power of Far, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.68 with Dana Whitney in the irons.
Insta Emma was along in the final strides to take Saturday's $75,000 Swingtime Stakes for fillies and mares by a nose over Madame Stripes and another neck from Belvoir Bay. Insta Emma, a 4-year-old Pioneerof the Nile filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.76 with Corey Nakatani riding.
Dixie Moon quickly assumed command in Sunday's $225,000 (Canadian) Cup and Saucer Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies and held the lead to the end, winning by 1 length over Strike Me Down. Rose's Vision was third. Dixie Moon, a Curlin filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.33 with Eurico Da Silva up. She was second in the Grade I Natalma in her previous start.
Sister Nation rallied from next-last to win Sunday's $100,000 Ruling Angel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/2 lengths over Just Be Kind. Tulsa Queen was up for third, just a neck farther back. Sister Nation, a Kentucky-bred Into Mischief filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.34 with Da Silva aboard.
Notis the Jewell outfinished Southern California invader She's a Warrior in Sunday's $100,000 (Grade III) Ballerina Stakes for fillies and mares, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over that rival. Sailingforthesun was just a head farther back in third. Notis the Jewell, a 4-year-old Stephanotis filly, got 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.64 with Richard Hamel riding.
In Saturday's Best of Ohio series for state-breds, with each worth $150,000:
Missap led all the way to 5-lengths win over Ucantkeepup in the John W. Galbreath Memorial for 2-year-old fillies and Awaken won a stretch battle with Tiz a Rush in the Juvenile Stakes, scoring by 1/2 length.
Hijo de Sheltowee upset odds-on favorite Rivers Run Deep by a head bob in the Sprint Stakes, Maya's Queen Neetee drew clear to win the Distaff by 5 3/4 lengths from School Board Prez and Mo Don't Know led most of the way to a 1-length victory over Cake Pop in the Classic.
Tribal Storm stormed from far back to take Saturday's $100,000 Harris Farms Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds and up by 1/2 length over Jimmy Bouncer. Prime Issue was another 3/4 lengths back in third. Tribal Storm, a 3-year-old ridgling by Pappa Clem, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.63 with Irving Orozco in the irons.