Another international weekend of racing found Redzel victorious in the inaugural Everest Stakes in Australia, Bullards Alley shocking the Canadian International at Woodbine, Deirdre victorious in Japan and La Coronel a gate-to-wire winner in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
Aidan O'Brien went one-for-five on three continents in his quest to tie the late Bobby Frankel's record of training 25 Grade I wins in a calendar year. But the one victory was a grand slam four-bagger.
Away we go.
Bullards Alley, at odds of nearly 43-1, showed his heels to nine rivals in the stretch run of Sunday's $800,000 (Canadian) Grade I Pattison Canadian International, winning by 10 3/4 lengths. Oscar Nominated and Flamboyant got the minor awards and the best the European contingent could muster was Idaho's fourth-place showing. Bullards Alley, a 5-year-old Flower Alley gelding, finished 1 1/2 miles over soft turf in 2:34.37 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
Both Bullards Alley and Oscar Nominated came out of the Grade III Kentucky Turf Cup at Kentucky Downs. In that Sept. 9 heat, however, Oscar Nominated was the winner and Bullards Alley finished sixth. Bullards Alley was winless in nine previous starts this season and had never won a Grade I event. Ever.
"I saw the horse the last five times he ran. I watched all the replays," said Da Silva, who was riding Bullards Alley for the first time. "This horse has been running a very good race. You know, he always closes."
"He ran the best race of his life in a graded stakes at Churchill last year on a yielding turf course so we knew he liked it," added winning trainer Tim Glyshaw. "But then so did the Europeans, and a lot of the others in the field. I think today, he just got first jump on them and sometimes they stay off you when you're a long shot like that and it was just too late for them."
Idaho went to the post as the favorite and could have given trainer Aiden O'Brien his 25th top-level win of the year, tying Frankel's mark set in 2003.
Blond Me produced a better result for the trans-Atlantic contingent in Sunday's $500,000 (Canadian) Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares. After settling off the early speed, the 5-year-old, British-based mare moved out for running room, hit the gas in the final sixteenth and got home first by 1 length over Kitten's Roar. Fourstar Crook was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third and the favorite, Nezwaah, flattened out late to finish fifth. Blond Me, with Oisin Murphy in for the ride, finished 1 1/4 miles on soft turf in a soft time of 2:08.08.
Rain Goddess, another O'Brien chance to tie Frankel's record, never ran a step for jockey Ryan Moore and finished last in the E.P. Taylor, 13 1/4 lengths back of Quidura.
Blond Me's owner, Barbara Keller, said, "You always get sick when you see the opposition because you think, 'Oh my God, they're so good.' But, you know, her form this year in England was fabulous. She was second to Winter, on really bad ground. She beat Hydrangea, who was a subsequent Group 1 winner. So we knew that she could handle this ground."
It was another big "bombs away" in Sunday's $250,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nearctic Stakes at 6 furlongs on the grass as Field of Courage, at odds of 40-1, took command in the final furlong and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths. British raider Cotai Glory was second, followed by the favorite, White Flag. Field of Courage, a 5-year-old Marchfield gelding, finished in 1:12.07 under Luis Contreras. He had been running well enough of late but not against the quality of opposition he faced in Sunday's race. "Luis gave him a great ride for sure," said Kathryn Sullivan, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "He was doing very well, but it was a very big step up in company for him and maybe the conditions today worked out well for him because he certainly looked pretty happy out there."
Tiz a Slam seized the lead in the stretch drive in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Derby and drew off to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Woodbine Oaks and Queen's Plate winner Holy Helena, made a late run but could only salvage second. Guy Caballero was a long shot third. Tiz a Slam, an Ontario-bred colt by Tiznow, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:51.57 with Eurico Da Silva aboard. The Roger Attfield trainee was second in the Queen's Plate but had struggled on the dirt and turf in two out-of-town starts.
Attfield, who supplemented Tiz a Slam to the race at a cost of $5,000 (Canadian), said the victory was satisfying "because I really thought that I could probably win the Plate and we got beat and then we went to the Prince of Wales and he really doesn't like the dirt and that turned into a bit of a disaster for us. I sort of knew that might happen going in there so I was kind of cross with myself about it."
La Coronel led 'em all the way in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup for 3-year-old fillies and had enough left to deny Daddys Lil Darling by 1/2 length under the wire. Madam Dancelot was third and the favorite, New Money Honey, was sixth while lacking a stretch effort. La Coronel, a Coronel John filly owned by John and Debby Oxley, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.99 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. She was winless in her previous three starts, including the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. "We're just so happy for the Oxleys," said David Carroll, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse, "and for her to get a Grade I win and redeem herself. Some people might have doubted her but she showed her true colors today. We couldn't be any happier."
Morticia prompted the pace in Friday's $100,000 Grade III Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes, reached even terms by the furlong pole and held off a late run by Justa Lady to win by 1/2 length. Lull edged the early leader, Kasuga, for show money. Morticia, a 3-year-old daughter of Twirling Candy, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.92 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. And trainer Rusty Arnold said she started with an unusual handicap. "She had a shoe off in the paddock and we couldn't get it back on," he said. "She ran with three. We were a little nervous but she handled it real well."
Happy Like a Fool jumped to a daylight lead at the top of the lane in Sunday's $150,000 Grade III Matron for 2-year-old fillies and ran on well to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Take Charge Paula. It was another 8 lengths to the closest follower, Valuable Package. Happy Like a Fool, a Distorted Humor filly trained by Wesley Ward for a group including the Coolmore partners in Ireland, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.98 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. She won at first asking at Keeneland in the spring. Ward then shipped the filly to England where she was second in the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot and sixth in the Group 2 Lowther Stakes at York. The Matron was her first race back from that effort. Ward said he is optimistic about Happy Like a Fool's 2018. "What she showed me in the mornings came out here this afternoon and next year's going to be a very big year for her," he said.
Engage was last of five with 2 furlongs left in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Futurity. But when asked by jockey Jose Ortiz, the Into Mischief colt downshifted, engaged another gear and quickly surged away to a convincing, 3 1/2-lengths victory. Barry Lee was second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Mojovation. Red Peril and Smooth B completed the order of finish. Happy Like a Fool was a late scratch in favor of Sunday's fillies race. Engage now is 2-for-2. Winning trainer Chad Brown said the colt is a one-turn candidate for now, with the Grade II Nashua at 1 mile a likely target. "Going around two turns, we'll see how he develops," Brown said.
Brown and Ortiz also teamed to win Saturday's $200,000 Pebbles Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 mile on the turf as Rubilinda took the lead in the lane and held off a bold late move by Party Boat to score by a nose. Thais was only a head farther back in third. Rubilinda, a lightly raced Frankel filly, finished in 1:34.72, scoring her third win from four outings. "She ran well," said Brown. "She was still a little green there down the lane, switching leads and the such. He said when he pulled her into daylight, a little earlier than she had been, she was pulling a little bit. So she still has some learning to do, but she ran good."
Charitable Annuity came flying widest of all to win Saturday's $350,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic by a pair of noses over North Atlantic and Weekend Liberty. The 5-year-old Charitable Man gelding was sent off the favorite in the 9-furlongs test but gave his backers an anxious moment before getting up in the final strides. With Christian Hiraldo up, Charitable Annuity finished in 1:53.37.
Moonlit Song had to battle for the lead in Saturday's $150,000 West Virginia Cavada Breeders' Classic for fillies and mares. But she eventually edged away and went on to justify her odds-on favorite status with a 2 1/2-lengths win. T Rex Express was second, 3 1/4 lengths to the good of Candy Man's Girl. Moonlit Song, a 3-year-old daughter of Fiber Sonde, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.83 with Hiraldo riding.
Terra's Angel moved to the lead in the stretch run in Saturday night's $75,000 M2 Technology El Jovan Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and ran on to win by 2 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Another Level led the way and held on for second at 33-1 odds and Secret Passion was third. Terra's Angel, a Drosselmeyer filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.77 with Sasha Risenhoover accompanying from Santa Anita for the ride. Terra's Angel won the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf but then was sixth on the Santa Anita dirt in the Grade I Chandelier.
Analyze This Jet came four-wide into the stretch to take the lead in Saturday's evening's $75,000 El Jovan Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings and got clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. G's Turn rallied from last of 11 to finish second, 3 1/2 lengths ahead of Drewcitable. Analyze This Jet, an Overanalyze colt, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:38.65 with Lane Luzzi riding.
Line of Vision took the inside line, albeit from near the rear of the pack, early in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Victorian Queen Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies. When Eurico Da Silva angled her out approaching the quarter pole, the Court Vision filly responded and was up in time to win by 1/2 length over Without a Doubt. She's the Berries was third. Line of Vision got 6 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:11.08, scoring her second win from three starts. "I was just waiting because I have a horse that was going very, very fast on the lead," Da Silva said. "At that point, I said, 'You know what, there's no use to start aiming for that horse.' I was just trying to focus on my horse and make a good run in the last part of the race."
Barbara Beatrice rallied from last of six to win Saturday's $100,000 California Distaff for state-bred fillies and mares down the hillside turf course. Late 'n Left led through the middle stages of the race but was left in second at the end, 3/4 length back and 1/2 length to the good of Long Hot Summer. Barbara Beatrice, a 5-year-old Grazen mare, finished the about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:12.56 under Tiago Periera.
Beautiful Shot rallied like a shot down the stretch to win Sunday's $90,000 Speakeasy Stakes for 2-year-old by 1 1/4 lengths. The odds-on favorite, Mourinho, led comfortably through most of the race but settled for second after the winner's onslaught. Here Is Happy had to be happy with third, 2 lengths farther in arrears. Beautiful Shot, a Florida-bred Trappe Shot colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.82 for jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Seattle Serenade rallied from a pace-stalking trip to win Sunday's $65,000 Bull Dog Handicap by a head over Street Moxie. The favorite, Force, had the best late foot but settled for third, another 1 3/4 lengths in arrears. Seattle Serenade, a 5-year-old Smart Strike entire, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.27 with William Antongiorgi III in the irons.
By just about any standard, Saturday's Group 1 TAB Everest Stakes at Royal Randwick was a huge hit. The biggest crowd in living memory jammed the facility and the atmosphere, while perhaps not at the fever pitch of the Melbourne Cup, was highly charged. So was Redzel, a 5-year-old Snitzel gelding, who tracked the fast early pace under jockey Kerrin McEvoy, hit another gear with 200 meters left in the 1,200-meters event and quickly had a daylight advantage. The lukewarm favorite, Vega Magic, was second with a belated run down the middle of the course and former Japanese runner Brave Smash holding third over Chautauqua.
The race is a "buy-in" event similar to the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park except that a three-year commitment is required. Bloodstock agent James Harron held a spot, Redzel's owners, the "everyman" Triple Crown Syndicate", had a viable horse and the two got together. The victory was worth AUS$5.8 (US$4.58 million of the total AUS$10 million (US$7.9 million) purse.
The outcome of the once-controversial venture ensures its place, at least for the immediate future, in the Australian racing calendar. Whether it takes a significant place on the world stage might depend on Redzel's owners and father-and-son training team Peter and Paul Snowden. Arrogate moved smoothly from the Pegasus victory to a triumph two months later in the Dubai World Cup. Hong Kong and Dubai beckon for Redzel.
Also on Saturday's Australian card:
Gailo Chop held on grimly through the final yards to deny Johannes Vermeer in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Stakes at 2,000 meters, denying trainer Aidan O'Brien his 24th Group 1 win of the year. Gailo Chop, a 7-year-old French-bred gelding, improved on his third-place performance in the Group 1 Underwood Stakes two weeks earlier and two furlongs shorter. Look for Gailo Chop to face Winx, among others, in the Group I Cox Plate. Johannes Vermeer is a likely Group 1 Caufield Cup candidate.
Alosioa pulled off a minor upset in the Group 1 Schweppes 1000 Guineas, which "down under" is for 3-year-old fillies. She is a New Zealand-bred daughter of Azamour.
Mighty Boss scored a rather major upset in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas, edging Kementari by less than 1/2 length at triple-digit odds. The Not a Single Doubt colt scored just his second win from six starts.
It was a topsy-turvy weekend for the O'Brien-Coolmore team at Newmarket, where the Irish trainer resumed his quest for the Frankel record. On Friday, a late scratch and a desperate nose in the Group 1 Fillies Mile barred his way. First, his top hope for the race, Happily, unhappily was scratched after spiking a fever. Still, it appeared O'Brien's reserves might get the job done as Seamie Heffernan sent September after the pacesetter, Laurens. But traffic intervened and by the time the Deep Impact filly got a clear run, it was too late and Laurens held on to win by a nose. Laurens, a French-bred filly by Siyouni out of the Cape Cross mare Recambe, scored her third win from four starts in her first Group 1 effort with P.J. McDonald up for trainer Karl Burke and appears ready to make her own mark in the coming season.
The tide turned Saturday at Newmarket as U S Navy Flag flew home in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst Stakes leading O'Brien's four starters to a 1-2-3-4 finish and moving him to within one record. More important in the long run, the Dewhurst is a key pointer to the following season's Qipco 2000 Guineas and U S Navy Flag, a War Front colt out of the Galileo mare Misty For Me, immediately moved front and center for that Classic.
U S Navy Flag, a full brother to multiple Group 1-winning 3-year-old filly Roly Poly, was prominent from the start and finished the 7 furlongs in 1:22.37 over good going, a course record for a 2-year-old on a day when records were established in three of the first four races.
Trailing U S Navy Flag home were Mendelssohn, Seahenge and Threeandfourpence. All four are American-bred, Mendelssohn and Seahenge by the late Scat Daddy and Threeandfourpence by War Front. The disappointment of the race was Expert Eye, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by Acclamation, who went to the post an odds-on favorite, pulled hard through the early furlongs and faded to finish last of nine -- his first defeat in three races. He had missed a start with a minor infection.
Also on the Friday the 13th card at Newmarket, Limato surged to the lead with a furlong to run in the Group 2 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards Challenge Stakes and kicked away to win by 3 1/2 lengths over Maassat. Nine-year-old Gordon Lord Byron was third in one of his best efforts in some time. Limato, a 5-year-old Tagula gelding, was sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita but trainer Henry Candy ruled out a return performance this year at Del Mar.
At Kyoto on Sunday, Deirdre emerged from a rail-skimming trip to win Sunday's Group 1 Shuka Sho for 3-year-old fillies, the final leg of Japan's filly Triple Crown. The winning move was perfectly timed by jockey Christophe Lemaire and Deirdre won with some authority, by 1 1/4 lengths, while running 2,000 meters over yielding turf in 2:00.2 Lys Gracieux was second, a nose in front of Mozu Katchan. The favorite, Aerolithe, finished sixth after tracking the early pace.
"I think the filly was in top condition today," Lemaire said. "She was on her toes in the post parade, which just shows how keen she was to go out there and run ... Her break wasn't good and we had to race further back than we had hoped. But the pace was fast, which worked for us, and she gave a terrific run in the stretch."
Last year's Shuka Sho winner, Vivlos, went on to win this year's Dubai Turf (G1) at Meydan on World Cup night.