Cracksman dominated Champions Day at Ascot, 50-1 long shot Boom Time landed the Caulfield Cup in Australia, the Japanese Triple Crown was split three ways and a Group 1 "three-peat" was denied in France -- all that and more in weekend Thoroughbred racing.
In North America, the emphasis was on state-bred competition with festivals for the local steeds at Hastings Racecourse, Belmont Park, Laurel Park and Remington Park.
Park it and read this:
Cracksman won the big race on Champions Day at Ascot, dominating the event that provided the final victory in the undefeated career of his sire, Frankel. Order of St George won again and Aidan O'Brien finally equaled the late Bobby Frankel's record of 25 Group 1 winners in a calendar year.
Here's the scoop on the final big day of the European season:
Cracksman passed up the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Oct. 1 in a somewhat controversial decision by the Oppenheimer family and trainer John Gosden. Instead, Gosden saddled the super filly Enable to win the Arc while Cracksman awaited the QIPCO British Champion Stakes.
All he did was produce a victory every bit as impressive as Enabled's -- surging to the lead well over 2 furlongs out and drawing off over the soft Ascot turf under Frankie Dettori to win by 7 lengths. Poet's Word ran well late to take second and Highland Reel, under a canny ride by Ryan Moore, overcame the unfavorable conditions to finish third, setting him up for a repeat try in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf.
Asked whether Cracksman could have won the Arc, Gosden said, "It was a difficult decision but I felt Enable was more in the zone, just a bit more streetwise than him ... I was happy with the decision we made and I think it was the right decision."
Dettori, who rides both horses for Gosden, said he would have a difficult time picking between them if they ever meet. Gosden said he hopes he gets the chance.
Persuasive, also under Dettori, was along in the final furlong to break up an expected duel beween Ribchester and Churchill in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes down the straight mile. Persuasive, a 4-year-old Dark Angel filly also trained by Gosden, won going away by 1 length with Ribchester second, 1/2 length in front of Churchill. Gosden said the win was a big one for Persuasive, who is to be retired, and her owners, Cheveley Park Stud. "It's important for the stud to have a Group 1 winning filly," he said. "I thought she was going to run a big race and she adores this track." Ribchester's trainer, Richard Fahey, said the Godolphin team will decide whether to move along to the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile with that one.
Hydrangea provided the record-tying performance for O'Brien in an upset victory in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. The Galileo filly was trying 1 1/2 miles for the first time, at the suggestion of her rider, Ryan Moore, and validated that plan in the final 2 furlongs as she easily held off French invader Bateel and the Gosden-trained Coronet. Hydrangea had been running most of the year in races dominated by her stablemates, Winter and Rhododendron. "You couldn't be sure that she would stay," O'Brien said. "It was Ryan's idea to run her. He thought there was a chance she could get this trip. We weren't sure but obviously she did and it is brilliant."
Librisa Breeze scored the upset of the day in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint. The 5-year-old Mount Nelson gelding delivered the first top-level win both for himself and for trainer Dean Ivory, leading 150 yards out and holding off fellow long shot Tasleet by 1 1/4 lengths. The two heavy favorites, Caravaggio and Harry Angel, settled for third and fourth. "He's really a 7-furlong horse or a miler, but I've had to train him for this race over 6 furlongs as there aren't many races over those trips around for him unless you go abroad," Ivory said. "We've bided our time with him and taught him to run over 6 furlongs and it has worked out nicely."
Order of St George got the day off to a flying start for O'Brien, Moore and the Coolmore ownership partners with a decisive win in the 2-miles QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup, a Group 2 race that organizers hope to have upgraded for 2018. Order of St George, a 5-year-old son of Galileo, won by 1/2 length over Torcedor with Stradivarius third. The expected rematch between Order of St George and Big Orange, his conquerer in the Group 1 Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, did not work out. Big Orange, toiling over the soft ground, led early but faded as the field started the upward climb from Swinley Bottom and finished 11th, one spot behind Her Majesty's disappointing runner, Dartmouth. "That's him done for this year," O'Brien said of the winner. "I hope he is staying in training though. A mile and a half is no problem to him. He's very comfortable at a mile and a half."
Kiseki overcame a downpour from approaching Typhoon Lan, heavy turf and 17 rivals to land his first top-level win in Sunday's Group 1 Kikuka Sho (G1) or Japanese St. Leger at Kyoto Racecourse. Kiseki settled near the rear until the field was moving down the backstretch for the second time, when jockey Mirco Demuro started to rally him forward. Eschewing the chewed-up, muddy inside part of the track, the field swung wide around the final turn and Kiseki was forced widest of all. But with rivals to the inside laboring, he quickly accelerated through the final 200 meters and won by 2 lengths. Clincher was second, a nose in front of Popocatepetl. The race was the third leg of the Japanese Triple Crown, which ended with three different winners. Demuro admitted the course conditions were "tough" for Kiseki and that 3,000 meters "was not his favorite." Still, he said, "I was sure we were going to win when we entered the straight and he displayed a great turn of speed at the end."
Boom Time, a 50-1 outsider, shot to the lead inside Single Gaze in the final yards of Saturday's Group 1 BMW Caulfield Cup and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Johannes Vermeer was a closing third. Boom Time, a 6-year-old son of Flying Spur, waited with the rest of the big field while Sir Isaac Newton shot out to a huge lead through the early stages of the 2,400-meter race. Boom Time, running on just one week's rest, then saw Single Gaze emerge to take the lead but found the extra effort for jockey Cory Parish, moved rather effortlessly to the front and was clear at the end. Johannes Vermeer, trained by Aidan O'Brien, ran well from far back in the field, shifted course in the final 100 meters and was no threat to the winner while finishing third, another 1/2 length in arrears.
"He went in as an underdog and it's a great story," said trainer Tom Dabernig of Boom Time. "He makes his own luck. He had a great, hard race a week ago and he was cherry ripe for this." David Hayes, owner and part of the training team, said he expects Boom Time to continue racing through the balance of the Australian spring but hasn't decided exactly where or when.
Ice Breeze took the lead late in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Saint-Cloud and held off Vazirabad, who was bidding for a third straight win in the race. Vazirabad got to even terms with Ice Breeze but a final surge for Jockey Vincent Cheminaud found Ice Breeze out front by 1 1/4 lengths at the line. Holdthasigreen was third, 2 length farther back. Ice Breeze, a 3-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred by Nayef, scored his second straight win, following the Group 2 Qatar Prix Chaudenay at Chantilly Sept. 30 against fellow 3-year-olds. Two weeks before that, he was fourth in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Neil, well behind the winner, Cracksman. Vazirabad, a 5-year-old Aga Khan homebred, came to the Royal-Oak as the winner of four straight races dating back to the Group 1 Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan on World Cup night March 25.
The results of Sunday's program at Sha Tin held out a lot of promise for the local candidates for the Dec. 10 Longines Hong Kong International Races.
Beauty Generation tracked the pace made by Winner's Way in Sunday's Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy, took a narrow lead nearing the finish and held off Booming Delight to win by a head under Derek Leung. Jolly Banner was up for third, followed by Winner's Way and former Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther. The favorite, Beauty Only, last year's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile winner, raced at the back of the pack and could make up only minimal ground, finishing ninth. Beauty Generation, a 5-year-old New Zealand-bred, now is 2-for-2 in the new season after starting with a victory in the Celebration Cup Oct. 1.
John Moore, who trains the top two as well as Werther, Helene Paragon (seventh), Joyful Trinity (11th) and Harbour Master (12th) said, "On a handicap basis, you looked upon those horses being right there, Beauty Generation and Booming Delight. The winner is a model of consistency and he had a perfect draw today. We were hoping to lead but when Winner's Way pressed on, Derek went for Plan B -- drop back and sit outside the leader." The win was the biggest of Leung's career ("I am really on top of the world!") and Moore said he will keep the mount through the Dec. 10 international races.
Mr Stunning got a clear run to the lead on the outside in Sunday's Group 2 Premier Bowl and held on boldly to win by 1/2 length from the favorite, Lucky Bubbles, who had to wait for room at mid-stretch. Amazing Kids was third with second-favorite Thewizardofoz a dull ninth. Mr Stunning, a 5-year-old by Exceed and Excel, peaked last season finishing second to Lucky Bubbles by just a nose in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize. "He's an exceptional horse," said winning rider Nash Rawiller. "This was the first time I'd been lucky enough to ride him in a race but he put me in a beautiful spot and travelled sweetly. It was an amazing turn of foot, especially with that weight (133 pounds)." Lucky Bubbles' rider, Zac Purton, said, "It was his first start this season and he ran well. He dashed home nicely."
Meanwhile, back in North America:
Apple Betty raced close to the pace in Sunday's $125,000 Grade III Rood & Riddle Dowager Stakes for fillies and mares, spurted to a big lead leaving the stretch turn and eased home first by 3 1/2 lengths. Promotional was along late for second and the favorite, Lottie, settled for third. Apple Betty, a 4-year-old Irish-bred filly by Galileo, ran 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:30.80 with John Velazquez in the irons.
Miss Sunset shadowed pacesetter Chalon through the first 6 furlongs of Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Lexus Raven Run Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, hooked up in a stretch battle and prevailed by 1/2 length. Chalon was second, 1 length to the good of Torrent. Miss Sunset, an Into Mischief filly, ran 7 furlongs on firm going in 1:22.21 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. Trainer Jeff Bonde shipped Miss Sunset in from Southern California, where she had won two straight races. The Raven Run was her first graded stakes score.
Lovely Bernadette tracked the pace in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Pin Oak Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, moved to the lead in the stretch run and held off a late rush by the favorite, Journey Home. The early leader, I'm Betty G, held on for third. Lovely Bernadette, a daughter of Wilburn, covered 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:42.80 with Florent Geroux in the irons. She has three wins and a pair of thirds from her last five starts along the Kentucky-Indiana-Illinois axis. Trainer Jimmy DiVito said Sunday Lovely Bernadette returned in fine shape and will be pointed to the $200,000 Grade II Mrs. Revere at 1 1/16 miles Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.
Artistic Diva led from the early jumps in Sunday's $90,000 Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and ran on to win by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths. Steph Being Steph was second, another 1 1/2 lengths to the good of the favorite, Just a Smidge. Artistic Diva, an Illinois-bred filly by Munnings, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.84 with Victor Espinoza up for trainer John Sadler. She won at first asking at Del Mar Aug. 24 and now is 2-for-2.
B Squared was along late to post the upset win in Saturday's $100,000 California Flag Handicap for state-breds down the hillside turf course. With Mario Gutierrez in the irons, the 3-year-old Square Eddie colt caught pacesetting Richard's Boy in the final strides, winning by 1/2 length with the odds-on favorite, Tribalist, third. B Squared, trained by Doug O'Neill, ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:11.38.
Inflexibility overcame some traffic issues to win Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Carotene Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies by a neck over Ghostly Presence. Mythical Mission was third. Inflexibility, a Scat Daddy filly trained by Chad Brown, was squeezed at the start and boxed in during the first part of the stretch run before jockey Luis Contreras found her room to run. She finished the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.00.
Mr Havercamp hovered near the back of the field through the early furlongs of Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Bunty Lawless Stakes for Ontario-sired horses, then took complete control in the stretch run, drawing off to a 7 1/2-lengths victory. San Nicola Thunder beat the others with Call Me Wally another 2 lengths back in third. Mr Havercamp, a 3-year-old Court Vision gelding, completed 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.52 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
Dalarna, at odds of 19-1, won a three-way scramble for the wire in Sunday's $100,000 English Channel Stakes for 3-year-olds, beating the odds-on favorite, Let's Get Loud, by a nose and 35-1 long shot Harlan's Harmony by another nose. Dalarna, a K One King colt, bobbled the start and was last of seven around the turn before jockey Nik Juarez got him going in the lane. He ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.15. Dalarna took five tries to find the winner's circle and since then has reeled off three straight wins.
In Saturday's Empire Classic program for New York-breds, with the main track fast and the turf firm:
Twisted Tom pressed the pace set by Control Group in the $300,000 Empire Classic, left that rival behind in the stretch and went on to win by 3 lengths. Control Group held second, a nose in front of Can You Diggit. Twisted Tom, a 3-year-old Creative Cause gelding, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.38 with Javier Castellano riding for trainer Chad Brown.
"My initial plan was to rest him at this point," Brown said. "He has had a long hard campaign, started off his winter here, and sooner or later you have to give him a break. But I will discuss that with the ownership group and go from there."
Verdant Pastures was in front all the way in the $250,000 Empire Distaff and edged clear late, winning by 2 lengths over 41-1 shot Might Be. The favorite, Bonita Bianca, was third. Verdant Pastures, a 3-year-old Colonel John filly, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.65 with Manny Franco at the controls.
Ostrolenka edged by pacesetting Eye Luv Lulu in the final jumps to take the $150,000 Hudson Handicap by a neck over that foe. Pat On the Back rallied from well back to take third, a neck farther in arrears. Ostrolenka, a 5-year-old son of Musket Man, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.75 with Joe Bravo riding.
Absatootly rallied from last of five and outfinished the favorite, Quezon, to win the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. Absatootly, a 4-year-old Mineshaft filly, got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.04 for jockey Bravo.
Evaluator won a stretch battle with Big Gemmy in the $250,000 Sleepy Hollow for 2-year-olds, prevailing by a nose while being pushed out by the runner-up. It was another 4 lengths back to Inalienable Rights in third and the favorite, Stoney Bennett, faded late to get home fourth. Evaluator, an Overanalyze colt, ran 1 mile in 1:38.38 with Franco in the irons.
Berning Rose surged to a big lead at the eighth pole in the $250,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then coasted home first by 1 1/2 lengths over Held Accountable with Miss Mystique third and the favorite, Pure Silver, seventh in a dull effort. Berning Rose, a daughter of Freud, ran 1 mile in 1:37.76 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons.
On the firm turf course:
Black Tide surged to a big early lead in the $200,000 Mowhawk Stakes and had enough left to win by 1 1/4 lengths from the odds-on favorite, Offering Plan. Rapt was third at a big price. Black Tide, a 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.98 with Jose Lezcano in the irons.
Fifty Five and Flipcup both rallied from well back in the field in the $250,000 Ticonderoga Stakes for fillies and mares with Fifty Five prevailing by 1 length. Ancient Secret finished third. Fifty Five, a 3-year-old daughter of Get Stormy, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.65 with Castellano up.
Saturday was Maryland Millions Day. State-breds. Turf firm. Track fast.
Bonus Points was away a bit slowly after being bumped at the start of the $150,000 Classic. With Nik Juarez riding, the 3-year-old Majestic Warrior colt swung six-wide into the stretch and outfinished Southside Warrior, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Ghost Bay finished third and the favorite, John Jones, tired late to get home seventh. Bonus Points, trained by Todd Pletcher, finished 9 furlongs on the main track in 1:50.50.
Crabcakes, perfectly named for a Maryland-bred and the prohibitive favorite, took the lead in the lane in the $100,000 Distaff and edged away to win by 1/2 length over a rallying My Magician. She Rolls rolled to the early lead and salvaged show money. Crabcakes, a 3-year-old Great Notion filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.03 with Forest Boyce riding.
Blue Moon Ace, the odds-on favorite, cruised home first in the $100,000 Sprint, 2 3/4 lengths to the good of Rockinn On Bye. Struth led early and held on for third. Blue Moon Ace, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.06 with Julian Pimentel in the irons.
Clever Mind, making his first start, broke last of eight in the $100,000 Nursery for 2-year-olds, responded for jockey Juarez and was up in time to win by 2 lengths over pacesetting favorite Jamaican Don. Clever Mind, a Buffum colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.05. Graham Motion trains.
Limited View also came from last after a poor start in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies, overhauling Pikachu Princess in the late going to win by 3/4 length. Buff's In Love was third. Limited View, a daughter of Freedom Child, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.12 with Edgar Prado up.
On the lush Laurel grass course:
Spartianos led from the break in the $125,000 Turf, then won by a head after a long stretch battle with Somekindofmagician. Talk Show Man, Grandiflora and Dothat Dance all came running late to fill the minor placings. Spartianos, a 5-year-old Not For Love gelding, negotiated 1 mile on the lawn in 1:36.84 with Juarez up.
My Sistersledge chased down pacesetting favorite Great Soul in the final yards to win the $125,000 Ladies by a nose over that rival. Nickyrocksforpops was another 1/2 length back in third. My Sistersledge, a 3-year-old filly by Etched, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.92 with Pimentel riding.
Mr. Al's Gal was the early leader in Saturday's $100,000 Magnolia Stakes for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares, gave up the advantage briefly and came again to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Pacific Pink was second, 1/2 length ahead of Another Pinot, the early challenger. Mr. Al's Gal, a 3-year-old Salute the Sarge filly, ran 1 mile on a muddy track in 1:42.18 with Diego Saez aboard.
Saturday night was Oklahoma Classics night with eight stakes races for Oklahoma-breds. The track was fast and the turf was firm.
Diamondsandstripes, a Service Stripe gelding, set a pressured pace before edging away to win the $100,000 Juvenile by 1 length over Kirk of Diamonds. Bustin a Move led most of the way to defeat Annieruok by 1 1/2 lengths in the $100,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies.
Pacific Typhoon blew them away in the $130,000 Turf Classic, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Mister Keith. Gianna's Dream, the odds-on favorite, was along to take the $130,000 Distaff Turf by 2 1/2 lengths from Just Leave.
In the sprint divisions: Eurobond, a Euroears gelding, set a pressured pace in the $130,000 Classic Sprint before edging away to a 1 1/4-lengths victory; and Hailstorm Slew emerged from a pace-stalking trip to land the $130,000 Distaff Sprint by 1 1/2 lengths from Okie Diva.
Shotgun Kowboy, a prohibitive favorite, kicked away late to take the $175,000 Classics Cup by 5 1/4 lengths. The 5-year-old Kodiak Kowboy gelding ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.20 with Richard Eramia up. In the $145,000 Distaff, Inagoodway was in front all the way to win by 1 1/2 lengths over odds-on favorite Steel Cut.
Can't Be Wrong certainly wasn't in Saturday's $50,000 Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame Stakes for state-breds, settling early, then coming along to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Moojab Jr trailed the winner from the back of the field and finished second, 1 length ahead of Tap That Word. The favorite, Bonjour Baby, was fourth. Can't Be Wrong, a 4-year-old Broken Vow gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.62 with Ted Gondron in the plate.
Special Rockstar stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Fiesta Mile for Texas-bred fillies and mares, closed to the front along the rail and held off Shezadoll by a neck for the victory. Dagny, Witt's Town and Soul Affair all were within 1 length in that order. Special Rockstar, a 5-year-old mare by Special Rate, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:37.91 under Danny Sorenson.
Pure Justice was full of run in the stretch drive of Saturday's $75,000 Emerald Neckless Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies, drawing off to win by 6 3/4 lengths over a pair of first-timers, Silky Tassels and No Truer. Pure Justice, a daughter of Twinspired out of the Yes It's True mare Corner Girl, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:14.02 with Edgar Paucar up.
Sundays' British Columbia Cup comprised four races, each worth $50,000 (Canadian), for British Columbia-breds. The track was rated good.
Crazy Prophet rallied from next-last of eight to win the Classic Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths over Power Corrupt with Sargent Rick third. Crazy Prophet, a 4-year-old Rosberg gelding, got the 9 furlongs in 1:49.93 with Amadeo Perez in the irons.
Babys Got Track dueled for the lead in the Distaff Handicap, gave it up briefly and then came again to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Sailingforthesun. Babys Got Track, a 3-year-old Numaany filly, toured 9 furlongs in 1:51.53 with Silvino Morales riding.
Weekend Wizard battled his way to the lead in the Nursery for 2-year-olds and got clear in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Wise Market. With Richard Hamel up, the Rosberg colt ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.37.
Raider shadowed the early lead made by Under Par in the Debutante for 2-year-old fillies, got by that rival late and won by 1 3/4 lengths. The Stephanotis filly got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18.88 with Hamel up.