Winx won her third Cox Plate in a nail-biter, Kitasan Black was a gutsy winner in Japan and trainer Aidan O'Brien got his record 26th top-level win of the year with a promising candidate for next year's Derby -- the top headlines in weekend racing.
In North America, most attention was focused on Del Mar and the final week of preparations for the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Belmont's final day was weathered out as the baton passes to Aqueduct for the winter. And Churchill Downs took over Kentucky racing with a program devoted to 2-year-olds.
Pink Lloyd won his seventh straight stakes race at Woodbine and had his trainer singing his praises.
Before we head to California, let's clear the decks with this:
Winx did it. Her third straight Cox Plate, and in course-record time. Her 22nd straight win. Her 15th Group 1 victory, equaling Black Caviar. The Australian earnings record. All with a rather more dramatic than expected 1/2-length victory over Humidor Saturday at Moonee Valley.
With Hugh Bowman in his regular pilot's seat, Winx raced well back in the field and outside, out of potential trouble. Bowman started to ask the 6-year-old Street Cry mare with about 600 meters to go and she was on even terms with the leaders as they straightened for home. As Humidor ranged up to her outside, closing the gap, Winx found more and was far enough in front at the end. Godolphin's Folkswood was third, 4 1/2 lengths farther up the stretch. Winx was timed in 2:02.94 for the 2,040 meters over good turf.
The race sparked tremendous interest throughout the island continent -- and that with the Melbourne Cup, "the race that stops a nation," less than two weeks away.
"She's the ultimate professional," Bowman said of Winx. "And she's not finished yet."
Trainer Chris Waller, however, tossed out a caution about assumptions Winx is headed to England next season. "She'll go only if she's at her very best," he said. "We won't make a decision until at least March."
Saxon Warrior had to beat back a late surge by a menacing Roaring Lion in the final yards to take Saturday's Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, giving trainer Aiden O'Brien his record 26th top-level win of the year. The Deep Impact colt also provided jockey Ryan Moore his first victory in the race, which is the final Group 1 event of the British flat season and a traditional early preview of the coming year's Investec Derby at Epsom.
Saxon Warrior moved to the front 100 yards out only to find Roaring Lion surge to take the advantage for a few strides. Digging in, Saxon Warrior came again to win by a neck. Another of O'Brien's four starters, The Pentagon, contested the early lead and finished another 2 1/2 lengths back in third. "I'm delighted," O'Brien said. "He traveled very strong through it and Ryan gave him a great ride."
O'Brien came into the race tied with the late Bobby Frankel at 25 top-level wins in a calendar year -- a mark the American trainer established in 2003. As he has throughout the record chase, O'Brien credited his team. "It's a privilege to be working with such special people," he said. "We're in a very lucky position. We're a small link in a big chain."
The win boosted Saxon Warrior's record to 3-for-3 and boosted his Derby stock. Two of O'Brien's seven previous Racing Post Trophy winners -- High Chaparral and Churchill -- have gone on to victory in the following year's Derby. The colt has the breeding to follow in those hoofprints. His sire is the outstanding Japanese stallion Deep Impact who is by 1989 U.S. Horse of the Year Sunday Silence. His dam is by Galileo, the dominant sire in European and UK racing.
Japan's reigning Horse of the Year, Kitasan Black, took a big step toward his looming retirement as he held off a determined rally by Satono Crown to score out a narrow victory in the Group 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) Sunday at rain-soaked Tokyo Racecourse. With Yutaka Take up, Kitasan Black broke a step slowly and settled into a ground-saving spot rather than his usual forward position. That worked to his advantage as the field swung into the uphill stretch climb and he found himself alone on the inside. The Black Tide colt tired in the final furlong and drifted out but held on gamely to win by a neck. Long shot Rainbow Line was third.
"He was a bit too eager today and missed his break," Take said. "The going didn't seem to bother him so I decided to take the path near the rails at the last corner. He responded beautifully in the stretch and before we knew it, we were at the front. He weakened a little during the long drive but held on well."
Kitasan Black is slated for two more starts before retirement, including a bid for his second Japan Cup Nov. 26. "I am hoping to be in the winner's circle with him two more times," Take said.
Two Group 1 events for 2-year-olds were lost, at least for the day, as the Saint-Cloud race meeting was abandoned after the first race after a long meeting involving race officials, trainers and owners.
Both Group 1 races involved promising youngsters shipped cross-Channel by trainer Aidan O'Brien. No resolution of the impasse was immediately announced but a rescheduling of the races seemed unlikely as some of the international shippers already were headed for home.
The abandonment, in addition to other inconveniences, deprived some top English and Irish juveniles of the chance for a final start of the year at the Group 1 level.
Back in North America:
Off Limits was right on target in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares on the grass. With Joel Rosario in the irons, the 5-year-old Mastercraftsman mare raced well in hand behind the leaders, came four-wide into the lane and hit the front with a furlong to go. A late bid by My Impression fell a neck short and Elysea's World and Penjade rallied from the back of the pack to fill the superfecta slots. Off Limits ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:41.73, earning her third straight win. "The pace was kind of slow so it was just about timing the right move to go to the front," Rosario said.
Eskenformoney outfinished Verve's Tale by a head for the victory in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Turnback the Alarm Handicap for fillies and mares. Birdathewire was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third and the favorite, Miss Sky Warrior, faded from the lead to finish fourth. Eskenformoney, a 5-year-old daughter of Eskendereya, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt course in 1:43.12 with John Velazquez in the irons. "Sometimes she doesn't break real alertly but it kind of helped us when they went pretty quickly up front and Johnny gave a great ride," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "This is her last start before the Fasig-Tipton November sale. She's been a great filly for us, very consistent. A real sweetheart to train."
Tom's Ready rallied widest of all around the turn in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap, caught Stallwalkin' Dude in the final sixteenth and went on to win by 3/4 length over that rival. Beasley was just a nose farther back in third and the favorite, Divining Rod, could find only fifth place. Awesome Banner finished last of nine. Tom's Ready, a 4-year-old More Than Ready colt, got 7 furlongs in 1:22.06 with Rosario riding. "We were a little wide going into the stretch," Rosario acknowledged. "We were trying to be in the clear because when the dirt hits him a little in the face he doesn't go forward, he just stays there. I was trying to make him feel comfortable." Bentley Combs, assistant to winning trainer Dallas Stewart, said Tom's Ready will be prepared for the Cigar Mile in hopes of getting him a Grade I win before he heads to the breeding shed.
Therapist finally figured things out in the final sixteenth in Saturday's $100,000 Awad Stakes for 2-year-olds. After mostly idling behind the leading trio, the Freud colt finally responded to the entreaties of jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., spurted by those in front of him and won by 1 length. V.I.P. Code also found his best stride late and came from even farther back to claim second, a nose in front of pacesetter Looking Ready. The favorite, War Chest, was seventh. Therapist ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.41, securing his third win from as many starts. "It was a great race to stretch him out because it's a one-turn mile," said winning trainer Christophe Clement. "He got up very strong so I guess he can get the distance." Clement said there is no firm plan for the New York-bred.
Sunday's program was canceled due to a powerful coastal storm sweeping into Long Island. The two stakes, the Chelsey Flower for 2-year-old fillies and the Pumpkin Pie for fillies and mares, will be run next weekend as racing switches to Aqueduct.
The Player eased by pacesetting Neolithic in the stretch run to land Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes by 3 lengths. Neolithic held second with McCraken a further 10 lengths up the track in third and the Favorite, Honorable Duty, reporting last with a non-effort. The Player, a 4-year-old Street Hero colt, ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:48.16 with Calvin Borel up. "We thought he would go a mile and an eighth and today he showed it," said Buff Bradley, winning trainer and a part owner. "You never know until you get down there and do it. Calvin rode him perfectly. Turning for home, we felt like we were going to win it." McCraken's trainer, Ian Wilkes, said he was satisfied with the effort off a long layoff and still plans to run the colt back in the Grade I Clark Handicap Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs.
The Fayette concluded Keeneland's fall meeting and marked the end of Mike Battaglia's tenure as the track's television analyst. The veteran said he will continue to make the morning line and contribute in other ways as well as "hang around the press box."
The Twin Spires track kicked off the fall meeting with a card exclusively for 2-year-olds. The twin $200,000 Spendthrift Stallion Stakes events were restricted to juveniles sired by a Spendthrift stallion who stood at any Spendthrift farm in the 2014 season.
In the Juvenile, Fight On dueled his way to the lead and the fought on to prevail by a diminishing head from Captivating Moon. Dream Baby Dream, O'Malley's March and John Tippmann were all within 1 length of the winner in a blanket finish. Fight On, an Into Mischief colt, covered 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.87 with Ricardo Santana Jr. in the irons.
In the Juvenile Filly, Sultry trailed most of the field into the turn, advance along the inside and collared pacesetting Mia Mischief in the final sixteenth, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over that one. It was another 6 lengths back to Aerial Assets in third. Sultry, by Malibu Moon, finished in 1:24.51 with Corey Lanerie aboard.
The unrestricted $80,000 Rags to Riches Stakes for fillies went to Monomoy Girl, who led all the way for jockey Florent Geroux and won by 6 1/2 lengths. Queen Mum beat the other eight with Foxtrot Sally along for third. Monomoy Girl, a Tapizar filly, got 1 mile on the main track in 1:36.29 with Geroux up.
Gotta Go got going just in time to outfinish Lone Sailor and win the $80,000 Street Sense Stakes for 2-year-olds by a head. Bravazo led the field into the stretch, then faded to finish third, 3 1/4 lengths farther back. Gotta Go, a Shanghai Bobby colt, finished in 1:37.48 for jockey Chris Landeros.
Lull stalked the pace set by a 92-1 shot in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Autumn Miss for 3-year-old fillies, took over when that one had enough and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Chocolate Coated, Storm the Hill and Tapped were close in that order for the minor placings. Lull, a Claiborne Farm-Adele Dilschneider homebred by War Front, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.66. "I didn't think we were going that quickly," said winning rider Flavien Prat. "I wouldn't say that we were walking but I didn't think we were going fast. I guess she has a lot of speed because I was just cruising around and trying to keep her relaxed." Lull won the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint at that key meeting, then was third in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County at Keeneland before heading west.
Clickity Clack got her nose down on the wire just in front of Avie's Mineshaft in Sunday's $225,000 (Canadian) Princess Elizabeth Stakes for Canadian-foaled 2-year-old fillies. Safe to Say was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Clickity Clack, a daughter of Silent Name, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.06 with Rafael Hernandez up. "I tried once to get out, but I had horses outside and I decided to just wait for the hole to open up and that's what happened," Hernandez said. "The hole opened inside, went through, and she was still running."
Pink Lloyd swept to the lead in the lane in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Overskate Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up and drew off smartly to win by 4 lengths. Jack's Escarpment was best of the rest with Roxy's Vision third at a big price. Pink Lloyd, a 5-year-old Old Forester gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.73 with Eurico Da Silva riding. It was his seventh straight stakes win of the Woodbine meeting. "I'm not speechless," said winning trainer Robert Tiller. "I'm going to say it right now: I can't remember the last horse that's won seven stakes in a row, the 126 pounds with the Beyers (Speed Figures) he's had. If he's not the greatest sprinter in Canada and he's not the best horse in Canada, I give up. What are we supposed to do for an encore here?"
Moonlit Promise rallied from next-last of seven to take Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Ontario Fashion Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths from fellow late-runner Minks Aprise. Code Warrior was third. The favorite, Stormy Victoria, shipped in from New York for the race and finished last after a stretch incident that resulted in the disqualification of the rival who impeded her. Moonlit Promise, a 4-year-old filly by Malibu Moon, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.06 with Gary Boulanger in the irons. She has won four of six starts this year at the Toronto course.
Sharp Samurai had to battle for the lead in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Twilight Derby but, once on the lead, the First Samurai gelding pulled away to a 2 3/4-lengths victory. Big Score was second and Bowies Hero was along for third. Sharp Samurai, with Gary Stevens in the irons for trainer Mark Glat, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:45.36. It was his fourth straight win with three of those graded stakes. "Mark said we might have run him on the wrong Saturday and I said the same thing," Stevens commented. "If he stays good and continues to improve, I think Mark will have the option to run him in the Breeders' Cup Mile or the Breeders' Cup Turf next year."
Top of the Game tracked the pace in Saturday's $70,000 Comma to the Top Stakes, moved to take a big lead in the stretch and held well, defeating Hoppertunity by 4 1/4 lengths. Irish Freedom was third Top of the Game, a 4-year-old Desert Party gelding, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.09. Hoppertunity was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Dubai World Cup on March 25.
Hawthorne Race Course
My Bariley rallied from well off the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Hawthorne Derby, worked his way between rivals in the lane and was along in time to post the upset win by 3/4 length over Blue Sky Kowboy. Adonis Creed was third and the favorite, Voodoo Song, faded from the lead on the soft turf and finished fifth. My Bariley, a Mizzen Mast gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the off going in 1:56.07 with Santo Sanjur in the irons for trainer Tony Granitz.
Golden Gate Fields
Multiplayer tracked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, got through along the inside in the stretch drive and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths. Cash Cannon was second with Neon Gypsy 1 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Multiplayer, a Giant's Causeway filly out of the Dynaformer mare Style Squad, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:39.93 with Juan Hernandez in the irons. It was her second win from four starts. She was third in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Sept. 4.
Jersey Justice edged past pacesetting Sky Writer to take the lead in Thursday's $100,000 Indiana Futurity for state-bred 2-year-olds and held off a late bid by Jova to win by 1 length. Sky Writer finished third. Jersey Justice, a Jersey Town colt trained by Tom Amoss for owner Maggi Moss, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:41.41 with Deshawn Parker in the irons.
Flurry drew off in the stretch run of Thursday's $100,000 Miss Indiana Stakes for state-bred juvenile fillies, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Obsolete was second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of Shyla. Flurry, a daughter of Old Fashioned, finished the 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:44.68 under Marcelino Pedroza.
Express Run rallied nicely through the lane to land Wednesday's $150,000 Frances Slocum Stakes for Indiana-bred fillies and mares by 3 1/4 lengths over Whistle Stop with Hay Little Bit checking in third. Express Run, a 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled Express, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.06 with Jon Court riding for trainer Bernie Flint.
Huntstown rallied between horses from well back in the field to take Wednesday's $150,000 Too Much Coffee Stakes for state-breds by 1/2 length. Mr Manning was second, 3/4 length to the good of Operation Stevie. Huntstown, a 6-year-old gelding by Unbridled Energy, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.04 with Parker up.
Saturday was New Mexico Classic Cup Day with a few American Quarter Horse races sprinkled in amongst the valuable Thoroughbred stakes. The track was fast but some of the long shots were faster.
Hute, a 3-year-old Western Gambler gelding, held off a late run by Shining Source to win the $180,000 Classic Cup by a neck at odds of 26-1. Hush's Storm was third as Miguel Fuentes Jr. guided Hute over 1 mile in 1:38.44.
Kimbell, dispatched at odds of 16-1, outfinished Bobbi's Flight in the $170,000 Fillies and Mares Stakes, winning by 1/2 length. The favorite, My Bikini Fell Off, was only a neck farther back in third. Kimbell, a 4-year-old Western Gambler filly, finished 1 mile in 1:39.70 with Tracy Hebert up.
Forger, the favorite, got the lead in the stretch in the $170,000 Sprint and held on to win by a neck over Citizen Geller with Perty Dirty Dude another neck behind in third. Diabolical Dame, the odds-on favorite, needed the full 6 furlongs to get the better of Tijuana in the $140,000 Distaff Sprint, winning by a head and another neck from late-running Bryn's Fancy Pants.
P J's Gold, at odds of nearly 30-1, caught pacesetting favorite Hollywood Henry in the final strides of the $140,000 Juvenile and won by a nose over that rival. Fast Gator, the favorite, led all the way in the $140,000 Lassie for 2-year-old fillies and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Poseidon Aquarius.
My Mirage, at 12-1 odds, stalked the pace in the $140,000 Derby Championship for 3-year-old colts and geldings, then drew off to win by 2 lengths from late-running Thunder Dome. Sidewinder Sally, let go at odds of nearly 20-1, was along from mid-pack to win the $140,000 Oaks Championship by 3 lengths over Waltzing Attila.
For the record, three of the four Quarter Horse races also were won by long shots.