A spate of major weekend races around the world fueled hopes for the coming season, even as this year's championships are still being debated.
In Australia, Redzel silenced any lingering doubts about his sprint dominance with a smashing win in the Darley Classic -- and piqued interest that he might accompany Winx to Royal Ascot 2018.
We've also got results from South Africa to Japan, where a rising 3-year-old filly won the QE II Cup.
Speaking of the Cup, we'll step up to the plate with:
Spring Quality stalked the pace set by a 50-1 long shot in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Red Smith Handicap, moved into contention after hitting the stretch and edged clear. Call Provision missed by 1/2 length with a late move with Get Jets another 1/2 length back in third. The favorite, Money Multiplier, was a nose behind that one. Spring Quality, a 5-year-old Quality Road gelding, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:17.72 with Edgar Prado riding. The gelding scored his first graded stakes win but trainer Graham Motion said more is in the offing. "Probably give him a little break. Freshen him up. I think he can run in the big races next year. This horse is very talented," Motion said.
Bee Noteworthy seized the advantage in the lane in Sunday's $125,000 Staten Island Division of the New York Stallion Series and kicked away to a 5 1/4-lengths victory. Frosty Margarita was second in the race, restricted to eligible fillies and mares. Bee Noteworthy, a 5-year-old daughter of Read the Footnotes, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.36 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.
Mr. Misunderstood, under a confident ride by Florent Geroux, rallied from next-last in the late going to win Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Commonwealth Turf for 3-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths over Parlor. Mr Cub made all the early going and held on for third. Mr. Misunderstood, an Archarcharch gelding, got 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:46.80. The Brad Cox trainee posted his seventh win from his last eight starts, a skein that started with a claiming race at Fair Grounds last December and includes the Super Derby and the Jefferson Cup. His only loss this year was a seventh-place finish in the Grade III Illinois Derby at Hawthorne in April. He is 7-for-7 on grass. "It's unbelievable to get our first graded stakes win," said owner Staton Flurry. "Last year we ran this horse for $30,000 at Fair Grounds and to now turn the corner and become a graded stakes winner is really something special."
Victor Espinoza sent Greyvitos out and winging in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Bob Hope Stakes for 2-year-olds and the favorite, Mourinho, couldn't catch him. At the wire, Greyvitos was drawing away and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Maurinho was second, 7 3/4 lengths ahead of Beautiful Shot. The second choice in the mutuels, Run Away, competed through the first half mile, then faded to finish fifth.
Greyvitos, a Virginia-bred colt by Malibu Moon, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.20. It was his third start. He failed to fire on the grass in his first outing, then finished third, gaining ground late, in a 5 1/2-furlongs maiden event at Santa Anita Oct. 21. He went to the post Saturday at odds of 19-1.
"With his pedigree, we figured him for a grass horse and definitely for two turns because he's bred top and bottom for that," said winning trainer Adam Kitchingman. "And we might run him again on the grass sometime in the future. But he trained so well on the dirt that we wanted to try him on it." Kitchingman said Greyvitos' next race will be the Futurity at Los Alamitos.
Majestic Heat, running on just eight days' rest, took charge in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares and went on to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Barbara Beatrice. Late 'n Left finished third. Majestic Heat, a 5-year-old mare by Unusual Heat, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.56 with Flavien Prat at the controls.
North Atlantic rallied late to catch pacesetting long shot Prince of Windsor and win Saturday's $50,000 A Huevo Stakes for West Virginia-breds by 1 length. Prince of Windsor held second, a neck in front of Charitable Annuity. North Atlantic, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper gelding, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.46 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons.
Gulfstream Park West
Saturday's card contained four juvenile events and four Sunshine Millions previews. Each was worth $75,000. The main track was fast and the turf was firm.
In the Millions Preview events:
Mr. Jordan, the solid favorite, posted a solid win in the Millions Classic Preview, dusting seven rivals in the stretch run en route to an 11 1/2-lengths victory. Richard the Great was good enough to beat the others, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Zipping. Mr. Jordan, a 5-year-old Kantharos gelding, zipped 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.47 with Edgard Zayas up.
Enterprising, the even-money favorite, rallied from last of seven to win the Millions Turf Preview by 1 1/4 lengths over Galleon Mast. Charlie Mops led early and held on for show money. Enterprising, a 6-year-old Elusive Quality gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:47.27 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
Quijote stalked the pace in the Millions Sprint Preview, then prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths from Sweetontheladies. Splash Rules was a nose behind that in third. Quijote, a 4-year-old gelding by Pomeroy, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.60 with Jose Batista riding.
Lirica led home a three-horse long shot parade in the Millions Distaff, outfinishing April Gaze by 1/2 length. Stormy Embrace led early and finished third, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of the favorite, Mama Joyce. Lirica, a 3-year-old Kantharos filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.63 under Marcos Meneses.
In the juvenile events:
Homemade Salsa heated things up in the stretch run in the Juvenile Turf, drawing off to score by 2 lengths over Anabella Queen. Unstablenthemornin was third. Homemade Salsa, a daughter of Two Step Salsa, got 1 mile on the turf in 1:41.78 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons.
Wildcat's Legacy took over late in the Juvenile Sprint and got clear, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Highborn. Reed Kan was third. Wildcat's Legacy, a Wildcat Heir colt, got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19.94 for jockey Edgard Zayas.
In the Juvenile Turf, Nauti Boy took the lead in the lane and held on gamely to win by 1/2 length over The X. Seattle Treasure checked in third. Nauti Boy, a Mizzen Mast gelding, got 1 mile on the grass in 1:41.12 with Zayas up.
Silver Bay led from the start in the Juvenile Fillies Sprint and held off the favorite, Starship Bonita, by a neck under the wire. Lil B Quick was third. Silver Bay, a daughter of Currency Swap, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:19.37 with Gaffalione up.
Richie'slilwildcat led comfortably through most of Saturday's $75,000 Showtime Deb Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies, then had enough left to hold off Speed Devil by 1/2 length and Cowgirl Callie by a neck at the end of the 6 furlongs. Richie'slilwildcat, a daughter of Wildcat Heir, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.96 for jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. It was her third win, the first two coming at Arlington Park and Churchill Downs.
Ben's Cat Day on Saturday included a moving tribute to the honoree as Ben's Cat's remains were interred in the paddock. The gelding died from complications after surgery earlier this year. Racing from 2010 until the spring of this year, he won 32 of his 63 starts, 26 of the wins coming in stakes. "Ben's Cat was an amazing, magnificent animal," said breeder and trainer King Leatherbury. No spring chicken himself, Leatherbury clearly has a way with veteran horses. Less than 30 minutes after the ceremony, his silks were back in the winner's circle aboard the 11-year-old gelding Classic Wildcat.
On the Laurel track Saturday:
A Different Style showed plenty of style in the $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes for 2-year-olds, leading all the way to a 2-lengths victory over the odds-on favorite, Kowboy Karma. Barry Lee was another 3/4 length back in third. With John Bisono up, A Different Style negotiated 6 furlongs in 1:10.16. He's by The Factor.
Take Charge Paula stalked the pace in the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then outfinished Caught Dream'n for a head victory.Vertrazzo was third. Take Charge Paula, a daughter of Take Charge Indy, got 6 furlongs in 1:10.59 with Paco Lopez riding.
Prince of Hempt dueled to the lead in the lane in the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes for 3-year-olds, then held off Tale of Silence to win by 1 length. Sonic Mule led briefly but faded to finish third. Prince of Hempt, a Majestic Warrior gelding, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.67 under Dana Whitney.
Berned rallied from last of 11 to win the $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 4 1/4 lengths from Your Love. Shimmering Aspen was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Berned, a Bernardini filly, got 7 furlongs in 1:22.54 with Feargal Lynch in the irons.
Afleet Willy was off a step slowly in the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes but made up all the ground, took the lead in the stretch and prevailed by 3/4 length. Discreet Lover led early, surrendered the lead but was gaining again at the end and salvaged second. Just Call Kenny was another 4 lengths back in third. Afleet Willy, a 4-year-old Wilburn gelding, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.86 with Jomar Torres up.
My Magician was along late to take the $75,000 Geisha Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Moon Virginia. My Magician, a 5-year-old Street Magician mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.20 with Jomar Torres up.
Southern Princess moved by the early leader in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 First Lady Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies and drew off smartly to win by 4 1/2 lengths. The pacesetter, Blanconia, held second, 5 3/4 lengths better than Classical Music as the placing judges enjoyed an easy one. Southern Mischief, a daughter of Into Mischief, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.73 with Luis Colon in the irons.
Gigantic Breeze got first run to the lead in the stretch in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Autumn Stakes and made that advantage stand up, beating the odds-on favorite, Melmich, by 1 length. Western Reserve was third. Gigantic Breeze, a 4-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:42.38 with Gary Boulanger in the irons, missing the track record by just 0.22 second. "There's no doubt in my mind that every race is better than the preceding one, especially now," said winning trainer Sandy McPherson. "He's improved, like visually. Every race is better than the one before. I mean, Melmich is a really good horse. He's a good, good horse."
Ghostly Presence raced well back early in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Jammed Lovely Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-old fillies, entered the stretch run five-wide and drew off to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Mythical Mission, Crumlin Queen and Dilly Dally Darby finished in a bunch for the minor awards, producing a superfecta payout that hardly was worth the effort ($33.80 for $1). Ghostly Presence, a Ghostzapper filly trained by Roger Attfield and ridden by Rafael Hernandez, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.98.
Golden Gate Fields
Runaway Ghost lived up the first half of his name in Saturday's $65,000 Golden Nugget Stakes for 2-year-olds. Leading from the early going, the Ghostzapper colt steadily increased his lead all the way to a 7 1/2-lengths win. La Waun finished second but was disqualified all the way to last of six for an early incident. That left Generally Lucky and Go Bobby Go to fill out the trifecta slots. Runaway Ghost, with Aaron Gryder up, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.71.
Around the world, around the clock:
Redzel, winner of the last month's inaugural TAB Everest Stakes, put paid to any lingering doubts about his dominance among Australian sprinters as he posted his sixth straight win in Saturday's Group 1 Darley Classic at Flemington. The 5-year-old Snitzel gelding took the lead on the stands-side group and powered home convincingly under Kerrin McEvoy, winning by 3/4 lengths.
Terravista added blinkers and ran well to finish second, another 3/4 length ahead of Impending. Chautauqua, once the world's top-rated sprinter, continued his winless season while duplicating his fourth-place finish in the Everest. Redzel, trained by Peter and Paul Snowden for a large syndicate of "common man" owners, still had doubters after the Everest win. Trainer Peter Snowden said the Darley triumph should end that talk. "His record speaks for itself," he said.
Snowden said no firm course has been laid for the 5-year-old but indicated international travel is not in the cards for the horse his owners and fans call "Red." "There's no need to travel them when there's so much money here in Australia," he said, indicating a go at next year's Everest is more likely than a journey Royal Ascot.
A more optimistic note was sounded by Ascot's director of racing, Nick Smith, who has been focusing on efforts to geet Aussie supermare Winx, winner of 22 straight races, to Royal Ascot next June. Reporting positively on that effort, Smith also told Racing Post some Redzel's many connections are "keen too on the Diamond Jubilee" during the Royal meeting.
Also Nov. 10 at Flemington, Tosen Stardom scored his second win in Australia, taking the 2,000-meter Group 1 Emirates Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Happy Clapper. The favorite, Folkswood, finished fifth. Tosen Stardom, trained by Darren Weir and ridden by Damian Lane, is a 7-year-old son of Deep Impact. He finished second in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes during a brief visit to Australia in 2015, then returned to Japan. In eight previous starts during his current tenure down under, his only win was the Group 1 Toorak Handicap at Caulfield Oct. 14.
Mozu Katchan, facing older rivals for the first time, nailed Crocosmia in the final jumps to win Sunday's Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto by a neck in a perfectly timed ride. Mikki Queen just missed with her late run, finishing third, a head back of Crocosmia. The favorite, Vivlos, raced prominently but was outrun in the final 100 meters, finishing fifth. Mozu Katchan, a 3-year-old daughter of Harbinger, saved ground behind the leading quartet through most of the 2,200 meters. Jockey Mirco Demuro asked her as the field straightened out for the run to the line and she found a convenient seam between the tiring rivals. She finished 2,200 meters over good turf in 2:14.3.
"We had a good draw and everything went as planned," Demuro said. "She was so strong nearing the finish and pinning the leader for the win."
Mozu Katchan scored her first Group 1 win after some misfortune in the Japanese Filly Triple Crown events. She was second to Soul Stirring in the Group 1 Yushun Himba (G1), the Japanese Oaks. Then, she finished third in the Group 1 Shuka Sho despite losing a shoe.
Trainer Brett Crawford saddled four of the eight starters in Saturday's Pinnacle Stakes at Kenilworth and saw the quartet sweep the placings. Edict of Nantes, under Piere Strydom, got there first by 1/2 length with a late run from the back of a compact field, leading stablemates Sail South, Captain America and Black Cat Back. Although the race was not graded, the field was full of graded stakes runners. Edict of Nantes was the Daily News winner and third in the Vodacom Durban July four months ago.
The quality of the field is further illuminated by the last and second-last -- Guineas winner Black Arthur and Horizon, a promising 3-year-old last season looking for better. Many of these will be better going longer than the 1,400 meters of the Pinnacle Plate.
Odds and ends:
Arrogate retained his top position on the Longines World's Best Racehorse rankings released Thursday with a rating of 134. Australian mare Winx remains No. 2, rated 132. Cracksman, on the strength of his victory in the Qipco Champion Stakes, is rated 130, up from 122, edging Gun Runner, whose Breeders' Cup Classic victory bumped his rating from 127 to 129. The top five is rounded out by super filly Enable, at 128. Arrogate retains the top spot despite three straight losses because the standings are based on each horse's top performance during the year. For Arrogate, that was the Dubai World Cup, where he came from last, passed Gun Runner in the stretch with total ease and won going away. After the Longines handicapping panel sorts things out during its December meeting in Hong Kong, the final year-end rankings for 2017 will be revealed during the Longines World's Best Racehorse Ceremony in January. The top rung is unlikely to feature Arrogate. No question who's atop the Churchill Downs all-time training list. Dale Romans is the guy, breaking out of a tie with Bill Mott as he sent out Storm Runner to win Sunday's sixth race. Romans, the quintessential south side Louisvillian, now has 703 wins under the Twin Spires, leaving Mott second with 702. Mott had held the record for more than 31 years and said, "That's long enough. That's long enough for anybody to hold a record." Romans said, "It is truly an honor to stand here as the all-time leading trainer at Churchill Downs. With everything I've done in my career at Churchill Downs, and around the country, nothing beats this moment right now." He heaped praise on his staff and life partner Tammy Fox.
"Everybody knows there's one goal left out there -- one major goal -- and that one takes a lot of luck to get to it," Romans said. "That would be to win a Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. Every 2-year-old in the barn is a Derby horse until they prove they're not." Romans trained Shackleford to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 Run for the Roses.