Weekend Thoroughbred action centered on Asia as Persian Knight, a 3-year-old son of a rising sire, won the Mile Championship in Japan while Hong Kong's finest sorted things out in preparation for their upcoming international races.
In England, two more horses qualified for the All-Weather Championship finals.
North American racing enjoyed a bit of a pre-Thanksgiving lull. The only graded stakes was taken off the turf. Win the War and Dream Tree were impressive 2-year-old filly winners but many of the 2-year-old races were for state-breds.
Away we go:
Persian Knight came from third-last in an 18-horse field to win Sunday's Group 1 Mile Championship at Kyoto by a nose over Air Spinel. Sungrazer rallied with Persian Knight but settled for third, 1/2 length behind Air Spinel, who was partnered by Ryan Moore. Persian Knight, a 3-year-old colt by Harbinger, ran 1,600 meters on good turf in 1:33.8 for jockey Mirco Demuro.
"We were a little worried about the farthest draw," Demuro said. "But he always breaks well so we weren't that concerned. The colt was responding really well, especially around the third corner. Being still a 3-year-old, he seemed a bit nervous entering the lane but ran really well to the wire. He's a great horse."
Persian Knight, trained by Yasutoshi Ikee, notched his fourth win from nine starts and first at the top level. Before being turned back to the mile distance, he finished second and seventh in the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown, the Group 1 Satsuki Sho or Japanese 2000 Guineas, and the Group 1 Tokyo Yushun or Japanese Derby.
Harbinger has been Japan's hottest sire in the past month. A week ago, Mozu Katchan, a 3-year-old Harbinger filly, won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Kyoto, beating older rivals. On Oct. 15, also at Kyoto, Deirdra posted a mild upset victory in the Group 1 Shuka Sho or Japanese Oaks.
Three Group 2 races on Sunday's card at Sha Tin point directly to the Longines Hong Kong International Races over the same course Dec. 10.
Seasons Bloom staked a claim for the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong mile, overcoming a wide trip to take command 50 meters from home in Sunday's BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, winning by 1/2 length over Helene Paragon, winner of last season's Group 1 Stewards' Cup and second in last season's Hong Kong Mile. Beauty Generation and Beauty Only were third and fourth in a race that was up for grabs with 100 meters left. Beauty Only was last year's Hong Kong Mile victor.
Seasons Bloom, a 5-year-old Australian-bred gelding, came home in 22.84 seconds and completed the mile in 1:34.13 with Joao Moreira in the irons for Danny Shum. He now has two wins and a second this season while rapidly ascending the class ladder. "Based on what he's done today," Moreira said, "you would think he'd be able to run well in the Hong Kong Mile next time because he beat some of the best horses in Hong Kong today, and he had to make it tough, being exposed three wide."
Mr Stunning emerged from the pack to take the lead with 100 meters to go in the BOCHK Wealth Management Sprint and surged to a 1 1/2-lengths victory. Amazing Kids produced a good late run to get up for second, edging D B Pin. The favorite, Lucky Bubbles, was very unlucky in the running with no place to go in the stretch and finished ninth, beating only one rival. John Size trains the top three as well as Thewizardofoz, who finished fifth.
"They've all run very pleasingly," said Size, a nine-time Hong Kong champion trainer. "Mr Stunning seemed to dominate today but it all depends on the way the race is run in three weeks. That race could be run at a different tempo, which could give us a different result." In his previous start, Mr Stunning edged Lucky Bubbles by 1/2 length in the Premier Bowl, avenging a nose loss to that same rival in the Group 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize at the end of last season. Lucky Bubbles' connections can take heart from the experience of Aerovelocity in 2014. He was last in his prep, then first on the big day.
Werther, Hong Kong's once-removed Horse of the Year, wore down a stubborn Time Warp in the final 100 yards to take the BOCHK Jockey Club Cup by a nose. Nassa, rallying inside those, had every chance but was one-paced in the late going and settled for third, another 1 3/4 lengths back. Werther got the 2,000 meters -- the distance of the Dec. 10 Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup -- in 2:01.52 with Tommy Berry up.
"That was a cracking good run considering it was his second run this season," said trainer John Moore. "His fitness was really tested and he will improve for this run. Berry added: "He's exactly where we want him to be. There are exciting times ahead."
Werther was slow to get going last season because of early injuries but Moore got him together in time to land the Group 1 Standard Charted Champions & Chater Cup by 3 lengths in May. A year earlier, he won the Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup by 4 1/2 lengths over a quality international field en route to the Horse of the Year title.
Master the World and Gifted Master mastered their respective races Saturday at Lingfield, earning guaranteed spots in the All-Weather Championship finals on Good Friday through Fast-Track Qualifier wins.
Master the World, a 6-year-old Mastercraftsman gelding, raced in mid-pack in the Betway Churchill Stakes, a qualifier for the Betway Easter Classic. When prompted by jockey Sean Levey, Master the World surged to the fore inside the furlong marker and held off the favorite, Victory Bond, who was unable to overcome a squeezed start. Mia Tesoro was third at 50-1 odds. Master the World, trained by David Elsworth, was third in this race last year, then detoured to Dubai rather than following the path to the All-Weather Championship finals.
"Good Friday is a distinct possibility" for Master the World, Elsworth said. "We went out to Dubai last year, but they used to quicken up from the front after going a slow gallop and he didn't get into the races. He still ran well out there and we could go anywhere with him. He's not a bad old boy and a Group 3 horse on his day."
In the 6-furlongs Betway Golden Rose Stakes, Caspian Prince and Gifted Master went out to a clear lead with only Gifted Master showing enough stuffing in the final furlong. At the end, the 4-year-old Kodiac gelding was a comfortable 1 1/2 lengths to the good of runner-up Mythmaker. Out Do was along for third as Caspian Prince faded to get home fifth. James Doyle rode the winner for trainer Hugo Palmer, earning a place in the Betway All-Weather Sprint Championship on Good Friday, should connections choose. A Group 3 winner on turf last year, Gifted Master scored his first victory on the all-weather.
"I think we will come back for the big one on Good Friday now," said Bruce Raymond, representing winning owner, Dr. Ali Ridha. "We took him to Dubai last year, but he didn't really enjoy things and it took a long time for him to get over it. He was a skinny horse, but now he is thriving and is a horse with a lot of scope."
The first of four Fast-Track Qualifiers in the Mile division is Tuesday at Kempton Park.
Back in North America:
Dream Tree stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, surged to a 2-lengths lead at the top of the stretch and held off the onrushing Midnight Bisou by a nose at the finish. Secret Spice disputed the early pace, then faded to finish third, 5 1/4 length farther back. Dream Tree, an Uncle Mo filly from the Afleet Alex mare Afleet Maggi, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.69 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons. The Bob Baffert-trained miss now is 2-for-2 after a narrow win in her career opener at Santa Anita -- also over Midnight Bisou.
"She seems to be improving," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said of Dream Tree. "We've got to work on the thrilling finishes there. We'll see how she comes out and Bob will tell us where we're going next."
Edwards Going Left lagged behind the leaders in Sunday's $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes for California-breds, came six-wide into the stretch and was along to win by 1/2 length. Solid Wager came from even farther back to take second with Smokey Image 3 1/2 lengths behind him in third. Edwards Going Left, a 3-year-old Midnight Lute gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.98 with Tyler Baze in the irons.
Fire Away got by Monster Bea and Hollywood Hideaway in the final sixteenth in Saturday's $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes and edged away to win by 1 length. Monster Bea was second and Hollywood Hideaway held third by 1 length over the favorite, Blacktype. Delta Prince was a late scratch. Fire Away, a 5-year-old Phipps Stable homebred by War Front, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.32 with John Velazquez riding. It was his first win since an allowance victory at the Big A one year and two days earlier. "The grass is a little softer on this turf course and I think he likes that," Velazquez said. "There's some give into the ground and he responded well to it."
Saturday's $100,000 Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares came off the turf and onto the sloppy main track after mid-day rains. Several of the morning-line favorites took a pass and the race's Grade III status was left up to a committee. Of the remaining cast, it was Tricky Escape and Fair Point hooking up in the late going with Tricky Escape, under Chris DeCarlo, prevailing by a nose. The pacesetter, Coco Channel, was third and the post-time favorite, Linda, was a distant fourth. Tricky Escape, a 4-year-old daughter of Hat Trick, ran 9 furlongs in the slop in 1:53.85.
"I was a little concerned when it came off the grass but I knew how much she likes an off track," trainer Lynn Ashby said of Tricky Escape. "I was worried when we couldn't switch her hind shoes so I just told Chris to take care of her in the turns. She's as game as they come and does everything you ask."
Saturday's $85,000 Bet On Sunshine Stakes went to the post before the rains came and Limousine Liberal had a luxurious trip over the 7 furlongs of fast track, winning by a comfortable 4 1/2 furlongs over Warrior's Club. It was another 4 3/4 lengths back to Storm Advisory in third. Limousine Liberal, a 5-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, finished in 1:22.79 with Corey Lanerie at the controls. Winning trainer Ben Colebrook said Limousine Liberal has proved he loves Churchill Downs and does not love New York. "We've learned our lesson and are looking forward to getting him ready for his 6-year-old campaign," Colebrook said. "We'll turn him out for 30-45 days at the owner's farm and get him ready to do the same thing next year. Hopefully we only go for the (Churchill Downs sprint) trifecta next year and end up in the Breeders' Cup Sprint to close the year."
Win the War won the race with authority Sunday, taking the $120,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 11 1/4 lengths. The 1-5 favorite, Grace and Dignity, beat the other four with equal ease under Eurico Da Silva. Win the War, a Kentucky-bred War Front filly from the Carson City mare City Sister, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.52 with Patrick Husbands along for the ride. She won at first asking on the Woodbine turf Oct. 20. "I went by Eurico so easy, but I didn't know how much horse he had," Husbands related. "So when I went by him so easy, I tried to jump his filly hoping that his filly didn't come back. At the end of the day, my filly drove away."
Be Vewy Vewy Quiet returned to the winner's circle after Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Frost King Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds. The Silent Name gelding, with Rafael Hernandez riding, rallied four-wide to take the lead a mid-stretch and held off Silent Sting to win by a head. Royal Laser was third. Be Vewy Vewy Quiet ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:23.28. He won his first two career starts early in the Woodbine season, then came up short in the last two, finishing third in the Colin Stakes and second in the Bull Page. Thinking 2018 Queen's Plate? Trainer Robert Tiller said, "I really think he'll go long. He just kind of plods along at his own pace, but he's got heart. He got beat a couple of close races, they were short races and a few excuses, but he's run hard every time."
T Rex Express was clearly the top of the food chain in Saturday's $50,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes for West Virginia-bred distaffers, leading all the way to a 9-lengths victory. Rock n' Gold was best of the rest, 3 1/4 lengths to the good of March Wind. T Rex Express, a 4-year-old Warrior's Reward filly, roamed 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.65 with Gerald Almodovar up.
Testing One Two showed in the stretch run of Friday's $150,000 Louisiana Jewel why she was the favorite, rolling from just off the pace to win by 16 1/2 lengths without much encouragement from jockey Diego Saenz. Yes Gorgeous and Bionic Butterfly filled out the trifecta. Testing One Two, a daughter of Star Guitar from the Scat Daddy mare Yes Sir, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.09, scoring her second straight win. The race was restricted to 2-year-old state-bred fillies.
In Saturday's $150,000 Louisiana Legacy for 2-year-old state-bred colts and geldings, Gladyousawme led all the way and worked clear in the final sixteenth to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Cajun Creed. Pound for Pound was third. Gladyousawme, a Due Date colt out of the Hard Spun mare Flame Run, finished 1 mile in 1:40.50 for jockey Roberto Morales.
In Saturday's $50,000 Mr. Sulu Stakes for Louisiana-breds, Fort Pulaski saved ground on the first turn well behind the pace, came six-wide into the lane and outfinished the odds-on favorite,Trust Factor, winning by 1/2 length. Mageez was third. Fort Pulaski, a 4-year-old Any Given Saturday colt, ran about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.07 with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons.
My Miss Chiff hit the lead in the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares and ran on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Wheatfield. Look Into My Eyes was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. My Miss Chiff, a 3-year-old Into Mischief filly, ran 6 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:10.86 with Mitchell Murrill up.
Inveniam Viam rallied from well back to win Saturday's $50,000 Si Sima Stakes for state-bred distaffers by 1 length from Pera. Dontmesswithjoanne was third as the favorite. Inveniam Viam, a 5-year-old daughter of Half Ours, negotiated about 1 mile on the grass in 1:37.84 for jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Stand Him Up drew off in the final furlong of Saturday's $50,000 Heitai Stakes for Louisiana-breds and won by 2 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Sir Ghengis, was second and Grande Basin showed late speed to get show money. Stand Him Up, a 5-year-old gelding by Time Bandit, finished the 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.05 under Gabriel Saez.
Pass the Gravy, clearly anticipating the Thanksgiving feast, took over in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Sun Power Stakes for Illinois-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings and won off by 4 1/2 lengths. Caleb's Heir was second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of the favorite, Ghaaleb's Winner. Pass the Gravy, an Afleet Alex colt, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:11.20 with Rodney Prescott in the irons.
Welder dueled his way clear of a stubborn Mr. N in the final stages of Friday's $50,000 Silver Goblin Stakes for Oklahoma-breds, winning by 1/2 length over that rival. Star's Valentino was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Welder, a 4-year-old gelding by The Visualizer, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.16 with Travis Cunningham up.
Golden Gate Fields
Right Hand Man pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Oakland Stakes, moved to a daylight lead in the stretch run and held on to win by a nose over Mach One Rules. Outside Nashville was another 1 length behind in third. Right Hand Man, a 3-year-old Street Boss gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.39 with Ricardo Gonzalez riding.
No Truer was much the best of the eight 2-year-old Ohio-bred fillies in Saturday's $75,000 Glacial Princess Stakes. With Irwin Rosendo riding, the Alcindor filly waited briefly behind Linda N Michelle, then took over and won by 6 lengths. Linda N Michelle held second, 5 1/4 lengths to the good of Silky Tassels. No Truer ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:14.22.
Eightthehardway worked to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial Handicap for state-breds and kicked away to a 4 1/4-lengths victory. Daggers Duel was up for second, 3/4 length better than Geppetto, who carved out the early lead. Eightthehardway, a 5-year-old gelding by Parents' Reward out of the Cryptoclearance mare Natural Nine, ran 9 furlongs in the slop in 1:54.28.