World of Trouble showed a world of talent in the weekend's biggest Kentucky Derby prep while Almond Roca and Amy's Challenge moved forward on the Oaks front.
World-class sprinter X Y Jet was an easy winner in the Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park and could be headed for a return trip to Dubai in two months time.
In Hong Kong, Nothingilikemore showed promise of moving to stardom and the local poobahs would like nothing more.
The Road to the Roses
World of Trouble stayed out of trouble in Saturday's $125,000 Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by the simple expedient of being well out in front of all his rivals. With Antonio Gallardo up, the Kantharos colt quickly took the lead and found no competition in the stretch, winning by 13 3/4 lengths, ridden out. He Hate Me was best of the rest, 3 1/2 lengths to the good of Mind Trappe. World of Trouble ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.52, just 0.12 second outside the track record. And remember, he was ridden out. And, it was his first start since a second-place finish in the Affirmed Division of the Florida Sire Stakes last September.
"He did everything I wanted him to do, and when it was time to go I asked him a little bit and he exploded," Gallardo said. "He did it in 1:21, but he wasn't giving me everything. I think he had something left inside."
"Sometimes a horse just needs to run, and he looks like something special," said winning trainer John Servis. "My phone has been inundated the last few minutes, everyone saying it was an incredible performance, and I'm pretty excited right now. I have to get the horse back and talk to Mr. Dubb (owner Michael) about what's next." Whatever that might be, World of Trouble earned 10 points toward a potential start in the Kentucky Derby, which, of course, would require him to go 5 furlongs farther than he ran Saturday.
Meanwhile, in California:
Choo Choo, a Calumet Farm homebred colt by English Channel, chugged to the lead four-wide in the late going in Saturday's $100,000 California Derby and edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Mugaritz was second, followed 1 1/2 lengths later by Intimidate. Choo Choo, with Juan Hernandez taking the mount for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.50.
After starting his career on the dirt, Choo Choo ran his previous four races on the turf in Southern California. Hollendorfer did not share plans for the colt's future.
And in New Mexico, Blazing Navarone overcame the outside post position to win Sunday's $85,000 Red Hedeman Mile for state-breds by 3 1/4 lengths over Hollywood Henry. Blazing Navarone, a Song of Navarone colt, finished in 1:38.57 under Ry Eikleberry. The colt, trained by Henry Dominguez, wound up his 2-year-old campaign with a New Year's Eve win and Sunday's race was his first of 2018.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Almond Roca rated patiently behind long shot R True Talent in Saturday's $125,000 Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, rallied to challenge her turning for home and edged away to win by 1 lengths. R True Talent held second, 5 3/4 lengths ahead of Barrier Island. Almond Roca, a Speightstown filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.76 with Pablo Morales up for her first start as a 3-year-old.
"She broke great and I thought I'd be in front, but I was willing to settle her if someone else wanted the lead, and it worked out perfectly," Morales said. "When it was time to go, she responded beautifully and she was flying as she passed the wire."
Although Morales said he feels Almond Roca could stretch around two turns, trainer Graham Motion said the plan currently is to keep her sprinting -- and possibly to take her to Royal Ascot in June. He said that would be "a dream" for owner Phyllis Wyeth.
Amy's Challenge, winner of both her previous starts at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, dueled with pacesetting favorite Mia Mischief through most of Saturday's $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes at Oaklawn Park before putting a neck in front under the wire. Secret Passion was 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third as Amy's Challenge, an Artie Schiller filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.61 with Jareth Loveberry in the irons.
"She is all heart down the lane, that horse," Loveberry said. "Head to head she dug through and finished strong." The next step on the Oaklawn Park series for 3-year-old fillies is the 1-mile Martha Washington Feb. 10.
And in New Mexico, Hennessy Express thoroughly dominated Sunday's $85,000 Enchantress Stakes for state-bred fillies, leading most of the way and winning by 8 1/4 lengths in her first start of the year. The favorite, previously undefeated Fast Gator, ran evenly to finish fourth. Hennessy Express, by Roll Hennessy Roll, rolled the 1 mile in 1:38.11 with Roimes Chirinos in the irons. She won at first asking at Ruidoso Downs in July but then failed to score in five further starts as a juvenile.
Coniah showed the way in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Las Cienegas for fillies and mares down the hillside turf course and held gamely to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Bendable. Princess Princess was third. Coniah, a 5-year-old Harlington mare, ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:12.17 with Kent Desormeaux aboard. Trainer William Morey scored his first graded stakes win as Coniah moved up from three straight second-place finishes. "She was awesome today," Desormeaux said. "She was very comfortable. I've seen her develop and she was a consummate pro today."
Saturday was Sunshine Millions day with four stakes restricted to state-bred steeds.
X Y Jet, apparently fully recovered from injury, scored his second straight win with a dominant victory in the $100,000 Sprint and could be headed back to Dubai, where he finished second in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2016. The 6-year-old Kantharos gelding left no doubt who was best in the Sprint, quickly sprinting clear of six rivals, leading as he pleased and winning by 5 1/2 lengths, ridden out by jockey Imisael Jaramillo. He undoubtedly could have improved on his time of 1:09.86 had he been asked. Mo Cash and Sweetontheladies were second and third.
"I always knew he was a runner," said X Y Jet's trainer, Jorge Navarro. "I always thought he was one of the best sprinters two years ago. Hopefully, he comes back clean." X Y Jet has undergone three knee surgeries during his 19-race career. Navarro said he would like to replicate the horse's 2016 campaign where he won the Sunshine Millions Sprint and the Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint before shipping to Dubai.
In other Sunshine Millions results:
Jay's Way showed the way in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Classic, surrendered the advantage to the favorite, Mr. Jordan, turning for home but battled back to win by 1/2 length over that rival. It was another 6 lengths back to Catholic Cowboy in third and another 9 1/4 to the fourth-place finisher, Richard the Great. Jay's Way, a 5-year-old son of Gone Astray, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.12 with Jaramillo in the irons.
Galleon Mast was asked for his best in the final furlong of the $150,000 Sunshine Millions Turf and produced, outfinishing Our Way to win by a head. Second Mate was third, another 3 lengths in arrears. Galleon Mast, a 5-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding, got 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:40.68 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
Starship Jubilee stalked the pace in the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf, dueled for the lead in the stretch and finally edged away to prevail by 1 length over pacesetter Daddy's Boo. Graceful Heart rallied from well back to fill the trifecta. Starship Jubilee, a 5-year-old Indy Wind mare, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.03 for jockey Jose Lezcano.
Awesome Banner closely tracked pacesetting favorite Favorite Tale through the early furlongs of Saturday's $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes, went by that one to the lead and held on to win by 1/2 length over It's the Journey. Something Awesome was third as Favorite Tale faded to get home fourth. Awesome Banner, a 5-year-old son of Awesome of Course, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.94. A Derby contender two years ago, Awesome Banner scored his first win in more than 15 months.
Ms Locust Point, the prohibitive favorite, drew clear in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 What a Summer Stakes for fillies and mares and ran on to win by 3 lengths over Tazkeya. My Magician was third. Ms Locust Point, a 4-year-old Dialed In filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.78 under a Harry Vargas Jr. hand ride. It was her third straight win and fourth from her last five starts.
Just Got Out held on in the final strides to win Sunday's $100,000 Ladies Handicap by a neck over Girl Talk. Sherini finished third but was set down to fifth, promoting the favorite, Bombshell, to show money. Just Got Out, a 7-year-old Harlington mare, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:55.38 with Manny Franco riding. The one-time claimer scored her first stakes win with the narrow margin costing Girl Talk's rider, Kendrick Carmouche, what would have been his fourth stakes win of the weekend at the Big A.
Control Group controlled things from the start in Sunday's $100,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for New York-breds, then kicked clear in the stretch run to win by 4 lengths. Can You Diggit and Extinct Charm filled the minor placings. Control Group, a 4-year-old Posse colt, got 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.19 with Carmouche in the irons.
Backsideofthemoon came from last of just four starters to take Saturday's $100,000 Jazil Stakes by a nose from Doyouknowsomething. Turco Bravo and Harlan Punch completed the order of finish. Backsideofthemoon, a Malibu Moon ridgling, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.94 with Carmouche up. A confirmed allowance type, Backsideofthemoon registered his first stakes win.
Quezon proved much the best in Friday's $100,000 La Verdad Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares. After tracking the early pace, the 6-year-old Tiz Wonderful mare quickly took control in the stretch and won off by 4 1/4 lengths. Palladian Bridge was second, 3 lengths in front of the early leader, Wonderment. Quezon, with Joe Rocco Jr. in the irons, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.67.
Frost Wise and Riot Worthy rallied together down the stretch in Thursday's $100,000 Bay Ridge Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, leaving early leader Frostie Anne in their wake. After racing side-by-side, Frost Wise got there first, a nose in front of Riot Worthy. Frostie Anne finished third and Frosty Margarita, 14 1/2 length back, completed the order of finish. All three with "Frost" in their names are by Frost Giant. Frost Wise, a 4-year-old filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a good track in 1:53.89 with Carmouche up.
Wellabled wasted little time getting to the front in Friday night's $50,000 Forego Stakes and kicked clear of 11 rivals in the lane, winning by 7 lengths. Lanier was second, 1 length in front of Crewman. Wellabled, a 4-year-old Shackleford colt trained by Larry Rivelli, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.82 with Rodney Prescott riding. He's 2-for-2 at the Turfway meet after missing most of his 3-year-old season after surgery to correct a throat condition and deal with a bone chip. "He's an unbelievable athlete," Rivelli said. "He's probably the most athletic, agile horse I've ever trained. He loves the synthetic tracks."
Tampa Bay Downs
Well Humored stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for fillies and mares, moved up along the rail turning for home and edged past pacesetting favorite Tapa Tapa Tapa, winning by 3/4 length from that rival. Sweet Legacy was well back in third. Well Humored, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor filly, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.86 under Daniel Centeno.
The international scene:
Nothingilikemore settled beautifully through the early stages of Sunday's Hong Kong Classic Mile -- the first leg of the BMW Hong Kong Derby series -- and responded equally well when set down by jockey Joao Moreira, leading for the final 300 meters en route to a 1 1/4-lengths win. Singapore Sling was a long shot second and Morethanluckyfinished third. Rivet finished fourth -- the best of trainer John Moore's quartet, all of whom he deemed bigger threats for upcoming events.
Nothingilikemore, a 4-year-old Husson gelding, now has won six of seven starts since being imported from Australia and the John Size trainee bids to take up some of the slack left at the top of the Hong Kong ranks due to recent retirements.
"He seems to be capable to travel in a field quite kindly and accelerate, so that's all you really want in a racehorse," Size said, adding Nothingilikemore "is still improving." Singapore Sling's trainer, Tony Millard, said his South African import looks better suited for the longer distances of the two remaining legs of the series, the Hong Kong Classic Cup and the Derby. "This horse will go the trip next time. I'm not so sure the winner will," Millard said.
Also Sunday at Sha Tin, Pingwu Spark, Hong Kong's heaviest horse, got his 1,332 pounds rolling in the lane and won Lung Kong Handicap by 1/2 length from Wah May Friend, posing a problem for trainer Benno Yung. The big gray, who looks like he would need a girth extender for saddling, already his five wins this season and his rating is likely to soar beyond the scope of the Class 1 handicap Yung targeted for his next start.
The option for Pingwu Spark would be the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup Feb. 25. "That would be very tough but that might be the only place we can go," Yung said.
Great Warrior, a Deep Impact colt out of the 2008 Kentucky Oaks winner and Eclipse Award champion Proud Spell, finished third in his career debut Sunday in a maiden race at Kyoto. Bred by Northern Racing the owned by Sunday racing, Great Warrior went off as favorite in a field of 16 but settled for third behind a pair of fillies -- All For Love and Aloha Lily.