Core Beliefs won the Ohio Derby, Justify's stablemate, American Anthem, won the San Carlos Stakes and Hotshot Anna captured the Chicago Handicap in weekend racing.
On the international front, Royal Ascot wound its way into the history books. And Breeders' Cup spots were up for grabs in top-level races in Japan and Peru.
Before moving on, let's wrap up Royal Ascot, which we've chronicled separately. The summary: Ryan Moore was the top rider and Coolmore and Aidan O'Brien took owner and trainer awards despite being set back by terrible spring weather at the Ballydoyle training base.
Moore rode the two biggest winners on Saturday's card -- Merchant Navy in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee and Crystal Ocean in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes, leaping ahead of Frankie Dettori, five winners to four, for the meet championship. Moore wound up with 53 Royal Ascot winners for his career to date and now has been the meeting champ eight times in nine seasons. Dettori hit the 60-win mark and, to his obvious delight, was presented by Her Majesty the Queen a special saddlecloth marked "Royal Ascot 60."
"To get 50 winners at Royal Ascot this week was great," the typically understated Moore said.
Worth noting: William Buick, having a great year all around, scored three wins, three seconds and two thirds.
O'Brien earned leading trainer honors for the ninth time. He and John Gosden each saddled four winners but O'Brien earned the award with one more second-place finish than his rival. O'Brien now has 65 winners at the Royal Meeting in total.
After being presented the award, the ever-modest O'Brien said: "We are delighted really. It's tough, very competitive racing ... We had plenty of races that we didn't win, but we were privileged and delighted to win a few."
Coolmore also claimed the leading owner award following the successes of Kew Gardens in the Group 2 Queen's Vase, Hunting Horn in the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes, Magic Wand in the Group 2 Ribblesdale Stakes and Merchant Navy in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
Despite several disappointments, it would have to be judged a good meeting for international raiders. Shang Shang Shang eked out a victory in the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes for American trainer Wesley Ward. And Australian import Merchant Navy led home France's City Light and the Ward owned-and-trained Bound For Nowhere in the Diamond Jubilee.
The meeting attracted just north of 300,000 spectators over its five-day run and enjoyed vastly enhanced exposure through television deals throughout the world. In the United States, NBC Sports Network provided wall-to-wall coverage of the first four days and the main NBC channels aired the finale.
The most important development of the week might have been the announcement of an international commingling arrangement for wagering through a new Hong Kong "World Pool" starting next year. The deal means tote customers will be betting into huge aggregations of wagers, with lower takeout and less opportunity for big swings in the odds.
"We believe this is the beginning of a new era in international racing," said Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. "We are already in active discussions with other racing bodies about future World Pool initiatives."
Core Beliefs out-finished Lone Sailor in a nip-and-tuck finish to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Ohio Derby. Lone Sailor had a nose in front just before the wire but the photo found Core Beliefs' last effort was just enough to secure the win. Both came from well back of an early pace set by Flameaway, who flamed out to finish sixth. Core Beliefs, a Quality Road colt, got 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.08 while toting Joe Talamo.
"We had a pretty good trip," The Blood-Horse quoted Talamo. "Three or four horses went to the lead, so I tried to tuck in as much as I could and let him do the work all the way around. Around the turn, I got his momentum going, and he was all heart down the lane. There were a couple coming at him. He was giving me everything he had."
Core Beliefs was third in the Santa Anita Derby, then bypassed the Triple Crown. Instead, trainer Peter Eurton sent him to Belmont Park, where he was second in the Grade III Peter Pan May 12. He has never finished worse than third in six career starts.
Shahroze came from last of eight to register a mild upset in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine. The 4-year-old Irish-bred gelding by Holy Roman Emperor saved ground after a slow start, came five wide around the turn and swept to the lead at mid stretch. Pumpkin Rumble also rambled late and secured second, 1 length ahead of final copy. The favorite, Danish Dynaformer, ran evenly to finish sixth. Shahroze got 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in a quick 2:25.65 in his first sakes try.
"I wanted to be a little closer to the pace today, but he got that problem in the break," winning rider Alan Garcia said. "After that, turning for home I let him run and he kicked away from everybody."
Saturday's $200,000 Mystic Lake Derby at Canterbury Park attracted a field of 13 including horses last raced as far afield as Dubai, California and New York. But it was Kentucky-based Sniper Kitten, rallying from mid-pack, who went on to win by 1 length over long shot local Nobrag Justfact with the favorite, Captivating Moon, another 3/4 length in arrears with a late run. Sniper Kitten, a Kitten's Joy colt owned and bred by the Ramseys, got 1 mile on firm going in 1:34.66 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons.
Sniper Kitten won on his second try at Gulfstream Park this past winter for trainer Mike Maker, then won a Keeneland allowance event in April, his last start before the Minnesota event.
My Bariley was late into stride in Saturday's $100,000 Mystic Lake Mile at Canterbury Park but rallied six-wide around the turn and reeled in Hey Dakota to win by 1/2 length. Majestic Pride was third and the favorite, Swagger Jagger, finished fourth. My Bariley, a 4-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding, finished in 1:34.36 over firm turf with Hugo Sanchez riding. Anthony Granitz trains the winner at Arlington.
Filly & Mare Turf
Got Stormy pushed things along while stalking the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Wild Applause Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, assumed the lead a furlong out and won by 2 lengths over the late-running Punked. Brattata was third. Got Stormy, a Get Stormy filly, completed 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.93 with John Velazquez back from Ascot to take the ride. She scored her third win from seven starts, doubling up on a victory in the Penn Oaks in her previous outing.
"She's one of those funny horses where she doesn't really want to do more than a mile and under a mile," said Jamie Begg, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "She's very set on the mile. After winning the Penn Oaks, we were hoping to keep her against graded stakes company, but she's so finicky with the distance and this race was just sitting right there for her. We figured since she was here, let's go for it."
I'm Betty G, last seen winning at Belmont Park, swept to a stretch-running victory in Saturday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Stakes for fillies and mares at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. Sirenusa was second, a head in front of Sailor's Valentine, giving Churchill Downs-trained distaffers a sweep of the placings. I'm Betty G, an Into Mischief filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.44 with Tyler Gaffalione riding for trainer Mike Maker.
American Anthem, owned and trained by the same connections as Justify, won a race-long battle with St. Joe Bay in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II San Carlos, sticking a head in front under the wire. Horse Greeley rallied from the back of the pack to finish third. American Anthem, a 4-year-old Bodemeister colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.12 with Mike Smith up.
American Anthem went to the post as the odds-on favorite after a front-running win in a tough allowance race at Churchill Downs in his 4-year-old debut June 1. St. Joe Bay was dispatched at odds of better than 42-1.
"I was talking to Mike and said, 'We got to get another win,' because it's pretty tough after winning a Triple Crown," said trainer Bob Baffert. "But still, life goes on and you've got to keep winning. To get another stakes win like this is what we need to keep our head in the game. We've just started a whole new chapter and need to stay in the groove. Big Money Mike, if he's got the horse under him, he's getting the job done."
In Louisiana, Mocito Rojo outfinished Kentucky invader and odds-on favorite Dazzling Gem with a determined stretch effort to win Saturday evening's $100,000 Evangeline Mile at Evangeline Downs by 1 3/4 lengths. The early leader, Sir Ghengis, finished third. Mocito Rojo, a 4-year-old colt by Mutadda, finished 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.69 with Filemon Rodriguez in the irons. He scored his first stakes win while Dazzling Gem, who was third in the 2016 Louisiana Derby, suffered his third straight defeat.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Hotshot Anna pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Chicago Handicap at Arlington Park, shot to a big lead through the stretch and won by 5 3/4 lengths in track-record time of 1:20.93. Princess La Quinta was second, 3/4 length ahead of the favorite, Union Strike. Jockey Harry Hernandez notched his first graded stakes win.
Hotshot Anna, a 4-year-old Trappe Shot filly, made it two straight wins following an allowance score at Canterbury Park. She started her career on the Arlington all-weather course in August 2016 but had not raced on the artificial surface since then.
"She trained very well on the Polytrack," said winning trainer Hugh Robertson. "I thought she would run well but I didn't think she'd run quite that well. We named this filly after my oldest granddaughter. She's really fast, too."
Astrollinthepark was along late to win Saturday's $75,000 Roxelana Stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs. The 4-year-old Divine Park filly, with Florent Geroux up, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.98. Miss Kentucky was second and the favorite, Vertical Oak, finished third. Astrollinthepark now boasts two straight wins for trainer Larry Jones.
"She broke like a rocket," Geroux said. "I kept her just off the leader's flank on the outside and, even though we were going fast, she was in control. When I asked her to go in the stretch she dug in and held off Miss Kentucky. I think this was a great race for her. She's really starting to develop nicely."
Hustle Up tracked the early leader in Saturday's $122,000 Mountain Top New Mexico Bred Thoroughbred Futurity, eased by that one after a couple of furlongs and went on to win by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Sunscreen came late to get second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Hanky Panky Kim. Hustle Up, a daughter of Abstraction, finished 5 furlongs on a fast track in 58.61 seconds for jockey Tracy Hebert.
The field for Sunday's Grade I Takarazuka Kinen at Hanshin Racecourse was replete with top-level winners, including last year's champion, and also featured former Hong Kong Horse of the Year Werther. But it was little-heralded Mikki Rocket firing to the lead heading for home who got the goods, holding off Werther in the closing strides to win by a neck. Noble Mars was third in the 2,200-meters race around four turns.
Mikki Rocket earned a guaranteed spot in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf Nov. 3 through the international "Challenge" program.
Mikki Rocket, a 5-year-old bay son of King Kamehameha, broke alertly for jockey Ryuji Wada and saved ground through the first three turns before grabbing the lead on the final bend. At that point, Werther, only the second foreign horse entered for the Takarazuka Kinen since it was opened in 1997, began a quick run outside rivals from near the back of the 16-horse field, only to fall a few strides short under Hugh Bowman.
"Although we couldn't win, I couldn't be happier with the horse's performance," Bowman said. "At the top of the straight, I thought we had him covered, had a beautiful running transit." Trainer John Moore said the No. 13 draw and some weight loss associated with the travel likely cost Werther the win. But, he said, "To take on the best of the Japanese and to run as well as he did, it just shows, don't take Hong Kong's horses lightly."
Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi said Mikki Rocket's fourth-place finish in the Grade I Tenno Sho (Spring) in his previous start was a good sign. "Now that he's a legitimate member of the Grade 1 ranks, his fall program, I think, will probably start with the Kyoto Daishoten with an aim on the Japan Cup, Otonashi said.
Smart Choice held on to beat La Divina at the wire in Sunday's Group 1 Gran Premio Pamplona at Hipodromo de Monterrico in Lima, Peru, winning by 1/4 length and earning an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in November at Churchill Downs through the international Challenge program.
Miky Chamy, of the owners' group Stud Starbucks, confirmed to Breeders' Cup's South American representative John Fulton that Smart Choice, a 4-year-old bay daughter of Grand Reward, will target the Breeders' Cup race.
In the Pamplona, Smart Choice, trained by Juan Suarez and ridden by Martin Chuan, stayed in the rear of the field after exiting gate No. 14. In the final three furlongs, Chuan brought Smart Choice wide and away from traffic, passing 10 horses near the grandstand side of the track and reporting first with perfect timing.
Smart Choice completed the 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.69, winning her sixth race from 13 starts.
Back in North America:
Eskiminzin got first run past the early leaders in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Bold Ruckus Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and held on to win by 3/4 length over the favorite, Be Vewy Vewy Quiet. Ellas My Love was third. Eskiminzin, a Cold Harbor colt, ran 6 furlongs over yielding turf in 1:10.66 for jockey Luis Contreras.
Kreesie rallied from next-last in a big field to win Sunday's $100,000 Cupecoy's Joy Division of the New York Stallion Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over Goodby Brockley. The favorite, Mentality, settled for third after holding a brief lead. Kreesie, a daughter of Cosmonaut, got 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:21.09 under Jose Ortiz.
Therapist rallied from mid-pack to take the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Division of the NYSS for state-bred 3-year-olds by 2 lengths. Collective Effort was third and Spectacular Kid got show money. Therapist, a Freud colt, ran 7 furlongs on the grass in 1:21.07 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding.
Hold On Angel led throughout Wednesday's $100,000 Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes for state-bred 3-year-olds and extended the margin through the stretch to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Sir Brogan was second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Redyornothereicome. Hold On Angel, a Hold Me Back colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.36 with Rodney Prescott in the irons.
In the $100,000 companion race for state-bred 3-year-old fillies, Black Nova came from off the pace, dueled down the lane with Flurry and finally put that one away, winning by 1/2 length. Obsolete was 2 3/4 lengths farther back in third. Black Nova, by Holiday Promise, finished in 1:44.67 for jockey Fernando De La Cruz.
Aztec Sense stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Turning for Home Handicap, quickly opened a safe lead and won by 3 1/2 lengths, well in hand by Paco Lopez. Moon Gate Warrior applied early pace and held second, 12 lengths in front of Ruby Bleu. Aztec Sense, a 5-year-old Street Sense gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.35.
Dark Artist shadowed long shot pacesetter Too Charming into the final sixteenth of Saturday's $65,000 Open Mind Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then got by just in time to win by a neck. So Hi Society found late speed to finish third. Dark Artist, a Paynter filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.44 with Trevor McCarthy up.
Saturday's quadruple feature was for Virginia-breds, with all the races on the firm turf course.
Armoire came four-wide down the stretch and was up in time to win Saturday's $75,000 Nellie Mae Cox Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Drop Dead Red. Armoire, a 5-year-old Artie Schiller mare, ran 1 mile in 1:34.61 for jockey Daniel Centeno.
Altamura was up just on the line to win Saturday's $75,000 M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes for distaffers. Pacesetter Virginia Fable held second by a neck from Up Hill Battle. Altamura, a 3-year-old daughter of Artie Schiller, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.05 with Horacio Karamanos up.
Sticksstatelydude, the odds-on favorite, took charge late in Saturday's $75,000 Edward Evans Stakes and held off Special Envoy by 1 1/2 lengths at the line. Sticksstatelydude, a 5-year-old son of First Dude, traveled 1 mile on the grass in 1:34.85 with Jorge Vargas Jr. riding.
Determined Vision led all the way to a 1/2-length win over Available in Saturday's $75,000 White Oak Farm Stakes. Determined Vision, a 3-year-old Jump Start gelding, got 5 1/2 grassy furlongs in 1:01.99 with Jevian Toledo at the controls.
Peach of a Gal was up late to deny Frippery by 1 length in Wednesday's $50,000 Christiana Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Laylo Noor closed well to get third. Peach of a Gal, a Maryland-bred daughter of Curlin, ran about 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.39 with Jorge Vargas Jr. in the irons.
Adore dueled to the lead in Friday's $75,000 Spotted Horse Stakes for fillies and mares, then opened a daylight lead and won by 2 lengths over Pacific Pink. Mr. Al's Gal was third. Adore, a 5-year-old Big Brown mare, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.09 with Timothy Thornton riding.
Seaside Amour and Yes Gorgeous dueled through the stretch in Friday's $50,000 Acadiana Stakes for Louisiana-bred 3-year-old fillies with Seaside Amour prevailing by a neck. Blue Slade Guitar was third, 2 1/4 lengths farther back. Seaside Amour, a daughter of Custom for Carlos, finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.41 with Colby Hernandez up.
Eightthehardway came from the middle of the pack to take Saturday's $75,000 George Lewis Memorial for Ohio-breds by 4 1/2 lengths from Mobile Solution. Leona's Reward was another 2 3/4 lengths up the track in third. Eightthehardway, a 5-year-old Parents' Reward gelding, toured 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.84.
Proper Discretion was a gate-to-wire winner in Saturday's $75,000 J. William Petro Memorial for state-bred distaffers, holding a nice lead through the stretch to score by 2 1/2 lengths. The favorite, School Board Prez, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, was second and Cali Dream was 17 1/4 lengths back of that one in third. Proper Discretion, a 5-year-old Discreetly Mine mare, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.44 with Ricardo Feliciano riding.
Creative Art overcame an awkward start to win Saturday's $50,000 Dark Star Cup by 1 1/2 lengths over Devileye. Malibu Max finished another 3/4 length back in third. Creative Art, an 8-year-old Illinois-bred gelding by Shore Breeze, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.05 for jockey James Graham.
Puntsville led from the start in Saturday's $50,000 Hoist Her Flag Stakes and held sway, winning by 1 length over Shar Ran. Thoughtless was third. Puntsville, a 6-year-old Illinois-bred mare by Cashel Castle, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.88 under Carlos Marquez Jr.
Autumn Warrior pressed the pace in Saturday evening's $50,000 Lafayette Stakes for Louisiana-bred 3-year-olds, then grabbed the lead and raced off to win by 6 3/4 lengths. O'L Red was the early leader and held second, 1 3/4 lengths to the good of Discreetly D. Autumn Warrior, an Orb gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.19 with Colby Hernandez up.
Lone Star Park
Zippit E set a pressured pace in Saturday's $50,000 Lane's End Danny Schifflet Scholarship Stakes for Texas-bred fillies and mares, then held firm to win by a neck over Mighty Ferrari and another head from Dagny. Zippit E, a 5-year-old mare by My Golden Song, zipped 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:28.85 with Jamie Theriot in the irons.
Dedicated to You was elevated to the win in Sunday's $50,000 Budweiser Stakes when the first to finish, Riser, was disqualified to last for interference at the start. That moved Mach One Rules and Mah Gellin up to second and third but the victim of the interference, Barkley, was awarded only fourth. Dedicated to You, a 5-year-old Purim gelding, finished 2 3/4 lengths adrift of Riser, who ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.65.
News and notes:
The former Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley, Ariz., will reopen for a Memorial Day to Labor Day meeting in 2019 with a new name: Arizona Downs. Yavapai Downs last ran in 2010, then was bought out of bankruptcy for $3.22 million by a Phoenix-based partnership and long-time racing executive Corey Johnsen. The new owners are putting some $2 million into improvements and renovation.
"We want a year-round circuit returning to Arizona with the resumption of summer racing, so horses and all the jobs they create stay in the state," Johnsen said. "A stronger circuit helps everyone in the industry: the breeders, horse owners, trainers, jockeys and all the related professions it takes to get a horse to the races."