Funtastic upset the United Nations, Wonder Gadot won the Queen's Plate and Midnight Bisou romped in the Mother Goose as Thoroughbred racing moved well into summer classics.
It was so summery, in fact, that Belmont Park canceled Sunday racing. It was too hot.
X Y Jet and C Z Rocket were both winners Saturday.
On the international front, Aidan O'Brien's sons got the better of him in the Irish Derby and the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud produced a classic thriller of a finish.
Curious about the details? Read on:
The Queen's Plate
Wonder Gadot ended a string of three straight runner-up finishes with an emphatic victory in Saturday's $1 million Queen's Plate at Woodbine. With John Velazquez at the controls, the Madaglia d'Oro filly waited in the second flight at Plate Trial winner Telekinesis showed the way. She moved up around the turn, took the lead early in the stretch run and won going away, by 4 3/4 lengths.
The minor awards went to long shots. Aheadbyacentury was second 2 3/4 lengths over Cooler Mike. Strike Me Down got by Telekinesis late to finish fourth. Wonder Gadot completed the 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:02.26.
The Mark Casse trainee had reported second in the Grade III Fantasy, the Kentucky Oaks and the Woodbine Oaks in her three races leading up to Canada's most famous event.
Casse said Wonder Gadot could continue on the Canadian Triple Crown trail with the $400,000 (Canadian) Prince of Wales on the Fort Erie main track.
"If all goes well, the Prince of Wales could set her up well for the Alabama," said Casse, referring to Saratoga's Grade 1 feature at 1 1/4 miles on Aug. 18. "She loves the distance. I think if she'll stay happy and healthy she's going to be tough. She'll give anybody in North America a run for their money in the Alabama. She just goes and goes. She's Wonder Woman."
Trainer Chad Brown has four of the 10 starters for Saturday's $300,000 Grade I United Nations at Monmouth Park and it was the longest shot of that bunch, Funtastic, who got the job done. The 4-year-old More Than Ready colt led all the way and won by 1/2 length over stablemate Money Multiplier, the late-closing favorite. Bigger Picture was third.
Funtastic, with Antonio Gallardo scoring his first Grade I win, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in course-record time of 2:12.36. The gray colt was making his first graded stakes start after winning three of his first eight races.
Brown said the winning owner, Goncalo Torrealba of Three Chimneys Farm, "deserves most of the credit here. He was sure this horse could stay a distance of ground ... He was doing well and it worked out. Just teamwork and my staff did a fabulous job and Antonio rode a wonderful race to take the initiative out of the gate."
Filly & Mare Turf
Santa Monica rallied from last of nine to take Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Dance Smartly at Woodbine. The British-bred Mastercraftsman mare got going entering the stretch after swinging five-wide, worked her way to the lead a sixteenth from the line and won by 1/2 length from pacesetting Flexibility. Last year's Queen's Plate winner, Holy Helena, was another 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Santa Monica ran 1 1/4 miles of firm turf in 1:59.51 with Jose Ortiz up.
"She's a filly that will go long, way longer than this -- a mile and a quarter, a mile and three eights, a mile and a half," Ortiz said. "She'd be very nice going each of those distances."
Dream Awhile overcame a stumble at the start of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, worked her way to the lead in the stretch and held off Special Event in the late going to win by 3/4 length. Elysea's World was third. Dream Awhile, a 4-year-old filly by War Front, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.59 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding.
Delta Prince took back to mid-pack in Saturday's $175,0000 (Canadian) Grade II King Edward Stakes at Woodbine, raced to the lead at the 3/16th pole and kicked away to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Shakhimat, the early leader, stayed on for second, a neck in front of late-running Conquest Panthera. The morning-line favorite, Tower of Texas, had an off day, running evenly to finish sixth.
Delta Prince, a 5-year-old son of Street Cry, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:32.35 with Javier Castellano up. It was his fifth win from just eight career starts but he has never missed finishing in the first three.
Owner and breeder Frank Stronach, who was on hand for the win, noted Delta Prince is a half brother to threet-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta.
"We had a few problems, but (trainer) Jimmy Jerkens has always been really high on him," Stronach said, adding the $1 million (Canadian) Grade I Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Sep. 15 "would suit him."
Ride a Comet started last of seven in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Charlie Barley Stakes for 3-year-olds at Woodbine, rallied strongly around the turn and got the job done in deep stretch, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over El Tormenta. Elusive Mischief was third. Ride a Comet, a Candy Ride colt and one of three saddled by Mark Casse, finished in 1:32.24 for jockey Patrick Husbands. It was his second straight win and fourth from his last five starts.
La Sardane led all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Perfect Sting Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, was tested in the final furlong and survived by 1/2 length over late-running In the Lee. Pas de Soucis was third. La Sardane, a 4-year-old French-bred filly by Kingsalsa, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.19 under Flavien Prat.
Long On Value was a short price for Saturday's $250,000 (Canadian) Highlander at 6 furlongs on the Woodbine turf but the investment lived up to his name. The 7-year-old son of Value Plus rallied furiously down the stretch to win by a neck over Lady Alexandra, securing a "Win and You're In" spot for the Breeder's Cup Turf Sprint in November at Churchill Downs. Holding Gold finished third. Long On Value, with Florent Geroux in the irons, ran 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:07.13.
Pay Any Price opened a big lead in Saturday's $75,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park and coasted home first by 1 1/4 lengths over Diddley. High Hours was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Pay Any Price, an 8-year-old Wildcat Heir gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 58.29 second with Edgard Zayas in the irons.
Harlan Punch was off to a smooth start in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Philip H. Iselin Stakes at Monmouth Park, led the way and won by 5 1/4 lengths. Page McKenney was second and Backsideofthemoon finished third. The favorite, Imperative, winner in the Charles Town Classic in his previous race, was fourth and last after stumbling at the start.
Harlan Punch, a 5-year-old Harlan's Holiday gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.53 with Joe Bravo up.
Tiz a Slam seized the lead in Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Dominion Day Stakes at 10 furlongs on the Woodbine all-weather course and held off the favorite, Melmich, through the final furlong, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Are You Kidding Me finished third. Tiz a Slam, a 4-year-old Tiznow colt, ran 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:03.11 with Seven Bahen in the irons.
After a trio of scratches, Midnight Bisou faced only three rivals in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and they didn't put up much of a fight. With Mike Smith up for Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou tracked the pace set by previously undefeated Road to Victory, went by when asked and won off by 6 lengths. Road to Victory held second, 1 1/4 lengths to the good of My Miss Lily. Indy Union completed the order of finish.
Midnight Bisou, a Midnight Lute filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.02. It was her first start since finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks and she now has hit the board in all seven career starts.
Smith said Midnight Bisou never had a chance with a rough trip at Churchill Downs. "Now, we've got the rest of the year and I'm very blessed to still be on her," Smith said. "I'm just really happy. She ran like I know she's capable of. She's getting better.
At Monmouth Park, Divine Miss Grey made all the early going in the $75,000 Lady's Secret, was headed by Moonlit Garden in the stretch run, then came again to win by 3/4 length. It was a long way back to Total Control in third. Divine Miss Gray, a 4-year-old Divine Park filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.72 with Kendrick Carmouche up.
X Y Jet showed no lingering impact from his most recent sojurn to Dubai, leading all the way to a handy, 2 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap at Gulfstream Park. The 6-year-old Kantharos gelding, who finished second in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on World Cup night, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.61 with Emisael Jaramillo up and the outcome never seemed in doubt. Reason to Soar finished second but was DQ'd to fifth, promoting Sweetontheladies and Petrov to second and third.
Winning trainer Jorge Navarro was emotional in the winner's circle and admitted, "Every time he runs he does that to me. He's had three surgeries, what he's done, what he's accomplished, people still count him out. What does he have to accomplish for people to see that he's the real deal?"
N avarro plans to give X Y Jet a single prep before the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, possibly in the Grade III Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.
"Nothing's bugging him right now," the trainer said of his oft-injured steed. "Our main focus is to keep him clean. Maybe the Dash at Laurel, that's a maybe, and then the Breeders' Cup -- just one more race before the Breeders' Cup."
War Giant sprinted to the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Carry Back Stakes for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park and rolled home first by 5 3/4 lengths. Noble Drama was second, 1 length ahead of Sighted. War Giant, a Data Link colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.84 under Emisael Jaramillo.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Stormy Embrace took the lead in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Princess Rooney Handicap at Gulfstream Park and dominated, kicking clear at the end to win by 6 lengths over fellow long shot Rich Mommy. In addition to the winner's share, the 4-year-old Circular Quay filly earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint through the "Win and You're In" program as she finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.81 with Wilmer Garcia up..
Stormy Embrac's performance and the Breeders' Cup freebie, said winning trainer Kathleen O'Connell, may change her program for the rest of the year. "I'll have to talk to the owner and we'll definitely have to change a few plans. You know me, I usually look for the easiest spots because that's what like to do but she deserves it."
Alter Moon stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Azalea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park, took over when prompted by jockey Edgard Zayas and drew off to win by 5 lengths over the early leader, Starcloud. Starship Bonita filled the trifecta. Alter Moon, an Alternation filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.35.
Sir Truebadour had 'em all the way in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs. The More Than Ready colt, trained by Steve Asmussen, quickly took the lead, shook off some early pressure and cruised home firmly in control, winning by 2 lengths. He was the favorite. The place horse, Mr. Chocolate Chips, was let go at odds of almost 104-1 and Overanalyzer was third at better than 99-1. The morning-line favorite, Toothless Wonder, was no factor. The 50-cent exacta paid $2,153.65.
Sir Truebadour, trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.77 with Ricardo Santana Jr. riding. He now has two wins, sandwiched around a fourth-place showing in the Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park June 8. "We aimed to this race since he broke his maiden," Asmussen said. "It's great to win a graded stakes race. He got a little tired late but it was a great win."
Put a circle around Restless Rider. The Distorted Humor filly destroyed seven rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Debutante at Churchill Downs, drawing off to win by 11 1/4 lengths as the favorite despite having to check sharply behind a rival on the turn. Shanghai Rain and Beach Getaway filled the minor placings. Restless Rider, with Brian Hernandez Jr. up for trainer Kenny McPeek, reported in 1:10.62, more than 2 seconds faster than her male counterparts in the Bashford Manor.
"That was super impressive," Hernandez said. "The filly on the inside of us got into trouble and forced us to change our position. You don't really see young horses like this recover as she did. She switched leads nicely in the stretch and was powerful. It really leaves you speechless."
The O'Brien clan had a stranglehold on Saturday's Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh but it wasn't Aidan O'Brien whose name was attached to the winner. Instead, the champion conditioner's sons stole the show with Joseph Patrick O'Brien saddling the long shot winner, Latrobe, and Donnacha O'Brien applying the winning ride.
The elder O'Brien had to content himself with sending out the next four finishers -- Rostropovich, even-money favorite Saxon Warrior, Delano Roosevelt and The Pentagon. Godolphin's hope, Old Persian, was sixth and Dee Ex Bee settled for seventh.
Latrobe, a Camelot colt racing in the silks of Lloyd J. Williams, won for the first time June 9 over the same course and was taking a massive jump in class in the Group 1.
Aidan O'Brien said Saxon Warrior, who finished fourth in the Investec Derby at Epsom, will be retargeted to shorter races.
On Sunday over the Curragh course, O'Brien again settled for the minor awards in the day's feature, the Group 1 Pretty Polly for fillies and mares. The William Haggas-trained Urban Fox dominated the final few furlongs to win by 3 1/4 lengths over O'Brien's odds-on favorite, Forever Together, with that one's stablemates, Athena and Bye Bye Baby finishing third and fourth.
Waldgeist and Coronet hooked up in a ding dong duel over the final 100 yards of Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud with Waldgeist prevailing by a head bob. Salouen was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back. Bateel was a non-runner. Waldgeist, a 4-year-old Galileo filly trained by Andre Fabre, chalked up her third straight win.
Back in North America, around the ovals:
Safe to Say dueled to the wire before edging Avie's Mineshaft by a neck in Sunday's $225,000 (Canadian) Bison City Stakes for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies. The early leader, Katie Baby, was only another head back in third. Safe to Say, a daughter of Justin Phillip, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.41 with Jerome Lermyte riding.
Silent Sonnet stalked the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Zadracarta Stakes for Ontario-bred fillies and mares, hit the lead at mid-stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Niigon's Eclipse. Silver Sonnet, a 4-year-old Silent Name filly, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:19.74 with Eurico Da Silva up.
C Z Rocket blasted off down the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Kelly's Landing Stakes by 4 lengths over Storm Advisory. C Z Rocket, a 4-year-old City Zip colt, zipped 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.51 with Sean Bridgmohan in the irons.
Forewarned pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Daniel Stearns Cleveland Gold Cup for Ohio-bred 3-year-olds, hooked up in a hot stretch duel with Fusaichi's Wind and prevailed by a head over that one. Fusaichi's Wind then was set down to third, which promoted Over Icce to place money. Forewarned, a Flat Out colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:53.08 with Megan Fadlovich in the irons.
Thunder Dome rallied from a stalking position to win Saturday's $70,000 O.D. McDonald Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths from He's Another Who. Go For a Stroll was another 3/4 length back in third. Thunder Dome, a 4-year-old Dome gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.81 for jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., equaling the track record.
Secular Nation, a first-time starter and the longest shot in the field, won Friday's $60,000 Duke City Sprint for 3-year-olds by 7 1/2 lengths after leading all the way. Colonel Pike made a run in the stretch but was no match, finishing second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Buggy Brown. Secular Nation, a Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor colt, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.06 with Enrique Gomez riding.
Killin Me Smalls battled to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Fred Jones Handicap, then drew off to post an upset victory by 2 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Double Bear. Killin Me Smalls, an 8-year-old Marcavelly gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.13 with Larry Munoz riding.
Lippy pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Juan Gonzalez Memorial Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, ran by pacesetter River of Doubt and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Accomplishedsister edged River of Doubt for second. Lippy, a Square Eddie filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.57 with Irving Orozco riding.
Diamonds R rallied by pacesetting Bella Mia in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 1 length over that foe. Diamonds R, a daughter of Alternation, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.96. Leonel Camacho-Flores had the winning ride.
Weekend Wizard whizzed by pacesetter He's the Reason in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) Chris Loseth Stakes for 3-year-olds and drew off to win by 6 lengths. He's the Reason held second. Weekend Wizard, a Rosberg gelding, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.11 with Richard Hamel riding.