Winx won again, her 26th straight victory, Accelerate sped to the head of his class with a win in the Pacific Classic and Eskimo Kisses upset the Alabama in highlights of weekend racing action.
Pretty Pollyanna confirmed her status as the best 2-year-old filly in Europe with a gutsy win by the Channel.
We finally know where the Breeders' Cup World Championships will be staged in 2019 and, for good measure, in 2020 and 2021. See news and notes and start planning.
But first, this:
Accelerate stalked the pace in Saturday's $1 million TVG Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar, came three-wide into contention on the turn and then showed his heels to six rivals, drawing off to win by 12 1/2 lengths. Pavel was best of the rest, 3 3/4 lengths to the good of Prime Attraction. Argentine import Roman Rosso led early and finished fourth. Accelerate, a 5-year-old son of Lookin at Lucky, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:01.83 with Joel Rosario riding.
Accelerate clearly was primed for his first start since winning the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May. He now has been first or second in five straight races, all graded stakes. He was third in last year's Pacific Classic before contesting the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. His win Saturday earned him a "Win and You're In" spot in November's Breeders' Cup Classic.
Owned by Kosta and Pete Hronis, Accelerate scored his third Grade I win of the year. Kosta Hronis said the Grade I Awesome Again at Santa Anita is a likely step toward the Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in November. And, with an eye toward already-retired Triple Crown winner Justify, he was angling for year-end honors.
"With all due respect to Justify, who was a brilliant horse and did something no one has ever done ... but that's 3-year-olds only, restricted, two turns on dirt," Kosta Hronis told The Blood-Horse's Jeremy Balan. "It's kind of a narrow lane compared to what this level of racing is. I guess I consider the Breeders' Cup the Super Bowl, not the 3-year-old races ... Being in the same conversation with him is wonderful, but we'll see how it plays out."
Trainer John Sadler added, "Southern California horses have done well at Churchill Downs," Sadler said. "And the thing we're going to feel good about with this horse is that he won the Santa Anita Handicap on a muddy track. You go back to Kentucky in the fall and there's about a 50-50 chance you're going to get weather and some kind of off track."
Eskimo Kisses raced last of eight down the backstretch in Saturday's $600,000 Grade I Alabama for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, then unleashed a withering burst of speed around the second turn to gain the lead and drew off to win by 6 1/2 lengths. She's a Julie finished second, narrowly in front of the better fancied Midnight Bisou and Talk Veuve to Me. Eskimo Kisses, a daughter of To Honor and Serve, got 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:03.22 with Jose Ortiz in the irons. It was her first stakes win and followed fourth-place showings in both the Kentucky Oaks and the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks.
"She's a big late running type," said Eskimo Kisses' trainer, Kenny McPeek. "She's a filly that likes a little heavier going, and I think it was that today and she went a mile and a quarter. I told Jose to sit on her a certain way and we couldn't control what fractions they gave us, we just had to hope it unfolded for us. We love these kinds of races and it's an honor to get horses that can compete in them.
Skeptic stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks, took the lead and then held on to win by 3/4 length over the favorite, Sassy Sienna. Gio Game was third, another 3 1/2 lengths in arrears. Skeptic, a Tiznow filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.84 with Brian Hernandez Jr. up. She finished fourth in the Grade III Indiana Oaks in her previous start.
Dutch Parrot rallied from near the back of the pack to take Saturday's $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes at Thistledown by 3 1/4 lengths over Sneaky Betty. Babybluesbdancing was third, another 4 1/2 lengths back. Dutch Parrot, a 4-year-old filly by Eskendereya, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.64 with Walter De La Cruz up.
Fashion Business unleashed his typical late run in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Del Mar Handicap Presented by the Japan Racing Association. But, unlike most recent efforts, this time the 4-year-old British-bred Frankel gelding got he job done, kicking clear to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Longshot Ya Gotta Wanna was along for second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of Multiplier, and the favorite, Itsinthepost, faded to finish seventh.
Fashion Business, with Flavien Pratt up, ran 1 3/8 miles on firm turf in 2:13.84. It was his second win since arriving from England last May. "His race at Belmont was actually way better than it looked," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "He was in a blanket finish and then the horse that finished behind him came back and won the Arlington Million. So it was a very productive race."
Utmost settled just behind Tiz a Slam in Sunday's $200,000 (Canadian) Grade II Sky Classic at Woodbine, went by that one when prompted by jockey Alan Garcia and edged clear to win by 1 length. Tiz a Slam was a clear second, 9 1/4 lengths in front of Seeking Albert. Utmost, a 4-year-old Giant's Causeway colt, ran 1 3/8 miles on good turf in 2:17.61. It was his second U.S. start after an earlier career in France and England, partly on the all-weather courses.
Filly & Mare Turf
Fatale Bere settled well off the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Oaks, came five wide into the stretch run and outfinished the favorite, Ollie's Candy, winning by a neck. Californiagoldrush was third. Fatal Bere, a French-bred filly by Pedro the Great, ran 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:48.14 with Kent Desormeaux up.
Fatale Bere won her 2017 debut, the Grade III Providencia, in April, misfired in the Grade II Honeymoon in June but then rebounded to finish a respectable sixth in the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational in her most recent start.
"The only instructions I said to Kent was to keep her covered up early," said Fatale Bere's trainer, Leonard Powell. "If you don't keep her covered up, she's rank, she pulls, sometimes the saddle goes forward. So the key is to keep her covered up, and then she's good enough to do the job."
At Saratoga, Rushing Fall stalked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Lake Placid for 3-year-old fillies, took over command when asked by jockey Javier Castellano and ran on to win by 2 3/4 lengths. Capla Temptress was second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of Daddy Is a Legend. Rushing Fall, a More Than Ready filly, ran 9 furlongs on soft turf in 1:51.86.
Rushing Fall won her first four career starts, including the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, then finished second in her most recent effort, the Grade III Edgewood at Churchill Downs in May.
"She ran great, said Rushing Fall's trainer, Chad Brown. "She obviously handled the soft going well. We expected her to ... I'm not sure what the next step for her will be. I might just train her up to the Queen Elizabeth at Keeneland. It's a Grade 1 and a very prestigious race."
Catapult was flung into the fray in the stretch run of Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Del Mar Mile and outfinished Fly to Mars by 1/2 length for the win. Fly to Mars then was set down to third for an erratic run through the lane, elevating Sharp Samurai to place money. Catapult, a 5-year-old son of Kitten's Joy, finished the 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.40 with jockey Drayden Van Dyke scoring the fifth of his seven wins on the card.
The win made it back-to-back victories at the Del Mar meet for Catapult, who won the Grade II Eddie Read July 22. "I'm very happy with Catapult," said winning trainer John Sadler, who is on a hot streak. "He ran a good race in the Eddie Read and I wasn't sure I was going to bring him back here. But I figured that since he's so good on this turf course I wanted to run him twice here. We're hoping he'll end up in the Breeders' Cup Mile."
Chattel took back early in Friday's $100,000 Skidmore Stakes at Saratoga, re-engaged early in the stretch run and prevailed with a nice kick in the final sixteenth. Swamp Rat came with a late scurry but fell 3 1/4 lengths short of the winner. Good Good also found late speed, finishing third. Chattel, a Giant Oak colt, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:03.51 with Kendrick Carmouche up.
"I was expecting him to win, but not like that," said winning trainer Brandon McFarlane. "It was a nice effort. He's a Kentucky-bred, so maybe we'll go to Kentucky Downs."
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Stillwater Cove caught the pacesetter, Chelsea Cloisters, in the stretch run of Wednesday's $100,000 Bolton Landing at Saratoga and edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that foe. The favorite, Elsa, was off a step slowly and settled for third. Stillwater Cove, a Quality Road filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.26. Wesley Ward trains the first two finishers.
"She's a big, long, rangy filly," Ward said of Stillwater Cove, who has won both her U.S. starts but struggled home 13th in the Grade III Albany at Royal Ascot. "She looks like she's going to go two turns. Hopefully, we can get her to relax and route and see her in the Breeders' Cup in the fall."
Tobacco Road rallied three-wide to contest the lead in the stretch drive of Sunday's $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile and prevailed by 3/4 length over Whiskey Echo. Manny Wah was third. Tobacco Road, a Quality Road colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.99 under Corey Lanerie. Steve Asmussen trains the first two finishers. Whiskey Echo now has two wins in a row, both at Ellis.
Owner Lee Levinson said he is comparing Whiskey Echo to 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin at Lee, whom he also owned. "The best part was how he finished, because he was pulling away at the end," Levinson said. "Boy, can you imagine at a distance? You never know but, boy, he sure looks like he's got distance, doesn't he?
Serengeti Empress was way too much for her 10 rivals in Sunday's $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante, leading from the start, then kicking away to win by 13 1/2 lengths. Include Edition beat the others, finishing another 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Lucky Girasol. Serengeti Empress, with Corey Lanerie up for trainer Tom Amoss, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.29. The Alternation filly was coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade III Schuylerville at Saratoga. Amoss said he hasn't figured out what went wrong in that race but added, "She came back to show what she was today."
On the international scene:
Winx returned to action Saturday at Randwick, rather easily posting her 26th straight victory and looking every bit the threat to achieve an unprecedented fourth straight Cox Plate later in the Southern Hemisphere springtime.
Saturday's race used to be the Warwick Stakes. The Group 1 event now is the Winx Stakes and she ran like she owned it. After settling well off the pace, the 7-year-old mare unleashed her typical stretch explosion, kicking away to a 2-lenghts victory. Godolphin Racing's Kementari, rated the big threat, in fact threatened the super mare at the top of the straight but faded to finish fourth. Winx's 26-victory skein now is one better than Black Caviar's, albeit Black Caviar's mark was the totality of her undefeated career.
The campaign mapped out by trainer Chris Waller is similar to last year's: Back to Randwick for the Group 1 Chelmsford Stakes Sept. 1 and the Group 1 George Main Stakes two weeks later, followed by the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Oct. 6 and the 2018 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley Oct. 27th.
Pretty Pollyana showed speed, then determination, in winning Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Morny for 2-year-olds at Deauville. After showing the way, the Oasis Dream filly had to find another gear to fend off the late bid of Signora Cabello, finally edging clear to win by 3/4 length. It was another 4 lengths back to True Mason in third.
Pretty Pollyanna is a hot favorite for the 2019 Guineas and trainer Michael Bell said the Morny was a good validator. "She really toughed it out in the last furlong and what pleased me for the future was her last furlong was her best furlong," Racing Post quoted Bell. "That bodes very well for her getting a mile, the way she kicked in the last 150 yards. For the future that's very important."
Nonza was along in the final 100 meters to catch the favorite, Urban Fox, and win Sunday's Group 1 Darley Prix Jean Romanet for fillies and mares by a neck. Navaro Girl was third as Bateel and Rhododendron turned in major disappointments, finishing sixth and ninth, respectively. Rhododendron stumbled and nearly fell while in contention entering the straight and jockey Ryan Moore eased her home.
Nonza, a 4-year-old daughter of Zanzibari, was stepping way up in class but had enough to win her fourth straight race for jockey Alexis Badel and trainer Henri-Francois Devin -- both taking their first Group 1 score.
Around North America, briefly:
Neepawa led from gate to wire in winning the third leg of Canada's Triple Crown, Saturday's $400,000 (Canadian) Breeders' Stakes, restricted to Canadian-bred 3-year-olds. The Scat Daddy colt finished 1 1/2 miles on the yielding turf course in 2:31.18 under Jerome Lermyte. Say the Word and Flight Deck filled the trifecta spots. Aheadbyacentury, second in the first to legs of the Triple Crown, finished eighth in the grassy finale. While there was no equine Triple Crown winner this year, Mark Casse trained the winners of all three legs as Wonder Gadot took both the Queen's Plate and the Prince of Wales before being detoured south to run against the boys in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga.
Moonlit Garden, bred and owned by Town and Country Farms, led virtually all the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory over A Place to Shine in Sunday's $100,000 Summer Colony Stakes. Forever Liesl was third. Moonlit Garden, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly, out of the Roy mare Winter Garden, toured 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.02 with Jose Ortiz in the irons.
Frostie Anne pressed the pace in Friday's $100,000 Saratoga Dew Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, got first run to the lead on the stretch turn and held off the favorite, Land Mine, by 1/2 length. Pink Twist was third and Frosty Margarita was unable to complete a chilly exacta, finishing fourth. Frostie Anne, a 5-year-old Frost Giant mare, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:53.17 with Junior Alvarado at the controls.
Dr. Feelgood went right to the fore in Saturday's $50,000 Robert G. Leavitt Stakes for West Virginia-bred 3-year-olds and wasn't caught. At the finish, the Fiber Sonde colt was 1 1/4 lengths in front of Opera Night with William and Mary another neck back in third. Dr. Feelgood, with Darius Thorpe up, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.42.
Smarty River Pants ran to his odds in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Birdcatcher Stakes for 2-year-olds , drawing clear to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Coco Tiger was second with the cleverly named Im Evin Im Leavin third. Smarty River Pants, an Afleet Alex gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:18.46 with Wilmer Galviz aboard.
School Board Prez closed quickly from last of eight to capture Saturday's $75,000 Pay the Man Stakes for Ohio-bred distaffers by a head over Cali Dream. Leona's Reward was third. School Board Prez, a 5-year-old daughter of Courageous Cat, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:53.66 with Pedro Cotto Jr. in the irons.
News and notes:
The Breeders' Cup World Championships will return to Santa Anita Nov. 1-2 next year to run for the 10th time in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains. Then in 2020, Keeneland gets a chance to top the rave reviews it got for its Breeders' Cup "Bluegrass debut" in 2015 and Del Mar, which first hosted in 2017, reprises that effort in 2021. The Keeneland edition will be staged Nov. 6-7; Del Mar's, Nov. 5-6.
"We are extremely proud and excited to bring the Breeders' Cup back to three of the country's most beloved racetracks in California and Kentucky, all of which share our commitment to providing an exceptional race-day experience for horse racing enthusiasts and first-time guests alike," said Craig Fravel, President and CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd.
"Breeders' Cup events at Santa Anita, Keeneland and Del Mar have resulted in record success and overwhelming support from our fans around the world," Fravel added. "We look forward to building upon past triumphs and to bringing the world's best two days of Thoroughbred racing to these great racetracks and communities."
Speaking of the best: The 2018 Longines and IFHA International Award of Merit was presented this week to the Magnier family and trainer Aidan O'Brien, the driving forces behind Coolmore and the Ballydoyle Racing Stable. The award honors distinguished personalities for their lifelong contributions to the world of horse racing. Previous recipients range from Freddy Head through the Romanet family and Arthur Hancock to Yutaka Take.
"The Magnier family and trainer Aidan O'Brien have built a stunningly powerful partnership on a truly global scale," IFHA Chairman Louis Romanet said at the award ceremony in Dublin. "The success of the Coolmore and Ballydoyle team is so ubiquitous in both Ireland and abroad that it would be impossible to list all of their accomplishments here today."