Yoshida took the Woodward at Saratoga, Bound For Nowhere won the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs and Ride a Comet rode a plane to California to win the Del Mar Derby in highlights of Labor Day weekend Thoroughbred action.
Mind Control and Game Winner won the Grade I events for 2-year-olds as Saratoga and Del Mar wound up their summer festivities.
On the international front, Best Solution scored his second straight Group 1 win in Germany for Dubai-based Godolphin and earned a trip to Australia. Hong Kong kicked off its long, rich season with gongs, dragons and hopes for future Group 1 glory.
Lots to cover so we'll not be "dragon" this out!
Yoshida found a comfortable spot mid-pack and along the fence as the field pounded down the backstretch in Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Woodward at Saratoga, came out to the middle of the track as they fanned out into the stretch and got there first, beating the favorite, Gunnevera, by 2 lengths. Leofric held a brief lead and finished third.
The 9 furlongs on the dirt was a successful experiment for Yoshida, a 4-year-old colt by the Japanese sire Heart's Cry, a Grade I winner on the turf. He finished 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.94 with Joel Rosario up for trainer Bill Mott. The colt is owned by the same partnership as Triple Crown winner Justify -- WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Head of Plains Partners, along with SF Racing. Mott took him to Royal Ascot this spring, where he finished fifth in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes. He also was fifth in the Grade I Fourstar Dave in an intervening start.
"We'll definitely talk about our options," Mott said. "After seeing this, the Breeders' Cup Classic would have to be on the table, you'd think. He's a Grade 1 winner going a mile and an eighth on the turf. We haven't won going a mile and quarter, but after today you'd have to start thinking of his options."
In Sunday's $300,000 Grade III Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, 26-1 shot Limation stalked the pace, took the lead and jetted off to win by 5 3/4 lengths. The heavy favorite, Lone Sailor, barely got up for second, edging High North by a neck. Lionite was fourth. Limation, an Alternation colt out of the Limehouse mare Lime Lady, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.91 with Diego Sanchez riding for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Detouring to the international front:
Best Solution got to the lead rounding the final turn in Sunday's Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Baden and valiantly held off the favorite, Defoe, winning by a neck. Iquitos was third. Best Solution, with Pat Cosgrave up for Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor, finished the 1 1/2 miles over good to soft turf in 2:37.36.
Since an also-ran in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic, the 4-year-old Kodiac colt has posted three straight wins -- the Group 2 Princess of Wales's Arqana Racing Club at Newmarket and the Group 1 Longines Grosser Preis von Berlin before Sunday's score.
Bin Suroor said Best Solution will enter quarantine in preparation for a trip to Australia for the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup. Bin Suroor won the Caulfield Cup 10 years ago with All The Good. "Do I think he can win a Caulfield or Melbourne Cup?" the trainer asked of Best Solution. "They are very tough races. I know that from experience. Best Solution has won a Group 2 in the UK and now two Group 1s in Germany. The best part of those wins is that he has improved a lot this year. He is in great form."
The season got off to a rousing start Sunday at Sha Tin with champion jockey Zac Purton landing the day's feature -- a race with immediate implications for the Longines Hong Kong International Races looming Dec. 9. Purton kept his mount, Winner's Way, well off the pace in the 1,200-meters HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup, sprinted to the lead midway through the stretch and had enough in reserve to keep safe the late-running Born In China. Trainer Tony Cruz said the effort was enough to show the way to the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint Dec. 9. Southern Legend, winner of last season's Kranji Mile at Singapore, finished fifth in his first run since May and his trainer, Caspar Fownes, said he hopes to have him peaking for the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile.
Grant van Kiekerk got the jump on fellow South African import Callan Murray as that pair steps in to plug some holes in the Hong Kong jockey colony. Van Kiekerk won two races while Murray was blanked in four starts, landing only one second-place finish. Both are products of the highly esteemed South African Jockey Academy outside Durban.
A crowd of 74,000 turned out at Sha Tin despite a heavy morning rainstorm to welcome in the season with a dragon ceremony and gong-ringing. Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said near-record wagering of HK$1.253 billion (US$160 million) bodes well for "our target prediction of a 3 percent or 4 percent increase in turnover across the season.
Back in North America:
Raging Bull came off the rail midway around the stretch turn in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Saranac Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga, swung five-wide into the turn and ran by pacesetting Up the Ante to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Up the Ante held second by a neck over March to the Arch. Raging Bull, a French-bred colt by Dark Angel, ran 9 furlongs on good turf in 1:47.19 with Joel Rosario aboard for trainer Chad Brown, who extended his record to 42 wins during the current meeting.
Raging Bull won the Grade II Hall of Fame over the course in his previous start and now shows four wins and a second from five career outings. "The horse should really be undefeated," Brown said. "He got caught in a paceless race going a mile at Belmont and ran a big, big race to close. He just couldn't get there ... He's an immense talent."
Trainer Mark Casse wouldn't have sent Ride a Comet all the way across the country and signed up Drayden Van Dyke to ride unless he thought the Candy Ride colt had a pretty good chance in Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Del Mar Derby. Yet, the public let him go at 5-1 odds, then watched as he rallied from well back and outfinished 50-1 shot Kazan to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The heavy favorite, River Boyne, tracked the pace, led briefly in the lane and settled for third. Ride a Comet finished 1 1/8 miles of firm turf in 1:48.11. He's won five of his last seven races and one of the two defeats came on the Turfway Park all-weather strip.
Casse assistant Randi Melton said, "Mark gave the instructions to Drayden. 'Good luck, safe trip,' was all he said ... First time you go a mile and an eighth there's always a question mark, but we were pretty confident."
Filly & Mare Turf
On Leave swung to the outside leaving the sweeping stretch turn in Saturday's $250,000 One Dreamer Stakes at Kentucky Downs, surged to an impressive lead and then dug deep to hold off I Remember Mama in the final yards, winning by 1/2 length. Last Promise Kept was third. On Leave, with Florent Geroux riding, ran 1 mile and 70 yards of firm turf in 1:45.79. The Stuart Janney III homebred daughter of War Front pushed her earnings past the $1 million mark with her first win since the Grade III My Charmer last December at Gulfstream Park. "She hasn't won a race since December, so hopefully this gets her confidence going again," said Reeve McGaughey, son of and assistant to winning trainer Shug McGaughey. "Now we can maybe take a shot against the big girls again."
Lady Montdore, under Manny Franco, wasn't setting any speed records while leading the way in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Glens Falls at Saratoga. By the time they hit the stretch for the second time, the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was still comfortably in front with plenty in reserve and the favorite, Santa Monica, couldn't cut into the lead as Lady Montdore won by 2 1/4 lengths. Danceland was third as the 1 3/8 miles over good turf went in 2:20.78.
Lady Montdore ran well enough for Godolphin Racing in France last year and now is 2-for-2 with trainer Tom Albertrani. "I'm looking big like the Breeders' Cup," Albretrani said. "That's one of the reasons we brought her back to this race." He said the $500,000 Grade I Flower Bowl on Oct. 7 at Belmont Park could be a steppingstone to the big race.
Vasilika and the favorite, Cambodia, both quickened nicely from off the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II John C. Mabee at Del Mar with Vasilika getting first run past pacesetter Fahan Mura and scoring a 1 1/2-length victory. Cambodia edged Fahan Mura for place money. Vasilika, a 4-year-old Skipshot filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.25. "I had to bide my time on the turn," said winning rider Flavien Prat. "But when I saw a hole, she gave me a great kick. Big race for her. Big effort. Very impressive." Claimed for $40,000 last winter at Santa Anita, the Mabee was her sixth straight victory but first in a graded stakes. Cambodia, third in last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf, won the Grade II Yellow Ribbon in her previous outing.
Elysea's World hooked up with Viva Vegas in a tight struggle through the final furlong of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Violet Stakes at Monmouth Park, finally eking out a 3/4-length victory as the heavy favorite. Pacesetter Bishop's Pond held on for second, 3 3/4 lengths back of Viva Vegas. Elysea's World ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.06 on firm turf with Jersey Joe Bravo riding confidently. The 5-year-old daughter of Champs Elysees backed up a victory in the Grade III WinStar Matchmaker in her previous outing over the same course.
It turns out Bound for Nowhere has been bound for somewhere all along. And that "somewhere" was Kentucky Downs for Saturday's $750,000 Tourist Mile. Bound for Nowhere chased the pace made by long shot Great Wide Open, shot to the lead as they straightened for home and ran on to win by 1 length. Great Wide Open held off the favorite, Mr. Misunderstood, by 1 1/4 lengths to salvage second. Bound For Nowhere, a 4-year-old colt by The Factor, is trained by his owner, Wesley Ward. Julio Garcia got him home in 1:40.97 over firm going.
Bound for Nowhere remains undefeated in five U.S. starts. He finished fourth in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot last year, followed by a 10th-place showing in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. He was third in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at this year's Royal meeting. "I've always wanted to stretch him out, always thought he was a miler," Ward said. "It's just he's so good at sprinting. When he ran at Ascot and ran so well, this was the race we were pointing for all along."
Synchrony shot through a big opening on the rail at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Red Bank at Monmouth Park and found his best stride in the closing yards to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Abiding Star. Irish Straight got show money. Synchrony, a 5-year-old son of Tapit, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:33.61 with Joe Bravo in command. He now has won four of six starts since finishing second in the 2017 Red Bank.
Qurbaan, Forge and Projected hit the wire almost simultaneously in Monday's $250,000 Grade II Bernard Baruch at Saratoga with Qurbaan getting the benefit of the photo. Forge forged his way between runners to get place money. Inspector Lynley was fourth and the favorite, Voodoo Song, tired to finish last of five after leading the field into the stretch. Qurbaan, a 5-year-old son of Speightstown, finished 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.00 under Irad Ortiz Jr., who took the riding title for the meet.
It was Qurbaan's first U.S. start after racing primarly in France and first for Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains for Shadwell Stable. "He's run at various distances and obviously with Shadwell being the sponsor of the Shadwell Mile ($1 million, Grade I, Oct. 6 at Keeneland), we may have to try that next now that we have a horse that can go there. Hopefully, a bright future," the trainer said.
Pure Sensation broke alertly in Monday's $300,000 Grade III Turf Monster at Parx Racing, raced right in the leading trio and found just enough late speed to win by a neck over Vision Perfect. Rainbow Heir was up late to get show money, another 1/2 length in arrears. Pure Sensation, a 7-year-old Zensational gelding owned by his breeder, Patricia Generazio, ran 5 furlongs on good turf in 56.42 seconds with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons. The veteran campaigner also won the 2017 Turf Monster, then finished fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, beaten little more than 1 length after leading much of the way.
Wyatt's Town led from the start in Sunday's $120,000 Ontario Jockey Club for 3-year-olds, then dueled down the stretch with Hemp Hemp Hurray before prevailing by a neck. Driven by History was third. Wyatt's Town, a Speightstown colt, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.52 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons. "Mid-stretch, I have to tell you, I thought we were in trouble. I thought we were collared," said winning trainer Norm McKnight. "But he runs with a lot of grit and he just dug in and gave it his all and we held on."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Dream Tree ran right by pacesetting favorite Mia Mischief at the top of the lane in Sunday's $250,000 Grade II Prioress for 3-year-old fillies and rolled on to win by 4 1/4 lengths over that one. Moonshine Memories rallied from last to get show money. Dream Tree, an Uncle Mo filly, remains undefeated after five starts. She ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.50 with Mike Smith up for trainer Bob Baffert. "She gave me goosebumps to be honest," Smith said. "I had never ridden her in the afternoon. I was fortunate enough to work her one morning, so I knew she was really talented. But I didn't realize she was this talented." Baffert said he hasn't scripted her next race.
Mind Control battled for the lead in Monday's $350,000 Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga, got a slight advantage in the stretch and fought on gamely to win by 1 length over the odds-on favorite, Mucho. Nitrous finished third. Mind Control, a Stay Thirsty colt trained by Gregory Sacco, was making just his third career start following a runner-up finish at Delaware Park and a maiden win earlier in the Spa meeting. He ran 7 furlongs over a fast track in the 2018 Saratoga stakes finale in 1:22.99 with John Velazquez aboard.
"It's my first Grade I win, so it's real special," said Sacco, who now looks at the possibility of a Breeders' Cup contender. "I would think so," he said. "I don't think the distance will give him limitations. The way he's trained and galloped out last race, he's just a genuine horse.
Game Winner found another gear in the final furlong in Monday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Futurity, wore down pacesetting longshot Rowayton and edged away to a 1 1/2-lengths victory. The odds-on favorite, Roadster, rallied through the stretch turn alongside Game Winner but lacked the needed kick at the end, settling for third. Game Winner, a Candy Ride colt, finished 7 furlongs on the fast main track in 1:23.18 with Mario Gutierrez riding. Bob Baffert trains both Game Winner and Roadster.
Game Winner was making just his second career start. He won at first asking over the Del Mar course Aug. 18, romping home first by 5 3/4 lengths over an odds-on favorite.
Unionizer stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Sapling at Monmouth Park, surged to the lead on the turn and held sway, organizing a 1 1/2-lengths victory over the favorite, Successful Zip. Stage Left was third. Unionizer, a Florida-bred Union Rags colt, finished 1 mile on a fast track in an unimpressive but good enough 1:42.54 under Joe Bravo.
Garter and Tie took aim at pacesetting Well Defined coming down the stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park, gained steadily and was up late to win by 1/2 length. Cajun Firecracker pressed the pace and held third. Garter and Tie, a Brooks 'n Down colt, got 7 furlongs in 1:23.05 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
Henley's Joy added blinkers for Saturday's $400,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile and the move paid off as the Kitten's Joy colt rallied along the fence to win by a head over Tracksmith. California import Dragic was third. Henley's Joy, with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:43.33, improving to 2-for-2. "He showed a little more speed today," Gaffalione said. "I think it was the addition of the blinkers. He went through a couple of tight spots ... He could be anything. He's really special. I'm looking forward to getting on him again." Mike Maker is the winning trainer.
King of Speed didn't show much get up and go through the early furlongs of Sunday's $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf. But then Gary Stevens asked him to pick it up and so he did, cutting the corner, skimming the rail through the lane and winning by 3/4 length over the favorite, Hartel. Takeo Squared was third. King of Speed, a Jimmy Creed colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.77. Prior to Sunday's race, he had finished fourth, fourth, third and second for trainer Jeff Bonde. It was Stevens' 100th Del Mar stakes win and he said he recommended the shift to the turf that resulted in the turnaround. "It's a great feeling to be right about something like this every once in a while," the veteran rider said.
Dakota's Dude pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Proud Man Stakes on the Gulfstream greensward, inherited the lead from the pacesetting long shot and went on to win by a head over a closing Timmy T. Mozo Bello was third and the favorite, Louder Than Bombs, completed the superfecta. Dakota's Dude, a First Dude colt, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:30.65 for jockey Jose Batista.
Ice City Ghost led all the way to a 20-1 upset win in Sunday's $60,000 Sunday Silence Stakes at Louisiana Downs. Cabo's Rumor was 2 1/2 lengths back in second and another 3 3/4 lengths to the good of Big Bobby Brown, a late-running third. Ice City Ghost, an Ice Box gelding, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.73 with Diego Saenz up.
Sippican Harbor could see 'em all as the field hit the turn in Saturday's $350,000 Grade I Spinaway at Saratoga, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In". But with Joel Rosario aboard the Orb filly swung out into the middle of the course, closed smartly and drove clear in the final yards to win by 2 lengths. Restless Rider was up for second, a neck in front of Cassie's Dreamer. Chasing Yesterday, a half-sister to American Pharoah, had every chance in the stretch but tired to finish seventh. Sippican Harbor finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:43.72. She's 2-for-3 with all the starts coming at Saratoga.
"I really thought she was a turf horse," said Sippican Harbor's trainer, Gary Contessa. "Shows you what I know. A blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while ... She's legit, so were looking forward to the Breeders' Cup. These are real horses, these are the best of the best."
Bellafina drew off from a confrontation with Mother Mother midway around the turn in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Del Mar Debutante and kicked away to win by 4 1/4 lengths over that rival. Boujie Girl was third and the favorite, Brill, was a dull fourth. Bellafina, a Quality Road filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.51 with Flavien Prat riding. She won the Grade II Sorrento earlier in the Del Mar meeting.
Bellafina's trainer, Simon Callaghan, said, "It was nice to see her really show her class at the end. I said to (owner Kaleem Shah) that she's the best filly I've trained. She's pretty special and I think she's going to keep getting better." Callaghan trained Abel Tasman before that champion filly was relocated to Bob Baffert's barn. Baffert also trains Chasing Yesterday and said Sunday in California, "I should have just stayed home with her. I'm mad at myself now."
Cookie Dough rose to the occasion in the stretch run of Saturday's $200,000 Susan's Girl Division of the Florida Sire Stakes at Gulfstream Park. After tracking the pace, the Bretheren filly shot to the front and won off by 6 1/2 lengths. Starship Nala and Blazing Brooke filled the trifecta slots. The odds-on favorite, Capture Your Dream, shattered a few by finishing a fading sixth. Cookie Dough, with Jeffrey Sanchez in the irons, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.46.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Miss Technicality easily blew by the early leaders turning for home in Saturday's $400,000 Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies at Kentucky Downs and drew off to win by 6 lengths with little more than a shake of the stick by jockey Julien Leparoux. Lightscameraaction ran evenly to finish second and the early leader, City Lights, held on for third. Miss Technicality, a Geo Ponti filly, finished 1 mile on firm going in 1:43.51, backing up a victory in her career debut at Belmont Park in July for trainer Christophe Clement. She was the favorite but Leparoux said, "It's not easy to just ship in and run on this track. She showed a lot of ability and she's a pro."
Entirely was in tight quarters early in Saturday's $100,000 Sharp Susan at Gulfstream Park, steadied a couple times and then had to weave in and out in the stretch run but still got there in time to win by a neck over A Bit Special. Dangerous Curves ranged up late along the rail to get third. Entirely, a Point of Entry filly, finished 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:31.39 under Emisael Jaramillo.
Decorated Ace waited behind a hotly contested early pace in Saturday's $78,000 Sorority Stakes at Monmouth Park, came through between rivals to take the lead at the sixteenth pole and held off the favorite, Malocchio, by 1 1/4 lengths. Sweet Sami D was third. Decorated Ace, a Florida-bred Treasure Beach filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.36 with Hector Diaz Jr. in the irons.
Summering, the odds-on favorite, pressed the pace in Monday's $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf, took the lead turning for home and edged clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Lady Prancealot rallied from the back of the 11-filly field to finish second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Bizwhacks. Summering, a War Front filly trained by Tom Proctor, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.15 for jockey Drayden Van Dyke. She's 2-for-2 with both wins at Del Mar for Glen Hill Farm.
"It's nice to have a filly like this -- the fourth generation in the family that we've owned -- win a stakes in her second start," said Glen Hill's Craig Bernick. "We'll go on to Santa Anita and if she wins again we'd consider the Breeders' Cup. But she'd have to win well."
Taylor's Spirit, the overwhelming favorite, dueled to the lead in Sunday's $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes at Louisiana Downs, then edged away to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Flatoutandfoxy was best of the rest, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Navy Regatta. Taylor's Spirit, a daughter of Algorithms, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:37.91 with Florent Geroux up.