Jockey Florent Geroux had two wins and two seconds among Saturday's five rich stakes at Kentucky Downs -- only to see Sunday's card postponed to Wednesday because of torrential rain.
Despite the weather setback, the Kentucky Downs program was the highlight of the U.S. racing weekend with Arklow victorious in the biggest of the stakes.
In British comeback races, it was 1-for-2 with Enable victorious and Harry Angel, not so much. Japanese horses won both of Korea's Group 1 events while back home in Japan, Fine Needle won his prep for the upcoming Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes.
We'll sprint right into action with:
Arklow raced near the back of the pack early in Saturday's $750,000 Grade III Calumet Farm Kentucky Turf Cup, found daylight between horses at the quarter pole, picked things up quickly and ran on to win by 1/2 length over Bigger Picture. Soglio dogged the early pace and held on for third while the favorite, Oscar Nominated, could never reach contention after being forced wide entering the stretch. Arklow, a 4-year-old Arch colt, finished 1 1/2 miles on good turf in 2:30.56 with Geroux in the irons.
"I felt good until the gates opened," said Jerry Crawford, founder of Donegal racing, which owns Arklow. "We thought we'd be sitting third very easily, and we're suddenly sitting at the back of the pack. But Florent was very patient ... This horse doesn't like to get stopped. It might not have worked. That hole could have closed. But it didn't and here we are."
Arklow finished fourth in the Grade III Stars and Stripes at Arlington Park in July but, rather than advance to the Grade I Arlington Million, trainer Brad Cox sent him to the Kentucky Downs Preview at Ellis Park, which he won -- his first victory since a Fair Grounds allowance event in February. Asked what's next, Cox said, "Breeders' Cup! I don't know. Obviously our horse loves the grass. He's really getting better."
Filly & Mare Turf
Insta Erma broke alertly in Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf, took back to last of eight and then came with a late rush to win by a neck over Valadorna. Pas de Soucis was third and the favorite, I'm Betty G, faded from the lead to finish fifth. Insta Erma, a 5-year-old daughter of Pioneerof the Nile, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:36.26 with Drayden Van Dyke in the irons.
Insta Erma got a four-months vacation after finishing 11th in the Grade II Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on Derby weekend and rewarded trainer Richard Baltas with her first graded stakes score. "She was a little sore, just body sore and needed a little break," Baltas said. "I got her back at the beginning of Del Mar, so I got like four or five works on the grass at Del Mar. We were looking for a race, and the guys said let's send her here. They found the spot."
The finish of Saturday's $500,000 Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint couldn't have been much more exciting as seven of the eight rivals crossed the wire with only 1 1/2 lengths covering the lot. Proforma had a head in front of White Flag for the win with Vici 1/2 length behind that one in third and just a neck in front of Undrafted. Blind Ambition, Done Deal and Conquest Panthera were right behind with only Little Chesney out of the picture.
Proforma, a 4-year-old Munnings gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:15.72 with Joe Bravo riding, notching his first win since the Jersey Shore Stakes at Monmouth Park more than 14 months earlier. Trainer Michael Stidham said the Grade II Shakertown at Keeneland and the Breeders' Cup are on the horizon now for Proforma. "This was a bit of a breakthrough for him," the conditioner said. "So we haven't been thinking along those lines. But off of this race, we certainly have to consider it."
Ruby Notion and Lull rallied down the stretch together in Saturday's $450,000 Grade III Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint with Ruby Notion putting a neck in front of that rival under the wire. Brielle's Appeal held the lead through until the final yards and finished third, just another nose in arrears. Ruby Notion, a 5-year-old Great Notion mare, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:15.80 for Geroux.
Ruby Notion won the Caress Stakes at Saratoga in July and seems to be peaking as summer turns to autumn. "I don't know if she's good enough to get done what she's doing right now. I know she's just in super-good form right now," said trainer Darrin Miller.
Juvenile/Juvenile Filly Turf
Moonlight Romance rebounded nicely from a tough trip to England, taking Saturday's $500,000 Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf by 3 lengths over Life Mission. Sovereign Impact finished third but was demoted to last for ducking out in the stretch, causing a nasty accident. Blame the Frog was promoted to third. Moonlight Romance, a Liaison filly trained by Wesley Ward for Ken and Sarah Ramsey, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:17.91 with Jose Ortiz up.
Moonlight Romance finished second in her 2018 career bow at Keeneland in the spring, then won at Belmont Park before shipping to England, where she finished 13th while being bounced around a bit in the Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Ward also trains Bound for Nowhere, who won the $750,000 Tourist Mile Stakes at Kentucky Downs a week earlier after finishing a close third at Royal Ascot in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
"We're going to prep them all now at Royal Ascot and bring them to Kentucky Downs, the way it's working out," Ward laughed. He said the British experience for Moonlight Romance was compromised by a long delay. " Fortunately for us today, she rebounded and won a big purse for Mr. Ramsey and we're on to the Breeders' Cup now."
Next Shares took the wide route around the sweeping final turn in Thursday's $250,000 Old Friends Stakes at Kentucky Downs and swept by the leaders to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Siem Riep looked like a winner for a brief time but had all he could do to salvage second, beating Parlor by a nose. Next Shares, a 5-year-old gelding by Archarcharch out of the Evansville Slew mare Two Dot Slew, ran 1 mile and 70 yards on firm turf in 1:41.79 with Drayden Van Dyke up. The race was restricted to non-stakes winners in 2018.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Gas Station Sushi returned to the races after four months off gassed up and ready to go. The Into Mischief filly led all the way in Saturday's $75,000 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes at Los Alamitos and kicked away at the end, winning by 6 lengths over Steph Being Steph. Best of Me was third. Gas Station Sushi, with Mario Gutierrez in the irons for trainer Richard Baltas, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.54.
Jerry Riley, Gas Station Sushi's owner, said, "She's a special filly. She tries very hard all the time and obviously runs well after a layoff." He suggested the $250,000 Grade II Raven Run at Keeneland Oct. 20.
Rayya finished fifth, never a factor in the Lewis. The Tiz Wonderful filly, winner of the Group 3 UAE Oaks in Dubai this spring and second to Mendelssohn in the Group 2 UAE Derby, was sent to the United States and turned over to Bob Baffert for the Kentucky Oaks, where she finished 13th after an awkward start. Saturday's race was her first up from that. She had been training well at Del Mar for the return.
Big Drink of Water made it two stakes wins in a row with a 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $75,000 Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park. The Soldat gelding, last seen winning the Victoria Stakes at Woodbine, pressed the pace before taking charge in the final furlong. Distant Shore was second and Knicks Go was a distant third. Big Drink of Water ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:25.20 with Jose Valdivia Jr. in the irons.
"I don't know what's next for him," said trainer Larry Rivelli. "We got him for this race. He might be a turf horse. There are lots of opportunities there."
Into Trouble was never in trouble in Saturday's $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie at Arlington Park. With Chris Emigh up, the Into Mischief filly took her time getting going, racing last of eight early. But when called on, she quickly downshifted and ran by the field, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. The pacesetter, Thunderous Gem, settled for second, 4 lengths better than Meadow Dance.
"Never," Emigh said when asked if he had doubts early in the race. "She was just so relaxed." Into Trouble, trained by Ben Colebrook, now is 2-for-2. She won at first asking at Ellis Park Aug. 11.
England - Kempton
Enable took the first, very belated, step toward an encore effort in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe with a workmanlike victory in Saturday's Group 3 188Bet September Stakes on the Kempton all-weather. The Nathaniel filly's summer campaign was scrapped because of a training injury and it was now or never to get her back on course for a repeat try in the Arc. Judging by the Kempton effort, trainer John Gosden has done the job.
The Kempton tilt must have looked a soft spot for a return -- until Crystal Ocean, runner-up in the King George, also showed up in the entries. No matter. Frankie Dettori let Enable run to the lead in the 1 1/2-miles race while David Probert kept Crystal Ocean comfortably behind her. The other two were always contesting third. Turning for home, Probert asked Crystal Ocean but Enable had more than enough, striding out to win by 3 1/2 lengths without plumbing her depths.
Dettori professed himself delighted and Gosden told Racing Post, "The hard thing for her was to stand around doing nothing. She loves racing and training."
England - Haydock
The Tin Man got a clear lane down the center of the course and found just enough late kick to land Saturday's Group 1 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock by 1/2 length over Brando. Gustav Klimt rallied along the inside rail to take third. Oisin Murphy, the hottest jockey on the planet, replaced regular pilot Tom Queally and provided the winning ride. The Tin Man, a 6-year-old Equiano gelding, was second in this race in 2016 and third in last year's renewal as Harry Angel swept to a 4-lengths victory.
In Saturday's renewal, Harry Angel was nervous behind the gate, sprinted to the lead, then tired badly in the final furlong, fading from the lead to finish sixth. It was his first start since a dangerous incident in the stalls at Royal Ascot left him with minor injuries.
The Tin Man now is likely for the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot Oct. 20. Beyond that is less clear as the gelding nearly died last December after contracting an illness while traveling to Hong Kong for the Group 1 Longines Hong Sprint. Trainer James Fanshaw credited the Hong Kong Jockey Club staff with helping save The Tin Man's life.
England - York
Limato overcame some unloved heavy ground to win Sunday's Rydale Garrowby Stakes at York in a victory of class over conditions. Trainer Henry Candy said the 6-year-old gelding now has lots of options, potentially including the Group 1 Qatar Prix Foret at Longchamp on Arc day. He said the Group 1 British Champions Sprint at Ascot Oct. 20 would be the seasonal target "in Europe at least." Limato contested the 2016 Breeders' Cup Mile, finishing sixth.
Recoletos came with a rush in the final 100 meters to edge Wind Chimes for the victory in Sunday's Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamps. British raider Expert Eye settled for third. Trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias said Recoletos, a 4-year-old Whipper colt, will be pointed to the Queen Elizabeth II at 1 mile on Champions Day at Ascot Oct. 20. He finished fourth behind Cracksman in last year's British Champion Stakes, going 1 1/4 miles. Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager for Juddmonte Farms, said Expert Eye also could target that race and/or the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. He is a 3-year-old Acclamation colt.
London Town, the prohibitive favorite, kicked away from the field in the stretch run to win the Keeneland Korea Cup for the second straight year, this time by 15 lengths. Dolkong was second. Forest Ranger, Richard Fahey's British-trained hope, finished fifth. Enobled Friend was a non-runner.
In the Keeneland Korea Sprint, it was Japan and Hong Kong 1-2, separated by a short head as Moanin and Fight Hero swept up on the outside of the leaders to get the top placings. Doraonpogyeongseon was third. New Jersey-bred Chublicious was a non-threatening fourth and Wild Dude was sixth. Moanin, a 6-year-old son of Henny Hughes, won the Grade 1 February Stakes in Japan in 2016 but had been racing at less lofty levels in recent years.
As Korea works to improve the international reach of its racing program, Sunday's events might have produced one world traveler. Fight Hero's trainer, Me Tsui, and jockey, Derek Leung, both praised the performance of the Footstepsinthesand gelding over a deep, sandy track.
Tsui told the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Andrew Hawkins, "There aren't too many dirt races for him now (in Hong Kong) ... I would love to take him to Dubai because he is a better 1,400-meter horse. He just finds the first 400 of a 1,200-meter race too fast. Now that he's gone well on a deep surface, I am more keen to go to Meydan, which Derek says is also quite deep."
Fine Needle looked the best chance coming into Sunday's Grade 2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes at Hanshin and the 5-year-old son of Admire Moon lived up to the promise. With Yuga Kawada up, Fine Needle came running on the outside through the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over the pacesetting second-favorite, 3-year-old filly Love Kampf. Fine Needle won the Centaur for the second straight year, covering 1,200 meters over soft turf on a rainy day in 1:08.8.
Fine Needle, bred by Darley Japan and owned by Godolphin, won the Grade 1 Takamatsunomia Kinen at Chukyo in March and now is set for another swing at the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes Sept. 30. Love Kampf, a daughter of Shonan Kampf, posted her seventh runner-up finish from 12 career starts.
With several of Hong Kong's top jockeys gone to greener pastures, there's an opening for a new champion this season. Among those looking to fill that spot is Karis Teetan, third last term and ambitious for more.
Teetan was winless in the first two meetings of the season but scored a triple Sunday at Sha Tin -- all for trainer Tony Cruz. Even better, Cruz told Teetan a few days earlier he will have the call on Pakistan Star, also the stable star. "The support from Tony has boosted my confidence," Teetan said. "He's a great idol in Hong Kong."
Back in North America:
Shamrock Rose led from the gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) La Lorgnette Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Miss Mo Mentum. Cosmic Love ran well late to get show money at long odds. Shamrock Rose, a First Dude filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.37 under Jerome Lermyte. Mark Casse trains both Shamrock Rose and Miss Mo Mentum.
Gamble's Ghost flew from last to first in Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Belle Mahone Stakes for fillies and mares, nipping pacesetter My Arch Enemy by a head. Mexican Hat was third, another neck in arrears. Gamble's Ghost, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.51 with Eurico Da Silva in the irons.
Hit the Beach stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic for Washington State- or British Columbia-breds, took command in the stretch and won by 3 1/4 lengths over Buckley Bay. Hey Sequoia and Elliott Bay were close up in third and fourth. Hit the Beach, a 5-year-old Harbor the Gold gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.14 with Jose Zunino up.
Fly Far Away flew just enough in the stretch run to capture Sunday's $50,000 Washington Cup Filly & Mare Stakes (same conditions) by 1 1/4 lengths from Dontkissntell. Gazing reported third. Fly Far Away, a 5-year-old Pleasantly Perfect mare, got 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.06 under Austin Solis.
Saturday was British Columbia Derby Day at Hastings. The track was fast and all dollar amounts are in Canadian funds.
In the day's feature, the $150,000 Grade III Derby, Sky Promise trailed most of the field early, came four-wide around the final turn to challenge for the lead and got home first by 3/4 length. Weekend Wizard had first run at the early leaders and opened up a daylight advantage but could not hold it and settled for second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of the original pacesetter, Canadian Game. Sky Promise, a Kentucky-bred colt by Sky Mesa, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.71 with Rico Walcott in the irons.
Here's Hannah, under Richard Hamel, shot to the lead in the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks and wasn't caught, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Tiptoe at the end of 9 furlongs. Raider was third. Here's Hannah, a BC-bred filly by Numaany, finished in 1:52.77.
Dat Day rallied by pacesetter Arranger in deep stretch to land the $100,000 Jack Diamond Futurity for BC-bred juvenile colts and geldings. Arranger held second, 1/2 length behind the winner and 1 3/4 length in front of the favorite, Call It a Wrap. Dat Day, a New Year's Day gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19.35 for jockey Antonio Reyes.
Dancin Shoes took charge late in the $100,000 Sadie Diamond Futurity for BC-bred 2-year-old fillies, drawing off to win by 8 1/2 lengths over Notice. Dancin Shoes, a daughter of Cross Traffic, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:19.22.
Reginella was on the lead but under pressure throughout the $50,000 Delta Colleen Handicap for fillies and mares but persevered to win by a nose over the late run of Notis the Jewell. In the companion S.W. Randall Plate Handicap, Absolutely Stylish led all the way to a 6 1/2-lengths victory over Don't Hold Me Back.
Come Dancing led all the way to a 6 1/4-lengths victory over Berned in Sunday's $100,000 Royal Delta Stakes for fillies and mares. No Need to Appeal was third. Come Dancing, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon filly, covered 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:44.78 under John Velazquez.
World of Trouble tracked the early speed in Saturday's $100,000 Armed Forces Stakes for 3-year-olds, surged to the lead and won off by 5 3/4 lengths over Dirty. That one was 12 1/4 lengths in front of Reed Kan in third. World of Trouble, a Kantharos colt, ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:09.71 with Manny Franco riding.
Tesora launched a rally from well back in the field in Thursday's $100,000 Christiecat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, came six-wide around rivals and finished strongly to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Broadway Run was second, a head in front of Closer Still. The favorite, Miz Mayhem, chased the pace, then tired to finish next-last of nine. Tesora, a Scat Daddy filly, ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:11.69 with Javier Castellano up.
Cautious Giant tracked down pacesetting Harryhee in the final strides of Saturday's $100,000 Trinniberg Stakes, winning by a head. Quijote finished third. Cautious Giant, a 7-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.08 with Emisael Jaramillo riding.
Starship Bonita rallied to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $100,000 Sheer Drama Stakes for Florida-bred distaffers and continued with enthusiasm to win by 2 3/4 lengths from Ms Meshak. The odds-on favorite, Stormy Embrace, was another 1 length back in third. Starship Bonita, a 3-year-old Gone Astray filly, got 7 furlongs in 1:24.13 under Carlos Montalvo.
Shades of Victory, at odds of 80-1, led all the way to victory in Saturday's $75,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes for California-breds, holding off B Squared in the final strides by a head. The favorite, Edwards Going Left, was another head back in third. Shades of Victory, a 4-year-old Colt by Thorn Song, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.16 with Martin Pedroza riding.
La Fuerza kicked clear of the field in the stretch run of Saturday's $112,850 Aspirant for New York-bred 2-year-olds and went on to win by 3 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Kadens Courage was second, 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Pay the Vet. La Fuerza, a Flatter colt, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.97 with Chris DeCarlo riding.
Sassy Agnes opened a daylight advantage in the stretch in Saturday's $112,388 Lady Finger Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies and held on to win by 3/4 length over Ma Meatloaf. It was another 13 1/2 lengths to Jaded Lady in third. Sassy Agnes, a daughter of Central Banker, got the 6 furlongs in 1:12.94 with Oscar Gomez in the irons.
Hey Adrian was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Loyalty Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds, then dueled down the stretch with Danefield before prevailing by a neck. Stone Cold Cat was third, 9 1/2 lengths behind Danefield. Hey Adrian, a Twinspired filly, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12.13 with Juan Velez up.