Winx rather easily turned back the international raiders to win her 29th straight race, Rey de Oro showed promise of stardom in Japan and some of Europe's top juveniles slugged it out in France and England during the weekend.
A short stack of stakes races in North America kept up interest while the final preparations for the Breeders' Cup World Championships were under way at Churchill Downs.
Much more on the Breeders' Cup after Monday evening's post position draw. Meantime, this:
If there were any remaining doubters, Winx silenced them with her emphatic victory Saturday in the Group 1 Ladbrokes Cox Plate -- her 29th straight win and fourth straight Cox Plate. Coming down the stretch, she easily put away one of the best international rivals sent to challenge her, leaving Godolphin star Benbatl well in her wake. Humidor, who tested the mighty mare a year earlier in her Cox Plate hat trick, was equally well beaten into third.
The superlatives are all used up. But racing fans might have to invent new ones because at least some members of Winx's ownership team are discussing bringing the Street Cry mare back for an 8-year-old season.
"If there's a chance she could race again, it will be examined extremely well," part-owner Peter Tighe told Racing.com. "The vets will go over her, everyone will go over her and we'll have a good hard look at her because we certainly don't need to race her but we certainly don't need to retire her. So we're happy to have a jolly good Christmas and a happy new year and we'll all have this problem in the new year."
Twenty-nine straight victories. Wow.
Rey de Oro rolled down the Tokyo Racecourse stretch in Sunday's Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn), got to the front in the final 100 meters and won by a comfortable 1 1/4 lengths. Sungrazer, with Joao Moreira in the irons, was along in the final strides to edge pacesetter Kiseki for place money. The favorite, Suave Richard, finished 10th after being roughed up and left at the start.
Rey de Oro, winner of the 2017 Japanese Derby and second in last year's Japan Cup, finished the 2,000 meters on firm turf in 1:56.8. Jockey Christophe Lemaire scored his third Grade 1 win in as many weekends -- the second time he has accomplished that feat.
Rey de Oro, a 4-year-old colt by King Kamehameha, returned to action Sept. 23 for the first time since his Dubai trip, winning the Sankei Sho All Comers (G2) at Nakayama.
"I knew I had a good chance to win the Tenno Sho title for the first time," Lemaire said. "The colt's condition and the race development were perfect. The pace was just right and the colt was relaxed so everything went smoothly. He showed good, long-lasting speed."
Of his Grade 1 streak, the Frenchman said, "I'm grateful to be given great rides and happy to be doing this well."
The final Group 1 race of the English Flat season went to the stewards' room and, after a lengthy delay, to Coolmore's Magna Grecia. The Invincible Spirit colt crossed the finish line first in Saturday's Vertem Futurity Stakes at Doncaster, a head in front of Phoenix of Spain. But when Magna Crecia and jockey Donnacha O'Brien had to shift left to get around stablemate Western Australia in the late going, they made contact with Phoenix of Spain. Twice. No foul, the officials ruled.
"There just was a little bit of a bump," O'Brien said. "The leaders went a little bit left and all three of us had to go a bit left but I don't think there was much in it." Jamie Spencer, aboard the runner-up, disagreed but lost both his argument and a few days riding because of a whipping violation.
Magna Grecia was making just his third career start. He won at first asking Sept. 30 at Naas, then finished second in a Group 3 at Newmarket Oct. 13.
Is he a Derby candidate, trainer Aidan O'Brien inevitably was asked. "I always thought if Magna Grecia got a mile we'd be delighted," he replied to Racing Post. "He showed plenty of pace in the spring. Maybe he'll stay further as he's out of a Galileo mare. He's a big, strong horse." So, maybe the Guineas and then a mile and a quarter. But many of O'Brien's youngsters had short seasons because of the nasty weather and illnesses, so much remains to be seen when the snows melt away in spring 2019.
On the all-weather front:
The All-Weather Championships will continue Thursday on the Lingfield Park Polytrack with the Ladbrokes EBF Stallions Fleur de Lys Fillies Stakes at 1 mile. The winner gets a guaranteed start in the 7-furlongs Ladbrokes All-Weather Fillies & Mares Championship on Good Friday at the same venue.
Trainer William Haggis has won this race the past two years and bids for the hat trick with Move Swiftly, a 3-year-old daughter of Farhh who won a handicap at the Qatar Goodwood Festival back in July. However, there are plenty of other options including Lush Life, Lucymai and the Roger Varian entry of Shenanigans and Raisma. Poppet's Promise, a French invader, lends international interest early in the series which has become increasingly popular from the Continent to Dubai.
Wonderment, a 13-1 long shot, got the best of some promising juvenile rivals in Saturday's Group 1 Criterium Saint-Cloud, emerging from well back in the field in the final 2 furlongs to win by a neck over Sydney Opera House. Fox Tai was third and the favorite, Norway, finished fourth. Sydney Opera House and Norway are both Coolmore runners. Godolphin's hope, Shoot for Gold, finished seventh.
Wonderment, a Camelot colt owned by Stella Thayer and trained by Nicolas Clement, scored his second win from three starts. He was third in his previous start, the Group 3 Prix de Conde, behind two Godolphin rivals while going 1 mile on good to soft footing. Saturday, he finished 10 furlongs on good turf in 2:10.19 with Stephane Pasquier aboard.
Sunday at Chantilly, Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor had their day as Royal Meeting ran by Coolmore's filly Hermosa in the late going to land the Group 1 Criterium International for 2-year-olds. The Invincible Spirit colt remains undefeated after two starts. Christophe Soumillon rode the 7 furlongs over good to soft turf in 1:27.19.
"Christophe said he's a proper racehorse," Godolphin Managing Director Hugh Anderson told Racing Post. "He'll probably go to Dubai now and we'll work out what the plan will be for next year."
Aidan O'Brien said Hermosa ran well and will be trained next year for the Classics. "She'll have no problem starting at a mile next year but I think she'll get a mile and a half," the trainer said.
Back in North America:
A nasty storm, with a forecast of extreme winds, forced cancellation of Belmont's entire Saturday card. Stay tuned for plans for the three stakes lost to the storm, the $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler at 7 furlongs on the main track and a pair of $100,000, 1-mile turf affairs, the English Channel for 3-year-olds and the Awad Stakes for 2-year-olds.
The turf was soft when racing resumed Sunday but that didn't seem to bother Homeland Security, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly who stalked the pace, then took charge late to win the $125,000 Zagora Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length. Golden Attitude rallied for second with True Egyptian edging pacesetter Beau Belle for third. Homeland Security, with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:37.49.
On the sloppy main track, Seek and Destroy was quickly on the lead in the $100,000, off-the-turf Chelsey Flower Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and extended the advantage through the stretch run to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Hollywood Glory and Take Ten finished second and third as the six-filly field was well strung out at the finish. Seek and Destroy, a Verrazano filly, ran 1 mile in 1:39.78 for jockey Javier Castellano.
Sower led from the early stages in the $100,000 Pumpkin Pie Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off late to win by 5 1/4 lengths over Tequilita. Silly Sister was another 4 3/4 lengths back in third. Sower, a 3-year-old Flatter filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.16 on a track upgraded to muddy. Irad Ortiz Jr. had the ride.
Leofric shadowed pacesetting Prime Attraction through all but the final strides of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes, then edged in front just before the wire, winning by a head. It was 4 more lengths to Nice Not Nice in third and the favorite, Hofburg, weakened to finish sixth of seven. Leofric, a 5-year-old son of Candy Ride, got 1 1/8 miles on a muddy track in 1:49.87 under Florent Geroux. The veteran, lightly raced early in his career, has emerged as a star for trainer Brad Cox this season with four wins, a second and a third from six starts. Two of those wins were in graded stakes and he finished third in the Grade I Woodward.
"He's a horse that's obviously gotten better with age," Cox said. "He's a hard-trying horse and he gives you what he's got every time ... We gave him a little break after the Woodward. He ran a tremendous race that day. Ran a winning race, just came up a little short. He rewarded us today."
Dunph disposed of his early rival at the top of the lane in Sunday's $300,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes and got clear to win by 7 3/4 lengths. Naughty Joker found late foot and finished second, a head in front of Into the South. Dunph, a Temple City gelding, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.20 with Tyler Gaffalione riding. The race was restricted to 2-year-olds sired by a Spendthrift-owned stallion. "That was very impressive," trainer Mike Maker said of the undefeated youngster.
Mother Mother hustled to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Rags to Riches Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, held the advantage to the wire and scored by 1 1/4 lengths over Molto Bella. High Regard rallied from last for show money. Mother Mother, a Pioneerof the Nile filly trained by Bob Baffert who finished second in the Grade I Del Mar Debutante, ran 1 mile in 1:36.72 with Florent Geroux at the controls. "When Bob sends horses to Kentucky, you can always feel confident putting them into the race," Geroux said.
Toinette made steady progress from well back in the field in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Autumn Miss Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rallied four-wide to take the lead in deep stretch and won by 2 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Ms Bad Behavior, led most of the way and held second, 1/2 length to the good of Streak of Luck. Toinette, a Scat Daddy filly, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.11 with Flavien Pratt riding. She has four wins from six starts for trainer Neil Drysdale but had not raced since suffering a minor injury while finishing ninth in the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational July 7.
"I was concerned about the 14-horse field," Drysdale said, "and I thought she was very well ridden. We had a fast pace and that did set it up a bit. This is a very nice filly."
Battle of Midway stalked the pace in Sunday's $75,000 Comma to the Top Stakes, moved up on the stretch turn and circled the leaders for a 4 1/2-lengths victory. All Out Blitz was best of the rest with St. Joe Bay third. Battle of Midway, a 4-year-old Smart Strike colt, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.87 with Flavien Prat riding. The colt won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile a year ago at Del Mar, returned from holiday to win the Grade II Pat O'Brien in August, then was fifth in the Grade II Kelso at Belmont Park in his last start.
Silent Sonet, dispatched at odds of 56-1, made some noise with a pace-stalking, 1/2-length win in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Ontario Fashion Stakes for fillies and mares. Jessica Krupnick was along for second, another 1/2 length in front of Moonlit Promise, and the favorite, Ami's Mesa, finished seventh. Silent Sonet, a 4-year-old Silent Name filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.77 with David Moran in the kip.
"I was flabbergasted, actually," said winning owner/breeder Ivan Dalos, also bred and owns Ami's Mesa, the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup. "I certainly didn't expect this to happen."
Thor's Rocket ignited the third-stage boosters in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Overskate Stakes for Ontario-breds, rallying from last of nine to win by 1/2 length. Red Cabernet was second, 1 length ahead of Silent Poet. Thor's Rocket, a 5-year-old Old Forester gelding, got 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:22.48 with Alan Garcia up.
Hawthorne Race Course
Cammack, confidently ridden by Jose Lopez, rallied four wide into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Buck's Boy Stakes for Illinois-breds and was along just in time to post a 1/2-length victory. Memory Bank was second and Goneghost finished third after enjoying a big advantage at the top of the lane. Cammack, an 8-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.41. Owned and bred by Team Block, he is trained by Chris Block.
Streamline stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Illini Princess for state-bred fillies and mares, challenged pacesetter Lovely Loyree at the top of the stretch and won the prolonged stretch duel by a head. Prado's Sweet Ride closed late to finish third, just another neck in arrears. Streamline, a 6-year-old mare by Straight Line, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the sturdy Hawthorne greensward in 1:46.01 with Edgar Perez in the irons.
Summerland dueled with Im Evin Im Leavin through almost all of Saturday's $75,000 (Canadian) Freedom of the City Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, then did some leavin' of her own, drawing off to a 3-lengths win. The early rival easily held on for second, 7 1/4 lengths better than Notice. Summerland, a daughter of He's Tops, went to the post as a heavy favorite and finished 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:30.80 with Richard Hamel up.
Purple Storm was always in the mix in Sunday's $75,000 (Canadian) Canadian Juvenile Stakes and finished best of all to win by 1/2 length over the odds-on favorite, Smarty River Pants. Aleutian Harbour was third. Purple Storm, a Storm Victory colt, ran 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:31.86 with Rico Walcott in the irons.
Golden Gate Fields
Lakerball stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, shot to the lead in the lane and high-stepped her way to a 5-lengths victory. Brahms Command and Tomlin filled out the trifecta. Lakerball, a Lakerville filly trained by Doug O'Neill, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.47 with Alonso Quinonez up.