Highway Star bounced right back from a Breeders' Cup defeat to win at Aqueduct, Hot Springs won the Commonwealth Turf at Churchill Downs and several 2-year-olds served notice for next year's campaign, all in weekend racing action.
Escape Clause continued her Cinderella story at Del Mar, showing riches aren't always required for success in racing. Usually, but not always. And do horses like Maryland crabs? See the Laurel section for one man's opinion.
On the international front, Santa Ana Lane and Trap for Fools were Group 1 winners in Australia and Lys Gracieux finally got a win at the top level in Japan.
Jumping right in ...
Hot Springs saved ground into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Commonwealth Turf for 3-year-olds, swung sharply to the outside of rivals and drove from last to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Zero Gravity was second, another 1 1/2 lengths in front of Marzo. Hot Springs, an Uncle Mo colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:46.97 for jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
Hot Springs finished fourth in the Grade III Saranac at Saratoga this summer, then won the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs Sept. 29. "He's 4-for-4 over the surface here but today was the most impressive one," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "The way he was finishing up was very impressive. Hopefully we'll be able to come back to Churchill next year. There are some very nice races down the road for this colt."
Eight of the 12 starters came out when Saturday's $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes came off the turf. That left Exulting as the odds-on favorite and he ran to that notice, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Backsideofthemoon. Black Tide was third, another 2 3/4 lengths back, and Profiteer was a distant fourth and last. Exulting, a 5-year-old Tapit gelding, ran 1 mile on the good main track in 1:37.97 with Rajiv Maragh in the irons.
Exulting, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin, made his first start in stakes company and chalked up his third win from his last four starts. "It's too bad our other horse (Qurbaan) didn't get to run but it's been a rough year with the rain here in New York," McLaughlin said. "Thankfully, it worked out well for Exulting and Rajiv rode him great. It's nice to pick up a stakes win with him and he'll most likely stay for the winter."
Backtohisroots won the three-way battle for the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Atlantic Beach Stakes for 2-year-olds, then kicked clear and scored by 5 3/4 lengths despite drifting out through the stretch. The odds-on favorite, Absentee, was second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Wallace. Backtohisroots, a Mark Valeski colt, ran 6 furlongs on the good main track in 1:13.15 under Luis Saez.
The Atlantic Beach was moved from the turf, prompting winning trainer John Terroanova to note, "He wasn't running over his preferred surface because he moved up big time on turf last out, and that's going to be in his future because he's really taken it to the next level now."
Highway Star, bouncing right back from an eighth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, rallied from far back in Sunday's $125,000 Staten Island Division of the New York Stallion Stakes, quickly got a big lead and won by 4 lengths, geared down in the final strides. Irad Ortiz Jr. said he used all three sets of goggles and was unable to see from his right eye after the thee-eighths pole. Starlite Mission was second, Frostie Annie third and Frosty Margarita fourth. Highway Star, a 5-year-old Girolamo mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.58.
Winning trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said Highway Star showed no ill effects from the Breeders' Cup misfire. "Coming back here after the race, it felt like she didn't run. She was jumping and kicking, and this race was coming up," he said. "I decided to enter and had a few days. We could scratch the morning of ... But it worked out good and I can sleep good tonight."
Regal Glory put a nose in front of Introduced at the finish of Sunday's $100,000 Stewart Manor Stakes for 2-year-old fillies with Guacamole fading from the early lead to finish third. Regal Glory, a daughter of Animal Kingdom, finished 6 furlongs on the good outer turf course in 1:10.94 with Jose Ortiz up for trainer Chad Brown and owner Paul Pompa Jr.
Rags-to-riches filly Escape Clause was promoted to victory in Friday's $100,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes for fillies and mares after finishing second, 1/2 length behind Excellent Sunset. The stewards agreed with jockey Ruben Fuentez' objection that Escape Clause was cut off when Excellent Sunset drifted inward after passing the sixteenth pole. The 1 mile on firm turf took 1:35.08.
Escape Clause is a 4-year-old, Manitoba-bred filly. Her sire, Going Commando, stood for $990 and she was purchased as a yearling for $3,200. The Kathryn Crosby was her ninth straight win and 18th from 25 starts -- many at Canterbury Park in Minnesota.
Owner-trainer Don Schnell noted his unlikely star is 4-for-4 at the grassy mile. Told Del Mar's Grade I Matriarch on Dec. 2 is 1 mile on the grass, he said, "My goodness, Grade I. You know, I've never won a graded race -- not any kind. I've never even run in a graded race. But I'd have to say that all possibilities are open for her now. I know she likes the turf course. Who knows? We'll see."
Saturday, aptly named Risky Proposition rallied from next-last to win the $100,000 Let It Ride Stakes for 3-year-olds by 3/4 length from Choo Choo. Calexman was third. Risky Proposition, a 22-1 proposition at the windows, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.61 with Joe Talamo in the irons. The Bodemeister gelding is trained by Bill Spawr.
Sunday, Spiced Perfection advanced between rivals in the stretch to win the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes for California-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Just Grazed Me. S Y Sky was third as the 2-1 favorite. Spiced Perfection, a 3-year-old daughter of Smiling Tiger, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.21 under Flavien Prat.
Souper Charlotte found another gear in the final furlong of Sunday's $120,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and outfinished Si Si Tequila by a neck. Above All Names was third. Souper Charlotte, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Warrior's Reward, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:23.60. Mark Casse trains for Live Oak Plantation. She is 2-for-2 with both wins at Woodbine.
On Saturday, She's the Berries overcame a slow start to win the $100,000 (Canadian) La Prevoyante Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths. Under Eurico Da Silva, the Badge of Silver filly circled rivals four wide to get to the lead and finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.08. It was her first stakes win and third overall.
Saturday's program had two stakes races for 2-year-olds, two for 3-year-olds and one for the older set.
Unbridled Juan raced close to the pace in the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes for 3-year-olds and up, bid outside pacesetting Dalmore early in the stretch run and prevailed by 1/2 length over that rival. Doctor Mounty was third. Unbridled Juan, a 6-year-old Unbridled's Song gelding, finished 9 furlongs on a good track in 1:50.56 with Alex Cintron at the controls.
Unbridled Juan now is 2-for-2 at Laurel. "This horse is improving. I'm just blessed to be part of this," trainer Jose Corrales said. "I think they like the Maryland crabs or something, these horses. It must have something to do with it, because Maryland makes these horses get better."
Majestic Dunhill was along in the final yards to take the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes by 1/2 length over Smooth B with Oldies But Goodies tiring to finish third. Majestic Dunhill, a Majesticperfection gelding, ran 7 furlongs on the good main track in 1:23.44 with Feargal Lynch in the irons.
America's Tale was on the lead throughout the $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, turned back a bid by Estilo Feminino and won by 2 lengths over that rival. Majestic Reason was third. America's Tale, a daughter of Gio Ponti, got the 7 furlongs on the main track in 1:23.97 for Trevor McCarthy.
Scrap Copper collared Follow the Dog in the final sixteenth to win the $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes for 2-year-olds by 3/4 length. Follow the Dog was followed, 7 1/2 lengths back, by Fayette Warrior in third. Scrap Copper, a Great Notion colt, ran 6 furlongs on the main track in 1:10.87 with McCarthy up.
Congrats Gal justified her odds-on favorite status in the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, kicking clear late to score by 6 3/4 lengths. Our Super Freak was best of the rest, 1/2 length ahead of Mae Never No. Congrats Gal, a daughter of G City Gal, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.94 with McCarthy in the irons.
Gulfstream Park West
Saturday's Sunshine Millions Previews: All for Florida-breds:
Mr. Jordan was forced to wait for running room in the stretch drive of the $75,000 Classic Preview, switched out for room and was just up in time to put a nose in front of the favorite, Deland. Noble Drama was third, another 1 1/4 lengths in arrears. Mr. Jordan, a 6-year-old Kantharos gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.21 under Paco Lopez.
Galleon Mast put his nose in front of pacesetting Class and Cash at just the right moment to land the $75,000 Millions Turf Preview. The 5-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding toured 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.84 with Lopez riding.
Kroy dueled with Splash Rules through most of the $75,000 Millions Sprint Preview before finally inching away to score by 1 1/2 lengths over that rival. Kroy, a 4-year-old gelding by The Factor, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.81 with Lopez up again.
Picara was quickly on the lead in the $75,000 Millions Filly & Mare Turf Preview, opened a daylight lead and held on nicely to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Southern Sis. With Edgard Zayas up, the 3-year-old Turbo Compressor filly ran 7 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:30.28.
Shanghai Starlet ran by pacesetting long shot Heavens Pulpit in the final furlong of the $75,000 Millions Distaff and went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths over that one. Shanghai Starlet, a Shanghai Bobby filly, got 7 furlongs in 1:23.75 with Zayas in the irons.
Saturday's 2-year-old races, all for Florida-breds:
Lovesick was in command throughout the $75,000 Juvenile Fillies Sprint, extending her lead in the stretch to win by 3 lengths. Starship Nala was second. Lovesick, a daughter of Adios Charlie, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track in 1:18.00 with Lopez riding.
Jackson, the odds-on favorite, was jostled back at the start of the $75,000 Juvenile Sprint but rallied late to win anyway, by a neck from Maddy's Last Dance. Jackson, a Kantharos colt, got home in 1:18.83 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons.
Vow to Recover made steady progress after starting a step slowly in the $75,000 Juvenile Fillies Turf and outfinished Decorated Ace to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Lovely Luvy, faded from the lead to finish fourth behind Miss Mariu. Vow to Recover, a Broken Vow filly, got 1 mile on firm going in 1:38.41 under Lopez.
Stirling Drive prompted the pace in the $75,000 Juvenile Turf, took over the lead when prompted by jockey Samy Camacho and won by 1 length over Lucky Mike. Stirling Drive, a Verrazano colt, finished the 1 mile in 1:38.79.
Runnin'toluvya quickly opened a comfortable lead in Saturday's $50,000 A Huevos Stakes for West Virginia-breds, skimmed the rail and cruised home in front by 2 lengths. North Atlantic and Weekend Liberty picked up the minor pieces. Runnin'toluvya, a 4-year-old gelding by Fiber Sonde, went to the post as the heavy favorite and ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.92 with Oscar Flores riding.
Golden Gate Fields
Tivan circled most of the field into the stretch in Saturday's $65,000 Golden Nugget Stakes for 2-year-olds and reported first, 3/4 lengths ahead of the long-time leader, Tribal War Chant. Midnight Special was third. Tivan, a California-bred colt by Indian Evening, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather strip in 1:09.94 under Frank Alvarado.
Heavenhasmynikki pressed the early pace in Saturday's $75,000 First Lady Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies, went by and ran on to win by 5 lengths. Magna Rose made up ground on the others to finish second, 1/2 length in front of Emmy's Candy. Heavenhasmynikki, a Majestic War filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.51 with Luis Colon riding.
Minister of Soul dueled for the lead in Saturday's $35,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, got the advantage at the sixteenth pole and held off a late bid by Leadem In Ken to win by a neck. Bourbon Cowboy also was gaining late but finished third. Minister of Soul, a 4-year-old Ministers Wild Cat gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.13 with Glenn Corbett riding.
The race is named for the public address announcer who called races at Turf Paradise and several other tracks, including Churchill Downs. He called the Kentucky Derby from 1999 until his death in 2008 at the age of 47.
Over the bounding main ...
Santa Ana Lane found room between rivals 200 meters out in Saturday's Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic in Flemington and caught In Her Time in the final strides for the win. Godolphin's hero, Jungle Cat, held a brief advantage but could only salvage a dead heat for third with Pierata. The favorite and two-time Everest winner, Redzel, shaded Coolmore's hope, Spirit of Valor, for fifth.
Santa Ana Lane's rider, Mark Zahra, said trainer Anthony Freedman gave him free rein to ride as things developed. "I had to be really patient and I went from thinking, 'Which way can I go?' to all of a sudden, 'I'm in front a bit far out here.' So I was waiting for something to run me down," the rider told Racenet. "But, gee, he ran well."
Trap for Fools held off Aidan O'Brien trainee Latrobe, in the closing strides of Saturday's Group 1 Sappelt Mackinnon Stakes, winning by a head at 25-1 odds. Extra Brut was third and the favorite, Godolphin's Blair House, weakened in the final furlong of the 1 1/4 miles to finish seventh.
Lys Gracieux, benefitting by a perfectly timed ride by Joao Moreira, scored her first Grade 1 win Sunday at Kyoto Racecourse in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup. The Heart's Cry filly broke sharply and raced mid-pack around the first two turns of the 2,200 meters race. Turning for home outside rivals, Lys Gracieux quickly picked things up and reeled in pacesetting Crocosmia to win by a neck. The favorite and last year's winner Mozu Katchan, finished third.
Despite a pair of wins at the Grade 3 level, Lys Gracieux had finished a close second in four previous Grade 1 races.
"Today was her day," Moreira said. "We were in a good position, two off the fence, and she had plenty left in the tank after angling out at the last turn. Under pressure, she responded very well and I had every confidence from the 300-meter point that we were going to win. She's a real champion."
Moreira, who will be traveling back and forth between Japan and Hong Kong for the near future, rode five winners and one second on the 12-race card.
Those who hadn't quite had enough as the calendar turns from the Flat to "jumping over things" got one more chance in Saturday's listed Wentworth Stakes at Doncaster -- a 6-furlongs dash over soft turf. Donjuan Triumphant, the 2-1 favorite, was along late to win by a head over Hey Jonesy with Eiren third. Ten-year-old Gordon Lord Byron finished ninth, weakening in the final furlong. Donjuan Triumphant, trained by Andrew Balding and ridden by James Doyle, was third in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint in his previous start. The 5-year-old by Dream Ahead, notched his first win from eight starts in 2018.