It was a very, very good weekend to be Chad Brown. The trainer saddled two Grade I winners Saturday, one on each coast, then reprised with the third Grade I victory of the weekend Sunday at Del Mar.
Not a bad two-days' work for a trainer well in the mix for his third straight year-end Eclipse Award.
The weekend also featured early preps for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, including some nice races for state-bred youngsters. And Marley's Freedom returned to her winning ways for trainer Bob Baffert -- another prospect for some year-end hardware.
Congratulations to John Velazquez on his 6,000th win. See news and notes.
Let's start with the Grade I events.
The Cigar Mile
Patternrecognition hustled right to the lead from the outside gate in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct and was never caught, winning by 3/4 length. True Timber was gaining ground at the end but couldn't quite get there. Sunny Ridge was up for third. Mendelssohn ran evenly to finish fourth and the Coolmore Partners announced after the race he has been retired to a likely very lucrative stud career.
Patternrecognition, a 5-year-old son of Adios Charlie, finished the 1 mile over a fast track in 1:34.98 with Jose Ortiz aboard. Jose Ortiz and his brother, Irad Ortiz, Jr., who rode Sunny Ridge, are contenders for the 2018 Eclipse Award.
Patternrecognition has worked his way up the class ladder quickly since mid-year. He won the Grade II Kelso in preparation for the Cigar Mile and now has three straight wins. Brown said the horse's career has been interrupted repeatedly by physical issues and praised owners Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence for their patience.
"Ultimately, he showed the talent that we thought he had when they bought him what seems like forever ago as a 2-year-old and this is really a great moment for this horse. He deserves it," Brown said.
The Hollywood Derby
Shortly after winning the Cigar Mile, Brown celebrated another Grade I victory as Raging Bull rallied from far back to win the $300,000 Hollywood Derby by 1/2 length over River Boyne. With Joel Rosario up, the French-bred Dark Angel colt came four-wide into the lane before launching the winning bid. He got 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.34. Instilled Regard finished third in his first race on the turf and second since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
Raging Bull notched his first Grade I score and now has five wins from seven career starts.
"I thought I was on the best horse, so I rode him that way," Rosario said. "With him, he has a powerful quarter-mile kick at the end. Terrific acceleration. So I just needed to keep him outside, keep him in the clear where I could ride him at the finish. It worked out just the way I'd hoped."
Brown had three chances to complete the Grade I weekend trifecta when they lined up for Sunday's $300,00 Matriarch at Del Mar. He needed them all as the favorite, Vasilika, and Quidura were one-paced through the stretch. It was Uni who picked up the team, rallying from next-last of 13 to win the 1-mile turf event by 1/2 length over Daddy Was a Legend. Quidura was third and Vasilika finished fourth. Uni, a 4-year-old, British-bred daughter of More Than Ready, finished in 1:34.35 with Joel Rosario up. It was her fourth straight win, first ever at the highest level.
"I could tell they were going a little quick up front, because my filly has some speed and we were far back," Rosario said. "But she was comfortable, so I was too. I just wanted to make one move with her."
Brown remained in New York, trusting assistant Jose Hernandez to saddle his trio in the Matriarch. "It's a really great experience for me and it's really nice for my boss," Hernandez said, adding it was his first time saddling stakes winners at Del Mar in 11 years of working for Brown. "He is one of the best men I've ever known and he has very good horses."
Detouring over the ocean:
Three-year-old Le Vent Se Leve emerged as a potential force in the world of dirt racing with a nice, delivered in the stretch-running win in Saturday's Grade 1 Champions Cup at Chukyo Racecourse while American challenger Pavel fell victim to the different pace of Japanese racing, finishing last.
Le Vent Se Leve, a Symboli Kris S colt, took his fourth straight win, defeating late-running Westerlund by 2 1/2 lengths in record-tying time of 1:50.1. Sunrise Soar was third while Pavel, after racing mid-pack, faded steadily and beat no one.
Pavel was making his first start since finishing 10th for the second straight year in the Breeders' Cup Classic and both jockey Mario Gutierrez and assistant trainer Leandro Mora blamed Japanese pre-race ceremonies, which can last 45 minutes before the start.
"It's so different here," Gutierrez said. "The wait is so long, the horse lost his motivation. But racing here was a good experience."
The Creative Cause colt finished fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March.
Le Vent Se Leve finished second in his 2018 debut, then reeled off consecutive wins in the Unicorn Stakes (G3), the Japan Cup Dirt Derby and the Mile Championship Nambu Hai before the Champions Cup effort.
"He is a colt with great potential and a bright future ahead," said winning rider Mirco Demuro.
Back in North America:
Maximus Mischief pressed the pace in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct, moved to the lead when prompted by jockey Frankie Pennington and held sway. The favorite, Network Effect, was the closest pursuer, 2 1/4 lengths back, and Tax was third. Maximus Mischief, an Into Mischief colt, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.34. He remains undefeated after three starts, the first two at Parx Racing.
"He came through in fine colors as far as I'm concerned," said winning trainer Robert Reid Jr. "I was really concerned that it was a deep racetrack at Aqueduct. Parx is pretty deep, and maybe that's helped him a little bit. They've been running slow times down here."
Maximus Mischief earned 10 points toward a Kentucky Derby starting slot.
Call Paul rather easily dominated fellow Pennsylvania-breds in Saturday's $100,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes, kicking away in the stretch run to win by 5 lengths. Jump for Alex and Splicethemainbrace filled the exacta. Call Paul, a Friesan Fire colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.73 with Trevor McCarthy up for trainer Jason Servis.
Servis and the owning partnership obviously have bigger plans for Call Paul. The colt won the Grade II Saratoga Special in August, then finished third in both the Grade I Champagne and Grade III Nashua before Saturday's confidence-booster.
All the way across the continent, Sueno rallied to the lead three-wide at the top of the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate fields and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over The Creep. Sueno, a Kentucky-bred colt by Atreides, ran 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:38.28 with Abel Cedillo up. He came off a victory on the Del Mar dirt Aug. 31.
Positive Spirit provided a very positive return on investment for her backers in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Demoiselle at Aqueduct. Let go at odds of more than 11-1 in a wide-open field, the Pioneerof the Nile filly raced four-wide around both turns, then hit the afterburners in the stretch, kicking away to win by 10 1/2 lengths. Afleet Destiny beat the others with Filly Joel third and the favorite, Enliven, fifth while beaten 23 lengths. Positive Spirit, with Manny Franco in the irons, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:56.01, just about 9 seconds off Riva Ridge's track record, set in 1973.
It the second straight win in her fourth career outing for Positive Spirit, a half sister to 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming.
"Experience can help," said winning trainer Rodolphe Brisset. "On paper, it looked like we were going to be forward. She's pretty easy to ride. On the lead or stalking the pace, to us, we didn't really care where. We just wanted to have a clear trip." He said the filly will have a brief respite at Payson Park in Florida and then, "Who doesn't want to go to the Kentucky Oaks?"
Touring the ovals:
Marley's Freedom got back on track after a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint with a hard-won victory in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Go For Wand Handicap. With Mike Smith up for trainer Bob Baffert, the 4-year-old Blame filly hooked up in a long stretch duel with Come Dancing and, despite 7-pounds weight disadvantage, prevailed by a neck. It was another 6 3/4 lengths back to Pacific Wind in third. Marley's Freedom ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.35, just about 6 seconds slower than the track record established by Easy Goer in 1989.
Before the Breeders' Cup defeat, Marley's Freedom won four consecutive races, three of them graded stakes.
"Today was the first time going a mile," Smith said. "But she took a breath of air and once she got that second wind, she locked in and she wasn't going to let them by no matter what. We could have gone around there again and they weren't getting by her."
Saturday's Claiming Crown results, in chronological order, with the turf firm and the main track fast:
Uno Mas Modelo totally missed the break in the $110,000 Rapid Transit, then came with a wide rush in the final furlong to win by a neck over Magnifier. Uno Mas Modelo, a 5-year-old Macho Uno gelding, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.23 under Albin Jiminez. He's now won five of his last sixth, the loss coming in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Appealing Future worked to the lead in deep stretch in the $110,000 Express and just did hang on to win by aneck ovcer the onrushing Brother Chub. Fast Pass also was making up ground while finishing third. Appealing Future, a 4-year-old Successful Appeal gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.16 with Nik Juarez up. The John Servis trainee came from Parx Racing in Pennsylvania.
Oxford Comma pressed the pace after an alert start in the $110,000 Distaff Dash on the turf, regained the lead in the lane and won off by 1 1/2 lengths over Unaquoi. Blue Bahia, who wrested the early lead from the winner, finished third. Oxford Comma, a 3-year-old Majesticprefection filly, got 5 furlongs in 55.69 seconds with Miguel Vasquez riding. Based at Churchill Downs, the Tom Amoss trainee won her two previous starts at Indiana Grand.
Salsa's Return started wide and raced from the back of the pack in the $110,000 Iron Horse, found a way through the proverbial wall of horses at the top of the lane and won by 3/4 length from Donji. Moon Gate Warrior was third. Salsa's Return spent the summer in Kentucky and was claimed by trainer Jorge Navarro in his last start at Keeneland Oct. 11. He ran 1 1/16 miles on the main track in 1:47.27 with Jiminez up.
Peru started last in the $110,000 Tiara for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the green course, saved all the ground into the stretch and then rallied down the middle of the course to catch Valedictorian and win by 1 1/4 lengths. You Cheated was third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Valedictorian. Peru, a 5-year-old, British-bred mare by Motivator, finished in 1:41.87 under Julien Leparoux. Her two earlier wins this year came in Kentucky.
Mischief Maas raced well back in the $100,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares at 1 mile on the main track, gained ground heading for the stretch and found room between rivals to score by 1/2 length over fellow late-runner Viva Forever. The favorite, Starship Reina, led most of the way and held third. Mischef Maas, a 4-year-old Yes Its Legal filly, got home in 1:39.42 with Chris Landeros up. She was claimed three times during the summer, most recently by the aforementioned Navarro in August at Monmouth Park.
Rocket Heat blasted off from an outside gate in the $110,000 Canterbury at 5 furlongs on the grass, was always on point and won by 1/2 length over Oak Bluffs. Bushrod was along for third. Rocket Heat, a 6-year-old gelding by Latent Heat, finished in 55.26 seconds with Landeros scoring the riding double. He has been training at Aqueduct.
Uncle B, defeated by more than 20 lengths in his previous start, upset the $125,000 Emerald at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, stalking the pace before kicking into gear in deep stretch to win by 3/4 length over Your Only Man. The favorite, Aquaphobia, was third, a neck farther back. Uncle B, a 4-year-old Zensational gelding, finished in 1:41.76 with Ricardo Santana Jr. riding. He spent the year at Gulfstream, winning three straight races earlier in the season.
Aztec Sense moved down from the Northeast in the fall and used the familiarization to win the $200,000 Jewel by a neck over Rich Daddy. Zulu was well back in third as Aztec Sense covered 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.75 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons. The 5-year-old Street Sense gelding was claimed in August 2017 at Parx for $12,500. Since the claim, he has won nine of 10 starts with a fourth in last year's Claiming Crown Rapid Transit breaking the streak. The $110,000 winner's share of the Jewel purse pushed his 2018 earnings north of the $400,000 mark. As Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee is fond of saying, "It's an easy game."
Vision Perfect led most of the way to a 1 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $100,000 Turf Dash, defeating Tricks to Doo by 1 1/2 lengths. American Sailor was third. Vision Perfect, sent off the favorite despite a 13th-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 55.15 seconds with Antonio Gallardo in the irons.
Miz Mayhem rallied from mid-pack to take Saturday's $100,000 Lightning City Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/4 lengths. Smiling Causeway was second, 1 1/2 lengths to the good of Broadway Run. Miz Mayhem, a 3-year-old daughter of Yesbyjimminy, finished 5 furlongs of firm turf in 55.37 seconds for jockey Edgard Zayas.
Goldberry shadowed the early leaders in Friday evening's $50,000 Holiday Inaugural for fillies and mares, took the lead into the stretch and drew off to a 1 1/4-lengths victory. Natural Wonder rallied from last of 11 to finish second, 1 length better than Dreamin. Goldberry, a 4-year-old War Chant filly, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.92 for jockey Rogelio Miranda.
Dun Drum found running room on the inside while coming down the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds and got through for a 2 1/4-lengths victory. Silent Mistake finished second, 1/2 length better than the favorite, My Silencer. Dun Drum, a Bold n' Flashy gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:46.19. Emma-Jayne Wilson had the mount.
Kingsport took over in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Sir Barton Stakes for Ontario-breds and scooted away to a 3 3/4-lengths victory. Silent Poet was second, 1/2 length ahead of Thor's Rocket. Kingsport, a 6-year-old son of Milwaukee Brew, ran 1 1/16miles on the all-weather course in 1:43.72 with Luis Contreras in the kip. It was his third Sir Barton win.
Justa Lady shadowed pacesetting Brielle's Appeal through the early furlongs of Saturday's $75,000 Richard R. Scherer Memorial for fillies and mares, then dueled with that rival before prevailing by a nose. She's All Skeet was just a neck farther back in third with a late bid. Justa Lady, a 5-year-old More Than Ready mare, ran about 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.20 with James Graham riding.
Leona's Reward, the heaviest of favorites, ran to her notices in Saturday's $75,000 Bobbie Bricker Memorial for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, winning off by 7 lengths. Grizabella was second, 6 1/2 lengths better than Linda N Michelle. Leona's Reward, a 5-year-old daughter of Parents' Reward, ran 1 1/16 miles on a muddy track in 1:47.59 under Luis Colon.
Pat's Karma asserted himself in the lane in Saturday's $75,000 Joshua Radosevich Memorial for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds, drawing clear to win by 5 lengths from Sammy Da Bull. Pat's Karma, a Cowtown Cat gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the muddy track in 1:11.78 with Colon posting the stakes riding double.
Parisian Diva recovered quickly from a slow start in Saturday's $50,000 Eleanor Casey Memorial for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies and easily ran on to win by 5 lengths. Skylar's Trick was second, 1 3/4 lengths to the good of Flatter Me Owen. Parisian Diva, a daughter of Freedom Child, ran 7 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:27.73.
News and notes:
John Velazquez booted home winner No. 6,000 Friday at Aqueduct -- Singapore Trader in the fifth race for trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher paid tribute to Velazquez the man, as well as the rider:
"Winning 6,000 races is a tremendous accomplishment," Pletcher said. "But what I'm most proud of Johnny for is the person he is: A leader of the jockey community, a caring father, loving husband, friend and mentor to many. These are the qualities that make him so special."