City of Light turned the tables on fellow Breeders' Cup winner Accelerate in North America's richest race, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, before both headed off to their second career in the breeding shed.
The Pegasus, along with its new turf companion race, were the highlights of a stakes-filled but rain-drenched Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The weekend also saw a new Kentucky Derby contender pop into view as Oaklawn Park opened for business with the Smarty Jones Stakes.
Several contenders for slots on Dubai World Cup night showed their stuff at Meydan. There was a bit of a reshuffle in the Sun Met in South Africa. And the Hong Kong Derby series got under way in Hong Kong.
And, speaking of Hong Kong, we have a correction from Thursday's preview, thanks to HKJC's eagle-eyed Bill Nader. See News and Notes.
But first, see this:
City of Light flipped the switch early in the stretch run in Saturday's $9 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational, drew off quickly and won going away, by 5 3/4 lengths. Seeking the Soul edged Breeders' Cup Classic winner Accelerate for second. Bravazo was fourth and Florida Derby winner Audible may have earned a trip to Dubai with a fifth-place finish.
City of Light broke well, pressed the pace down the backstretch and got to the lead on the stretch turn. Accelerate, who had a more difficult trip, moved off the rail to challenge outside City of Light, loomed a threat momentarily, then couldn't go with the winner.
City of Light, under Javier Castellano, finished the 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track, through a driving rain, in 1:47.71.
City of Light was the only horse who finished ahead of Accelerate in 2018, defeating him in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas. Accelerate turned the tables in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita, winning easily as City of Light checked in third. They went their separate ways in the Breeders' Cup with City of Light winning the Dirt Mile and Accelerate the Classic at 1 1/4 miles.
After finishing first in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Accelerate finished second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Horse of the Year voting announced Thursday night at Gulfstream, then got home third in the richest race of his career.
"We had it all planned out and it all went according to plan," said winning owner William Warren Jr. "It was a masterful ride."
Winning trainer Michael McCarthy, clearly emotional after the race, said, "To have a horse like this come into your life, honestly, I can't describe the emotion that goes with something like this. I thought the Breeders' Cup was special ... It's like out-of-body today."
John Sadler, who trained Accelerate, said, "We thought he ran a really good race. It was tough conditions out there today. You saw most of the winners on the dirt all day were in front so he's not really a speed horse, per se. The winner ran a beautiful race. You have to give him credit. He was the better horse today. But our horse certainly didn't disgrace himself. We're headed out to dinner with our heads high."
Both Accelerate and City of Light are headed for Kentucky and a second career in the breeding shed.
Audible's trainer, Todd Pletcher, was looking to a future without City of Light and Accelerate in the starting gate -- possibly in the Dubai World Cup March 30.
"I think we'll give it a little time to see how he bounces out of it and talk to everyone," Pletcher said. "Going into the race, we had mentioned Dubai as a possibility and I think that he ran well enough that that's still on the table. The (Pegasus) first- and third-place finishers are retired so that won't hurt his chances moving forward, either. We'll get together with all the connections after a little while and make a decision."
The Pegasus Turf
Bricks and Mortar rolled to the lead at mid-stretch in the $7 million Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational and kept right on rolling to a 2 1/2-lengths victory. Magic Wand, invading from Ireland, was second, a neck in front of Delta Prince. Bricks and Mortar, making his second start after a layoff of more than a year, ran 1 3/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:54.59 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
With the course soaked by a day-long rain, favorites did not do well. The 2-1 favorite, Yoshida, who runs on both turf and dirt, settled for sixth after a late move stalled out in mid-stretch. And Aerolithe, a 5-year-old mare shipped in from Japan for the race, started her retreat midway around the stretch turn and beat only one rival.
Bricks and Mortar, a 5-year-old son of Giant's Causeway, posted four wins and two thirds from six starts as a 3-year-old. Battling injuries, trainer Chad Brown was able to get him only one start in 2018, winning a 1-mile turf allowance at Gulfstream Park by 1/2 length.
"I got a perfect trip," Ortiz said. "My horse put me in a good position and just held it together, saving ground. When I got kicked him out, he exploded.
"The horse is good, but the trainer -- we have to get him credit," Ortiz said. "He gave him some time off and brought him back, give him one race in the allowance race and bring him back ready for this race. That's a lot of work. Not too many trainers can do that."
Frankie Dettori, winner of the 2018 Longines World's Best Jockey Award and the pilot of Delta Prince, said his mount "ran a super race. He has a big heart. He was going so well that I thought turning for home, 'We've got this.' Just got outrun by two good horses in the end. Super effort. It paid for the expenses -- and the night out."
The Road to the Roses
Gray Attempt crossed over from the outside gate to take the early lead in Friday's $150,000 Smarty Jones at Oaklawn Park, showed the way and held on gamely at the end, edging Long Range Toddy and Boldor by a pair of necks. The favorite, Bankit, never got going and finished sixth. Gray Attempt, a Graydar colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.94 with Shaun Bridgmohan in the irons for trainer William "Jinx" Fires.
"Everything went as planned, which is not always normal," Fires said. "Shaun rode him great. He didn't let us down on what we thought he was capable of." Fires said Gray Attempt will stay at Oaklawn and run next in the $500,000 Grade III Southwest at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 18.
Gray Attempt finished fourth in his career debut Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, won three weeks later over the same surface and then won the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds in his 2-year-old finale. He earned 10 points toward a Kentucky Derby start with the Smarty Jones triumph.
At Sunland Park in New Mexico, Nitrous was squeezed back at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Riley Allison Derby, started passing his nine rivals on the stretch turn and came seven-wide to collar the leaders and win by a head. Sheriff Brown was second and it was 5 3/4 lengths back to Mc Awesome in third. Nitrous, a Tapit colt trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.98 with Luis Contreras up.
Nitrous finished third in the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga but disappointed in two starts in Kentucky. He has been training at Fair Grounds.
Ujjayi hooked up in a fierce battle with the favorite, Miss Imperial, until deep in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct, then finally edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Dovey Lovey was 4 1/2 lengths back of Miss Imperial in third. Ujjayi, a Smarty Jones filly from the War Front mare Ocean Road, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:25.18 under Tyler Connor. After winning at first asking, Ujjayi finished second in both the Blue Mountain Juvenile Fillies at Penn National and the Gin Talking at Laurel.
Winning trainer Erin McClellan said owner-breeder T.L. Wise "would like to see her go two turns, so if we're invited back here in March for the Busher we might take a shot at that. We'll give her a couple days and see how she comes out of it before coming up with a game plan." The $250,000 Busher Invitational on March 9 is run at 1 mile.
At Sunland Park, Parade of Roses posted a minor upset in Sunday's $65,000 Borderplex Stakes, gaining the lead at the furlong marker, then holding off K P Slickem by a neck. Figure was third and the odds-on favorite, Steve Asmussen shipper Super Simple, finished sixth, beaten more than 7 lengths. Parade of Roses, a cleverly named daughter of New Year's Day, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.56 for jockey Ry Eikleberry.
Midnight Bisou had plenty left to do at mid-stretch in Sunday's $300,000 Grade III Houston Ladies Classic at Sam Houston Race Park. But with Mike Smith up, not to worry. The 4-year-old Midnight Lute fully came with a rush to score by 3/4 length over Moonlit Garden. Heavenhasmynikki was third. Midnight Bisou ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.52.
Trained by Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou was making her first start since a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Earlier in her 3-year-old season, she finished third in the Kentucky Oaks and won the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, Grade I Cotillion and Grade II Mother Goose. She has never finished out of the money in 12 career starts.
"It was a little closer ... than we would have liked," The Blood-Horse quoted part-owner Jeff Bloom. "But she got the job done. This was a great spot that Steve had picked out for her, to ease her into her campaign."
Filly & Mare Turf
Dolce Lili had a bit of trouble getting hold of the yielding turf early in Saturday's $125,000 South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park. But once jockey John Velazquez got her settled, she raced well off the pace down the backstretch, advanced around the turn and put away a trio of opponents in the stretch battle, winning by 1/2 length from Conquest Hardcandy. Fire Key was another 1/2 length back in third and the favorite, Road to Victory, faded to finish 12th. Dolce Lili, a 5-year-old Scat Daddy mare, ran 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:33.63. The Bill Mott trainee posted her first stakes win and fourth overall.
Si Que Es Buena, making her third U.S. start for trainer Graham Motion, advanced steadily the second time down the stretch to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade III La Prevoyante Stakes at Gulfstream Park by 1 length over Santa Monica. Semper Sententiae was third in the 1 1/2-miles marathon. Si Que Es Buena, with Chris Landeros up, finished in 2:34.04 over yielding turf. The 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare finished fourth in the Grade III Long Island at Aqueduct in her U.S. debut in November, then won a minor stakes at Gulfstream Dec. 29.
Bigger Picture settled well back in the pack in Sunday's $200,000 Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston Race Course, rallied three-wide to challenge around the turn and kicked clear at the end, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Zapperini was best of the rest, finishing 2 lengths clear of Some In Tieme. Bigger Picture, an 8-year-old Badge of Silver gelding, got 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:30.60 with Jose Ortiz in the irons for trainer Mike Maker. It was the third straight Connally victory for Badge of Silver, who was claimed by Maker for $32,000 Nov. 7, 2015 at Aqueduct. His career earnings now are just shy of $1.5 million -- almost all since the claim.
Zulu Alpha parked behind the early leaders in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III W. L. McKnight Stakes at Gulfstream Park, advanced between the leaders entering the stretch for the second time and got clear, winning by 1/2 length from late-running Soglio. Irish-based Hunting Horn was along for third. Zulu Alpha, a 6-year-old Street Cry gelding, ran 1 1/2 miles on yielding turf in 2:36.80 under Irad Ortiz Jr. He won the Grade III Sycamore at the same distance at Keeneland's fall meet but was seventh in the Grade II Fort Lauderdale in December, going shorter.
Hunting Horn's third place, combined with Magic Wand's runner-up showing in the Pegasus Turf -- represented a very good day, indeed, for Coolmore and trainer Aidan O'Brien at a time when there's no flat racing on the turf in Ireland.
At Santa Anita, Rye was caught in some early traffic in Saturday's $200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic for California-breds, worked his way to the front with a furlong to run and drew clear to a 2 1/4-lengths victory. The favorite, Ashleyluvssugar, was second with a late run, 1 3/4 lengths to the good of Accountability. Rye, a 5-year-old by English Channel, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:47.56 with Kent Desormeaux at the controls.
With main rival Stormy Liberal among a trio of scratches, World of Trouble had no trouble at all winning Saturday's $150,000 off-the-turf Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint. The 4-year-old Kantharos colt splashed quickly to the lead on the sloppy main track and wasn't bothered thereafter, winning off by 2 3/4 lengths. Recruiting Ready ran evenly to finish second and Belle Tapisserie was third at odds of better than 66-1. World of Trouble, with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, ran 5 furlongs in 56.44.
The $150,000 Ladies Turf Sprint suffered a similar fate, redirected to the main track with half the original field of 10 taking a pass. Cherry Lodge moved right to the lead and held it thereafter, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Just Talkin. Razorback Lady was third and the favorite, Smiling Causeway, finished fourth. Cherry Lodge, a 5-year-old daughter of Bernardini, finished third in the same event last year. She ran 5 sloppy furlongs in Saturday's race in 57.10 seconds under Jose Ortiz.
Out west, Listing dueled down the lane with Takeo Squared in Saturday's $100,000 California Cup Turf Sprint for 3-year-old state-breds at Santa Anita and prevailed by a neck. Tivan was third, 1 1/4 lengths farther back. Listing, a Square Eddie colt, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.86 with Mario Gutierrez in the irons.
S Y Sky made all the going in Saturday's $150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint at Santa Anita but was under pressure all the way from Queen Bee To You. The pair hit the wire that way, too, with S Y Sky 1/2 length in front. Fiery Lady was third, 2 lengths farther in arrears. SY Sky, a 5-year-old Grazen mare, completed the gravity-aided 6 1/2 furlongs down the hill in 1:12.52 for jockey Joe Talamo.
They went down the hill again on Sunday in the $95,000 Clocker's Corner Stakes with Conquest Tsunami leading all the way to win by 4 1/4 lengths. Cistron was second-best, 1 1/4 lengthsin front of Eddie Haskell. Conquest Tsunami, a 7-year-old Stormy Atlantic gelding, got home in 1:11.02 with Drayden Van Dyke along for the ride.
Aztec Sense broke well in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Fred W. Hooper at Gulfstream Park, took back behind a very hot early pace and then rallied to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Breaking Lucky also was in the early speed mix and held on for second, a neck in front of 70-1 shot Fellowship. The favorite, Copper Town, was a well-beaten seventh after rearing in the gate. Aztec Sense, a 6-year-old Street Sense gelding, finished the one-turn mile in 1:36.22 with Emisael Jaramillo in the irons. It was his ninth straight win following a very successful summer at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania.
Touching Rainbows tracked the pace made by Richard's Boy in Saturday's $150,000 California Cup Sprint Stakes, blew by him in deep stretch and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Richard's Boy held second, 2 1/4 lengths to the good of Edwards Going Left. Touching Rainbows, a 6-year-old gelding by Aragorn, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.88 with Tiago Periera in the irons.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Dream Pauline announced she's to be a force in this division with a pace-stalking, 3 1/2-lengths victory in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Fasig-Tipton Hurricane Bertie Stakes at Gulfstream Park, whipping a tough field that included Breeders' Cup winner Shamrock Rose. With Javier Castellano at the controls, the 4-year-old Tapit filly was never far behind and never threatened after slipping through on the rail to take the lead in the stretch run. Pacific Gale was second at 44-1 odds. Stormy Embrace was third and Shamrock Rose reported fourth in her first start since taking the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs. Dream Pauline finished 7 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:21.45. She is out of the Wild Rush mare Dream Rush. Wild Rush, among other accomplishments, won the 1998 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park in a dead heat with Silver Charm.
Amy's Challenge shot quickly to the front in Saturday's $100,000 American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn Park and found no challengers thereafter. With Alex Canchari riding, the 4-year-old Artie Schiller filly maintained a daylight advantage through the stretch and won by a convincing 5 3/4 lengths. Cathedral Reader was second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Swing and Sway. Amy's Challenge ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.32. She was in the mix in last year's 3-year-old filly fixtures at the Hot Springs track but struggled later in the year. Saturday's star was her first since a sixth-place finish in the Grade II Lexus Raven Run at Keeneland's fall meet.
Dawn the Destroyer rallied six-wide into the stretch in Friday's $100,000 Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct, worked by the early speed and drew off in the final furlong to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Sower raced evenly to finish second and Honor Way was along for show money at a big price. Dawn the Destroyer, a 5-year-old Speightstown mare, ran 7 furlongs on a good track in 1:25.74 with Junior Alvarado in the irons. Graded stakes-placed in 2017, she made only three starts last year with a long time off through mid-year. She returned to win in November and now has two straight wins.
On the international front:
Catching up with Thursday's action at Meydan:
The $250,000 Group 2 Al Fahidi Fort, won last year by eventual Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint victor Jungle Cat, featured a field full of Group and Group 2 winners, none of whom could handle D'Bai. The son of Dubawi spearheaded a 1-2-3 finish for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby, trailed by Mythical Magic and Bravo Zolo, although the latter settled for a dead heat with Phoenix Thoughbreds Lansky.
Comin' Through, who came through Hong Kong en route from Australia, finished seventh for trainer Chris Waller, who also handles Winx. And former South African champion Marinaresco finished ninth.
Appleby did not sound enthusiastic about sending D'bai onward through the Carnival program. "We could drop him back six furlongs, but he's probably horse who will wind up going internationally again," the trainer said. "He could just do one Dubai run and then look toward Europe and Australia."
If the Fahidi Fort was a triumph for Godolphin, the $250,000 Group 2 Al Rashidiya sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminum was a supertriumph as the home team finished 1-2-3-4 in the 1,800-meters run. This time it was trainer Saeed bin Suroor greeting the first three finishers -- Dream Castle, Leshlaa and Racing History, who were followed across the line by Appleby's Blair House. Dream Castle, a 5-year-old Frankel gelding, got the lead 400 meters out and jockey Christophe Soumilon had no further worries. The win backed up his victory in the Group 3 Singspiel Stakes over course and distance on the Carnival's opening night and it is hard not to notice that a year ago Benbatl won the Singspiel and the Al Rashidiya -- and then the $6 million Group 1 Dubai Turf on World Cup night. "He's a good horse for the future," bin Suroor said. "He does this when he works in the morning. Leshlaa and Racing History finished second and third -- that's good form today. Sheikh Mohammed will make the decision" about Dream Castle's next race.
The $100,000 Al Bastakiya Trial sponsored by Emirates Global Aluminum, run at the 1,900 meters of the UAE Derby, went to Manguzi. The 3-year-old Planteur colt went to the front under Fernando Jara and dictated the pace. He has two wins and a second -- that behind Walking Thunder in the UAE 2000 Guineas Trial -- for trainer Ali Rashid Al Rayhi. Godolphin's Estihdaaf was second in Thursday's race and bin Suroor expects more from the Arch colt, produced from a Ghostzapper mare.
Rainbow Bridge came flying in the final 200 meters to win the Grade 1 Sun Met Celebrated with G.H. Mumm by 3/4 length from the favorite, Do It Again. Head Honcho, who made all the early going, was just nipped for second with Undercover Agent and Legal Eagle fourth and fifth. Super filly Oh Susanna, last year's winner, was never settled through the race and finished seventh. Rainbow Bridge, a Southern Hemisphere 4-year-old by Ideal World, finished in 2:02.96 with Anton Marcus riding for trainer Eric Sands, who celebrated his first Sun Met victory.
Rainbow Bridge now has six wins from eight starts. He was third behind Do It Again in the Grade 1 Queen's Plate at 1 mile Jan. 5.
The Grade 1 Cape Derby went to Atyaab, a New Zealand-bred colt by Dundeel. Atyaab edged Charles, who was comfortably in front of Herodotus in third. Atyaab, trained by Mike de Kock, won for the third time in seven starts. He was coming off a second-place finish in the 1,800-meters Sea Cottage Stakes Jan. 6.
Furore appeared well trapped amid the field at the top of the lane in Sunday's Hong Kong Classic Mile at Sha Tin. But jockey Hugh Bowman managed to clear a path between rivals and the Pierro gelding came through with flying colors, drawing off to a 2 1/2-length victory in the first race in the Four-Year-Old Classic Series. Mission Tycoon was second and the early leader, Kaying Star, held third. Furore, trained by Frankie Lor, finished in 1:34.28.
"It felt every bit as good as it would have looked," Bowman said. "I'm delighted with him. This is not his trip. After performing like that over this distance today, that's very exciting for the rest of his Derby preparation." The series lengthens to the 1,800-meters Hong Kong Classic Cup Feb. 17 and concludes with the 2,000-meters BMW Hong Kong Derby March 17.
Sunday's co-featured Group 3 Centenary Vase Handicap was a battle between winners from the Longines Hong Kong International Races on Dec. 9 -- Exultant, the winner of the Group 1 Cup at 2,000 meters and Exultant, victorious in the 2,400-meters Vase. Exultant was away a step slow, checked shortly thereafter and raced last of all around the turn. Taking the overland route around the field, jockey Zac Purton got the 5-year-old Teofilo gelding into full flight and he was clear at the end, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Dinozo. Glorious Forever tracked the quick early pace and faded to finish next-last, defeating only his full brother, Time Warp, the winner of the 2017 Longines Hong Kong Cup.
Trainer Tony Cruz, who scored his 1,200th Hong Kong win, noted the time of 1:45.68 was near the track record -- an excellent sign for a horse cutting back a full 600 meters. "Exultant will go for the Hong Kong Gold Cup next month," he said. "He's entered for Dubai. Whether or not he goes there is up to the owner. But to win like that at a distance short of his best only gives me more confidence in the horse."
Back in the States, in other action:
Sam Houston Race Park
Highway Song came from last of 10 to win Sunday's $50,000 Houston Turf Stakes for Texas-breds by 2 3/4 lengths over pacesetting Sunlit Song. Bonjour Baby was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Highway Song, a 4-year-old gelding by My Golden Song, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:46.31 under Danny Sorenson.
Wings Locked Up locked up in a ding-dong duel with American Sailor in Sunday's $75,000 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint, then inched away in the late going to win by 1 1/4 lengths over that rival. Hogy was third with a late bid. Wings Locked Up, a 7-year-old Munnings gelding, ran 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.40 seconds with Glenn Corbett riding.
Leadem in Ken took back early in Sunday's $50,000 Stonerside Sprint Stakes, then made steady progress, eventually hitting the front in time to win by 1 length from Sightforsoreeyes. Direct Dial was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Leadem in Ken, a 9-year-old son of Sky Mesa, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.45 with Sorenson up.
Susie Bee outfinished Terra's Angel in Sunday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Turf Stakes, winning by a neck. Hey Niki was 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third. Susie Bee, a 7-year-old English Channel mare, toured 1 1/16 miles of firm turf in 1:46.82 with Jose Ortiz riding.
News and Notes:
In Thursday's Preview we noted a license extension for one of Hong Kong's many talented trainers. But we identified the wrong beneficiary. It's John SIZE, not John MOORE, who will be allowed to keep training through he 2023-24 season, should he see fit. Moore will retire from Hong Kong after next season (July 2020) at the age of 70. Many thanks to Bill Nader for pointing out the blunder. Nice to know someone is reading these!