Little Mike takes on Cirrus des Aigles, Military Attack in HK Cup
On the other hand, Little Mike toppled a world-class field at an unheralded 17-1 in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita. When defeating the likes of Point of Entry, St Nicholas Abbey and Shareta, he established a new stakes-record time of 2:22 4/5 for 1 1/2 miles. His victory capped a productive season that included wins in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and Arlington Million.
Little Mike took a while to round into form this year after his fruitless trip to Dubai. Fourth in the United Nations and sixth in his title defense in the Arlington Million, he clicked with new rider Mike Smith in the Joe Hirsch. Little Mike was beaten a grand total of 3 1/2 lengths in the Turf, and stands to benefit from shortening up in trip. The post position draw was kind to him, and Smith will guide the scrappy gelding from post 6.
Military Attack has improved beyond recognition since his fifth in the 2012 Cup. The John Moore charge compiled a four-race winning streak earlier this year, propelling him to Hong Kong Horse of the Year honors for the 2012-13 season. In addition to comprehensive victories in the Hong Kong Gold Cup and Queen Elizabeth II Cup at this course and distance, the Irish-bred slammed a quality field in the Singapore Airlines International Cup.
Since the new Hong Kong season opened this fall, Military Attack has been stealthily rounding into form. He was a closing sixth in the Sha Tin Trophy at a metric mile, while lugging the top impost of 133 pounds, and reported home a fine third despite a weight disadvantage and a poor draw in the local prep, the November 17 Jockey Club Cup. Military Attack isn't drawn much better in post 9 Sunday, but he should be fitter in the third start of his form cycle, and he's now back at level weights.
The respective top two from the Jockey Club Cup, Endowing and Akeed Mofeed, will try to confirm the form with Military Attack. Both were the main protagonists in the Hong Kong Derby in March, with Akeed Mofeed beating Endowing by a half-length. Since then, they've gone in different directions. Endowing has been on an upward curve, exploiting weight concessions and perfect trips to take the Ladies' Purse and Jockey Club Cup in his last pair.
Akeed Mofeed, who brought a big Irish reputation with his importation, had underperformed in his first two outings of the new season. Worse, he gave indications of becoming difficult when lugging in one time, then bearing out the next. But the Richard Gibson pupil turned in a much better effort in the Jockey Club Cup, rallying from last to miss by only a head.
British globetrotters Grandeur and Side Glance could also make their presence felt. Both had contested the August 17 Arlington Million, Side Glance checking in third and Grandeur a wide-trip seventh, one spot behind Little Mike.
Grandeur, winner of last fall's Hollywood Turf Cup and Twilight Derby, traveled to Southern California once more for the Breeders' Cup Turf. Unfortunately, the Jeremy Noseda trainee wasn't entered after spiking a fever. Grandeur was last seen landing the September 25 Foundation Stakes at Goodwood, and keeps Ryan Moore in the saddle.
The Andrew Balding-trained Side Glance comes off his first Group 1 coup in the November 2 Mackinnon at Flemington, assisted by a heady tactical ride by Jamie Spencer. The veteran gelding had hitherto appeared as a fringe player at that level, his best Group 1 result being a remote third to Frankel in the 2012 Queen Anne at Royal Ascot, prior to his garnering another credit at Arlington.
Germany relies on Neatico, who has enjoyed a career-best year at the age of six. He has won four of his last five for Peter Schiergen, highlighted by a Group 1 victory in the Bayerisches Zuchtrennen, and a bloodless, five-length romp in the Preis der Deutschen Einheit.
Japan's Tokei Halo figures to be involved in the early pace scenario. The winner of three straight graded stakes over the summer, capped by a six-length rout in the Sapporo Kinen on yielding ground, he must rebound off a poor 10th in the Tenno Sho Autumn at Tokyo.
Rounding out the 12-horse field are three locals who must run the race of their lives to factor. Blazing Speed narrowly failed to give Endowing nine pounds in the Ladies' Purse, and stretches out off a seventh in the Jockey Club Mile. Rainbow Chic and Same World (Military Attack's stablemate from the Moore yard) were fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Jockey Club Cup.
HK Mile features Moonlight Cloud, Sky Lantern showdown
Sky Lantern has demonstrated a potent late kick herself. Also out of luck in the 2012 Breeders' Cup, where she was eighth after a nightmare trip in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, the gray has developed into a star miler in 2013. The Richard Hannon filly captured the One Thousand Guineas, and looked positively explosive when dominating the Coronation at Royal Ascot by four lengths. Sky Lantern was the victim of trouble in the Falmouth, with Elusive Kate carrying her clear across the course, yet she still went down by a scant neck. Hampered by traffic when fifth on the step up to 1 1/4 miles in the Nassau, Sky Lantern regrouped with a convincing score in the September 28 Sun Chariot last out.
Gordon Lord Byron, fourth here last year, faces a tall task against Moonlight Cloud. The Tom Hogan charge was no match for the mare when third in the Maurice de Gheest and runner-up as the defending champion in the Foret. Unlike 2012, when he went straight to Hong Kong off the Foret, he tried the October 19 Queen Elizabeth II and ended up seventh behind Olympic Glory. That underscores questions of whether Gordon Lord Byron is as effective at a mile; after all, his biggest career wins have come in the about seven-furlong Foret and the Haydock Sprint Cup.
Linton pulled a 25-1 upset in the Stradbroke Handicap at Eagle Farm in June. Aside from capitalizing on an eight-pound concession from Buffering, Linton was also improving markedly in first-time blinkers. The John Sadler veteran reappeared with a strong fifth, under top weight, in the Sir Rupert Clarke, but could do no better than eighth in the Toorak Handicap in his latest. The Australian-bred son of Galileo projects a ground-saving trip here from post 3.
New York-bred King Kreesa, who promises to make use of his early speed from post 11, aims to become just the second American-trained horse on the honor roll. The first, Glen Kate, won this race in its old incarnation as the about seven-furlong Hong Kong International Bowl in 1993. Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, King Kreesa has been a consistent performer around a mile all season. Although he wired the Poker, and dusted state-breds in the Kingston and Mohawk, his best performance was his hard-trying second to Wise Dan in the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga. Hall of Famer Mike Smith picks up the mount on the front runner.
Completing the international squad is France's Shamalgan, a two-time Horse of the Year and multiple champion in the Czech Republic. Third in the 2010 Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas), Shamalgan has struck top form since transferring to Xavier Thomas-Demeaulte this season. He took the September 29 Premio Vittorio di Capua by 2 1/2 lengths, and finished best of the rest behind Feuerblitz in the Premio Roma last out. But post 14 might have scuppered whatever slim chance he had in this superb affair.
The remaining locals are all capable on their day. John Moore is responsible for Dan Excel, whose honesty was rewarded with a course-and-distance victory in the Champions Mile in May, and Xtension, the winner of the 2011 and 2012 runnings of the Champions Mile.
The five-year-old Dan Excel, once a classy European known as Dunboyne Express, probably has more upside than his older stablemate at this point. Xtension was off form for quite some time before a solid third to Gold-Fun in the Jockey Club Mile. In contrast, Dan Excel was runner-up in several major races, most notably to Glorious Days in the Stewards' Cup and to Hong Kong Horse of the Year Military Attack in the Singapore Airlines International Cup. Dan Excel had a setback that has caused him to play catch-up in the new Hong Kong season, but his fifth under top weight in the Jockey Club Mile was a solid prep.
Caspar Fownes will be represented by the speedy Helene Spirit and confirmed closer Packing Whiz. Helene Spirit nearly wired both the Champions Mile and Jockey Club Mile, and was just denied by Dan Excel in the former and by Gold-Fun in the latter. Packing Whiz, hero of the 2011 Premio Parioli (Italian Two Thousand Guineas) under the name of Al Rep, was fifth in this race last year. Wrapping up the 2012-13 campaign with a score in the Chairman's Trophy and a third in the Champions Mile, he was sixth in his comeback in the Jockey Club Mile.
Trainer Tony Cruz must always be respected, and he has sounded bullish about Pure Champion. While only eighth in the 2012 Mile, the Irish-bred formerly known as Steinbeck has flashed real ability on occasion. Over the winter, he beat Dan Excel in the Centenary Vase and finished second to Military Attack in the Hong Kong Gold Cup. Pure Champion's first two runs this season have been subpar, but Cruz expects him to be a "different horse" Sunday.
The Fugue's the one to beat in HK Vase
Dunaden hasn't had as much success as during his 2011 heyday, when he denied Red Cadeaux at Flemington and beat him again into third in the Vase. Although his only win in the interim came in the 2012 Caulfield Cup, the French globetrotter has often run well in defeat. This year, the Mikel Delzangles trainee's highlights include seconds to St Nicholas Abbey in the Coronation Cup and to Novellist in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud; a fourth to St Nicholas Abbey and Gentildonna in the Dubai Sheema Classic; and a close fifth to Gentildonna, faring best of the internationals, in the November 24 Japan Cup. That represented a quick turnaround after his 11th under top weight in the Melbourne Cup, and the Vase will be his third race in a month.
Mount Athos, Simenon and Dandino -- the respective third, fourth and fifth at Melbourne -- are all renewing rivalry at Sha Tin. Mount Athos' best career performances have come over longer distances. In addition to his commanding wins in the 2012 Geoffrey Freer and the May 10 Ormonde, he has incurred admirable losses in the past two Melbourne Cups. Yet the Luca Cumani trainee has given the impression of one who could prosper at this slightly shorter trip. Things haven't panned out for him in his last two tries at this distance, but the 2012 Japan Cup came too soon after his fine fifth in the Melbourne Cup, and he left himself too much to do in the June 22 Hardwicke at Royal Ascot. New rider Craig Williams gave him a good passage at Flemington last time from a horrible draw, and he's in a lot better shape in post 6 here.
Simenon, who spent time hurdling last winter for Willie Mullins, is another who must establish his effectiveness at this distance. Just fended off by the Queen's Estimate in the Ascot Gold Cup, the high-class stayer lost another tight decision to Ahzeemah in the Lonsdale Cup. He prepped for the Melbourne Cup with a terrific third to Sea Moon in the about 1 1/2-mile Herbert Power, but in his latest attempt in the Japan Cup, he was only 13th.
Dandino, seventh to Red Cadeaux here last year, is arguably more reliable these days. Switched to Marco Botti over the winter, he opened 2013 with a pair of strong seconds in the Jockey Club at Newmarket and the Hardwicke at Royal Ascot. Dandino then extricated himself from traffic trouble to confirm his superiority in the American St Leger at Arlington. Second in the Caulfield Cup in his Australian debut, he was a sneakily-good fifth in the Melbourne Cup after being shuffled back and out of position. Dropping back to 1 1/2 miles promises to suit the nearly-black son of Dansili, who could contribute to an exacta for his sire.
Two sophomores will try to buck the historical trends and strike a blow for the classic generation -- Ireland's Galileo Rock and France's Ebiyza. Galileo Rock has placed in a trio of classics, bookending his thirds in the Epsom Derby and St Leger with a runner-up effort in the Irish Derby. The David Wachman pupil is honest, but must find a sharper change of gear to upset his elders, and post 13 won't help his cause. The Aga Khan's homebred Ebiyza looks to take advantage of a nine-pound concession from the older males. Awarded a maiden-breaking victory in the Prix de Royallieu via disqualification, the Alain de Royer-Dupre filly was a non-threatening fifth in the 15 1/2-furlong Prix Royal-Oak.
Germany has no fewer than three chances. The Peter Schiergen-trained Nymphea turned in a tour de force on the front end in the Grosser Preis von Berlin in July, and her tactical speed could be put to good use here. Third in the International Bosphorus Cup two back, she floundered on the desperately soft going in the British Champions Fillies and Mares at Ascot in her latest, but will find more congenial conditions at Sha Tin.
Seismos has acquitted himself well in his last three attempts at this distance for Andreas Wohler. A four-length romper in the Grosser Preis von Bayern, he pressed Novellist when a close second in the Grosser Preis von Baden. Seismos was all at sea in the 2 1/2-mile Prix Cadran, but regrouped with a third in the Canadian International last out.
Michael Figge will send out Feuerblitz, who was last in the 2012 Hong Kong Cup and accordingly tries the longer Vase this year. Fourth to Seismos in his belated reappearance at Munich, and a long way behind Nymphea when 10th in Istanbul, he has gone on to win two straight. Feuerblitz got back on track in a listed event at Strasbourg en route to taking the Premio Roma.
Japan's hopeful Asuka Kurichan exits a new career high in the Copa Republica Argentina at Tokyo. The form was franked when the placegetters came back to finish fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Japan Cup. Still, the six-year-old will be taking his first test against Group 1 company.
Hong Kong-based runners have struggled in the Vase, with local legend Indigenous supplying their sole win back in 1998. Neither Dominant nor Liberator looks quite up to matching Indigenous' feat. Liberator was formerly Hong Kong's champion stayer after taking the 2012 Champions & Chater Cup at this course and distance. He was subsequently fourth in the 2012 Vase and would do well to duplicate that finish. Dominant has won two straight editions of the Queen Mother Memorial Cup, a springboard to a pair of thirds in the Champions & Chater. Although he has natural ability, he has yet to put it all together for John Moore, and he's been marooned widest of all in post 14.
Lord Kanaloa seeks to crown career with HK Sprint repeat
Japanese champion Lord Kanaloa, an emphatic winner of last year's Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, seeks to double up in his career finale in Sunday's $1.9 million renewal. Due to enter stud in 2014, the son of King Kamehameha will meet several familiar rivals, led by Hong Kong champion Lucky Nine. The local team also boasts Charles the Great, Frederick Engels and Eagle Regiment, while the international contingent includes Eddie Lynam's duo of Slade Power and Sole Power and Nunthorpe upsetter Jwala.
Lord Kanaloa boasts an exceptional career mark of 18-12-5-1, his lone third coming in his Grade 1 debut in the 2012 Takamatsunomiya Kinen. He commenced a five-race winning streak in last year's Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama, and went on to demolish the Hong Kong Sprint by 2 1/2 lengths. Lord Kanaloa extended his skein in the Hankyu Hai in his February reappearance, added the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, and proved his versatility to land the prestigious Yasuda Kinen over Tokyo's demanding mile.
Following the same itinerary as last fall, Lord Kanaloa returned from his summer vacation in the September 8 Centaur Stakes at Hanshin, and once again came up agonizingly short. But that prep had its desired effect, for just as in 2012, he roared back to defend his title successfully in the Sprinters Stakes. The Takayuki Yasuda trainee hopes that the pattern holds in Hong Kong as well.
But there is a considerable difference in his post. Drawn favorably a year ago, Lord Kanaloa and regular rider Yasunari Iwata must find a way to overcome post 12 on Sunday. If he does, Lord Kanaloa would seal his legacy as Japan's greatest sprinter, and emulate past repeat winners Falvelon (2000-01) and Silent Witness (2003-04).
Lucky Nine, on the other hand, has had a happier change of fortune. The winner of the 2011 Hong Kong Sprint, Lucky Nine was compromised by post 12 in his title defense and ended up fifth to Lord Kanaloa in 2012. This time, the Caspar Fownes star has landed a plum post 5 with his pilot Brett Prebble. The good draw could help him regain his title, thus following in the hoofsteps of 2007 and 2009 winner Sacred Kingdom.
Hong Kong's reigning champion sprinter has had more than his fair share of bad luck, including a troubled fifth to Lord Kanaloa in last year's Sprinters in their only other meeting. But Lucky Nine has excelled when things fall into place. Earlier this year, the Irish-bred son of Dubawi captured the Chairman's Sprint Prize at this course and about six-furlong trip, and in May, he crushed the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore.
Freshened for an Australian venture, Lucky Nine finished like a proverbial freight train to miss by a nose to Buffering in the October 25 Manikato. But he failed to duplicate that performance when a well-beaten sixth behind the same rival in the November 9 VRC Sprint Classic, which he exited sore. Lucky Nine has been working superbly back at Sha Tin, however, and all indications are that he's ready to fire.
Trainer John Moore fields a three-pronged attack. While Charles the Great captured the local prep, the November 17 Jockey Club Sprint, over Group 2-winning stablemate Sterling City, and Frederick Engels was a mere eighth, the latter has been tabbed as the yard's best chance.
Frederick Engels, who landed the 2011 July Stakes in his English days, has turned in three eye-catching runner-up efforts this year -- to Eagle Regiment in the Centenary Sprint Cup at an inadequate five furlongs, to Lucky Nine in the Chairman's Sprint Prize, and to the speedy Go Baby Go in his reappearance in the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy. Next time, Frederick Engels was a rallying fourth as the 133-pound highweight in the Premier Bowl Handicap. But his progress was interrupted with a poor draw in the Jockey Club Sprint, where he was strangled from post 12, overraced early, and understandably failed to finish as well as usual. Post 4 could bring out the best from him.
Derek Cruz dispatches the evergreen 10-year-old Joy and Fun and the eight-year-old Cerise Cherry. Joy and Fun was a close third in the 2009 Sprint, a dead-heat second to Lucky Nine in a 2011 thriller, and fourth in 2012. The Group 1 globetrotter has not raced since chasing Shea Shea in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night. Cerise Cherry was an overachieving runner-up to Lord Kanaloa last year.
Eagle Regiment has been known as a specialist at about five furlongs down the straight, the scene of his back-to-back wins in the Centenary Sprint Cup. But the fragile gelding, who was third to Shea Shea and Joy and Fun in the Al Quoz, might be finding a new dimension. A staying-on third under top weight in the Jockey Club Sprint, the Manfred Man pupil was doing his best work at the end of the about six-furlong trip, and could have more to offer here.
Other chances among the locals are Go Baby Go, who sports a pair of Group 3 titles at about five furlongs but has questions to answer at six; Rich Tapestry, who nailed Go Baby Go in the Sprint Cup back in April but exits a ninth in the Jockey Club Sprint; and Time After Time, Group 1-placed to Ambitious Dragon in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, and third to Rich Tapestry in the Sprint Cup, but only 10th in the Jockey Club Sprint.
European-based sprinters have been shut out so far in the Hong Kong Sprint. Sole Power tried once before, resulting in a ninth in 2011. The Irish veteran has historically been a five-furlong aficionado, a profile reinforced by his victory over Shea Shea in this summer's King's Stand at Royal Ascot. But he'll prefer the better ground at Sha Tin, compared to the Longchamp bog in which he was sixth in the Prix de l'Abbaye last out.
His stablemate from the Lynam yard, Slade Power, has more appeal as an upwardly-mobile type who might not have peaked yet. Adept at six furlongs, the Dutch Art colt placed in both the July Cup and Haydock Sprint Cup before scoring a breakthrough in the October 19 British Champions Sprint.
Jwala sprang a 40-1 shock in the Nunthorpe at York in August, sluicing through the rain-softened ground to upend Shea Shea and Sole Power. Trained by Robert Cowell, the Oasis Dream filly actually had some decent form in the book, and she proved that the Nunthorpe was no fluke when a solid fourth in the Abbaye. But Jwala has been handed a lethal blow in post 14.
Stars out in force during training hours at Sha Tin
On the all-weather, 2011 Melbourne Cup and Vase hero Dunaden went about a half-mile in :56.3 (splits of :30.9 and :25.4).
"You can tell that he knows the place from his behavior on his first day out," exercise rider Mathieu Brasme said. "It is like recollecting memories. He was bucking around this morning and acting like a colt.
"Considering his last race is still pretty close (a fifth in the November 24 Japan Cup), we wanted to leave him a chance to fully recover even though he had not had a hard race in Japan. The way he behaves now seems to show that we are right where we want him to be before Sunday's assignment."
Melbourne Cup fifth Dandino covered about six furlongs in 1:27.8 (splits of :30.5, :30.6 and :26.7).
Germany's Feuerblitz, coming off his first Group 1 score in the Premio Roma, negotiated about six furlongs in 1:20 (splits of :26.6, :27.3 and :26.1).
French stand-out Cirrus des Aigles, one of the leading lights in Sunday's Group 1 Hong Kong Cup, stretched out on turf under Christophe Soumillon. The European champion, who just missed in the Champion Stakes, was caught in splits of :26.8, :28.3 and :25.7, resulting in a final time of 1:20.8.
"He really loves it here," trainer Corine Barande-Barbe said. "According to his exercise rider Zoe Gargoulaud, he always acts exactly the same way at exactly the same points around the track, as if it was his playground. Look at him staring at the mountains!
"It is a real shame that he has never really succeeded at Sha Tin but it has been only a matter of bad luck. The ground here is much faster than, say, Longchamp in the autumn, but it is not really an issue because it bounces. Cirrus can act on it."
Soumillon said: "I was just about to get him ready to go when he simply pulled off. There was nothing I could do about it so off we went. He's really raring to go and it is a very good omen."
British globetrotter Side Glance, successful in the Mackinnon at Flemington, toured the same distance on turf in 1:20.5 (splits of :30.7, :27.1 and :22.7).
"I'm very happy with him," trainer Andrew Balding said of his Cup entrant. "He looks well, nothing's bothering him and we look forward to Sunday. I'm not totally sure he can win but he might be underestimated."
Balding, an avid fan of Southampton football club, added: "It was a bad start to the day when I heard we had lost last night, but I was cheered up by the way Side Glance worked this morning! He seems very well, and I am hopeful that he will be in the shake-up on Sunday."
Little Mike, who hoists the American flag in the Cup, cantered on the all-weather. The multiple Grade 1 hero was seventh when seeking a repeat in the Breeders' Cup Turf.
"He looked good out there today, I thought, as good as he's looked all week," owner Carlo Vaccarezza said. "He's a versatile horse so far as distance is concerned and in how he runs his races. I hope there is a good pace in the race on Sunday as that would suit him best."
The Jeremy Noseda-trained Grandeur went out on the all-weather watched by the trainer and his owner Yvonne Jacques. Grandeur did no more than a routine canter, and the Cup contender will probably put in a short piece of work on the turf Friday according to connections.
"The horse is in great order and feels very bright this morning," his work rider.
Jockey Club Cup victor Endowing worked about a half-mile on the all-weather under a work rider in :58.3 (splits of :32.3 and :26.0).
"To an extent he's flying under the radar," jockey Tye Angland said, "but he's really proven himself with his past two wins. He's probably got to bring his A-game to win but he's kept stepping up to the mark lately and he can really let down when it counts."
Blazing Speed, another locally-based Cup runner, worked about six all-weather furlongs in 1:27.7s (splits of :32.2, :29.5 and :26.0).
"He pulled up with a minor problem after his last run (a seventh in the Jockey Club Mile)," trainer Tony Cruz said. "I was very disappointed with that race and we've decided to go a bit further with him. He's won over the trip in England so that's not a worry. He hasn't got the early speed for the mile and I believe the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) will be more to his liking. He has a turn of foot and we can run a bit quiet in the race. He galloped this morning and I'm vey happy with him. His work's been perfect. He should be a different horse again on the day."
European invaders Moonlight Cloud and Sky Lantern, the ones to beat in Sunday's Group 1 Hong Kong Mile, both took to the all-weather Thursday.
Moonlight Cloud, who earned her sixth Group 1 win in the Prix de la Foret, strode about six furlongs in 1:27.2 (splits of :34, :28 and :25.2).
"There is no need to push her when she's on the track," trainer Freddie Head said. "She went just fine there, too happy to let the steam go. It was just a canter but she looked good. As I said, I don't think she will need to go over the turf but she could have a short speed burst on Saturday morning."
Sky Lantern, a four-time Group 1 queen after taking the Sun Chariot, just stretched her legs.
"She's very fit and is much perkier now than when she arrived," the trainer's son and assistant Richard Hannon Jr. said. "We've decided to go for the Mile rather the Cup because there's plenty of time for her to step up to 2000 meters next season."
Pure Champion, last of nine in the Jockey Club Mile, worked about six furlongs on the all-weather in 1:31.2 (splits of :33.3, :30.4 and :27.5).
"He pulled up a bit sore in his joints after his last run," Cruz said. "I think he'll run like a different horse this time. If he gets the inside draw he'll be very close -- in the first three or four. He's a good worker; his track work has been good."
Pure Champion drew the rail.
Three international Mile contestants took spins on the turf.
Gordon Lord Byron, runner-up to Moonlight Cloud in the Foret two back, loped about a half-mile in :59.3 (splits :32.5 and :26.8).
"It's a good race this year," trainer Tom Hogan said, "but we've got a stronger horse this time. He'll love the ground despite what some of the press say just because he once won a Group 1 on heavy conditions (in the 2012 Foret). He's traveled well to Hong Kong and did some nice work on the turf today. I hope he can grab some money on Sunday."
Australian Group 1 winner Linton scampered about a half-mile in :55.4 (splits of :31.8 and 23.6).
"He was prancing on the track this morning," said Troy Corstens, stable manager at Malua Racing. "To my eye he looks ready to explode and we're really happy with him. I can't speak highly enough of the facilities here and the help we've had from the Club and that's reflected in the horse just getting better each day."
Shamalgan, victorious in the Premio Vittorio di Capua two starts ago, exercised about six furlongs in 1:30.3 (splits of :32.7, :31.1 and :26.5).
Trainer John Moore has three engaged in Sunday's Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, and all recorded moves on Thursday.
Jockey Club Sprint winner Charles the Great strode about a half-mile on the turf under Douglas Whyte in :51.7s (splits of :28.8 and :22.9), while Jockey Club Sprint runner-up Sterling City covered the same ground in :54.6 under Tommy Berry (splits of :30.7 and :23.9).
Moore sent Frederick Engels out for an all-weather work in company with Captain Sweet. Under Zac Purton, the Group 2 veteran finished about a half-mile in :49.6 (splits of :27.9, 21.7).
"He's been flying on the track and his work was excellent this morning," Purton said. "He's been a victim of bad barriers and if he draws well he's right amongst them as I think there's very little between the Hong Kong horses."
Purton got his wish, for Frederick Engels drew post 4.
Three other local Sprint hopes likewise tuned up on the all-weather.
Sha Tin Sprint Trophy hero Go Baby Go exercised about a half-mile under Angland in :53.3 (splits of :28.6 and 24.7).
"He's a little ripper this horse, and he's feeling great," Angland said. "He hasn't done much wrong since I've been associated with him and he's going in with fresh legs after only two well-spaced recent runs. I'm pretty happy with him but the draw is going to be critical. I think he's one of the best Hong Kong chances."
Go Baby Go was handed an unfavorable post 13.
Rich Tapestry clocked 51.1 (splits of :27.4 and :23.7) for his about half-mile breeze under Olivier Doleuze.
Time After Time, under Gerald Mosse, clocked :53.5 (splits of :28.4 and :25.1).
To find out more about the Hong Kong International Races, log onto the Hong Kong Jockey Club's special microsite.
Sky Lantern set to shine for HK-based owner; Lord Kanaloa makes swan song
Ben's wife Martha added: "The filly really looks on fire. In fact she was so lively we couldn't get up close to her!"
Sky Lantern is trained by Richard Hannon, who hands over the reins to his son Richard Jr. on January 1 after a spectacular career that has yield almost 4,200 winners. Hannon has struck up a hugely successful partnership with Sky Lantern's rider Richard Hughes, fresh from overseas success in Jockeys' Championships in both South Africa and Japan since being crowned Britain's champion rider for the second consecutive season last month.
Recalling the post-race comments of Hannon Sr., Hannon Jr. and Hughes over the course of this year, one will constantly find references to Sky Lantern's preference for good, fast ground conditions, yet another reason why Sha Tin is the destination for this super talented filly and why Ascot back in October -- soft ground always being likely for that possible Group 1 target -- was not.
Purchased for just €75,000, Sky Lantern took little time to shout herself out as a bargain, becoming one of Europe's top two-year-olds when blitzing her rivals in the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh in September 2012. That was over seven furlongs, but her three fantastic victories this year have all come over an identical distance to Sunday's challenge, and, though current plans suggest that she will be competing at about 1 1/4 miles next year, the decision was made -- after some lengthy discussions -- to target the Hong Kong Mile rather than the Cup this time.
Tactics-wise, Hannon Jr. commented: "She can stay back or sit handy. We'll leave it to Hughesie."
Speaking from Happy Valley on Wednesday evening, Hughes said: "You can't bully this filly, and a decent gate would be a big help."
The rider will surely have preferred a number a shade lower than the eight allocated at Thursday's barrier draw ceremony, but let's not forget that this jockey is a master tactician and, in Sky Lantern, he has on his side a gray filly who has shown her brilliance on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, Japan's sprint sensation Lord Kanaloa is bound for retirement after his title defense in Sunday's Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint. He once again takes on Hong Kong's speed ace Lucky Nine in a showdown at Sha Tin, which looms as one of the major highlights of the Turf World Championships.
Despite Lord Kanaloa's holding a 2-0 advantage over Lucky Nine (even if there were excuses for Hong Kong's hero on both occasions), the King Kamehameha entire is considered no more than his rival's equal according to the official measure, the World's Best Racehorse Rankings. Both are rated at 120.
The matter could well be decided in the Hong Kong Sprint. Victory for the stud-bound Lord Kanaloa would do no harm in enhancing his value in that arena; might well prompt a hike in his official rating and would certainly have him in contention for JRA Horse of the Year honors. Not to mention that it would be well-deserved for a horse who, in terms of top level wins, has arguably been only outshone by Frankel and Black Caviar since mid-2012.
Lord Kanaloa has been beaten only once in seven starts, five of them at Group 1 level, since September 2012 when his hot streak began with a powerful finishing burst to claim the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama.
The winning run, for the horse who can stalk the speed or close from behind, continued next start with his comprehensive win in last year's edition of the Hong Kong Sprint. He further underlined his prowess on his return home by stretching his speed to a major Grade 1 win over a metric mile in the Yasuda Kinen, and this time has journeyed back to Hong Kong with the Sprinters Stakes title again under his belt.
Whatever rating number sits beside his name, few would argue with the fact that he has been one of the very best contemporary racehorses.
But that wasn't necessarily the expectation from the start of his career according to Shogo Yasuda, who has been looking after the horse in Hong Kong. Shogo is trainer Takayuki Yasuda's son and training assistant and sometimes track rider.
"When he came to our stable preparing for his debut at three he had a few physical issues, mainly as a result of muscle strain. He wasn't flexible and he didn't give you a great feel even when he was just trotting or hacking," he said.
"So we decided to change things with him and canter him on the uphill course to stretch his muscles. I remember the first day we did that very well. It was amazing the change in his gait. Suddenly his stride was powerful and flexible which he'd never shown us before. And then he just continued to make impressive progress, handling every task we gave him."
That improvement was obvious for all to see when he progressed to better class races in 2012 and Yasuda says he will always be considered "very special" by his family and the stable.
"We have always tried to do the right thing by him and he has repaid us. I've been riding him for three years and that's been a great pleasure. I appreciate what he has done and what he has given us," he said.
Yasuda is looking forward to Sunday's race but is mindful that a win is not always certain in horse racing especially after the five-year-old drew barrier 12.
"I understand the quality of the sprint race and the sprinters here in Hong Kong, and it is not easy to win a race like this. But the owner told us, after the Sprinters Stakes, that he would like to target Hong Kong as Lord Kanaloa's final run and he is here in good shape," he said.
As to Horse of the Year honors in his homeland, Shogo added: "If he is awarded the JRA Horse of the Year title, we will be greatly honored and will take our hats off to him. Obviously we don't know about that yet. Right now we just have to concentrate on having the horse at his best. We do hope that, on Sunday, he can produce his best race."
Butler releases statement on suspension
On Thursday, trainer Gerard Butler reflected on the circumstances that led to his five-year suspension handed out by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) on Wednesday.
After learning of the verdict, resulting from his administering of anabolic steroids through Rexogin to horses in his care, the 47-year-old Newmarket-based conditioner issued a statement through his solicitor:
"All I can do is try to pick up the pieces. I will do so with a painfully renewed sense that the principles I neglected, in one disastrous lapse, will be those that serve me best in trying to rebuild my life.
"While this has been a devastating and humiliating experience for me, I am above all aware of its impact on others: not just my family, staff and owners but also the sport I have always loved. I have no intention of hiding from my responsibility for an error of judgment that has undone many years of honest endeavor. I wish only to offer one or two observations, then, with no intention of diluting the contrition I feel.
"My sense that I had betrayed the standards I have always sought to maintain can be judged from the fact that I myself brought a number of breaches to the attention of the BHA. I hope it has also become evident how widespread were the misunderstandings, among the training and veterinary communities in Newmarket, over the use of Sungate.
"With that in mind, I must emphasize that no harm resulted to any of the horses involved -- and, above all, that I would never have knowingly risked any such harm. It was wrong for me to cut corners, but I did so principally through naivety.
"I am grateful for the many messages I have received that recognize this, and also how distressed I am to have let myself and others down. I have made a big mistake, and am paying a big price. The consequences for my wife and three sons will be a daily reproach, harder to bear than any judgments passed by others."
Taste Like Candy gets class test in Hollywood Starlet
Untapable, who won the Pocahontas by a half-length, was already in retreat when she was forced to check to avoid a fallen rival in the Breeders' Cup. The Steve Asmussen charge was virtually eased afterwards, and wound up crossing the wire eighth in the field of 10.
Arethusa enters the Starlet off a dominating 8 1/4-length, maiden-breaking score in the $100,000 Sharp Cat, the November 16 course-and-distance prep. A distant but clear second in the Sharp Cat was Be Proud, one of two from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert. The other is November 15 debut winner Streaming.
The Starlet field is rounded out by Bajan, winner of the $100,000 Moccasin and $75,000 Anoakia in her last two, and Sorrento winner Concave, who followed a troubled trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with a third in the Delta Downs Princess two weeks ago for trainer Doug O'Neill.
Six of the 10 fillies and mares competing in the Grade 2, $150,000 Bayakoa Handicap are three-year-olds, including probable favorite Fiftyshadesofhay. Heroine of three graded stakes -- the Black-Eyed Susan, Iowa Oaks and Santa Ysabel -- this term, the Baffert-trained miss will tote top weight of 118 pounds despite finishing third as the odds-on choice in the Indiana Oaks two months ago.
Other leading sophomore contenders are Warren's Venada, who is two-for-two over the main track at Hollywood including a game score in the $100,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for California-breds on November 17; Grade 3 winner Charlie Em, third in the Autumn Miss and Torrey Pines in her last two; and Magic Union, a solid allowance winner over Del Mar's Polytrack two starts back.
Charm the Maker, a close second in the Starlet two years ago and a troubled fourth in the 2012 Bayakoa, might be the best of the older contenders. She prevailed in the $94,000 Adoration at Del Mar two starts back.
Ramseys, Maker looking for back-to-back success in Claiming Crown
The first major event of Gulfstream Park's Championship Meet will take place Saturday with the 15th annual Claiming Crown, a collection of eight stakes races worth a total of $1 million.
The Claiming Crown was established in 1999 to celebrate the blue-collar horses who are the very foundation of the racing industry nationwide and is billed as the claiming horse owner's Breeders' Cup. It is run under starter allowance conditions and is open to horses who have raced for a claiming price of $35,000 or lower since January 1, 2012. The Claiming Crown races have price limits of $7,500, $16,000, $25,000 and $35,000.
The Claiming Crown's first stop at Gulfstream Park in 2012 was so well received by horsemen, racing fans and bettors last year that track management signed an agreement with the partnership of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders' Association to host the event for three years.
"Racing fans across the country will enjoy this great afternoon of racing," Gulfstream President Tim Ritvo said. "The horsemen have supported the Claiming Crown once again with full fields and some of the country's most popular horses. We're looking forward to a big day."
"Gulfstream was gracious in offering to host the Claiming Crown last year, and it was a phenomenal success," said Phil Hanrahan, CEO of the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "Based on nominations and after looking at the overnight and how full the races got, it looks like this year is going to be another really good year."
In 2012, horses sporting the red-and-white silks of Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Mike Maker swept four of the seven Claiming Crown events, including the Jewel with Parent's Honor. They also came within a head of winning a fifth with Major Marvel in the Emerald.
The popular couple currently lead all owners in 2013 earnings with over $11.8 million. They will have a chance to go one better in this year's Claiming Crown with contenders entered in five of the eight races on Saturday.
After finishing second at Ellis Park in that race, Voodoo Storm returned to a relieved Glyshaw's barn. He proceeded to take an allowance by 3 1/4 lengths and the Mountaineer Mile by 7 3/4 lengths in his past two at Mountaineer Park.
"He's a little quirky," Glyshaw admitted. "He gets riled up in the post parade; he gets riled up in the paddock,; he's always sweating. If you're a handicapper watching him in the paddock, you wouldn't bet him because he's washed out. He was washed out at Mountaineer when it was 30 degrees. That's just him."
Although he was also nominated for the $125,000 Emerald, a turf race, Voodoo Storm is scheduled for a Jewel clash with Bernie the Maestro.
"I told the owner, 'Why do we want to change things now?' This purse is bigger, and going into the race, at least in my mind, I think it has to be us and Bernie the Maestro as the favorites," Glyshaw said. "I think it's going to be a nice race between those two. But I'm not throwing anyone out."
The Ramsey colors were carried to victory in the $125,000 Tiara by Starsilhouette in 2012, and the leading owners will be represented by Deanaallen'skitten in Saturday's renewal of the 1 1/16-mile turf contest. The six-year-old Kitten's Joy nare has hit the board in each of her six starts on the Gulfstream turf course, and ships south off a game success in Aqueduct's Trevita Stakes for trainer Chad Brown on November 6.
The $110,000 Rapid Transit, a seven-furlong affair for runners who have been offered for a tag of $16,000 or less, will feature 12 horses including Grande Shores, a homebred for Fred Brei's Jacks or Better Farm. The half-brother to Grade 1-winning sprinter Jackson Bend was out of action for 12 months and could have been had for as little as $8,000 last February, but he has rounded into form recently. After two victories at Calder this summer, the five-year-old Florida-bred ran second in the September 14 Montbrook Stakes going a mile at Gulfstream.
Walder will send out Loveyouallthetime in the Rapid Transit after claiming the chestnut gelding for $10,000 in July. The Not for Love six-year-old has since won three of his four races.
"I think the Claiming Crown is a great idea," added Walder, who's saddled three horses previously in the series. "It's nice to have it in your backyard, and Gulfstream does a great job with it. I'm looking forward to a big day of racing."
The inaugural running of the 1 1/16-mile Iron Lady, for fillies and mares who have started for $7,500 or less, will see eight distaffers head to the gate but if Winiliscious runs to form, the real race may be for second. Previously trained by Chuck Spina, the four-year-old earned a 102 BRIS Speed rating when romping by 16 lengths in a starter allowance at Laurel on October 12. Trainer Steve DiMauro has taken over her care on behalf of owner Top Shelf Stable.
Rose to Gold faces deep cast in My Charmer
The versatile Strathnaver figures to be a prominent contender. Winner of the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch in her second U.S. start, the Graham Motion trainee successfully shortened up to 1 1/16 miles when taking the $100,000 Lady Baltimore at Laurel two starts back. She exits a fourth in the 12-furlong Long Island Handicap at Aqueduct where she chased a tepid pace set by longshot winner Inimitable Romanee.
Multiple Grade 3 winner Somali Lemonade has not been particularly consistent over the past couple of years, but did earn her first stakes win since 2011 when taking the July 2 Dr. James Penny Memorial at Parx. However, the Michael Matz was subsequently unplaced three times in the Ballston Spa, Flower Bowl Invitational and Cardinal Handicap.
Awesome Flower, a stakes winner at Canterbury and Presque Isle Downs earlier this year, returns to the turf after finishing a belated third in the Chilukki at Churchill Downs.
Older males will also have a chance to travel nine furlongs on the Calder turf Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap.
Other potential contenders in the Hooper are the three-year-olds Sr. Quisqueyano, who beat Csaba by more than two lengths in the $100,000 Quality Road at Gulfstream in early October, and Valid, who coasted by more than 23 lengths in the slop in a Gulfstream allowance two weeks ago.
The current winter weather and extremely cold temperatures and wind chill forced Remington Park officials to cancel Thoroughbred racing for Thursday night. The track remained open for simulcast racing and casino gaming. Regular morning workouts were conducted Thursday morning but as the weather worsened the decision was made to forego the nine-race program. "After a comprehensive inspection of the racing surface, combined with the consistent lowering of temperature along with the advancing winter storm, Remington Park officials have decided it's in the best interest and safety to all horses, horsemen and jockeys to cancel this evening's race card," said Matt Vance, Remington Park's vice president of racing and wagering. Racing is scheduled to resume Friday and Saturday, with a nightly start time of 7 p.m. (CST), but that could change. "Remington Park, the Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and the local jockey colony, in collaboration with the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission state stewards, will revisit the conditions first thing Friday morning," Vance added. "A decision on the remainder of this weekend's races will be made then." Remington Park will ask the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission for makeup dates for any missed racing programs that are canceled due to weather. Any racing programs added as a makeup will be tacked on to the end of the season, after December 15, presumably on December 16 and so on if needed. This is the first full-card racing cancellation at Remington Park due to winter weather since the freakish spring blizzard on March 20, 2010, when a full-program of American Quarter Horse, Paint and Appaloosa racing was postponed...
Jockey Alonzo Quinonez has been cleared to ride after recovering from injuries sustained during the Barretts Sales Racing meet on September 22. Quinonez, who turned 30 on November 13, suffered a hairline fracture of his tailbone. He's scheduled to pilot Warren's Assassin (Affirmative) for trainer Jorge Gutierrez in Friday's 2ND race at Hollywood Park...
Egg Drop (Alphabet Soup), a game winner of Sunday's Matriarch (G1), came back in great shape, according to Mike Mitchell assistant trainer Phil D'Amato. "You would have thought that such a hard race would have taken something out of her," D'Amato said. "The truth is, when she came back, she didn't even look like she ran." Egg Drop has really come on since recording a close second in her graded stakes debut, the Royal Heroine Mile (G2) on July 6, posting three consecutive stakes victories. She captured the Yellow Ribbon (G2) at Del Mal and Goldikova (G2) at Santa Anita prior to her head decision in the one-mile Matriarch. "They haven't decided on plans yet for next year," D'Amato said of the four-year-old filly. "They don't know whether to sell her, breed her, or race her in 2014." Third-place finisher Tiz Flirtatious (Tizbud), the 9-5 Matriarch favorite, also returned none the worse for wear. "Her last two races were disappointing, in that things didn't work out," trainer Marty Jones said. "But she's a special horse. We'll give her some time off and then see about next year." Tiz Flirtatious posted wins in the Rodeo Drive (G1) and John C. Mabee (G2) prior to a sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1)...
Rosalind (Broken Vow) and Untapable (Tapit), top contenders in Saturday's $500,000 Hollywood Starlet (G1), have completed their preparations for the 1 1/16-mile race on Cushion Track. Trained by Ken McPeek, who won last year's Starlet with Pure Fun, Rosalind worked four furlongs in company with stablemate Rankhasprivileges (Einstein) on Tuesday at Hollywood Park. They worked heads up, each earning a clocking of 49 seconds. "Rosalind went perfectly," said Danny Ramsey, exercise rider and assistant to McPeek. "Just what we wanted." The filly exits a sharp third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) in which she was beaten only by a half-length. Joel Rosario retains the mount. Untapable worked the same distance a day earlier at Santa Anita in :49 2/5. The drill was termed "breezing" by the clockers. Untapable was eased in the BC Juvenile Fillies after encountering severe trouble into the far turn. In her previous start, she won the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill Downs, defeating Rosalind in the process. The Tapit filly is trained by Steve Asmussen and will be ridden by Joe Talamo...
Unbridled's Note (Unbridled's Song), who was defeated by less than two lengths when fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, will make his Hollywood Park debut in the $100,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Sunday. The six-furlong grass contest has attracted a field of five, including graded performers Boat Trip (Harlan's Holiday) and Chips All In (North Light). Unbridled's Note is the star attraction in the race, though, having earned two of his four lifetime wins on turf. One of those came in the 2012 Eddie D (G3), which saw Chips All In prevail by a nose and a half-length, respectively, over Boat Trip and Unbridled's Note this time around. All three showed back up for the BC Turf Sprint on on November 2, with Unbridled's Note posting the best finish while only 1 3/4 lengths behind repeat winner Mizdirection. The four-year-old colt actually ran second to Mizdirection in last year's BC Turf Sprint and followed that up with a third in the Malibu (G1). Corey Nakatani has the call on Unbridled's Note. Chips All In and Boat Trip finished ninth and 12th, respectively, in the Turf Sprint...
Grade 1 veteran Jackson Bend (Hear No Evil) has been unable to visit the winner's circle in nine starts since a nose win in the 2012 Carter H. (G1), but that could all change on Sunday as the six-year-old chestnut faces five rivals in the $100,000 Sunshine State at Gulfstream Park. Jackson Bend was unplaced in three races after the Carter and subsequently retired, but since coming back to the track has gone 0-1-3 from six outings. Included in those were a second in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga and a third in the Smile Sprint H. (G3) over the summer. Trainer Stanley Gold will send out Jackson Bend off a failed attempt at stretching out most recently with Javier Castellano in the irons. Also entered in the Sunshine State are Bahamian Squall (Gone West), Fort Loudon (Awesome of Course) and Close It Out (Closing Argument), the respective top three from last year's running of the seven-furlong affair. Bahamian Squall would go on this season to take the Smile Sprint and place in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (G1) and Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (G3)...
Ami's Holiday (Harlan's Holiday) and Jose Sea View (Badge of Silver) head Sunday's C$125,000 Display at Woodbine as the only two runners with prior stakes experience. The former holds an edge on Jose Sea View, having captured the Grey (Can-G3) going the Display distance of 1 1/16 miles on October 6. The Josie Carroll-trained bay was unable to build on that effort, though, when a one-paced fifth last out in the Coronation Futurity. Jose Sea View broke his maiden at Woodbine, traveled south of the border to take the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle Downs, then ran in midpack when trying Aqueduct's Nashua (G2) on November 3 for conditioner Reade Baker. Luis Contreras has the call on Ami's Holiday, while Emma-Jayne Watson will be aboard Jose Sea View. Those lining up against the pair include Man Cave (Leonnatus Anteas), a nice allowance winner most recently going a mile and 70 yards, and Coltimus Prime (Milwaukee Brew), an eight-length maiden victor two weeks ago...
Eighttofasttocatch (Not for Love) goes for his third stakes win in succession in Saturday's $100,000 Broad Brush at Laurel over 1 1/8 miles. The seven-year-old gelding romped in his two previous starts over the strip, taking the Maryland Million Classic by 3 1/4 lengths and the Jennings Handicap by six lengths. His main rivals will be A. P. Cino (Indy Wind) and Ponzi Scheme (Sunday Break), second and third in the $150,000 Swatara at Penn National last time; Grade 3 veteran Gourmet Dinner (Trippi); and the West Virginia-bred aces Lucy's Bob Boy (Flatter) and Fed High (Crypto Star). Also on Saturday, Jessethemarine (With Distinction) will attempt to bag his second stakes win in the $100,000 Marylander at seven furlongs. The juvenile colt rallied to win the $100,000 James F. Lewis III by a neck over six panels last month. Other contenders include Parx allowance winner Classic Giacnroll (Giacomo) and recent graduate Extrasexyhippzster (Stroll). The first stakes on the program, the $100,000 Gin Talking for two-year-old fillies at seven furlongs, on paper figures to be a showdown between three-time winner Respectful Wishes (Fairbanks) and Aqueduct maiden winner Mamdooha (Daaher)...
Luckygray (Bradbury's Luck) added a second Railway S. (Aus-G1) to his tally at Perth's Ascot Racecourse two weeks ago, and on Saturday he will look to defend his title in the Kingston Town Classic (Aus-G1) over that favored course. After performing with consistency at the highest levels on this circuit the past two years, the six-year-old was transferred to Melbourne for a campaign in the big leagues this year. He failed to hold his form for trainer Robert Smerdon, and was sent home in November to finish fourth in the Lee Steere S. (Aus-G2) for new trainer Trevor Andrews prior to his Railway score. Luckygray will be re-opposed by an old rival, Mr Moet (Mosayter), who beat him home in last year's Railway before finishing second in the Kingston Town Classic. Mr Moet fared slightly better than Luckygray in Melbourne this year, placing third in the C.F. Orr S. (Aus-G1) in February, but he failed to hit the board in some of the Australian spring's most important contests recently, and checked in seventh in the Railway two weeks ago. Western Australia Guineas (Aus-G2) winner Ihtsahymn (Ihtiram) makes his first start against older rivals, and Elite Belle (Canny Lad) is a late-blooming five-year-old mare who makes a class jump...
Trainers Jeremiah Englehart and Tom Morley will be among the industry speakers participating in the New York Racing Association's (NYRA) next "New Owners Luncheon" at Aqueduct on December 21. Co-hosted by former champion jockey and NYRA television analyst Richard Migliore as well as NYRA Network personality Ernie Munick, the program was initiated in 2011 to provide a comprehensive introduction and overview of Thoroughbred ownership to those interested in buying a racehorse. The event will begin at 8 a.m. (EST) with a continental breakfast in Equestris Restaurant followed by presentations and a Q&A session with the trainers, Thoroughbred owner Robert Falcone and representatives from the partnerships of Black Swan Stable, Kenwood Stable and Drawing Away Stable, along with equine accountant Andre Moglia and New York State steward Stephen Lewandowski. Included in the $55 registration fee is lunch, a visit to the paddock to see the horses being saddled before a race, a winner's circle presentation, an official program and a gift bag. Throughout the day, guests also will have the opportunity to meet many of NYRA's leading jockeys, trainers and owners. Registration details for the "New Owners Luncheon" are available at nyra.com. For more information call Horsemen's Relations at Aqueduct at 718-659-2206...
A limited edition commemorative pin honoring the Hollywood Starlet will be handed out Saturday at Hollywood Park -- one per paid admission while supplies last. The $500,000 Starlet was presented for the first time in 1981. The Grade 1 event will have its 33rd and final running Saturday. The stakes record for the Starlet is 1:40 2/5, set in 2007 by Country Star, who was trained by the legendary Bobby Frankel and ridden by Rafael Bejarano. With seven victories, D. Wayne Lukas holds the top spot among trainers in the Starlet. Corey Nakatani has ridden a record four winners. All four of his victories came in the 1990's, including three consecutive (1994-1996). Nakatani has the call on Sharp Cat winner Arethusa (A.P. Indy) in this year's renewal. Nine different jockeys have won the last 10 runnings...
According to the Thoroughbred Racing Economic Indicators from Equibase, wagering on U.S. races in November rose 4.37 percent from the same period last year, increasing from $867,892,112 to $905,786,453, and the number of race days declined 2.11 percent from 379 to 371. Purses were up slightly (1.58 percent) from 12 months ago, rising from $104,460,729 to $106,111,542. For the year to date, handle shows a small gain of 0.89 percent, with $10,174,191,155 being wagered in 2013 compared to $10,084,384,297 last year. Purses have grown 0.43 percent, from $1,052,778,022 to $1,057,264,192, and race days are down 3.12 percent, with 4,820 compared to 4,975 in 2012.
On the California worktab
Grade 1 winner Sweet Lulu (Mr. Greeley), fifth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), completed five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on Thursday.
Grade 2 winner Hear the Ghost (Ghostzapper), second when returning from a layoff in a recent optional claimer, exercised in 1:01 2/5. The December 26 Malibu (G1) is an option.
Multiple stakes scorer Blingo (Artie Schiller), winner of the October 14 I'm a Banker at Belmont, was timed in 1:02.
FrontRunner (G1) winner Bond Holder (Mineshaft), fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), worked six furlongs in 1:12 3/5. The CashCall Futurity (G1) on December 14 is likely next.
Grade 2 victor Dice Flavor (Scat Daddy), eighth in the Twilight Derby (G2), went in 1:15.
Multiple stakes winner Zeewat (Harlan's Holiday), who exits a score in the Damascus, drilled the bullet in 1:12. He could be headed to the Malibu.
On the Florida worktab
Multiple Grade 2 winner Twilight Eclipse (Purim), sixth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1), breezed four furlongs in :50 over the fast track at Palm Meadows on Thursday.
Grade 2 runner-up Anjaz (Street Cry), second in the August 5 Waya last out, logged five furlongs in 1:03 4/5.
Stakes winner Sisterhood (Kitten's Joy), unplaced in her last four attempts, traveled five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 on firm turf.
On the Kentucky worktab
Oaklawn H. (G2) winner Cyber Secret (Broken Vow), second when returning from a layoff in a recent optional claiming event on turf, breezed six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 over the fast track at Churchill Downs on Thursday.
On the Louisiana worktab
Multiple Grade 3 winner Sum of the Parts (Speightstown), the trailer in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), posted four furlongs in :47 3/5 over the fast track at Fair Grounds on Thursday.
For Friday or Next Raceday
DECEMBER 6, 2013
by Dick Powell
Four big days of racing from Thanksgiving Day weekend -- where do we begin? I'll start out with a two-year-old filly who was ultra impressive.
In Saturday's 2ND race at Churchill Downs for juvenile fillies going seven furlongs on the main track, Dallas Stewart had a second-time starter who caught my eye. Most of my attention on Saturday was on the card at Aqueduct but I love two-year-old racing and Churchill delivered with a dozen juvenile events on its Stars of Tomorrow II program.
In looking at the dozen juvenile fillies, Unbridled Forever (Unbridled's Song) kind of jumped off the page. She showed a good, middle move in her career debut at Churchill last month going a mile and now had a race under her belt while drawing much better. Robbie Albarado was back and Lasix was going on for the first time. Her workouts since then were solid and she had the form of a second-time starter who should improve leaps and bounds for a trainer who is not known for having them wound too tight for their debut.
But what really caught my eye was her pedigree. Her dam is none other than Lemons Forever, winner of the Kentucky Oaks back in 2006 for Stewart. Here was her foal by a top sire at 9-2 on the board with lots of other factors to like as well.
I quickly made a bet on Unbridled Forever and, unlike most hot two-year-olds, she went to 5-1 then 6-1 at post time. After a flat-footed start, Albarado was able to thread his way through traffic to where he was in good position going into the turn.
The pace for the seven-furlong event was honest -- :22.61 for the first quarter-mile and :45.54 for the half. Albarado had Unbridled Forever passing horses willingly and arrived at the top of the stretch right next to early leader and 17-10 favorite, Resistivity (Student Council). Without any real urging from Albarado, Unbridled Forever opened up in the stretch to a commanding lead. She stretched it out to 5 1/4 lengths at the wire and was the easiest of 6-1 winners.
The ease of her stretch run was a distraction to what was going on with the teletimer. She covered her third quarter-mile in :23.94 and her final furlong in :12.43, making her final time for the seven furlongs 1:21.91!
There were three other seven-furlong races run on the main track at Churchill on Saturday. The 5TH race was for juvenile filly maiden special weights and they ran 1:23.92; the 8TH race was for juvenile maiden special weights and they ran 1:23.22; and the 12TH race was for juvenile maiden special weights and they ran 1:23.76. I know it can be simplistic but Unbridled Forever's final time sticks out like a sore thumb and watching how little encouragement she needed to do it makes me think she has a big chance to be a major part of the first Friday in May.
I have thought long and hard and can't remember a horse who was able to accomplish what Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) has done the second half of 2013. He was absolutely dreadful in the three Triple Crown races. I know he had a bit of an excuse in the Kentucky Derby but he still showed nothing in the next two legs.
How he was able to turn his year around is beyond me. It is certainly a tribute to his 78-year-old Hall of Fame trainer Wayne Lukas who has endured criticism throughout his career for running horses in spots they did not belong in. After the Belmont, I thought a career on turf might be in store for Will Take Charge but there he was in the Jim Dandy (G2), with blinkers removed, rallying for second behind the more well-regarded Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Palace Malice (Curlin).
In the Travers (G1), he looked hopelessly beaten with 100 yards to go but surged at the wire to win by a shocking nose over Palace Malice and Derby winner Orb (Malibu Moon). Now it was on to the Pennsylvania Derby (G2) where it looked like the speedy Moreno (Ghostzapper) would benefit the most from the nine-furlong distance but the flashy chestnut with the white blaze rallied through a big opening on the rail to win his second $1 million race in a row.
Onto the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and once again, when the running got serious, there was Will Take Charge looking to grab American racing's biggest prize. He fell a desperate nose short of Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno) but beat all the other three-year-olds in the race.
Last Friday's Clark Handicap (G1) looked like a match race between multi-millionaire Game On Dude (Awesome Again) and Will Take Charge. Match races are supposed to go to the horse with the most early pace and Game On Dude had it in spades. Unfortunately, nobody bothered to tell Will Take Charge and he rallied again to win it by a head as the second choice in the betting.
I'm not big on worrying about who is going to be voted Horse of the Year or three-year-old male champion but he certainly has put himself into the conversation in both categories.
Flat Out's (Flatter) win in the Cigar Mile (G1) had an interesting handicapping angle to it. Yes, we all know that he loves Belmont Park where he has won five-of-seven starts and more than $1.6 million in earnings. But in the Cigar Mile, he was making his first start on the Aqueduct main track despite being seven-years old.
Yes, he loves Belmont. But a further inspection of his record shows that he also likes going one turn. And, there was nothing to indicate that he was not going to dislike Aqueduct. In a roughly-run race, Junior Alvarado kept him out of trouble and the old timer has his customary late kick down the lane to run down early leader Private Zone (Macho Uno).
Groupie Doll (Bowman's Band) just missed winning the race last year, when she was run down in the last stride by Stay Thirsty. This year, she was coming into the race off another win in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) but it all went wrong on the far turn when Clearly Now (Horse Greeley) clipped heels with Private Zone and veered sharply into Groupie Doll, who then bounced around off Laugh Track (Distorted Humor).
By the time Rajiv Maragh got her untangled, the race was essentially over as Flat Out had already made his big move. However, Groupie Doll ran on gamely to be fourth and who is to say she wasn't the best. There was talk after the race that the Cigar Mile might not have been her final start.
If you saw flashes in the Eastern sky last week, they were coming from the Tattersalls December Breeding Stock Sale and the fireworks set off in the auction ring when the broodmares in foal to the unbeaten phenom Frankel were put up for sale. The mares in foal to him weren't just sought after -- they were lusted after.
The highlight was Dancing Rain (Danehill Dancer), winner of Epsom (Eng-G1) and German Oaks (Ger-G1) in 2011. She sold for 4 million guineas on a final bid from John Ferguson on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. All told, there were seven mares in foal to Frankel who sold while two did not meet their reserve. The seven sold averaged 1,013,571gns, which is $1,654,575 in U.S. dollars.
Combined with the Goffs November sale, Keeneland November and Fasig-Tipton November, 14 mares in foal to Frankel sold for an average of $1,497,574. Can you imagine what his yearlings will bring in 2015?
RACING ON RADIO
all times Eastern
At a Glance
AT A GLANCE SCHEDULE
*all times Eastern
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.