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SUNDAY, MARCH 29, 2015

Graded Recaps

Materiality stays perfect following Florida Derby

Relative inexperience didn't hurt Materiality in the Florida Derby (Guy Gustafson/

The lightly-raced Materiality (Afleet Alex) replicated the feat of stablemate Constitution (A.P. Indy) by taking the $1 million Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday in just his third career start.

Materiality and 2014 winner Constitution are trained by Todd Pletcher, who earned a record-tying third win in the Florida Derby, joining Hall of Famers John Veitch and Nick Zito. Pletcher won his first Florida Derby in 2007 with Scat Daddy.

The 9-5 second choice in a field of nine, Materiality prompted an early pace set by Jack Tripp (Flatter), who got the first quarter in :23 4/5. Materiality soon edged clear of that longshot down the backside, recording fractions of :48 1/5 and 1:12 2, but was hounded by even-money favorite Upstart until deep stretch when Materiality pulled away to a 1 1/2-length victory under John Velazquez.

Materiality paid $5.60 after completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:52 1/5 over a fast but slow-playing track. He earned 100 qualifying points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

After a 4 1/4-length romp in the slop against maiden foes going six furlongs January 11, Materiality stretched out to nine furlongs March 6 to take the $60,000 Islamorada H. by 5 3/4 lengths. Crossing the wire second that day was his stablemate Stanford (Malibu Moon), the runner-up in Saturday's Louisiana Derby (G2). Materiality has now earned $656,028.

"There are some similarities, they're both lightly raced horses that won the Florida Derby early in their career, but our biggest concern was just coming back in 22 days off a really huge effort," said Pletcher when asked to compared Materiality with Constitution, who was injured before last year's Kentucky Derby (G1). "So we monitored how he was training -- he looked great.

"He's a big, strong colt and he holds his weight really well. He's got a big appetite. He put forth a really good breeze a week ago so we felt like he was showing us all of the right signs. Yet you still worry about those situations when you get to the eighth pole. Watching Stanford finish a very good second in the Louisiana Derby about a half-hour before gives you a little more confidence, but you're still concerned about the short turnaround."

Upstart, who won the Holy Bull (G2) and was demoted from first to second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) earlier in the meet, had every chance to get by the winner but could not do so. Trainer Rick Violette felt drawing the far outside post proved to be the difference.

"I don't want to hear from the guys that say, 'Don't worry about the nine hole,' because it made all the difference," Violette said. "If we had (Materiality) on our hip the whole way, maybe the result would have been different. (Materiality) beat us fair and square. He is obviously a very nice horse, he comes off a really fast race and didn't regress.

Finishing third in the Florida Derby was Ami's Flatter (Flatter), who was 12 1/2 lengths behind runner-up Upstart. He was followed by Fountain of Youth winner Itsaknockout (Lemon Drop Kid), Dekabrist (Street Boss), Indianaughty (Indian Charlie), My Point Exactly (Concord Point), Quimet (Birdstone), and Jack Tripp.

Bred in Kentucky by John Gunther, Materiality was a $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May two-year-old in training purchase. He was raised by Grade 2-placed stakes winner Wildwood Flower (Langfuhr), which makes him a half-brother to 2014 Gazelle (G2) winner My Miss Sophia (Unbridled's Song).

Wildwood Flower is herself a half-sister to Grade 2 scorer Eye of the Tiger (American Chance) and is closely related to Travers (G1) hero Afleet Express (Afleet Alex). Other notables from this family include Grade 1 winner Scow Ridge (Tabasco Cat) and Grade 2 victors Sweetnorthernsaint (Sweetsouthernsaint) and Fiftyshadesofhay (Pulpit).

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International Star completes sweep in Louisiana Derby

International Star got the upper hand in deep stretch (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

After rallying boldly into contention on the far turn, International Star ran down pacesetter Stanford (Malibu Moon) in deep stretch to capture Saturday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby (G2), providing owners Ken & Sarah Ramsey with a sweep of the three-year-old graded stakes at Fair Grounds. The Kentucky Derby (G1) is the next stop for the Mike Maker-trained colt.

The bay colt now sits atop the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with a total of 171 points, and Stanford likely punched his ticket with the 40-point second-place prize in his first qualifying race. War Story (Northern Afleet), who finished another 4 1/4 lengths back in third, is also in good shape, picking up 20 points to increase his total to 44.

Keen Ice (Curlin) added 10 points for his non-threatening fourth and figures to be on the bubble with 22 if he doesn't run back in another scoring prep race.

Winner of the January 17 Lecomte (G3) and February 21 Risen Star (G2), International Star became the fifth horse to sweep the big races at Fair Grounds and the first since Friesan Fire in 2009. He had never won on dirt prior to his sophomore season, posting a maiden win on Belmont Park's turf and a victory in the Grey (G3) on Woodbine's Polytrack last year.

He'll bring improving form and a stout finishing kick to the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

"That's back to back wins for us here in the Louisiana Derby and we swept all three this year," Ken Ramsey said. "Last year (with Vicar's in Trouble) we missed out on the Risen Star. Next stop: Kentucky!"

Mena celebrates and will be seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory along with the Ramseys and Maker (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

Along with regular rider Miguel Mena, International Star settled toward the back of the nine-horse field as Stanford showed speed from his rail post, establishing splits of :24 and :48 2/5 while being tracked by Mr. Z (Malibu Moon) and Fusaichi Flame (Fusaichi Pegasus).

The pacesetter looked strong rounding the far turn, reaching the three-quarters mark in 1:13 1/5 with a one-length advantage, and kicked clear while straightening for home. However, International Star loomed a legitimate danger, closing rapidly along the rail before swinging out for the stretch drive.

Stanford proved extremely game to the wire but International Star finally got the upper hand in deep stretch, forging his way to a neck decision.

"We got another good trip, had a clean run," Mena said. "He was the best horse in the race again today and I thank the connections for giving me the chance to ride him."

The winner completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 3/5.

International Star returned a $6.60 win mutuel as the 2-1 favorite and pushed his earning past the $1 million mark ($1,010,979). His lifetime record now reads 9-5-2-0.

Maker was asked why his charge has been so good at the New Orleans oval.

"I don't know, but I think I might take some of the dirt from Fair Grounds up to Kentucky with us," the conditioner said.

Bred in New York by Kartharine Voss and Robert Manfuso, International Star sold for $85,000 at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Maryland September sale. He was produced by Parlez (French Deputy), who is also the dam of stakes winners Fools in Love and D C Dancer, both by Not for Love.

International Star's third dam was Halory (Halo), whose progeny included Grade/Group 2 winners Halory Hunter (Jade Hunter) and Van Nistelrooy (Storm Cat), and Grade 3 scorers Prory (Procida), Brushed Halory (Broad Brush) and Key Lory (Keu to the Mint). Farther back, this family yielded 1954 juvenile champion High Voltage (*Ambiorix).

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I'm a Chatterbox scores third straight in Fair Grounds Oaks

Geroux celebrates as I'm a Chatterbox powers to victory in the FG Oaks (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

Fletcher and Carolyn Gray's homebred I'm a Chatterbox (Munnings) was looking for her third straight victory on Saturday and got the job done despite pressure from Shook Up (Tapit) in the stretch of the $396,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2).

The 1 1/16-mile contest rewarded the chestnut miss with 100 points toward a starting berth in the May 1 Kentucky Oaks (G1), bumping her to first on the leaderboard and making her one of the probable favorites in the "Run for the Lillies."

I'm a Chatterbox settled into a nice stalking spot just outside of early pacesetter Jugni (Colonel John) through the opening half-mile in :23 3/5 and :47. Jockey Florent Geroux bided his time despite the fact that I'm a Chatterbox was forced to go about three wide on both turns.

It was on the final turn that I'm a Chatterbox began her move, drawing even and then effortlessly passing Jugni. She held firm control in the stretch and was 2 1/2 lengths clear on the wire as the 3-5 favorite. The sophomore miss paid $3.20 for stopping the clock in 1:44 2/5.

"She was right where I wanted to be. She got a little bit bored in the final eighth of a mile but she kept running on," Geroux said.

The Fair Grounds Oaks has proven to be fertile ground for Kentucky Oaks contenders, and seems to be one of trainer Larry Jones' go-to races when readying his fillies for their date with destiny at Churchill Downs. Jones took over training on I'm a Chatterbox at the beginning of the year, and the filly has really thrived in his New Orleans barn.

"She is a really nice filly. We have been very blessed to get to race her," Jones said, before adding. "On to Kentucky is the plan."

Shook Up finished fifth behind I'm a Chatterbox while making her stakes bow in the February 21 Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) last out, but showed marked improvement when pressing her rival in the lane before being forced to settle for second.

"Worked out great. Much more professional today," jockey Robby Albarado praised Shook Up. "You've seen her previous races where she lugged in a bit. She was much better today and she stayed to the wire."

It was a length farther back to Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song), who filled the same spot in third as her full sister Unbridled Forever did last year, while maiden Danette (Curlin) remained winless with her fourth-placing. Shook Up, Forever Unbridled and Danette earned respective points of 40-20-10 to the Kentucky Oaks.

I'm a Chatterbox is now 6-4-0-1, $468,614, lifetime after sweeping Fair Grounds' three major sophomore filly preps for the Kentucky Oaks. In the other two races she won by eight lengths in the Silverbulletday S. and 2 1/2 lengths in the Rachel Alexandra.

I'm a Chatterbox, a $30,000 RNA at the 2013 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, is out of multiple stakes-placed winner Chit Chatter (Lost Soldier) and counts as half-siblings the stakes-placed duo of Pegasus Again (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Lady Bear (Bluegrass Cat).

Chit Chatter is herself a full sister to multiple stakes heroine Chatter Chatter, who produced stakes scorers That's How I Roll (Speightstown) and Obruchev (Malibu Moon) as well as Grade 3-placed Bluegrass Chatter (Bluegrass Cat). This female family also includes Grade 1-winning millionaire Music Merci (Stop the Music), dual Grade 3 victor Commander (Broken Vow), Group 3 queen Guichet (Jacinto) and Grade 1 runner-up Past the Point (Indian Charlie).

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Birdatthewire captures Gulfstream Park Oaks

Birdatthewire flew home in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (Adam Coglianese Photography)

Forum Racing LLC's Birdatthewire (Summer Bird) suffered a tough neck loss in the Davona Dale S. (G2) last out on February 21, but regained the winning thread on Saturday when scoring by 1 1/4 lengths in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2).

"It feels great. We're elated," Tom Camp of Forum Racing said. "We're looking forward to Kentucky. We want to make sure the horse came out of this OK, but it's a great feeling. Our group is excited."

The Dale Romans pupil didn't have an easy time of it, settling in the rear of the field early from her far outside post and steadied from the seven-eighths to the three-quarter pole by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Nonetheless, the bay miss ran down Eskenformoney (Eskendereya) to complete 1 1/16 miles on the fast dirt in 1:47 2/5.

In the process, Birdatthewire earned 100 points for a spot in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) starting gate on May 1 as well as rewarded her backers with $5.40 as the 8-5 favorite on Saturday.

"That was so impressive. These were good fillies. I think they're the best that we have out right now," Romans said. "She was stopped all the way on the backside, and just to overcome that adversity like that takes a special horse. I don't care where you are or what kind of horse you have. She did it. She overcame everything and came running.

"I was worried down the backside," the trainer admitted. "It looked like (Ortiz) lost his irons. He was standing up trying to pull her up. He said she was just getting so rank with him and wanted to go.

"(Ortiz) said she was too sharp for him, and I think he was worried about the pace. I just told him, 'When we go to the Kentucky Oaks, let's just try to get her to relax.' I'll work on her between now and then and try to get her off the bit a little bit, and she's been so successful here and trained so sharply. We just have to get her to turn off a little bit."

"She got very strong from the first turn to the backside," Ortiz explained. "She's been running sprints, seven-eighths, a mile, but still she was sharp. She was so strong on the backside, I was trying to get her to relax, because she comes from behind -- that's her race. I tried to do my best to wait; she was pulling, but when I asked her to run, she took off. She was ready.

"I wasn't sure she would have energy for the end, but she was. Not too many horses do that. She was much the best today."

Ekati's Phaeton (Tale of Ekati) handed Birdatthewire her loss in the Davona Dale when wiring that one-mile contest, and attempted to pull off the same feat while making her two-turn debut in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. The dark bay filly took command from the start on Saturday and proceeded to set splits of : 23 4/5 and :48 1/5 with Eskenformoney and Devine Aida (Unbridled's Song) staying in close attendance.

The constant pressure took its toll on Ekati's Phaeton, who began fading after three-quarters and eventually was eased in the stretch to be last. Eskenformoney had gained control by this point, but Birdatthewire was closing strong on the far outside. The filly strode on home after wresting command of the race away from Eskenformoney, who took second by three parts of a length over season debuter Danessa Deluxe (Summer Bird). Devine Aida followed by another six lengths. Those latter three earned 40-20-10 points, respectively, for the Kentucky Oaks.

"She looked a little tough on the front end," trainer Bill Kaplan said in regards to his filly, Ekati's Phaeton. "(Jockey Luis Saez) said she pulled up good, and that's the main thing.

"We'll probably go back to sprinting. I think she's a hell of a sprinter. I left it up to him to do whatever he saw fit. He said she was comfortable up there. It looked to me like he had a little bit of hold on her. She's a classy filly."

Birdatthewire now boasts a pair of stakes wins, having opened her sophomore campaign with a 3 1/4-length victory in the Forward Gal S. (G2) on January 24. That was also her first stakes try, as the bay lass closed out her two-year-old season with a maiden win in her fourth career try. Her line now stands at 7-3-2-1 and she's banked $346,010 lifetime.

"She should improve with distance. The farther they go, the better," Romans said. "The tough thing about a horse like that (with her running style), is that you are always going to get in trouble. So it was good to see that she could overcome that adversity. When you have to pass that many horses every time, you're going to have troubled trips."

Bred in Kentucky by Lynn and Kathy Jones, Birdatthewire was purchased for $23,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall yearling. That followed a pair of RNA prices offered for her at Keeneland January ($22,000) and Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July ($37,000).

She is out of the stakes-placed My Limit (Wagon Limit) and comes from the same female family as multiple Grade 2 winner Who's to Pay (Believe It) as well as that one's Grade 2-scoring half-brother, Lights and Music (Majestic Light).

Birdatthewire's fifth dam is a full sister to champion and influential sire Raise a Native (Native Dancer).

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Call Me George upsets New Orleans, gives Graham milestone win

Call Me George scored as the longest shot on the board in the New Orleans Handicap (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

Fair Grounds' leading rider James Graham registered his 2,000th career victory on Saturday when he booted home 22-1 outsider Call Me George (Point Given) in the $400,000 New Orleans H. (G2).

The longest shot in the field of eight, Call Me George rated in fourth early as Go Go Rocket (Tapit) set splits of :23 2/5 and :47 2/5. He was passed around the far turn by second choice Albano (Istan) and 6-5 favorite Moreno (Ghostzapper), who then dueled with each other for much of the stretch run.

Albano was up a head through six furlongs in 1:11 1/5, and Moreno's bid for the lead was momentarily stifled after swinging wide in the stretch. Moreno eventually opened up a length on that rival passing the furlong pole, but began to stagger after wide journeys around both turns. Still six lengths back with an eighth to go, Call Me George proved to have the freshest legs as he surged late to win by a half-length.

Completing 1 1/8 miles over a fast track in 1:51, Call Me George returned $46.40 to win.

"We were certainly hoping for a good effort," said Grant Forster, who trains the five-year-old for Clint Joiner, Matthew Bond, and Jim Curry. "That was just the epitome of a James Graham ride, giving 110 percent on every mount. Call Me George is a funny horse, he has a ton of personality. The harder you ride him, the harder he runs."

Not only was Moreno passed by Call Me George, he also lost second to a re-rallying Albano, who nipped the favorite for place honors by a head. Moreno was followed by Afford (Street Sense), Red Rifle (Giant's Causeway), One King's Man (K One King), Indycott (A.P. Indy), and Go Go Rocket. Mystery Train (Not for Sale) was scratched.

A former claimer, Call Me George had placed twice in four previous stakes appearances. His two best efforts came last fall in the Homecoming Classic at Churchill Downs and the Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2), finishing third in both. He entered the New Orleans off a third-place effort in a March 1 allowance at Fair Grounds, where he finished behind Afford and Go Go Rocket. His record now stands at 23-6-3-6, $415,621.

Bred in Kentucky by Margaux Farm and Barry Irwin, Call Me George was reared by multiple stakes winner Sassy Chimes (Chimes Band). This female line has also produced multiple Grade 1 winner Hollywood Story (Wild Rush), Grade 2 scorer Seattle Fitz (Fitzcarraldo), and 1971 Kentucky Oaks winner Silent Beauty (Creme Dela Creme).

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Chocolate Ride keeps rolling on Fair Grounds turf in Muniz

Chocolate Ride has rapidly improved since moving to the Fair Grounds' turf  (Alexander Barkoff/Hodges Photography)

John Wentworth's Chocolate Ride (Candy Ride) continued his winning ways in Saturday's $291,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial (G2), establishing a new course mark while posting his third straight victory on the Fair Grounds turf with a wire-to-wire score. With Joe Talamo up for the first time, the Brad Cox-trained gelding repulsed the late bid of 9-5 favorite Slumber (Cacique) to win the about 1 1/8-mile affair by a half-length.

"I really appreciate the opportunity today," Talamo said. "What a nice horse -- he did everything so nice, relaxed on the front end, and really held those two horses off. He was relaxed and I had a lot of horse left."

A $260,000 yearling purchase at the 2011 Keeneland September sale, Chocolate Ride did not break his maiden until making his third lifetime start on Woodbine's turf last August. He wound up dropping into the claiming ranks last fall for previous trainer Mark Casse and was haltered by his present connections for a $40,000 tag at Churchill Downs in late November.

Chocolate Ride finished second when making his first outing for Cox in an entry-level Fair Grounds allowance in December. The five-year-old broke through with a front-running victory at the same level two starts later on February 7 and followed with a 13-1 upset tally in his stakes debut last time, the February 21 Fair Grounds H. (G3), leading wire to wire for a 1 3/4-length decision.

"He has just been getting better every single day we've had him here," assistant trainer Ricky Giannini said. "Being able to work him on the turf here has just pushed him to the next level.

"Working on the turf really helped his feet and his soundness and helped him in the right direction. He has been steadily improving -- we saw it in the Fair Grounds Handicap and he showed it again today."

Talamo sent his mount to the lead from his rail post and Chocolate Ride led by about a length through opening splits in :24, :48 1/5 and 1:11 3/5. He responded well when roused in upper stretch and gamely held all the way to the wire, stopping the teletimer in a stellar 1:48.18.

Off as the 4-1 fourth choice among six rivals, the bay Chocolate Ride returned a $10.60 win mutuel.

"This is the first thoroughbred I've ever owned," an exuberant Wentworth said. "I can't believe it."

Slumber remained winless in U.S. stakes races, recording his fifth placing after winding up a half-length better than third-placer Paroled (Flatter).

Bred by Brian Kahn in Kentucky, Chocolate Ride sold for $260,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. He is a half-brother to Grade 1 queen Killer Graces (Congaree) and their dam, the winning Heatherdoesntbluff (Old Trieste), is also responsible for the multiple stakes-placed Rockin Heather (In Excess).

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Lady Lara fashionably on time in Honey Fox

Lady Lara opened her four-year-old campaign by nabbing Sandiva (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Swettenham Stud's Lady Lara (Excellent Art) burst from the pack to collar Sandiva (Footstepsinthesand) in deep stretch of Saturday's $300,000 Honey Fox S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park. Under Junior Alvarado, who flew in expressly for this ride, the Bill Mott filly paid $11.60 as the 9-2 third choice.

Lady Lara was reserved in the latter part of the field as Istanford (Istan) took up her customary front-running role through splits of :23 2/5, :47 1/5 and 1:10 3/5 on the firm turf. The 5-2 Sandiva made her move swinging for home and tried to establish an insurmountable advantage, but Lady Lara was getting a dream run amid rivals. Quickening smartly, she defeated Sandiva by three-quarters of a length in a final time of 1:34 for the grassy mile.

Coffee Clique (Medaglia d'Oro), the 2-1 favorite, was third in her first race since capturing the Just a Game (G1) last June. Baffle Me (First Samurai) checked in fourth, while Istanford faded to last of nine.

Lady Lara's first graded win advanced her line to 16-4-3-3, $458,504. Originally campaigned in England, the bay was third in the 2013 May Hill (Eng-G2) for trainer Alan Jarvis. After his son, Tim, took over the yard, Lady Lara went on to place in the 2014 Michael Seely Memorial, Dick Hern Fillies' S. and the Strensall (Eng-G3) versus older males before scoring a breakthrough in the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Newbury.

Lady Lara then joined Mott and made her U.S. debut a winning one in last October's Pebbles S. at Belmont. Subsequently a troubled second in the November 15 Mrs. Revere (G2) at Churchill Downs, she was put away for the winter. The Honey Fox marked a triumphant four-year-old bow.

"The first time I rode her at Belmont, I could definitely tell that she had a lot of class and she could compete with good fillies in the United States," Alvarado said. "Today, she was the main reason for me to come here. We had a good trip and I saved all the ground that I could. As soon as we got to the five-sixteenths pole, I asked her, and she was there for me."

"She was a little bit more (forward today)," said assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy, who was on hand while Mott was in Dubai with World Cup (UAE-G1) third Lea (First Samurai). "I don't know if that was being fresh coming off the layoff or whatever, but she certainly had herself a little closer than maybe that we thought she would be. Equally I think she was in a good spot. I was impressed.

"Even Junior said he was sitting there just waiting for the gaps to open. He said that he knew that once they did, she would kick in. That's her M.O., it seems, to come fast at the end. Her first race for us she ran huge. In her race in November at Churchill there was soft ground that she might not have loved, but still ran a great race. She's had the winter down here at Payson Park, came in today, and looked really good." 

Bred by Shanty Syndicate in Ireland, Lady Lara was a $246,127 RNA at the 2013 Tattersalls Autumn Horses in Training Sale. She was produced by the Selkirk mare Shanty, who is a full sister to Group 3-placed stakes victor Edinburgh Knight and a half-sister to multiple stakes queen Nightbird (Night Shift). This is the extended family of classic winners Footstepsinthesand (Giant's Causeway) and Power (Oasis Dream).

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Commissioner prevails in Skip Away stretch duel

Classic-placed Commissioner belated captured his first stakes in the Skip Away (Adam Coglianese Photography)

Commissioner (A.P. Indy), who just missed winning last year's Belmont S. (G1), earned his first career stakes win on Saturday at Gulfstream Park when holding off a game Sr. Quisqueyano (Exclusive Quality) by a neck in the $150,000 Skip Away (G3).

Ridden by Javier Castellano, WinStar Farm's homebred four-year-old colt tracked in second behind Sr. Quisqueyano, who set fractions of :24 1/5, :48 2/5, and 1:13 4/5. Making his bid around the far turn, Commissioner was unable to get past his speedy rival and had to work the length of the stretch to get by.

The 7-5 favorite in a field of six, Commissioner paid $4.80 after completing 1 3/16 miles on a fast track was 1:58 3/5.

"We knew Sr. Quisqueyano is a tough horse to get by," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "Javier gave him a good ride. This horse has been knocking on the door for a while. We're happy to get a graded stakes with him, so that he could have a spot in the WinStar stallion barn. These A.P. Indys, we know they just get better with age. We'll probably point to the Brooklyn ([G2] at Belmont on June 6), the only question is whether we run before that or not."

Encryption (Exchange Rate) finished third, 7 1/4 lengths behind Sr. Quisqueyano. Completing the order of finish were East Hall (Graeme Hall), Ulanbator (Offlee Wild), and Tryer (Scorpion).

In addition to his effort in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, which he lost by a head to Tonalist (Tapit), Commissioner also placed in the Peter Pan (G2) and Sunland Derby (G3) last season. Unraced from the June 7 Belmont until January 10 this year, he started his campaign with a third-place finish behind Ulanbator in an allowance, and was most recently sixth in the Donn H. (G1) on February 7. His record now stands at 11-3-3-2, $617,237.

The Kentucky-bred Commissioner was produced by multiple stakes winner Flaming Heart (Touch Gold), who has also produced the Grade 3-winning Laugh Track (Distorted Humor). Also hailing from this extended family are Grade scorers Medicine Woman (Dr. Blum) and Blumin Affair (Dynaformer).

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War Correspondent registers first stakes tally in Appleton

War Correspondent closed fast to nail Aripeka (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photo)

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' War Correspondent (War Front) rallied to catch pacesetter Aripenka (Bernstein) in deep stretch and posted his first stakes victory in Saturday's $150,000 Appleton (G3) at Gulfstream Park. John Velazquez was up on the lightly-raced five-year-old for Christophe Clement.

A two-time winner in France, War Correspondent returned from a 13 1/2-month layoff to capture his U.S. debut over allowance/optional claiming foes at Monmouth Park last September. The bay horse followed with a neck second in the Autumn (G2) at Woodbine in early November and received a three-month freshening in advance of a third-place showing in the February 7 Gulfstream Park H. (G1).

Favored at 6-5 in his fourth start stateside, War Correspondent returned a $4.40 win mutuel and increased his earnings to $225,182 from a 8-4-2-2 record.

"He's improved with every race," Clement said. "He's a very consistent horse. He's fun to train. We've been lucky in this race before, which is nice. We'll go back to New York with him, we'll see how he comes out of this before we make any plans."

Aripeka flashed forward at the start to show the way narrowly over a pressing Escaper (Exchange Rate), establishing splits in :23 4/5, :47 4/5 and 1:11 1/5 as the 7-1 fourth choice. War Correspondent broke well and always raced within striking range, stalking the action in fourth along the inside during the early stages.

The pacesetter threatened to steal it while shrugging off Escaper at the head of the stretch, but War Correspondent angled off the rail leaving the far turn and gradually wore down his game foe, getting up in the final strides to score by a neck. He completed a mile in 1:34 4/5 on the firm turf.

"It seemed like he was getting there little by little, but once I got to the sixteenth pole, I was almost sure that I'd get there," Velazquez said. "I talked to (Clement) before the race and he said, 'Do what you want, put him where you are comfortable.' He said he could come from behind or run close to the pace.

"I thought I would try to put him a little closer to the pace. I watched the replay of his last race and it looked like it took him a little while to get going. I think by being a little bit closer I wouldn't have to work as hard to get there today."

"I think he got a great ride from Johnny," Clement added. "I wasn't sure he was going to get there. I guess that's the reason Johnny is a Hall of Fame jockey."

Aripeka held second by about a length over the late-running Grand Tito (Candy Ride) in third.

Bred in Kentucky by Joseph Allen, War Correspondent is out of the Rahy mare Tempo West, who has also produced Grade 2 winner Vertiformer (Dynaformer) and is a half-sister to Tempo (Gone West), the dam of 2012 Belmont Stakes (G1) heroUnion Rags (Dixie Union). This classy female family contains many stakes winners.

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Imagining takes off late in Pan American

Imagining snapped a five-race losing streak (Adam Coglianese Photography)
Phipps Stable's homebred Imagining (Giant's Causeway) challenged even-money favorite Twilight Eclipse (Purim) on the far turn and subdued him after a stretch tussle in Saturday's $150,000 Pan American (G3) at Gulfstream Park. The 5-2 second choice, Imagining forged three-quarters of a length ahead while negotiating 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf in 2:26 1/5.

The Shug McGaughey-trained seven-year-old was ridden for the first time by Irad Ortiz Jr., who settled him in midpack early. In contrast, Twilight Eclipse was stalking longshot Change of Command (Gators n Bears) through splits of :25, :49 3/5, 1:14 1/5 and 1:38 4/5. Ortiz moved Imagining up nearing the far turn, and as Change of Command backed out, that left the two market leaders to battle it out. Imagining proved the stronger, upping his mark to 22-9-5-1, $1,095,394, and returning $7.40 to win.

Pyrite Mountain (Silent Name), forwardly placed early, came again late and missed catching Twilight Eclipse for second by a head. Artic North (North Light) rounded out the superfecta, Change of Command retreated to eighth, and Glenard (Arch) was a disappointing last of nine.

Imagining was earning his fifth career stakes victory, having already accounted for last year's Man o' War (G1) as well as the 2013 Red Smith H. (G3), Bowl Game at Belmont and Idle Rich at Saratoga. The chestnut claims a quartet of stakes placings, all in Grade 1s -- the 2011 Hollywood Derby and the 2014 Sword Dancer Invitational, Gulfstream Park Turf H. and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic S. Seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1) at Santa Anita to conclude the year, he was most recently a troubled eighth in the Gulfstream Park Turf February 7.

"I'm very pleased," McGaughey said of the Pan American. "It had been a little while since he'd won. I could maybe attribute a little bit of that to the Sword Dancer last summer, when he ran against Main Sequence (Aldebaran). I think he left it all out there that day.

"I liked the way he got on his toes in the paddock today, and I thought Irad rode a terrific race on him. I thought maybe if he broke good, he might be stalking the horse that was on the lead, but Twilight Eclipse and some of them wanted to go to, so (Ortiz) just kind of got him and left him down in there, and he got relaxed with him, and then he swung him to the outside, and it was a great race from the three-eighths pole to the wire. It was two very, very good horses running together, so I was very pleased.

"We're just tickled to death with his efforts. Sometimes, when they get to be seven years old, you get to wondering, 'Are they still there?' But he showed me today that he still was.

"As a trainer, you always wonder, and I was wondering today, 'Well, does he really want to run 1 1/2 miles? Maybe I have to back him up a little bit.' But he still does. We'll keep him in the longer races and just try to have some fun with him this summer."

The Kentucky-bred is a half-brother to multiple stakes-placed Reflecting (Elusive Quality), third in the January 31 H. Allen Jerkens over this course in his latest. They are out of Grade 2 queen Daydreaming (A.P. Indy), a full sister to Grade 1 victor Girolamo; Supercharger, the dam of 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) hero Super Saver (Maria's Mon); and She's a Winner, dam of Grade 1-winning millionaire and dual classic-placed Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat).

Imagining's second dam, Grade 3 scorer Get Lucky (Mr. Prospector), is a full sister to champion Rhythm. His third dam, Dance Number (Northern Dancer), is a Grade 1-winning daughter of champion and influential matron Numbered Account (Buckpasser).

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Beauty Parlor dons the Orchid

Beauty Parlor inherited stamina from her dam, Moon Queen, who was also trained by Christophe Clement (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)
Trainer Christophe Clement might have lost his top staying mare, Irish Mission, to retirement, but he looks to have a fine replacement in Joseph Allen's homebred Beauty Parlor (Elusive Quality). The French stakes heroine commenced her U.S. career on a winning note in Saturday's $150,000 Orchid S. (G3), holding off stablemate Tabreed (Sakhee) by a half-length in all-Clement exacta.

"I think we've been lucky a few times in this race," Clement said with tactful understatement, since he was winning the turf feature for the seventh time.

With a textbook stalk and pounce trip engineered by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Beauty Parlor was perched in second off fractions of :24 4/5, :48 4/5, 1:14 and 1:38 3/5 set by surprising pacesetter Photo Call (Galileo). The 6-1 chance overtook Photo Call down the stretch and kept finding more to complete 1 1/2 firm-turf miles at Gulfstream Park in 2:26 4/5.

"It worked out pretty good," Velazquez said. "The only thing was she didn't break really good. We thought she'd be pretty sharp out of there. We had to hold her for a long time. She really kicked in. Christophe (Clement) said she might get to waiting a little bit (once in front) and she did. But she had enough to fight on."

Kitten's Point (Kitten's Joy) finished third, and White Rose (Tapit) closed late for fourth. Riposte (Dansili), the 6-5 favorite, broke through the gate prior to the start, continued to act up during the re-loading process, and never threatened in fifth. Photo Call tired to sixth of nine.

Beauty Parlor, worth $14.60 to her backers, was the second graded winner on the Florida Derby (G1) undercard for her connections. Clement previously sent out the Appleton (G3) winner, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners' War Correspondent (War Front), who was bred by Allen.

"I'm delighted. She won for owner-breeder Joe Allen," Clement said. "He's a great man, very successful. He was involved in the past with a horse called War Front. He brought the filly back from France. She had trained well.

"I had a small question mark if she would stay the distance, but (her dam) Moon Queen won The Very One (G3) for us several years ago (in 2002), and I guess the daughter is as good as the dam. Life is good."

Initially trained by Jean-Claude Rouget in France, Beauty Parlor raced mostly in the provinces and capped her career with a victory in the Prix Occitanie at Bordeaux Le Bouscat last September. Her second consecutive stakes score, in this graded debut, boosted her bankroll to $196,570 from her 8-4-2-1 line.

"I will talk to Mr. Allen, but this filly could go to either the Sheepshead Bay ([G2] on May 2 at Belmont Park) or the Bewitch ([G3] at Keeneland April 24). The Sheepshead Bay is in New York, so that makes a lot of sense."

Clement revealed that Tabreed will now begin her broodmare career.

"Tabreed finished second to another horse in the stable. I'm sorry for that, but she ran a very good race," the trainer said. "She will be retired to go to WinStar Farm and be bred to More Than Ready."

The Kentucky-bred Beauty Parlor is a half-sister to French stakes winner and U.S. stakes-placed The Brothers War (War Front) as well as the French stakes-placed duo of Brooklyn Boy (Gone West) and Sound of Summer (Fusaichi Pegasus). Their dam, Group 2 vixen Moon Queen (Sadler's Wells), is herself a full sister to Group 2-placed stakes winner Rostropovich. Beauty Parlor's second dam is Grade 1 star and noted producer Infamy (Shirley Heights).

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Sky Kingdom rules Tokyo City Cup

Sky Kingdom got back to his winning ways on Saturday in the Tokyo City Cup (Benoit Photos)

Westrock Stables LLC's Sky Kingdom (Empire Maker) tracked in second during the early part of Saturday's marathon $100,250 Tokyo City Cup (G3) at Santa Anita Park, then asserted his class and easily drew off to win by 5 3/4 lengths under jockey Martin Garcia.

The six-year-old bay ran 1 1/2 miles on the fast main track in 2:28 4/5 to return $7.60 to his faithful backers as the 5-2 second choice. Bronzo (Fusaichi Pegasus), the 3-5 favorite, gave chase in the stretch but just could not reel in Sky Kingdom and was forced to settle for third behind Bailoutbobby (Mizzen Mast).

"They gave him a break (and) he runs well after some time off," Garcia said. "He loves this track and he loves this distance; the farther the better for him. He has a long stride and these longer races just make him happy."

Trained by Bob Baffert, Sky Kingdom earned his first win here since taking the American Flag S. last July in track record time at Los Alamitos. That came in his 2014 debut and was followed by a runner-up effort in the Cougar II H. (G3), his second straight after filling that same spot in 2013. He also captured the Tokyo City Cup in 2013, but skipped last year's running when not getting his campaign starting until summer.

Bred in Kentucky by Jim J. FitzGerald, Sky Kingdom sold for $180,000 as a Keeneland November weanling. He's more than earned that back, showing career earnings of $472,122 to go along with a 19-6-2-2 lifetime mark.

"He hadn't run since (finishing fourth in) the mile and three-quarters race on Breeders' Cup day (the Marathon S. [G2]), but it was a ridiculous pace that day, because they went so fast early," assistant trainer Jim Barnes said. "This horse runs well fresh and this was a good spot for him. They had sensible fractions and that was good.

"The final time was good; they picked it up, and Martin (Garcia) had to move on him a little early passing the five and four-and-half (marker), he started letting him run. He did an excellent job riding him and we couldn't be happier."

Sky Kingdom is the first registered foal out of Sky Beam (Kingmambo), who is a full sister to Grade 1-placed stakes winner Mambo in Seattle. The bay's third dam is Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise (Secretariaty), who produced Horse of the Year A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) and classic hero Summer Squall (Storm Squall), both breed-defining sires, as well as Grade 3 winner Welcome Surprise (Seeking the Gold). Weekend Surprise is also the granddam of multiple Grade 1-winning multi-millionaire Court Vision (Gulch).

Sky Kingdom's fourth dam is the blue-hen mare Lassie Dear, from whom is descended the likes of Lemon Drop Kid and Duke of Marmalade, just to name two.

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Racing Headlines

Prince Bishop rules Dubai World Cup; California Chrome second

Prince Bishop was overlooked at 17-1 in his fourth World Cup try (Neville Hopwood/Dubai Racing Club)
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum's Prince Bishop (Dubawi) sprang a 17-1 upset over 4-5 favorite California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) in Saturday's $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). Succeeding in his fourth crack at the world's richest race, the eight-year-old gelding rallied from the back of the pack to prevail by 2 3/4 lengths in a track-record 2:03.24 for about 1 1/4 miles on Meydan's new dirt.

Prince Bishop handed trainer Saeed bin Suroor his seventh World Cup win. Jockey William Buick, a new addition to the Godolphin riding ranks this season, was scoring a memorable first victory in Meydan's signature event.

"I can't believe it. This is surreal," Buick said.

"I don't go numb very often but I can't explain what I'm feeling right now.

"Saeed and the whole team had a lot of faith in (Prince Bishop) going into the race today. He has a very unorthodox way of racing, so I took him out of the kickback in the back, and when I got onto California Chrome's tail, he picked up the bridle and listen, he ran on well in the end.

"He likes the surface now that he has the experience. He is better than he was. This is just nuts."

"It's a great result," said bin Suroor, who also sent out defending champion African Story (Pivotal) to finish sixth. "I knew the horse had the class to win this race. Some horses improve with age, and it's great to see him win. This is great for me and for everybody here."

U.S. Horse of the Year California Chrome was an honorable second after chasing the pace wide throughout, finishing 1 1/4 lengths clear of fellow American Lea (First Samurai).

Jockey Victor Espinoza hailed California Chrome's performance as "awesome."

"It seemed like the other horses were bumping me around in there on the first turn and then on the far turn," Espinoza said. "He kind of lost his stride a little bit on the (home) turn because the horse on the inside (pacesetter Hokko Tarumae [King Kamehameha]) pushed me out. That kind of took some of the air out of his lungs."

Co-owner/breeder Steve Coburn hugged Espinoza and kissed California Chrome on the nose as his voice choked with tears, saying: "You ran your eyeballs out. You are still America's horse."

"I am very proud," Coburn said. "To send our horse halfway around the world to train on a track that he's not familiar with and to run that good, I'm very pleased.

"These horses over here are tough. They get to train on this track all the time. Sheikh Mohammad invited us to come over because he loves and believes in our horse. To run second behind one of his is a pretty good day."

Trainer Art Sherman likewise appreciated California Chrome's effort.

"Second money is not bad at all," Sherman said. "He ran his eyeballs out. He was right there in contention all the way. He lost a little bit of ground but no excuses.

"Turning for home he had an equal chance. Just was second best today. That's what happens in this game. The horse you think is going to win doesn't always."

Lea wasn't entirely happy during his ground-saving trip, according to jockey Joel Rosario.

"He ran his race -- it was a very good race," Rosario said. "He was always there for me, every time I asked him. I was on the inside and he didn't like to be there. He kept trying and going. When I turned for home, if I had a little room, I think I could have been second."

Candy Boy (Candy Ride) was fourth in his first outing for new connections, owner Ramzan Kadyrov and trainer Doug Watson. Hokko Tarumae retreated to fifth, while the other Japanese hope, Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S), was all at sea in his dirt debut and trailed the field in ninth.

Prince Bishop has now amassed $7,061,723 from a record of 28-11-3-3. Victorious in the 2010 Prix du Conseil de Paris (Fr-G2) and Prix du Prince d'Orange (Fr-G3), he later prospered on synthetic. He scored a trio of stakes wins over Kempton's Polytrack -- the 2011 Floodlit S. as well as the last two runnings of the September S. (Eng-G3). Prince Bishop also won two legs of the Maktoum Challenge on Meydan's Tapeta in 2014, Round 2 (UAE-G2) and Round 3 (UAE-G1). Despite his synthetic proficiency, the chestnut gelding had failed in all three World Cup tries, winding up 10th to Victoire Pisa in 2011, seventh to Monterosso in 2012 and ninth to African Story a year ago.

Second as the defending champion in the same two Maktoum Challenge races this term on dirt, Prince Bishop missed to Frankyfourfingers (Sunday Break) in a track record-setting Round 2 and to African Story in Round 3. But he looked like a new horse in his third attempt on dirt.

Prince Bishop was bred by Thurso Ltd. in Ireland and sold for $172,838 as a weanling at Tattersalls December. He is out of the Prospect Bay mare North East Bay, a half-sister to Grade 2 winner Blingo (Artie Schiller), from the further family of Group 2 hero and classic-placed Most Welcome (Be My Guest) and 1983 Derby (Eng-G1) star and English/French champion Teenoso (Youth).

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Kentucky Derby contender Mubtaahij dominates U.A.E. Derby

Mubtaahij was a head away from sweeping the U.A.E. Triple Crown (Neville Hopwood/Dubai Racing Club)
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's Mubtaahij (Dubawi) confirmed his spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with an eight-length conquest of Saturday's $2 million U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) at Meydan. Confidently handled by Christophe Soumillon, the favorite cruised from just off the pace to finish about 1 3/16 miles in 1:58 1/5 and pocketed 100 Derby points -- which trainer Mike de Kock is eager to use.

De Kock was winning this race for the sixth time, but his previous five were all Southern Hemisphere-breds. As an Irish-bred son of Dubawi (who also sired Saturday's Dubai World Cup [UAE-G1] winner Prince Bishop), Mubtaahij is the first to give the South African horseman a shot at the Run for the Roses.

"I was just behind the leaders and the pace was good, so I followed it into the straight," Soumillon said. "I was going very easily and as soon as I pressed the button it was all over. In the end, I kept some energy for the future, especially if he goes to the Kentucky Derby."

Godolphin's Maftool (Hard Spun), also nominated to the U.S. Triple Crown, got up for second to take home 40 points toward the Kentucky Derby.

"He was a bit naughty in the gate," jockey Paul Hanagan said of Maftool. "He didn't jump and that was the start of it. He was never traveling at any stage. He stays, I just wish he could have helped me more."

Another three-quarters of a length back in third came Japan's Golden Barows (Tapit). Godolphin's other runner, Sir Fever (Texas Fever), wound up sixth after a slow start and early trouble. The lone American representative, My Johnny Be Good (Colonel John), reported home ninth of 10.

Now the winner of two-thirds of the U.A.E. Triple Crown, Mubtaahij has progressed in each leg. He was just outdueled by Maftool in the U.A.E. Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-G3) at a metric mile, but relished the added ground of the about 1 3/16-mile Al Bastakiya to roll by 2 1/2 lengths, and was even more impressive on Saturday.

Mubtaahij now sports a mark of 7-4-1-0, $1,461,335. Unplaced in his first two appearances on the turf at Newmarket last fall, he has blossomed on the dirt in Dubai. The bay set track records here when breaking his maiden versus older horses December 31 and in the Guineas trial January 15, his prep for the first classic.

Bred by Dunmore Stud Ltd. in Ireland, Mubtaahij was a $599,445 Arqana August yearling. He was produced by the Pennekamp mare Pennegale, who is also responsible for European co-champion filly Lily of the Valley (Galileo) and multiple French stakes scorer Calbuco (Kendor).

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Dolniya upends favorites in Sheema Classic

Dolniya earned her first Group 1 score against an all-star cast (Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)
The Aga Khan's homebred Dolniya (Azamour) turned out to be best suited of all by Saturday's tactical renewal of the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1) at Meydan. Dual Eclipse Award winner Main Sequence (Aldebaran), however, reported home seventh of nine.

Trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre said beforehand that Dolniya was much improved since last year, and the four-year-old filly duly illustrated the point. After tracking the early pace set by Just the Judge (Lawman), jockey Christophe Soumillon gave Dolniya her cue. She skipped clear of her pursuers en route to a 2 1/4-length decision, completing about 1 1/2 miles on the good turf in 2:28 1/5.

"She was in very good form," said Soumillon, who was celebrating a double after piloting Mubtaahij (Dubawi) in the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2). "The pace suited us. I was a bit scared before the race that the pace would be slow, so I came out of the gates fast in case I needed to make the running.

"But finally the pace was good and it helped a lot, because every time in France there is no pace and she has a long acceleration."

Flintshire (Dansili), who had finished a hard-charging second to Dolniya in their March 3 prep over Chantilly's Polytrack, didn't get that close on Saturday but still took second in a French exacta.

"I was just behind the leaders and coming into the straight I was able to follow the winner," jockey Maxime Guyon said. "He ran really well in the straight, but unfortunately he could never catch the winner. He met a really good filly."

Japanese Derby (Jpn-G1) winner One and Only (Heart's Cry) was third. Hong Kong Horse of the Year Designs on Rome (Holy Roman Emperor) was at a disadvantage throughout when anchoring the field, but closed strongly for fourth.

Main Sequence appeared to work his way into a good striking spot for Rajiv Maragh, only to come up empty down the lane.

"A little disappointing because he didn't come with his usual run," Maragh said. "I was really happy that he put me up there really easily and I felt like I was in position coming off the turn to make a good run, but unfortunately it just didn't pan out today."

Japanese champion Harp Star (Deep Impact) was a no-show in eighth, beating one horse in True Story (Manduro).

Dolniya's resume now reads 8-5-1-1, $4,040,944. The bay won three straight last spring and summer, including the Prix Melisande and Prix de Malleret (Fr-G2), before tackling Group 1 company. A fine third in the Prix Vermeille (Fr-G1), she was fifth to Treve (Motivator) and Flintshire in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-G1) in her 2014 finale.

The French-bred filly is out of Daltama, an Indian Ridge half-sister to multiple highweight and Eclipse Award champion Daylami (Doyoun) and European Horse of the Year Dalakhani (Darshaan). Also close up in the family is French highweight older mare Dalkala (Giant's Causeway).

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Secret Circle all heart to take Golden Shaheen

Secret Circle (right) stuck his neck out to preserve the victory over Super Jockey (Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)
Michael Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman's Secret Circle (Eddington) ensured that there was one American winner on Meydan's new dirt, but the classy sprinter had to call on all of his reserves of courage to hold on in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1).

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and well handled by Victor Espinoza, the two-time Breeders' Cup winner pressed the pace, took the lead, and kept his head in front of Hong Kong's rallying Super Jockey (Sandtrap) at the line. Secret Circle sped about six furlongs in 1:10.64, setting a new track record.

"What a thrill!" Espinoza enthused. "He jumped well and we swung a little wide on the pace with the two Hong Kong horses (Lucky Nine [Dubawi] and Rich Tapestry [Holy Roman Emperor] on the rail) inside me.

"The pace was good but we weren't going too fast. Then he gave me a good kick at the top of the stretch and from that point I always felt we were going to do enough to win.

"The second horse came at us strongly, but my guy battled real hard.

"He had the best American form in the race, running so well in Breeders' Cups in the past, and now he has done the same here. He's just a top-class sprinter. He's really tough and he just wants to win."

Rich Tapestry crossed the wire a further 1 1/4 lengths back in third, followed by Singapore's El Padrino (Mr Nancho). Big Macher (Beau Genius) missed the start, but closed well for fifth. The other American contender, Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge), was a non-threatening eighth. Lucky Nine gave way badly and checked in 11th of 13.

Secret Circle advanced his scorecard to 16-8-6-1, $3,670,790. Unbeaten as a juvenile, the bay captured the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint after a romp in the Jack Goodman S. He was given a chance on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail and performed well, although with evidence of distance limitations. Secret Circle was denied in his two-turn debut in the 2012 Sham (G3), but successfully carried his speed around a route of ground in the Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn.

Sidelined following a distant second to stablemate Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby (G1), Secret Circle resurfaced as a sprinter in the fall of 2013. He scored in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1), but was off again after an upset loss in the 2014 Palos Verdes (G2). He was third in his comeback in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1), and improved to finish second as the defending champion in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Secret Circle then lost his way a bit as a weary second in the Cigar Mile (G1), and an uncharacteristic fourth -- his only unplaced effort -- in the Midnight Lute (G3). A much better runner-up effort last time in the January 31 Palos Verdes presaged the six-year-old's return to top form here.

Secret Circle was bred by Willmott Stables in Kentucky. A $17,000 RNA at Keeneland September, he commanded $165,000 as an OBS March two-year-old. His dam, multiple stakes scorer Ragtime Hope (Dixieland Band), is a half-sister to Grade 3 victress Really Polish (Polish Numbers).

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Solow vaults to international stardom in Dubai Turf

Maxime Guyon got the party started early (Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)
Although Saturday's $6 million Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) lost two of its marquee names with career-ending injuries to Vercingetorix and Hunter's Light, the about nine-furlong turf test produced a rising star in Wertheimer & Frere's homebred Solow (Singspiel).

The late bloomer fully justified trainer Freddy Head's faith in him by drawing off as much the best in his first Group 1 foray, and extending his winning streak to five. A commanding 4 1/4 lengths clear of multiple Group 1 winner The Grey Gatsby (Mastercraftsman) at the line, Solow clocked a sharp 1:47 3/5 on the good course.

"I can't tell you how good this horse is -- he is a world champion," Head said. "He can quicken and do anything you ask of him.

"But this was a big test, as it was his first Group 1 race. But I couldn't have had him better and he showed what a good horse he is. Maxime Guyon rode him perfectly, very quiet, very cool. This is my first winner in Dubai, it's fabulous. He is one of the best I have trained."

"That was unbelievable," Guyon said. "We thought coming here that he was a very good horse and he was very easy to ride.

"Good horses make this job easy. This is my first Group 1 in Dubai so this win is an honor. This is my first ride in a Group 1 race since I have been contracted for the owners and it is fabulous to win this.

"I had a great race. Before the race we didn't know if there was pace or not, so the trainer told me if there is no one to go in front, you can go in front. But we went fast and I got a good position and he really had a great turn of foot and won very easily tonight."

Kevin Ryan, trainer of The Grey Gatsby, was happy with the effort off a six-month layoff.

"I was delighted with him. The winner has won well but my horse has run a good race and he'll come on for it," Ryan said. "I'd say we could go on to the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-G1) at the Curragh now, and hopefully then Royal Ascot."

The Todd Pletcher-trained Mshawish was a game third, just three-quarters of a length away, after battling a bruised hoof.

"I feel like we won the race," said, Bradley Weisbord, Al Shaqab's U.S. racing advisor.

"48-72 hours ago everyone was saying it's a tendon, a suspensory (injury). Our vet diagnosed the problem quickly to be a bruised hoof.

"I can't say enough about the team. Nick Bush and Ginny Depasquale lived with this horse 24 hours a day. Coordinated everything with Todd Pletcher by phone.

"We soaked the hoof. No medication. No nothing. Pure horsemanship."

"He was a bit fresh," jockey Frankie Dettori said of Mshawish. "As you know he had three days in the box with a sore foot. He ran on a good third and I'm delighted. Would he have been closer hadn't he been in the box? Yes, second, but I don't think we would have caught the winner."

Euro Charline (Myboycharlie), making her first start since winning the Beverly D. (G1) last August, unexpectedly set the pace and tired to fourth.

"It didn't happen the way we wished it to," jockey Joao Moreira said. "She wound up in front, which was not the best place for her to be, but she jumped so well.

"She put two lengths in front of them going a slow tempo, I just couldn't hold her back and let someone else come across. She's coming back from a long break and ran a huge race.

"If she would have relaxed a little bit more she would have finished a little bit stronger. If we could have taken back and sat in the pocket in fourth she would have had an even better finish."

Solow took a while to develop, partly because of an illness he endured at three. But the five-year-old has now won eight of his last nine, his only loss in this span a sixth when trying about 1 15/16 miles in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier (Fr-G2) last May. Solow has since thrived on the cutback in trip. His current five-race streak includes the Prix Quincey (Fr-G3) and Prix Daniel Wildenstein (Fr-G2) on Arc weekend, and a fluent prep over Chantilly's Polytrack March 3. He has compiled an overall record of 13-8-2-1, $3,933,988.

"This has been a long time coming with this horse," Head said, "but we now have him 100 percent and had to geld him to try to curb his growth as he was getting so big.

"The aim now is to come back and win this race again next year, but before then we will look at the (June 16) Queen Anne (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot."

Bred in Great Britain, Solow is out of the Group 3-placed stayer High Maintenance (Highest Honor). His second dam is Group 2 queen Fabulous Hostess (Fabulous Dancer), from the further family of Group 1 victress Thistle Bird (Selkirk).

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Fifth time's the charm for Sole Power in Al Quoz Sprint

Sole Power gave jockey Richard Hughes a winner on his final World Cup card (Andrew Watkins/Dubai Racing Club)
Ireland's Horse of the Year Sole Power (Kyllachy) had gone winless in eight prior starts over the Meydan turf, including four appearances in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1). But in Saturday's renewal, the Eddie Lynam veteran got the job done under a heady ride by Richard Hughes.

Mrs. Sabena Power's superstar was coming off a troubled 12th in the March 7 Meydan Sprint (UAE-G3). This time, the eight-year-old enjoyed much clearer sailing. Defending champion Amber Sky (Exceed and Excel) blazed the trail, only to be overtaken by fellow Hong Kong shipper Peniaphobia (Dandy Man). But Sole Power went after him and proved too strong in the closing stages. On top by a half-length at the wire, he zipped about five furlongs on good turf in :57 1/5.

"I don't know what Eddie (Lynam) has done to him since, but it worked," joked Hughes, who is due to retire from the saddle at the end of the season and become a trainer himself. "To ride any winner is a good feeling but big ones on this night take some beating."

"He's put his CV up for (top European sprinter) today," Lynam said. "He has just come to himself, and on his day he was always capable of doing this."

The Wesley Ward-trained Green Mask (Mizzen Mast) finished fast toward the far side for third, only a half-length off Peniaphobia. Jockey Frankie Dettori believed that his post position was costly.

"I was drawn 1 whereas the winner was toward the middle (post 7) and the second was over in 16, so he's run a huge race from that gate."

Amber Sky was fourth in his title defense. Distinctiv Passion (With Distinction) tired to 13th of 16, and jockey Edwin Maldonado cited the course condition.

"He was on the pace as we wanted but he found the track a little bit 'slippy' and he tired," Maldonado said of Distinctiv Passion.

Sole Power was notching his fifth career Group 1 tally, following consecutive wins in the last two editions of the King's Stand (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot and the 2010 and 2014 runnings of the Nunthorpe (Eng-G1) at York. The bay has also accounted for the past two renewals of the Palace House (Eng-G3) at Newmarket, the 2011 Temple (Eng-G2) and the 2012 Scarbrough. His 10 stakes placings include the 2011 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, the 2012 Al Quoz and King's Stand, and the 2013 Nunthorpe and Hong Kong Sprint.

Over his 47-race career, Sole Power brandishes an 11-7-6 line and $3,152,654 in earnings.

Bred by G. Russell in Great Britain, Sole Power was purchased by Lynam for $58,448 at the DBS Premier Yearling Sale. He is out of the unraced Distant View mare Demerger, making him a half-brother to Group 3-placed Cornus (Inchinor) and stakes-placed Sotka (Dutch Art).

Plans call for him to seek a three-peat in the June 16 King's Stand.

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Brown Panther outclasses them in Dubai Gold Cup

Richard Kingscote had to look around for the competition (Neville Hopwood/Dubai Racing Club)
English shipper Brown Panther (Shirocco) was much the best on paper going into the $1 million Dubai Gold Cup (UAE-G2), and the Tom Dascombe trainee performed up to his lofty rating with a course record-setting victory on the Meydan turf.

Co-owned by Andrew Black and English soccer star Michael Owen -- who bred the stayer in the name of his Owen Promotions Ltd. -- Brown Panther sat a perfect trip thanks to stable rider Richard Kingscote. The seven-year-old angled in from post 14, lobbed along in second in the early going, and dispatched his rivals with a decisive move on the final turn. Brown Panther galloped home 3 1/4 lengths in front and toured about two miles on the good course in 3:18.84.

"This horse has been unbelievably good to my career and to Tom's (trainer Dascombe)," said Kingscote, who was seriously injured in a spill last November and only recently returned to riding. "He means a lot to me and this is the biggest win of my career so far."

"After 100 meters I was confident this could be our day," Dascombe said, "and really well done to Richard Kingscote. He kept telling me he was fit for the ride after his injury, and although I was a bit skeptical, he's proved his point, and how."

Owen was gracious and self-effacing in victory.

"All I do is sign the checks," Owen said. "There's a massive difference between horse racing, where I can't really have any influence, and football, where at least I could do something about what went on on the field."

Star Empire (Second Empire) edged Ahzeemah (Dubawi) for best of the rest honors, with Havana Beat (Teofilo) fourth.

Brown Panther has now earned $1,706,315 from his 26-11-4-3 resume. His career highlights include victories in last year's Irish St Leger (Ire-G1), Ormonde (Eng-G3) and Henry II (Eng-G3) as well as the 2013 Goodwood Cup (Eng-G2). Runner-up in the 2011 St Leger (Eng-G1), he has also placed in such contests as the 2012 Irish equivalent and last summer's Gold Cup (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot. Brown Panther was rebounding here after a fruitless trip to North America last fall, where he had to be scratched after running off riderless prior to the Canadian International (Can-G1), and then wound up 11th in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1).

Bred in Great Britain, Brown Panther was produced by Group 2-placed stakes heroine Treble Heights (Unfuwain).

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Tamarkuz fights for Godolphin Mile after flubbing start

Tamarkuz (right) had to come from off the pace to extend his winning streak (Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club)
When Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum's Tamarkuz (Speightstown) was slow to move from post 1 in Saturday's $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2), the favorite looked done for, especially considering that his three-race winning streak had all come on the front end. But jockey Paul Hanagan went to Plan B, and Tamarkuz responded to win a nail-biter over Sloane Avenue (Candy Ride).

From the yard of recently crowned U.A.E. champion trainer Musabah al Muhairi, Tamarkuz worked himself into a decent position behind the leading group, and rallied turning for home. He gradually wore down the tiring pacesetter Frankyfourfingers (Sunday Break) and struck the front, only to have Sloane Avenue uncorking a big run wider out. Tamarkuz reached for the wire and made it first by a short head in a final time of 1:36 4/5.

"He's been so good from the stalls lately, but this is such a big day, there's a lot to take in," Hanagan said. "The whole occasion got to him. But he dug in so deeply. I didn't know whether I'd won but when Frankie (Dettori on Sloane Avenue) said, 'Well done,' it made me feel good.

"He was the strongest on the line and it was great winning one of the big races for 'the boss'," Hanagan summed up.

"From stall 15 we almost did the impossible," Dettori said. "I had a clean run and we made the best of it from where I was. We just got outrun and he has run a great race."

Free Wheeling (Ad Valorem) got up for third, and Haatheq (Seeking the Gold) was fourth. Frankyfourfingers was relegated to fifth in deep stretch.

The American shippers Prayer for Relief (Jump Start), Quadrivium (Henrythenavigator) and Bradester (Lion Heart) were out of luck, finishing eighth, 11th and 13th, respectively.

"I had a rough run," Christophe Soumillon said of his passage aboard Prayer for Relief.

Jose Lezcano said of Bradester, "He jumped a step behind. He was caught in traffic and when he got clear, the race was over."

Tamarkuz has been a revelation this Carnival. Since just being touched off by Faulkner (Pivotal) January 8 in his return from a 10-month layoff, the five-year-old has reeled off four consecutive wins, and a pair of track records. He became the first horse to sweep both local preps -- the Firebreak (UAE-G3) and Burj Nahaar (UAE-G3) -- and the Godolphin Mile, improving his record to 13-7-2-0, $964,825.

Bred by John D. Gunther in Kentucky, Tamarkuz went to his current connections for $325,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The chestnut is the first registered foal fro the Lemon Drop Kid mare Without You Babe, an unraced half-sister to multiple Grade 1 star and $1.9 million-earner Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) and classic-placed Andromeda's Hero (Fusaichi Pegasus).

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Dortmund, Prospect Park post final major moves for Santa Anita Derby

Dortmund is looking to bring an unbeaten record into the Kentucky Derby (Benoit Photos)

Grade 1 hero Dortmund (Big Brown) and Prospect Park (Tapit), the respective favorite and likely second choice for next Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1), each had their final major drills Saturday for the West Coast's signature steppingstone to the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 2.

Dortmund, working in company, was given a six-furlong clocking of 1:11 3/5 on Santa Anita's official work tab with regular rider Martin Garcia up. Unraced workmate Jimbo Fallon (Midnight Lute) was given a five-furlong time of :58 4/5.

"I got him in 1:11 and four with a gallop out (for seven furlongs) of (1:)24 and three," trainer Bob Baffert said of the unbeaten Dortmund, winner of all five of his races thus far including the San Felipe S. (G2) on February 7.

Baffert said his other Santa Anita Derby candidate, One Lucky Dane (Lookin at Lucky), who won by 9 3/4 lengths going a mile last Thursday, is scheduled to have one breeze before the race.

Prospect Park, with jockey Alonso Quinonez aboard, turned five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 for trainer Cliff Sise Jr.

"I had him in 1:01 flat," Sise said of the San Felipe runner-up owned and bred by Pam and Marty Wygod. "I got splits of :13 and one, :12 and one, and :11 and four; he came home in :23 and two and galloped out three quarters in (1:)13 and four.

"It was a perfect work. I couldn't have written it any better this morning."

Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White says that barring any last-minute surprises in the entry box, he will make Dortmund an odds-on morning-line favorite for the Santa Anita Derby.

Prospect Park ran well to be second in his stakes bow behind Dortmund (Benoit Photos)

"Based on the current projected field, I'll be making Dortmund a short price on the morning line, probably 4-5 or 3-5," White said. "Not only is Dortmund unbeaten in five starts, he has been odds-on in his last four races. He was 4-5 in a 10-horse field when he won the San Felipe and defeated Prospect Park and Bolo (Temple City). In view of that, I'd say it's a virtual certainty Dortmund will be bet down to odds-on favoritism in the Santa Anita Derby."

Sending out the Santa Anita Derby favorite certainly is not anything new for Baffert.

"Baffert has trained the Santa Anita Derby favorite six times in the past," White noted. "Three of them won (Indian Charlie in 1998, Point Given in 2001 and Pioneerof the Nile in 2009). And while the other three didn't win, they did all hit the board (Prime Timber second in 1999, Lookin at Lucky third in 2010 and Flashback second in 2013).

"In terms of odds-on favorites, Baffert is two-for-three in the Santa Anita Derby. His two odds-on winners were Point Given ($3.40) and Pioneerof the Nile ($3.60). The only odds-on starter from the Baffert barn who didn't win was Lookin at Lucky, who had a troubled trip (as a 4-5 favorite)."

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby are Dortmund, Martin Garcia; Prospect Park, Kent Desormeaux; Grade 2-placed stakes scorer Bolo, Mike Smith; One Lucky Dane, Rafael Bejarano; Grade 3-placed California Derby victor Cross the Line (Line of David), no rider; and Grade 2-placed Bad Read Sanchez (Warrior's Reward), Mario Gutierrez.

In other Santa Anita Derby news, the first 10,000 THOROUGHBREDS members in attendance at Santa Anita on Derby Day will be offered free an exclusive 2015 Santa Anita Derby Day T-shirt while supplies last. First post time for the 11-race program is noon (PDT). Gates open at 10 a.m.

Santa Anita will offer a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pool and a $300,000 guaranteed Pick 6 pool on Santa Anita Derby Day.

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Probables for Wood Memorial Day stakes announced

A field of promising three-year-olds is taking shape for the $1 million Wood Memorial (G1) on April 4 at Aqueduct, led by sensational juvenile Daredevil (More Than Ready).

The 1 1/8-mile Wood, Aqueduct's prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 2, also features a trio of graded stakes on its undercard: the $400,000 Carter H. (G1), the $300,000 Gazelle (G2), and the $300,000 Bay Shore (G3).

Daredevil broke his maiden at first asking in September at Belmont Park before capturing the Champagne (G1) in his second career start for trainer Todd Pletcher. After finishing 11th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) to close out his two-year-old campaign, the chestnut colt rounded back into form in his sophomore debut, finishing second to Ready for Rye (City Zip) in the Swale (G2) at Gulfstream Park.

Pletcher is also likely to saddle Withers (G3) winner Far From Over (Blame). Far From Over overcame a disastrous start in the Withers to prevail by 1 3/4 lengths and remain undefeated.

The horse Far From Over defeated in the Withers, El Kabeir (Scat Daddy), is also probable for the Wood. A John Terranova trainee, El Kabeir has participated in all three local preps for the Wood, with his runner-up finish in the Withers sandwiched between wins in the Jerome (G3) and Gotham (G3).

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is likely to have two entrants: Frosted (Tapit) and either Classy Class (Discreetly Mine) or Ocean Knight (Curlin). Frosted has spent the winter in Florida, where he finished second in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream and fourth in the Fountain of Youth (G2). The colt is already acquainted with the track and configuration of the Wood; as a two-year-old, the Godolphin color-bearer finished second in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2).

Tencendur (Warrior's Reward) and Toasting Master (Congrats) are also probable for the race, while Unrivaled (Super Saver) is under consideration for Team Valor International.

The seven-furlong Carter for older runners is likely to feature a showdown between The Big Beast (Yes It's True), Dads Caps (Discreet Cat), and Clearly Now (Horse Greeley).

As a three-year-old in 2014, The Big Beast made a name for himself at Saratoga, where he thrashed a first-level allowance field before taking the King's Bishop (G1) by a neck. The Tony Dutrow trainee was forced to hit the sidelines following the King's Bishop, but resurfaced on March 1 at Oaklawn Park, promptly recovering his sophomore form with a 1 1/4-length allowance zscore.

Last year's Carter winner, Dads Caps, has had the misfortune of facing world-class sprinter Salutos Amigos (Salute the Sarge) on three separate occasions this winter. In his past two starts, Dads Caps has finished second in the Toboggan (G3) and Tom Fool H. (G3), both behind Salutos Amigos.

Trained by Brian Lynch, Clearly Now has not run since finishing eighth in the Forego (G1) in late August at Saratoga. One start prior, he set a track record at Belmont Park, blitzing seven furlongs in 1:19.96 in the Belmont Sprint Championship (G3).

The winner of the General George H. (G3) on February 16 at Laurel, Misconnect (Unbridled's Song), is also probable for the Carter, while multiple Grade 1 winner Palace (City Zip), Dream Saturday (Any Given Saturday), and Wild Dude (Wildcat Heir) are possible.

Grade 1 winner Condo Commando (Tiz Wonderful) is likely to headline the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle, the local precursor to the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

Condo Commando debuted in a $75,000 maiden claiming race last summer at the Spa, which she won by 12 lengths. Jumping way up in class for her next start, the Spinaway (G1), Condo Commando was equally dazzling, splashing home to a 13 1/4-length triumph over a waterlogged main track. After a fourth-place finish in the Frizette (G1), the filly closed out her juvenile year with a win in the Demoiselle (G2) at the Big A.

On February 22, Condo Commando made her three-year-old debut over Aqueduct's inner track, taking the Busher by 4 3/4 lengths.

The third-place finisher from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), Wonder Gal (Tiz Wonderful), is probable for the Gazelle for trainer Leah Gyarmati. She has not run since the Juvenile Fillies on November 1.

Also likely for the race are Noble and a Beauty (Noble Causeway), winner of the six-furlong Cicada on March 15 at the Big A, and Money'soncharlotte (Mizzen Mast). Jacaranda (Congrats), Puca (Big Brown), and Sweet Corine (Pulpit) are possible.

A strong field is lining up for the seven-furlong Bay Shore for three-year-old sprinters, led by Ready for Rye. Other talented sprinters probable for the race include Ackeret (Mach Ride), Easy to Say (Eskendereya), Lord Nelson (Pulpit) and Majestic Affair (Majesticperfection).

Additionally, trainer Mike Hushion and John Nerud are likely to team up with Final Chapter (Thunder Gulch), a New York-bred who has won two straight at the Big A.

El Deal *(Munnings) and Papa Upa (Kantharos) are also possible.

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Gold Medal Dancer works sharply for Apple Blossom

On the brink of retirement a month ago, Gold Medal Dancer (Medaglia d'Oro) is in the best form of her career as she nears the biggest race of her career. In her first workout since a breakthrough victory, she traveled five furlongs in a brisk :59 1/5 Saturday at Oaklawn Park in preparation for the $600,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) on April 10. It was easily the fastest of 17 works recorded at the distance.

Clockers caught Gold Medal Dancer's final quarter-mile in :23 2/5 and galloping out six furlongs in a dazzling 1:12 1/5.

Gold Medal Dancer breezed over a fast track, moments after Oaklawn opened for training on a chilly, mostly cloudy morning. She is coming off a half-length victory over champion Untapable (Tapit) in the $300,000 Azeri (G2) March 14.

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said owner Josephine Abercrombie was prepared to retire Gold Medal Dancer to the owner/breeder's broodmare band before the five-year-old won the Azeri.

"I was fighting for all I was worth that this could be her best year," Von Hemel said with a laugh. "They were seriously considering if she didn't run well, that it could have been her last race."

Gold Medal Dancer opened 2015 with a third-place finish in the $100,000 Bayakoa (G3) February 15. The Azeri was Gold Medal Dancer's seventh victory from 16 lifetime starts and increased her earnings to $529,269. Her only other stakes victory came in the $75,000 Minnesota H.B.P.A. Distaff in June 2014 at Canterbury.

"She's a big, good-looking mare, bred well," Von Hemel said. "It's gratifying getting her where she should have been."

Also working Saturday was Pearl Turn (Bernardini), who worked a half-mile Saturday in :48 4/5 for trainer Will VanMeter. Afterwards, the trainer said he's "definitely leaning toward" running the March 14 allowance winner in the Apple Blossom.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said a decision concerning Untapable's next start will be made after a scheduled work Monday. Untapable is under consideration for the Apple Blossom, Asmussen said.

Trainer Kenny McPeek said Azeri fifth-place finisher Flashy American (Flashy Bull) will pass the Apple Blossom in favor of the $100,000 Doubledogdare (G3) on April 17 at Keeneland or the $150,000 Sixty Sails H. (G3) on April 18 at Hawthorne. Flashy American, the 2014 Sixty Sails winner, worked a half-mile in :50 4/5.

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Hartnell denies To the World in The BMW

Punters gave last year's Arima Kinen (Jpn-G1) runner-up To the World (King Kamehameha) a slight edge for Saturday's The BMW (Aus-G1) at Rosehill, but in the end it was the seasoned Hartnell (Authorized) who pulled away from the shipper in the lane after a thrilling stretch duel.

While To the World was making his first appearance since December, Hartnell boasted the advantage of racing fitness, and has made a big impression since being imported to Australia by Godolphin. Hartnell finished second to stablemate Contributer (High Chaparral) first-up in the February 28 Chipping Norton S. (Aus-G1), and was an easy winner of the Sky High S. (Aus-G3) two weeks ago.

Making his third start within four weeks on Saturday, Hartnell acted up in the barriers prior to the start, but was passed fit to run by the Rosehill vets and proved them correct. Hartnell was restrained from the break by jockey James McDonald to travel midfield on the rail with To the World breathing down his neck. He moved off the rail down the backstretch and made up a few lengths on To the World, but when McDonald pulled the trigger rounding the turn jockey Nicholas Hall followed suit on To the World, and the pair swung into the stretch four and five wide.

They remained deadlocked until the 200-meter mark, when Hartnell at last drew clear from his stubborn foe.

It was the fourth of five wins on the card for McDonald, four of which were stakes and all but one of which was for his new bosses, trainer John O'Shea and Godolphin. O'Shea said he enjoyed the victory, and was full of praise for the runner-up.

"It was a bit exciting," O'Shea told Racing and Sports. "I even gave a bit of a cheer at the furlong when he kicked. It was evident that we might have had the Japanese horses measure so that was very exciting."

"He's a lovely horse," he continued. "He's beat a world-class horse today. To be fair, the Japanese horse looked to me to have plenty of improvement but we'll take the victory."

O'Shea noted that Hartnell has a pair of options at The Championships on April 11 -- the Queen Elizabeth S. (Aus-G1) and the Sydney Cup (Aus-G1).

The race was marred by the breakdown of Highclere's Opinion (Oasis Dream) rounding the turn.

Also at Rosehill on Saturday, Fenway (High Chaparral) took the Vinery Stud (Aus-G1) for owner Alpara Lodge.

Having lost the ride after a narrow defeat in the Coolmore Stud S. (Aus-G1) aboard raging-hot favorite First Seal (Fastnet Rock), jockey Blake Shinn took the mount on Fenway, trained in partnership by his step-brother and step-father.

Starting the short-priced favorite once again, First Seal was away well from the gates and went forward to settle in a midpack position, while Adrift (Zabeel) and Amicus (Fastnet Rock) paired off in front to lead, with Fenway working into third on the outside. As the pace started to quicken at the 600-meter mark and the runs commenced from back in the pack, Fenway set off after the leaders and as the home turn was reached, Shinn had his filly ready to take the lead, while jockey Craig Williams on First Seal was about two lengths behind and starting to make up ground quickly.

As Fenway hit the lead, First Seal continued to make up ground, but found the winner too good on the day.

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American Pharoah early favorite in final KDFW

American Pharoah and stablemate Dortmund are the top two wagering interests in the fourth KDFW (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

The powerful hand held by Hall of Fame Thoroughbred trainer Bob Baffert heading into this year's 141st running of the Kentucky Derby (G1) is evident in the fact the two young stars from his stable -- reigning 2014 two-year-old champion American Pharoah (#1) and unbeaten Dortmund (#7) -- are the expected to be the top betting choices heading into this weekend's fourth and final pool of Churchill Downs' 2015 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW).

American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), a dazzling winner over a sloppy track in his 2015 debut in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, has been installed as the 9-2 morning line favorite by Churchill Downs handicapper Mike Battaglia in the last of four three-day KDFW pools. But unbeaten Dortmund (Big Brown), who scored his fifth consecutive victory in a front-running romp in Santa Anita's San Felipe (G2), is very close behind his stablemate at 5-1. Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway), the Todd Pletcher-trained winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) in his 2015 debut, is next in Battaglia's morning line odds at 6-1 and just ahead of the always-popular Mutuel Field (#24), which includes all three-year-olds other than the 23 individual betting interests. The "All Others" interest will open the pool as its 8-1 fourth choice.

Wagering in the three-day Kentucky Derby Future Wager finale opens at noon (EDT) on Friday and is set to conclude on Sunday at 6 p.m. (EDT). Betting will be available at Churchill Downs and other racetracks and off-track betting and satellite wagering facilities across North America. Wagering also is available at, the official online wagering platform of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, and other online wagering outlets.

Interest has been strong in this season's three previous KDFW pools. The betting total of $422,331 in Pool 3 pushed combined betting on earlier pools in November, February and March to $1,105,503. This is the second year that the Kentucky Derby Future Wager has been offered in a four-pool format that opens with three days of betting in late November.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager enables fans to wager on America's greatest race well in advance of the famed Run for the Roses at odds that could be much more attractive than those offered on the day of the race. Winning payouts on all KDFW pools are determined by the odds that are in place at the end of the respective betting pool. Those winning mutuel payouts for the $2 minimum win and exacta wagers placed in each Kentucky Derby Future pool will be made following the running of the Kentucky Derby on on May 2.

No scratches or refunds are permitted during a KDFW pool. If Churchill Downs officials confirm that an individual horse will not participate in the Derby because of injury or other circumstance, wagering on that interest will be suspended immediately.

Other horses expected to draw strong support in Pool 4 include Sunland Park Derby (G3) winner Firing Line (Line of David) (#12, 12-1), unbeaten Withers (G3) winner Far From Over (Blame) (#10, 15-1), Holy Bull (G2) winner Upstart (Flatter) (#22, 15-1) and San Felipe runner-up Prospect Park (Tapit) (#21, 15-1).

The upcoming fourth pool features seven horses that were not a part of Pool 3, with six of them appearing in a Derby Future pool for the first time. Holy Bull runner-up Frosted (Tapit) (#13, 30-1) returns after appearing in Pools 1 and 2, and is joined by newcomers Ami's Flatter (Flatter) (#2, 50-1), Bold Conquest (#3, 50-1), Spiral (G3) winner Dubai Sky (Candy Ride) (#8, 30-1), Rebel runner-up Madefromlucky (Lookin at Lucky) (#17, 30-1), unbeaten Materiality (Afleet Alex) (#18, 20-1) and U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) contender Mubtaahij (Dubawi) (#20, 30-1).

Wagering interests for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools are selected by a committee that includes Churchill Downs Racing Secretary Ben Huffman, Senior Director of Communications Darren Rogers, Director of On-Air Racing Communications Jill Byrne, Pari-Mutuel Marking Manager Gary Palmisano and Vice President of Communications John Asher.

Real-time odds for each KDFW pool and other information on the wager and the Kentucky Derby are available at the official event web site at

Free Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances for wagering interests in Pool 4 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager are available at Brisnet also has complimentary past performances for all Triple Crown nominees at

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In brief

George and Lori Hall's Pants on Fire (Jump Start) made his seven-year-old debut a winning one on Saturday when grabbing command of the $100,000 Sir Shackleton S. nearing the quarter and pulling off for a half-length victory while holding the closing Confrontation (War Pass). The Kelly Breen trainee stopped the clock in 1:24 3/5 for seven furlongs on Gulfstream Park's fast dirt with regular rider Paco Lopez aboard. The duo were last seen finishing third in the Harlan's Holiday S. at Gulfstream on December 13, which followed a one-paced third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Pants on Fire now owns seven stakes wins, including a pair of Grade 2s and Grade 3s, and 10 black-type placings. Bumping his bankroll to $1,497,475 with the Sir Shackleton score, the dark bay's career line now reads 31-10-5-7...

Keith Plaisance's Pacific Pink (Private Vow) finished third behind Sibling War (Brother Derek) in the Azalea S. on March 6 at Delta Downs, but managed to turn the tables on her rival when overtaking the 9-5 favorite in Saturday's $75,000 Crescent City Oaks to kick off Louisiana Derby Day at Fair Grounds. The dark bay filly, trained by Edward Johnston and ridden by Robby Albarado, went four wide around both turns while tracking the pacesetting Sibling War before just getting her head in front on the wire to complete a mile and 70 yards on the fast dirt in 1:43 4/5. This was Pacific Pink's first stakes victory and she now boasts a 5-3-0-2, $105,600 record. Whispering Oaks Farm's Four Leaf Chief (Lookin at Lucky) added a third stakes score to his resume one race later when capturing the $75,000 Crescent City Derby by two lengths. Rallying from last under Gerard Melancon, the Steve Flint-trained sophomore traveled 1 1/16 miles in 1:46 1/5. The bay sophomore was a nose second in the Pelican S. three weeks ago last out at Delta Downs, and improved his record to 9-4-1-1, $215,600...

Two other Louisiana-bred stakes took place at Fair Grounds on the Louisiana Derby undercard. First up was the $60,000 Costa Rising S., which saw Rowell Enterprises Inc.'s homebred Heitai (Fusaichi Pegasus) go three-for-three since switching to trainer Tom Amoss' barn. The five-year-old gelding wired the about 5 1/2-furlong turf contest in 1:02 4/5 on the firm green with jockey James Graham holding the reins. Heitai was sent off the 1-2 favorite against his nine rivals and was a length clear on the wire. Previously conditioned by Karl Broberg, for whom he captured seven stakes and placed in nine others, Heitai defending his title in the Costa Rising and moved his career mark to 29-14-8-3, $919,543. Udoknowjack (Storm Day) produced a wire job of his own in the $60,000 Star Guitar S. for owner/trainer Jorge Gomez, just holding by a neck under Jocelyne Gomez. Sent off the 33-1 second longest shot on the board, the five-year-old gelding ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:45 to take his stakes debut. He's now 7-4-3 from 26 career starts and has banked $136,830 lifetime...

A number of nominees for next Saturday's $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) worked Saturday, including Grade 1-placed stakes winner Achiever's Legacy (City Zip) (six furlongs in 1:12 1/5) and Grade 3-placed Glory (Tapit) (1:12) for Jerry Hollendorfer; stakes runner-up Curlin's Fox (Curlin) (1:14 1/5) for Carla Gaines; Lady Lake (Wildcat Heir) (1:13) for Jeff Mullins; and Grade 3 heroine Stellar Wind (Curlin) (1:13 3/5) for John Sadler...

The Arkansas Racing Commission approved dates for Oaklawn Park in 2016 at their regularly scheduled meeting Saturday morning. The Hot Springs track will open January 15 and close April 16. Oaklawn will maintain its regular Thursday-Sunday schedule with two special holiday Monday cards and two Wednesday cards in April. There will be racing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 18, and Presidents Day, February 15. The Wednesday cards will be April 6 and 13.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Sunday

Fair Grounds   (2nd) Nopalito, 6-1
    (9th) Ithirtyconnection, 4-1
Golden Gate Fields   (8th) Sir Vronski, 4-1
    (9th) Gotham Sky, 9-2
Gulfstream Park   (3rd) Amaluna, 9-2
    (8th) Silvery Starlet, 8-1
Hawthorne   (2nd) Thundering Hoofs, 3-1
    (3rd) Margarita Maybe, 7-2
Laurel Park   (2nd) Lightnin Fast Girl, 3-1
    (3rd) Too Clever by Half, 4-1
Mountaineer Park   (8th) It's No Wonder, 9-2
    (9th) Livingston Swagger, 7-2
Oaklawn Park   (3rd) Maryjean, 9-2
    (7th) Dr. Shipley, 7-2
Parx Racing   (2nd) Sir Newcastle, 3-1
    (7th) I Wanda Win, 9-2
Santa Anita   (2nd) Papa's Paisley, 4-1
    (6th) Sweet Silver, 3-1
Tampa Bay Downs   (5th) Let It Be Famous, 3-1
    (7th) Mama Splash, 3-1
Turfway Park   (3rd) Honey C, 7-2
    (4th) Mega Service, 4-1

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.


Help Wanted

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