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Racing Headlines

O'Neil on top heading into final day of NHC

John O'Neil of Huntington Station, New York, was on top with a $253 bankroll after Day 2 of the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) on Saturday.

The highest score on Day 2 went to Lawrence Kahlden, who started the day with zero but rallied to sixth overall just on his Saturday total of $193.60 to earn a $5,000 bonus, as well as paid Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge entry fees, live bankrolls, airfare and hotel worth in excess of $10,000.

Jonathon Kinchen, a 31-year-old realtor from Austin, Texas, landed in the top 10 with both of his entries. He entered Sunday in third with $217.40 and eighth with $189. One of his entries was a late replacement for the late Ron Rippey, the 2006 NHC winner and inaugural inductee to the NHC Hall of Fame.

Other Top 10 finishers were Ken Jordan ($249), Myles Richards ($208.40), Robert Pontani Jr. ($205.50), Lawrence Kahlden ($193.60), Joseph Muzio ($193.40), Dan Weisenburger ($178.60) and Joe Scanio ($176).

The top 50 players carried their bankrolls over to the Final 50 tournament Sunday morning and the resulting top 10 will play at the Final Table Sunday afternoon to determine the ultimate placings, including the $800,000 grand prize and Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year.

Among the Final 50 are three former NHC winners: Brian Troop ($162), Michael Beychok ($158.80) and John Conte ($156.60). Nobody has ever won the NHC twice.

The Top 50 finishers are guaranteed a $10,000 prize at the end of Sunday. The $2,215,000 prize pool for the Final 50 starts with $10,000 for 50th place and increases to the $800,000 grand prize for first place. The top four finishers will take home six figures, with $250,000 to second, $125,000 to third and $100,000 to fourth.

Players outside the Final 50 will compete in a separate $65,000 Consolation Tournament on Sunday with reset mythical bankrolls.

The Final 50 Contest will be comprised of 10 optional races. The 10 that make it to the Final Table will all play the same seven mandatory races.

To get to this point, the 606 NHC entrants (521 individual players) were required to place 30 mythical $2 Win and Place wagers -- 15 on Friday and 15 on Saturday.

The full standings are available on

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Graded Recaps

Upstart scores authoritatively in Holy Bull

An Upstart no longer: the Champagne runner-up and BC Juvenile third was the class of the field (Adam Coglianese Photography)
Ralph M. Evans' Upstart (Flatter) brought the strongest resume into Saturday's $400,000 Holy Bull (G2), and the promising sophomore enhanced it with a decisive, 5 1/2-length victory at Gulfstream Park. Last seen finishing third in the November 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita, the 2-1 second choice attended the early pace before sailing clear and adding 10 more points toward the Kentucky Derby.

Frosted (Tapit), the 3-2 favorite, settled for second. Longtime leader Bluegrass Singer (Bluegrass Cat) held third from 81-1 longshot Juan and Bina (Indian Charlie).

With regular rider Jose Ortiz aboard, Upstart raced in a prompting third on the outside. Bluegrass Singer was carving out tepid splits of :24 2/5 and :48 4/5, pressed by First Down (Street Cry), who could not maintain his position and began to retreat. That left Upstart as the lone challenger to Bluegrass Singer, but the match race didn't last for long. After six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, Upstart readily put the pacesetter away and opened up. The Rick Violette trainee reached the mile split in 1:37 and completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast track in 1:43 3/5.

"I thought it (the pace) would be much quicker," Violette said. "One speed scratched and Kiaran's horse (Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Frosted) was between a rock and a hard place (from the rail). They were coming off the bench too.

"When they went :24, I said, 'We're in a good spot.' When they went :48, I said, 'We're in exactly the right spot.' You couldn't have asked for a better ride.

"With his post position (8) -- and this was a tough race -- if you tap on the breaks a little bit, you're six wide and you're going to be widest on both turns. He needed to be a little more aggressive leaving there to get position, and Jose did the right thing."

"The horse broke very well," Ortiz recapped, "and I was in the position where me and Rick planned to be. It was perfect. By the half-mile pole I let him go and said, 'Let's see what we have here,' and when we turned for home we rolled. He was very good. He jumped into the bit, and I knew he was ready.

"When I saw him today in the paddock, I was very surprised because he looked so much bigger and so much stronger. I think he wants to go a mile and a quarter, so we will hopefully make the Kentucky Derby with him."

Frosted, who was always within striking position from his rail post, kept on well without ever threatening the winner. The runner-up had 2 1/4 lengths to spare over Bluegrass Singer.

"We were second-best today," McLaughlin said of Frosted. "The one hole wasn't ideal. We thought it was good to save ground, but we were in a little tight and took some dirt. But, it was a good race. We were just second-best.

Jockey Jose Ortiz defeated brother Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode runner-up Frosted (Lauren King/Adam Coglianese Photography)
"(Jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr., brother of winning rider Jose) had to wait a little bit and figure out which way he was going to go, but you have to get educated as you go along this trail. The winner was impressive."

Juan and Bina, Keen Ice (Curlin), Frammento (Midshipman), First Down and Decision Day (Macho Uno) rounded out the order under the wire. High Noon Rider (Distorted Humor) was eased out of the race, but walked off. Dom the Bomb (Bring the Heat) was scratched in favor of the Hutcheson (G3) earlier on the card, where he was eased and did not finish.

Upstart's first graded score improved his record to 5-3-1-1, $701,880. The ridgling opened his career with two victories versus New York-breds at Saratoga -- a 5 1/4-length success in an August 15 maiden, followed nine days later by a gritty score in the Funny Cide. Stepping up in class thereafter, he finished second to Daredevil (More Than Ready) in the October 4 Champagne (G1) at Belmont. Upstart had a tough trip from post 11 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and did well for third, missing second by a nose to Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway). Having earned four Derby points in the Champagne and two in the Juvenile, he now has a total of 16 after the Holy Bull.

Violette is considering a jaunt back to New York for Upstart, but could stay on Gulfstream's road to the Derby. is options for his colt's next start are the $400,000 Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth or the Gotham ,

"I hope it wasn't too fast," the trainer said of Upstart's Holy Bull effort. That's one of the advantages of running today -- you have two weeks to play with. We can go up to the Gotham ([G3] at Aqueduct on March 7) or we can come back here in four weeks in the Fountain of Youth ([G2] at Gulfstream on February 21. There is a cushion there if we came off the bench a little strong.

"We got some points today. If we ran in the Withers ([G3] on February 7 at Aqueduct) we would have been locked in to four weeks, four weeks, four weeks (between preps to the Derby) and there is no wiggle room. So this is a good spot.

"We'll see how he bounces off this and follow his lead. It could be that we'll stay here (for the Florida Derby [G1] on March 28) to give us the extra two weeks going into the (Kentucky) Derby. That might be the thing to do. It's nice to have that option."

Bred by Mrs. Gerald A. Nielsen in the Empire State, Upstart went to his current connections for $130,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred Sale. His dam, the unraced Party Silks (Touch Gold), is a half-sister to Grade 2 heroine Josh's Madelyn (Quiet American).

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Barbados makes it three straight in Hutcheson

Barbados did not disappoint as the 3-5 choice (Lauren King/Adam Cog;ianese Photo)

Suzanne Stables' Barbados (Speightstown) extended his win streak to three while making his graded stakes debut in Saturday's $150,000 Hutcheson (G2) at Gulfstream Park, edging past a determined X Y Jet (Kantharos) to post a half-length decision as the overwhelming 3-5 favorite. The Michael Tomlinson-trained colt covered seven furlongs in 1:24 1/5 with Luis Saez.

A three-length winner of the January 3 Spectacular Bid at six furlongs, Barbados had to work harder to defeat pacesetter X Y Jet, who established opening splits of :22 4/5 and :45 1/5 as Barbados stalked in second. The eventual winner inched closer rounding the far turn and offered his bid turning for home.

X Y Jet proved game to the wire, but Barbados always appeared to be going best in the final furlong. Big Family (Any Given Saturday) rallied belatedly to finish third in the six-horse field.

"I looked at the race and I didn't see a lot of speed in the race," Saez said. "I knew the other horse (X Y Jet) was the speed because the other one (Bluegrass Singer [Bluegrass Cat]) was scratched. So I needed to keep my horse close.

"The horse in front looked like he was going very easy. When we came into the stretch, I was worried my horse wouldn't pass him. But my horse likes a fight. When I asked him, he gave me a lot."

"Any good horse has heart, and he showed us some heart today," Tomlinson added.

The trainer was asked about longer distances for the three-year-old.

"As we've said all along, we're going to let him take us as far as he can go. We're not sure if there's distance limitations, but we're going to take it a step at a time. Hopefully he comes out of this race in great shape and we'll see where we go from here."

Bred in Kentucky by Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, Barbados is out of the stakes-winning Street Cry mare Northern Station. This is the extended female family of Breeders' Cup Classic winner and sire Raven's Pass; champion Rainbow View; and Grade 1 winner Just as Well.

Barbados initially sold for $160,000 as a yearling at the 2013 Keeneland September sale. He passed through the sales ring the following spring, bringing $230,000 as a Keeneland April two-year-old, and made his first three starts for WinStar Farm before being offered once again at the Keeneland November sale last fall, selling for $340,000 to his current connections.

Under the direction of Kellyn Gorder, Barbados made his first two starts on the Kentucky Downs' turf, recording a second and a fifth, before rolling to a five-length decision over maiden special weight rivals on Keeneland's dirt track on October 16. He made his first outing for Tomlinson in the aforementioned Spectacular Bid, earning a 100 BRIS Speed rating. With Saturday's $92,070 payday, Barbados has now earned $205,320 from a 5-3-1-0 scorecard.

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Birdatthewire flies to Forward Gal victory

Birdatthewire picked up the pieces late to spring the 12-1 upset (Adam Coglianese Photography)
Forum Racing LLC's Birdatthewire (Summer Bird) was making her stakes debut in Saturday's $200,000 Forward Gal S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park and ran down her rivals as the 12-1 eighth shot in the 11-filly field to score by 3 1/4 lengths on the wire. With Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons, the Dale Romans pupil finished seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5 over the fast dirt.

Enchantress (Malibu Moon), Ekati's Phaeton (Tale of Ekati) and 2-1 favorite Seduire (Elusive Quality) battled it out on the front end through the opening fractions of :22 2/5 and :45 1/5. Meanwhile, Birdatthewire was biding her time in the rear of the field before circling wide around the turn. The bay lass grabbed command in the lane and easily drew off to pay $26.80 for the win.

"I had read the paper and knew there was pace in the race," Ortiz said. "Why change her style? I just let her relax. When we got to the quarter pole, I knew I had a lot of horse. I knew she was a nice filly. I think she can get better."

Only two necks separated the next three, with Lassofthemohicans (Indian Charlie) following in second while Taylor S (Medaglia d'Oro) filled the third spot ahead of Ekati's Phaeton. With the Forward Gal being on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks schedule of points races, Birdatthewire received 10 points toward a starting berth in that contest while Lassofthemohicans garnered four, Taylor S earned two and Ekati's Phaeton was awarded one.

"I loved the fractions for (Birdatthewire), but I didn't like it as much for Taylor S," said Romans, who saddled the first and third. "That's the good thing about having a one-two punch. They both ran great races. I knew I had Taylor S that could be out close to the pace if the speed didn't materialize. Taylor S is a really good filly, too. She probably reacted a bit off that really (big) last race, and this filly came rolling."

Birdatthewire just broke her maiden last out in her juvenile finale at Churchill Downs on November 29. The bay miss scored by 1 1/2 lengths in that 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight after being 20 lengths behind the leaders on the backstretch. She opened her career with a third while sprinting at Churchill in September, then was runner-up and fourth in a pair of 1 1/16-mile maidens at Keeneland, both in October. Now boasting a 2-1-1 mark from five career starts, the sophomore filly has racked up $158,860 in career earnings.

"There was nothing to lose, so there was no real concern," Romans said of going straight from maiden to Grade 2 company. "We could always back up and go to an allowance race. It looked like the race, if you handicapped it ahead of time, was going to be full of speed. I thought she could settle and come running, and it set up perfect. It's good when a plan comes together.

"This filly had a nice number pattern, she was going in the right direction, and she did everything right. She seems to be getting better all the time."

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 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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Lochte nods out Old Time Hockey in Tama Bay

Lochte reached the winner's circle in his first trip to Tampa (SV Photography)

Lochte (Medaglia d'Oro), the only Grade 1 winner in the field, gamely staved off a late charge from 24-1 longshot Old Time Hockey (Smarty Jones) to take Saturday's $150,000 Tampa Bay (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

Under Paco Lopez, the 4-1 second choice was never more than 3 1/2 lengths off the lead while settling in midpack behind Super Soldier (Lost Soldier), who set a pace of :23 2/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 2/5.

At the top of the stretch, Super Soldier was overtaken by 6-5 favorite Sky Flight (Sky Mesa), who then came under pressure from Lochte inside the eighth pole. The eventual winner got past the public choice and just held off Old Time Hockey by a head in a time of 1:41 3/5 for 1 1/16 miles on a good turf.

Owned by Crossed Sabres Farm and trained by Marcus Vitali, Lochte returned $10.20.

Old Time Hockey finished a neck in front of Sky Flight. The latter was followed by Rose Brier (Mizzen Mast), Rerun (Grand Reward), Margano (Dynaformer), Guys Reward (Grand Reward), One Touch (Macho Uno), Allie's Event (Wild Event), Super Soldier, Tricky Hat (Hat Trick), and Hobo Ridge (Tiger Ridge). The also-eligibles Dramedy (Distorted Humor) and War Correspondent (War Front) failed to draw in.

This was the second graded stakes win for Lochte, who upset last year's Gulfstream Park Turf H. (G1) at odds of 39-1 in his stakes debut. Subsequently second in the Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and Makers 46 Mile (G1), the five-year-old gelding was unplaced in four of his next five stakes attempts. The lone bright spot was a win in the $75,000 The Vid at Gulfstream on September 13.

Fifth in the January 10 Ft. Lauderdale (G2) in his seasonal bow, his record now stands at 21-5-4-5, $548,572.

Bred in Kentucky by Maura Gittins, Lochte was reared by multiple stakes winner Lemon Kiss (Lemon Drop Kid), a full sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Kiss the Kid.

Lochte's third dam produced 1991 Horse of the Year Black Tie Affair (Miswaki) and his Group 1-winning half-brother Great Palm (Manila).

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Consumer Credit keeps rolling in Sweetest Chant

Consumer Credit finished full of run (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photo)

Consumer Credit (More Than Ready) continued to impress while making her first graded attempt in Saturday's $100,000 Sweetest Chant (G3) at Gulfstream Park, surging late to win by a length. The Chad Brown-trained sophomore filly has captured three consecutive turf starts, breaking her maiden at Belmont Park in late October before capturing the November 29 Wait a While at Gulfstream Park West.

Owned by Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, Consumer Credit was favored at 9-5 against nine rivals with jockey Edgard Zayas and has now earned $165,445 from a 5-3-1-1 record.

Miss Temple City (Temple City) and Quality Rocks (Rock Hard Ten) contested the pace to midstretch, racing head and head through splits of :24, :48 2/5 and 1:12 3/5 as Consumer Credit stalked in fourth most of the way, always within a few lengths of the lead. Zayas guided his mount out for clear sailing in the stretch drive and Consumer Credit responded to urging after passing the sixteenth pole, accelerating to win going away under the wire.

The winner completed a mile in 1:35 4/5 on the firm course.

Bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC, Consumer Credit is out of the South African-bred mare Sally Bowles, a daughter of London News who was a Group 2 winner in her native land. It's a classy South African female family.

Consumer Credit was purchased for $185,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September sale and the dark bay RNA'ed for $130,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March two-year-old sale last spring.

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Racing Headlines

Mischief Clem upsets Cal Cup Derby

Mischief Clem (right) dug deep to see off Pulmarack while the 1-2 Acceptance was a distant fourth (Cecilia Gustavsson/
Griffin Thoroughbred Stables' Mischief Clem (Papa Clem) turned in a nice 11-1 upset in the $245,000 California Cup Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park. The 1 1/16-mile contest became the highlight of California Cup Day at the track due to the presence of the unbeaten Acceptance (Vronsky).

The 1-2 favorite was looking to emulate reigning Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), who captured the Cal Cup Derby in 2014 en route to victories in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1). Unfortunately, Acceptance faded in the lane after setting opening splits of :23 3/5, :48 and 1:12 3/5. That left the way clear for another to step up and Mischief Clem was more than willing to play the spoiler under Kent Desormeaux.

Mischief Clem, who had been pressing the early pace while wide on the backstretch, battled between rivals leaving the second turn and continued to duke it out in the stretch to get his head in front on the wire. The bay colt stopped the clock in 1:44 4/5 over the fast main track to return $25.60 to his backers.

"We were pretty disappointed in his last effort; we've always been real high on him," Desormeaux said. "(Trainer) Bob (Hess Jr.) has been entering him in these head-hunting spots because we thought he was 'all that.' Every race we always seemed to have a quirk.

"The races just didn't go well, none of them did. He'd either miss a step, hop a start, get stuck inside or last time, he was just too aggressive. In a nutshell, today he was finally able to put everything together and I was able to ride him off my finger tips and he was just the consummate professional and he got a picture taken."

Pulmarack (Lucky Pulpit) was best of the rest, 5 3/4 lengths up on Kluszewski (Northern Afleet) in third.

"He never switched to his right lead and I think that cost him," asserted Pulmarack's rider, Drayden Van Dyke. "I think his staying on his left lead mattered and he did hang a little with that other horse. I just think he's still a little green. If he switches leads, he would win the race."

Acceptance finished another 6 1/2 lengths back in fourth.

"He's been training all right, but for whatever reason...we'll probably find out tomorrow when we get back...hopefully he's fine," puzzled Kenny Black, assistant to Acceptance's trainer Don Warren. "He just hung it up for some reason. Right now I'm a little bit mystified, because he had everything his own way. He got a little hot going to the gate today, so that's a little concerning. He was working good and doing everything right; he just didn't have it today, I guess."

Mischief Clem captured his initial two races last fall at Del Mar and Santa Anita against state-bred company before running up against Acceptance for the first time while making his stakes bow in the Golden State Juvenile. The Bob Hess Jr. pupil finished third that day, then was a head second against open optional claiming rivals at Del Mar on November 21 before closing out his two-year-old campaign with a fourth-placing behind Acceptance in the King Glorious S. last out on December 14.

"The horse has a ton of heart," Hess praised. "I questioned his ability to go this far. I think he came through today, and I think more than anything, this is his home track. He loves it here. We were able to train him here, school him here; I didn't do that last time, and it showed today.

"The two horse (Acceptance) is a wonderful horse. He didn't run his best race today, but he's a wonderful horse, so no disrespect to him at all. But our horse ran his A-plus race today."

With this first stakes win, Mischief Clem improved his career record to 6-3-1-1 while banking $266,380. Though Hess said a "plan of attack" is still in the works, he did mention the $550,000 Spiral S. (G3) at Turfway Park on March 21.

Singing Kitty (Ministers Wild Cat) got the best of 9-5 favorite Heat the Rocks (Unusual Heat) in the $200,000 California Cup Oaks to kick off the stakes action on Cal Cup Day.

With Aaron Gryder holding the reins, the bay filly stalked in midpack while 52-1 longshot Swiss Skimmer (Swiss Yodeler) led the way through splits of :22 2/5, :46 2/5 and 1:11 1/5. Singing Kitty swung out four wide in the lane and quickly took command, holding a one-length advantage over Heat the Rocks on the wire. She paid $17.40 as the 7-1 fourth choice.

Trained by Matthew Chew for Chris Aulds, Peter Jeong and Brandon Hillman, Singing Kitty ran a mile on Santa Anita's firm turf in 1:35 3/5 to add a first stakes win to her resume, which now stands at 7-3-0-0, $175,438. The three-year-old miss took her maiden debut at Santa Anita last June, but was unable to hit the board in three subsequent starts until lining up against claiming company on December 11 at Los Alamitos. She was claimed out of that 2 3/4-length score, but couldn't give her new connections a win when seventh while making her grass debut in the Blue Norther S. at Santa Anita on New Year's Day.

"She was brought to my attention by a friend of mine who suggested that I take a look at her," Chew said. "I brought it up to the owners and we all agreed to take a shot.

"We threw her into the Blue Norther to see how she would handle the turf and the distance and we felt like off that race, into today would be a drop in class. We thought it was a strong race and she gave a good showing. She has adapted to the turf well. I've breezed her over it and she seems to love it."

Alert Bay (right) had to survive an inquiry to keep his winning streak alive (Benoit Photo)
Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd.'s Alert Bay (City Zip) proved best by a neck in the $250,500 California Cup Turf Classic to wrap up the stakes action on the day.

Tyler Baze guided the Blaine Wright trainee as he tugged his way into an early duel before settling into an inside stalking position as Super Ability (Langfuhr), G. G. Ryder (Chhaya Dance) and Boozer (Unusual Heat) each took turns setting the pace through fractions of :24 1/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11. Alert Bay was forced to steady rounding the turn between rivals, bumped with G. G. Ryder while splitting horses in midstretch, then rallied up the rail to get his neck in front on the line. He had to survive a stewards' inquiry to keep the win.

"Going into the far turn I had some trouble," Baze explained. "(Rafael) Bejarano (on G. G. Ryder) didn't go into the turn real smooth and came out and bumped me and I was also getting pressure from the horse to our outside. Corey Nakatani (on Tamarando [Bertrando]) was pressuring me because he was being pressured and that put me in a bad spot. I got bumped around a little bit but this horse is super precious. He's an unbelievable horse to ride and he's got a will to win."

"We scooted out a tough one there today," Wright agreed. "We could have come down. Tyler thought he had room. He said he knew it was tight, but he thought the other rider (Bejarano) was out of horse, and he thought we would stay up.

"Myself, I sweat these things out a little bit."

"I had a great position," Bejarano said after G. G. Ryder finished eighth. "I was in my lane and the winner didn't have room to come in, but he came in on me and crossed us. There wasn't enough room, so it completely shut me off and I had to stop my horse."

Alert Bay paid $7.80 as the near 3-1 favorite in the race and ran 1 1/8 miles on the firm turf in 1:47 3/5. Boozer was a head up on third-placer Patriots Rule (Tribal Rule), and it was a half-length back to Big Bane Theory (Artie Schiller), who just got his neck in front to take fourth from Super Ability.

Alert Bay has now captured his last five races, all against stakes rivals. The four-year-old gelding began his current win streak last September at Hastings Park in the British Columbia Derby (Can-G3) and British Columbia Premier's H. (Can-G3), followed up with a three-length tally in the Zia Park Derby, and closed out 2014 with a neck victory in the Mathis Brothers Mile S. (G2) at Santa Anita Park on December 26. With a scorecard that reads 14-8-4-1, the dark bay has accumulated $754,707 in career earnings.

"He's taken me places," Wright said. "I thought my barn was kind of coming up, and Mr. Redekop has put some good horses in my hands, and this horse has taken me to a level where you certainly want to be. I'm very proud to be a part of it."

The 12-1 Spirit Rules (left) outdueled 3-5 favorite San Onofre (Benoit Photos)
One race before the Cal Cup Turf Classic, Spirit Rules (Tribal Rule) took the $150,000 California Cup Sprint in a near wire job to give back $26.20 as the 12-1 longest shot on the board.

Ignacio Puglisi sent the bay gelding straight to the front to duel with 3-5 favorite San Onofre (Surf Cat), who was credited with the opening quarter of :21 2/5. Spirit Rules stuck his head in front past a half-mile in :44 and finally began edging away from his rival to eventually finish a half-length in front on the wire. Campaigned by Jeanmarc Murphy, Barbara Accardy, Craig Siedler and Jim & Mark Xitco, the six-year-old ran six furlongs on the fast dirt in 1:10 1/5.

"The break helped us out a ton," Puglisi noted. "He was in (the gate) a really short period of time and he really caught a flyer from there. I couldn't give that up. There were too many fast horses in there, so when I could scoot my way over (from the far outside post) to San Onofre, I figured I'd at least have a shot at it."

"He's a big horse and whenever he draws outside and he gets near the lead, he's going to be tough," trainer Paul Aguirre agreed. "They may run him down but it's not going to be because he quits. He'll give every ounce he has right to the wire."

"He just got outrun today," sighed San Onofre's jockey, Mike Smith. "I stumbled a little leaving (the gate), which cost me a clear lead, but if I'd have been running, I don't think it would have bothered him. The horse hasn't run in a year. I was really happy with the way he ran, and I think he'll really move forward off it."

Spirit Rules earned his first stakes win in this spot following a trio of black-type placings in 2014. The bay was second in the Bertrando S. and third in the Katella S., both at Los Alamitos, while also placing third in the Harris Farm S. at Fresno to close out the year in early October. The Cal Cup Sprint improved his record to 16-5-2-4 while bumping his career bankroll to $318,378.

Also on the Cal Cup Day program was the $151,750 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint. Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd.'s Go West Marie (Western Fame) prevailed over Home Journey (Good Journey) by three parts of a length with jockey Gary Stevens in the irons.

The Eddie Truman-trained four-year-old filly split foes in midstretch after settling near the back of the 12-distaffer field early on. Home Journey had been in command throughout the race, setting fractions of :21 1/5, :42 4/5 and 1:05 4/5, but the 16-1 shot could not withstand Go West Marie's late rally. The winner ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the firm downhill turf in 1:12, returning $13 as the 5-1 third pick. Heat Trap (Unusual Heat), the 2-1 favorite who was exiting a runner-up effort in the Monrovia S. (G2) on January 4, finished sixth.

"This race wasn't really our choice," Truman admitted. "We think she's better going long but we wanted a Cal-bred race. Her last race was open company and this really was our only option for Cal-breds.

"She is just so sweet. She's maturing and getting so much smarter and kinder."

"The key with a filly like this is they're professional," Stevens added. "Let them settle and they're going to finish for you."

Go West Marie now shows two stakes wins on her resume after taking the Fleet Treat S. last summer at Del Mar, and boosted her earnings to $402,520 to go along with a 17-5-1-5 career mark.

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Gorgeous Bird takes flight at Gulfstream

Gorgeous Bird is from the immediate family of Birdstone (Coglianese Photography via Gulfstream Park Facebook)
Marylou Whitney Stables' homebred Gorgeous Bird (Unbridled's Song) swooped from the back of the pack and drew off to a seven-length romp in Saturday's 4TH race at Gulfstream Park. By dominating this entry-level allowance brimming with promising sophomores, the Ian Wilkes pupil has put himself into the equation for bigger targets on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail.

Gorgeous Bird, who was exiting a November 22 maiden score at Churchill Downs, ranked as the 4-1 third choice in his first try versus winners. Bet down to even-money favoritism was the Todd Pletcher-trained Overcontrol (Tapit), but the flashy maiden winner flopped after arguing the pace and trailed home a long-way last.

Under Joel Rosario, Gorgeous Bird bided his time a few lengths behind fractions of :24 and :47, advanced into a menacing fourth at the three-quarter mark in 1:12 2/5, and stamped his authority down the lane. The gray negotiated the mile on a fast track in 1:39 and paid $10.80 to win.

The Kentucky-bred has compiled a record of 3-2-0-0, $50,132, his only blemish a sixth in his August 16 debut at Saratoga. He is out of the unraced Elusive Bird (Elusive Quality), making him a half-brother to Pow Wow Wow (Indian Charlie), the third-placer in the 2013 Forward Gal (G2).

Gorgeous Bird's second dam is champion Bird Town (Cape Town), heroine of the 2003 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Acorn (G1). Bird Town is herself a half-sister to multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Birdstone (Grindstone). Best known for foiling Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid in the 2004 Belmont S. (G1), Birdstone also landed the Champagne (G1) and Travers (G1).

Khozan is a $1 million half-brother to Royal Delta (Coglianese Photography via Gulfstream Park Facebook)
Pletcher had better luck in the 6TH race, when Khozan (Distorted Humor), a three-year-old half-brother to three-time champion Royal Delta (Empire Maker), overcame post 14 to win his career debut handsomely.

A $1 million Fasig-Tipton Florida purchase by Al Shaqab Racing, Khozan was parked out wide while pressing the pace through splits of :22 4/5 and :46. But the 9-5 favorite soon put his foes away entering the stretch en route to a 3 3/4-length decision. Javier Castellano guided the dark bay through seven furlongs in 1:23 3/5, faster than the 1:24 1/5 posted by Barbados (Speightstown) one race later in the Hutcheson (G3). Khozan returned $5.80 while banking $24,000 for himself.

Bred by Adena Springs in Kentucky, Khozan brought $350,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga before commanding seven figures last March as a two-year-old in training. In addition to $4.8 million-earner Royal Delta, he is also a half-brother to current Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) winner Crown Queen (Smart Strike), Grade 1-placed Carnival Court (Street Sense) and Grade 2-placed Empire Way (Empire Maker). Their dam, multiple Grade 3 victress Delta Princess (A.P. Indy), is in turn a full sister to Grade 1 queen Indy Five Hundred and a three-quarter sister to Group 1 scorer Biondetti (Bernardini).

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Dubai Sky leads Mott exacta in Kitten's Joy

Dubai Sky edged stablemate Courtier as night began to fall (Natalie Fawkes/Adam Coglianese Photography)

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott dominated the $100,000 Kitten's Joy, the finale at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, when his charges Dubai Sky (Candy Ride) and Courtier (Pioneerof the Nile) ran one-two, separated by a head at the finish of the one-mile turf race for three-year-olds.

The pair traded leads the whole way, rattling off splits of :23 3/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12, with Dubai Sky inching forward in the final yards to edge his stablemate under John Velazquez. The final time on firm ground was 1:36.

The 5-1 third choice in field of 11, Dubai Sky returned $12.60. He is owned by the partnership of breeder Besilu Stables and Three Chimneys Farm.

Croninthebarbarian (Stroll), the 5-2 favorite, finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Courtier. Felifran (Discreet Cat), Eh Cumpari (Elusive Quality), Chief Kitten (Kitten's Joy), Dr No (Aussie Rules), Ode to the Hunt (Artie Schiller), Stefochop (Muhaymin), Mostly Mozart (Amadeus Wolf), and Twtwentyfive A (Awesome of Course) rounded out the order of finish. Brave Charlie (Exchange Rate) was scratched.

Third in his debut at Saratoga last August going 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon turf, Dubai Sky rebounded to break his maiden going the same distance on Belmont's inner turf September 20. In his most recent start, the bay finished in a dead heat for first against entry-level allowance foes over a mile on the Gulfstream turf December 20. He has now earned $127,300.

Bred in Kentucky, Dubai Sky is out of House of Danzig (Chester House) and is full brother to Grade 1 winner Twirling Candy and a half-brother to Grade 2 winner Ethnic Dance (Tribal Rule).

This extended family includes Grade 3 scorer Chocolate Candy (Candy Ride) and, further back, Triple Crown-winning Hall of Famer Affirmed (Exclusive Native).

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Aqueduct, Parx cancel Saturday cards

Due to winter weather conditions, the New York Racing Association cancelled live racing at Aqueduct on Saturday. Aqueduct and the Belmont Cafe remained open for simulcasting.

Live racing was also canceled at Parx Racing and Laurel.

Live racing is scheduled to resume at Aqueduct and Parx on Sunday.

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Alboran Sea gives de Kock 100th Group 1 victory

Alboran Sea (Rock of Gibraltar) earned her second Group 1 victory and her trainer Mike de Kock's milestone 100th when she captured the Cape Flying Championship (SAf-G1) at Kenilworth Saturday.

One of only two three-year-olds fillies in the field, the other being Carry On Alice (Captain Al), the favorite was away alertly after a delayed start and drafted about a length behind the front-running pair against the stands-side rail. With veteran pilot Weichong Marwing aboard, the dark bay was cut loose with two furlongs to run and quickly seized command.

The Australian-bred looked to be home free, but older rival and Group 1 winner Captain of All (Captain Al) came charging late down the center of the course and drew even in the shadow of the wire. The two hit the line together and Alboran Sea emerged the narrow winner.

"It is a great pleasure to have a Group 1 win for Mike (de Kock) and Mary Slack," Marwing told Sporting Post. "We realized that there was a lot of speed in the race and we wanted to give her a chance. But things didn't map out as we planned. Trip Tease (Trippi) was up front as we expected but his speed wasn't good enough and I wasn't as far back as I wanted. I thought Captain Of All got me on the wire."

A winner of the Allan Robertson Championship (SAf-G1) at Scottsville last May after breaking her maiden at first asking, the Rosemont Stud-bred was second to Bilateral (Lateral) in the Zulu Kingdom Golden Slipper (SAf-G1) two months later and ran ninth in Greyville's Thekwini S. (SAf-G1) July 26. She made her three-year-old debut a winning one at Turffontein, but completed the superfecta in the Pinnacle S. in November and ran second in the Southern Cross S. (SAf-G2) in early December.

Alboran Sea is out of the Toolighttoquit mare Lady's Light, a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Erica's Dream (Two's a Plenty) and multiple stakes scorer Twosies Answer (Two's a Plenty). The latter produced 1998 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and champion two-year-old male Answer Lively (Lively One).

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Renowned South African sire Fort Wood dies

Fort Wood (Sadler's Wells), a two-time leading sire in South Africa for Mauritzfontein Stud, passed away from heart failure early Saturday morning according to Sporting Post. He was 25.

Trained by Andre Fabre for Sheikh Mohammed, the bay -- who raced exclusively as a three-year-old -- won half of his six starts including the Grand Prix de Paris (Fr-G1) and Prix Noailles (Fr-G2).  Retired with earnings of $335,255 after injuring himself during a work, Fort Wood was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Oppenheimer's Mauritzfontein Stud through the efforts of Alistair Brown of Equarius Bloodstock and stood his first season in 1994.

His first crop contained three Group 1 winners with the best of these being Horse Chestnut, a Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year. Horse Chestnut was joined by Dog Wood and Fort Defiance. Fort Wood sired two more Horses of the Year during his career with Celtic Grove and Dynasty.

The American-bred also won two South African sire titles in 1998 and 1999 and led the broodmare sires lists in 2012 and 2013. His total stakes winners stands at 73 with 15 Group 1 winners to date according to Brisnet.

Out of Matron S. (G1) heroine and Broodmare of the Year Fall Aspen (Pretense), Fort Wood was a half-brother to champion juvenile male and classic winner Timber Country (Woodman), Irish three-year-old highweight Bianconi (Danzig), Grade 1 winners Northern Aspen (Northern Dancer) and Hamas (Danzig), Group 2 heroine Colorado Dancer (Shareef Dancer) -- dam of champion Dubai Millennium (Seeking the Gold) -- Group scorers Elle Seule (Exclusive Native) and Mazzacano (Alleged) and stakes-winning Kentucky Derby (G1) third Prince of Thieves (Hansel).

In brief

Grade 3 winner Sugar Shock has finished first in all five starts at Oaklawn (Oaklawn Park/Coady Photography)

On Cloud Nine LLC's Sugar Shock (Candy Ride) overcame a wide trip to prove best in Saturday's $100,000 American Beauty at Oaklawn Park, rallying boldly to score by a half-length as the 8-5 favorite. Winner of the Fantasy (G3) and disqualified from first to second in the Honeybee (G3) at Oaklawn last year, the four-year-old filly was making her first start since being pulled up in the Iowa Oaks (G3) last June. Channing Hill was up for trainer Doug Anderson on the Kentucky-bred, who completed six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 on the fast track. Spring Included (Include) nearly upset the field on the front end at 22-1, leading until the final strides through fractions of :21 3/5 and :46. Sugar Shock, who was fanned at least seven paths wide off the far turn after closing from midpack in the 13-horse field, showed consecutive bullet works in preparation and improved her mark to 5-4-1-0 at the Hot Springs, Arkansas oval. Overall, the chestnut filly has earned $458,130 from a 10-5-1-1 line. She was purchased for only $20,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September sale...

Billy, Donna and Justin Hays' Star Harbour (Indian Charlie) registered his second straight stakes tally, and third overall in his career, when leading wire to wire in Saturday's $90,000 Pelican Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Winner of the November 29 Mahoning Sprint in his previous outing, the seven-year-old was overlooked at 10-1 with Geovany Garcia, who guided the Joe Woodard-trained gelding through splits of :22 2/5 and :45 4/5 en route to completing six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 on the fast main track. Helooksthepart (Songandaprayer) closed from last in the 10-horse field to miss by a nose in second at 17-1. The Florida-bred Star Harbour has now earned $525,824 from a 30-10-6-7 record...

In the $96,250 Lightning City at Tampa, Double Secret (Double Honor) posted a 30-1 upset in wire-to-wire fashion on turf, leading through splits of :21 1/5 and :44 3/5 before opening up on her rivals in upper stretch. She rolled home to a 3 3/4-length decision in her stakes debut, stepping five furlongs in :56 3/5 on the good course, and the four-year-old filly snapped a five-race losing skein. Augusto Martin was up for owner/trainer Adolfo Exposito on the Florida-bred, who improved her mark to 14-4-3-2, $141,698, with the upset...

With Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux riding for his brother, trainer Keith, Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) worked five furlongs in company with Attack (Quality Road) in 1:01 2/5 at Santa Anita Saturday in preparation for his three-year-old debut in next Sunday's San Vicente S. (G2) at seven furlongs. Texas Red broke three lengths behind Attack and finished three in front. Also working for his three-year-old debut was Firing Line (Line of David) for trainer Simon Callaghan, who is readying the runner-up to unbeaten Dortmund (Big Brown) in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) for the Robert B. Lewis S. (G3) on February 7. "It was just a maintenance work," Callaghan said of the five-furlong move in 1:00 3/5. "I'm very happy with it. It was just what we were looking for."...

John Sadler's Sweet Swap (Candy Ride) and Phil D'Amato's Lil Bit O'Fun (Langfuhr) head an overflow field of 13 older horses set for Sunday's $75,000 Clockers' Corner S. at 6 1/2 furlongs down Santa Anita's Camino Real Turf Course. Sweet Swap pressed the pace in the December 28 Daytona S. (G3) as the 6-5 favorite and made the lead at the top of the stretch but tired late to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Lil Bit O'Fun, who ran second at 4-1. Two races before that the six-year-old chestnut was beaten just a length when fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1), which followed a pair of stakes wins, including the San Simeon S. (G3), on Santa Anita's downhill turf. Sweet Swap filled the runner-up spot in the 2014 Clocker's Corner and will try to improve one spot on Sunday with Joe Talamo taking back the mount. Lil Bit O'Fun, officially trained by D'Amato in his last six starts subsequent to the retirement of Mike Mitchell, rallied from off the pace in the Daytona to miss by a half-length. The seven-year-old gelding recorded a pair of unplaced efforts before that on the main track and while stretching out, but was third in the Eddie D. S. (G3) and captured the Wickerr S. last summer. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount on Lil Bit O'Fun. Other notables in the Clocker's Corner include dual Grade 2 victor Mr. Commons (Artie Schiller), last-out Midnight Lute S. (G3) runner-up Heir of Storm (Wildcat Heir) and back-to-back Californian S. (G2) hero Clubhouse Ride (Candy Ride).

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


For Sunday

Aqueduct   (1st) Time for Harlan, 5-1
    (8th) Alcolite, 3-1
Fair Grounds   (2nd) Peace Offering, 9-2
    (4th) Gumdrop, 4-1
Golden Gate Fields   (6th) Alli Leigh, 3-1
    (7th) Rosarita, 7-2
Gulfstream Park   (6th) Charlevoix, 6-1
    (9th) Richies Sweetheart, 7-2
Oaklawn Park   (1st) Uh Huh Baby, 10-1
    (8th) Stachys, 5-1
Parx Racing   (2nd) Miami Mako, 6-1
    (7th) Unrivaled, 4-1
Santa Anita   (8th) Hay Dude, 4-1
    (9th) Rare Punch, 6-1
Sunland Park   (5th) D Cat's Trip, 9-2
    (10th) Hotlander, 6-1
Tampa Bay Downs   (3rd) Binding Peace, 3-1
    (7th) Froggyville, 4-1
Turfway Park   (2nd) Sugar Cube, 3-1
    (9th) Love's Dreams, 5-1

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.


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