Game On Dude returns to form with unprecedented third Big 'Cap triumph
Game On Dude left the starting gate as the 7-2 third choice, snapping a string of 15 straight U.S. starts where he went favored. The betting public hammered down Breeders' Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man as the 6-5 choice and champion three-year-old Will Take Charge, the nose runner-up in the Classic, received plenty of support as the 3-2 second favorite.
Speed ruled the day as Game On Dude advanced from post 7 to challenge for the lead. After dueling with Hear the Ghost through an opening quarter-mile in :22 4/5, Game On Dude kicked clear on the backstretch to open a 2 1/2-length advantage through a half-mile in :45 1/5. His rivals attempted to close the gap on the far turn, but Game On Dude was still clear by a length after six furlongs in 1:09 1/5.
Mucho Macho Man started to retreat by the top of the stretch, but Will Take Charge was still trying hard in second as the pacesetter led into the straightaway. Game On Dude passed the mile mark in 1:32 2/5 with a 1 1/2-length lead and proved strong all the way to the finish line, comfortably holding his rival safe the entire way.
"They went fast but he was rockin', he was rollin'. The Dude showed up," Baffert said. "Last time (the San Antonio), he wasn't ready...He had to do it today. I just told Mike Smith, 'When they expect you to be on the lead, you have to be on the lead. Just let him rip, do his thing and if it happens, it happens.'"
"I knew he was going to have to run today because they came at me," Smith added. "But when they came at me he dropped to the ground. When he needs to, he fires.
"I knew they would have to be better than him today to beat him. Like I've said before, when he shows up he can run with anybody in the world. We may throw in a dud every now and then but he makes up for it!"
It was an eight-length gap from Will Take Charge to Blingo, who edged Mucho Macho Man for third in deep stretch. Hear the Ghost wound up fifth and was followed by Rousing Sermon, Imperative and American Blend.
"He ran so hard," jockey Luis Saez said of runner-up Will Take Charge. "He's very good and was in good position all the way. At the half-mile pole, I saw Game On Dude going so comfortably. My horse still ran good. It's OK."
"It's going to take us some time to figure it out (what happened)," trainer Kathy Ritvo said of Mucho Macho Man's disappointing effort. "I'm going to watch it again."
Game On Dude paid $9.60 to win.
Now a 14-time stakes hero, the son of Awesome Again has earned a whopping $6,163,893 from a 31-16-6-1 record.
Baffert was asked about Game On Dude becoming the first-time three-time winner of the Big 'Cap:
"To me, it's an emotional win for the horse," the Hall of Fame trainer said. "It kills me when they knock on him, but we came in here quiet and that's the way I like to come in. We came in under the radar and we were ready for them."
Game On Dude is owned by Diamond Pride LLC, the nom de course for former New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre; the Lanni Family Trust of the late J. Terrence Lanni; the Mercedes Stable of Ernest Moody and Maria Mercedes Villa; and Bernie Schiappa.
After garnering his first stakes victory in the 2010 Lone Star Derby, the dark bay recorded a close fourth in the Belmont Stakes, the final start of his sophomore campaign. Game On Dude posted his major win the following spring in the Santa Anita Handicap and went on to capture the Grade 1 Goodwood that fall before a runner-up finish to Drosselmeyer in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.
In 2012, Game On Dude posted five graded stakes tallies. He skipped the Santa Anita Handicap in favor of the Dubai World Cup, where he never challenged over the synthetic Tapeta track, and he sustained his second setback of the season with a subpar seventh as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Game on Dude won his first seven starts in 2013, including a sweep of the three premiere events for older horses in Southern California. In typical front-running fashion, he captured the Big 'Cap by 7 3/4 lengths, the Hollywood Gold Cup by a length and the Pacific Classic by 8 1/2 lengths. But nothing went right for him again in the Breeders' Cup Classic as he weakened to ninth as the 8-5 choice.
Baffert sent him to the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs after the Breeders' Cup last November and Game On Dude just missed, finishing a head second to Will Take Charge. But he opened 2014 with an uncharacteristic effort as the 1-5 favorite in the Grade 2 San Antonio, which led some to question whether the classy veteran still had it.
"Bob told me to trust him, that I would have a different horse this time," Smith said. "He didn't think he had him exactly where he wanted him for the San Antonio. Bob told me not to be down, that he didn't have him ready. He had him 110 percent today and when it comes to Bob, that's who you want to be riding for on big days."
Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Game On Dude was a $210,000 Keeneland September RNA as a yearling in 2008. He is out of the stakes-winning Devil His Due mare Worldly Pleasure.
Santa Anita drew an excellent crowd of 27,121 for the 77th running of the Big 'Cap.
California Chrome polishes off San Felipe foes
Midnight Hawk, victorious in the Sham two back and third in the Robert B. Lewis in his most recent outing, finished a clear second, 6 1/4 lengths ahead of Kristo. Schoolofhardrocks, Unstoppable Colby, Recanted and Sawyer's Hill completed the order of finish. Scratched from the field were Bayern, Home Run Kitten, and Rprettyboyfloyd.
"I didn't think he'd be on the lead, but he was a handful today," said Art Sherman, who trains the colt for Steve Coburn and Perry Martin. "I just told Victor, 'You got him.' I told him he broke like that because of that Quarter Horse training at Los Alamitos...We all know Santa Anita's a speed-biased type of track, so it was really great to see him with the hold he had on him. It's unbelievable.
"I don't think the distance will make any difference, a mile and a quarter," said Sherman in reference to the Kentucky Derby distance. "I think he'll run all day."
California Chrome now possesses a mark of 9-5-1-0, $534,850. Breaking his maiden last May going 4 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park, the son of Lucky Pulpit next finished fifth in the Willard Proctor over the same track, but rebounded to take the $100,000 Graduation for California-breds at Del Mar going 5 1/2 furlongs.
Sixth in the Del Mar Futurity and the Golden State Juvenile at Santa Anita in his next two outings, California Chrome concluded his two-year-old campaign with a 6 1/4-length romp in the $200,000 King Glorious at Hollywood over seven furlongs. He successfully stretched out in his sophomore debut, taking the $250,000 California Cup Derby by 5 1/2 lengths over 1 1/16 miles on January 25.
Bred in California by his owners, California Chrome was produced by the winning Love the Chase, a daughter of Lucky Pulpit. This extended family is responsible for Cascapedia, the champion older mare of 1977.
Weekend runs rings around rivals to upset Tampa Bay Derby
Although the tearaway leader appeared to lose a bit of steam turning into the stretch, his pursuers weren't making much of an impact. Ring Weekend, on the other hand, then kept on relentlessly and crossed the wire with three lengths to spare. His final time of 1:43 3/5 for 1 1/16 miles wasn't far off Street Sense's track record of 1:43, established in the 2007 Tampa Bay Derby.
"Coming out of the inside post I had to get him to start well," Centeno said, "but when I got to the first turn it was like he got mad at me for not letting him run. He wasn't rank, he was just full of himself and I had to give him his head. I knew I was clear of the field and I didn't want to get run down and I was able to get him to relax and save something for the stretch.
"He was looking around getting into the stretch and I was getting concerned, but when he switched leads he just took off again."
"I just left the ride to Daniel," Motion said. "I knew he could take advantage of the post position because the inside was good today and told him to just make sure he broke well and to put him where he was comfortable.
"I think the others kind of left him alone because they possibly didn't consider him a legit horse and he got away with it. When the jockey looks behind him that much, you feel like he has a lot left. I could never have anticipated him winning like that."
Vinceremos bested Surfing U S A, his stablemate from the Todd Pletcher barn, by three-quarters of a length for second. Conquest Titan reported home another length astern in fourth, one spot ahead of fellow Mark Casse trainee Matador. Cousin Stephen, Hy Kodiak Warrior, East Hall, Coltimus Prime and the tailed-off Tuscan Getaway rounded out the order of finish.
With this victorious stakes debut, Ring Weekend boosted his earnings to $255,660 from his 6-2-1-2 line. The chestnut tried to start his career on turf, only to have his first two outings transferred onto the main track. A well-beaten fifth in the Saratoga slop on August 31, he was a better third on the stretch-out to two turns at Churchill Downs September 21. Ring Weekend ended his freshman season with another third on Keeneland's Polytrack on October 20, and was subsequently gelded.
"I took him to Saratoga to try to break his maiden, that's how much I liked him," Motion said. "I think gelding him got his mind on the game."
Ring Weekend reappeared in a turf maiden at Gulfstream on January 18, finishing a close second to up-and-comer Divine Oath. Back on the dirt for a 1 1/16-mile maiden on February 8, he overcame post 10 to defeat Legend by a half-length.
Entered on a main-track-only basis for last Saturday's Palm Beach, which offered no Kentucky Derby points, Ring Weekend stayed in the barn when that race stayed on the grass. Connections announced Monday that he would be rerouted to Tampa, and the move paid dividends.
Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds, said that Ring Weekend almost went to Laurel for the Private Terms on Saturday instead.
"We were all set to go to Laurel, but Graham called me Monday -- we have the kind of relationship where we both kind of test each other out -- to see if either of us was strong either way," Finley said. "Then we got word Kiaran (McLaughlin's) horse, Baratti, was running at Laurel, and on paper he has run faster than all these, so we decided to enter here. Funny how those things work out."
"I wouldn't say my confidence was high, but I really thought he was legit," Motion said.
"Really, I haven't looked past today for him," the trainer added regarding future targets.
Ring Weekend was bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and sold for $310,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. He is a half-brother to the stakes-placed Bamboo, and his dam, the multiple stakes-placed Free the Magic, is a full sister to Grade 3-placed stakes victor Flash of Joy.
Free the Magic is a daughter of Cryptoclearance and the French classic-placed Pompoes, who is also responsible for Group 2 hero Forest Wind and multiple stakes scorer and Group 3-placed Three Generations. Pompoes is the ancestress of multiple Argentinean Group 1 queen Cayaya and her multiple Group 2-winning compatriot AP Candy.
Ring Weekend's pedigree features 4x3 inbreeding to Fappiano.
Palace Malice battles back to win Gulfstream Park Handicap
After wheeling three wide through the bend, Palace Malice advanced to take a narrow lead entering the stretch drive. He completed six furlongs in 1:09 1/5, but Uncaptured was rallying determinedly to his outside and stuck a head in front with a furlong remaining. Golden Ticket was also making serious headway from off the pace, accelerating to take a short lead between horses in deep stretch.
Palace Malice kept chugging away down along the rail and surged again late to prevail in the final strides.
"There was nothing we could do about being wide," Velazquez said. "That's where we wanted to be anyway. That's where we broke. We had a great position and we wanted to make sure we kept our position. The only thing was that I didn't want to be that close. Once he got to the top of the stretch he kind of idled a little bit and kind of got surprised by the horses on the outside of him, but I got after him and he responded right away.
Golden Ticket, last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile runner-up, had to settle for second at 7-1 odds, a half-length better than 14-1 third-placer Uncaptured.
"He ran super. It was a really, really good race," said Kenny McPeek, trainer of Golden Ticket. "He's a really good horse. He never should've been 7-1. That was a joke. He's just classy. He runs good off a layoff and he likes a flat mile."
Itsmyluckyday, who was making his first start since June, wound up another 6 1/2 lengths back in fourth. Narvaez, Sr. Quisqueyano and Falling Sky came next under the wire. Brujo de Olleros was scratched.
Pletcher was asked what's next for the winner.
"Mr. Campbell and I talked a little bit about the New Orleans Handicap (on March 29), it's back in three weeks. Oaklawn Handicap (on April 12). Everything's in play. I think he put (the Met Mile on the June 7 Belmont Stakes undercard) into play today. It's one of the things we talked about."
By Curlin, Palace Malice won his second career start at Saratoga in 2012. The Kentucky-bred colt was put on the shelf for the remainder of his two-year-old season, returning with a runner-up against allowance rivals at Gulfstream Park n his sophomore debut.
The bay finished a close third when making his stakes debut in the Grade 2 Risen Star in February 2013 and followed with a troubled seventh in the Louisiana Derby. Palace Malice went on to post a neck second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass before experimenting with blinkers in the Kentucky Derby, where he sprinted to the early lead and recorded some of the fastest fractions in the race's storied history before retreating to 12th.
With the blinkers removed in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, Palace Malice rated kindly on the front end for his connections and earned his first stakes win with a 3 1/4-length upset at 13-1. He went on to capture the Grade 2 Jim Dandy before missing the break and recording a close fourth in the Grade 1 Travers.
In his first start against older horses, Palace Malice finished second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He experienced another awkward start and never threatened in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
With Saturday's $150,000 payday, Palace Malice has now earned $1,631,135 from a 13-4-4-1 career line.
Bred by W.S. Farish, Palace Malice sold for $25,000 as a Keeneland September yearling prior to coming to Dogwood as a $200,000 Keeneland April two-year-old. He is the first stakes winner out of the stakes-winning Royal Anthem mare Palace Rumor, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes scorers Maya's Storm and Jumpifyoudare. His third dam is the granddam of Grade 1 victor Rail Trip, and further back this family has also produced English champion sprinter Flirting Around.
Winning Prize repels Lochte in Kilroe Mile
Lochte threw down a serious bid down the lane, but Winning Prize rose to the occasion, rebuffed his rival by a half-length, and sizzled the firm-turf mile in 1:32 2/5. That time ranks as the second-fastest in Kilroe history, bettered only by Atticus' 1:31 4/5 in 1997. The 7-2 third choice, Winning Prize rewarded his backers with a $9.60 win payout.
"We were expecting the other horse (Regally Ready) to go to the lead," Drysdale said. "When he took him back, it left us on the lead, and he wasn't pressured badly -- we went :23 and change, :46 and change. That horse is just quality. It makes a big difference when you can get away with an easy first half mile. That set us up well. He quickened well in the stretch. He's changed and relaxes in his races. He's becoming more adaptable the more we race him."
"I talked to Neil about it this morning," Nakatani said of the pace scenario, "and we felt we were ready if he was going to go ahead and go and do his thing. We knew we could track him (Regally Ready).
The defending champion edged 9-5 favorite Za Approval by a neck. Silentio, who had missed by a whisker to Suggestive Boy last year, was another neck away in fifth. Next came Lakerville, Tom's Tribute, Regally Ready and Optimizer.
Winning Prize now boasts a record of 13-8-1-1, $610,840. An 11-length romper at second asking in Argentina, he quickly added a pair of Group 1 events for juveniles, the Raul Y Raul E. Chevalier and the Gran Criterium. Winning Prize was upset in his three-year-old debut in the Gran Premio Dos Mil Guineas, finishing second to Johnny Guitar. He made an unsuccessful switch to dirt when seventh in the Gran Premio Polla de Potrillos. Rebounding on his return to turf, Winning Prize captured his final two outings in Argentina, and notably recorded his third Group 1 score in the Joaquin S. de Anchorena.
The son of Pure Prize made his winning U.S. debut off an eight-month holiday last August, wiring a Del Mar optional claimer by four lengths in a sparkling 1:32 4/5 on firm ground. Winning Prize then shipped to Keeneland to challenge Wise Dan in the October 5 Shadwell Turf Mile, but a sudden deluge forced the race onto the Polytrack. Although Winning Prize ran creditably in fourth, five lengths behind upsetter Silver Max, he didn't show his customary speed. Winning Prize was happier back on turf in the November 29 Citation Handicap at Hollywood, where he led early and held on for a close, grudging third to Silentio and Summer Front on a good course. He has since prospered on the firm going at Santa Anita.
Bred by Haras de la Pomme, Winning Prize is out of the You and I mare Winning Ways. This is the family of Australian Group 1-winning sire Northern Meteor, and further back, English/Irish champion and sire Apalachee, Irish champion Belted Earl and Grade 1 queen Hail Atlantis (dam of noted sire Stormy Atlantic).
Winning Prize's fifth dam is 1965 Horse of the Year Moccasin, full sister to 1961 champion two-year-old colt Ridan and to multiple stakes-winning sire Lt. Stevens. Other all-stars in the maternal line include champions and outstanding sires Sadler's Wells and Nureyev, English/Irish champion Thatch and U.S. Hall of Famer Gamely.
Sahara Sky defends title in San Carlos
Making only his second start since a thrilling, last-jump victory in the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day, Sahara Sky rallied from near the back in the final quarter-mile to capture the Grade 2, $251,250 San Carlos at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Under Joel Rosario, Sahara Sky saved ground from post 1 while racing within five lengths of the pace. Remaining near the back of the 10-horse field to the stretch, Sahara Sky came out in the lane, found room between rivals late and surged to best 9-1 shot Big Macher by a half-length in a time of 1:20 4/5 for seven furlongs on a fast track. He paid $8.80 as the 3-1 second choice.
"It was a really good ride," Rosario said. "He was in a little bit of trouble turning for home. I had to try and find some room and as soon as someone gave me enough room I tried to find my way through, and when I asked him he was good. He was good after all that."
Sahara Sky's victory was the first title defense in the San Carlos since Rising Market won in 1969-70. Autocrat (1948-49) and Porterhouse (1955-56) also won in consecutive years, while Native Diver (1965, 1967) and Surf Cat (2006, 2008) are the only other multiple winners of the race.
Big Macher, who traded leads with Cyclometer through splits of :22 3/5 and :44 3/5, held second by a head over 38-1 chance Clubhouse Ride, who had a nose on Wild Dude. Shakin It Up, the 7-5 favorite, finished fifth and was followed by Midnight Transfer, Let's Get Crackin, Ready for More, Cyclometer, and Zeewat.
Sahara Sky burst on the scene in early 2013, registering a 21-1 upset of the Palos Verdes and a milder 6-1 score in the San Carlos. Following a narrow second-place finish in the Carter Handicap, he earned his Grade 1 laurels with a score in the Metropolitan, which proved to be his final start of the season due to infirmities.
Returning to action in the 2014 edition of the Palos Verdes on February 2, Sahara Sky trailed throughout in the field of five, but lost by only 3 1/2 lengths to Wild Dude. His record now stands at 18-8-3-4, $1,040,680.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who co-owns the six-year-old with Kim Lloyd's Sweetwater Stable, said that a title defense in the Met Mile, scheduled for June 7 this year, is on the agenda for the son of Pleasant Tap.
Bred in Florida by Martin Stables, Sahara Sky was produced by the Grade 3-winning Seeking the Sky, a daughter of Storm Cat and the Grade 2-winning Seeking Regina. This extended family includes Grade 1 winner Bachelor Beau, Grade 2 winner Just Jenda and Grade 3 victor All Squared Away.
Euphrosyne awarded Honeybee win via disqualification
Santana was quick to claim foul against Hill and Sugar Shock, as was Please Explain's rider, Drayden Van Dyke. While the stewards allowed Santana's claim they disallowed Van Dyke's and only placed Sugar Shock behind Euphrosyne, leaving Please Explain in third.
Bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, Euphrosyne is the first registered foal out of the stakes-winning Doneraile Court mare Three Graces, who is a half-sister to Grade 2 hero Private Horde and dual Grade 3-placed Pricearose. Euphrosyne's third dam is Grade 1 victress Golden Horde.
Testa Rossi prevails in Florida Oaks
The second flight challengers never fired and Spangled Banner began backing up as well as Istanford rounded the second turn. Testa Rossi, meanwhile, was putting in her run three wide and rocketed into the stretch. She maintained her momentum in the lane to inhale Istanford and pass the pacesetter before completing 1 1/16 miles on the firm turf in 1:43 2/5.
"I didn't think being in the 12 post would be a problem," Lezcano explained. "She has been working really well and even last year when we were coming from way out of it, I was sure she could stay with an honest pace. We broke really well and I was able to get over and get her to relax before we got to into the first turn. After that, it was just waiting on the leaders and keeping her out of trouble. She was very much on her own in the late run."
Istanford was best of the rest at 11-1, finishing 2 1/4 lengths in front of fellow 20-1 longshot Interuppted, who in turn had a nose up on 60-1 Babe's Ruler to take third. Runway Giant came next and was followed by Annulment, Kitten Kaboodle, Spangled Bannder, Ready's Legend, Duff One, Miss Besilu and Jerry Love.
"This is a good filly and she showed that today," said Istanford's jockey, Joe Rocco Jr. "I got her to the front and she was going along easily without any pressure. When we hit the stretch, I didn't think there was anything could run us down. When the winner came to us she dug in and did her best. It took a very good filly to beat us."
Testa Rossi has racked up $445,422 in career earnings and her line now stands at 8-5-2-0. The chestnut filly just missed in her racing bow at Lyon in France last April 28, then finished fifth by only a length over that same heavy course on May 10. She broke her maiden on June 2 at Lyon and concluded her French campaign unbeaten in her final two starts overseas.
Shipping stateside and joining Brown's shedrow, Testa Rossi made her U.S. bow in the Grade 3 Miss Grillo in early October at Belmont Park. She gutted out a nose victory in that 8 1/2-furlong grass contest, and then shipped to the West Coast for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Santa Anita Park. The filly put in her customary late run from last in that contest, but then had to steady in the stretch and finished second by 2 1/2 lengths.
Given a brief freshening following her Breeders' Cup run and multiple plane trips, Testa Rossi returned to the worktab in January at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and got back to her winning ways in this spot.
Bred in France by Barbara Moser, Testa Rossi is out of the winning Dancing Spree mare Peggy Lane.
Cloud Scapes stays hot in Hillsborough
Trailing by a half-length with a furlong remaining, Cloud Scapes gradually wore down her foe and put a nose in front on the finish line. She completed the about 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:51 2/5 on the firm turf.
Off as the 7-2 third choice among eight rivals, Cloud Scapes paid $9.60 to win.
"It was a tough race for her because there was no speed in here," Motion said, "and we knew it was going to be awkward for her. We were lucky that filly (Donna's Fly Girl) slipped through on the inside so she had someone to follow, because when she is on the lead she starts looking around.
"She ran a big race. Erick rides her great -- she's a little tricky to ride and he has her number now, I think."
Rodriguez has plenty of respect for Cloud Scapes.
"This is really a wonderful horse; she just likes to race," Rodriguez said. "Last time we had speed to run at and she came on when I asked. Today we were relaxed on the lead and then just off the lead, and like before she just came away when I asked. We thought there would be more speed in the race but she handles whatever they do up front."
Waterway Run, the 3-1 second choice, easily held second by 1 1/2 lengths over 6-5 favorite Riposte, who never made a serious impact from off the pace. Next under the wire came E B Ryder, Gulsary, Enchanted Party, Thecushmaker and Donna's Fly Girl. Liberated, who was entered from the main track only, stayed in the barn.
Bred in Kentucky, Cloud Scapes has now compiled a record of 9-4-3-0, $262,907. Originally trained by Malcolm Pierce, she made her first five starts at Woodbine and Fair Grounds, winning only her debut on Woodbine's Polytrack. The chestnut finished second against allowance rivals when making her first start for Motion last October at Keeneland and then posted the aforementioned allowance victory at Tampa in December.
"I really haven't thought beyond this race for her, but we'll probably step it up," Motion said. "I think this mare could really go on and have a big year."
A five-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, Cloud Scapes was produced by the winning Storm Cat mare Every Cloud, a full sister to Grade 1 winner Missed the Storm and a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner Green Means Go. This is the extended family of Hall of Fame fillies Winning Colors and Chris Evert.
Top Billing off classic trail with cracked cannon bone
"He's going to Kentucky today. Hopefully he'll get operated on tomorrow afternoon or first thing Monday morning," McGaughey said.
Top Billing had run three times at Gulfstream Park, finishing second in an entry-level allowance on January 3 before capturing a race at the same level on January 25 and finishing third in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth.
McGaughey still has a Triple Crown prospect in his stable in Honor Code, who is scheduled to make his 2014 debut in Wednesday's 8TH race at Gulfstream. The son of A.P. Indy has been installed as the 3-5 favorite over four rivals in the $75,000 open allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Javier Castellano, who rode him to victory in the Remsen at Aqueduct in his 2013 finale, has the return mount.
Honor Code's training this winter was set back by bruised hind ankles, but he has a solid series of four workouts since being transferred from Payson Park to Gulfstream.
"I'm just looking for him to run a decent race," McGaughey said. "I'd like him to win, but if he doesn't, we'd like to see something to push on with."
Honor Code has been expected to be pointed to the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5, but Top Billing's injury could bring the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29 into McGaughey's plans, depending on his performance on Wednesday.
"It's a good possibility," said McGaughey, who has scheduled Honor Code to breeze three furlongs at Gulfstream Sunday morning.
Tampa Bay allowance win sets Bobby's Kitten up for Blue Grass
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's homebred Bobby's Kitten led the way home in the 6TH race at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday, taking command from his rail post when the gates opened and setting all the pace under jockey Javier Castellano.
The Chad Brown trainee was using this one-mile, firm-turf contest as a prep for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass going nine furlongs over Keeneland's Polytrack on April 12. That race, in turn, will be worth 100 points to the winner for a berth in the Kentucky Derby three weeks later at Churchill Downs.
Bobby's Kitten was making his sophomore bow in this spot, and the Kitten's Joy colt encountered no problems in his return from a more than four-month vacation. Breaking on top, the bay Kentucky-bred sets splits of :24 1/5, :48, 1:12 1/5 and 1:24 1/5 while under a snug hold much of the way from Castellano. Global View, last seen taking the grassy Grade 3 Generous at Hollywood Park in late November, drafted just off Bobby's Kitten flank on the outside and began his run rounding the turn.
Unfortunately for Global View, Bobby's Kitten kicked into another gear and turned back that challenge. He continued motoring to be 1 1/2 lengths clear of Global View on the wire while stopping the clock in 1:36 4/5. The colt paid $2.80 for the win as the 2-5 favorite.
Global View ran well in his three-year-old bow, holding second by 1 3/4 lengths over the filly in the field, Maria Maria. Ride Away was another 3 1/4 lengths back in fourth, while career debuter Noble Bird and Pirradazis completed the order of finish. Celiac Cause, Cool Cowboy, Mighty Brown and Solider Inthe Rain were all scratched.
Bobby's Kitten is now 3-0-2 from five lifetime starts and has banked $307,100 in earnings. The bay, who has thus far raced exclusively on turf, began his career with a third-placing at Saratoga last July and broke his maiden at the Spa a month later by 2 3/4 lengths. He stepped up to face stakes company next out and romped by 6 1/4 lengths in the Grade 3 Pilgrim at Belmont Park on October 6.
Bobby's Kitten wrapped up his two-year-old campaign in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, leading from the onset of that contest before settling for third when passed by European shippers Outstrip and Giovanni Boldini in the lane.
Out of the winning Forestry mare Celestial Woods, Bobby's Kitten is a full brother to Major Magic, winner of the 2011 Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs.
Bobby's Kitten hails from the prominent turf family of champion and $3.4-million earner Paradise Creek, whose major victories include the 1994 Arlington Million and Washington D.C. International; Grade 1 stars Forbidden Apple and Wild Event; and multiple highweight David Junior, winner of the 2005 Champion Stakes and 2006 Eclipse and Dubai Duty Free, all Group 1s.
A further generation back come two more stand-outs: 1987 turf champ Theatrical, who capped his glittering season in the Breeders' Cup Turf, and Japan's Taiki Blizzard, hero of the prestigious Yasuda Kinen in 1997. Digging deeper, one finds Japanese champion and French highweight Nakayama Festa, a close second in the 2010 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and Italian champion *Prince Royal II, who garnered the 1964 Arc.
Cairo Prince, General a Rod work for Florida Derby
"It was just what we ordered and wanted to see," McLaughlin said. "He looked great doing it, and we're on course for the race. The reason we backed up and went slower is because we can't go 59 and four every week or there will be not much left of him. We were real happy with the work. He's doing great."
Darley Stable purchased a majority interest in Cairo Prince from owners Terry Murray, Paul Braverman, Harvey Clarke and Craig Robertson following the Holy Bull. The horse has won three of his four lifetime starts, including the Nashua at Aqueduct last fall. His lone loss came by a nose to Honor Code in the Remsen.
"We're excited, and he's doing great," McLaughlin said. "We're happy we passed on the Fountain of Youth and hope all goes well the next couple of weeks and we draw a good post in the Florida Derby."
Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod returned to the work tab with an easy half-mile breeze on Saturday for trainer Mike Maker.
Runner-up by a head to Wildcat Red in the $400,000 Fountain of Youth on February 22 in his most recent start, General a Rod went in :51 1/5 over Gulfstream's main track. He will make his next start in the Florida Derby.
"We just worked him easy and he was push-button, as always," Maker said. "It was nothing for him, just a stroll in the park. We didn't ask him for anything. He came back like a routine gallop."
Owned by J. Armando Rodriguez, General a Rod has two wins and two seconds in four lifetime starts. The Roman Ruler colt broke his maiden first time out at Keeneland last fall, and returned to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind Conquest Titan in a Churchill Downs allowance in November.
This year, General a Rod dueled with Wildcat Red down the stretch before prevailing by a head in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on January 1, then had the finish reversed in the Fountain of Youth following a similar battle.
"He's doing good, his weight's good, his attitude's good, and everything's in place," Maker said. "He was more aggressive after the race and full of himself, so he probably wanted to work sooner than I decided. Everything's positive."
General a Rod had 6 1/2 weeks from the Gulfstream Park Derby to the Fountain of Youth and will have had four weeks to the Florida Derby, but Maker is not concerned with the turnaround.
"It was just the timing of the race that we had to deal with," Maker said. "We felt we'd give him more time earlier than later for his benefit."
Maker said that Louisiana-bred LeComte winner Vicar's in Trouble would likely have his first work since joining the trainer's Gulfstream string last week on March 15. In his last start, Vicar's in Trouble was third from post 14 in the Risen Star on February 22.
Prince Bishop follows up in Maktoum Round 3
In the opening stages of Round 3, Mutajare showed the way, with Limario in close attendance. Surfer, poorly drawn in post 14, moved up into third on the backstretch. Joshua Tree, in contrast, managed to get over to the rail from post 10 and enjoyed a ground-saving trip just behind the pace. Prince Bishop, who had drawn the rail, was reserved in midpack, covered up by Sanshaawes, who was navigating extra yardage throughout from post 13.
When Mutajare retreated from contention turning for home, Surfer and Limario vied for command, and Joshua Tree kept on dourly in the frame. Prince Bishop was briefly hemmed in behind the leaders, but a narrow seam emerged between Surfer and Limario, and he immediately seized it. The Dubawi gelding negotiated about 1 1/4 miles on Tapeta -- the World Cup distance -- in 2:04 1/5.
Fallon, speaking to godolphin.com, credited Prince Bishop for extricating himself from the situation.
"I didn't think that the gap was going to come," Fallon said. "When it did, it closed very quickly, but I had the horse to get me out of trouble. Horses like this can carry you.
"Prince Bishop has done nothing but improve and has gone from strength to strength. Hopefully, he can improve again and run well on Dubai World Cup night."
Bin Suroor likewise told the stable website that Prince Bishop is still on the upswing as a seven-year-old.
"Prince Bishop is a better horse physically compared to last year," the trainer said. "He is stronger and always works really well in the mornings, when he looks happy and fresh.
"He is a different horse now and that has given us the confidence to run him in two rounds of the Maktoum Challenge.
"He won well last time and again tonight. He is an improving horse."
Sanshaawes finished boldly to take runner-up honors by three-quarters of a length from Surfer. Godolphin's Cat O'Mountain got up for fourth for trainer Charlie Appleby in a bunched finish, followed by Educate, Joshua Tree, Side Glance, the disappointing African Story (who had been second to stablemate Prince Bishop in Round 2) and Limario. There was a 1 1/4-length gap to Zambucca, who was trailed by Ottoman Empire, Elleval, Alexandra Palace and Mutajare.
Bin Suroor added that African Story is still under World Cup consideration.
"African Story seemed too far back," the trainer said, "but he is still a good horse and could also go for the Dubai World Cup."
Prince Bishop has compiled a record of 23-9-1-3. Initially trained by Andre Fabre, the chestnut landed the 2010 Prix du Prince d'Orange in his stakes debut and then edged Cirrus des Aigles in the Prix du Conseil de Paris. Prince Bishop joined bin Suroor ahead of his 2011 campaign, and didn't regain the winning thread until he was gelded. That fall, he promptly romped in course-record time in the Floodlit over Kempton's Polytrack.
Last September, Kempton was once again the scene of a Prince Bishop rebound in the September Stakes, his first run back since his flop in the Sheema. But he was subsequently tailed off in the October 26 St Simon on heavy ground at Newbury, and didn't resurface until Round 2.
Bred by Thurso Ltd. in Ireland, Prince Bishop was a $172,838 Tattersalls December weanling. He is out of the Prospect Bay mare North East Bay, who is a half-sister to San Antonio winner Blingo (who runs in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap) and to stakes victress Hold to Ransom (dam of multiple Australian Group 3 scorer Retrieve). Further back, this is the family of champion Teenoso, hero of the 1983 Derby at Epsom; Group 1 winner Top Guest; and Group 2 victor and classic-placed Most Welcome.
Shuruq shocks Variety Club
With Mickael Barzalona in the saddle, subbing for the suspended Silvestre de Sousa, Shuruq covered the metric mile in 1:36 1/5. The only female winner of the Maktoum Challenge Round 1, she has now become the first filly to beat males in the Burj Nahaar.
"Silvestre de Sousa told me all about her, and I have to thank him for his help," Barzalona said. "She is a lovely filly and has beaten a very good horse there (Variety Club)."
Variety Club, who had blitzed the Firebreak in 1:35 3/5, settled for second. As another measure of his regression, he had three-quarters of a length to spare over Capital Attraction, whom he had dusted by 5 1/4 lengths last time. Forjatt, Gold City, Avon Pearl, Van Rooney, Dastarhon, Gabrial, Empire Storm, also-eligible Ocean Tempest, Eastern Rules, Haatheq, Rutland Boy, Brendan Brackan and Zahee concluded the order under the wire. Mainsail was scratched, along with also-eligibles Zurbriggen and Red Dubawi.
Shuruq's resume now reads 12-4-2-2. As a juvenile, the daughter of Elusive Quality was third in her Newmarket debut to eventual champion Certify. Shuruq promptly opened her account next time on the Kempton Polytrack, foreshadowing her fondness for Meydan's Tapeta. Second in both the U.A.E. One Thousand Guineas Trial and the Guineas itself last Carnival, she earned a stakes breakthrough with a four-length romp in the U.A.E. Oaks. The U.A.E. Derby proved a bridge too far, however, and she wound up seventh in her only unplaced effort on synthetic. Returned to England, Shuruq went winless in three turf tries, her best result being a third in the Atalanta at Sandown.
Now on her second Carnival, Shuruq regained the winning thread back on her preferred surface in the Maktoum Challenge Round 1. She reverted to turf for the January 30 Cape Verdi, where she ended up serving as a pacemaker for comebacker Certify, and ultimately trailed home last of six. Shuruq rebounded with a vengeance here, reiterating that she's a different animal on synthetic.
"She is just a much better filly on this all-weather surface and all her best form has been here in Dubai at Meydan," bin Suroor said. "We will bring her back in three weeks, probably for the Godolphin Mile."
According to godolphin.com, Shuruq could be bound for a U.S. campaign.
"After that, we may send her to America so she can run on the dirt out there," bin Suroor told the stable website.
Bred by Darley in Kentucky, Shuruq is out of Group 2 heroine Miss Lucifer, a daughter of Noverre who descends from influential matron Sunbittern.
"That was a great performance," Nass said, "but we knew he would relish this trip and it is a great effort to win a race like this with a maiden.
"We discussed the race in depth with Richard and the plan was to sit close to the pace and see how the race was panning out. If there was no speed we were happy to go on as the one thing we knew this horse would do was stay.
"It was a great ride and a wonderful result for a small yard. We will be back for the U.A.E. Derby in three weeks but, obviously, that will be a stronger race."
Najm Suhail checked in another 3 1/2 lengths astern in third, followed by Duke Derby, He's No Saint, More Aspen, Chord Chart, Full Combat, Letterfromamerica and the tailed-off Eye in the Sky.
Bred by Eric Puerari and Oceanic Bloodstock, Asmar was sold for $282,900 as an Arqana August yearling. He is out of the unraced Mtoto mare Zaneton, the dam of 2012 champion turf female Zagora. An earner of more than $2.1 million, Zagora scored her signature wins in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and Diana Stakes.
Straightening for home, Anaerobio was steered out wide by Pat Cosgrave, kindly opening a giant gap for Vercingetorix. The undefeated favorite capitalized on the favor from his stable companion and went on to stop the teletimer in 1:49 1/5.
"He is a very useful horse," de Kock said, "but it is hard to know just how good because he only ever does enough. In all his races he has traveled really well and gone to the front easily before quickening.
"He then tends to stop and wait for some company, as Christophe discovered last time. It is great to win a Group 1 here with him and the Dubai Duty Free is the obvious target.
"He did not take the travel and quarantine well and we are delighted to have him back at his best."
Vancouverite did his best work late to nab Anaerobio by a neck for second. Late-running Trade Storm was the same margin away in fourth, and Mushreq likewise a neck adrift in fifth. Next came Edu Querido, Mars, Tanfeeth, Quick Wit, Linton, L'Amour de Ma Vie, Al Waab and the distanced Samurai Sword. Mustaheel was scratched.
Unraced at two, Vercingetorix progressed rapidly after breaking his maiden at Vaal last March. He went on to win three straight at Greyville, notably notching hard-fought decisions in the May 4 KRA Guineas and the June 1 Greyville 2,000. On both occasions, Vercingetorix outdueled a savvier foe in Cape Guineas and Derby hero Capetown Noir, who has since captured the January 11 Queen's Plate.
Vercingetorix is a half-brother to multiple South African Group 3 heroine Trinity House, the runner-up in the 2011 Cape Fillies Guineas, as well as to Group 2-placed Never Forever. They were all produced by National Vixen, a Group 2-placed daughter of National Assembly. South African champion sprinter Extra Cover and Group 1 victors Steaming Jungle and St. Johns Wood are also in the family.
A cavalry charge erupted down the stretch, with no shortage of contenders in the hunt. Battle of Marengo was assailed by Meandre, Penglai Pavilion and Songcraft, and the closers began to get involved.
Excellent Result needed a way through the traffic, and finding it, he sliced through and forced his head in front of stablemate Songcraft in a final time of 2:32 4/5. The trip was a harbinger of stablemate Prince Bishop's one race later in the Group 1 Maktoum Challenge Round 3, where Fallon again found room in the midst of horses aboard a bin Suroor runner.
"I got lucky in the end," Fallon told godolphin.com, "and the gaps came for me because I was in trouble for a long way up the straight with nowhere to go.
"Excellent Result is obviously a good horse in the making. He is still a big baby who is still improving. I think that he will be a good horse one day."
"I like Excellent Result a lot," bin Suroor told the stable website. "He is improving all of the time and this is his second victory of the year at Meydan.
"We will keep the options open regarding whether to go for the Dubai Sheema Classic or Dubai Gold Cup (Group 3 over two miles) on World Cup night. We will talk with H H Sheikh Mohammed and then decide.
"Songcraft ran a great race and he is a better horse that he was last year," the trainer added.
Mount Athos produced a sustained rally on the inside rail and just failed to crash the Godolphin party. Meandre's bid flattened out in the waning yards, and he wound up another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Dabadiyan, Sheikhzayedroad, Penglai Pavilion, Jamr, Start Right, Model Pupil, Ralston Road, a rapidly-weakening Battle of Marengo, Mujaarib, Heavy Metal and Interpret rounded out the order under the wire. Tanfeeth was withdrawn.
Excellent Result's scorecard now stands at 10-4-0-1. Third to the highly-regarded Telescope in his debut as a juvenile, he broke his maiden three starts later at Sandown. He was then pitched straight into a heritage handicap at Royal Ascot, the King George V, and was beaten all of three lengths in a creditable seventh of 18.
Freshened for the rest of the summer, Excellent Result returned to take another heritage handicap over the same course and 1 1/2-mile trip last September. He concluded a promising sophomore campaign with a fourth in a York handicap in October, and kicked off his Carnival with a fourth to Certerach in a January 23 handicap. Excellent Result turned the tables in the aforementioned marathon on February 6.
Bred by Tom and Geraldine Molan in Ireland, Excellent Result brought $94,703 as a Goffs November weanling. His dam, the Sadler's Wells mare Line Ahead, is a half-sister to South African Group 1 winner Potala Palace. He descends from the superb female line of classic heroes Golan and North Light.
Rich Tapestry, Shea Shea prevail in Super Saturday sprints
Reynaldothewizard held the same 1 1/4-length margin over Godolphin's Complicate, who stayed on well for third. Jamesie rattled home from last to grab fourth, and Balmont Mast, Russian Soul, Nawwaar, Bello, Soft Falling Rain, United Color, Krypton Factor, Gale Force Ten, Abu Sidra and Tamaathul rounded out the order of finish. Also-eligibles Zee Bros, My Catch and Conveyance didn't draw into the field.
Rich Tapestry, who clocked 1:11 3/5 to remain perfect on all-weather, improved his overall scorecard to 24-6-3-1. Originally trained by Dermot Weld in Ireland, the son of Holy Roman Emperor broke his maiden over Dundalk's Polytrack at second asking, but in his first attempt on synthetic. After a fourth in the Ballysax and a sixth in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial in 2011, he was exported to Hong Kong. He was unplaced in six straight for new connections before switching to the all-weather, and promptly won two in a row in the spring and summer of 2012.
With his rating rising too high to stay in all-weather events, Rich Tapestry has since been plying his trade on turf with mixed results in tough company. He landed the Sprint Cup at Sha Tin last April, and most recently finished sixth to Japanese supremo Lord Kanaloa in the December 8 Hong Kong Sprint.
Bred by Moyglare Stud, Rich Tapestry now races for the partnership of Silas Yang Siu Shun, Wong Tak Wai, Ho Chi Keung and Cheung Yuk Tak. He is out of the Sadler's Wells mare Genuine Charm, who is a full sister to Irish highweight, classic winner and sire Refuse to Bend and a half-sister to 2002 Melbourne Cup hero Media Puzzle.
"Waiting for Super Saturday was always the plan, followed by Dubai World Cup night and hopefully Royal Ascot in England."
The top two pulled 1 1/2 lengths clear of Dux Scholar in third, and Sole Power was a late-running fourth in his reappearance. Next came Catcall, Hototo, My Catch, Roi de Vitesse, Alsaaeqah, Beat Baby, Zee Bros, Mundahesh and Make It Reel. Abstraction and Russian Rock were scratched.
Shea Shea's final time for the about five-furlong sprint was :57.07, just off the :57.02 he recorded in the 2013 Meydan Sprint, when he'd had the benefit of a previous run. That stood as the course record for all of three weeks, for Shea Shea smashed it when clocking :56.41 in the Al Quoz.
A seven-year-old gelding by National Emblem, Shea Shea sports a mark of 23-11-4-3. He captured four stakes in his native South Africa, chief among them the 2011 Golden Horse Casino Sprint and 2012 Computaform Sprint. After taking Dubai by storm last season, Shea Shea ventured to England and turned in three commendable efforts in Group 1s. He was just denied by familiar foe Sole Power in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot, battled on for fourth in the July Cup at Newmarket, and missed by a half-length to ill-fated Jwala in the August 23 Nunthorpe at York in his latest. The six-month layoff proved no obstacle Saturday, and further improvement is likely in the Al Quoz.
The Klawervlei Stud-bred was produced by the Jallad mare Yankee Clipper and hails from the family of another multiple Group 1-winning sprinter, Fov's Favourite.
Fiorente completes Melbourne Cup-Australian Cup double
Fiorente has proven invincible since his popular victory in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup last November, and he pushed his career earnings past the A$6 million mark when becoming just the third horse to notch the Melbourne Cup-Australian Cup double in the same season when taking that latter Group 1 contest by a half-length on Saturday at Flemington.
Breaking a step slow, Fiorente found himself at the back of the pack early as Shamus Award, a dual Group 1 hero of the Cox Plate and Australian Guineas, galloped along uncontested on the lead with 2012 Melbourne Cup winner Green Moon on his heels. Shamus Award led the field into the straight as jockey Damien Oliver swung Fiorente five-wide.
Minor urging was all it took for Fiorente to draw alongside Green Moon, and that pair quickly swept past Shamus Award, with Fiorente drawing clear inside the final 50 meters.
"It is a great honor to be part of his journey and it is great to see a Melbourne Cup winner come back and be so dominant in the Australian Cup," Oliver, who was earning his first Australian Cup and 101st Group 1 win, told RacingNetwork.com.au. "The pace was moderate for at least the first half and after the half-mile they started to increase it and he moved into the race really nicely. I just came to the outside and gave him some clear air and he was really chiming in beautifully at the clock tower and he won with authority.
"You just have to love the way he sticks his head out," Oliver added. "He is a dream to ride and has a great attitude. It is great to be part of it."
A Group 2 winner in England for trainer Sir Michael Stoute before being picked out by trainer Gai Waterhouse, the Irish-bred Fiorente justified his new trainer's belief when running a cracking second in his Australian debut in the 2012 Melbourne Cup. Winner of the Group 2 Dato'tan Chin Nam Stakes to kick off the season in September, Fiorente earned favoritism for the 2013 Cup off a fourth in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes and a third in the Group 1 Cox Plate, and delivered a first win for Waterhouse in Australia's most historic race 10 days later.
Fiorente resumed with a sparkling first-up win in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes on February 22, and went three straight on Saturday.
The six-year-old son of Monsun will now target the Group 1 BMW at Rosehill on April 5, followed by the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 19.
The other Group 1 at Flemington on Saturday saw a possible new sprint star emerge from the Newmarket Handicap.
Prior to last season, Lankan Rupee would have been nothing more than a blip on the radar of most Australian racegoers, having won just two minor races in the spring of 2012. An equipment change proved to be exactly what he required, however, and Lankan Rupee has been nearly unstoppable since returning as a gelding five months ago.
Under the services of young rider Chad Schofield in the Newmarket 'Cap after Craig Newitt opted for his Mick Price-trained stablemate Samaready, Lankan Rupee was away swiftly from his wide gate down the Flemington straight. Sitting prominently in third up to the 300-meter mark, the Redoute's Choice four-year-old was let loose by Schofield and exploded to the lead, leaving the result never in doubt and scoring by a widening berth from the same two rivals that filled out the trifecta in the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate.
It was the second Group 1 victory for Schofield, who piloted Shamus Award to his historic maiden-breaking victory in last year's Cox Plate.
"This kid rides beyond his years," Price told RacingNetwork.com.au. "I said, 'Don't be too scientific,' and Craig Newitt helped with the riding instructions, but he rode him perfectly. I told him the horse needs a good pair of hands and to flow along with him. It was up to this young jockey's judgment and he went with the flow."
The first-up winner of a Moonee Valley handicap going 955 meters on October 4, Lankan Rupee filled the same position in a similar event three weeks later before taking the listed Earl Grey Stakes at Flemington on November 7. He has not lost since that effort, going five straight. The streak continued with the Group 3 Kevin Heffernan Stakes nine days later, then Lankan Rupee received a vacation.
He returned victorious in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes on February 8, and scored his first victory at the highest level last out in Caulfield's Oakleigh Plate on February 22.
"It was a career best performance from the horse," Price added. "I think the horse has done a great job to go from the Oakleigh Plate and still keep improving. I thought we had used a bit of fuel in the Rubiton and Oakleigh Plate, and then to come here to the toughest 1200-meter sprint in Australia."
Price noted that Lankan Rupee would head for a spell before preparing for the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes at The Championship at Royal Randwick in Sydney on April 12.
While most eyes were on Flemington Saturday for the Australian Cup and Newmarket Handicap, Warwick Farm also saw some Group 1 action with the Chipping Norton.
Multiple Group 1 king It's a Dundeel was making the first start of his autumn campaign in the Chipping Norton but, in the end, it was last season's dual Group 1-winning miler Boban who experienced a return to form and collected the spoils.
A listed winner as a sophomore when under the care of Anthony Freedman, Boban simply blossomed last autumn, winning five straight including the Group 1 Epsom Handicap, Group 3 Moonga Stakes and Group 1 Emirates Handicap. The bay son of Bernardini could do no better than fifth when returning to action in the 1200-meter Group 2 Expressway Stakes on February 8, and finished fourth in the 1400-meter Group 2 Apollo Stakes two weeks later.
The return to his favored distance appeared to bring out the best in him on Saturday, however, and Boban was authoritative in victory under jockey Glyn Schofield.
Last from the gate, the four-year-old gelding worked his way up the fence through the early stages, drawing alongside It's a Dundeel in midpack approaching the 800-meter mark. Dropping back to come wide and chase It's a Dundeel into the lane, Boban stormed down the center of the track and past the favorite to post a smart victory for trainer Chris Waller.
Honor Code entered in Gulfstream allowance
As the Remsen winner, Honor Code will carry the top weight of 124 pounds in the $75,000 allowance. Javier Castellano, aboard for both of his stakes efforts, will guide him from post 4.
Fellow Triple Crown nominee Social Inclusion just began his career on the Fountain of Youth undercard, wiring a six-furlong maiden by 7 1/2 lengths. The Manuel Azpurua pupil set fast fractions of :22, :44 3/5 and :56 3/5 en route to finishing in 1:09 1/5. The Pioneerof the Nile colt now steps up in class and trip, but looms as the controlling speed from the rail. Luis Contreras retains the mount.
The only other Triple Crown nominee in the five-horse field is We're All Set, whose most notable result was a distant third in last October's In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes. The Bill Kaplan runner has been well beaten in his last three, all in salty Gulfstream allowances. Fourth to Coup de Grace and Hy Kodiak Warrior in a one-mile contest on December 15, We're All Set was third to Top Billing and Surfing U S A on January 25 and fifth to Constitution, Tonalist and Mexikoma on February 22. The latter two came at this 1 1/16-mile trip.
Rounding out the quintet are Specialnightaction, 10th in a turf event where he ran for a $75,000 tag, and Ta Bueno, sixth in a $25,000 claimer in his latest.
Judy the Beauty heads Las Flores
Judy the Beauty and Heir Kitty will both tote 123 pounds, the rest carry 118.
Munnings Sister has shipped west for trainer Barclay Tagg following a good-looking victory in the February 6 Awesome Feather at Gulfstream Park. The five-year-old mare registered a career-best 101 BRIS Speed rating last time and Luis Saez, who will be at Santa Anita to ride Will Take Charge in Saturday's Santa Anita Handicap, will remain in town an extra day for the assignment.
Warm Breeze invades from Fair Grounds for trainer Grant Forster with a two-race winning streak, including a victory in the February 1 Happy Ticket in her stakes debut. Regular rider Leandro Goncalves will guide the improving four-year-old.
Kinz Funky Monkey, winless since posting a 15-1 upset in the Manhattan Beach last June, rounds out the field.
Smarty Jones S. winner Tanzanite Cat (Graeme Hall), most recently fifth in the February 17 Southwest (G3), worked well Saturday morning, but trainer Cody Autrey is waiting a few more days before committing his lightly raced colt to next Saturday's $600,000 Rebel (G2). The bay colt clocked a half-mile in :51 3/5 over Oaklawn Park's fast dirt with jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. on board. "He worked really good," Autrey said. "He definitely worked well enough to go in the Rebel. We'll just take a look at things this week, see who else shows up. There are several other options for him." Autrey had earlier mentioned the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) on March 23 or the $100,000 Northern Spur on the April 12 Arkansas Derby undercard as the other possible races...
The last time multiple stakes winners Don't Tell Sophia (Congaree) and Flashy Amercian (Flashy Bull) met, they finished second and third, respectively, behind Wine Princess in the Fall City H. (G2) at Churchill Downs last November. Fast forward 3 1/2 months, and Don't Tell Sophia is now riding a two-race win streak having already won the Pippin and Bayakoa at Oaklawn and Flashy American has been training forwardly for her seasonal debut. Both are slated to meet in next Saturday's $200,000 Azeri S. (G2). In preparation for that race, Don't Tell Sophia worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Saturday under regular rider Channing Hill. It was the second fastest of 57 at the distance on Oaklawn's fast dirt. "It was a good work," trainer Phil Sims noted. "She finished up well and she's still on track for the Azeri." Flashy American posted the bullet five-furlong work of the day, covering the distance in 1:00 2/5. "This sets her up really well for the Azeri," trainer Ken McPeek stated. "She's right and ready and did it all on her own." Sister Ginger (Student Council), third in both the Pippin and Bayakoa, also worked Saturday morning at Oaklawn, breezing five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 for trainer Steve Asmussen. On Fire Baby (Smoke Glacken), winner of last year's Apple Blossom H. (G1) in her seasonal bow, is scheduled to work Sunday morning in preparation for her five-year-old debut in the Azeri...
It figured to be a speed duel between Rowell Enterprises' Heitai (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Maggi Moss's Delaunay (Smoke Glacken), and that was exactly how the 61st running of the $96,000 Duncan F. Kenner S. turned out. However, the public wagered the wrong way. It was 2-1 second choice Heitai who quickly gained command after breaking behind the odds-on Delaunay, who is not a good breaker himself, but once Heitai had the advantage he never looked back. "I broke a little slow, but I made the lead pretty quick, and once I had the lead all I had to do was keep him on his toes," said Diego Saenz, who had piloting duties aboard Heitai. "He's a very fast horse." Trainer Karl Broberg reiterated Saenz's concerns about the start. "He's a horrible gate horse," Broberg sighed. "I thought we lost it at the break." After cutting out early splits of :21 1/5 and :44, Heitai increased the margin in the lane, drawing off for a five-length score while less than fully extended. He accomplished the six furlongs in 1:09 3/5 on the fast main track and increased his career earnings to $394,943 to go along with a 17-7-4-3 mark. The Louisiana-bred moved his win streak to four straight, all against stakes company, and has captured five of his last six. Despite the public's confidence in Delaunay, trainer Tom Amoss expressed concern before the race that the Heitai's rail post might cost Delaunay the race, and before the two speedsters left the backstretch, he knew the outcome. "We're done," he said, well before the two hit the quarter-pole. Delaunay was coming off a title defense win in the F.W. Gaudin Memorial on January 25, and was seeking his second straight score in the Kenner as well...
Harp Star (Deep Impact) traveled next to last in Saturday's Tulip Sho (Jpn-G3), Hanshin's trial for the Japanese One Thousand Guineas (Jpn-G1), swung wide into the lane and dominated the opposition, winning by 2 1/2 lengths wrapped up under a hand ride from jockey Yuga Kawada. Winner of her first two outings as a juvenile last season, including a Niigata Grade 3, the Hiroyoshi Matsuda-trained Harp Star stamped herself as one of the leading fillies of her generation when second by a nose to Red Reveur (Stay Gold) in the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (Jpn-G1), the countries most important race for female babies...
Sweet Whiskey (Old Fashioned), a 2 3/4-length winner of the Old Hat (G3), will square off against seven rivals in Sunday's $75,000 Any Limit at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Sweet Whiskey has been installed as the 9-5 morning line favorite in the seven-furlong test. The three-year-old filly will break from the rail with Javier Castellano. Pletcher will also send out Fierce Boots (Tiznow), winner of the Busanda two back and fourth most recently in the Busher at Aqueduct. Thank You Marylou (Birdstone), who easily captured the Tippett at Colonial Downs in her career debut, will make her first start since finishing third in the Adirondack. Julien Leparoux rides for Mike Maker. Naive Enough (Street Sense), unraced since a fourth in the Golden Rod (G2), will open her sophomore season for Ignacio Correas IV. Whomping Willow (Mineshaft), a smart 4 1/2-length maiden winner for Dale Romans on February 16, is another runner of interest.
For Sunday or Next Raceday
*all times Eastern
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.