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TUESDAY, JANUARY 27, 2015

Racing Headlines

Dubai World Cup day nominations announced

A star studded cast of the world's best racehorses of 2014 highlight the nominations for the 2015 Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1), the 20th running of the world's richest race.

Of the current 20 highest-rated Thoroughbreds in the world that remain in training 13 feature among the 2,142 nominations from 19 countries for the meeting on March 28, including the highest rated horses from Japan, Hong Kong, Great Britain and the United States.

The $10 million Dubai World Cup attracted 296 nominations made notable by the presence of the first seven over the line in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) which includes Horse of the Year California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), U.A.E. Derby (UAE-G2) winner Toast of New York (Thewayyouare) and Belmont S. (G1) winner Tonalist (Tapit).

Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner Bayern (Offlee Wild) attempts to give trainer Bob Baffert a third Dubai World Cup success following Silver Charm in 1998 and Captain Steve in 2001.

Also among the list is dual champion Main Sequence (Aldebaran) trained by Graham Motion, who prepared Animal Kingdom to win the Dubai World Cup in 2013.

Japanese stars also dominate, with many holding multiple nominations for the three richest races on the big day, the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-G1) at 2400 meters, the newly-named $6 million Dubai Turf (UAE-G1) over 1900 meters and the 2000-meter Dubai World Cup.

The Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Epiphaneia (Symboli Kris S), the highest-rated horse in training, holds a Dubai World Cup nomination for owners U Carrot Farm. It was Sumii who was responsible for the 2011 Dubai World Cup victory of Victoire Pisa and he is preparing his Japan Cup (Jpn-G1) winner for another tilt at the race, although the horse also holds nominations for the Dubai Sheema Classic and the Dubai Turf.

Gold Ship (Stay Gold), the Takarazuka Kinen (Jpn-G1) star trained by Naosuke Sugai, is also on the list from Japan, as is Japanese Derby (Jpn-G1) winner One and Only (Heart's Cry) and Japanese One Thousand Guineas (Jpn-G1) winner Harp Star (Deep Impact), who represent Japan's 2014 classic generation.

Hong Kong was responsible for the two sprint winners on Dubai World Cup day last season and trainer John Moore, who won the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) with Sterling City, looks to hold a strong hand with the world's best miler, 2014 Hong Kong Mile (HK-G1) victor Able Friend (Shamardal), on the list for the Dubai Turf, as well as Hong Kong Cup (HK-G1) winner Designs on Rome. (Holy Roman Emperor). Second in that race, Military Attack (Oratorio), has also been nominated.

Peniaphobia (Dandy Man), the Tony Cruz-trained sprinter who won the 2014 Jockey Club Sprint (HK-G2) as well as the recent Centenary Sprint, has also been nominated for the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Hong Kong Sprint (HK-G1) winner Aerovelocity (Pins), trained by Paul O'Sullivan, has also been nominated for both the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1).

Godolphin is well represented across the board by both Charlie Appleby and the 2014 Dubai World Cup winning trainer Saeed bin Suroor, as is Dubai World Cup Carnival regular Mike de Kock. Sir Fever (Texas Fever) represents an interesting new recruit for Appleby. The multiple Uruguayan Group 1 winner has been nominated for the Dubai World Cup as well as the Dubai Sheema Classic, Dubai Turf and the U.A.E. Derby. Meanwhile, bin Suroor has nominated his 2014 winner, African Story (Pivotal), for a defense of his title.


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The Great War debuts for Ward in 96Rock

The Great War (center) was a solid fourth in the BC Juvenile (Breeders' Cup Ltd. Photo)
Last seen finishing a creditable fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) for Aidan O'Brien, The Great War (War Front) will make his first start for Wesley Ward in Saturday's $75,000 96Rock S. at Turfway Park. The 6 1/2-furlong dash is a stepping stone to the track's marquee Kentucky Derby (G1) prep, the March 21 Spiral S. (G3), with the March 1 John Battaglia Memorial serving as the in-between prep.

The Great War is making a homecoming of sorts, having been bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm. The close relative of multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Departing (War Front) was sold for $1 million as a yearling at Keeneland September.

Racing for Coolmore principals Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier in partnership with Joseph Allen, The Great War got off to a quick start as a juvenile at Ballydoyle. The precocious colt won his first two starts at Tipperary and the Curragh, respectively, before a disappointing fifth as the odds-on favorite in the Norfolk (Eng-G2) at Royal Ascot. He was subsequently a subpar sixth in the July S. (Eng-G2), an encouraging second in the Curragh S., and a better-than-appears 11th under 128 pounds in a lucrative event at Doncaster.

The Great War turned the corner with a 3 1/2-length coup in the September 28 Blenheim S. back at the Curragh, earning a crack at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. In his first attempt on dirt, and beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, he chased the wickedly fast pace and held on determinedly for fourth.

Considering how well Juvenile third Upstart (Flatter) performed in last Saturday's Holy Bull (G2), and that Juvenile fifth went on to miss narrowly in both the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) and Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), The Great War is entitled to run up to his reputation here. He has been training forwardly over the Turfway Polytrack, and has drawn in the middle of the field in post 6. Albin Jimenez has the call.

Trainer Mike Maker is double-handed with Gulfstream Park shippers Serious Talk (Forestry) and Two Step Temper (Two Step Salsa). Unbeaten Serious Talk debuts for the barn off a $35,000 claim, while Two Step Temper seeks better luck after a pair of tough trips on turf.

Candy Charger (Candy Ride), 10th behind Dortmund (Big Brown) in a Churchill Downs allowance two back, exits a front-running allowance score at Turfway. Milwaukee Mist (Milwaukee Brew) bested the well-bred Musical Score (Unbridled's Song) in a local maiden January 3, while Worth the Gamble (Van Nistelrooy) just rolled to a 2 1/4-length decision here January 16. Worth the Gamble was previously second to Runhappy (Super Saver) in his eventful maiden romp.

Also worth a look is Draw Nigh (Elite Squadron), who has won or placed in his three career tries on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs. A three-length maiden winner there in June, he was third in the September 25 Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile S. The Jim Rankin runner has not raced since capturing a second-level allowance at Mountaineer November 22.

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Lovely Maria upsets Shook Up; Gallery wins slugfest over 'Kitten

Two hotshot maiden winners suffered upsets as 1-5 favorites in Fair Grounds allowances on Monday. Eden Grey's Kitten (Kitten's Joy) missed by a nose in his bruising battle with Gallery (Munnings) in the 7TH race on turf, and the filly Shook Up (Tapit) never came close to catching front-running Lovely Maria (Majesticperfection) in the 8TH on dirt.

Shook Up, a daughter of Grade 1 heroine Sugar Shake (Awesome Again), was all the rage after a 13 1/2-length maiden conquest here on January 3. But the Steve Asmussen pupil never looked comfortable when pocketed on the rail, just behind Lovely Maria. Under a well-judged ride by Kerwin Clark, Lovely Maria secured the early lead through an opening quarter in :24 3/5, and got away with slow fractions of :49 1/5 and 1:14 1/5.

A seam opened up for Shook Up to go after the pacesetter in the stretch, but the prohibitive favorite kept lugging in, as though attracted to the rail, and she couldn't make any headway. Meanwhile, Lovely Maria kept on rolling and crossed the wire 2 1/2 lengths clear. The 2-1 second choice covered the mile and 70 yards on the fast track n 1:43 1/5 and paid $6.40.

Trained by Larry Jones for Brereton C. Jones, Lovely Maria was rebounding off a wide-trip fourth in the December 14 Trapeze S. at Remington Park. She improved her record to 5-2-2-0, $67,600.

One race earlier, it was the same story of a seasoned sophomore trumping an inexperienced one. Ballybrit Stables' Gallery, who was making his sixth start, applied relentless pressure to Eden Grey's Kitten, who was stretching out off a 10 1 1/4-length debut romp in a turf sprint. Gelded since that January 1 unveiling, Eden Grey's Kitten posted splits of :24 4/5 and :49 4/5, but Gallery headed him at the six-furlong mark in 1:15 4/5, and the match race heated up.

The two barged into each other repeatedly down the stretch, with Eden Grey's Kitten desperately trying to regain the lead and Gallery giving as good as he got to hold onto it. The 4-1 chance prevailed over the favorite in a photo-finish, then had to survive a stewards' inquiry into the roughhousing. The result stood, and Gallery was the official winner in a time of 1:40 for about one mile on the good course. Ridden by Florent Geroux, the Michael Dini colt returned $10.60.

Gallery has bankrolled $54,260 from his 6-2-0-2 line. He took five starts to break his maiden, finally accomplishing that when trying Louisiana-breds over this course and distance January 9, and has now won two straight in the state-bred ranks.

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Inaugural Claiming Championship Series set for March 21

The late Caixa Eletronica will be honored with a race named in his honor on the inaugural Claiming Championship program at Aqueduct (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)

The New York Racing Association's inaugural Claiming Championship Series will offer 10 stakes races worth $710,000 when it debuts at Aqueduct on March 21.

Named after some of the most familiar claiming horses to run at the Big A, the 10 races -- half at six furlongs and half at 1 1/16 miles, all on the inner track -- are open to horses who have started for a claiming price this year or last year.

"The Claiming Championship Series gives those horses who have run at Aqueduct during the winter months their chance to shine on a prominent day of racing," said Martin Panza, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations for the New York Racing Association. "We have all seen the success of the Claiming Crown (currently run in Florida in December) in Florida and we will see if it works for us."

Heading the two-turn races is the $100,000 Mr. Sinatra, open to horses who have started for any claiming price in 2014-15. The $80,000 Stud Muffin and the $80,000 Karakorum Elektra for fillies and mares are open to those who have started for a claiming price of $25,000 or less, while the $60,000 More To Tell and $60,000 Sis City for fillies and mares are open to those who have started for a tag of $16,000 or less.

topping the six-furlong races is the $90,000 Caixa Eletronica, open to horses who have started for a claiming price of $40,000 or less. Horses who have run for a tag of $20,000 or less are eligible for the $70,000 Peeping Tom or the $70,000 Xtra Heat for fillies and mares, with horses who have started for a claiming price of $12,500 or less eligible for the $50,000 Kelly Kip and the $50,000 Videogenic for fillies and mares.

"We anticipate a great day of championship racing for our claiming horses who comprise the backbone of our winter meet," Panza said. "We hope their loyal followers will turn out for this event."

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O'Neill crowned Handicapper of the Year with NHC win

John O'Neil (center) won the 16th annual NHC and $800K first prize (HorsePhotos/NTRA)

John O'Neil of Huntington Station, New York, topped a field of 606 entries to win the $800,000 first-place prize and an Eclipse Award as Horseplayer of the Year at this weekend's 16th annual Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC). The NHC offered record overall prize money of $2.363 million.

The 74-year-old O'Neil amassed a winning score of $327.20 over the three-day tournament from 47 mythical $2 win and place bets -- 15 each on Friday and Saturday, 10 in Sunday morning's Final 50 contest, and seven in the climactic Final Table contest exclusive to the overall top 10.

Ken Jordan of Farmingdale, New Jersey, finished second with $291.70.

O'Neil was the NHC two-day leader at the end of Saturday's races but lost the lead toward the end of the Final 50 contest that led to the Final Table. In the seven mandatory races that made up the Final Table, however, O'Neil cashed in four of them. Three of them were winners -- Huntstown ($6.40) in Tampa Bay Down's 10TH race, Main Man Mike ($14.40) in Gulfstream Park's 11TH, and Aperfectdaytofly ($7.40) in Santa Anita's 7TH.

"It was short-priced horses that got me there but that's what we had today," O'Neil said. "Thank God for very few bombs."

O'Neil was introduced to handicapping on visits to the old Jamaica Race Course in Queens in the 1950s.

"My brother took me one day when I was 14 or 15 and I've been doing it every day since," O'Neil said. "It's been a journey to get here, believe me. This probably makes me even after a lifetime."

The top three NHC finsihers, and four of the top five, qualified as a result of finishing among the top 150 on the NHC Tour, a distinction which earns guaranteed entry to the NHC.

O'Neill is a small-business owner on Long Island.

"We work 60, 70 hours per week pushing trucks and asphalt," he said. "This will make it a little easier."

The official Top 10, with final bankroll (and prize):

First   John O'Neil, $327.20 ($800,000 and Eclipse Award for Horseplayer of the Year)
Second   Ken Jordan, $291.70 ($250,000)
Third   Matthew Ransdell, $269 ($125,000)
Fourth   Joseph Muzio, $266.30 ($100,000)
Fifth   Myles Richards, $262.20 ($75,000)
Sixth   Joe Scanio, $260.20 ($65,000)
Seventh   Jonathon Kinchen, $256.60 ($59,000)
Eighth   Robert Pontani Jr., $247.90 ($54,000)
Ninth   Brian Troop, $245.60 ($52,000)
Tenth   Mike Ferrozzo, $234.40 ($50,000)

Kinchen completed the Final 50 stage with two entries in the top 10 but each individual is permitted only one entry at the Final Table. Kinchen's highest bankroll carried over to the Final Table while the "other" entry was automatically good for 11th-place money ($25,000).

Troop was attempting to become the first two-time NHC winner. His eighth-place finish is the highest ever by a former champion.

By virtue of his victory, O'Neil also automatically earns an exemption into next year's NHC finals.

The NHC was held for the fourth straight year in the Treasure Island Ballroom.

In the first-ever NHC Future Wager offered by Treaure Island, O'Neil paid off at 5-2 as a member of the Field, which consisted of players who qualified late in the year.

The NHC 16 finals awarded cash prizes to the top 50 finishers from a total purse of $2,215,000. An additional $65,000 went to the top 20 in Sunday's Consolation Tournament.

Including $200,000 paid out to top finishers in the year-long NHC Tour, a $100 Treasure Island casino chip for every entrant, NHC Tour travel awards, RTN subscriptions and the $10,000 charity tournament prize, plus $30,000 worth of Breeders' Cup Betting Challenge prizes in the form of entry fees, bankrolls, airfare and hotel, the aggregate value of payouts this weekend in NHC cash and prizes totaled a record $2,681,000.

To reach the Final 50, the record 606 NHC entrants were required to place 30 mythical $2 win and place wagers -- 15 on Friday and 15 on Saturday. This is the second consecutive year with a three-day format including the Final 50 and Final Table.

Final Table participants were relocated to a single table on the stage of the Treasure Island Ballroom that served as contest headquarters.

Final Table Race Results:

Track   Race   Winner ($2 Win, $2 Place)   Second ($2 Place)
Tampa Bay Downs   10TH   Huntstown ($6.40, $4)   Go Bernie Go ($6.20)
Gulfstream Park   10TH   Dancing House ($4.20, $2.80)   Resistivity ($5)
Gulfstream Park   11TH   Main Man Mike ($14.40, $8.20)   Caminito ($10.40)
Oaklawn Park   9TH   She's Live ($5, $3)   Mauk Dirty to Me ($6.60)
Santa Anita Park   7TH   Aperfectdaytofly ($7.40, $4.20)   Lolo El Canonero ($6.80)
Santa Anita Park   8TH   Pure Tactics ($14.40, $7.80)   Hay Dude ($6.20)
Santa Anita Park   9TH   Sum Midnight Star ($9.60, $5.60)   Militant ($8.40)

The full NHC and Consolation Tournament standings can be accessed at ntra.com.

The 2014 NHC Tour winner Eric Moomey, who was eligible for a $2 million bonus if he could top the NHC, had two entries -- one finished in 493rd place with a $41.40 bankroll and the second in 598th with $7. A record 4,875 NHC Tour members participated in 2014 qualifiers hoping to win a coveted spot in the NHC Finals.

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Neumeier wins NTRA NHC Charity Challenge

Bob Neumeier captured the inaugural NHC Charity Challenge (HorsePhotos/NTRA)

Bob Neumeier, the longtime NBC Sports handicapper and Boston sportscaster, won Saturday's inaugural NTRA NHC Charity Challenge with a final mythical bankroll of $65, besting runner-up Mike Watchmaker of Daily Racing Form, who checked in second with $62.40.

Neumeier never led until the last jump, clinching the contest by correctly selecting $13.20 winner Presidentsky (Vronsky) in the 9TH race at Golden Gate, the day's final scoring opportunity.

"I've had my share of wins and losses as a handicapper but that's the name of the game," Neumeier said Sunday morning. "You've got to be lucky and I was lucky that day."

Neumeier suffered a serious stroke just prior to leaving for the Breeders' Cup in October. The damage inflicted required 5 1/2 hours of brain surgery. Since then he has improved steadily while at home in Boston with the help of his wife, Michele Ucci.

"I'm well on my way to recovery and hope to be back to Comcast New England soon and hope to be back behind the mic with NBC Sports soon," Neumeier said. "All of my motor skills and speech work are intact, thank goodness. I've had enormous support from doctors, speech therapists, friends, colleagues, my wife, and everyone."

Neumeier estimates he committed at least two hours Saturday to studying the Charity Challenge contest races, which were identical to the day's NHC mandatory races.

"I spent a good part of the morning going over them" he said. "I still go at it quite a bit. I'm up to speed on all the Boston teams and stay up to speed on racing for my NBC work."

A field of 40 celebrities, broadcasters and media types competed in the Charity Challenge. As the winner, Neumeier will have $5,000 donated in his name to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement nonprofit with farms in Kentucky and upstate New York, and another $5,000 to a charity of his choosing. Neumeier said he would consult with Ucci before announcing what nonprofit will receive those funds.

The couple was thrilled that Old Friends is a beneficiary, as Neumeier has known longtime Bostonian Michael Blowen, the Old Friends founder and former Boston Globe film critic, for many years, and has toured the Georgetown, Kentucky, farm on multiple occasions.

"What he's done is just extraordinary," Neumeier said. "He's done so much for horses and the industry and everyone."

Neumeier's win was a popular one. When NHC emcee Eric Wing announced the Charity Challenge results to the Treasure Island Ballroom on Saturday evening the news was met with a resounding ovation from NHC players, who were well aware of Neumeier's recent medical struggles, as well as his deserved reputation as an eminently likable "good guy." Congratulatory messages flowed in via text message and Twitter.

Neumeier politely declined to go into detail about the severity of his stroke or the pains of his recovery, preferring instead to focus on the positive. Considering how far he has come since the last week of October, though, Neumeier summed up his gratitude simply, "I'm one of the lucky ones."

The top five in the Charity Challenge standings was rounded out by Horse Racing Radio Network's Mike Penna ($59), Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey ($57.40) and Daily Racing Form handicapper Dan Illman ($55).

In other NHC news, NHC 16 Day 2 leader John O'Neil could not have been more relaxed entering the Final 50. While most of his competition was cramming over their past performances Saturday night, the Huntington Station, New York, resident and contest regular was casually testing his luck with the roulette wheel at Treasure Island Las Vegas.

O'Neil finished Day 2 with a $253 bankroll. He had ended Day 1 in 11th place with $92.80, meaning he charged up the standings with a $160.20 run Saturday.

"I could have had a great day but I had a bad day," O'Neil said, fixated on the ones that got away. "I got lucky that nobody really jumped up. I feel fortunate that I'm where I am."

O'Neil qualified for the NHC as one of the top 150 finishers on the NHC Tour. His best previous NHC finish was 18th at NHC 11 in 2010.

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Desormeaux discusses spring schedule for Texas Red

Trainer Keith Desormeaux outlined his plans for Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex), mention the $200,000 San Vicente S. (G2) going seven furlongs at Santa Anita Park and Fair Grounds $400,000 Risen Star S. (G2) at 1 1/16 miles prior to a start in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) scheduled for nine furlongs on April 4.

Recently second in the voting for an Eclipse Award as the 2014 champion two-year-old male, the bay colt has been working steadily at Santa Anita Park for his conditioner, who co-owns the colt with a partnership that includes Erich Brehm, Wayne Detmar and Lee Michaels et al.

On Saturday morning, Texas Red worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5. Regular rider and three-time Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux posted to Twitter afterward, "Silky smooth. Great enthusiasm. Happy horse!"

"He's growing, getting stronger and smarter," Kent Desormeaux remarked Sunday. "He's maturing wisely."

"What we're leaning toward now is the San Vicente on the first (of February)," Keith Desormeaux said on TVG Network. "I'm thinking about wheeling him back pretty quickly in the Risen Star on (February 21) and then we'll have a little gap between the Risen Star and the $1 million Santa Anita Derby."

Having a seven-furlong starting point and wheeling back quickly for a three-race Kentucky Derby (G1) prep schedule is a format that has been used by Triple Crown runners effectively in the past. In 1997, Silver Charm won the San Vicente and was second in both the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby within an eight-week span before winning the Derby and Preakness S. (G1) and finishing second in the Belmont S. (G1)

In 1989, Easy Goer won the seven-furlong Swale S., the one-mile Gotham S. (G2) and 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial Invitational (G1) in a seven-week span before finishing second in both the Derby and Preakness and then winning the Belmont. More recently, Curlin won his seven-furlong debut in early February 2007 before taking both the 1 1/16-mile Rebel S. (G3) and nine-furlong Arkansas Derby (G1) within a 10-week span before finishing third in the Derby, winning the Preakness and posting a head second in the Belmont.

"It's still on schedule," Desormeaux said via telephone on Sunday afternoon. "It's always been kind of a tentative schedule, like with all things concerning racehorses. It seems like the best plan for me at this point. It's kind of quick, but I like the way it feels. If I can get him (to Fair Grounds) a week early, that would be perfect. I'll be at the mercy of whoever is going to fly us and their schedule."

In five career starts, the $17,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale bargain has earned $1,192,300 and never finished worse than fourth. After a debut loss by a neck in a five-furlong Arlington maiden in July, the Kentucky-bred was fourth in a six-furlong Del Mar maiden before graduating in his first start around two turns in a one-mile maiden back at Del Mar.

Texas Red returned to finish a flying third to eventual Eclipse champion American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) in the FrontRunner S. (G1) one race prior to romping in the Breeders' Cup by 6 1/2 lengths, both at Santa Anita. Earning a 101 BRIS Speed figure in the latter, he left Grade 1 victor Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) and Upstart (Flatter) -- who made his sophomore bow a 105 BRIS Speed-earning romp in Saturday's Holy Bull S. (G2) -- behind in second and third, respectively.

"For him to overcome the fact that he's not really built to be an early horse -- that's what makes him great and that's also what makes us so excited about this year," Desormeaux continued. "If he can do what he did as a juvenile, what can he accomplish as a three-year-old?"

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Upstart could take either New York or Florida routes to Derby

Upstart earned a gaudy 105 Brisnet Speed rating in the Holy Bull (Lauren KIng/Adam Coglianese Photography)
A day after winning the $400,000 Holy Bull (G2) in tremendous fashion, Upstart (Flatter), now a prime contender on the Triple Crown Trail, could be found contentedly grazing across from his stall at trainer Rick Violette Jr.'s barn at Palm Meadows.

"He's doing great," Violette said as the ridgling looked up from the grass, eyes bright, to inquire for a mint in his handler's coat pockets. 

His request was met, of course, and deservingly so, after he smoked a field of talented sophomores to take the Holy Bull in his three-year-old debut, running off with the race by 5 1/2 lengths under Jose Ortiz and earning a 105 Brisnet Speed rating. Violette said he expected his trainee to run a good race, but he did not necessarily expect him to draw off in that fashion.

"Dominating, no, but we were pretty confident that he was going to run well," Violette said. "You just hope that the talent he showed as a two-year-old transfers into a good three-year-old, and a lot of horses don't. They're a little more precocious, a little more mature as a two-year-old, and sometimes that's their best stuff. You hope to see the graduation, and I think we saw it."

Violette added that Upstart, who finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) in his final start at two, did a lot of things in the Holy Bull that impressed him, especially when breaking from the eight-post in a field of nine.

"(He had) enough speed to get good positioning from a post position that didn't make that automatic," he said. "He settled well, when he was called on, he answered, and he kind of took care of business. They need to leave horses at some point, and he kind of did that yesterday. All of that -- he traveled well down there, he was good in the paddock -- he did a lot of good things yesterday."

Violette also credited Ortiz for a skillful ride.

"Jose ran a terrific race, because the pace was not fast," he said. "If we had been farther back, we still could have maybe gotten the job done, but it would've been more difficult. The one horse (Bluegrass Singer [Bluegrass Cat]) would have been loose on the lead at that point going a half in almost :49, and he could have been very tough if he'd been left alone."

Now that Upstart has 16 points toward a potential berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Violette is left with many options for the colt's next start. His road to the Run for the Roses will run either through South Florida or New York.

"We'll play it by ear," Violette said. "We could do the Fountain of Youth ([G2] at Gulfstream on February 21). If we need a couple more weeks, we could wait for the Gotham ([G3] at Aqueduct on March 7). We have a two-week cushion and at some point we'll get to use it.

"Whether we go the whole route here (at Gulfstream) and go Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby ([G1] on March 28) to give us a little extra time to get to the Kentucky Derby or if we need it before then and he stubs his toe or doesn't eat, we can back off and do either the Gotham or the Wood Memorial ([G1] at Aqueduct on April 4). We have some flexibility, which is really nice."

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Firespike, R Sassy Lass entered on OBS Day of Champions

A strong lineup of stakes winners and well known trainers and riders is on tap as the Ocala Breeders' Sales (OBS) Company holds its 26th annual Day of Champions race card on Tuesday, January 27.

Held in conjunction with the OBS Winter Mixed Sale for the second straight year, the five-race card again offers pari-mutuel wagering on the first two races. The day gets underway with a 440-yard allowance dash for Quarter Horses worth $10,000 followed by the $50,000 OBS Sprint S. at six furlongs for three-year-old fillies who have gone through the ring at an OBS Sale.

The entire card will be streamed live via the OBS website at www.obssales.com. Post time for the first race is 1 p.m. (EST).

Firespike (Flower Alley) headlines a field of seven in the $100,000 OBS Championship S. for colts and geldings going 1 1/16 miles. The Mike Maker pupil captured the Juvenile Turf S. at Gulfstream Park West in November and will be ridden by Joel Rosario. He'll be tested by Royal Squeeze (Wildcat Heir), a nose second in the In Reality division of the Florida Sire S. for conditioner Chad Brown, and Toasting Master (Congrats), who scored in two straight races at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans.

A field of 11 will go in the $100,000 OBS Championship S. for fillies after Grade 3-placed stakes winner Quality Rocks (Rock Hard Ten) was scratched in favor of running second in Saturday's Sweetest Chant S. (G3). That leaves Save Rock and Roll (Super Saver) to top the 1 1/16-mile contest based on her third-place finish in Aqueduct's Tempted S. (G3) in November. Fourth in the Matron S. (G2) at Belmont in October, she'll be ridden by Joe Bravo for trainer Joe Orseno.

Two fillies have been supplemented to the race. Trainer Todd Pletcher will send out Back Flip (Super Saver) and Gary Contessa has entered More Than Rainbows (More Than Ready), both turf maiden winners.

It's Not Me (D'wildcat) and Charlie's Brother (With Distinction) will face off against eight other rivals in the $50,000 OBS Sprint S. sending colts and geldings six furlongs.

Supplemented to the race by trainer Jorge Navarro, It's Not Me was claimed by his current connections in October and two starts later took the Buffalo Man S. at Gulfstream Park West. He was third last out in the Spectacular Bid S. at Gulfstream and gets Edgard Zayas in the irons Tuesday.

Charlie's Brother was third behind fellow OBS graduate Catalina Red (Munnings) in his track record performance in Tampa Bay Downs' Pasco S. after chasing him home in the Inaugural S. over that Oldsmar, Florida, oval one race earlier. The Lynn Scace pupil will have regular rider Harry Vega aboard.

R Sassy Lass (Exclusive Quality) is the morning-line favorite in a field of seven for the OBS Sprint for fillies. The original field of nine was reduced with the scratches of Vandelita (Street Sense) and Perpetual Novena (Majestic Warrior). A half-length second to fellow OBS graduate Ekati's Phaeton (Tale of Ekati) in Gulfstream's Old Hat S. (G3) in her last start, R Sassy Lass took Tampa Bay Downs' Sandpiper S. in December. Trained by Kirk Ziadie, the dark bay lass will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.

Lady Shipman (Midshipman), an impressive winner of her last two outings for conditioner Kathleen O'Connell, is the second choice in the filly's Sprint while the Armando De La Cerda-conditioned Happy to Go (Saint Anddan) is returning from a layoff after her victory in the Mrs. Henry D. Paxson Memorial S. at Presque Isle in September.

For more information regarding the OBS Championship Stakes, please call 352-237-2154 or visit www.obssales.com.

Bet Horseracing Free Online at TwinSpires.com

In brief

Newly crowned champion three-year-old filly Untapable (Tapit) and multiple graded stakes-winning Tapiture (Tapit) had their first works of the season on Monday morning. Both trained by Steve Asmussen, who was looking on from horseback at the clocking stand at Fair Grounds, the talented Winchell Thoroughbred homebreds duo breezed half-miles. Untapable, a four-time Grade 1-winning earner of nearly $3 million -- including the $2,000,000 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) -- worked slightly quicker than her stablemate in :51 4/5. Tapiture, a winner of four graded stakes and runner-up in the $1,000,000 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), worked his four furlongs in :52 1/5. "They worked very well," said Winchell racing manager David Fiske. "'Fantastic' might have been the adjective I heard (from Asmussen). They both went very easily and were traveling great. Everyone is pretty pleased. We'll get them fit and see how long that takes and start looking for spots."...

Golden Rod S. (G2) winner West Coast Belle (Tapit) is no worse for the wear after her somewhat disappointing fourth-place finish in the $125,000 Silverbulletday S. on January 17 at Fair Grounds. Sent off as the second choice behind Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) runner-up Top Decile, West Coast Belle was positioned slightly closer than usual in the Silverbulletday and made a bid at the top of the stretch before failing to manifest an impact. "She came out great," reported trainer Wayne Catalano. "She got outrun by the winner and should have been second. We're going to draw a line through the race. She's going to stay (at Fair Grounds) for right now." Next up is likely to be either the $175,000 Rachel Alexandra S. (G3) on February 21, $150,000 Honeybee S. (G3) at Oaklawn Park on March 7 or $200,000 Davona Dale S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park on February 21...

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Thoroughbred Charities of America will be naming nearly 20 recipients of the inaugural Thoroughbred Charities of America Award of Merit. Award recipients will be nominated by the leadership of various state Thoroughbred owners and breeders associations and will be presented at each state association's annual awards ceremonies. The nominees consist of individuals or organizations working to provide a better life for Thoroughbreds or the people who work with them, either on the backstretch or on the farm. Both achievements are reflective of TCA's all encompassing mission to help Thoroughbreds and the people who care for them. "There are so many people doing such great work in the Thoroughbred industry," said Dan Rosenberg, president of TCA. "We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their efforts and say 'thank you' for their work within their local racing and breeding community." The first recipient of the Thoroughbred Charities of America Award of Merit was Kip Elser. The award was presented at the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards dinner on January 17. This past Saturday, the North Carolina Thoroughbred Association presented Elizabeth MacDonald with the second Thoroughbred Charities of America Award of Merit. Patti Shirley will be the third recipient of the award on Thursday at the annual meeting and awards banquet of The New Mexico Horse Breeders Association. Subsequent award winners will be announced monthly...

Laurel hosts a pair of $100,000 stakes events for three-year-olds on Thursday, which were postponed after racing was canceled January 24 due to track conditions. The seven-furlong Frank Whiteley Jr. S. features nine colts and geldings while the six-furlong Marshua S. boasts eight fillies. In the Whiteley, Majestic Affair (Majesticperfection) is the likely favorite after a dominating 5 3/4-length score in the $98,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela S. at Aqueduct on January 2. Golden Years (Not for Love) will attempt to add another stakes win to his resume after taking the Maryland Million Nursery and Marylander S. last season. The Whiteley also features the return of Governmentshutdown (Exchange Rate) following a seven-month layoff. The gray gelding notably defeated eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) winner Hootenanny (Quality Road) in the Rollicking S. at Pimlico last May. Lake Sebago (Munnings), who captured the Smart Halo S. and Gin Talking S. during her juvenile campaign, headlines the Marshua. Eloquent Tribute (Tapit) invades from Aqueduct after posting a 5 3/4-length maiden win for trainer Rudy Rodriguez...

Stonestreet Stables has announced it will donate 10 percent of all of the income it earns in graded stakes this year. "Horse racing has given me so many thrilling moments and brought so much joy to my family, we thought it would be a good way to give back to the people who are so dedicated to providing exemplary care on the backside," said stable owner Barbara Banke. The charity funded will vary depending on the location of the race and focus on the needs of backside workers and their families. Stonestreet continues to assist various equine welfare organizations via direct donations...

Parx Racing cancelled racing on Monday and again for Tuesday due to the severe winter storm in the northeast.

Notebooks

SANTA ANITA NOTEBOOK

JANUARY 28, 2015

by John Mucciolo

There were no graded tilts during the fifth week of racing at Santa Anita.

Track Stats

From a total of 27 races held at the Arcadia, California racetrack during the past week, favorites won at a 37 percent clip and the top two betting choices combined for 63 percent of the wins. From 17 frays contested on the dirt oval, two animals won in wire-to-wire fashion (12 percent), while none of the 10 grassy tilts were taken all the way on the front end.

Speed was not dominant by any means on the main oval, but laying close early was still a good ingredient over the dirt strip.

After a week with big results for early runners on the lawn, things got back to normal as late runners had the majority of the success on the green.

Meet Totals

RACES:   174
DIRT:   121
TURF:   53
FAVORITES:   68 (39 percent)
2ND CHOICES:   36 (21 percent)
TURF WIRE:   5 (9 percent)
DIRT WIRE:   28 (23 percent)

HORSES TO WATCH

Friday (1/23)

2ND -- CONQUEST SUPERSTEP (Super Saver) did have a perfect trip tracking a slow pace, but we loved the way the Mark Casse trainee leveled off late and increased her edge inside the final furlong. The sophomore filly has a lot of potential and could likely handle any surface thrown her way.

8TH -- FABULOUS FIT (Marino Marini) broke slowest but soon got to the front and rolled home a fine winner in this dash for conditioner James Cassidy. The six-year-old mare showed little-to-no rust after being unraced in more than two years, and she could be any kind going forward if properly placed.

Saturday (1/24)

2ND -- PROHIBITION REPEAL (Benchmark) wad done in by a poor start from the rail which cost her all chance at the win, yet the Eric Kruljac charge put in a nice run in the lane and just missed second while well clear of third. We will tab the gelding to get the job done next time if in a similar of lesser spot.

3RD -- FOREST CHATTER (Dixie Chatter) followed up a huge maiden tally with a fine score in this run for Richard Mandella, winning with authority under Mike Smith. The four-year-old gelding will likely be stakes bound with further development.

7TH -- We tabbed GO WEST MARIE (Western Fame) in this dash following her superb route turf win most recently and she delivered with a huge late run en route to a fine stakes tally for conditioner Eddie Truman. The peaking four-year-old loves this venue and has surely never been better.

10TH -- POWERFUL GIRL (Marino Marini) made a sweeping move to take a nice edge in the lane and just missed to a class dropper in a fine effort for trainer Hector Palma. The sophomore filly was more than two lengths clear of her nearest foe and should be graduating before long with improvement.

Sunday (1/25)

4TH -- We liked WHY TWO (Bob and John) in this heat following a tardy beginning and late run in his debut, and the Mike Machowsky trainee delivered with a big run to graduate over a field we thought was solid. The sophomore colt could improve going longer and is one to watch going forward this spring.

6TH -- Euro import PRIZE EXHIBIT (GB) (Showcasing [GB]) made a fine start to her sophomore season and could be a major player in the turf stakes for three-year-old fillies this season. The James Cassidy charge has run a pair of nice ones on U.S. soil and we wouldn't take her lightly.

9TH -- Bob Baffert's SUM MIDNIGHT STAR (Midnight Lute) surely appreciated the drop down in with claiming foes in this spot with a superb score to close out the weekend. The four-year-old came home fast and should be very tough with starter foes in his likely next outing.

A Look Ahead

Four graded races will take place at Santa Anita this weekend. Saturday plays host to a trio -- $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (G1), $200,000 Palos Verdes Stakes (G2) and $200,000 Arcadia Stakes (G2). Sunday's headliner is the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) for three-year-olds and Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Texas Red (Afleet Alex) is expected to make his 2015 bow in the seven-furlong test.

Top Speed/Class ratings

NATIONAL

Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (1/19-1/25) - 3&up Dirt Routes
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Micromanage 5H 1m 70y (my) AQU 1/19 Jazil S. 103
Cassatt 4F 1 1/16m (ft) HOU 1/24 Houston Ladies Classic S. 96
Sportive 7G 1m (ft) PM 1/25 Portland Mile H. 89
Seventyprcentcocoa 7M 1m (ft) PM 1/25 Portland Distaff S. 79
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (1/19-1/25) - 3&up Dirt Sprints
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Spirit Rules 6G 6f (ft) SA 1/24 Donald Valpredo California Cup Sprint S. 100
Star Harbour 7H 6f (ft) TAM 1/24 Pelican S. 99
Sam's Sister 4F 7f (ft) SA 1/19 Santa Monica S. 96
Sugar Shock 4F 6f (ft) OP 1/24 American Beauty S. 93
Castletown 7G 5 1/2f (ft) TUP 1/24 Swift S. 91
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (1/19-1/25) - 3&up Turf
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Lochte 5G 1 1/16m (gd) TAM 1/24 Tampa Bay S. 101
Pure Tactics 6H a6 1/2f (fm) SA 1/25 Clocker's Corner S. 97
Coalport 6H 1 1/8m (fm) HOU 1/24 John B. Connally Turf Cup S. 96
Double Secret 4F 5f (gd) TAM 1/24 Lightning City S. 95
Go West Marie 4F a6 1/2f (fm) SA 1/24 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Sprint S. 95
Heitai 5G 5f (fm) HOU 1/24 Frontier Utilities Turf Sprint S. 95
Alert Bay 4G 1 1/8m (fm) SA 1/24 California Cup Turf Classic S. 94
Top Winning Stakes Speed Ratings (1/19-1/25) - 3 year olds (Dirt & Turf)
Horse A/S Dist Trk Date Race Bris Speed
Upstart 3R 1 1/16m (ft) GP 1/24 Lambholm South Holy Bull S. 105
Barbados 3C 7f (ft) GP 1/24 Hutcheson S. 98
Exodus 3C 7f (ft) HOU 1/24 Allen's Landing S. 95
Mischief Clem 3C 1 1/16m (ft) SA 1/24 California Cup Derby 95
Birdatthewire 3F 7f (ft) GP 1/24 Forward Gal S. 94
Far Right 3C 1m (ft) OP 1/19 Smarty Jones S. 92
Singing Kitty 3F 1m (fm) SA 1/24 Xpressbet California Cup Oaks 89
Cinco Charlie 3C 1m (ft) SUN 1/24 Riley Allison S. 88
Dubai Sky 3C 1m (fm) GP 1/24 Kitten's Joy S. 87
Consumer Credit 3F 1m (fm) GP 1/24 Sweetest Chant S. 86
Perfect Style 3F 6 1/2f (ft) SUN 1/25 El Paso Times H. 81
Thats No Bull 3G 1m (ft) PM 1/25 Columbia River S. 79

TOP BRIS CLASS RATINGS

Horse   Track   Dist(Cond)   Date   BRIS Class
Ivan Fallunovalot   OP   6f (wf)   1/22   121.9
Upstart   GP   1 1/16m (ft)   1/24   121.8
Sam's Sister   SA   7f (ft)   1/19   121.1
Birdatthewire   GP   7f (ft)   1/24   120.8
Star Harbour   TAM   6f (ft)   1/24   120.5
Sugar Shock   OP   6f (ft)   1/24   120.2
Mischief Clem   SA   1 1/16m (ft)   1/24   120.1
Joy Boy   OP   1m (ft)   1/25   120.0
Cassatt   HOU   1 1/16m (ft)   1/24   120.0
Micromanage   AQU   1m 70y (my)   1/19   120.0
Go West Marie   SA   a6 1/2f (fm)   1/24   119.9
Lochte   TAM   1 1/16m (gd)   1/24   119.9
Khozan   GP   7f (ft)   1/24   119.7
Coalport   HOU   1 1/8m (fm)   1/24   119.7
Pure Tactics   SA   a6 1/2f (fm)   1/25   119.6

Features

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

JANUARY 27, 2015

Dubai: A Cautious Approach to Safety Check

by Kellie Reilly

Godolphin's Safety Check (Dubawi) slammed the door on his rivals in last Thursday's feature at the Dubai Carnival, the 1,400-meter Al Fahidi Fort (UAE-G2), in a career-best performance. Displaying a sparkling turn of foot to sprint four lengths clear, the Charlie Appleby trainee lowered the turf course record to 1:23.09.

Safety Check is in the form of his life at the moment. In his four-year-old debut on January 8, he zipped to a similarly commanding victory over the same course and distance in 1:23.13. That came in a handicap, where he appeared to benefit from a break in the weights. He carried 122 pounds, thanks in part to the four-pound allowance claimed by apprentice rider Cam Hardie. Indeed, Safety Check was essentially a handicapper in England. Until Thursday, he had a smattering of unsuccessful attempts in listed and Group company on his resume.

Although Safety Check is clearly on the upgrade, the Al Fahidi Fort might also have been the ideal opportunity for a breakthrough. In addition to competing at his pet distance, he had the advantage of race fitness over his principal rivals from the Mike de Kock yard, Anaerobio (Catcher in the Rye) and Red Ray (Western Winter). As it turned out, they were also compromised, in different ways, by their trips.

Safety Check thus has the profile of a horse who can make hay at the Carnival, but could be tough to place on World Cup night. Appleby has sensibly mentioned the February 26 Zabeel Mile (UAE-G2) as his next target. With his subsequent turf options likely too long or too short, it will be intriguing to see whether he takes a stab on dirt for the Godolphin Mile (UAE-G2) on the big night. At least the distance would be right.

Draw a line through it: Anaerobio, the defending champion in the Al Fahidi Fort, never had a fair shot at the repeat. Unraced since his fifth in last March's Dubai Duty Free (UAE-G1), the de Kock veteran was buried in traffic in the stretch, then had to check when eventual runner-up Eastern Rules (Golden Snake) drifted into his path. Jockey Christophe Soumillon ended up having to steer Anaerobio clear around everyone to the outside, and the former Argentinean champ took off. Unfortunately, it was much too late, and he had to settle for fourth. Stablemate Zahee (Dylan Thomas) didn't have a smooth passage either in third, but Anaerobio looked the unluckier of the pair.

Soumillon had a rather colorful exchange with Eastern Rules' rider, Shane Foley. According to the stewards' report, Soumillon vented at Foley "in an abusive and aggressive manner on pulling up," and the Belgian was slapped with an AED 2,000 fine for misconduct.

Red Ray has a lot more upside than the eight-year-old Anaerobio, and de Kock was "hoping for a big run" from his new South African recruit. The lack of a race since his second in the May 24 Golden Horse Sprint (SAf-G1) at Scottsville, however, showed -- not only physically but mentally. Red Ray was too aggressive early with regular rider Anton Marcus, who tried to cajole him, but the talented colt was too into the bit for his own good. After chasing in second, and never looking relaxed, he weakened to seventh. That marked only his second unplaced effort in 11 career starts.

Formerly based with Joey Ramsden, Red Ray scored his signature win in the 2013 Cape Classic (SAf-G3) at Kenilworth, at the expense of eventual South African Horse of the Year Legislate (Dynasty). He has placed in a quartet of Group 1 events, and his lone poor effort at home was a ninth in last January's Queen's Plate (SAf-G1), where he was reportedly "fatigued" afterward. Red Ray hails from a prolific South African family, and with this international debut behind him, he's sure to do himself justice in future engagements.

Two to follow: Umgiyo (Danehill Dancer) and Tamarkuz (Speightstown) stole the spotlight on the undercard. Each has had his issues in the past, but on this evidence, they've put it all behind them and are ready for prime time.

Umgiyo, long well regarded by de Kock, was something of an underachiever in South Africa. Partly that was the result of a physical problem (a twisted testicle that was ultimately resolved by a gelding operation), but de Kock believes that the well-bred bay needed time to mature as well.

Returning from a nearly 10-month layoff, Umgiyo made his Dubai debut in an about nine-furlong turf handicap. Soumillon followed de Kock's instructions to anchor Umgiyo at the rear of the field early, and he was still dead last in midstretch. Once wheeled around into the clear, he inhaled them to win going away. It was a useful enough bunch too -- e.g., runner-up Ocean Tempest (Act One) captured two listed races in England last year, along with the Lincoln, and placed in a Group 3. Granted, Umgiyo was receiving a seven-pound weight concession from Ocean Tempest. Yet in light of his protracted trek from South Africa, he was bound to need the race, making his blistering rally all the more commendable.

Umgiyo is likely on the path to the Dubai Turf (formerly known as the Duty Free) over this same trip. With only nine starts under his belt, the Australian-bred has ample scope for development. His pedigree sports the Danehill/Sadler's Wells cross, and his dam is a full sister to Group 1 victor Alberto Giacometti (Sadler's Wells). The harmonious matches continue through his maternal side, for his second dam is by Shirley Heights, his third dam is by Habitat and his fourth dam is stamina-laden English champion Attica Meli (Primera).

Sheikh Hamdan's Tamarkuz has been bedeviled by gate problems, which weren't helped by his sustaining head trauma when batting his skull at the start here last March. Not seen again until January 8, the Musabah al Muhairi trainee was slow to break, but rallied well and almost prevailed under the top weight of 132 pounds, only to be outfinished by the late-blooming Faulkner (Pivotal).

In Thursday's dirt handicap over a metric mile, Tamarkuz broke "1,242 percent better," to use racecaller Terry Spargo's phrase. Showing good early speed to be part of the pace scrum on rail, he opened up cornering into the stretch and widened his margin to 4 1/2 lengths. Tamarkuz stacks up as potentially more than a match for Surfer (Distorted Humor). He hacked up in 1:37.47, eclipsing Surfer's mark of 1:38.21 set in the January 8 Maktoum Challenge Round 1 (UAE-G2). The formline likewise dovetails neatly: Round 1 third-placer Haatheq (Seeking the Gold) was best of the rest behind Tamarkuz.

A five-year-old who was making only his 10th start, Tamarkuz is now beginning to fulfill his early promise. He had set a juvenile course record at Kempton in 2012, during his days with Godolphin. The $325,000 Keeneland September yearling has plenty of pedigree, with his dam being a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 hero Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) and classic-placed Andromeda's Hero (Fusaichi Pegasus).

A sneaky result: Godolphin's Excellent Result (Shamardal) was a notable improver last Carnival, and he could follow a similar trajectory after a fifth in his return in the about 12-furlong turf handicap. Hung out wide from post 11 when forcing the pace into the first turn, the Saeed bin Suroor runner was going well to strike the front in the stretch. But his 132-pound impost told, and he was outkicked to the line. Still, Excellent Result was beaten less than a length in a blanket finish. That was actually a better result than his fourth to start the 2014 Carnival, when he progressed to take an about 1 3/4-mile handicap and the Dubai City of Gold (UAE-G2). Look for him to move forward, especially if he steps up in trip again.

Ron the Greek update: Ron the Greek's (Full Mandate) Saudi form was upheld at Meydan Thursday, courtesy of Toolain (Diktat), who upset a handicap in a track-record 2:05.86 for about 1 1/4 miles on the dirt. Third to Ron the Greek in the Students' Cup last November, Toolain was overlooked at a big price here off a disappointment at Jebel Ali. Ron the Greek, currently on a three-race winning streak, looms as a major Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) contender. A victory would be especially poignant for the Saudi royals: he was co-owned by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who just passed away Friday, and his sons. With the King's passing, the race staged in his honor -- the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup -- has been postponed to the "weekend of February 14," as reported by Pat Cummings (@Dubairacenight). That is expected to serve as Ron the Greek's springboard to the World Cup.

On tap: Thursday's renewal of the Al Rashidiya (UAE-G2) promises to be a vintage one. Last year's Duty Free runner-up Vercingetorix (Silvano) spearheads de Kock's possibles, a few of which are cross-entered to a turf handicap on the undercard. Bin Suroor has two engaged for Godolphin, Hunter's Light (Dubawi) (who also has the handicap option) and True Story (Manduro), who aims to follow up on his Singspiel romp. A small but intriguing field of turf distaffers is in line for the Cape Verdi (UAE-G2), and the turf sprint handicap ought to have Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-G1) implications. As ever, check Tuesday's declarations for the final fields.

Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather

SPOT PLAYS

For Tuesday

TRACK   (RACE) HORSE, MORNING LINE
Mahoning Valley   (2nd) Money Makes, 3-1
    (7th) The Evil Edge, 4-1
Sam Houston   (4th) Shining Value, 6-1
    (6th) Big Mesa, 9-2
Turf Paradise   (3rd) You Done Good, 6-1
    (6th) Two Turns, 7-2

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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