Treve continued her march into the history books Sunday in France while Gold Ship was a hard-luck case in Japan. Hard Aces, meanwhile, was a good enough hand to upset the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in the highlight of weekend racing in the United States.
Departing may have departed the main track for turf permanently after a winning effort at Churchill Downs. Golden Lad, Bent On Bourbon and Sarah Sis won on Iowa's biggest weekend of racing while Include Betty re-included herself in the 3-year-old filly equation at Belmont Park.
And it's worth noting that, just hours apart, Diamondsandrubies won the Group 1 Pretty Polly in Ireland while Denim and Rubies just missed victory in the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen in Japan.
So let's click the ruby slippers and start on the international front.
Treve remains on course for a shot at an historic third straight win in this fall's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe after a determined victory in Sunday's Group 1 Grand Prix Saint-Cloud. Jockey Thierry Jarnet needed to call on a bit of reserve at the end to get by a stubborn Flintshire. But, save that, Treve looked in top form and ready to rumble, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. "I was never worried," said trainer Criquette Head-Maarak. Dolniya was 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third, followed by Manatee. Cirrus Des Aigles missed the race with what's reported to be a bruised fetlock. Treve, a 5-year-old Motivator mare, is owned by Al Shaqab Racing. She now has eight wins from 10 starts. Last year's Arc triumph came by 2 lengths, with Flintshire second. In 2013, she romped in the Longchamp classic by 5 lengths with Japan's Orfevre second and Flintshire eighth.
Whatever race the starter was watching Sunday at Hanshin Racecourse, it apparently wasn't the Group 1 Takarazuka Kinen. When the barrier opened, the heavy favorite, Gold Ship, who had been thrashing around in his stall, was standing almost vertically on his hind legs. Fortunate to come down cleanly and safely, Gold Ship spotted the rest of the field double-digit lengths and that cost him any chance to win the race for a third straight year. (Video is available at japanracing.jp. Gold Ship is the light grey horse, No 15.). Meanwhile, Lovely Day, who seems to have hit his stride as a 5-year-old, took up position behind pacesetter Red Davis and ran there until the field hit the stretch turn. At that point, Lovely Day went to the front and, under urging from jockey Yuga Kawada, held off a furious late run down the outside by 2013 Japan Cup runner-up Denim and Ruby, who fell a neck short of victory. Shonan Pandora was third and Gold Ship, despite putting in a run midway through the race, finished next-last of 16. Lovely Day, a son of King Kamehameha, had struggled through his 3- and 4-year-old seasons but broke through earlier this year with three wins in five starts this year -- all group-level races. "I was able to position him behind the frontrunner with ease as the pace was slow and tried to race him with good rhythm," Kawada said. "I was aware of the mare closing in and prayed that he can fend her off." The 2,200 meters, about 11 furlongs, went in 2:14.4 over turf rated firm despite some rain.
The Japanese quest to win the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe continues as an exercise in frustration. After several close calls and disappointments with promising prospects, this year's hopes took a hit when Duramente, winner of the Japanese 2,000 Guineas and Japanese Derby, was diagnosed with fractures in both his front legs. Trainer Noriyuki Hori and the owners, Sunday Racing, hope to get the colt back to the track -- next year. Another Japanese Arc prospect, Epiphaneia, missed the Tarazuka Kinen with a suspensory woe and no plans have been announced for the 2014 Japan Cup winner.
Jack Hobbs, second at Epsom, hardly could have been more impressive at the Curragh on Saturday, jetting away in the final furlong to win the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby by 5 lengths. Storm the Stars, who made most of the going, held onto second, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Giovanni Canalleto. Epsom Oaks winner Qualify was never involved and finished sixth. Jack Hobbs, a Halling colt, won for the third time following a pair of runner-up finishes behind Golden Horn. "He's a late-maturing horse," said winning rider William Buick. "But he has improved with every run. He's a serious horse." Jack Hobbs, who runs in the Godolphin colors for trainer John Gosden, immediately tumbled on the odds boards for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Gosden said he will be rested for the Prix Niel and the Arc. Gosden also has Epsom Derby winner Golden Horn, who is set to try next weekend's Coral Eclipse at Sandown.
Gordon Lord Byron, eighth in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot just a week ago, rolled home in front of five rivals in Saturday's listed Dubai Duty Free Dash at the Curragh. The 7-year-old rallied from midfield to lead inside the final furlong and won by 3 lengths over Balmont Mast, finishing 6 furlongs on good going in 1:11.47 with Wayne Lordan up. "I'm ruling out the July Cup," said trainer Tom Hogan. "But, otherwise, we have plenty of options for our travels." Gordon Lord Byron is a regular visitor to Hong Kong and also has raced in France and Dubai.
Diamondsandrubies led from the early furlongs in Sunday's Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes for fillies and mares at the Curragh, edging Epsom Oaks runner-up Legatissimo by a short head. Ribbons finished third. Diamondsandrubies, a Fastnet Rock filly, finished fourth at Epsom when she was blocked in the stretch run. Seamie Heffernan made sure there would be no repeat on Sunday as he stayed out front and out of trouble. "I just wanted to be forward. I knew she would stay well," Heffernan said. Diamondsandrubies was pounded down on the odds boards for the Group 1 Irish Oaks.
Now, back to North America:
Hard Aces dawdled near the rear through most of Saturday's $500,000, Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita, moved up entering the stretch turn and then found room along the rail. After working his way to the lead, the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun just did hold off Hoppertunity to win by a nose. Catch a Flight, the favorite, led briefly at the top of the stretch and held on for third and Finnegan's Wake, in a rare start off the turf, ran on to finish fourth. Hard Aces, with Victor Espinoza up, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:02.46. It was by far his biggest win and first since the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds on Jan. 7 but he did run well to finish third in the Grade II Californian in his previous start. "He's improving," Espinoza said. "Every race, he's getting better and better. When he was back east he wasn't quite there but in his last race he ran good and today he ran great." Trainer John Sadler, who has been on a stakes tear at Santa Anita, said the Californian "was key. He really stepped forward with a strong race right at the end of a mile and eighth and he got some more pace today. He said Hard Aces will go next in the $1 million, Grade I Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 22 and then point to the Breeders' Cup Classic. The Gold Cup is a "Win and You're In" for that race. Hoppertunity's effort was a comeback after sub-par thirds in the Grade II San Antonio and the Grade I Stephen Foster. Catch a Flight saw a two-race win streak snapped.
Golden Lad stalked the pace set by long shot Ecleto Red in Saturday's $300,000, Grade III Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Stakes, then eased by that rival in the stretch run to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Ecleto Red held second, 3/4 lengths in front of Paige McKenney. Carve finished fourth and Tapiture was eighth. Golden Lad, a 5-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.86 with Javier Castellano riding. He now has three wins from his last four starts, all stakes, for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Bent On Bourbon ran past the leaders turning in to the stretch in Saturday's $250,000, Grade III Iowa Derby, opened a daylight lead and went on to win by 3 lengths over Allied Air Raid. Private Prospect finished third and the favorite, Hillbilly Royalty, faded from the lead to finish fifth. Bent On Bourbon, an Arch colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.00 with Castellano up. The colt took three tries to score his first win but now has three straight victories to his credit for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Include Betty came from the back of the pack to win Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Wonder Gal. Chide finished a nose farther back in third. Include Betty, a daughter of Include, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.68 with Drayden Van Dyke up. "I don't think she'll have any problems stretching out further," Van Dyke said, adding he and trainer Tom Proctor "were saying she's a filly that really doesn't like to be hit a whole lot so it's more just getting along with her and keeping her happy."
Sarah Sis led all the way in Saturday night's $200,000, Grade III Iowa Oaks and had enough left to hold off Pangburn for a nose victory. Sweetgrass finished third. Sarah Sis, a Sharp Humor filly, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.17 after establishing a somewhat plodding pace. The filly won the Grade III Honeybee at Oaklawn earlier in the year but then was pulled up in the Kentucky Oaks. She returned from that misadventure to win the Panthers Stakes at Prairie Meadows with relative ease. Ingrid Mason trains Sarah Sis at Arlington Park.
Diva's Diamond and Flashy American rallied on the outside to finish 1-2, separated by a neck, in Friday night's $100,000 Iowa Distaff at Prairie Meadows. More Than Even was third. Diva's Diamond, who also won this event last year, finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.05 with Ramon Vazquez in the irons. The 6-year-old Crafty Shaw mare now has two straight wins over the Iowa oval.
Crucero rallied by the favorite, Going Somewhere, in the final furlong of Sunday's 1 3/4-miles San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita and won by a neck over that foe at odds of 23-1. Decisive Edge finished third, 1 1/4 lengths farther in arrears. Crucero, a 5-year-old son of Admiral's Cruise, cruised home in 2:49.46 over firm turf with Kent Desormeaux up for brother Keith.
Departing, a multiple graded stakes winner on the main track, appears to have found a home on the green course after a game victory in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Firecracker at Churchill Downs. In just his second start on the green course, the 5-year-old War Front gelding tracked the early leaders, got through along the inside heading for home and survived a bump in the stretch run to win by 1/2 length over Knights Nation. The favorite, Sky Flight, finished third. Departing, with Miguel Mena up, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.16. He finished a fading third behind The Pizza Man in his last race, the Opening Verse at 1 1/16 miles on the grass -- his first start since last November. Walker Hancock, president of the owner and breeder, Claiborne Farm, said Plan A was to run Departing in the 7-furlong Kelly's Landing on the main course. But, he said, "I guess he maybe just needed (the last) race. Being by War Front, they seem to run so well on the turf we figured we better give him another shot. I'm glad we did. It was a last-minute audible, too, at about 10 a.m. on Wednesday when we decided to change course … This opens up a whole other set of races for him. Maybe we can even target the Breeders’ Cup Turf or something at Keeneland." It was the 33rd stakes win at Churchill Downs for Claiborne, tying the farm with Calumet Farm for the lead in that category.
Prize Exhibit, outrun early, roared down the lane to win Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/4 lengths over pacesetter Long Hot Summer. Lutine Bell also ran well late to take second and the odds-on favorite, Curlin's Fox, faded through the stretch to finish last of nine. Prize Exhibit, a British-bred daughter of Showcasing, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.03 with Santiago Gonzalez up. It was her second win, first in a stakes, in six tries since shipping in from England late last year. "I told the jock to sit close, about third or fourth, and he didn't listen to me," said winning trainer James Cassidy. "I’m telling you the truth. After the race, I said to him, 'What happened to third or fourth?' He just looked at me and shrugged." Curlin's Fox's rider, Mike Smith, said she doesn't seem to handle two turns.
Filly & Mare Turf
Fanticola stalked the pace in Saturday's $200,000, Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes for fillies and mares, then outfinished Queen of the Sand by a neck in the final jumps. Stormy Lucy was a long shot third. Fanticola, a 5-year-old daughter of Silent Name, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.76 with Joe Talamo up. She has finished out of the money in only one of her 17 lifetime starts. "She deserved this," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "She’d been knocking on the door and had two tough beats in her last two, and this is kind of vindication for all her hard efforts. She's gotten better and better, with more confidence." He said he will look at the $250,000, Grade II John C. Mabee Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 8. That's 9 furlongs on the grass.
I'm Already Sexy waited off the pace in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Eatontown Stakes for fillies and mares, bid three-wide entering the stretch and was up to win by 1/2 length. The favorite, Kenzadargent, rallied along the rail but couldn't match the winner. Stellar Path finished third. I'm Already Sexy, a 5-year-old Ready's Image mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.29 under Paco Lopez. "She is a really nice mare," said winning trainer Wayne Catalano. "Paco put her in a great position early on and she had a perfect trip. She likes to sit just off the pace and with age, she has learned to settle. She always seems to know where the wire is and just continues to battle."
Masochistic dueled for the lead in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Triple Bend Stakes at Santa Anita, took the lead for good on the turn and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Appealing Tale was second with Wild Dude filling out the trifecta. Masochistic, a 5-year-old gelding by Sought After, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:20.25 with Tyler Baze in the irons. In eight career starts, he now has six wins and a second.
Delaunay blasted out of the gate in Friday evening's $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap, set a brisk pace and drew off easily in the stretch to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Bruvver Max, badly outrun early, rallied widest of all to take second, 1/2 length in front of Den's Legacy. Delaunay, an 8-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.33 with Ramon Vazquez up. He has failed to hit the board only once in his last 12 starts, that when trainer Tom Amoss sent him 7 furlongs in the Churchill Downs on Derby Day in 2014.
Salutos Amigos, making his first start since finishing eighth in the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaeen on World Cup night, rallied smartly to a 3 1/4-lengths victory over Uptown Boy in Sunday's $75,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park. Happy My Way was third with Purple Egg fourth. Salutos Amigos, a 5-year-old Salute the Sarge gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:08.58 under Cornelio Velasquez. "Hopefully this will be the lead into a long and successful summer," said winning trainer David Jacobson. "I wanted to get a race into him and this one came up." He said if Salutos Amigos cools out right, he may run right back in next weekend's $250,000, Grade II Smile Sprint Handicap at Gulfstream Park -- a part of the old Calder "Summit of Speed." "He has a reservation on a plane Tuesday, so it's certainly an option," Jacobson said.
Filly & Mare Sprint
La Verdad truly was much the best in Sunday's $100,000 Dancin Renee Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares at Belmont Park. With Jose Ortiz along for the ride, the 5-year-old Yes It's True mare wasted no time getting to the front and cruised home 7 1/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Make the Moment. Miss Da Point finished third La Verdad ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:10.27. Belmont elected not to allow show betting despite the seven-horse field and La Verdad paid $2.10 to place. "I was happy she won as easily as she did," said winning trainer Linda Rice, "because, frankly, this is a race we were just trying to use to get her to Saratoga in better condition than we were last year." She said La Verdad will point to the $200,000, Grade II Honorable Miss on July 29 and "hopefully," the $500,000, Grade I Ballerina on Aug. 29. Last year she finished fifth in both those races.
Ghost Locket held off You Bought Her to win Friday's $100,000 Saylorville at Prairie Meadows by 1/2 length. Haveyougoneaway finished third after being soundly bumped by the winner as the field straightened into the lane. The favorite, Sugar Shock, finished fifth. Ghost Locket, a 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.77 under Shane Laviolette riding. The Donnie Von Hemel trainee now has four wins and four seconds from her last nine starts.
Tribal Gal had no problem handling four rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Oak Tree Distaff at Pleasanton. After tracking Frisco Fog through the early furlongs, jockey Ricardo Gonzalez sent Tribal Gal after the lead in the lane. She dueled with Frisco Fog before kicking away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Princess Bertrando nipped Frisco Fog for place money. Tribal Gal, an Arizona-bred mare by Tribal Rule, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.19. She also won this race last year.