The Kentucky Derby trail developed another pothole Saturday as Gulfstream Park canceled most of its card because of heavy rain.
The postponement of the Grade II Fasig Tipton Swale Stakes and the Grade III Palm Beach Stakes follows last week's rescheduling of the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, which scrambled travel plans for a few Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
Dubai and Hong Kong, however, enjoyed favorable weather and important races there will lead directly to the rapidly approaching World Cup night at Meydan.
Let's rapidly approach this weather-abridged report:
The Road to the Roses
Saturday's Grade II Swale Stakes was to have marked the 2015 debut of Daredevil as the odds-on favorite going 7 furlongs. His trainer, Todd Pletcher, said the More Than Ready colt will stick around for the Swale, which was rescheduled for next weekend. The only options would have involved running against one or more of Pletcher's many other Derby contenders elsewhere. "We're going to breeze him tomorrow, just an easy half mile," Pletcher said Sunday, "and then hopefully be all set for next Saturday." Daredevil won his first two starts last year, including the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Souper Colosal and X Y Jet also had prospects of moving on from the Swale.
The Palm Beach, a grass event, was less likely a Derby prep but nonetheless represented a loss as a competitive race with implications for the rest of the U.S. turf racing season.
If Pletcher's Derby plans took a hit in Florida, they got an unexpected lift in Saturday night's John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky. Royal Son led all the way to a 5 1/4-lengths victory, shaking off pressure from the heavy favorite, The Great War, who faded to finish last of 10 and bled despite Lasix, according to the Equibase chart of the race. Trainer Wesley Ward said later the colt is no longer a Derby prospect. Pepper Roani was second and Milwaukee Mist third in the 1 1/16-miles prep for the Grade III Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes later this month. Royal Son, with Rodney Prescott taking the mount for Pletcher, finished in 1:46.84 over the all-weather course. The WinStar Farm homebred by Tiznow out of the A.P. Indy mare Mama Nadine took three tries to break his maiden in Florida, finally winning on a disqualification, then finished seventh in the Grade III Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay. So the Turfway win marked the first time he actually finished first. Pletcher assistant Dermot Magnier said Royal Son is likely for the Spiral.
In addition to the Swale, next weekend's "Road to the Roses" includes the Gotham at Aqueduct, the Tampa Bay Derby and the San Felipe at Santa Anita -- all with legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders.
Action in Dubai and Hong Kong very much pointed the way to World Cup night, now just four weeks away. The autumn season heated up in Australia. The spring season heated up in Japan.
(By RICHARD GROSS)
An unusual, two-night Carnival week provided some very high points and one very low one for the hometown heavyweights, including Godolphin Racing. When all was done, Sheik Mohammed's "boys in blue" were contemplating which of the world's top races to target next -- and mourning the loss of a sable favorite, Cavalryman.
First up was a double for Godolphin on Thursday as Local Time ran the best time in a small field of five, winning by 4 3/4 lengths over Shahrasal in the Group 3 UAE Oaks over 1,900 dirt meters. Runner Runner was a slower slower short head in third. Godolphin runners have won the event 11 times.
Local Time is undefeated in her last six starts, leaving trainer Saeed bin Suroor with only good options for the next start for the 3-year-old Invincible Spirit filly, who has been serially stretched out in wins of 1,400, 1,600 and 1,900 meters, all on dirt, in her three Meydan starts. "We will keep the options open regarding whether to go for the UAE Derby on Dubai World Cup Night or the English 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket May 3," said bin Suroor. "We will see."
Also to be seen is whether bin Suroor's Safety Check continues to be as dangerous abroad as he looked pinning back Dark Emerald by a length in the 1,600-meters Group 2 Zabeel Mile later on the Meydan turf, with Earnshaw earning a short head third-place finish. The 4-year-old Dubawi colt skipped away with a Thursday win added to his previous Group 3 Fort Fahidi conquest, but will skip World Cup night and instead be skipping back to England for the summer season.
"We will ship him back to Newmarket and keep him for later in the year as he prefers faster going,” trainer Charlie Appleby said of Safety Check. "He is a typical Dubawi offspring and he will be good horse for England in the summer."
The Thursday card began with Price Is Truth cashing in by an honest 2 lengths over Strategical in the Al Naboodah handicap over 1,200 meters of dirt with Nawwaar nowhere near the winner, 2 3/4 lengths back in third. In the 1,600-meters Swaidan dirt handicap, Pit Stop didn't, leaving Not A Given 1/2 length back with Muhtaram third. In the Meydan Turf Classic over 1,400 meters, Volatile was just that by 1 1/4 lengths over Mastermind, running smarter than Wychwood Warrior by 2 1/4 lengths. The Al Naboodah Group Trophy went to Mashaaref by 2 1/4 lengths after 1,400 meters of dirt over Muaanid, who kept a head up over Shaishee.
While Thursday's two group features belonged to Godolphin, Saturday was definitely owned by jockey Paul Hanagan, riding under the white epaulets of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Saturday's ill-fated feature Group 3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy went to Almoonqith and South African trainer Mike de Kock in the race considered to be the prep for the Gold Cup on Dubai World Cup day. Rio Tigre roared into second 1 1/2 lengths back while de Kock's second entry, Star Empire, showed up in third. Cavalryman was pulled up suddenly on the back straight in this race and later euthanized with an unrepairable break in his right hind leg.
"Cavalryman was a real character in the yard and was treasured, not only by me, but by everyone here," said trainer Saeed bin Suroor in the announcement. "All of the team are very upset by the tragic news. He had a wonderful career and he will be hugely missed."
The really big winner in the race was rider Paul Hanagan, who was claiming win No. 4 on the seven-race card for horses owned by Sheikh Hamdan. The British navigator began his big evening scoring hay with Nolohay by 3 1/4 lengths over Tinghir in the 1,600-meters Cepsa Mile on the dirt with Avon Pearl a less-lustrous third, 3 3/4 lengths back. He followed up immediately with Jeeraan pressing past Press Room by 1 1/2 lengths in the IPIC dirt handicap over 2,200 meters with Respect Me showing a respectable third by a length. Hanagan then snared the Nova Stakes 1,200-meters turf handicap on Ertijaal by a length over Fils Anges with Master of War a short head back, then capped off the evening with his win in the Nad Al Sheba Trophy run.
"It has been an amazing evening," said a subdued Hanagan of his quadruple. "To ride four winners for Sheikh Hamdan anywhere is brilliant, but to do it here on the world stage is extra special."
Godolphin could not match its Thursday double, but did not go home entirely empty-hooved, finishing the evening with a 1-2 in the IPIC turf handicap over 2,000 meters as Haafaguinea won quite a bit more, besting stablemate Silent Bullet by a 3/4-length margin with Elleval a neck back in third.
In other Saturday races, Heavy Metal was the big noise in the IPIC 1,400-meters dirt handicap with Ennobled Friend a noble 3/4-length second and Giftorm wrapping up 2 1/2 lengths back in third. In the dirt IPIC 2000 over that distance, Henry Clay had hooves of anything but, besting Tenor by a high 3 3/4 lengths with Emirates Flyer landing on the tarmac a short head behind in third.
Saturday’s card capped what most consider the regular Carnival season. Next week's Super Saturday will feature horses being jockeyed for their best-chance races in final preparation for Dubai World Cup day March 28.
Designs On Rome looked to have something left as he cruised to victory in Sunday's Group 1 Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin and will be looking to use any such reserves in four weeks' time in the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. With Joao Moreira up, the 5-year-old son of Holy Roman Emperor assumed his customary position well back of the middling pace. Moreira had to go wide into the stretch but wasn't worried. "The pace wasn't as fast as we wanted, but then we were always going to catch up with his great turn of foot," Moreira said. "A furlong to go I knew I was going to win and then I was just pushing him to the line and I was celebrating almost as we crossed the line." Helene Super Star finished second, Blazing Speed was third and Military Attack faded late to get home fourth. Designs On Rome has been super tough against visiting foreign competition at Sha Tin, winning last season's Group 1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup and December's Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup, both at the same 2,000 meters as Sunday's race. The trip to Dubai, however, will be his first journey since landing in Hong Kong. "As I said going into the race, I thought he was the fittest he has been all season and he showed everybody just that," said winning trainer John Moore. "We'll just make sure there is nothing amiss with him now and we will aim to have him in the same condition when we present him for the Dubai Sheema Classic."
Pride of Dubai, sporting the silks of Sheik Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, found a narrow gap in the straight and went through to win Saturday's Group 1 William Hill Blue Diamond Stakes for 2-year-olds at Caulfield by a head. Sheik Hamdan bin Rasheed al Maktoum's color-bearer, Reemah, put in a late bid but flattened out to finish second. Lake Geneva was third and the favorite, Fontiton, finished fifth. The victory sets up Pride of Dubai for a run at the Tooheys New Golden Slipper, said trainer Paul Snowden. The Street Cry colt ran 6 furlongs on good turf in 1:10.53.
Also on Saturday at Caulfield, Shamal Wind won the Group 1 Oakleigh Plate at 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf, scoring by 3/4 length from Under the Louvre; Suavito upset the Group 1 Italktravel Futurity as the heavy favorite, Dissident, finished third; Mourinho won the Group 2 Crown Golden Ale Peter Young Stakes at 9 furlongs as Melbourne Cup winner Protectionist finished sixth going less than his optimum trip.
Hurricane Higgins, making his first start in more than two years, rallied from last to win Saturday's 2-mile Conditions Stakes at Lingfield Park, earning a spot in the Good Friday All-Weather Championship Finals. The 7-year-old warrior edged Godlphin's Gold Trial bya nose. John Reel was third. "We have the option of Good Friday now," said winning trainer Nicky Henderson. "But I want to see how the horse is in the morning and then formulate plans … He stays like nothing on earth as well as being a very good jumper … He was turned out in a field for over a year."
Nuovo Record won Sunday's Nakayama Kinen, a race with a field deep enough to bely its Group 2 status. Winning jockey Yasunari Iwata said he had traffic problems turning for home and had to take an inside line, hoping for the best. It worked out, with Nuovo Record scooting home first, a neck in front of Logotype. The favorite, Isla Bonita, settled for fifth. Nuovo Record, a 4-year-old filly by Heart's Cry who won last year's Japanese Oaks, will be targeted to upcoming Group 1 events. Last year, the Nakayama Kinen proved a springboard for the world's top-rated horse, Just A Way.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
On the Kentucky Oaks trail, Stellar Wind blew in from Laurel Park in Maryland to land Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Santa Ysabella Stakes with a late run. The Curlin filly dawdled early, then shot to the lead in the lane and easily held of the favorite, Light the City, winning by 2 3/4 lengths. Glory was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Stellar Wind, with Victor Espinoza in the irons, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.16. She entered the race off a maiden victory at Laurel on Dec. 18 and had been working steadily at Santa Anita for trainer John Sadler. "She's trained really, really well," said winning conditioner John Sadler. "When she got here, her hair was about this long (indicating 4 inches). It was so cold in Maryland, I think she was glad to get out here in this good weather." He said the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 4 "would be a logical spot at this point."
Albano ran to his notices in Saturday evening's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, setting a leisurely pace and then jetting off to win by 6 1/2 lengths. Endurance was the best of the rest, 3/4 length better than C J's Awesome. Albano, a 4-year-old colt by Istan, got 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.24 with Kerwin Clark aboard. Albano finished second to Bayern in last year's Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park, albeit 7 1/4 lengths back, but had not been able to move forward from that effort since. He was a well-beaten third in the Louisiana Handicap at Fair Grounds in his most recent previous start for trainer Larry Jones and owner Brereton Jones, former governor of Kentucky. "He ran very well tonight," the trainer said. "But it just showed what a poor training job I did on his last race. It's great to see him at the top of his game."
A Day in Paradise dueled to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Texas Heritage Stakes for 3-year-olds, then took charge in the stretch run, winning off by 3 1/4 lengths over Academy Bay. Witt Six pressed the pace and faded to finish third. A Day in Paradise, a Yes It's True gelding, finished 1 mile with Clark in the irons in 1:40.38.
Kitten's Queen stalked the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Jersey Lilly Stakes for fillies and mares, got by the pacesetter at mid-stretch and went on to win by 2 lengths over Satin Gold. Compelling Case and Antonia Autumn were a pair of necks farther back in third and fourth. Kitten's Queen, a 5-year-old Kitten's Joy mare, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.71 under David Cabrera.
Tuba led from the start in Saturday's $60,000 Black Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds and survived the late rush of the favorite, Another Lemon Drop, to win by 1/2 length over that rival. Fly Friendly Sky was third. Tuba, a Magna Graduate gelding out of the Stravinsky mare Sousaphone, ran about 7 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:30.66 with Jose Riquelme in the irons.
McGeehee's Mercy rallied from well back to take Saturday's $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes for Louisiana-breds by 2 1/2 lengths over Heavy On Themister. The favorite, Benwill, checked in third. McGeehee's Mercy, a 5-year-old gelding by Afleet Alex, ran about 1 mile on the grass in 1:36.24 under Florent Geroux.
Management got in one stakes race Saturday before the rain washed away the card but the $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes was moved off the turf and two of the favorites, Consumer Credit and Quality Rocks, were scratched. The winner after all that was Devina Ada, who obviously liked the sloppy main track, drawing off to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Sweet Swingin was second, 9 lengths better than Temper Mint Patty. Devine Ada, a daughter of Unbridled's Song, splashed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:49.01 for jockey Jesus Rios.
Rebranded led from gate to wire in Saturday's $50,000 Curribot Handicap, winning by 2 lengths and establishing a track record of 1:40.64 for 1 1/16 miles. Smack Ridge and the favorite, Isn't He Clever, completed the trifecta. Rebranded, a 4-year-old Tiznow colt, was ridden by Ry Eikleberry.
By ROBERT KIECKHEFER
UPI Racing Writerhttp://www.upi.com/