Oct. 5 (UPI) — A fabulous, if somewhat chaotic, weekend of horse racing leaves lots of questions about the rest of the season, including whether Preakness Stakes-winning filly Swiss Skydiver might tackle the Breeders’ Cup Classic in an effort to land Horse of the Year honors.
There’s also the issue of the next stop for some of the best Irish horses, forced to drop out of Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe program because of an inadvertent contamination of their feed with a banned substance.
Perhaps the best of the lot, Love, already had been directed to the Breeders’ Cup.
Not at issue were a slew of Breeders’ Cup berths decided by the weekend’s “Win and You’re In” races.
On the international front, Verry Elleegant won again in Australia. Gran Alegria is turning into quite the sprinter on the Japanese turf, and in a hurry, too. See why in the international section.
Buckle up, strap it down and let’s get to it.
Preakness / Classic
Swiss Skydiver came out of her impressive upset of Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in the Preakness Stakes in good form and the question now for her connections is whether to go on to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff or try the boys, including Authentic, again in the Classic.
Trainer Kenny McPeek could make a case for either race after the Daredevil filly, under a brilliant ride by Robby Albarado, ran the second-fastest Preakness in the history of the race — slower only than Secretariat.
“I like the mile and a quarter of the Classic,” McPeek said Sunday morning. “But the Distaff, today, is probably the wiser move. But the farther she goes the better. We can sit on it. We won’t make a rash decision.”
Another consideration could factor into that decision — the chance Swiss Skydiver could be part of the Horse of the Year deliberations.
“You have to make a case for her. She’s entertained coast to coast, north, south, east, west,” McPeek said. “She’s amazing. She’s not even tired today. She’s a throwback horse.”
Authentic’s trainer, Bob Baffert, lamented his colt’s inability to get by Swiss Skydiver during a long stretch duel. But he said Authentic is still pointed toward the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Churchill Downs, along with two of his older horses, Maximum Security and Improbable.
“She just was game,” Baffert said of Swiss Skydiver. “It was one of those things where I said, ‘All right, come on, get by her.’ They were running, they were leaving the field. It was, ‘Wow, did that really just happen?’ But he showed up and he ran.”
Friday at Pimlico, Harpers First Ride dueled with the favorite, Owendale, through most of the $250,000 Grade III Pimlico Special, then kicked clear in deep stretch to win by 2 length over that stubborn foe. Cordmaker was 1/2 length farther back in third.
Harpers First Ride, a 4-year-old Paynter gelding, ran 1 3/16 miles on a fast track in 1:54.97 with Angel Cruz up, scoring his fourth win from his last six starts.
Sprint / Dirt Mile
Diamond Oops looked well beaten approaching the sixteenth pole in Friday’s $200,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes with 50-1 shot Empire of Gold clinging to a sizeable lead.
But the leader shortened stride just as Florent Geroux had Diamond Oops in full stride and the latter roared on by to win by 3/4 length. Empire of Gold held on for place, 2 lengths in front of Echo Town.
Diamond Oops, a 5-year-old Lookin at Lucky gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.24, backing up his last-out victory in the Grade II Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs.
“It’s remarkable,” Geroux said. “He’s a tremendous horse and he can even run longer if you ask him. He runs on any surface. It’s rare to run as good as he did last time on the turf at Churchill and now winning a major prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.” The Phoenix was a “Win and You’re In” for that race.
At Belmont Park on Saturday, Complexity tracked pacesetting Endorsed through the early furlongs of the $150,000 Grade II Kelso Handicap, shot by and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
Code of Honor rallied to take second with Stan the Man 7 1/4 lengths farther back in third. Endorsed faded to finish fourth and last. Complexity, a 4-year-old colt by Maclean’s Music, got the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:33.82 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Laki, Eastern Bay and Nitrous all waited behind the early speed in Saturday’s $200,000 Grade III Frank De Francis Memorial Dash at Pimlico, then came wide to fight it out down the stretch.
Laki got there first by a nose over Eastern Bay and another nose from Nitrous with pacesetter Krsto Skye fading to fourth. Laki, a 7-year-old gelding by Cuba, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.70 with Horacio Karamanos at the controls.
Valiance came with a late run in Sunday’s $400,000 Grade I Spinster Stakes at Keeneland, got by the early leaders and went on to win by 3/4 length over Ollie’s Candy.
The favorite, Kentucky Oaks winner Shedaresthedevil, led most of the way but then faded to finish third, another 2 1/2 lengths in arrears.
Valiance, a 4-year-old Tapit filly, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.76 for jockey Luis Saez, earning a “Win and You’re In” berth in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff over the same track Nov. 7. It was her third straight win and sixth from eight career efforts, but her first victory in a graded stakes.
“That was kind of the one thing missing on her resume was that graded stakes win,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. Asked about running back in the Distaff, he said, “That would be the hope. … We’ll see how she comes out of it.”
Sunday’s $150,000 Grade II Beldame at Belmont Park was an oddly run affair. Letruska sprinted out to a huge early lead, then hit the wall after a mile and handed over to Horologist.
That one then held off the late run of Point of Honor, winning by 3 lengths. The favorite, Dunbar Road, ran evenly but had no late kick and finished third, beating only Letruska.
Horologist, a 4-year-old daughter of Gemologist, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.01 with Junior Alvarado riding. Trainer Bill Mott said Horologist won’t be taking on Breeders’ Cup assignment as her owners decided not to pay the supplemental entry fee.
Miss Marissa drafted in behind the early speed in Saturday’s $350,000 Grade II George E. Mitchell Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico, quickly took the lead in the lane and opened a daylight advantage, and then just held on to win by a neck over the rapidly closing favorite, Bonny South.
Hopeful Growth, always in the mix, finished third. Miss Marissa, a daughter of He’s Had Enough, finished 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.08 with Daniel Centeno in the irons. It was her third straight win but first in stakes company.
When Channel Maker went through a rough patch early this year, there was some question whether Father Time had caught up with the 6-year-old English Channel gelding.
But with Saturday’s front-running, 2 1/4-lengths victory in the $250,000 Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont, following on a win in the Grade I Sword Dancer at Saratoga in his previous start, doubts are dispelled.
The Turf Classic was simple: Take the lead and hold onto it. Never threatened, Channel Maker crossed the finish line well in hand with Laccario second, Sadler’s Joy third and the favorite, Rockemperor, a fading fifth. With Manny Franco riding for trainer Bill Mott, Channel Maker covered 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:25.99.
“It doesn’t always work out as planned but it did today and it did last time,” Mott said. “He had a little pressure early from Cross Border, but he was able to sneak away from him. I think longevity is a true test of a good horse.”
About moving along to the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, Mott said, “I think that’s a forgone conclusion.”
One race later on the Belmont program, Gufo rallied from mid-field to win the $250,000 Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational by 1 length over No Word, avenging a narrow loss in the Saratoga Derby Invitational and earning a “Win and You’re In” berth for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Mo Ready, the early leader, held on for show money. Domestic Spending, winner of the Saratoga race, was a race-day scratch. Gufo, a Declaration of War colt trained by Christophe Clement, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:02.25 with Junior Alvarado riding.
Clement said he’s not sure Gufo will take on the Breeders’ Cup challenge, mentioning the Grade I Hollywood Derby on Nov. 28 as an option.
Factor This took a quick lead in Saturday’s $250,000 Grade II Dinner Party Stakes at Pimlico and was never challenged, winning by 2 3/4 lengths over Somelikeithotbrown, who had some traffic trouble in the first turn. Hembree was third.
Factor This, a 5-year-old entire son of The Factor, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:46.17 for jockey Florent Geroux. Trained by Brad Cox, Factor This was coming back from a narrow loss to Digital Age in the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5.
Filly & Mare Turf
Juliet Foxtrot raced right back of the early leader in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade III Gallorette at Pimlico, assumed command when asked by rider Florent Geroux and quickly put daylight between herself and five rivals.
Varenka put in a late bid but fell 1 length short of catching Juliet Foxtrot, who finished 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:49.24. Brad Cox trains the winner, a 5-year-old, British-bred Juddmonte Farms homebred daughter of Dansili. She won her first three U.S. starts in the spring and summer of 2019 but had been 0-for-6 since then.
Uni, after struggling in her first two starts as a 6-year-old, put the pieces back together Saturday in the $350,000 Grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland. After racing off the pace, the More Than Ready mare was more than ready when called upon by jockey Joel Rosario, rallying in time to defeat Beau Recall by 1 length.
The even-money favorite, Newspaperofrecord, was unable to grab her accustomed early lead and finished third, a nose behind Beau Recall. Uni ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.90 and earned a spot in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile on Nov. 7 over the same course. She won both the First Lady and the Breeders’ Cup Mile last year.
“I was so stressed out,” said Sol Kumin, part owner of Uni. “If she doesn’t run well here, you couldn’t run her back in the Breeders’ Cup after the year she had. Now you run her back, same track, four weeks and you feel like she might be back.
“Her last race for us will be the Breeders’ Cup against the boys and if she is able to do it again, it would be Hall of Fame good.”
On the same Keeneland card, Ivar rallied from far back to win the $750,000 Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile by 1 length over fellow closer Raging Bull. Without Parole was third, early leader Casa Creed finished fourth and the favorite, Analyze It, never fired, reporting next-last of nine.
Halladay, who would have been among the favorites, was a late scratch. Ivar, a Brazilian-bred, was making his third U.S. start after shipping up from Argenina, where he was 3-for-3 with two of the wins in Group 1 races.
Ivar, a 4-year-old son of Agnes Gold, finished in 1:33.99 with Joe Talamo up for trainer Paulo Lobo. He finished a close third in the Tourist Mile at Kentucky Downs in his previous start and appears to be a serious force in this division. The Shadwell Turf Mile was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile.
“You know how hard it is to win a Grade I, especially here at Keeneland. We need to celebrate,” Lobo said. “We were very worried about the (No. 11) post position but his style, if you see his races in Argentina, he always comes from off the pace — way off the pace.
“Today, it worked very well. I was very concerned because of the first turn. Joe rode him 100 percent magnificent.”
At Sana Anita, Mo Forza came four-wide into the stretch in Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile and outfinished Sharp Samurai, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over that rival.
Bob and Jackie was third after stalking a sharp early pace. Mo Forza, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo colt, got the 1 mile on firm going in 1:32.09 with Flavien Prat in the irons for trainer Peter Miller.
Mo Forza has won six of his last seven starts, all graded stakes. His only defeat during that streak came in his only start outside California — the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park, where he finished ninth when asked to go 1 3/16 miles and raced without Lasix.
“That’s him,” Miller assistant Ruben Alvarado said. “He relaxes early and then you saw the way he finished up … We’re very happy and we’re looking forward to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Saturday at Woodbine, Proven Strategies utilized the most proven of all — an uncontested lead — to win the $100,000 (Canadian) Toronto Cup for 3-year-olds by 1 3/4 lengths over Lucky Curlin.
The odds-on favorite, Shirl’s Speight, was a nose farther back in third. Proven Strategies, a Sky Mesa colt, finished the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.78 with Justin Stein up.
Sunday’s $250,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational always looked like a wide-open affair and played out that way with Wet Your Whistle taking the early advantage and leading them home.
Chewing Gum was second, 3 1/4 lengths back and a nose in front of the favorite, Archidust. Wet Your Whistle, a 5-year-old Stroll gelding, finished 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:07.87 under Jose Ortiz. He was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Laurel Dash.
Asked about the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for Wet Your Whistle, trainer Michael Trombetta said, “It’s a select group that all run against each other and all beat each other here and there. If you’re going to take a chance, these are the kind of horses to do it with.”
Leinster pressed the pace in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade II Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, rallied to a narrow lead in the stretch and fended off the late run of Extravagant Kid to win by 1/2 length.
The early leader, Just Might, finished third. Leinster, a 5-year-old son of Majestic Warrior, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on good turf in 1:01.59 for jockey Luis Saez. He was second in this race last year in preparation for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, where he finished seventh.
This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be run at Keeneland, where he now has three wins and a second from four starts.
“We had a little setback,” said Leinster’s trainer, Rusty Arnold. “He had a foot problem. We actually were going to run him at Kentucky Downs. We didn’t get to run. Maybe it’s a blessing because he stayed right here on his home track. He got to work on this turf course a couple of times. I think that’s a big edge. Worked out good.”
Filly & Mare Sprint
Inthemidstofbiz, a $20,000 claim at Keenland’s 2019 fall meet, completed a climb up the ranks to win Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes over the same track, earning a “Win and You’re In” spot in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
With Martin Garcia in the irons, the 4-year-old Fed Biz filly came to challenge the pacesetting duo halfway through the 6-furlong race, quickly put them away and drew off to win by 3 lengths. Sneaking Out and Palace Avenger completed the trifecta. Inthemidstofbiz finished in 1:09.84, winning her third straight race.
“We got lucky today,” sid Inthemidsofbiz’s trainer, Cipriano Contreras. “She’s getting better and better. We claimed this filly and ran her for $16,000 at Oaklawn. She started running better, and we took a shot. It worked out.”
As previewed here, Frank’s Rockette looked on paper to be one of the weekend’s best bets and the 3-year-old Into Mischief mare validated that in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap.
Facing older rivals, Frank’s Rockette tracked the early pace for a bit, then downshifted and ran away from her rivals, winning by 7 1/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. Honor Way and Royal Charlotte were second and third as the winner finished 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.12 with Junior Alvarado in the irons.
It was her fourth straight win, fifth from her last six starts and kept alive her record of never missing the exacta in 10 starts.
Wicked Whisper stalked the pace in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade III Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico, then closed sharply through the final furlong to reel in Ain’t No Elmers and win by 1 length.
Sound Machine was third and the odds-on favorite, Mundaye Call, never figured in the running and finished fourth. Wicked Whisper, a daughter of Liam’s Map, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36 with Joe Bravo in the irons. She was a close second in her last start, the Grade III Charles Town Oaks.
At Woodbine on Saturday, Boardroom raced four-wide the whole 7 furlongs of the $100,000 (Canadian) Duchess Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, rallied by the leaders heading for home and won by 3/4 length over Our Secret Agent.
Boardroom, a Commissioner filly from the Rahy mare Money Madness, ran 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.52 with Luis Contreras in the irons.
Essential Quality improved to 2-for-2 with a front-running, 3 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland. Two long shots, Keepmeinmind and Super Stock, were second and third, respectively.
Essential Quality, a Godolphin homebred son of Tapit with Luis Saez up, reported in 1:44.37 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track. He won by 4 lengths at first asking Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs. Saturday’s race earned a “Win and You’re In” spot in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
“He showed us from Day 1 that he’s special, very talented,” said Essential Quality’s trainer, Brad Cox. “He’s a very green horse. That was my concern today — could he put it all together? And he did. He pulled up a bit on the backside. He’s got some learning to do. If he can figure it out, he’s a serious animal.”
Some expensive colts made up the bottom three in the Breeders’ Futurity. Calibrate ($340,000) was seventh, King Fury ($950,000) was eighth and Notary ($185,000) was ninth and last.
At Belmont Park on Friday, Hold the Salsa rallied outside the front-running duo a furlong out in the $100,000 Bertram Bongard Stakes for New York-breds and edged away to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
Lookin for Trouble was second and Brooklyn Strong closed late to finish third. Hold the Salsa, a Hold Me Back colt bred, owned and trained by Richard Lugovich, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.54 for jockey Junior Alvarado.
Fire at Will led all the way in Saturday’s $150,000 Grade II Pilgrim at Belmont Park and won by 2 lengths over the odds-on favorite, Public Sector. Step Dancer was 2 more lengths back in third.
Fire at Will, a Declaration of War colt from the Kitten’s Joy mare Flirt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.46 with Kendrick Carmouche riding for trainer Mike Maker. Fire at Will won the With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga in his previous start and now is 2-for-3.
Catman pressed the pace in Saturday’s $150,000 Laurel Futurity at Pimlico, got by the early leader to open a daylight advantage in the lane, then held off a late bid from French import Wootton Asset by just a nose. Kidnapped was third.
Catman, a Kitten’s Joy colt trained by Mike Maker, ran 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:50.51. Daniel Centeno had the mount.
Sunday at Keeneland, Mutasaabeq raced last of 11 early in the $200,000 Grade II Bourbon , circled his rivals eight-wide and kicked away late, winning by 2 1/4 lengths. Abarta was second and Nathan Detroit third, all with late runs from well back.
Mutasaabeq, an Into Mischief colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.13 with Luis Saez riding. The race was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, which trainer Todd Pletcher said is on the agenda.
Bodenheimer ripped out to a big, early lead in Sunday’s $150,000 Indian Summer Stakes at Keeneland and cruised home first by 1 length. Cowan ran late to take second, 6 lengths in front of Agog. Bodenheimer, a Washington-bred colt by Atta Boy Roy, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:02.70.
This one was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. “I’ve never had a 2-year-old that I thought early in the year was good enough,” winning trainer Valorie Lund said. “But when this colt started breezing, I thought, ‘He is good enough,’ so that is where we are going.”
Santa Anita got in on the juvenile turf action Sunday as Ebeko rallied four-wide and was just up to win the $100,000 Zuma Beach Stakes by a nose over Tarantino. Cotopaxi held a brief lead in the stretch, but finished third.
Ebeko, an Irish-bred colt by Awtaad, ran 1 mile on a firm surface in 1:36.55. Ricardo Gonzalez rode for trainer Peter Miller.
At Monmouth Park on Sunday, It Can Be Done led from gate to wire, turning back a mid-race challenge, in the $155,000 Nownownow Stakes.
At the finish, the Temple City gelding was 2 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Mischevious Dream, with No One to Blame just a nose farther out in third. It Can Be Done, with Jose Ferrer up, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.57.
Of course, Simply Ravishing and Crazy Beautiful finished 1-2 in Friday’s $350,000 Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland. Simply Ravishing went right out to the lead and never looked back as her stablemate in the Kenny McPeek barn held second throughout. Travel Column filled out the trifecta.
Simply Ravishing, a New York-bred daughter of Laoban, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.58 with Luis Saez riding. She now is undefeated after three starts. Crazy Beautiful, by Liam’s Map, was second in the Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs before Friday’s race, which was a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
“They are both really special fillies,” McPeek said. “I kind of hated to run them against each other but it is a race we are obviously fond of and we felt like we had a heck of a chance with both of them in there. We will probably go to the Breeders’ Cup with both of them.”
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Plum Ali tracked the early speed in Sunday’s $150,000 Grade II Miss Grillo at Belmont Park, shot by those and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Caldee made the early going and finished second, a nose in front of Editor At Large. Plum Ali, a First Samurai filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.03 with Jose Ortiz aboard.
Winning trainer Christophe Clement said of a potential start in the Breeders’ Cup, “Just like anything else, I’ll only go to the Breeders’ Cup if she’s training great and doing great.”
At Santa Anita on Sunday, Madone started far back in a nine-horse field in the $100,000 Surfer Girl Stakes, rallied six-wide down the stretch to get the lead and held on by a neck over Tetragonal. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to Pizzaz in third. Madone, a daughter of Vancouver, finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.83 with Flavien Prat riding.
Fluffy Socks rallied along the rail to win Saturday’s $150,000 Selima Stakes at Pimlico, defeating the favorite, Invincible Gal, by 2 1/4 lengths. Fluffy Socks, a daughter of the British sire Slumber, got 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf in 1:50.74. After a decent debut at Saratoga, she won last month at Kentucky Downs for trainer Chad Brown.
Around the world, around the clock:
Canadian Triple Crown
The U.S. Triple Crown ended at Pimlico but the Canadian counterpart is very much alive and with a steady pulse after Mighty Heart won the $400,000 Prince of Wales Stakes Thursday at Fort Erie by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths over Clayton. It was another 5 1/4 lengths back to Dotted Line in third.
Mighty Heart, a Dramedy colt, won the first leg of the series, the storied Queen’s Plate, at Woodbine Sept. 12 and now has only the Breeders’ Stakes, back at Woodbine but on the turf, to sweep the series.
Please see the separate account of the Arc weekend at Longchamp, available at upi.com/topic/horse-racing.
Gran Alegria unleashed an almost unbelievable late run from next-last to win Sunday’s Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse. Seemingly hopelessly defeated with less than 200 meters to go, the Deep Impact filly nonetheless won by 2 lengths over Danon Smash.
The late run was so dramatic that even the English-language racecaller at Nakayama Racecourse was taken by surprise. “Gran Alegria starts to lengthen but it is too far to catch up,” he said, immediately adding, “Here’s Gran Alegria!”
“I can’t believe how strong she is,” winning rider Chrisophe Lemaire said of Gran Alegria. “She was a little slow to get into the rhythm and we were much further back than expected.
“But we did not panic if not a little worried that we may not be in time as the pace was fast. She certainly showed what she is made of and she just carried on while some of the front runners started to weaken.”
The race is one of two Grade 1 sprints on the Japanese calendar. Gran Alegria was second in the other, the March 29 Takamatsunomia Kinen at Chukyo. In that race, she trailed only Mozu Superflare, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Speightstown who reported 10th in the Sprinters Stakes after making the rapid lead.
On Saturday at Chukyo, Café Pharoah, a one-time contender on the Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby, returned to winning ways in the Group 2 Sirius Stakes.
The Kentucky-bred colt by American Pharoah rallied from the middle of the 16-horse field to win by 3/4 length over the dirt course.
He won his first three starts, including the Hyacinth Stakes in February and the Unicorn Stakes in June, both on the Tokyo Racecourse turf, locking up the top spot in the Kentucky Derby series, then was seventh when contesting the Japan Dirt Derby at Oi on July 8.
None of the Japanese contenders accepted a bid to Louisville this year.
Nazeef kicked into high gear as two groups of runners merged about 2 furlongs out in Saturday’s Group 1 Kingdom of Bahrain Sun Chariot Stakes at Newmarket, and then ran on strongly to win by 1 length from Half Light. Cloak of Spirits was third.
The favorite, Champers Elysees, running for the first time in the colors of new owner Teruya Yoshida, settled for fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths while ending a four-race winning skein.
Nazeef, a 4-year-old filly by Invincible Spirit, earlier in the season won the Group 2 Duke of Cambridge Stakes and the Group 1 Qatar Nassau. Jim Crowley rode for trainer John Gosden and owner Sheik Hamdan Al Maktoum.
Verry Elleegant rallied outside a wall of horses turning into the stretch in Saturday’s Group 1 TAB Turnbull Stakes at Flemington, then got the best of a blanket finish, edging early pace factor Toffee Tongue with Finch third.
Chris Waller trains all three. Verry Elleegant, a 5-year-old, New Zealand-bred mare, tallied her fifth Group 1 win and avenged a fourth-place finish in the Group 1 George Main in her last start.
The rebound was enough to move her right up the odds board for the Caulfield Cup and she also is well-held for the Melbourne Cup itself.
At Royal Randwick, Probabeel emerged from well back of the leaders turning for home in Saturday’s Group 1 TAB Epsom Handicap, dueled briefly with old rival Funstar and then asserted in the final 100 meters to win by 1 length. Funstar was second, Riodini third and Yulong Prince fourth.
Probabeel, a 4-year-old, New Zealand-bred filly, now has two wins on the season for trainer Jaime Richards. She has got the better of Funstar in four of their seven head-to-head meetings. Richards said he will have a think about the Cox Plate for Probabeel.
Also on Saturday’s card at Royal Randwick, Montefila edged the favorite, Hungry Heart, in the 1,600-meters Group 1 Darley Flight Stakes and Mirage Dancer got there first in the Group 1 Heineken Metropolitan at 2,400 meters with the favorite, Mugatoo, a neck back in second.
Excellent Proposal made his case for a role in this season’s Four Year Old Classic series with an impressive win in Sunday’s Class 2 Chek Lap Kok Handicap at Sha Tin Racecourse. With Joao Moreira up, the Australian-bred Exceed and Excel gelding ran his record to three wins from four starts.
“He didn’t sort of blow them away today but he certainly did the job,” winning trainer John Size said. “He’s got himself to a rating that’s comfortable to be an aspirant of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, so I’m happy with that.”
Moreira and chief rival Zac Purton each had two winners on the card, so Moreira maintained his six-wins lead in the jockey premiership chase, 22-16. Karis Teetan rode one winner and stands third with 12.