Summer racing is in full swing now with nine major stakes across North America plus France and England last weekend. Here is a recap of them all courtesy of the NTRA and Breeders' Cup Limited.
Race: $350,000 Washington Park Handicap (G2), 3yos & up, 1 3/16 miles
Eye of the Tiger
Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge - John Gunther's 4-year-old homebred EYE OF THE TIGER was an established stakes runner based in California early this year before being transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in New York in the spring. Saturday, he shipped halfway back across country to win the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park by a head over Wertheimer Stable's California invader OLMODAVOR in a field of just five. A son of American Chance, Eye of the Tiger had won his previous start at Belmont Park after chasing Pico Central home in the Carter Handicap and Metropolitan Mile. Olmovador is a 5-year-old homebred son of A.P. Indy trained by Richard Mandella and finished second in the Hollywood Gold Cup in his previous start.
Race: $250,000 San Diego Handicap (G2), 3yos & up, 1 1/16 miles
Track: Del Mar
Finishing Order: 1-CHOCTAW NATION, 2-PLEASANTLY PERFECT, 3-DURING
Margins: 3/4, 5, 1 1/2
Also ran: REBA'S GOLD, NIGHT PATROL, TASTE OF PARADISE, DECORADOR (ARG)
Winning Connections: Owner: Robert Bone; Trainer: Jeff Mullins; Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Time: 1:42 1/5 (fast)
Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge - Diamond A. Racing's 6-year-old PLEASANTLY PERFECT, winner of the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, was the 3-to-5 favorite Sunday in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar in his first start since capturing the Dubai World Cup on March 27. With jockey Mike Smith substituting for injured rider Alex Solis, Pleasantly Perfect came out running and was head-and-head for the lead after a half-mile of the 1 1/16 mile test in a fashion opposite his usual come-from-behind style. The son of Pleasant Colony led by 1 1/2 lengths at the furlong marker, but Robert Bone's 4-year-old gelding CHOCTAW NATION ran by to win by three-quarters of a length. James McIngvale's DURING had dueled with Pleasantly Perfect around the far turn but tired to third, five lengths behind the runner-up in the field of seven. Trainer Richard Mandella said after the race that Pleasantly Perfect was simply too fresh, racing too close to the pace after the long layoff. However, he felt Gerald A. Ford's star would be set for the 10-furlong Pacific Classic on Aug. 22 on his way to bid for a repeat in the Breeders' Cup at Lone Star Park. Choctaw Nation became the 'now' horse with his big rally through the stretch in the San Diego under jockey Victor Espinoza at 6-to-1. The son of Louis Quatorze was claimed by trainer Jeff Mullins on behalf of Bone for $40,000 out of his career debut at Santa Anita in February. He remained undefeated in only five starts and was making his stakes debut in the San Diego. Mullins said he would consider the Pacific Classic.
Race: $250,000 Go For Wand Handicap (G1), fillies & mares, 1 1/8 miles
Road to the Breeders' Cup Distaff - Presented by Nextel - She's back! Allen Paulson Living Trust's 2002 Horse of the Year AZERI never looked better in her marvelous career than Saturday in the Go For Wand Handicap at Saratoga. With Pat Day aboard, the homebred chestnut daughter of Jade Hunter rather easily turned back the challenge from Juddmonte Farm's odds-on favorite SIGHTSEEK in the stretch to draw clear for a 1 3/4 lengths victory in the 1 1/8 mile test. Ogden Mills Phipps' 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner STORM FLAG FLYING ran well to finish third in the field of five, two lengths behind Sightseek. Azeri's performance was reminiscent to her impressive victory winning the 2002 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Arlington Park, sealing her first Eclipse championship and Horse of the Year season for trainer Laura DeSeroux. She was Eclipse champion filly or mare again last year but missed the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita with a tendon injury. She was returned to training this year with D. Wayne Lukas and was impressive winning the Apple Blossom Handicap in April for the third year in a row. Then came the disappointing defeats in the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs and Metropolitan Mile and Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park. It should be noted that both of Azeri's victories this year came in two-turn events while all three losses came in races contested around one turn. With the Go For Wand victory, Azeri's career earnings grew to nearly $3.57 million passing the North American record for a mare formerly held by The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Spain, winner of the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff for Lukas. The late Allen Paulson's 1995 Breeders' Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year Cigar still holds the all-time money record at $9,999,815 million. Lukas says he'll point Azeri for the 10-furlong Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 27 on the way to the Breeders' Cup Distaff at Lone Star Park was the major goal.
Race: $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap (G2), 3yos *&up, 1 1/8 m. (turf)
Road to the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile - Peter Vegso's 4-year-old homebred SILVER TREE drove to a hard-fought neck victory over Ken and Sarah Ramsey's NOTHING TO LOSE in Friday's Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga. Silver Tree's victory over the yielding course marked the fifth time in seven years Mott and Bailey teamed up to win the Bernard Baruch. A son of Hennessey, Silver Tree won the Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs as a 3-year-old last summer and had finished an even third last out in the Poker Handicap going one mile at Belmont Park. Silver Tree rallied from next-to-last of seven in Friday's nine-furlong test and won a duel through the final furlong with favored Nothing to Lose. Mott said options for Silver Tree's next start are the Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 28 or the Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sept. 19
Race: $500,000 Diana Handicap (G1), fillies & mares, 1 1/8 miles on turf
Road to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf - Joan and John Phillips' 5-year-old homebred mare WONDER AGAIN is doing this year what her connections had hoped for during a disappointing campaign last season. Saturday at Saratoga, the daughter of Silver Hawk romped to a 5 1/2 lengths score in the Diana Handicap over a 'yielding' course under jockey Edgar Prado. Wonder Again was a major player in her division as a 3-year-old in 2002, highlighted by victory in Belmont Park's Garden City Breeders' Cup. She won just one of six last year, but has returned to top form this year with the Diana following a 3 1/2 lengths score in the 10-furlong New York Handicap at Belmont on July 5. Winning trainer Jim Toner indicated her next start was likely to be the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont on Oct. 2. Juddmonte Farm's INTERCONTINENTAL (GB) finished fifth as the favorite in the Diana under Jerry Bailey after winning all three previous American starts for trainer Bobby Frankel since arriving from France over the winter.
Race: $250,000 Test Stakes (G1), 3-year-old fillies, seven furlongs
Road to the Breeders' Cup Sprint - Marje and Irving Cowan's homebred 3-year-old filly SOCIETY SELECTION embraced a fast pace up front and 'muddy' track for the Test Stakes Saturday at Saratoga, splashing to a 6 1/4 lengths victory in the coveted seven-furlong fixture. Jockey Edgar Prado, who had won the Diana aboard Wonder Again a half-hour earlier, rode Society Selection, who rallied from 10th of 12 in the early going. John Gunther's BENDING STRINGS finished second, 3 3/4 lengths before Michael Gill's FOREST MUSIC , who set the pace, third. Society Selection is a daughter of Coronado's Quest trained by Allen Jerkens and was bouncing back from a disappointing sixth-place finish in the nine-furlong Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont in her last start. Winner of the Frizette Stakes at Belmont last fall in her second career start, she finished 10th of 14 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita with a very rough trip early in the race.
Race: $450,000 Sussex Stakes (G1), 3-year-olds & up, one mile on turf
Track: Goodwood (England)
Finishing Order: 1-SOVIET SONG (IRE), 2-NAYYIR (GB), 3-LE VIE DEI COLORI (GB)
Margins: Neck, 2, 2
Also ran: NORSE DANCER (IRE),ANTONIUS PIUS, TILLERMAN (GB), HURRICANE ALAN (IRE), CHECKIT (IRE), HAAFHD (GB), PASSING GLANCE (GB), REFUSE TO BEND (IRE)
Winning Connections: Owner: Elite Racing Club; Trainer: James Fanshawe; Jockey: Johnny Murtagh
Time: 1:36 4/5 (good)
Road to the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile - Elite Racing Club's 4-year-old filly SOVIET SONG (IRE) was competitive in the top mile races in Europe as a 3-year-old last year, but settled for minor awards. Trained by Jim Fanshawe, Soviet Song collected her second major prize in 2004 last Wednesday at Goodwood, winning the Sussex Stakes by a neck over Abdulla al Khalifa's NAYYIR (GB). Soviet Song was the only filly facing a deep field of top male milers that included very disappointing performances by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's English 2000 Guineas winner HAAFHD (GB), ninth; and Moyglare Stud's REFUSE TO BEND (IRE), last of 11 as the favorite. Soviet Song was well respected in the wagering at 3-to-1 after defeating previously undefeated 3-year-old filly Attraction (GB) in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket on July 6, a race also open to colts. One goal set forward for Soviet Song after the Sussex was the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot on Sept. 25 in which she fifth last year behind Falbrav (IRE).
Race: $300,000 Prix d'Astarte (G1), fillies & mares, one mile on turf
Track: Deauville (France)
Finishing Order: 1-MARBYE (IRE), 2-MAJESTIC DESERT (GB), 3-NEBRASKA TORNADO
Margins: 1/2, 3/4, neck
Also ran: MONTURANI (IRE), MARTHA STEWART (IRE), CATTIVA GENEROSA (GB), DENEBOLA, RUMBA LOCA (IRE)
Winning Connections: Owner: Teruya Yoshida; Trainer: Bruno Grizzetti; Jockey: Mirco Demuro
Time: 1:36 3/5 (good)
Road to the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile - MARBYE (IRE) a 4-year-old filly owned by Teruya Yoshida of Japan, bred in Ireland, trained in Italy by Bruno Grizzetti and had finished fifth in the Windsor Forest Stakes at Royal Ascot in England in her last start. Sunday at Deauville on the seacoast in France, the daughter of Marju posted a 12-to-1 upset in the Prix d'Astarte with Jaber Abdullah's MAJESTIC DESERT (GB) second by a half-length. Khalid Abdullah's 11-to-10 favorite NEBRASKA TORNADO third, another three-quarters back in the field of eight fillies and mares after a sharp mile in 1:36 3/5. Marbye had finished third in this race last year behind Bright Sky IRE) and Six Perfections (FR). Grizzetti attributes her success over the course to the more flat surface, compared to undulating courses such as Ascot. She may return to Deauville for a bigger challenge against male rivals in the Prix Jacques le Marois on Aug. 15.
Race: $300,000 Nassau Stakes (G1), fillies & mares, 1 1/4 miles on turf
Track: Goodwood (England)
Finishing Order: 1-FAVOURABLE TERMS (GB). 2-SILENCE IS GOLDEN (GB), 3-CHORIST (GB)
Margins: Head, neck, 7
Also ran: ZOSIMA, ECHOES IN ETERNITY IRE), MENHOUBAH
Winning Connections: Owner: Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum; Trainer: Michael Stoute; Jockey: Kieren Fallon
Time: 2:05 3/5 (good/firm)
Road to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf - Trainer Michael Stoute won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Santa Anita last fall with Islington (IRE) and appears to have a candidate for this year's renewal at Lone Star Park. in Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum's FAVOURABLE TERMS (GB) . Saturday at Goodwood, the 4-year-old homebred daughter of Selkirk won a hard-fought head victory over J.R. Semple's SILENCE IS GOLDEN (GB) in the Nassau Stakes with Cheveley Park's 3-to-2 favorite CHORIST (GB) a neck back in third in the field of six. For Stoute, Favourable Terms marked his record seventh victory in the mile-and-a-quarter Nassau, including Islington in 2002.
Other weekend recaps:
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