King for a Day upset Maximum Security in Sunday's Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, further complicating the race for 3-year-old honors, while Seeking the Soul won a spot in the Breeders' Cup Classic with a victory in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs Saturday night.
With Royal Ascot looming, the main international action was in France, a wide-open Prix de Diane Longine, won in a minor upset.
Let's get right to it:
The "who's the best 3-year-old" question didn't find an answer Sunday at Monmouth Park as King for a Day worked by pacesetting Maximum Security to win the $150,000 TVG Pegasus Stakes by 1 length. Maximum Security, last seen being disqualified from victory in the Kentucky Derby, went to the post as a 1-20 favorite in the Pegasus, stumbled at the start and recovered to lead most of the way before faltering. It was another 5 3/4 lengths back to Direct Order in third as King for a Day finished 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.59 under "Jersey Joe" Bravo.
King for a Day, an Uncle Mo colt trained by Todd Pletcher, was making just his second start of the year after winning the Sir Barton Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He finished fourth in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club to end his 2-year-old season.
"He's good right now,” Pletcher assistant Anthony Sciametta said of King for a Day. "He was good down in Florida before we sent him to Pimlico and after that race Todd took him to Belmont and Todd said he never missed a beat … He's a competitive horse. He likes fighting like this."
Maximum Security's trainer, Jason Servis, said, "It stinks getting beat but that's horse racing," said Servis. "I think (the stumble) cost me the race, really. I got beat, what, a length? Tough day. I think his next race will be better. I needed to get this out of the way. I was glad to get this out of the way even though he got beat by a nice horse. I think his next race will be better. I hope. But I think it will be."
Most observers thought Maximum Security was easily the best in the Kentucky Derby despite his disqualification. After three different horses won the three legs of the Triple Crown, many of those same observers still ranked the New Year's Day colt atop the division. Servis hemmed and hawed before starting his star in the Pegasus, worried he wasn't back to his best after the Churchill Downs experience, but figuring the race fit into a natural progression to the Grade I Haskell Invitational July 20 at Monmouth and the Grade I Travers at Saratoga.
Now, the Travers looks most likely to attract most of the claimants to the 3-year-old trophy with at least an initial skirmish in the Haskell.
Another Country Heard From Department:
Out west, a couple of Bob Baffert's all-but-forgotten 3-year-olds finished 1-2 in Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita. Mucho Gusto and Roadster both idled behind the early speed in the 1 1/16-miles test on the fast main track and both advanced boldly down the stretch with Mucho Gusto drawing off at the end to win by 2 1/4 lengths over his stablemate. The early leader, Visitant, was third. A third Baffert charge, Kingly, was a bit unruly during the race and checked in fifth of six.
Mucho Gusto, a Mucho Macho Man colt, reported in 1:45.15 with Joe Talamo up. Mike Smith rode Roadster, the Santa Anita Derby winner. Mucho Gusto now has three wins, a second and a third from five starts. None of the victories has been above the Grade III level and, while he certainly is in the conversation, he would need a step up to be likely for year-end hardware. Baffert indicated he might get that chance.
"I think this horse is maturing," Baffert said. "He is a late foal and he's getting better ... There's some Derbies around, but I think he'll probably go to the Haskell. As long as he relaxes, he'll run that far."
The older bunch was on display at Churchill Downs:
Seeking the Soul tracked the pace down the backstretch in Saturday night's $600,000 Grade II Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, turned into the stretch run with dead aim on the leading duo and got by at the sixteenth pole to win by a neck. Quip, who pressed the pace throughout, finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the long-time leader, Tom's d'Etat. The favorite, Gift Box, was another 5 3/4 lengths in arrears in fourth. Seeking the Soul, a Charles Fipke homebred by Perfect Soul, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.27 with John Velazquez aboard. Four of his seven career wins from 27 starts have come under the Twin Spires.
"As soon as I broke out there and got into the first turn, he was a little more aggressive than I want him to be," Velazquez said. "He's never been that close in the first part of the race. But I got him back to where I wanted him to be, got comfortable where he was, and then down the stretch, pulling out, he had it."
Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart wanted to run Seeking the Soul in the Breeders' Cup Classic last year at Churchill Downs but did not make the cut, settling for the Dirt Mile instead. The Stephen Foster was a "Win and You're In" for this year's Classic at Santa Anita -- a benefit not lost on Stewart as he arrived at the barn Sunday.
"We got back at it at 5 a.m. this morning and looking forward to the future," Stewart said. "He bounced out of the race in great shape and we'll keep our options open for finding his next target. One thing is for sure -- we definitely have a spot in this year's Breeders' Cup Classic, unlike last year."
Seeking the Soul wins Saturday's Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs, earning a spot he was denied last year in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Coady Photography, courtesy Churchill Downs
Mr. Money dominated the wagering and the running in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds at Churchill Downs. The odds-on favorite waited patiently in second until given the go-ahead by jockey Gabriel Saez at the top of the lane, downshifted and showed his heels to six rivals, winning off by 6 1/2 lengths. Signalman and Proverb were second and third. Mr. Money, a Goldencents colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42.28, backing up his victory in the Grade III Pat Day Mile on Derby Day.
"The way this horse was training after the Pat Day Mile, we had an idea he'd run a big race," said trainer Bret Calhoun. "Gabe rode him perfectly tonight and he's proving his talent, that’s for sure."
Elate saved ground into the stretch turn in Saturday evening's $250,000 Grade II Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, came around the leaders at mid-stretch and muscled by them to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Blue Prize finished second, a head in front of She's a Julie. Elate, a 5-year-old Medaglia d'Oro mare, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.33. Jose Ortiz had the ride for trainer Bill Mott. Elate, winner of the Grade I Beldame and Grade I Alabama as a 3-year-old, was limited to only two starts in 2018, one of those a victory in the Grade II Delaware Handicap. The Fleur de Lis win earned her a spot in the Breeders' Cup Distaff through the "Win and You're In" program.
"Jose got the perfect rail trip and once he straightened her out in the lane she came running late," Mott said. "We thought the added distance makes a bit of difference with her and we like to have a goal to shoot for at the end of the year with the Breeders' Cup Distaff. If she belongs, that's a race to definitely shoot for."
Gotham Gala got the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Obeah Stakes at Delaware Park and never relinquished it, winning by 3 1/4 lengths over Goodonehoney. The favorite, Another Broad, finished third, another neck in arrears. Gotham Gala finished the 1 1/8-miles Obeah, the local prep for the Grade I Delaware Handicap, in 1:50.74 under Daniel Centeno. Gotham Gala, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly, scored her third career win in her first try in a stakes race.
"We have always thought that her best asset was her cruising speed, so today the plan was to get her to break from gate well. She relaxed nicely and then came with a big run," said winning trainer Arnaud Delacour. "With the Delaware Handicap, we are going to see who is coming and how she is doing and we will take it from there, but that was definitely a step in the right direction."
Miss Mo Mentum got things rolling down the stretch in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Trillium Stakes for fillies and mares at Woodbine and edged clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Hot Cash heated things up in the late going, too, rallying from last of 10 to finish second, a head in front of Dixie Moon and another head to the good of the favorite, Tapa Tapa Tapa. Miss Mo Mentum, a 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.30 with Jerome Lermyte in the irons.
Gucci Factor trailed most of the field early in Sunday's $300,000 Grade III Poker Stakes at Belmont Park, swung five-wide into the stretch and picked them all up, prevailing in a dramatic, five-horse blanket finish. Four noses back, in order, were Hembree, Krampus, Dr. Edgar and the favorite, Clyde's Image. The latter took a bad step just strides before the wire and was vanned off after the race. Gucci Factor, a lightly raced 6-year-old Gio Ponti gelding out of the Dynaformer mare Shoo In, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:32.54 with Joel Rosario timing things perfectly. Gucci Factor, trained by Christophe Clement, picked up his third straight win and fifth from his last six starts.
Clement, who also trained Gio Ponti, commented: "You could see he was coming with run toward the wire and, watching Joel not having to use his whip, you know he thought he was going to get there. A very tight race and they all ran well."
March to the Arch was bottled up well back in the pack midway around the turn in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Wise Dan Stakes at Churchill Downs, got through between rivals when shown a path by jockey Tyler Gaffalione and was up late to win by a neck. All Right, a 70-1 long shot, was second, another neck in front of the favorite, Admission Office. March to the Arch, a 4-year-old Arch gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.58. The Live Oak Stud homebred scored his first-ever graded stakes win.
"It was just a super ride by Tyler," said David Carroll, assistant to winning trainer Mark Casse. "He saved ground all the way around, swung him out and he kicked hard. What a race. It was only his third start of the year. He ran at Tampa and got beat only 5 lengths to Bricks and Mortar. Hopefully he'll have a big year going forward."
Filly & Mare Turf
Hard Legacy grabbed the lead heading into the clubhouse turn in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Regret Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs, turned back a challenge from Winter Sunset a furlong out and ran on strongly to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Winter Sunset held second with the favorite, Varenka, a further 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Hard Legacy, a daughter of Hard Spun, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm going in 1:48.22 with Julien Leparoux in the irons.
It was the third win from five starts for Hard Legacy and first in a stakes race of any kind. It also was the first stakes winner for trainer Norm Casse. "Churchill Downs is my home. Louisville is my home. To win my first stakes win here is so special," said Casse, formerly assistant to his father, Mark Casse. "I thought today would be the day. Hard Legacy had been training very well, we had Julien up, it was time to get the first stakes win. Hopefully the first of many."
On Sunday at Santa Anita, Lemoona was up in the final strides to win the $100,000 Possibly Perfect Stakes by a neck over Mirth. The favorite, Pantsonfire, settled for third, 3/4 length farther back. Lemoona, a 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid filly, ran 1 1/4 miles on firm turf in 2:02.18 with Mario Gutierrez in the irons. It was the first stakes win for the Richard Baltas trainee.
On the international Scene
Please see the separate preview of the Tuesday-through-Saturday doings, which promise to be the usually royally good.
Channel worked her way to the front with a furlong to run in Sunday's Group 1 Prix de Diane Longines for 3-year-old fillies at Chantilly and held on gamely to win by a head over Commes and another 1/2 length from Grand Glory. The favorite, Siyarafina, was well placed in the stretch run but also was one-paced and finished sixth. Channel, an Irish-bred filly by Nathaniel, scored her third consecutive victory while stepping in to Group company for the first time.
Channel, trained by Francis Graffard and ridden by Pierre-Charles Boudot, is the first Thoroughbred for owner Samuel de Barros, who said he was urged into the game by his wife, a Standardbred breeder. "I was living a comfortable life in Paris but love struck and the rest is history," he told Racing Post. Channel immediately was on the boards -- still at relatively generous odds -- for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe even though Graffard did not nominate her to that race.
Also during the weekend …
Please Flatter Me dueled to the lead in Sunday's $100,000 Alma North Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, drew off and then held on to win by 3/4 length over Parisian Diva. Gotta Be Strong reported third. Please Flatter Me, by Flatter, finished 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.44 with Alex Cintron up.
Cordmaker, under Victor Carrasco, rode the rail in Sunday's $100,000 Polynesian Stakes, moved to a narrow lead in the lane and held that to the wire, winning by 1/2 length. Clubman was a long shot second, 1/2 length to the good of Majestic Dunhill, and the favorite, No Dozing, finished last of seven. Cordmaker, a 4-year-old Curlin gelding, got 7 furlongs in 1:21.37.
Doctor Mounty rated patiently in Sunday's $100,000 Prince George's County Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, came six-wide to overtake the favorite, Divisdero, in deep stretch and won by 1 length over that one. Just Howard and O Dionysus were a pair of heads farther back in third and fourth. Doctor Mounty, with Forest Boyce in the irons, finished in 1:40.30 for jockey Forest Boyce.
I'm So Fancy emerged from behind the early pace battle to win Sunday's $100,000 Big Dreyfus Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 3/4 lengths. Theodora B. rallied from far back to take second from Dark Artist by a head. I'm So Fancy, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare by Rajj, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:40.34 with Trevor McCarthy in the irons.
Desert Law dominated in the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Thor's Echo Stakes for California-breds, kicking free to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Coil Me Home beat the others with 4 3/4 lengths separating him from Smiling Angelo in third. Desert Law, a 5-year-old Desert Code gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.49 under Rafael Bejarano.
Holiday Disguise recovered from a stumble at the start to win Saturday's $100,000 Dancin Renee Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over late-running Jc's Shooting Star. Midnight Disguise, also coming from off the pace, finished third. Holiday Disguise, a 5-year-old Harlan's Holiday mare, toured 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.33 with Jose Lezcano in the irons. Both Holiday Disguise and 4-year-old Midnight Disguise were produced Thin Disguise, a daughter of Yes It's True.
Kingsport and Cooler Mike emerged from pace-stalking trips to battle down the lane in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Steady Growth Stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and up with Kingsport winning by a neck. Thor's Rocket was third, another 2 3/4 lengths up the all-weather track. Kingsport, a 7-year-old entire son of Milwaukee Brew, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.35 with Patrick Husbands at the controls.
Supercommittee quickly put matters to rest in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Ginger Punch Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares, jetting off to a 5-lengths victory. Midnight Soiree found a late bid to finish second, 2 lengths in front of Passion Plus. The 1 1/16-miles race was rained off the turf and Supercommittee, a 4-year-old filly by The Factor, finished in 1:45.50 over the good main track. Victor Lebron had the ride.
A Bit of Both led gate to wire in Saturday's $80,000 Honey Bee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and kicked clear late to a 2 1/2-length victory. Queen of Bermuda made up some ground in the lane to finish second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Missmizz. A Bit of Both, a daughter of Paynter, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.31 with Nik Juarez riding.
Here's Hannah dueled through most of Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Strawberry Morn Handicap with Oxhillirating, then eased clear of that rival in the stretch, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Good Luck to You was along to edge Oxhillirating for second. Here's Hannah, a 4-year-old Numaany filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.45 with Richard Hamel in the irons.
Basic Chance tracked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 John Wayne Stakes for Iowa-bred colts and geldings, took over and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths. About Our Time was second, 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Sure Fire Friend. Basic Chance, a 5-year-old Yes It's True gelding, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.10 with Walter De La Cruz up.
Mywomanfromtokyo took the overland route into the lane in Friday's $60,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for Iowa-bred fillies and mares and prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths over My Sister Madi. Queans Altar led early and held on for third. Mywomanfromtokyo, a 6-year-old daughter of Neko Bay, got 6 furlongs on a fast strip in 1:10.90 for jockey Glenn Corbett.
Baja Sur led from gate to wire in Sunday's $50,000 Coca Cola Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings, winning by 1 3/4 lengths from Runningwscissors. Perfect Dude finished third, 5 1/2 lengths farther back. Baja Sur, a Smiling Tiger gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.60 with Franklin Ceballos riding.
Apalachee Bay stalked the pace in Sunday's $50,000 (Canadian) John Longden 6000 Handicap, moved to the lead heading into the stretch and drew off to score by 2 lengths. Calgary Caper was second with Pitch Count a further 3 1/4 lengths back in third. Apalachee Bay, a 4-year-old Malibu Moon colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.40 under Amadeo Perez.