The "Graveyard of Champions" claimed another one during the weekend as long shot Maracuja edged previously undefeated Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga.
Epsom Derby winner Adayar did much better on the other side of the Atlantic, handily defeating older rivals in a star-studded edition of the King George at Ascot.
In other action, United won the Eddie Read for the second straight year, trainer Chad Brown had another satisfactory weekend and Jolie Olimpica proved just a bit better in Canada than she was in California.
Question of the day: Why did Ellis Park move two of Friday's races from the dirt to the turf? See "News and Notes" for the answer.
Maracuja entered Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga with just one previous win and a seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks. Sent off at the longest odds of all in the four-filly field, she nonetheless pulled off the upset, edging previously undefeated Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat by a head as Saratoga renewed its reputation as the "Graveyard of Champions".
The difference: Malathaat never got a breather at any point in the 1 1/8 miles while Maracuja eased off the gas midway down the backstretch to gather herself for the winning stretch move.
Going into the first turn and halfway down the backstretch, Malathaat and jockey John Velazquez held a narrow lead with first Maracuja and then Clairiere right on her heels. Then Ricardo Santana Jr. let Maracuja back off heading into the stretch turn while Clairiere battled Malathaat for the lead. As Clairiere began to fade, Maracuja was back with her second effort and fought to the wire for the win.
Maracuja, an Honor Code filly out of the Unbridled's Song mare Patti's Regal Song, finished in 1:49.29 on a fast track.
"I thought Ricardo made a smart move by backing off and coming around the outside," said winning trainer Rob Atras. "What a race."
Velazquez said Malathaat "was doing great. She was comfortable in what she was doing but she had to fight the whole way around and obviously set it up for somebody else. She's a great horse and you can't take that away from her."
And why do we call Saragota the "Graveyard of Champions"? Man o' War suffered his only defeat there in the 1919 Sanford Memorial to a rival named Upset. Jim Dandy, at odds approximating 100-1, upset Triple Crown winner Gallant Fox at the Spa in the 1930 Travers. Secretariat arrived at Saratoga as the 1973 Triple Crown winner and promptly lost the Whitney Stakes to Onion. And six years ago it was American Pharoah's turn. After winning the Triple Crown, he was defeated by Keen Ice in the Travers.
Nonetheless, when the older ladies ran Sunday in the $200,000 Grade III Shuvee Stakes, it was the favorite, Royal Flag, getting the job done for her backers. The 5-year-old Candy Ride mare, with Joel Rosario riding patiently, was last of six on the turn for home, came around rivals and got by pacesetting Horologist to win by 3/4 length Horologist held second by a head over Crystal Ball. Royal Flag ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.42 giving trainer Chad Brown a main-track win to go with his weekend turf triumphs.
"I don't know if she likes time in between races or something always happens that requires us to give her time," Brown said of Royal Flag. "This is her last season racing so hopefully we can give her a more consistent campaign now and get a few starts into her before she's retired." He said the $600,000 Grade I Personal Ensign Aug. 28 is a likely target.
Maracuja edges previously undefeated Malathaat in Saturday's Grade I coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga, photo by Susie Raisher, courtesy of New York Racing Association
United and Smooth Like Strait hooked up in a tight stretch duel in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar with United and jockey Flavien Prat prevailing by a neck over the even-money favorite. Count Again rallied from last of seven to get show money. United ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.49. The 6-year-old Giant's Causeway gelding is a multiple graded stakes winner, including last year's Eddie Read, and in 2019 nearly upset eventual Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf, missing by just a neck.
"He ran well and I'm very proud of him," said United's trainer, Richard Mandella. "He was coming off a terrible race (fourth and last in the Grade II Charles Whittingham). I've never had him run that bad. We worried and watched and did every test you can do on him and we found a bruise under his shoe two weeks old. It didn't seem like that big a deal but it must have been. We'll probably look at the Del Mar Handicap next."
March to the Arch marched to the lead around the furlong pole in Sunday's $100,000 (Canadian) Niagara Stakes at Woodbine and quickly kicked clear, winning by 4 1/2 lengths while geared down late by jockey Patrick Husbands. Belichick, who bumped with the winner early in the stretch run, finished second with Theregoesjojo third. March to the Arch, a 6-year-old, Florida-bred Arch gelding, finished 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:45.15.
Indian Lake jumped out to take the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Bald Eagle Derby at Pimlico and held off the favorite, Experienced, for a 3/4-length victory. Wootton Asset was third. Indian Lake, a Daredevil gelding, got 1 1/2 miles on firm going in 2:32.08 with Ruben Silvera in the irons. It was his first stakes win.
United wins Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar for the second year in a row, Benoit photo, courtesy of Del Mar Turf Club
Filly & Mare Turf
Madone came flying in the final sixteenth of Saturday's $200,000 Grade II San Clemente for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar, blitzed by odds-on favorite Going Global in the final yards and won by 1/2 length over that rival. Tetragonal was third, another 1 length in arrears. Madone, a Vancouver filly, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.28 with Juan Hernandez riding for trainer Simon Callaghan. She has five wins from eight starts and Callaghan said the Del Mar Oaks is the next stop.
"That was the plan, to lay back then come running," Hernandez said of the strategy. "Simon said to keep her covered up and save ground. That's what I did. On the turn, I took her out and she gave it to me. She really came running."
Jolie Olimpica breezed into Canada with momentum behind her and promptly posted a 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Nassau Stakes at Woodbine. Abscond was second behind the mutuel favorite with Our Secret Agent third. Jolie Olimpica, a 5-year-old, Brazilian-bred mare bgy Drosselmeyer, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:34.83 for jockey Luis Contreras. Since arriving in the United States, she had finished among the first three in every one of her first six starts, all in California for trainer Richard Mandella.
"What an honor to have these silks," said winning trainer Josie Carroll in reference to Jolie Olimpica's white and red colors representing Fox Hill Farm and its late founder Rick Porter. "It was wonderful that Mr. Porter sent this horse here and that his family left her with me with his passing … He's made such great choices and had such great horses over the years that I hope we can carry on his tradition."
Tightly Twisted got first run to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Big Dreyfus Stakes at Pimlico and made the advantage stand, holding off odds-on favorite Counterparty Risk by 1/2 length. Sailingintothewind was well back in third. Tightly Twisted, a 5-year-old Hard Spun mare, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:48.05 with Jhonatan Mendoza up. She made it two straight wins following a Delaware Park allowance score.
Field Pass surged past pacesetting Ramsey Solution in the final strides to take Saturday's $200,000 Grade III BWI Turf Cup by a neck over that one. Talk or Listen was third with Posterity completing the order of finish after two scratches. Field Pass, a 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.12 under Victor Carrasco. It was his first win since the Grade III Ontario Derby at Woodbine last Nov. 21.
Chad Brown saddled the exacta in Friday's $150,000 Grade III Lake George Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga, promising his domination of East Coast turf races isn't likely to end anytime soon. Technical Analysis stalked the pace, led in the stretch and won by 1 1/4 lengths while stablemate Fluffy Socks rallied from last of nine to nip Tobys Heart for second. The favorite, Jouster, led early but folded in the stretch, beating only one rival. Technical Analysis, an Irish-bred Kingman filly out of the Sea the Stars mare Sealife, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:36.61 for jockey Jose Ortiz. She improved to 3-for-5.
Brown had two others in the Lake George with Minaun and Amy C. finishing fifth and sixth. "Going into this race, I thought these four horses were even," he said. I couldn't have picked between them. She (Technical Analysis) was 9-1 when they loaded in the gate. I hope that some of my loyal fans here that have been losing the first week got some money back."
Caravel sailed by the leaders at mid-stretch in Saturday's $200,000 Grade III Caress Stakes for fillies and mares at Saratoga and cleared, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. In Good Spirits was second, 1/2 length to the good of Robin Sparkles. Caravel, a 4-year-old Mizzen Mast filly, finished 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:02.38 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up for trainer and breeder Elizabeth Merryman. Merryman and Bobby Flay co-own the filly, who notched her third straight win and fourth from her last five starts.
Merryman said she and Flay agreed that after this race Caravel would be turned over to trainer Graham Motion. "Hopefully, the goal is the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint and Graham has so much experience going that route," she said. "It seemed like a really smart thing to do from my perspective as well. Not that I don't think I could handle it, but with the change in the ownership, Graham has a system that works great and he's been through all that. It'll be a good way to go. I'll still own part of her."
Can the Queen stalked the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash at Pimlico, ran to the lead in the last of 5 furlongs and won by 1 3/4 lengths over Flyingontheground. What a Trick led early and saved third. Can the Queen, a 5-year-ol Can the Man mare, finished in 56.41 seconds with Victor Carrasco riding. It was the first stakes win for the former $16,000 claimer.
Sunday at the Del Mar seaside, Superstition waited behind the speed in the $80,000 Daisycutter Handicap for fillies and mares, mounted a challenge into the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Querelle. Bulletproof One and Gypsy Spirit were a pair of noses farther back in third and fourth. Superstition, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 56.89 seconds with Flavien Prat up.
Around the world, around the clock:
Adayar dominated his older rivals in Saturday's Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes at Ascot, running clear in the final furlong to become the first Derby winner to take the race since Galileo in 2001. Mishriff rallied from a restrained last-place run to finish second with five-time Group 1-winning filly Love third, lacking any late punch.
The result only added another level of gilt to the already golden season for Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby. Mishriff continued a campaign that earlier produced victories in the $20 million Saudi Cup and the Group 1 Longines Dubai Sheema Classic. The Coolmore contingent and trainer Aidan O'Brien will be scratching their heads as to Love's planned engagement in October in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
"It was a very simple race to ride once he dropped his head and when I picked him up he was instant and relentless until the line. I'm speechless to be honest," said winning rider William Buick, who clearly wasn't. "He gives you the feel of endless power and it's a privilege to ride a horse like this because they don't come around very often."
Mishriff's trainer, John Gosden, who has won the race thrice with 3-year-olds, pointed out the younger generation gets an 11-pound weight break and said, given that, his 4-year-old ran "an absolute blinder." He said Mishriff is off now to the Juddmonte International next month at York.
Love drifted in the Arc wagering while Coolmore stablemate Snowfall, winner of the Epsom and Irish Oaks, solidified into favorite with some bookmakers.
Adayar, while also improving his stock for the Arc, earned a "Win and You're In" berth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
On the same program at Ascot, Zain Claudette found another gear in the final furlong of the Group 3 Princess Elizabeth Keeneland Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, got the front in the final strides and won by a nose from the favorite, Desert Stormer. Delmona got the lead around the furlong marker and looked like hanging on but was pipped back into third. Zain Claudette, a No Nay Never filly owned by Saeed al Tayer and trained by Ismail Mohammed, now has a second and two wins from three starts. Del Mar, anyone?
Saturday at York, Bangkok came with a late second effort to upset the Group 2 Sky Bet York Stakes, winning by a head over Juan Elcano with the favorite, Mohaafetul another neck behind in third. Bangkok, a 5-year-old son of Australia, has been better on all-weather surfaces than turf. Trainer Andrew Balding said Bangkok, who has raced in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Bahrain within the past 10 months, is not in the Juddmonte International and has other international targets later in the year.
Skaletti raced last of six into the stretch in Sunday's Grosser Dallmayr-Preis - Bayerisches Zuchtrennen at Munich, quickly reeled in the breakaway early leader and ran on to win by 5 lengths. Grocer Jack was second, No Limit Credit third. Skaletti, with Gerald Mosse riding, scored his fourth straight win. His last loss was a seventh-place finish in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup last December and before that, the Kendargent gelding was second to Addbybb and in front of Magical and Serpentine in the Group 1 Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot.
Meanwhile, back in North America:
I'm So Anna dueled with Teddy's Barino through most of Friday's $176,000 Fleet Treat Stakes for California-bred 3-year-old fillies, then inched away in the closing yards to win by 1 length over that rival. The favorite, Closing Remarks, closed well but not remarkably to finish third. I'm So Anna, a daughter of Fast Anna, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:24.34 with Kyle Frey in the irons.
Brandothebartender dropped back to last of 10 early in Sunday's $100,000 California Dreamin' Stakes for state-breds, commenced a rally on the stretch turn and rolled by outside the leaders to win by 1/2 length. Indian Peak was second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of North Country Guy. Brandothebartender, an 8-year-old Tribal Rule gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.55. Umberto Rispoli had the mount for trainer Craig Dollase.
Saturday's $75,000 Monroe Stakes for fillies and mares was washed off the turf with Key Biscayne prevailing over six remaining rivals. The 4-year-old Brethren filly raced well off the pace, made her move four-wide and was along just in time to score by a neck over Starship Nterprise. With Chantal Sutherland riding, Key Biscayne finished 1 mile on the fast main track in 1:36.90.
Jockey Nik Juarez committed He'spuregold to a rail trip in Saturday's $88,400 Irish War Cry Stakes for New Jersey-breds and the 3-year-old Vancouver gelding got the job done, skimming the paint inside rivals to score by 1 length. Quiberon Bay was second, a head in front of early leader Optic Way. He'spuregold ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.53.
Ima Trouble Maker worked quickly to the front in Saturday's $72,498 Iowa Stallion Futurity Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds and wasn't in trouble after that, drawing clear at the end of 5 1/2 furlongs to win by 3 lengths. Silent Power was second with the favorite, Ain't Life Grand, third. Ima Trouble Maker, a Lotsa Mischief filly, finished in 1:05.51 with Ken Tohill riding.
Corner Office and Condemnation, half of a four-horse entry, got home first and second in Friday's $75,000 Hoover Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds, separated by 2 lengths. Dayofthegray prevented a sweep by the entry, finishing third. Corner Office, a Bal a Bali gelding, reported in 1:06.29 over a fast track with Jose Bracho up. The entrymates, trained by Timothy Hamm, are owned by WinStar Farm, Blazing Meadows Farm and Winblaze LLC.
One race later, Danefield led all the way to a 2 1/2-lengths victory over Authentic Cowtown in the $75,000 Buckeye Native Stakes for state-breds. It was another 3 1/2 lengths to Direct Deceit in third. Danefield, a 5-year-old gelding by Kentucky Dane, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:14.14 with Bracho riding.
Blazingbellablu took command in the stretch run of Sunday's $50,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, shaking loose from seven rivals to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Broad Approval was second with Ms Lynn third. Blazingbellablu, a Grazen filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs over a fast track in 1:17.34 with Alex Cruz at the controls.
Top Executive took the lead midway through Sunday's $50,000 Irish Day Stakes for 3-year-olds, turned back a challenge from Bobby Brinkley at the head of the stretch but ran on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that one. Naval Escort steamed into port third, another 4 lengths back. Top Executive, a Street Boss gelding, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.62 for jockey Kevin Orozco.
International news and notes:
Speaking of the Arc, Japanese connections plug onward with their so-far futile quest to win the French setpiece. The latest on that is the announcement Oisin Murphy will take the place of injured rider Yuichi Kitamura aboard Chrono Genesis in the October renewal. Murphy called the assignment aboard the multiple Group 1 winner "a really huge opportunity."
Murphy, in addition to his British championship form, has ridden successfully at the highest level in Japan, including a victory in the 2019 Japan Cup in 2019 aboard Suave Richard. In that race, the Ireland-born rider employed a daring stretch maneuver that paid off and led to some misunderstanding by the official interpreter over the term "Blarney Stone" during the post-race interview.
North American news and notes:
It's not uncommon at all in North America to see races moved from the turf to the dirt. But it is highly unusual to see things go the other way. That's just what happened Friday at Ellis Park. A tractor driver suffered what was described as a medical emergency during maintenance before the fifth race. He lost control and hit the inner rail of the dirt course, damaging it badly enough that immediate repair was impossible. Rather than cancel them, Ellis officials opted to move the fifth and seventh races off the dirt and onto the turf, which must have been a good call as there were no resulting scratches. Wagering payouts were modified to make the transferred races "all" for multirace bets.