It was a weekend of successful and emotional goodbyes around the world for some of horse racing's stars.
Contrail went out a convincing winner in the Japan Cup and heads to the breeding shed with great expectations for his offspring and the grandchildren of the great Deep Impact.
Maxfield wound up his on-track career with a nice victory in the Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs and carries the Street Sense genes to the second part of his career for Godolphin.
Mutamakina wrapped things up with a win in the Grade III Long Island at Aqueduct. And, perhaps most dramatically, he was all out to get the job done but 9-year-old Pink Lloyd also went out a winner, rallying to claim Saturday's Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes at Woodbine in his final race.
All of that is after Gran Alegria finished her career a week earlier with a win in the Grade 1 Mile Championship at Hanshin Racecourse.
While we hate to see them go, it's great they exit the track healthy and on a high note.
There were potential stars of the future in action, too, including Kentucky Derby prospects. Those are scattered throughout the remainder of the report so let's get writing and reading.
Maxfield got the perfect trip in Friday's $750,000 Grade I Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs, tracking pacesetter Midnight Bourbon, surging to the lead turning for home and holding off the late push of Happy Saver to win by 1/2 length. Midnight Bourbon held third, 3 lengths behind Happy Saver. Maxfield, a 4-year-old Godolphin homebred by Street Sense out of the Bernardini mare Velvety, finished the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.06. Jose Ortiz got the leg up from trainer Brendan Walsh.
Maxfield's next trip will be to Darley's Jonabell Farm, where he will begin stud duty in 2022. His racing career included eight wins, including two Grade I's, two seconds and a third from 11 starts with earnings of just over $2 million.
"I feel just delighted he got the job done like that today," Walsh said. "It's a very prestigious race and it's very nice he could win it and go into his stud career like that … He's been through a lot the last two years. Today, he had to fight hard to get the job done and he ran great to hold off Happy Saver. It's hard to find another horse like him. It was fantastic everything came together. It's a fantastic way to cap his career."
Michael Banahan, director of bloodstock for Godolphin's Darley breeding operation, noted Maxfield will join another of the program's homebreds, Essential Quality, in greeting mares for the first time in the spring.
"It's been a while since we've had a homebred come back into the stallion barn. Frosted was the last one. So it's extremely exciting," Banahan said.
On Saturday at Aqueduct, Miles D tracked down pacesetting favorite Speaker's Corner inside the sixteenth pole in the $150,000 Discovery Stakes for 3-year-olds and won by 1/2 length over that foe. Vindictive was third and Bourbonic was another 10 lengths in arrears, finishing fourth. Miles D, a Curlin colt out of the Bernardini mare Sound the Trumpets, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.44.
The Chad Brown trainee has been operating a bit under the radar despite finishing third in the Grade I Travers in August at Saratoga. Now he's definitely on the radar and Brown said he's looking at the $20 million Group 1 Saudi Cup in February.
"You got a lot of money in the Middle East so I want to see who's running in there," Brown said. "I normally don't go over for those races but if I have the right horse I will. Especially for $20 million."
Maxfield (blue cap) wins Friday's Grade 1 Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs in his final career start, photo courtesy of Churchill Downs
The Road to the Roses
Add Smile Happy to the list of top contenders for Kentucky Derby 148. The Runhappy colt raced behind the early speed in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, breezed by those rivals at the eighth pole and got away to win by 3 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Classic Causeway, settled for second with White Abarrio showing late interest to get show money. Smile Happy, out of the Pleasant Tap mare Pleasant Smile, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.94. Corey Lanerie rode for trainer Kenny McPeek. He now is 2-for-2 with the first win secured Oct. 29 at Keeneland.
"He's been very impressive to start his career," McPeek said of Smile Happy. "We'll probably take it easy with him in December and January and start deciding his future in February. At this stage we have a lot of options on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. It's a good problem to have."
"All other 3-year-old colts and geldings" closed Sunday as the 3-5 favorite in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Smile Happy emerged as second pick at 8-1, thanks in large part to a $10,000 wager on the colt by Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, owner of his sire.
Saturday also marked the start of the "Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby" with the Cattleya Stakes on the Tokyo Racecourse dirt track. The winner, Consigliere, earned 10 points toward an invitation to the Run for the Roses, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and holding on gamely to win by a neck over Café Karma. Geraldo Barows was third as all the top runners were sired by former Americans. Consigliere is from the first crop of Drefong, a Breeders' Cup Sprint, King's Bishop and Forego winner.
Café Karma earned 4 points, Geraldo Barows 2 and World Connector got 1 for finishing fourth. The points on offer increase through the three remaining races so the outcome is still very much in doubt, as is the dedication of Japanese connections to pursuing a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate. Whatever the goal, the forces behind Consigliere are capable of making things happen. He races in the colors of Kazumi Yoshida and was bred by his Northern Farm. Japan's leading jockey, Christophe Lemaire, was added to the package Saturday.
Saturday's $175,000 Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes at Woodbine wasn't the most important race of the weekend but it would be hard to argue it wasn't the most emotional as 9-year-old Pink Lloyd, a Canadian racing icon, lined up for his final start -- and a fairy tale ending.
The gallant Old Forester gelding raced in the middle of the field, got through rivals on the turn and straightened out for his final furlongs with a clear shot. Advancing steadily, he hit the lead nearing the wire and won by 1/2 length with a jubilant -- and no doubt relieved -- Rafael Hernandez waving his stick in victory. Richiesinthehouse and Clayton were second and third.
Pink Lloyd goes to retirement as the winner of 29 of his 38 starts. Sold as a yearling for less than $25,000, he earned more than $1.8 million while compiling an 11-race winning streak at the peak of his career in 2017 and 2018. He was Canadian Horse of the Year in 2017.
"I think it's amazing,” said Pink Lloyd's trainer, Robertt Tiller. "You know, he's a legend. He proved today he was a legend … We're blessed to win this race and it's a tremendous way to go out. You know, he's been Woodbine's horse, he's been Canada's horse, and the next time some horse wins 26 stakes in 29 (wins) at Woodbine, let me know about it."
In Sunday's $200,000 Grade II Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct, long shot Hopeful Treasure worked to the lead at the sixteenth pole and held on to win by a head for his first stakes win. Green Light Go just missed in second with Chateau third. Hopeful Treasure, a 4-year-old Oxbow ridgling, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.19 with Mychel Sanchez in the irons.
Kent Desormeaux had a pretty good weekend riding on the Del Mar turf, winning the $250,000 Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup on Friday and stepping up a notch from that, with entirely different tactics, to land the $400,000 Grade I Hollywood Derby on Saturday.
In the Derby, Desormeaux got Beyond Brilliant out to a comfortable lead, rocked the baby and had just enough left to hold off Santin by a neck at the finish. Cathkin Peak was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third with the favorite, Public Sector, a close fourth. Beyond Brilliant, a Twirling Candy colt, ran 1 1/8 miles on firm going in 1:48.84. The John Shirreffs trainee was making just his second stakes start following a third-place finish in the Grade III Twilight Derby at Santa Anita on Halloween.
"This horse likes to be on the lead or close to the lead and obviously with a big field that's a good place to be," Shirreffs said. "And Kent Desormeaux is riding great right now, isn't he? I'm gonna put Kent on more horses, he's riding so well. I'm thankful for him doing it for us today."
Say the Word was last as the field turned into the stretch in Friday's Hollywood Turf Cup but that was just fine with Desormeaux. Swinging out six-wide, Desormeaux got Say the Word into gear and he ran by them all, catching pacesetting stablemate Acclimate in the final yards to win by 1 length. Friar's Road was along for third. Say the Word, a 6-year-old More Than Ready gelding, had only one previous win this year from six starts. Trainer Phil D'Amato said that was largely a matter of circumstances.
Desormeaux solved that equation, in his own words: "I said I'll just do the European style and just shove him up somebody's tail and he just galloped around the racetrack." And that's what he did, following Friar's Road until the running started.
On Saturday of Del Mar's closing weekend, Field Pass got first run to the lead in the $250,000 Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap and the favorite, Sacred Life, left with too much to do, could only close to finish second, a head short. Indian Peak rallied from last of seven to get show money at a big price. Field Pass, a 4-year-old Lemon Drop Kid colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.85 with Umberto Rispoli in the irons. Racking up frequent flyer miles throughout his career, Field Pass was second in the Grade III Knickerbocker Stakes at Belmont Park in his previous start Oct. 10.
"I didn't want to stop the stride of my horse," Rispoli said of the early move. "He was running happy and I was happy, too. He fought hard late and we got there first."
At Aqueduct on Friday, Never Surprised blazed along on the lead in the $150,000 Gio Ponti Stakes for 3-year-olds and kicked away to win by 6 1/4 lengths in course-record time of 1:40.75. Kendrick Carmouche had the mount on the Constitution colt for trainer Todd Pletcher. Safe Conduct, Gussy Mac and Ocala Dream were second through fourth, noses apart. Never Surprised now has three wins and three seconds with the runner-up finishes all in graded stakes.
Filly & Mare Turf
Chad Brown's seven-horse weekend invasion of Del Mar didn't exactly produce his usual tour de force but he pulled the chestnuts out of the fire with two wins on Sunday -- Regal Glory in the $400,000 Grade I Matriarch and Verbal in the Cecil B. DeMille for 2-year-old fillies (see below).
Regal Glory started on the outside of a field of six in the Matriarch but was in front before the first point of call and never looked back. With Jose Ortiz up, the 5-year-old Animal Kingdom mare wasn't threatened en route to a handy 2 1/2-lengths victory. Zofelle was second, 1 length in front of the favorite, Princess Grace. Regal Glory ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:35.33, winning for the third time in five starts this year. Brown's other starter, Viadera, was fourth.
"She's a really nice filly and she did it all," said Brown assistant Jose Hernandez. "I had some moments (of concern) because the other one (Viadera) is very good too. But this filly was just the best. They all go back to Kentucky on Tuesday and then to Florida."
Mutamakina rallied from well back in the field to score her third straight graded stakes win in Saturday's $400,000 Grade III Long Island Stakes at Aqueduct. The 5-year-old, British-bred Nathaniel mare rallied from well off the pace, advanced smartly through the final furlong and was in front by 1/2 length at the finish. Candy Flower and La Dragontea filled out the exacta as the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf went in 2:28.08. Dylan Davis provided the winning ride for trainer Christophe Clement.
Mutamakina won the Grade II Dance Smartly and Grade I E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in her two previous starts and has 12 wins from 17 starts on both sides of the Atlantic. Clement said that's enough for a mare he called "a very good horse … This will be her last race and she'll go back to Ireland and become a broodmare. She's a very exciting broodmare prospect."
Flower Point, the odds-on favorite, just did outfinish Giacosa in the final strides of Friday's $150,000 Forever Together Stakes at Aqueduct, winning by a neck. Sailingintothewind was third. Flower Point, a 5-year-old Point of Entry mare, got 1 1/16 miles on good turf in 1:42.28 while winning a stakes race for the first time. Jose Lezcano had the mount for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Nobody stopped Arrest Me Red once he got to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship and the 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt held on to the lead, winning by a neck over Pulsate. Chewing Gum came from the back of the pack to finish third. Arrest Me Red, with Paco Lopez at the controls, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.43. The Wesley Ward charge now has won three in a row, including the Grade III Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational in October.
Change of Control effected a change of control at the eighth pole in Sunday's $150,000 Autumn Days Stakes for fillies and mares at Aqueduct, taking a lead she would not relinquish. The favorite, Too Sexy, did her best to finish second, 3/4 length back of the winner and 1 length ahead of Love and Thunder in third. Change of Control, a 5-year-old Fed Biz mare, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in 1:09.14 with Colby Hernandez in the irons.
Bees and Honey ran right by pacesetting Played Hard in the final furlong of Friday's $200,000 Grade III Comely Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Aqueduct and got clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that rival. The favorite, Crazy Beautiful, closed well to finish third, another 1/2 length back. Bees and Honey, a Union Rags filly, got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:54.41 with Jose Lezcano riding. J. Reeve McGaughey, a son of Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, got his first graded stakes winner.
God of Love came from next-last of 10 to win Sunday's $150,000 Grey Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Ironstone was next-best, a similar margin in front of On Thin Ice. The favorite, Churchtown, led much of the way and finished fourth. God of Love, a Cupid colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather course in 1:44.20. Winner of the Cup and Saucer Stakes in his second start, he is an Ontario-bred and thus qualifies for the 2022 Queen's Plate.
While Derby hopefuls were contesting Saturday's Kentucky Jockey Club (See "The Road to the Roses," above), some not yet ready for two turns were on display in the $200,000 Lively Shivley Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs under the Twin Spires. The favorite, Tejano Twist, got the goods after a long stretch drive that found him 1/2 length in front at the end. Barber Road was second with Cool Papa G third. Tejano Twist, a Practical Joke gelding trained by Bret Calhoun, finished in 1:16.82 with Joseph Rocco Jr. up. It was his third win from eight starts and first stakes victory.
Sy Dog started next-last of eight in Saturday's $100,000 Central Park Stakes for 2-year-olds on the Aqueduct turf, ranged up six-wide to mount his challenge and was along just in time to maintain his undefeated record by a nose over Ohtwoohthreefive. Maseta was 1 length farther back in third. Sy Dog, a Slumber colt trained by Graham Motion, ran 1 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in 1:43.42 with Luis Saez up. He won his only previous start at Belmont Park Oct. 24.
Verbal, a Juddmonte Farms homebred colt by Flitshire, raced midfield through the first half of Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes, came four-wide into the stretch and won by 1/2 length over Barsabas. Cabo Spirit was just a nose back of that one in the photo. Verbal finished 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.16 under Jose Ortiz. He now is 2-for-2 with the first score coming at Belmont Park Oct. 10.
Dream Lith caught pacesetting Yuugirl inside the sixteenth pole in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Golden Rod Stakes at Churchill Downs and edged clear, winning by 1 length. Yuugirl was second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of the favorite, Sandstone. Dream Lith, a Medaglia d'Oro filly out of the Street Cry mare Elle Sueno, covered 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.72 with Ramon Vazquez up for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
Dream Lith won at first asking at Saratoga in August but then finished fifth in both the Grade I Spinaway there and the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland Oct. 8. "She's a very nice filly and has a good future in front of her," Vazquez said.
Marissa's Lady pressed the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Fern Creek Stakes at Churchill Downs, crept by the early leader in the lane and won by 1 length over favorite, Matareya. Sweet Dani Girl was third. Marissa's Lady, a Violence filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.84 with Rafael Bejarano up. She now is 2-for-2 with both wins at Churchill Downs.
Mrs. Barbara led inside the eighth pole in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Mazarine Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course and got home 1/2 length in front of the late-running favorite, Moira. Guileful was third. Mrs. Barbara, a Bodemeister filly trained by Mark Casse, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.64 with Rafael Hernandez riding. She took five tries to score her first win, which came in her previous start Nov. 7.
On the Del Mar turf, Tezzaray launched a bid in the stretch drive of Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes and prevailed by a head bob over Awake At Midnyte. Toeris was third. Tezzaray, a British-bred filly by Bated Breath, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.56 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
And on the Aqueduct turf, Vergara raced just off the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Tepin Stakes, then battled through the final furlong to secure the win by 3/4 length. She's a Mia was a long shot second with Mischievous Kiss third. Vergara, a Noble Mission filly out of the Street Cry mare Figure of Beauty (thus the name?), ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.50 with Luis Saez riding. It was her second win from three starts.
Around the world, around the clock:
The weekend of fond farewells extended well across the Pacific to Tokyo Racecourse where the 2020 Triple Crown winner, Contrail, finished his racing career with a rather dominating victory in the Grade 1 Japan Cup.
Second in the same race last year to Almond Eye, Contrail this time had no trouble prevailing. Moving with authority down the stretch under jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, he got by Authority early in the stretch run, then passed the reigning Japanese Derby winner, Shahryar, and ran on to victory and a second career in the breeding shed at Shadai Stallion Station.
None of three international runners had much impact on the race. Grand Glory, last seen finishing second in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera Longines, finished fifth. Broome and Japan, second and fourth in the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf at Del Mar in their last race, got home 11th and eighth, respectively.
The finish of the Japan Cup and Contrail's racing career was an emotional event for Fukunaga and trainer Yoshito Yahagi. "All I have now is mixed feelings of relief and lonesomeness," Yahagi said.
Actually, that wasn't all he had. He, and most of Japanese racing now hope Contrail can approach the dominance as a sire that his own sire, Deep Impact, enjoyed. Yahagi even loaded Contrail with the heaviest burden a Japanese sire could have -- producing a runner good enough to finally, after decades of disappointment, win the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe for Japan.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful," Yahagi said even before Contrail had cooled out, "to win the Arc with an offspring of his someday?"
Contrail won his first seven starts before running into Almond Eye in the Japan Cup. After that, his first loss, he was idle for more than four months and returned to finish third in the Grade 1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin Racecourse while facing soft turf for the first time. Seven months later that, he was second behind Efforia in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) Oct. 31 in his penultimate start.
Meanwhile, back in the States:
Disco Ebo showed the way in Friday's $200,000 Shamrock Rose Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 2-year-old fillies and held well through the stretch, winning by 5 3/4 lengths over Burano. Isthatyourharley was third. Disco Ebo, a Weigelia filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.25 with Jomar Torres in the irons. She now has three straight wins after two seconds to start her career.
Golden Gate Fields
Freeport Joe came from next-last in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Berkeley Handicap to take the lead in the lane, then fended off the late effort of the favorite, Camino Del Paraiso, to win by 1 length. Sash finished third. Freeport Joe, a 4-year-old English Channel gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.70 with Assael Espinoza up for trainer Gloria Haley.
Mimajoon led all the way to win the first $50,000 division of Friday's Golden Gate Debutante by 1 1/4 lengths. The favorite, first-time starter Uncorked, started slowly but closed for second. Mimajoon, a Florida-bred filly by Fed Biz, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:11.47.
In the second division, Ellamira took the lead in the stretch and survived the late run of Code Ribbon to win by a head. Ellamira, a California-bred Street Boss filly, reported in 1:11.41.
Pickin' Time tracked the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes for 3-year-olds, picked the right time to move through the stretch and harvested the rewards of a 1 1/4-lengths win. He'smyhoneybadger was second, 3 lengths ahead of Three Two Zone. Pickin' Time, a Stay Thirsty colt, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.74 with Mychel Sanchez in the irons.
Belle of the North came from last of eight to win Saturday's $100,000 Safely Kept Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1/2 length over Fraudulent Charge. The favorite, Street Lute, got through between rivals to finish third. Belle of the North, a Street Boss filly, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.02 with Horacio Karamanos up.
Cordmaker waited behind dueling leaders in Saturday's $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes, blew by them at the quarter pole and won with authority by 1 3/4 lengths. Workin On a Dream made the early pace and finished second, 2 lengths in front of Shackqueenking, who applied the early pressure. Cordmaker, a 6-year-old Curlin gelding, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.48 with Victor Carrasco in the irons.
Princess Kokachin went quickly to the lead in Friday's $75,000 Politely Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies and mares and drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Never Enough Time was second with Paisley Singing third. Princess Kokachin, a 3-year-old Graydar filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.22 for jockey Xavier Perez.
Whereshetoldmetogo won a three-way photo at the end of Friday's $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial for state-breds, a neck in front of pacesetting Youngest of Five. Air Token was another nose back in third. Whereshetoldmetogo, a 6-year-old El Padrino gelding, toured 7 furlongs in 1:23.43 with Jevian Toledo in the irons.
Another Mystery rolled into contention in the long stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Bob F. Wright Memorial and put a neck in front of the favorite, Pixelate, at the wire for the win. Monarchs Glen was third. Another Mystery, a 5-year-old, Illinois-bred son of Temple City, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:45.67 with Fair Grounds newcomer Jareth Loveberry in the irons. Chris Block trains Another Mystery for the family's Team Block operation.
Blazingbellablu took the lead in the final furlong of Friday's $60,000 City of Phoenix Stakes for fillies and mares and carried on to a 1 3/4-lengths victory. Clockstrikestwelve was second, a neck better than Dance Shoes. Blazingbellablu, a 3-year-old Grazen filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.09 with Alex Cruz up.
Tiger Dad dueled with Raagheb through most of Friday's $60,000 Luke Kruytbosch Stakes, swapped the lead briefly but came again to win by 1 1/2 lengths over that foe. Dynamic Ruler was a long-shot third. Tiger Dad, a 5-year-old Smiling Tiger gelding, ran 1 mile in 1:36.32 for jockey Lindey Wade. The race is named for the late Churchill Downs track announcer whose early career included a stop at Turf Paradise. He died in 2008 at age 47.
Bossy Lady ran by pacesetting favorite Our for Fun in the stretch drive and went on to a 3/4-length victory over that rival in Saturday's $75,000 Glacial Princess Stakes for Ohio-bred 2-year-old fillies. Runlikejackieo was third. Bossy Lady, a daughter of Cowtown Cat, negotiated 6 furlongs of fast track in 1:13.46 with Luis Rivera riding.
Big Truck rolled by rivals in the lane and got his neck in front at the wire in Saturday's $75,000 Ruff/Kirchberg Memorial for Ohio-bred 2-year-olds. Firsthand Justice was second with long shot early leader You're My Boy Blue third. Big Truck, a Birdrun gelding, finished 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.45 with Perry Ouzts in the irons.