It is the time of year some late-developing horses step up to promise bright futures and a couple of Bob Baffert-trained 2-year-olds did just that in weekend racing in California.
On the turf and among the older set, Integration and French-bred Chili Flag did the same at Aqueduct.
And on the world scene, 4-year-old filly Namur whipped some talented males in the Mile Championship in Japan while Lucky Sweynesse and a few other Hong Kong runners warmed up for next month's international races at Sha Tin Racecourse.
And we're off.
Nysos went to the post at odds of better than 6-1 when he made his first start Oct. 21 at Del Mar and blew the doors off the race, winning by 10 1/2 lengths. The Nyquist colt, trained by Bob Baffert, was 1-5 when he lined up for Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Bob Hope at Del Mar and "only" won by 8 3/4 lengths, going 7 furlongs in 1:21.71 and looking like he'd love more distance.
"He handled it like a pro and did everything right," Baffert said of the son of the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner. "It's tough for a horse, after a big race to come back and do it again."
On the turf: Spirit Prince, the favorite, stalked the pace in Sunday's $120,000 Central Park Stakes at Aqueduct, willingly moved to the front and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths from Walley World. The Cairo Prince colt, trained by Christophe Clement and ridden 1 mile on firm going by Joel Rosario in 1:37.69, got his first win in his fifth start but has never been worse than third while competing in some tough stakes heats.
Works for Me stalked the pace made by Detective Tom in Saturday's $100,000 Notebook Stakes for New York-breds at Aqueduct, then was just up at the finish to win by a head over that one. The Daddy Long Legs colt covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.06.
El Dinero came from last of nine to win Saturday's $75,000 Joseph R. Peluso Stakes for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds by 1 length over Pop's Peppystepper. The El Deal gelding got 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.56 under James Graham.
Another of Baffert's promising young 'uns, Nothing Like You, was just up at the finish to win Saturday's $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar by a nose over Tambo. The odds-on favorite, Royal Slipper, shipped in from Kentucky by trainer Wesley Ward, led through the early furlongs but faded to finish third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths. Nothing Like You, a Malibu Moon filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.03 for jockey Juan Hernandez. She took four tries to get her first win but now has two straight.
On the grass, Memorialize was up in the final jumps to win Friday's $120,000 Tepin Stakes at Aqueduct by a neck over long shot Awesome Czech. The Karakontie filly improved to 2-for-4 but a subpar outing in her last cost a Breeders' Cup bid. Trainer Graham Motion said she'll winter in Florida.
Clearly a Test, a daughter of Clearly Now, overcame a slow start to win Friday's $75,000 Donald L. Ferguson Memorial for state-breds at Fair Grounds by 1 1/2 lengths as the favorite. It was her first win after three straight fourth-place finishes, all at Saratoga.
Tricky Temper got by pacesetting Cara's Time in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $100,000 Key Cents Stakes for state-breds at Aqueduct by a neck. The Into Mischief filly ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.74 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.
Integration was well segregated from his eight rivals at the end of Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds on the Aqueduct turf. The Quality Road colt, the odds-on favorite, stalked the pace, took over when asked and drew off to score by 5 lengths. I'm Very Busy was best of the rest as Integration and jockey Kendrick Carmouche finished 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:47.06, just 0.06 second off the 38-year-old course record. The Shug McGaughey trainee now is 3-for-3 with the Grade III Virginia Derby also in his win column.
"He's going to go to Florida as soon as I can get him there," said McGaughey, adding the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational against older rivals is a potential next stop.
Filly & Mare Turf
Chili Flag waited behind the leaders in Sunday's $135,000 Forever Together Stakes at Aqueduct, rallied outside rivals for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and outfinished Tass to win by 1 length. Chili Flag, a French-bred filly by Cityscape, got 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.27. She has two wins, three seconds and a third in six starts since arriving from France and looks like becoming another in the pipeline of turf import successes in the Chad Brown barn.
Nothing Better went right to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship and none of his 10 rivals could catch him. The 5-year-old Munnings gelding blazed across the line in 1:07.27, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Boat's a Rockin. The favorite, Our Shot, finished fourth. Nothing Better, also last year's winner, has been in the money in 17 of 25 starts.
Hot and Sultry was on fire in Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs, kicking away readily to win by 8 lengths over seven outclassed rivals. The 4-year-old Speightster filly, trained by Norm Casse, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.93 under Ricardo Santana Jr. Returning from a six-months layoff, she won her first graded stakes. Casse said she probably will head for Arkansas, her owners' home.
Flag of Honour raced right behind the leaders early in Saturday's $175,000 (Canadian) Grade II Kennedy Road Stakes at Woodbine, found room along the fence and took the lead inside the furlong marker. The 4-year-old, an Australian-bred by American Pharoah, then was all out to hold on by a nose over the favorite, Ice Chocolat. Flag of Honour ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:08.86 with Kazushi Kimura in the irons. It was his second start and first win since arriving from Australia.
The Chosen Vron, returning from a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, was easily best of five California-breds in Saturday's $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes at Del Mar. The 5-year-old Vronsky gelding, with Hector Berrios up, had to duel for the lead but, once he got it, drew off to score by 2 3/4 lengths as the odds-on favorite. He had won eight straight races before the Breeders' Cup defeat.
Around the World, Around the Clock
Namur, a 4-year-old filly by Harbinger filly, had a lot to overcome in Sunday's Group 1 Mile Championship at Kyoto Racecourse -- seven previous failed attempts at the top level, a talented lineup of rivals, the outside gate and a late rider change when Ryan Moore was forced to relinquish the mount after a fall earlier on the program.
She handled it all, advancing from last of 16 around the turn and through the stretch to win by a neck over Soul Rush. Other quality also-rans were the favorite, Schnell Meister (seventh); last year's winner and 2022 Japanese sprinter/miler champion Serifos (eighth); and multiple international winner Bathrat Leon, who beat only one rival.
"The break didn't go very smoothly but she was in good rhythm once settling into the race and responded well," said replacement rider Kota Fujioka said. "So I knew we could get a good run as long as I did my job of getting her into a good spot at the straight. From there, she really showed her strength."
Although Moore took off the remainder of his mounts for medical evaluation, early reports were he will be able to ride in next Sunday's Grade 1 Japan Cup.
The outcome is unlikely to dislodge Songline (JPN) from her spot atop the division. The 5-year-old Kizuna (JPN) mare won the Victoria Mile (G1) and the Yasuda Kinen and was not disgraced in her fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) at Del Mar.
Saturday at Tokyo Racecourse, Strauss drafted behind the early pace in the Grade 2 Tokyo Sports Hai Nisai Stakes for 2-year-olds, surged to the lead and outfinished Schwarze Kugel for a 1 1/2-lengths victory. The Maurice colt, with Joao Moreira in the irons, ran 1,800 meters in 1:46.5. It was his second win from three starts with a third in the Grade 3 Saudi Arabia Royal Cup.
Lucky Sweynesse and Zac Purton outside at Sha Tin, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Sunday's Group 2 Jockey Club races at Sha Tin were final preps for some of the hopefuls headed for the Dec. 10 Longines Hong Kong International Races, including Sprint winner Lucky Sweynesse, Cup winner Straight Arron and Mile 1-2 Beauty Eternal and Beauty Joy.
Lucky Sweynesse, whose record would look significantly better but for some unlucky traffic and massive weight assignments, got back on track after two second-place finishes. Jockey Zac Purton said the 5-year-old "got the job done" but added, "He's sort of back to his best. He's not quite there yet."
Victor the Winner and Wellington were second and third and likely to be seen again Dec. 10.
Purton also had the winner in the Jockey Club Mile as Beauty Eternal got the lead in the lane and had the learning experience of having to hold off Beauty Joy by a short head. " It's probably the first time he's had to dig deep when something has come at him like that and find and he'll take some confidence out of it," Purton said.
He'll need that in the Longines Mile, where he is set to face three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty, who bypassed Sunday's heat.
Lucky Sweynesse had trainer Manfred Man and jockey Zac Purton breathing sighs of relief after finally overcoming the massive weight burdens imposed this season by the Hong Kong Jockey Club handicapper. He had finished second in each of two previous outings while conceding as much as 20 pounds.
In the Jockey Club Cup at 2,000 meters, Straight Arron got to the front inside the final 100 meters and prevailed by 3/4 length over the favorite, Sword Point. Vincent Ho rode the winner with Purton just missing the stakes triple aboard Sword Point.
Trainer Caspar Fownes said Straight Arron has progressed well and is on track to contest the Longines Hong Kong Cup against all comers, incuding another Hong Kong star, Romantic Warrior, recent winner in Australia's Group 1 Cox Plate.
Fownes also trains Senor Toba, who finished fifth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths with some traffic issues, and said he will try the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase next.
Around the ovals …
Lady Milagro, at odds of 51-1, led the way in Friday's $150,000 Autumn Days for fillies and mares and held off the favorite, Danse Macabre, to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The First Dude filly ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in a zippy 1:07.55 with Luis Rivera Jr. up, getting just her fourth win in her 24th start.
Free Like a Girl kicked free of her rivals in the stretch run to win Friday's $75,000 Doris Herbert Memorial for Louisiana-bred fillies and mares by 3/4 length as the even-money favorite. The El Deal filly ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:12.12 for Vicente Del-Cid.
Vale Male led all the way to a 1-length victory over the favorite, A G's Charlotte, in Friday's $75,000 John Valene Memorial for state-bred distaffers. The 4-year-old daughter of Bodemeister got 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:45.20 with James Graham aboard.
Mangum, always close, saved his best for last in Saturday's $75,000 Jacob V. Morreale Memorial for Louisiana-breds, closing to lead and hold off Who Took the Money by a neck. The 3-year-old Mo Tom gelding ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:43.60 with Corey Lanerie up.
Autumns Strong Man held of the late, wide charge of Langs Day to win Saturday's $75,000 Larry D. Robideaux Memorial for state-breds by a neck. The 4-year-old Strong Mandate gelding got 6 furlongs on the dirt in 1:11.12 with Angel Suarez riding.
No Change made a bold move around the turn and into the stretch to seize the lead and win Saturday's $75,000 Randy Funkhouser Memorial for state-breds by 3/4 length. The 5-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:52.83 with Marshall Mendez in the irons.
Bossy Lady came from well back to win Thursday's $75,000 Ohio Debutante for state-bred distaffers by 1 1/4 lengths over Aunt Bee. The 4-year-old Cowtown Cat filly toured 1 mile and 70 yards on a fast track in 1:48.77 with Jose Bracho up.
Golden Gate Fields
Star Racer rallied five-wide to gain the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Oakland Stakes and edged away to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Rager. Star Racer, a 6-year-old Vronsky gelding, ran 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.02 with Assael Espinoza up.