UPI Horse Racing Roundup

No More Time joined the growing list of legitimate Kentucky Derby prospects with a front-running win in the weekend's major prep race, the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in Florida.

Heats for Kentucky Oaks prospects also were on the slate, along with a surprising amount of action in the turf sprint division.

Internationally, Godolphin continued its domination of the turf races at Meydan Racecourse and Japanese 3-year-old colts and fillies got tuneups for that country's fast-approaching Classics.

With the Saudi Cup just over the horizon, we start with:

The Road to the Roses

No More Time wasted no time getting over to the rail and into the lead in Saturday's $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, then held off a late bid by Agate Road to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The only rival who ever put a head in front of the winner was a loose horse who soon was corralled by an outrider. No More Time, a Not This Time colt, picked up 20 "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points, putting him at the No. 6 spot on the leaderboard.

Agate Road, moved from the turf by trainer Todd Pletcher for the race, earned 10 points.

"That was a monster move," said winning trainer Jose D'Angelo, who got his first graded stakes win. "He took the lead with no problem today. I said before the race we wanted a good start and we'll see what happens, but he did it on his own."

D'Angelo indicated No More Time, based at Palm Meadows, might be back for the Tampa Bay Derby on March 9.

Out west at Golden Gate Fields, Endlessly launched a powerful late rally to land Saturday's $100,000 El Camino Real Derby by 1 1/4 lengths over Tapalo. The Oscar Performance colt, trained by Michael McCarthy, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.68 with Umberto Rispoli up. He won his first three starts, all on the turf, including Grade III scores at both Santa Anita and Del Mar, before finishing eighth, beaten just 3 3/4 lengths, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The race is not part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" but the winner is granted an automatic entry into the Preakness Stakes.

Next week's Derby qualifiers are Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the $400,000 Grade III Sunland Derby in New Mexico. The Derby quest also makes its third stop in Japan for the Hyacinth Stakes at 1 mile on the dirt. Forever Young leads that four-race series with 20 points thanks to a win in the Zen-Nippon Nisai Yushun at Kawasaki Racecourse but will be nowhere near this race. He's listed as a likely starter in the $1.5 million Saudi Derby Feb. 24.

No More Time wins Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, a Kentucky Derby prep, photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs

The Path to the Oaks

Kinza blasted right to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita, was never challenged and won by 2 lengths over Kopion. The Carpe Diem filly, out of the Quality Road mare Secret Wonder, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.03 with Juan Hernandez riding for trainer Bob Baffert. She improved to 2-for-2. The race offered 20 Kentucky Oaks points to the winning filly but Kinza wasn't able to cash that ticket as Baffert and his horses are banned from participation in the Oaks as well as the Derby.

Power Squeeze stalked the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, took the lead heading for home and won by 2 3/4 lengths from Whocouldaskformo. The odds-on favorite, Life Talk, looked to be making a bid at the top of the lane but instead faded to finish last of six. Power Squeeze, a Union Rags filly, now has three straight wins at three different tracks.


Saddle Up Jessie, the virtually even-money favorite, led the way in Saturday's $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational at 1 mile at Aqueduct and won easily, by 2 1/2 lengths over Movie Moxie. Saddle Up Jessie, with Manny Franco riding for trainer Brittany Russell, now has five wins and two seconds from her last eight starts. The 5-year-old More Than Ready mare was fourth in the other, victimized by traffic.


Big City Lights, the odds-on favorite, was just up in the final go in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Palos Verdes Stakes at Santa Anita, defeating pacesetter Hopkins by a nose. Big City Lights, a 5-year-old son of Mr. Big, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.91. Flavien Prat rode for trainer Richard Mandell. Big City Light earned his first graded stakes victory and now has five wins and four seconds from nine starts.

Valentine Candy chased down pacesetting Time for Truth in the stretch run of Saturday's $150,000 Ozark Stakes for 3-year-olds at Oaklawn Park and went by that one for a 2 1/2-lengths, seasonally appropriate victory. The Justify colt, trained by Steve Asmussen, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.32 on a muddy track, notching his third straight win.

Nice as Pie was smooth as silk in Saturday's $125,000 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the Turfway Park all-weather, rallying to the lead in the stretch, drawing clear quickly and winning by 2 1/4 lengths, geared down. The Tapiture miss, sent off as odd-on favorite, got her third straight win, all at the northern Kentucky track.


Missed the Cut cut the corner into the stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III San Marcos Stakes at Santa Anita, got through along the rail and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Planetario. The 5-year-old son of Quality Road ran 1 1/4 miles, starting on the hillside course in 2:01.14 with Joel Rosario up for trainer John Sadler. Formerly raced in England, Missed the Cut was fourth in the Neom Turf Cup in Saudia Arabia last year and now has two wins and two second in America from seven starts.

Turf Sprint

Coppola outfinished Panther Island to win Saturday's $125,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint by 1/2 length. With Edgard Zayas in the irons for trainer Dale Romans, the 5-year-old son of Into Mischief got 5 furlongs on firm turf in 54.39 seconds, picking up his second win from his last three starts.

Stone Silent pressed the pace in Sunday's $100,000 Ladies Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park, took the lead at the top of the stretch and drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths as the even-money favorite. The 4-year-old Adios Charlie filly backed up a last-race victory in the Abundantia Stakes at the same 5 furlongs.

Chi Town Lady rallied from last of nine to defeat a tough field in Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes for fillies and mares at Tampa Bay Downs. The 5-year-old Verrazano mare, with Tyler Gaffalione up for trainer Wesley Ward, nipped Unifying by a neck with the favorite, Dream Concert, and the pacesetter, Lady Radler, finishing third and fourth. The winner returned from an eight-months break.

Ward and Gaffalione might have won the companion $50,000 Pelican Stakes if even-money favorite Nakatomi hadn't been hopelessly trapped behind rivals in the stretch. That opened the door for Sibelius to rally for his second straight victory in the event, scoring by a neck over Mish.

Sunday at Santa Anita, Antifona came from next-last of 11 to capture the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 lengths at odds of 10-1. The French-bred miss, by Recoletos, got her first U.S. win after going 2-for-7 last year in her native land. John Sadler trains. Hector Berrios rode.

Around the World, Around the Clock


Godolphin continued its dominance on the Meydan Racecourse turf Friday in the 10th meeting of the World Cup Carnival, winning two of the three races they contested including the two feature events.

A week earlier, Godolphin runners took four of five turf races. The week before that, they swept all four. This week, the damage was done by the usual suspects: Trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick.

Great Truth was just up at the finish to beat Frost at Dawn in the 1,200-meters Dubai Trophy on the Turf. He improved on a fourth-place finish in his seasonal debut and Buick admitted the Dubawi colt "probably needed the run slightly."

One race later, Ruling Dynasty easily beat another Godolphin runner, Al Nafir, in the Vazirabad Handicap at 2,400 meters on the turf. Ruling Dynasty, adding blinkers after finishing 10th at the same conditions in December, reeled in the breakaway winner at mid-stretch and went on to score by 2 3/4 lengths. Buck called him "a decent handicapper," adding, "Let's see if he can take any of this form back to the U.K."


It's time to start paying attention to the good 3-year-olds who may or may not be eyeing this year's Classics.

Sunday's Grade 3 Kyodo News Service Hai produced a minor upset as second-time starter Justin Milano decisively outfinished the favorite, Grade 1 Asahi Hai Futurity winner Jantar Mantar by 1 1/2 lengths. Keita Tosaki rode for trainer Yasuo Tomomichi. Justin Milano, a Kizuna colt, got first run to the lead as pacesetter Power Hall tired while negotiating the Tokyo Racecourse stretch incline. Jantar Mantar made up some ground but was never within striking range of the winner. Justin Milano was produced by the Exceed and Excel mare Margot Did.

Can Justin Milano go on? Previous winners of the race include Admire Moon, Gold Ship, Real Steel and Efforia.

Queen's Walk turned for home near the back of the pack in Saturday's Group 3 Queen Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Tokyo Racecourse, gradually made up all the ground with a sustained rally and got home first by a neck over Arsenaal. Queen's Walk, a Kizuna filly, posted a second and a win as a 2-year-old and was having her 2024 debut under Yuga Kawada.