With all eyes on Belmont Park during the weekend, Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner, last year's and this year's Kentucky Oaks winners were victorious in back-to-back races and trainers Bob Baffert and Chad Brown could do no wrong.
And while Justify wore the crown, Queen Elizabeth also had a winner on Saturday's card at Belmont Park.
It was a quiet week on the international front except north of the border where the results of the Woodbine Oaks and Plate trial once again stirred the pot for the upcoming Queen's Plate.
We'll stir the pot starting with:
The Triple Crown
After winning six races in four months and the Triple Crown in five weeks, Justify came bouncing out of his stall at Belmont Park Sunday morning looking like he was ready for more.
"He could have gone around there again," trainer Bob Baffert said after watching replays of Justify's front-running score in Saturday's Belmont Stakes. "Today he looked fantastic. He wasn't blowing after the race. He was blowing harder after the Preakness. That was the best work he had coming into all this."
His performance in the Belmont was rock solid despite the demanding schedule leading to it.
Justify shot out of the gate eagerly for jockey Mike Smith and attacked the 1 1/2 miles of the "Test of a Champion" like he owned every step of the Belmont track. He was never seriously challenged and won by 1 3/4 lengths over long shot Gronkowski.
He is the 13th Triple Crown winner and second for Baffert, which ties the silver-haired conditioner with Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons. Baffert-trained horses failed in three earlier efforts to land a Triple Crown before American Pharoah turned the trick in 2015, ending a 37-year drought in the daunting series.
Justify is the second undefeated Triple Crown winner, after Seattle Slew, although "Slew" had nine wins, six of them at the Grade I level, after the Belmont, compared with Justify's six.
Justify is owned by a partnership headed by the China Horse Club and WinStar Farm. WinStar's CEO Elliott Walden said, "We'll take a deep breath and see where we are. Bob will get Justify right and then we'll make a plan. We're looking forward to sharing him more. He's become a household name and I'm looking forward to his next race as much as (everyone else)."
Gronkowski's trainer, Chad Brown, said the winner of the "European Road to the Kentucky Derby" might fare well in the Grade I Travers Aug. 25 at Saratoga, the "Midsummer Derby." "It's a race I would love to win, and it looks like it would suit this horse. How we get from this race to the Travers, I haven't decided yet," Brown said. The Belmont was the Lonhro colt's first U.S. start, his first beyond a mile and his first on dirt.
While the Belmont was great, it was only the cherry atop a delectable sundae of racing during the weekend.
Elsewhere on the weekend card:
Hoppertunity, belying his 7 years, rallied to the front in the stretch run of Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont and whipped a field of younger rivals. The favorite, War Story, was a determined second and Hard Study edged Bring Your Guns for third. Hoppertunity, a son of Any Given Saturday, ran 1 1/2 miles on the fast track in 2:28.61 with Flavien Prat up and trainer Bob Baffert winning his second stakes of the day.
"Hopper" has been a warrior and ATM for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman since Baffert bought him at the 2012 Keeneland yearling sale for $500,000, hitting the board in 21 of his 32 starts and earning nearly $4.65 million. As an entire horse, it would seem he still has a promising second career ahead of him in the breeding shed. Not necessarily, Baffert said. "He's like the forgotten horse. The stallion farms aren't calling looking to buy him even though he's made all this money so we're just having fun with him."
Draft Pick took charge in the late going to win Sunday's $100,000 Grade III Affirmed Stakes for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita, beating Axelrod by 2 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Solomini, finished third in his first start back from a 10th-place showing in the Kentucky Derby. Draft Pick, a Candy Ride colt, got 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.34 with Joe Talamo in the irons for trainer Peter Eurton. He took six tries to get his first win but now has two in a row. "The way he's doing right now and the fact that the light has really come on with him is huge," Eurton said.
Prince Lucky battled gamely through the middle of a three-horse photo to take Saturday's $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes by a neck. Rugby Man edged Dark Vader for third and Mask settled for fourth without a late kick. Prince Lucky, a Corinthian gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:41.41 with John Velazquez up. He had finished up the track, beaten double-digit lengths, in each of his last three starts at Fair Grounds, Sunland Park and Pimlico.
On a sparkling day at Belmont Park, both last year's and this year's Kentucky Oaks winners put on clinics in back-to-back Grade I races, promising a tasty matchup in the Breeders' Cup Distaff this fall at Churchill Downs.
Abel Tasman dominated Saturday's $750,000 Grade I Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park. After breaking a step behind the field, last year's Kentucky Oaks winner raced quickly into contention midway down the backstretch, had a comfortable lead heading for the stretch and won off by 7 1/2 lengths. The 4-year-old Quality Road filly sported the same red and yellow China Horse Club colors Mike Smith later wore as Justify won the Belmont. Ivy Bell was second, giving the China Horse Club partnerships an exacta finish. Unbridled Mo, winner of the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in her last start, could only manage third in the Phipps.
"I am so proud of her," said winning trainer Bob Baffert, who won the first of three graded stakes on the day. "She's one of my favorite all-time horses. What she did in the Oaks last year, she brought us from being nowhere to somewhere. It was so exciting to win the Oaks, and with the way she did it.
"It's good to see these great mares back," Baffert added. "She's a champion and you want to see a champion run like that."
Abel Tasman earned a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the Breeders' Cup Distaff, where she finished second last year to Forever Unbridled.
One race after the Phipps, this year's Kentucky Oaks winner, Monomoy Girl, put on an impressive show of her own in the $700,000 Grade I Acorn for 3-year-old fillies. Under a patient ride by Florent Geroux, the Tapizar filly waited behind the early speed, easily took over at mid-stretch and won without much pressure by 2 lengths over Talk Veuve to Me. Gio Game was along for third. Monomoy Girl ran 1 mile in 1:34, scoring her seventh win from eight starts and gaining a big leg up on year-end honors as top 3-year-old filly.
"We were sitting off two fast fillies, they kind of showed the way, but it was a huge effort," said winning trainer Brad Cox. "Florent did a great job asking her to run out of there and establish position."
Cox said he's eyeing the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies July 7 at Saratoga, "then maybe the Cotillion and then the Breeders' Cup, if everything goes to plan. She's done everything we've asked for her."
At Woodbine, Dixie Moon stalked the pace in Saturday's $500,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Oaks for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, took over at the top of the lane and dueled with the favorite, Wonder Gadot, before prevailing by a head. It was another 7 1/4 lengths back to Hot Cash in third. Dixie Moon, a Curlin filly out of the Rahy mare Dixie Chicken, ran 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.38. "My plan was trying to relax her as much as I could and she was running very, very relaxed," said jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva.
Wonder Gadot, conditioned by Mark Casse, was making her first start since a second in the Kentucky Oaks. Dixie Moon, trained by Catherine Day Phillips, was coming off a second in the Grade III Selene Stakes over the Woodbine track.
The Woodbine Oaks has been a key prep for the Queen's Plate in recent years with Holy Helena in 2017, Lexie Lou in 2014, Inglorious in 2011 and Dancethruthedawn in 2001 all completing the Oaks-Plate double. Day Phillips, however, was non-committal about plans for Dixie Moon.
Dixie Moon winning the Woodbine Oaks, picture Michael Burns Photography
Bee Jersey continued a meteoric rise through the ranks to win Saturday's $1.2 million Grade I Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont -- a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile -- over a field filled with millionaires and previous Grade I winners. It was a simple formula for the 4-year-old Jersey Town colt and jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. -- go to the lead and hope no one catches you. No one did although Mind Your Biscuits, making his first start since winning the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen in March, fell just a nose short with a desperate late run. Limousine Liberal was well back in third.
Bee Jersey, owned and bred by Charles Fipke, also raced in Dubai early in his career, peaking with a second-place finish behind Thunder Snow in the 2017 UAE 2000 Guineas.
"This was the goal with the horse at the beginning of the year," said winning trainer Steve Asmusssen, "and now I think we'll regroup from here and think of how to get him to the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile in the best condition."
Mind Your Biscuits' trainer, Chad Summers, added, "All credit to Bee Jersey. Ricardo put him in front and got away with a 23 (23.08 seconds) first quarter. It's tough to make up that much ground with that opening quarter."
Spring Quality ranged up outside four embattled rivals to spring the upset in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Woodford Reserve Manhattan at Belmont Park. The 6-year-old Quality Road gelding, with Edgar Prado up for trainer Graham Motion, had only two of his 12 rivals beaten as he turned into the stretch. Hitting another gear on the far outside of the field, he passed them all and won by a neck over Sadler's Joy in the final strides. Hi Happy was just another neck back in third. Spring Quality ran 1 1/4 miles on firm going in 1:58.58. Trainer Chad Brown's duo of Robert Bruce and Beach Patrol finished sixth and last, respectively.
In his previous outing in the Grade III Fort Marcy, Spring Quality finished second behind Robert Bruce. Hi Happy and Sadler's Joy finished 1-2 in the Grade I Man o' War.
Motion, who won last year's Manhattan with 27-1 shot Ascend, marveled at the repeat with 18-1 chance Spring Quality. "He's really special. How about two years in a row, winning this race with a long shot? It's pretty crazy," the usually reserved trainer noted.
Friday's $400,000 Grade II Belmont Gold Cup Invitational at Belmont Park was a true Gold Cup in the style and at the distance of the 2-miles British original. So, appropriately, it was won by Call to Mind, owned and bred by Her Majesty the Queen. With Javier Castellano in the iconic purple and scarlet silks with gold braid, the 4-year-old Galileo colt patiently bided his time right behind the leader around the first two turns and down the backstretch the second time. Straightening out into the final run down the lane, he took charge and outlasted the others, winning by 1 length over Canessar. Prince of Arran was a neck back of that one in third. Call to Mind stopped the timer at 3:16.78 -- a course record -- whilst posting his third win from nine starts.
John Warren, racing manager and bloodstock advisor to Her Majesty, was on hand for the race and offered his thoughts on the art, rather than science, of breeding.
"What makes a mockery of his breeding is that his dam was a brilliant 6-furlong mare," Warren said. "And she's bred a brilliant 2-year-old that hasn't gone beyond seven furlongs. So that's what makes us keep guessing and The Queen gets so much pleasure out of this."
In Rio De Janerio, Quarteto De Cordas earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf, using a last-strides surge to win Sunday's Group 1 Grande Premio Brasil by a neck.
Trained by Luiz Esteves and ridden to victory by Luan Machado, Quarteto De Cordas captured the Group 3 Grande Premio Jose Buarquede Macedo Jan. 4, and finished second a month later in the Group 1 Grande Premio Estado do Rio De Janeiro. The son of Rock of Gibraltar disappointed with off-the-board efforts in three subsequent efforts before Sunday's triumph. As a 2-year-old, he won the Group 1 Prova Especial Roi Normand at Gavea.
The Grande Premio Brasil, through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Program, offers a guaranteed spot on the World Championship card and a travel allowance.
Filly & Mare Turf
Fourstar Crook got the lead in deep stretch in Friday's $600,000 Grade II New York Stakes at Belmont Park and just did hold off the favorite, Sistercharlie, winning by a head. Daddys Lil Darling was third. Fourstar Crook, a 6-year-old Freud mare, finished the 1 1/4 miles on firm going in 1:59.21 for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. The result reversed the order of finish from their last race, the Grade I Jenny Wiley at Keeneland, when Fourstar Crook was left too much to do at the end.
Trainer Chad Brown notched his fourth win on the day, saddling both Fourstar Crook and Sistercharlie. The latter, the 1-2 favorite, "had a nightmare trip," the trainer said.
La Signare led from the start in Thursday's $200,000 Grade III Wonder Again for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park and held well in the late going to win by 1 length Significant Form, Mighty Scarlet and Daddy Is a Legend were third through fourth, just necks apart. LaSignare, a French-bred daughter of Siyouni, ran 9 furlongs on the inner turf course in 1:48.84 with Joel Rosario in the irons. "I didn't really think there was a lot of speed in the race, so it was going to be a bit of a cat and mouse game," said winning trainer Brian Lynch. "I'm always a big believer that pace makes the race, so we put her where she was comfortable and evidently that's where she was comfortable."
Paved, under Gary Stevens, came from last to first to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Honeymoon Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita, beating her closest competitor, Animosity, by 3 1/2 lengths. Ms Peintour was third and the favorite, Fatale Bere, checked in last as jockey Alonzo Quinonez had to deal with a slipped saddle. Paved, a Quality Road filly, ran 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:48.57. It was her third win to go with a trio of thirds from six starts.
"We get along great," Stevens said. "They told me that she's a little bit odd around the barn, so maybe that's why we get along. She doesn't seem odd to me." Winning trainer Michael McCarthy offered: "Gary did a masterful job of getting her to settle in behind horses and she came with a fantastic run."
Lovely Bernadette had only one rival beaten turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Grade III Old Forester Mint Julep at Churchill Downs, rallied by the lot of them and outfinished Celestial Insight by a neck for the win. Inchargeofme was third and the favorite, Res Ipsa (in Latin, The Thing Itself), finished fifth. Lovely Bernadette, a 4-year-old filly by Wilburn, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.36 with Corey Lanerie riding. It was a nice bounceback trip after off-the-board results in Florida and at Keeneland in her last two races.
"She came to our barn after her last start in the Jenny Wiley at Keeneland and has been training great into this race," said Lovely Bernadette's trainer, Bernie Flint. "I knew she'd run a good race and it would just become a jockey's race if we were able to get there. I'm very proud of her effort."
Lift Up had to wait for racing room in the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Miss Liberty at Monmouth Park but, once clear, ran on well to win by 1 1/4 lengths from Viva Vegas. The favorite, Party Boat, docked third. Lift Up, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly out of the Dynaformer mare Dynamic Cat, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.09 under Mario Pino. The Michael Dickinson trainee now has five wins, two seconds and a third from nine starts and looks ready for another step up.
A Raving Beauty stalked the pace in Saturday's $700,000 Grade I Longines Just a Game Stakes for fillies and mares at Belmont, found the front with a furlong left and edged clear to win by 3/4 length over Proctor's Ledge. Lull made the early pace despite a bobble at the start and held on for show money. A Raving Beauty, a 5-year-old German-bred mare by Mastercraftsman, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:32.14 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.
Previously raced in Italy and Germany, A Raving Beauty now is 2-for-2 in the United States, earlier winning the Grade III Beaugay under the guidance of Chad Brown. "We showed a lot of confidence her first time in this country, putting her in a graded stakes last time, and she delivered and ran really well," Brown said. "Then to come around and come right back in a few short weeks and to be put in a Grade I, that's climbing the ladder pretty fast given her previous form."
Disco Partner rallied six-wide into the stretch in Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Jaipur Invitational at Belmont Park and got the job done, edging past Conquest Tsunami to win by 1 length. The early leader, Pure Sensation, won a multi-horse photo for show. Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal finished sixth, beaten only 2 lengths, in his first start since finishing second in the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March. Disco Partner, partnered by Irad Ortiz Jr., ran 6 furlongs on firm going in 1:06.74.
Christophe Clement, who trains both Disco Rico and Pure Sensation, said the latter "actually ran a great race because he grabbed a quarter pretty bad and still managed to finish third."
Disco Partner, a 6-year-old son of Disco Rico, finished third in last year's Breeders' Cup and was making his second start back from that effort. He won for the eighth time in 12 tries over the Belmont grass, making him a "horse for the course," and earned a spot in this year's Breeders' Cup through the "Win and You're In" scheme.
Trainer Peter Miller said his two starters, Conquest Tsunami and Stormy Liberal, both are still targeted for the Breeders' Cup.
Thursday's $200,000 Grade III Intercontinental for fillies and mares promised to be wide open and delivered on that promise as French-bred La Sardane hooked up with pacesetting Faypien in a tight stretch duel that ended with La Sardane a neck in front. Heavenly second in the early going, fell back and then came again to finish third, just another nose in arrears. The favorite, Stormy Victoria, had a bad day, finishing sixth of seven without showing much. La Sardane, with Flavien Prat aboard, ran 7 furlongs on firm turf in 1:20.04. She won the Group 2 Prix de Sandringham at Chantilly in her 3-year-old finale and now is 2-for-3 in the United States for trainer Neil Drysdale.
"The first race back, things didn't go quite according to plan," Drysdale said. But in the next start, a victory May 3 at Churchill Downs, he added, "we could see what she was. We cut her back in distance just to teach her and settle her. I think it's working out well so far."
The only defeat on the otherwise stellar record of Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Monomoy Girl is a second in last year's Grade II Golden Rod at Churchill Downs. The winner of that, Road to Victory, ran her record to 3-for-3 with a late-running, 1 1/2-lengths win Saturday in the $100,000 (Canadian) Alywow at 6 1/2 furlongs on the Woodbine turf. "I was never concerned," said jockey Gary Boulanger, who rode Road to Victory to victory for trainer Mark Casse. "She's obviously nice and this is the shortest she's ever run, but I had worked her twice here since she's come back and she's acting better this year than she did last year."
Still Having Fun emerged from behind a hot pace battle to upset Saturday's $400,000 Grade II Woody Stephens for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Engage. Promises Fulfilled led the way and finished third. Still Having Fun, an Old Fashioned colt, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.45 on a fast track with Joel Rosario riding. He picked up his fourth win in his eighth start and first try in graded stakes company.
"He was a little far back but I was just waiting until we were turning for home to set him down and ride him," Rosario said. "By the eighth pole, I knew I had it. He has such a big stride."
Imperial Hint saved ground into the turn in Friday's $250,000 Grade II True North Stakes at Belmont, circled the leaders to take the lead and went on to win by 1/4 length over late-running Whitmore. Bobby Abu Dhabi got show money. Imperial Hint, a 5-year-old son of Imperialism, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.02 with Javier Castellano up. A second to Roy H in last year's Breeders' Cup ended Imperial Hint's five-race win streak and Friday's win was his second from three starts this season. In his last, he was a fading sixth behind Limousine Liberal in the Churchill Downs on Derby Day, fading at 7 furlongs in the slop.
"It worked out perfect," Castellano said. "The two horses went to the lead and there were very fast fractions. It worked out great. It was a perfect trip. That's what I was looking for today." Trainer Luis Carvajal Jr. said he "can't wait until the end of July and run at Saratoga."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Lewis Bay prompted the pace in Friday's $250,000 Grade III Bed o' Roses Invitational at Belmont Park, took over when asked by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and drew off smartly to a 5 1/2-lengths win. Highway Star was second with Cairenn third. The favorite, American Gal, showed little and finished last of six. Ivy Bell, Chalon and Union Strike were scratched. Lewis Bay, a 5-year-old Bernardini mare, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.11. She was coming off a third-place finish in the Grade I Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs behind American Gal and Ivy Bell.
"I wasn't surprised to be close to the pace," Ortiz said. "We tried to take back the last couple times and she doesn't want to do that. She really finished today. It was good."
Sower dueled to the lead in Sunday's $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park, hit another gear when asked by jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and won off by 4 3/4 lengths. Devine Mischief was second, 4 1/2 lengths in front of the favorite, Take Charge Paula. Sower, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Flatter, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.92, improving her record to 3-for-3. "It's early," said winning trainer Linda Rice. "But you've always got to think about the Test," referring to the $500,000 Grade I on July 21 at Saratoga.
Code Warrior was shadowed all the way in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Hendie Stakes at Woodbine but held off that rival, winning by 3/4 length. Moonlit Promise was third as Code Warrior finished 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather course in 1:16.75 with Luis Contreras in the irons. Code Warrior, a 5-year-old Society's Chairman mare, also won the 2017 Hendrie.
Our Braintrust unleashed a professional run down the stretch to take Friday's $150,000 Tremont at Belmont Park by 3/4 length over Sombeyay. The favorite, Mae Never No, held a daylight lead early in the lane but settled for third. Our Braintrust, a Maryland-bred colt by Freud, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.41 with Javier Castellano up. He now is 2-for-2 after winning at Laurel Park in his only previous effort.
"He got dirt in the face and waited for a seam," Castellano said. "The seam inside opened, and I got to the spot. He's a very brave horse. You don't see too many young horses do that the way he did that."
Athens Queen came five-wide into the stretch in Thursday's $150,000 Astoria at Belmont Park hooked up with the leading trio in a tight battle and prevailed by a neck over Lady Apple. Eyeinthesky was third and the favorite, Tijori, faded in the final yards to finish fourth. Athens Queen, a Majestic Warrior filly, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:05.37 with Albin Jiminez up for trainer Wesley Ward, who also saddled Wonder Stone, who surrendered the early lead to finish fifth. "She was always a nice filly from day one," Ward said. "We started breezing her over at Turfway in March, and she showed a lot of talent. She wasn't at this level like she was today so it looks like she's getting better."
Telekinesis showed the way in Saturday's $125,000 (Canadian) Plate Trial for horses eligible to the Queen's Plate, turned back a challenge from Rose's Vision and rolled home first by 1 3/4 lengths over that foe. Aheadbyacentury was behind by another 4 3/4 lengths, finishing third. Telekinesis (it's the psychic ability to move things through mental effort), a Ghostzapper colt out of the Street Cry mare Intentional Cry, ran 1 1/8 miles on the all-weather track in 1:50.40 with Patrick Husbands riding for trainer Mark Casse. It was his first start since a close second-place finish in the Lexington at Keeneland.
Around the ovals
Lionite raced off the pace in Friday's $65,000 Prairie Mile for 3-year-olds, moved up while rounding into the lane and drew clear, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. Sonny Smack was best of the rest. Lionite, a Quality Road colt, finished in 1:37.04 over a fast track.
Terra's Angel forced the issue in Thursday's $65,000 Panthers Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took over in the stretch and held off the favorite, Hold Her Tight, by a neck. Terra's Angel, a Drosselmeyer filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.50.
Christian C pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 off-the-turf Black Tie Affair Handicap for Illinois-breds, got by and edged away to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Memory Bank and Cammack filled out the trifecta slots. Christian C, a 5-year-old Kitalpha gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:44.55 under Julio Felix.
Dreamofjean E. was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Mike Spellman Memorial for state-bred distaffers, turned back a challenge from One Liz and went on to win by 2 3/4 lengths over that rival. The odds-on favorite, Prado's Sweet Ride, settled for third, 5 lengths farther back. This event, named for the late Arlington Heights Daily Herald sport writer, also came off the grass and Dreamofjean E., a 7-year-old Bring the Heat mare, finished 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather in 1:44.02 with Chris Emigh in the irons.
Salute the Colonel rallied late to score a 1 1/4-lengths victory -- at odds of better than 41-1 -- in Saturday's $100,000 Soldiers' Dance Stakes for Florida-breds. Till the End was second and the favorite, Galleon Mast, finished fourth with a belated rally. Salute the Colonel, a 4-year-old Colonel John gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:41.84 for jockey Leonel Reyes.
Its Just Fate led all the way in Saturday's $75,000 ITOBA Stallion Season Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings and won by 5 1/2 lengths, ridden out by Rodney Prescott. In the companion race for 3-year-old fillies, long shot Prompted also led from the early jumps and won by 4 1/2 lengths with Samuel Bermudez in the irons.
Altissimo showed the way in Saturday's $75,000 Sydney Gendelman Handicap for Ohio-breds and scooted away at the end, winning by 8 1/4 lengths. Rivers Run Deep was best of the rest, 3/4 length of Let'scalliteven. The race came off the grass and Altissimo, a 5-year-old Noble Causeway gelding, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.29 with Christian Pilares riding.
Golden Gate Fields
Big Champion pressed the pace in Saturday's $65,000 Albany Stakes at 5 furlongs on the grass, seized the lead past the midway point in the race and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Tribal Storm was second. Big Champion, a 5-year-old Munnings gelding, finished in 56.37 seconds over firm going with veteran Jamaica native Barrington Harvey in the irons.
Saturday's $50,000 Minnesota Turf for state-breds wasn't -- it was weathered onto the sloppy main track. No issue for the odds-on favorite, Hot Shot Kid, who drove clear in the stretch run to win by 6 1/4 lengths over the ironically named Plenty of Sun. Hot Shot Kid, a 4-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding, ran 1 mile in 1:38.20 with Dean Butler up.
The companion Minnesota Turf Distaff, also rained off the grass, went to Pinup Girl, a 4-year-old Stephen Got Even filly who rallied late to score by a neck over pacesetting Double Bee Sting. With Santiago Gonzalez riding, Pinup Girl finished the sloppy mile in 1:39.03.
Born in a Breeze moved to the lead entering the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 (Canadian) Spangled Jimmy Handicap and prevailed after a stiff test by 1/2 length over Double Bear. Born in a Breeze, a 6-year-old son of Leonnatus Anteas, got 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.80 with Wilmer Galviz at the controls.
Bella Mia fought to the lead in Sunday's $50,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got control and went on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Ima Happy Cat. Bella Mia, with Julien Couton up, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.95. She is by Harbor the Gold.