A dazzling farewell victory by popular classic winner Shackleford and jockey Jesus Castanon in the 138th running of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap provided an exclamation point as arguably the brightest moment of Churchill Downs' memorable 21-day fall meet that concluded Sunday.
The Maryland racing community lost one of its most prominent members when award-winning journalist and racing historian Joseph B. Kelly passed away Monday at Stella Maris Rehabilitation and Hospice after a short battle with cancer. He was 94 years old.
Three-year-olds enjoyed a big day in a pair of Grade 3 events at Calder last weekend, and might do so again Friday as the Tropical meet concludes with the 2012 renewals of the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap and Grade 3, $100,000 La Prevoyante Handicap for fillies and mares.
In a rousing stretch battle between Japanese Triple Crown winners, reigning Filly Triple heroine Gentildonna outdueled last year's Triple Crown star Orfevre by a nose in Sunday's Grade 1 Japan Cup at Tokyo. Aside from emulating her sire, 2006 Japan Cup legend Deep Impact, Gentildonna became the first sophomore filly ever to win her nation's signature international contest. But her place in the record book was only confirmed after she survived an inquiry, for she bumped Orfevre in their wrestling match.
Gulfstream Park will kick off its meet Saturday with Breakfast at Gulfstream, a family-friendly event that once again allows the public to attend Saturday morning workouts while enjoying a breakfast buffet trackside and meeting special guests.
Jockey Miguel Mena had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend at Churchill Downs, piloting the winners of the three graded events taking placing Saturday and Sunday. He capped off the graded hat trick Sunday aboard 30-1 longshot Keep Up in the Grade 3, $115,700 River City Handicap.
Godolphin Racing's Better Lucky was no match for leading three-year-old turf filly Dayatthespa last time out at Keeneland, but after a bizarre mishap to the 8-5 favorite in Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park, Better Lucky went on to post a 35-1 upset.
Bear Tough Tiger fought off stablemate Bear No Joke to earn his first stakes score in Sunday's Grade 3, $127,940 Kennedy Road at Woodbine.
"If at first you don't succeed -- try, try again."
In Saturday's 86th running of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, Uncaptured defeated Frac Daddy by a neck after a thrilling stretch run and both of those precocious two-year-olds, as well as third-place finisher Dewey Square, were in good order Sunday morning.
Seaneen Girl's upset victory in Saturday's Grade 2 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs had trainer Bernie Flint thinking about the first Friday in May on Sunday morning.
While Saturday's 6TH race at Calder Race Course offered the promise of juvenile fillies heading to the turf while still in the early stages of their career, the human narrative of the race centered on longtime trainer Bennie Stutts Jr., who started recent maiden winner Iwillneversaynever in what would be the final race of the 74-year-old conditioner's career.
Even as Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap victor Stay Thirsty prepared to depart Todd Pletcher's barn for his upcoming career at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Kentucky, the trainer and owner Mike Repole have plenty to look forward to next year following Unlimited Budget's front-running victory in the Grade 2 Demoiselle for juvenile fillies and Overanalyze's gritty nose triumph in the Grade 2 Remsen for two-year-olds.
Dance Card's victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle at Aqueduct capped a high-quality year for Godolphin Racing, becoming the outfit's fifth winner of a Grade 1 in 2012.
Travesura was overlooked at odds of 11-1 in the circumstances. She was overshadowed by such rivals as multiple Group 3-placed Premier Steps, the 4-5 favorite in her American debut for Chad Brown, and Surfer Girl romper Flashy Ways, looking to rebound off a troubled 11th in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. But the pace scenario appeared soft on paper, and Travesura took full advantage.
Westrock Stables' Den's Legacy sat chilly behind the leading trio for more than six furlongs, dove through a gap along the inside at the top of the stretch, and charged home a half-length winner of the Grade 3, $100,000 Generous at Hollywood Park on Saturday. The son of Medaglia d'Oro safely held off a late bid from Rising Legend and completed one mile on firm turf in 1:36 1/5.
John C. Oxley's Uncaptured rallied to the lead on the far turn and gamely fought a serious challenge from Frac Daddy through the stretch to prove best in Saturday's Grade 2, $177,150 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs. The Mark Casse-trained colt confirmed his status as one of the early favorites for the 2013 Run for the Roses, earning 10 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series for the gutsy neck score, and Uncaptured swept both graded events at Churchill Downs this fall, posting a 5 1/4-length score in the Grade 3 Iroquois on October 28.
Twilight Eclipse, a three-year-old Purim gelding making only his sixth career start, registered an 11-1 upset of Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder. His stalk-and-pounce rally under Manoel Cruz resulted in a 1 3/4-length triumph in a time of 2:26 3/5 for 1 1/2 miles on the firm turf.
Csaba nearly stole the whole prize and Ducduc just failed to overhaul his rival in the latter stages. In the end, both horses settled for a dead-heat in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Fred W. Hooper, reaching the finish line together in the 1 1/8-mile event at Calder.
Stay Thirsty culminated both a notable career and a sensational week for owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher with a nail-biting victory over the filly Groupie Doll in Saturday's Grade 1 $343,000 Cigar Mile Handicap at Aqueduct.
Godolphin Racing's Dance Card gave jockey Ramon Dominguez his fifth win on Saturday's card at Aqueduct when posting an easy four-length victory in the Grade 1, $350,000 Gazelle as the wire-to-wire winner.
Emollient tried to snatch victory away from Repole Stable's Unlimited Budget in Saturday's Grade 2, $237,500 Demoiselle at Aqueduct, but the Street Sense filly would not be denied, scoring by 1 1/4 lengths on the wire and improving her mark to a perfect two-for-two.
Naveed Chowhan's Seaneen Girl battled it out with Gal About Town in the stretch of Saturday's Grade 2, $167,550 Golden Rod at Churchill Downs before just getting up for a half-length score as the 31-1 longest shot in the nine-filly field.
Repole Stable's Overanalyze was confronted by Normandy Invasion down the stretch in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, but the Todd Pletcher trainee fought back resiliently to reclaim the advantage at the wire.
The day after a fantastic renewal of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap under the Twin Spires, the top three finishers were in fine order in their stalls at Churchill Downs, but definite plans for each horse have yet to be decided.
Michael Lauffer and Bill Cubbedge's homebred Shackleford concluded his racing career in grand style Friday, winning the Grade 1, $447,000 Clark Handicap over his home track at Churchill Downs, and the distinguished colt now heads to stud at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
Repole Stable's Caixa Eletronica turned Thursday's Grade 3, $147,000 Fall Highweight Handicap into a mismatch, winning Aqueduct's traditional Thanksgiving Day feature by a widening four-length margin. The seven-year-old horse chased in second as pacesetter and 6-5 favorite This Ones for Phil established opening splits in :22 2/5 and :44 4/5 on a short lead, drew even after turning into the stretch and dominated the latter stages, finishing six furlongs in 1:08 3/5 on the fast track.
Japanese superstar Orfevre suffered an agonizing defeat at the hands of the unheralded French filly Solemia in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe last out, but aims to turn the tables back on his own home turf in Sunday's Grade 1 Japan Cup at Tokyo.
Data Link, hero of the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile and Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes in course-record time earlier this year, was coming off a pair of losses. The elegant bay couldn't catch Dominus while giving him eight pounds in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga September 1, and he was most recently a troubled fifth to Wise Dan in the Grade 1 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland October 6.
Nearly seven months after landing the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on turf at 8-1, Chappell Alpine Farms' Hudson Landing took a Grade 3 event on the Golden Gate Fields Tapeta surface in Friday's $100,000 All American.
Phipps Stable's Boisterous, winner of the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap and Grade 3 Knickerbocker in his last two starts, will carry the top weight of 124 pounds when he faces 11 rivals in Sunday's 35th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile turf affair highlights the 11-race closing-day program.
Dayatthespa, who has won five in a row at three different tracks, will try to keep her streak alive in the $250,000 Matriarch Stakes on Sunday at Hollywood Park. The one mile event for older fillies and mares is part of a Grade 1 grass doubleheader on the final day of the Turf Festival. The 10-race program also includes the $250,000 Hollywood Derby, which drew an overflow of 15 three-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles.
No filly or mare in the 23-year existence of the Cigar Mile has won the one-mile fixture at Aqueduct, though few have tried. Fresh off a championship clinching win in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, Groupie Doll will attempt to make a little history before the year is out when she faces six male rivals in Saturday's renewal of the $350,000 handicap.
After Mackie Racing's Kya One finished a belated fifth to Naples Bay in her U.S. debut in the Grade 3 Noble Damsel over a mile at Belmont Park, trainer Chad Brown explained that his new recruit really needed more ground. That proposition was tested, and confirmed, in Thursday's Grade 3, $100,000 My Charmer Handicap at Calder, where Kya One profited from an extra furlong to defeat Naples Bay by a cozy 1 1/4 lengths.
Bob Baffert was virtually assured of continuing his stranglehold on Thursday's Grade 3, $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes by entering four of the five runners, and the Hall of Famer's quartet duly gobbled up the top four placings in the Thanksgiving Day feature. Less predictable, however, was the identity of the Baffert-trained winner -- Really Mr Greely, the 11-1 longest shot on the board, who led throughout to upset 4-5 favorite Super Ninety Nine.
After posting convincing wins in the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm and Lady's Secret, Afleeting Lady made it three in a row on the Thanksgiving Day program at Churchill Downs, scoring by a 2 1/4-length margin in the Grade 2, $162,450 Falls City Handicap.
Allowed to settle just off the early pace, Maggi Moss's Delaunay took command in upper stretch and drew off for a 2 1/2-length tally in the 87th running of Fair Grounds' $98,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, the New Orleans oval's tradition-rich annual opening day highlight, giving nine-time Fair Grounds trainer champion Tom Amoss his first winner in the Turkey Day feature attraction.
Robert Masterson's Nefertini earned the biggest win of her 10-race career with a game performance in Friday's Grade 2, $196,000 Go for Wand Handicap at Aqueduct.
The New York Racing Association (NYRA) posted an 11.5 percent gain in total handle during the recently concluded Belmont Park fall meet, with additional increases in NYRA Rewards account wagering and wagering on NYRA races. Belmont Park's fall meet ran 36 days from September 8 to October 28, 2012.
The Hollywood Park Turf Festival continues Saturday with a pair of Grade 3 stakes for two-year-olds, the $100,000 Generous and $100,000 Miesque for fillies, and both races will be contested at a mile on turf. John Sadler will try to become only the second trainer to win the Generous in consecutive years when he sends out a pair, Rising Legend and Under Review, and he is responsible for top contender Pussycat Lips in the Miesque later on the program.
After posting a 5 1/2-length score in the Iroquois Stakes on October 28, Uncaptured will look to keep his momentum rolling while stretching back out to a two-turn distance in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Lion Heart colt can enhance his reputation as a leading Kentucky Derby candidate with a strong showing in the 1 1/16-mile event.
Shackleford, whose Grade 1 exploits include the 2011 Preakness and the Metropolitan Handicap last May, will bow out of the racing scene Friday in the Grade 1, $400,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. The 1 1/8-mile Clark, which dates to Churchill's founding year of 1875, anchors the 12-race Black Friday program, with the Clark set to go off shortly after sunset.
He's won more than $6 million at the Dubai World Cup Carnival over the years and globe-trotting trainer Mike de Kock is hoping that his current group of new hopefuls can add to his Dubai spoils.
Ultimate Eagle, who capped a four-race winning streak in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at last year's Turf Festival, will kick off the 2012 Festival by making his comeback in Friday's Grade 2, $250,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park. Sidelined for nine months since weakening to 10th in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, the Michael Pender trainee will clash with stablemate and defending champion Jeranimo; East Coast shipper Data Link and his frequent foe Doubles Partner; and former Argentinean Horse of the Year Interaction.