Oct. 30 (UPI) -- A dramatic weekend of racing on the international scene featuring Hong Kong's Romantic Warrior and Japan's Equinox transitions quickly into the final licks of Breeders' Cup preparations with the post-position draw set for Monday evening in California.
Promising 2-year-olds also were on display hither and yon during the weekend, along with several older horses who found more likely targets than the World Championships at Santa Anita.
Here's the plan: We'll start with a nod to the Breeders' Cup, then catch up with the international scene, return to the 2-year-olds and then temporarily fall back on recapping the rest of this weekend's races by venue rather than division.
And ... away we go.
With the post-position draw set for Monday, the Breeders' Cup World Championships already have lost a few major competitors.
The main losses: Classic contender Geaux Rocket Ride was injured during a workout at Santa Anita and faces serious surgery.
Kentucky Derby winner Mage was declared out of the Classic on Sunday after spiking a fever but will compete again in 2024.
And Ireland-based star Paddington was ruled out of the Mile with a similar complaint and has been retired.
Trainer Jenna Antonucci pulled the left hind shoe off Arcangelo, another of the Classic favorites, Saturday, to assess a potential bruise but said the colt walked well Sunday morning.
Around the world, around the clock
Equinox showed again why he's the world's top-rated horse with a seemingly effortless victory over a quality field in Sunday's Grade I Tenno Sho (Autumn) at Tokyo Racecourse.
The 4-year-old not only won by 2 1/2 lengths, but also finished in a remarkable 1:55.2, shaving 0.9 second off the course record for 2,000 meters.
It was the fifth straight win for Equinox, all at the grade or group 1 level -- a string that included the Dubai Sheema Classic in March at Meydan Racecourse.
Jockey Christophe Lemaire kept Equinox just back of the two leaders until they turned into the long uphill stretch run. He gave the colt a reminder tap about 300 meters out, and the race essentially was over.
"He's not exactly what you call a horse with incredible speed but he was able to keep up with today's rapid pace and get into another gear at the end," Lemaire said.
"But I was actually surprised when I realized that we had won in a record. He is a versatile horse that can run from any position, stay calm during the race and make use of his speed at the finish."
Here's one to watch out for going forward: Cervinia, given a confident ride by Lemaire, rallied smartly through the final 200 meters to win Saturday's Grade 3 Artemis Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Tokyo Racecourse by 1 3/4 lengths as the solid favorite.
The daughter of Harbinger, bred by Northern Farm and carrying the Sunday Racing colors, improved to two wins and a second from three starts while covering 1,600 meters in 1:33.6.
Hong Kong's top horses usually deal easily with international raiders at home but it's a lot less common for them to find success traveling to top races in other jurisdictions.
That makes Romantic Warrior's last-jump victory in Saturday's W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley all the more impressive.
With jockey James McDonald timing things perfectly, Romantic Warrior ranged up outside Mr. Brightside at the finish to win by a nose with Alligator Blood third.
It was one of the closest finishes in the long history of the race and accomplished in 2:03.16, just a few ticks off the stakes-record time held by Winx.
Romantic Warrior became only the second Hong Kong horse to win an Australian Group 1, following Cape of Good Hope's success in the Australia Stakes in 2005, and the first to win any international Group 1 outside Hong Kong since Aerovelocity took out both the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Japan and the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore in 2015.
"I reckon he's got more to come, too. He's been bubbling," McDonald said of Romantic Warrior, who has 11 wins from 16 starts with Group 1 successes in the FWD QE II Cup in both 2022 and 2023 and the 2022 Longines Hong Kong Cup. He also landed the 2022 BMW Hong Kong Derby.
He may need more as some of the same rivals he beat Saturday are entered for the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December.
Ancient Wisdom put on a good enough show in winning Saturday's Group 1 Kameko Futurity Trophy at Doncaster that his odds plummeted into single digits for the 2024 Derby, behind only the remarkable City of Troy with some bookmakers.
Supplemented to the final Group 1 race of the British flat season after some initial reservations by trainer Charlie Appleby, Ancient Wisdom led early, let a couple of rivals edge by at mid-race, then came back strongly to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Devil's Point and God's Window were a theological second and third.
The Dubawi colt, toting Godolphin blue silks, got his fourth win from five starts, the only loss being a third in the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot in June. Racing Post calculated each of the previous six winners of the Futurity went on to win at least one Group 1 race in his second season.
"It's a very important race for next year and I was delighted with Ancient Wisdom," winning jockey William Buick said.
Double Major proved way too tough for 10 rivals in Sunday's Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp. The Irish-bred 3-year-old, by Japanese sire Diwa Major, led soon after the start of the 1 7/8-mile marathon, was asked for more by jockey Maxime Guyon inside the 300-meters mark and bounded home in front by 7 1/2 lengths.
Skazino and Tashkan were second and third, respectively.
Double Major backed up a last-out victory in the Group 2 Qatar Prix Chaudenay. Before that, he had three straight second-place finishes.
Meanwhile, back in North America ...
Liberal Arts rallied from last of five to win Sunday's $200,000 Grade III Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs by 2 3/4 lengths. The favorite, Moonlight, chased the winner home and held second by 1 length over Informed Patriot.
Liberal Arts, an Arrogate colt, finished 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.50 for jockey Cristian Torres. It was his second win from five starts but he has never missed a top-three finish.
"The plan is now to lay him up until next year and point to some of the big 3-year-old races," said Robert Media, who celebrated his first graded stakes win as a trainer.
Glengarry pressed the pace in Saturday's $200,000 Bowman Mill Stakes at Keeneland, took the lead in the lane and held off the late bid of Normandy Hero to win by 1/2 length. Valentine Candy was third, another 3 1/4 lengths back.
Glengarry, an Iowa-bred colt by Maximux Mischief, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.52. Luis Saez rode for trainer Doug Anderson. He remains undefeated after three starts, the first two at Prairie Meadows, including last month's Iowa Cradle Stakes.
At Remington Park in Oklahoma, Magic Grant rallied from far back to lead home a trio of long shots in Friday's $75,000 Clever Trevor Stakes.
The Good Magic colt, trained by Eddie Milligan for Willis Horton Racing, defeated My Cousin Mel by 4 1/2 lengths. He was sixth in his career debut Sep. 29.
Provocatively named El Grande O stormed to a big lead in the stretch in Sunday's $200,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds at Aqueduct, and then cruised home first by 1 1/2 lengths over B D Saints.
El Grande O, the odds-on favorite, ran 1 mile on a muddy, sealed track in 1:37.98 for jockey Jose Ortiz. The Take Charge Indy colt has been a busy boy for trainer Linda Rice, scoring three wins, three seconds and a third from eight starts.
At Woodbine, No More Options found another gear in deep stretch to win Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) Frost King Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths over Siesta Beach. The odds-on favorite, Junior Hot Shot, was another 3/4 length back in third.
No More Options, a Frac Daddy colt out of the Birdstone mare Stoney Miss, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.44.
Move to Gold moved to challenge for the lead in the final furlong of Saturday's $135,000 Awad Stakes at Aqueduct, got it some 70 yards from the wire and won by 1 1/4 lengths over the tiring favorite, Spirit Prince.
Move to Gold, a Twirling Candy colt out of the Unbridled's Song mare Brandy, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.04. Manny Franco rode for trainer Chad Brown and owner Klaravich Stables.
It was a West kind of result in Sunday's $200,000 Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs. West Sunset, a West Coast filly owned and bred by Gary and Mary West, romped to a 6 3/4-length victory over Gin Gin with the odds-on favorite, V V's Dream, another 2 3/4 lengths back in third.
West Sunset, with Flavien Prat riding for trainer Brad Cox, ran 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:46.31. West Sunset now is 2-for-2. V V's Dream won the Grade II Pocahontas two starts back and was second in the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland in her most recent race. She was cross-entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
"Hopefully, with some more seasoning, this is a filly we can dream of running in the Kentucky Oaks," Cox said of West Sunset.
Youalmosthadme romped to a 7-length victory in Friday's $200,00 Myrtlewood Stakes at Keeneland. After prompting the pace into the stretch, the Oxbow filly left eight rivals in the dust while finishing 6 furlongs in 1:10.67 with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons.
Youalmosthadme, trained by Brad Cox, now has three wins, a second and a third from five starts.
At Woodbine, Olivia Rose led from the git-go in Saturday's $100,000 (Canadian) South Ocean Stakes for Ontario-bred 2-year-old fillies and cruised home first by 6 1/2 lengths.
Hurricane Clair was best of the rest as the daughter of Silent Name covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.75 over the all-weather course with Kazushi Kimura riding for trainer Mark Casse. She now has two wins and two seconds from five starts.
My Mane Squeeze rallied three wide into the stretch in Sunday's $200,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes for New York-breds at Aqueduct and rolled by the leaders to win by 3 lengths. Cara's Time was second and the favorite, Caldwell Luvs Gold, was third.
My Mane Squeeze, a daughter of Audible, ran 1 mile on a fast but sealed track in 1:38.73 with Irad Ortiz Jr. up.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Living Magic was along late to post an upset victory in Friday's $135,000 Chelsey Flower Stakes at Aqueduct, beating the favorite, Ozara, by 1 1/4 lengths. It was another 1 1/2 lengths to Gold Lightning in third.
Living Magic, a Footstepsinthesand filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:43.65 with Ruben Silvera up for trainer Phil Schoenthal.
Charlene's Dream stalked the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Pike Place Dancer Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, took the lead nicely for jockey Evin Roman and easily held off the late bid of Angioletta for a 1 1/2-length victory.
Charlene's Dream, a Texas-bred filly by Qurbaan, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.32. She now has two wins and a second from three starts, all at Golden Gate. The first two came on the all-weather course.
Around the ovals ...
Runaway Storm got the best of a three-way photo at the end of Saturday's $300,000 Grade III Bryan Station Stakes for 3-year-olds, edging odds-on favorite Talk of the Nation by a head and Santorini by another nose.
Runaway Storm, a Midnight Storm gelding, ran 1 mile on good turf in 1:35.93 with Colby Hernandez in the irons. The Ethan West trainee finished third in the Grade III Virginia Derby in his previous start.
O'Connor won another three-way photo after Saturday's $350,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette Stakes. The 6-year-old, Chilean-bred son of Boboman defeated Il Miracolo by a head with Speed Bias another head back in third.
The favorite, Trademark, reported seventh of eight starters.
O'Connor, with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr., ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:50.61. The veteran has finished in the money in 21 of 26 starts in the U.S. and Chile.
Surge Capacity surged past Heavenly Sunday to a late lead in Friday's $300,000 Grade III Bank of America Valley View Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and won by 3/4 length from that rival. Bling had every chance in the final sixteenth but settled for third, another 1/2 length in arrears but a neck in front of the favorite, Sacred Wish.
Surge Capacity, a Klaravich Stables homebred filly by Flintshire, got 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.80. Joel Rosario rode for trainer Brown. Surge Capacity now is 3-for-4 with a second in the Grade II Lake Placid at Saratoga.
Xigera pressed the early leader in Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Mother Goose Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took the lead in upper stretch and kicked away to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Defining Purpose was second, 3/4 lengths in front of Occult.
Xigera, a Nyquist filly out of the Black Tie Affair mare Argent Affair, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.99. Julien Leparoux had the mount for trainer Philip Bauer.
Durante hustled to the lead in Friday's $200,000 Grade III Bold Ruler Stakes, opened a big lead and cruised home first by 2 1/2 lengths. High Oak was second, a neck better than Twisted Ride.
Durante, a 4-year-old Distorted Humor gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.78 with Manny Franco up.
Technical Analysis led from the start in Friday's $150,000 Athenia Stakes for fillies and mares, turned back a pair of challengers and won by 1 1/4 lengths. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred mare ran 1 1/8 miles on firm turf in 1:49.20. Jose Ortiz rode for trainer Brown.
Everso Mischievous stalked the pace in Saturday's $300,000 Grade II Forty Niner Stakes, came four-wide into the lane while wresting control from the early leader and won by 1/2 length over deep closer Dr Ardito. The favorite, Accretive, settled for show money, a nose farther behind.
Everso Mischievous, a 3-year-old Into Mischief colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.32 with Cristian Torres in the irons. Brown trains for the owning partnership headed by Qatar Racing.
Frankie Dettori is off to a mixed start on his Southern California career. His first day at the new homestead on Saturday included a victory in the day's featured stakes and a disqualification from first to last.
The transplant booted home French-bred Easter to a 1/2-length, rallying victory in the restricted $80,000 Lure Stakes.
Bally's Charm led most of the way and held second easily from Cabo Spirit. Easter, a 5-year-old gelding trained by Graham Motion, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.40.
He started his career in France and had raced out east for Motion, all while being ridden by eight different jockeys in 14 starts -- none of them Dettori.
On the minus side, Dettori's mount in Saturday's fifth race was set down from first to last for interference in the stretch turn. The affected owners, Gary and Mary West, and trainer, Phil D'Amato, are key players on the Southern California scene.
Veeson and Prince of Rain rallied very wide and very late to get home first and second, a head apart, in Tuesday's $100,000 Jump Start Stakes for Pennsylvania-breds. Veeson, a 3-year-old colt by Il Villano, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:26.58 with Dexter Haddock in the irons.
Better Believe led most of the way in Saturday's $100,000 Petticoat Stakes for New Mexico-bred 3-year-old fillies and won by 3 1/2 lengths from the favorite, Mama Was a Rocket.
Better Believe, a daughter of Marking, got 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:16.10 with Felipe Valdez up for trainer Todd Fincher.
In Sunday's $100,000 O.D. McDonald Stakes for New Mexico-breds, Delbert Too raced in mid-pack, hit the afterburners in the stretch and was along just in time to win by a neck over One Mark. Delbert Too, a Marking gelding, got 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.25.
Sunday was Empire Classics Day with rain dampening the proceedings.
Straight Arrow tracked the lead pair through the first half of the $250,000 Empire Classic, took over authoritatively near the furlong pole and won by 2 3/4 lengths over Sheriff Bianco.
Know It All Audrey ran by pacesetting Ichiban in the stretch run of the $250,000 Empire Distaff and won by 2 3/4 lengths over that one.
A 4-year-old Shackleford filly, Know It All Audrey ran 1 1/8 miles on a muddy track in 1:51.57 under Javier Castellano.
Spirit of St Louis stalked the pace in the $200,000 Mohawk Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the yielding turf, worked the leader and won by 1/2 length. The Medaglia d'Oro gelding, trained by Brown, reported in 1:44.90 with Manny Franco up.
The companion Ticonderoga Stakes for fillies and mares came off the turf with five scratches and went to Amanda's Folly, a 3-year-old Mendelssohn filly owned and trained by Linda Rice.
Rotknee opened a big lead in the stretch run in the $150,000 Hudson Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs and got home first by 1 length over the favorite, Ny Traffic with Thin White Duke third.
Sterling Silver caught pacesetting Leeloo in the final strides to win the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes for filly and mare sprinters by a neck over the muddy track.
In Saturday's Best of Ohio races for state-breds, each worth $100,000:
Fair and Square drew off to win the Best of Ohio Endurance by 7 1/4 lengths with Tantrum best of the rest. Odds-on favorite Candlelight Hours ran to her notices in the Distaff, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over R Three Angels.
Trojan Tale dueled through most of the 6-furlongs Sprint before dispatching Diamond Dust by a neck with Startdfromdabottom a head farther back in third.
Odds-on favorite Who Dey took the Juvenile Stakes by 3/4 length with a late run but Here's the Spider rallied to a 35-1 upset win in the John W. Galbreath Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
State-breds were on display here, too, on Saturday with the track sloppy and sealed.
Cringe stalked, then pounced in the $100,000 Crown Ambassador Stakes for 2-year-olds, edging away to a 2-lengths win. The Kid Pataky led throughout the $100,000 Indiana Stallion Stakes 2-year-old filly division and held on to win by a head.
Doubledogjustice got the lead in the stretch in the $250,000 Unreachable Star Handicap for 3-year-olds and held on for a 1-length score. Itzforever rallied from far back to win the $250,000 Lady Fog Horn Handicap for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths.