Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Old Man Winter put a crimp in the weekend horse racing schedule, but couldn't prevent Saudi Crown from punching his ticket to Saudi Arabia and Track Phantom from continuing his march toward the Kentucky Derby.
Racing was canceled at several top North American tracks, including Oaklawn Park, Laurel Park, Aqueduct and Turfway Park as temperatures dropped to dangerous levels. Fortunately, most of the important races were in New Orleans.
On the world front, Voyage Bubble got a champagne trip to win Sunday's Group 1 Stewards' Cup in Hong Kong, possibly earning an overseas voyage in the near future. And speaking of Dubai, a Louisiana-bred filly took a giant step toward the UAE Oaks in Friday's action there.
Stepping through the snow and cold here ...
The Road to the Roses
Track Phantom leaped into the No. 2 spot on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard with a gate-to-wire victory in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds.
The Quality Road colt, trained by Steve Asmussen, got his third straight win and 20 points on the Churchill Downs tally sheet that determines which horses get to run in the Derby.
Track Phantom had no trouble seeing off five rivals under Joel Rosario, never feeling real pressure from eventual runner-up Nash.
"I love how he's running here," Asmussen said. "He's getting stronger all the time and we're just excited to be in this position."
Saturday's 20-point haul, added to the 10 Track Phantom earned by winning the Gun Runner Stakes in his previous start, tied him with Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Fierceness atop the leaderboard. Fierceness leads on earnings.
Out west at Sunland Park in New Mexico, Kentucky invader Lucky Jeremy stalked the pace in Friday's $100,000 Riley Allison Derby, pounced in the stretch and won off by 2 lengths over Alotaluck.
The race was a prep for the Feb. 18 Sunland Derby, a 20-points stop on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby."
The Path to the Oaks
West Omaha left five rivals well in her wake in Saturday's $150,000 Silverbulletday Stakes at Fair Grounds, jetting to the front in the lane and drawing off to a 5-length victory.
West Omaha got her second win to go with a runner-up showing in the Untapable Stakes in her last outing.
Trainer Brad Cox has a barnful of good 3-year-old fillies and said, "They'll sort themselves out over the next few months and we will see which fillies deserve to be in the starting gate for the Kentucky Oaks."
Saudi Crown led all the way to a 5 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $175,000 Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds, stamping his passport for the $20 million Saudi Cup on Feb. 24 in Riyadh.
Saudi Crown, last year's Pennsylvania Derby winner, an Always Dreaming colt trained by the aforementioned Brad Cox, had four wins and two seconds, each of the seconds by a nose, before finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
"Big run. Proud of him," Cox said. "Obviously this was a setup for Saudi, ... We're excited to take him to Riyadh."
Strong Quality managed to hold on to the lead, albeit by just a head, to score a front-running victory in Saturday's $100,000 Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes at Fair Grounds. Strong Quality is a 5-year-old son of Quality Road.
Filly & Mare Turf
Linda's Gift led comfortably through most of Sunday's $100,000 Astra Stakes for fillies and mares at Santa Anita and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Musical Rhapsody and Duvet Day filled out the trifecta. The 5-year-old Arrogate mare made it two wins in a row.
Creative Cairo rallied from last of eight to win Saturday's $100,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial at Fair Grounds by 1 1/2 lengths from Joint the Dance, finishing 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:42.55.
Sousa Summer tracked down pacesetting, odds-on favorite Just Might in the closing strides of Saturday's $100,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds and beat that one by a nose.
Around the world, around the clock
Sunday's Group 1 Stewards' Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse may have been a bit of a generational handoff as 5-year-old Voyage Bubble emerged from the shadow of the absent 8-year-old Golden Sixty to win the 1,600-meter event by 1 1/4 lengths.
Beauty Eternal and Beauty Joy were second and third and pacesetting veteran California Spangle faded to finish fourth.
Golden Sixty, the three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year, is sidelined with a minor injury and his future is in doubt. Sunday's winning rider, James McDonald, said the Stewards' Cup might have been the moment of change.
"There's no heir apparent to Golden Sixty but we're happy to be the next man jogging on the spot, so to speak, and we're probably lucky the champ wasn't there," McDonald said, adding that races in Dubai, Australia or Japan now might be on the horizon.
It was no surprise a Godolphin filly won Friday night's World Cup Carnival feature, the Group 2 Cape Verdi Stakes. The home team had hoisted the trophy nine times previously.
But it was a surprise that of the three Godolphin runners, it was Silver Lady holding off previously unbeaten English Rose for the win.
The first two finishers likely will face off again Feb. 22, going an additional furlong in the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes.
Also on the Friday program at Meydan Racecourse:
Mysterious Night, winner of the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine two years ago, returned to form after four winless intervening starts, capturing the JAFDZA Handicap at 1,400 meters on the grass for Buick and Appleby.
Manama Gold hit the afterburners in the stretch run of the Cocoa Beach Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and saw off her closest pursuer, Lahfaty, by 9 1/4 lengths.
It was the second straight impressive win for the Louisiana-bred Star Guitar filly, who now looks a cinch for the UAE Oaks field.