Elsewhere around the racing circuits: Musir sparkled but Presvis didn't in Dubai, Ambitious Dragon had an auspicious start to his "Year of the Dragon" in Hong Kong, and a couple likely Kentucky Oaks candidates bubbled to the surface in California and Florida.
Step right up and read all about it.
The $400,000, Grade III Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park was the first test of the year for both Algorithms and Hansen. The former was undefeated in two starts as a juvenile; Hansen, in three, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
The race may have been decided at the start as Hansen stumbled leaving the gate while Algorithms got off to a clean break. Hansen, who had never trailed in any of his previous races, hustled up the lead after recovering, then jumped out to a daylight lead in a quicker time than jockey Ramon Dominguez might have liked.
By the time the field straightened out in the stretch, Hansen had done all he could and Algorithms went by him with ease, winning by 5 lengths. Hansen just did salvage second by a half length over the late-running My Adonis.
"This race was going to tell us where we were with him, running against the 2-year-old champion," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher, noting Algorithms previously won at first asking last June at Belmont, then came back to win an allowance last month at Gulfstream.
"Now he's done everything we've asked him to," Pletcher said.
With stablemate Discreet Dancer, Pletcher now has two viable Derby contenders stabled in South Florida -- and maybe more (see below).
"You can never have enough good 3-year-olds," he said, "but you hate to run them against each other. He [Algorithms] is by Bernardini and I don't think he'll have distance limitations. So we just have to sort things out from here."
Hansen's trainer, Michael Maker, wasn't conceding anything after the race, either.
"Ramon said pretty much after he stumbled he popped up and jumped right into the bit and was a little headstrong and fresh," Maker said. "But other than that it was a good effort and he galloped out strong. We're pleased."
Other 3-year-old efforts
El Padrino, another Pletcher trainee, won a first-level allowance race Sunday at Gulfstream in his first start since finishing third in the Grade II Remsen Stakes. With Javier Castellano riding, El Padrino scored by 2 lengths over Take Charge Indy and ran 1 1/16 miles in a quick 1:42.68. "He's a nice colt," Pletcher said of the Kentucky-bred Pulpit colt.
Beggarthyneighbor pressed the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel Park, took over between rivals turning for home and won by a length over Trippi's Secret. Ill Conceived was third. Beggarthyneighbor, a Kentucky-bred Half Ours colt, got the 6 furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.80 with Malcolm Franklin in the irons. Based in New York, the winner was coming off his maiden victory at Aqueduct on New Year's Day. "From start to finish I was confident," Franklin said. "I had horse the entire race. Turning for home, he gave all that he had and didn't back off."
And among the 3-year-old fillies:
Broadway's Alibi proved in Sunday's $200,000, Grade II Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park that she has controlling speed. But she left a question mark about potential distance limitations. With John Velazquez basically giving the filly her head, Broadway Alibi jumped to an easy lead through extremely quick early fractions, then blew off the competition in the lane, winning by 16 3/4 lengths. Say a Novena was second and Sacristy finished third. "Last time I rode her I tried to take a bit of a hold and she didn't like that," Velazquez said. "She threw her head up and drifted out pretty bad." She drifted out again Sunday but by that time she was so far in front, it didn't matter. "I guess it's just a bad habit," Velazquez mused. "She's just so fast I wasn't going to fight her." Broadway's Alibi, a Kentucky-bred Vindication filly, finished the 7 furlong on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:21.94. "She's fast," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I don't know about distance. I guess we'll have to find out at some point."
Willa B Awesome led all the way to an upset win in Saturday's $100,000, Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita. With Joel Rosario handling the reins, the California-bred Awesome Gambler filly established an honest pace and was never threatened. Killer Graces and Lady Shamrock finished second and third with the favorite, Charm the Maker, getting home fourth. Willa B Awesome ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:41.73. Winning trainer Walther Solis said the late scratches of two rivals changed his tactics. "It's pretty nice seeing her break like the way she did today ... . I was thinking about coming from third or fourth but, scratching the speed, I told Martin, 'Let's go to the lead and have them catch us.'"
Just four days after China celebrated the Year of the Dragon, Ambitious Dragon staked claim that it might, again, be his year. Facing a tough field in Sunday's Group 1 Stewards Cup, Ambitious Dragon sprinted clear inside the final 300 meters and got home first, 1 1/4 lengths better than Xtension. California Memory was third, another 3/4 of a length back, and Thumbs Up was fourth. The victory righted the boat for Ambitious Dragon, who had been defeated in his last two starts, including the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup in December, where he got home fourth. "He's back from that bad experience. That's the main thing, he's back!" winning trainer Tony Millard said. "I was a bit more confident today. Going into the Hong Kong Cup, we didn't have a good run-in. He had a bad prep and going into the International race was just too hard." He said the 5-year-old now will point to the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup, the second leg of the local Triple Crown on Feb. 26. The third race in that series is the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on May 27.
On Chinese New Year, before a chilled audience of more than 78,000, Sweet Orange rallied to win the Group 1 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile by a neck over the favourite, Fay Fay. The race was the first leg of Hong Kong's Four-Year-Old Series. "It feels tremendous because I've had a poor season, particularly with all the close seconds I've had," said winning trainer David Ferraris, who also had not scored a Group 1 triumph since Vengeance of Rain invaded Dubai to win the 2007 Sheema Classic.
Also on Chinese New Year at Sha Tin -- and you couldn't make this up -- Kung Hei Fat Choi, making his 15th career start, finally broke through for his first win. Kung Hei Fat Choi is a traditional Chinese New Year greeting.
(By RICHARD GROSS)
Musir is South African trainer Mike de Kock's favorite Dubai World Cup Carnival horse and the Australian-bred proved why as the 5-year-old son of Redoute's Choice left no doubt who will be the early choice for the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup day, easily taking the 1,800-meter Group 2 Al Rashidiya by a length over City Style in his first turf start in Thursday's Meydan feature.
"He gave me my first big wins in Dubai," recalled de Kock. But the South African trainer's fondness is not entirely sentimental. Musir was following up an equally impressive win in the 1,600-meter, Group 3 Al Maktoum Challenge Round I on the all-weather Tapeta in his last start.
"We think he is better on grass than on the all-weather," de Kock said. Jockey Christophe Soumillon echoed that confidence throughout the ride, guiding Musir easily through a run with little pace to a quick stretch move and a lead he only lengthened.
The expected match between Musir and Great Britain's Presvis never materialized as last year's winner of the Dubai Duty Free got a late start under regular rider Ryan Moore, never unleashed a challenge and finished a disappointing fifth, nearly 6 lengths off the winner.
On a race night sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, de Kock said his winner was "hopefully a genuine Dubai Duty Free race contender." That 1,800-meter turf race offers a purse of $5 million on World Cup day, March 31.
Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rasheed al-Maktoum, was in attendance to see Godolphin trainers win three of the evening's six races, with trainer Saeed bin Suroor scoring a double.
Godolphin rider Frankie Dettori had an equally impressive outing aboard two winners. And Carnival newcomer Steve Burridge saddled his fourth winner in five tries with 3-year-old Dark Matter.
Off the track, things are gaining momentum toward World Cup day.
The Group 1 Dubai Duty Free has attracted 332 nominees from 13 nations. Leading the charge is last year's winner, Presvis, setting up a rematch with Musir. Two-time race winner de Kock has 17 early entries and fellow South African Herman Brown has nine. Suroor has the most entries with 22 to go along with his four wins in the race, most for any trainer.
The 15th running of the 2,410-meter Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on turf has 225 nominees with Breeders' Cup Turf victor St. Nicholas Abbey trained by Aidan O'Brien heading the list. Two-time-winning trainer bin Suroor has 13 entries. The United States, Britain and Japan all have double-digit entries, 18, 14 and 11 respectively, while France could be well represented with 2011 Melbourne Cup and Hong Kong Vase winner Dunaden among its five possible runners.
The $2 million Golden Shaheen 1,200-meter all-weather sprint and this year's third round of the Global Sprint Challenge garnered 275 nominees from 15 nations, including the past two winners, Kinsale King from the United States and last year's victor, South Africa's Rocket Man. The two did not meet last year when Kinsale King was scratched on race day because of fever. Aussie sprint stars Sepoy and Black Caviar are also among the nominees. U.S. horses have won 13 of the race's 16 runnings and top this year's list with 36 entries.
Sunshine Millions Day on Saturday:
Awesome Feather remained awesome -- not to mention undefeated -- after obliterating a quintet of rivals in Saturday's $300,000 Distaff. After racing just twice last year, the 4-year-old Awesome of Course filly came into Saturday's race as the heavy favorite and proved she deserved that consideration, tracking an honest pace before taking over when asked, then drawing off to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Delightful Mary and Sweet Repent completed a stingy trifecta. Awesome Feather, with Jeffrey Sanchez up for trainer Chad Brown, completed the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.17 and now has won all nine career starts, coming back late last year to win twice after a tendon injury. "We don't have anything in particular in mind for her," Brown said. "The biggest thing with her is to see how she comes back â€¦ . With her, it's one race at a time."
It's Me Mom quickly opened a daylight lead in the $150,000 Filly & Mare Sprint and none of her six rivals got close enough to pose a threat. At the wire, it was a 6 3/4-length win, with Honey Chile beating Indulgence by a nose for place money. The favorite, Pomeroy's Pistol, finished a tiring fifth in her seasonal debut. It's Me Mom, a 4-year-old Put It Back filly, got the 6 furlongs in 1:08.85 with Willie Martinez riding. "We knew we'd be in front," Martinez said. "That's what she does. There's a difference between fast and brilliant speed and she has brilliant speed â€¦ . She's just a freak."
Soaring Stocks posted a healthy return as a 4.5-1 winner in the $150,000 Sprint, scoring by a half length over Cajun Breeze with pacesetting Royal Currier holding on for third. The favorite, Apriority, finished next-last of eight. Soaring Stocks, a 4-year-old Trippi colt, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.49 with John Velazquez up. Soaring Stocks tackled his first stakes engagement off a 2-length allowance win at Gulfstream Jan. 12 for trainer Todd Pletcher, having raced in only one other allowance and two maiden special weight races. "He came out of his last race so well we thought he was up to coming back in this spot," Pletcher said. "This is a nice program for Florida-breds, but this race came up very tough."
Hooh Why rallied four-wide to post a big upset in the $150,000 Filly & Mare Turf, outfinishing the favorite, Romacaca, to score by 1 1/4 lengths. Speak Easy Gal finished third. Hooh Why, a 6-year-old Cloud Hopping mare, ran 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:46.77 with Velazquez aboard. "We were going to send her to the breeding shed but we decided to try to have one more year of fun with her before that," co-owner and former trainer Mark Hoffman said. "I'll take her back to Tampa and turn her out for 10 days and then we'll go from there."
Little Mike led all the way to a popular victory in the $150,000 Turf, surviving by 3/4 of a length over a gaining Slews Answer. Bad Debt finished third. Little Mike, a 5-year-old Spanish Steps gelding, ran 9 furlongs on the grass in 1:45.94. It was his fourth straight win over the Gulfstream lawn. "He proved to me a long time ago that he won't let another horse past him without putting up one heck of a fight," said winning rider Joe Bravo. "He was the best horse in the race and he showed it."
And in the $400,000 Classic, Mucho Macho Man surged to a big lead at the top of the stretch and held on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Ron the Greek. Early leader Turbo Compressor got home third and the favorite, Adios Charlie, finished fifth with an inside trip. Mucho Macho Man, who ran third in last year's Kentucky Derby, then off the board in the Preakness and Belmont, won for the second straight time for trainer Kathy Ritvo, getting the 9 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:47.91. "It was the absolute perfect trip," said winning rider Ramon Dominguez. "We were right outside the speed. He handled himself so well. He gave me the feeling every step of the way that whenever I was ready to ask, he was ready to go." Ritvo said she has not picked out Mucho Macho Man's next race. The Macho Uno colt now has four wins from 13 career starts.
Home Sweet Aspen battled down the stretch with Sugarinthemorning in Saturday's $300,000, Grade I Santa Monica Stakes before prevailing by a neck. She's Cheeky came from last to pick up show money and the favorite, Rumor, faded from the early lead to finish sixth. Home Sweet Aspen, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred Candy Ride filly, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.42 with Joel Rosario up. In her last outing, Home Sweet Aspen finished fourth in the Grade I La Brea after making the early lead. "Last time, she was probably going a little too quick, but she was much better today â€“ she was impressive," Rosario said. "I think this is a good sprinting filly, a good quality filly," added winning trainer John Sadler. "It's pretty exciting to have her win a Grade I. I felt she's capable and we got a good trip today."
Compari got to the lead between horses after crossing the dirt track in Saturday's $100,000 Sensational Star Stakes for California-breds, battled to the lead and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over My Summer Slew. Real Defense finished third. Compari, a 6-year-old Reddattore gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf course in 1:12.02 with Mike Smith aboard.
Holladay Road worked his way to the lead with a sixteenth of a mile to run in Saturday's $100,000 Crystal Water Stakes for state-breds and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Macho Dorado. Spud Spivens was third and the favorite, Thirtyfirststreet, settled for fourth. Holladay Road, a 7-year-old Street Cry gelding, finished 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:41.25 for jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Chokecherymary raced well back of her rivals through most of Saturday's $100,000 Valentine Dancer Stakes for fillies and mares, came out in the stretch and got home first by a half length over pacesetting California Nectar. Secret Cove finished third. Chokecherymary, a 4-year-old Capsized filly, ran the mile on firm turf in 1:34.42 with Corey Nakatani riding.
Unzip Me, defeated in four of her six previous starts, got back on track with a win in Sunday's $95,000 Wishing Well Stakes down the hillside turf. After tracking the pace under Rafael Bejarano, the 6-year-old, California-bred City Zip mare got to the lead in the stretch and held of Teroda to win by a half length. It was a neck back to Remit in third and another neck to Givine in fourth. "She's just all heart. She's a special horse," said Martin Jones, whose father, Gary, trained the race's namesake, Wishing Well, the dam of Sunday Silence.
Sam Houston Race Park
Papaw Bodie outfinished Proceed Bee in the stretch run to win Saturday's $200,000, Grade III John B. Connally Turf Cup by 1 3/4 lengths. Little Wagon made the early going and held on for third, another half length back, with Ioya Bigtime fourth. Papaw Bodie, backing up a New Year's Eve win at Gulfstream Park for trainer Mike Maker, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.84 with Rosie Napravnik up. "He was coming off a mile and three eighths and Mike does a good job of keeping him tuned up," assistant trainer Joe Sharpe said. "He had a solid work a week ago at Fair Grounds. This is a horse that keeps himself pretty fit. Rosie rode a beautiful race." Papaw Bodie is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Strong Hope gelding.
Redding Colliery took the lead in Saturday's $75,000 Evening Attire Stakes, turned back a challenge from the favorite, I Want Revenge, and went on to win by 2 lengths over that rival. Jimanator finished third. Redding Colliery, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Mineshaft, got the 1 1/16 miles on the inner track in 1:43.04 with Alan Garcia aboard. For I Want Revenge, last year's Wood Memorial winner, was making his first start since last May 11. It was the second start in 14 months for the winner and his first win since the 2010 Hawthorne Gold Cup.
Love and Pride led from the start in Saturday's $75,000 Affectionately Stakes for fillies and mares, then quickly shook loose when allowed to run and won by 7 lengths over Bahia Beach. Bahama Bound finished third. Love and Pride, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred A.P. Indy filly, finished the 1 1/16 miles on a fast inner track in 1:43.90 with Cornelio Velasquez up.
Riley Tucker dueled with Hamazing Destiny through the early stages of Saturday's $50,000 King Cotton Stakes, surrendered the lead to that rival for a while, then came again to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Hamazing Destiny held second, 2 1/4 lengths better than River Bear. Riley Tucker, a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Harlan's Holiday, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.15 with Cliff Berry up. "He doesn't necessarily want to be on the lead," Berry said. "But he broke so sharp. He felt great the whole way."
Grand Daddy, a well-bred frequent bridesmaid, got the job done Saturday in the $50,000 Forego Stakes, rallying from behind a quick pace to win a three-way sprint to the wire. Tend led briefly and held second, just a neck in arrears, and the favorite, Matthewsburg, did his best running late to finish third, another head back. Grand Daddy, a 6-year-old son of Johannesburg and a full brother to Scat Daddy, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.83 with Julio Felix up. "We obviously knew the pedigree, and we knew a stakes win would help our situation," winning trainer Tom Drury Jr. said. "He showed up today and got it done."
Derive led from the gitgo in Saturday's $35,000 Swift Stakes, then held well to win by 3/4 of a length from Saratoga Boot. Absolutely Cool finished third. Derive, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred Cozzene gelding, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:01.90 with Jorge Carreno up.
Rare Sunset led all the way in Saturday's $35,000 Glendale Handicap for fillies and mares, repelled a challenge from the favorite, Snugs and Kisses, and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Hard Seven. Sweetsomerwine finished third and Snugs and Kisses faded to get home fifth. Rare Sunset, a 7-year-old, California-bred Anziyan mare, ran the 1 1/16 miles over firm turf in 1:41.89 for jockey Jocelyne Kenny.
ROBERT KIECKHEFER || UPI Racing Writer
Algorithms upset Eclipse Award winner Hansen Sunday in a battle of unbeatens and immediately jumped into the thick of the Kentucky Derby mix.