Updated on 04/15/2011 10:35AM

Charles Town: Sugar Maple favorite in good spot


Three fillies and mares who were closely matched during the winter in Florida will challenge horse-for-the-course Sweet Goodbye in Saturday night’s $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes at Charles Town.

The seven-furlong Sugar Maple (race 9) is part of a six-stakes card that culminates with the Grade 3, $1 million Charles Town Classic.

Sweet Goodbye, a Maryland-based 6-year-old whose only loss in six previous races at Charles Town came when she was second as the 4-5 favorite in last year’s Sugar Maple, faces a trio of sharp shippers in Choragus, C C’s Pal, and Hyperlink. Sweet Goodbye was cross-entered in Saturday’s $75,000 Primonetta, a six-furlong sprint at Pimlico, but will run for the bigger purse of the Sugar Maple.

Seven-furlong races are Sweet Goodbye’s speciality. She is 6 for 9 at the distance, including the biggest win of her career in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park in 2010 and an 11 1/2-length romp in the allowance prep for the Sugar Maple on March 26.

According to trainer Chris Grove, Sweet Goodbye did well to finish second in last year’s Sugar Maple after she fell down in the paddock before the race.

“Last year, she ran second and did a belly flop in the paddock before the race,” Grove said. “Up until this last race, she hadn’t run real awesome since then, but she got herself together and ran really good.”

“Everyone was expecting her to go back to her form of last year, and it’s very hard to keep them at her level. She didn’t return this year as strong, but now I think she is as good as she’s going to get. She has an advantage because of her affinity for the track. That’s strong. A lot of horses don’t like those tight turns and she goes around them pretty good.”Of the three horses who spent the winter in Florida, Hyperlink has the edge in recency and a 2 for 2 record at the distance. The 4-year-old Hyperlink defeated Choragus by 2 3/4 lengths in the seven-furlong Manatee at Tampa Bay Downs in January and most recently finished second going six furlongs on Polytrack in the Queen at Turfway Park.

The 6-year-old Choragus and the 4-year-old C C’s Pal have both been off since finishing one-two in the Feb. 26 Wayward Lass at Tampa Bay. Choragus prevailed by three-quarters of a length in the 1 1/16-mile Wayward Lass. Both she and C C’s Pal have the benefit of a previous race over Charles Town’s bullring. Choragus was third in the 2009 Sugar Maple, and C C’s Pal was third in last year’s Charles Town Oaks.

Also on the card, Loranger Native, second by a neck in the $100,000, seven-furlong Premier Night Prince at Delta Downs in February, and Rush Now, second last time out in the one-mile Private Terms at Laurel. lead a field of 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Blue and Gold at seven furlongs.

Loranger Native faces open company for the first time after four races against Louisiana-breds, cutting back in distance from 1 1/16 miles, and switching from turf to dirt.

“We were experimenting with our horse — his first time going two turns at a mile and a sixteenth and first time on the turf,” trainer Mike Stidham said. “It was asking a lot of him, and he’s going to drop back to seven furlongs, and that may be his best distance, and we’re going to take a shot in open company.”

Rush Now regained his confidence when dropped in for a $40,000 claiming tag in early February and was beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the Private Terms by Bandbox, who was under consideration for the Preakness until he was sidelined by a soft tissue injury.

“He had run two pretty poor races, and I was concerned if the horse was any good or not,” said Rush Now's trainer, Tony Dutrow. “When he came back and ran good again in the Private Terms, I was feeling better about the horse. Maybe it took running against lesser horses for $40,000 to help him get his confidence. Looking back, I’m glad he wasn’t claimed that day. You take some chances in the horse business and sometimes it pays off for you.”


In the other undercard stakes:

* Printscess Poach, a winner of two straight allowance races against open company, and Silver Heart, an eight-time winner with more than $200,000 in earnings, head the $50,000 Original Gold for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares going seven furlongs.

* Russell Road, off since losing back-to-back stakes at 1-20 last fall, tops the $50,000 Confucius Say for West Virginia-breds going seven furlongs. He will try to regain the form that made him a multiple stakes winner with a 14-for-21 lifetime record at Charles Town.

Russell Road will be coupled with Colonel J W, who missed by a head in last October’s $450,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic.

* Immortal Eyes and Ju Jitsu Jax, separated by a half-length as the one-two finishers in last year’s $100,000 Charles Town Dash, resume their rivalry in the $50,000 Webb Snyder at 4 1/2 furlongs.