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Charles Town: Sweet Goodbye reaffirms affinity for West Virginia by taking Sugar Maple
Sweet Goodbye may call Maryland her home, but she’s definitely fond of making road trips to West Virginia.
Confirming her affinity for the bullring at Charles Town, the 6-year-old Sweet Goodbye ($4.40) cruised to an easy 6 1/4-length victory over a sloppy track in Saturday night’s $250,000 Sugar Maple Stakes for fillies and mares.
C.C's Pal, third in last year's Charles Town Oaks in her previous appearance locally, finished second. Bwana Babe, racing just three days after winning a starter handicap in New York, nosed out Florida shipper Choragus for third.
It was the sixth win in seven starts locally for Sweet Goodbye, who was ridden by J.D. Acosta for trainer Chris Grove. The victory atoned for her loss as the 4-5 favorite in last year’s Sugar Maple, although she did well to finish second after she flipped and fell in the paddock prior to the race.
Sweet Goodbye completed the seven furlongs in 1:24.38 while winning for the 12th time in 21 starts. She was scratched out of Saturday afternoon’s Primonetta Stakes at Pimlico in order to shoot for the bigger purse at her favorite track.
Acosta said any concerns he might have had coming into the race faded when Sweet Goodbye was able to gain a comfortable easy lead through a half-mile in 47.07 seconds.
I didn't want to push it too much in the beginning," Acosta said. "She went in 47 and for her that's pretty easy. I was waiting as long as I could, then made her switch leads."
Grove said he was not overly worried when Sweet Goodbye began her season with three straight losses, but she prepped nicely for the Sugar Maple by winning an allowance prep at Charles Town by more than 11 lengths on March 26.
“She was getting her act together in those first few races,” Grove said. "The last two races have been very impressive. She turned for home tonight like she wanted to go further. She loves the slop and she loves this track. Maybe she got her confidence back last time. Tonight, she was able to get to the front. That pushes her to $700,000. I'm going to try to get her to a million like Silmaril.”
Grove said he might point Sweet Goodbye to the Skipat Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness weekend.
Loranger Native, racing outside Louisiana and against open company for the first time, rallied under New York-based jockey John Velazquez, to capture the $100,000 Blue and Gold Stakes for 3-year-olds.
Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in a field reduced to five runners by two scratches, Loranger Native ($3) finished fastest of all to run down 2-1 second choice Diski Dance by a half-length while covering seven furlongs over a sloppy track in 1:25.72.
In two previous starts going seven furlongs, Loranger Native, trained by Mike Stidham, had won a pair of $100,000 stakes for Louisiana-breds, one at Louisiana Downs and the other at Delta Downs. He is now 3 for 5 lifetime.
"I have the horse at Delaware," said Stidham's assistant, Joe Sharp. "We brought him in Thursday and paddock schooled him Friday night. The only variable was the slop, and it didn't seem like a problem. He's a closing sprinter. He's there when we need him. We'll probably take the same route as Comedero and go to the Chick Lang on Preakness day and then point for the Red Legend."
Diski Dance finished second for the fourth straight race, a string that includes a nose loss in the Dancing Count at Laurel Park and a three-quarter-of-a-length defeat in the Fred Capossela in New York.
Immortal Eyes sets track record
Immortal Eyes ($5.60) broke a track record for 4 1/2 furlongs en route to an easy 4 ¾-length victory in the $55,000 Webb Snyder Stakes.
The 5-year-old Immoral Eyes covered the distance in 50.09 seconds, erasing the record of 50.20 seconds set by Outcashem in 2006, giving jockey Travis Dunkelberger his fourth winner and second straight stakes win on the card.
Based in Maryland with trainer Damon Dilodovico, Immortal Eyes is now 4 for 5 at Charles Town, including last summer’s $100,000 Charles Town Dash.
Ju Jitsu Jax, runner-up to Immortal Eyes in the Dash, was second best again as the even-money favorite in a field reduced to four runners by four scratches. He held second by a neck over Ryan’s Gold.
Russell Road scores in comeback
Russell Road ($2.60) made a successful return from a nearly five-month layoff by taking the $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes for West Virginia-breds.
Racing for the first time since losing back-to-back races as the 1-20 favorite last fall, the 5-year-old Russell Road was carried wide while racing seventh around the first turn in the seven-furlong Confucius Say.
Son of a Bear, making his first start since finishing third in last fall’s $167,000 West Virginia Lottery and for new trainer Debra Ketterman, made the first move to take the lead with a quarter-mile remaining. But Russell Road made a bold four-wide bid turning into the stretch, put his head in front with a furlong remaining, and gradually moved to get a half-length clear at the wire while completing the seven furlongs in 1:25.60.
It was the 16th win in 25 lifetime starts for Russell Road, who is trained by James W. Casey and owned by Mark Russell. It was his first stakes victory since he took the Springtime Handicap on April 17, 2010.
Casey said that Russell Road will be pointed to the $100,000 Wild and Wonderful on the June 18 Charles Town Sprint Festival Day card.
Here Comes Oonga turns tables on Little Shiney
Here Comes Oonga ($9.20), winless in three starts since she was claimed for $16,000 last November, turned the tables on 8-5 favorite Little Shiney to win the $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for West Virginia-bred fillies and mares.
The 5-year-old Here Comes Oonga, making her first start since February for trainer Mark Shuman and Premier Stables Unlimited, appeared to relish the sloppy going by leading throughout the seven furlongs under jockey Luis Garcia in 1:26.58.
Last time out, in a second-level allowance, Here Comes Ooonga finished fifth, 3 ¾ lengths behind Little Shiney. But in the rematch, Here Comes Ooonga was clear coming into the stretch and drew away by three lengths.
Little Shiney, favored on the basis of two wins in her last three starts against open company and a second in last fall’s $167,000 West Virginia Breeders Classic Distaff, easily was second best over the 3-1 second choice, Printscess Poach.