04/22/2013 5:54PM

DRF Breeding Weekend Wrap: Departing, Winning Cause impress

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Illinois Derby winner Departing latest homebred star from the productive partnership of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

Saturday’s Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course, a Grade 3 event and the signature race on the track’s calendar, was not included in Churchill Downs’ new Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series this spring, a dismissal that generated much debate among Triple Crown followers. This caused Hawthorne officials to reschedule and re-market the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby as a prep for the May 18 Preakness Stakes, and based on Saturday’s result, that plan seemed ingenious in hindsight. Departing emerged as one of the most talented members of his age group based on his 3 1/4-length romp at Hawthorne, and could pose a serious threat to the Kentucky Derby winner if both show up in Baltimore.

The latest homebred star from the productive partnership of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Departing entered the Illinois Derby off of a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby on March 30. Kept out of trouble by Brian Hernandez after breaking from the 13th post position, Departing swung four-wide leaving the far turn and effortlessly pulled away from the field, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.78 and earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. The gelding will not contest the Kentucky Derby despite amassing 20 points from his Louisiana Derby finish, which could possibly get him to the starting gate.  Trainer Al Stall told Daily Racing Form’s Marcus Hersh on Monday that Departing came out of the Illinois Derby in good order and the Preakness is a “definite possibility.”

Departing is by Claiborne stallion War Front, whose ascent into one of the most successful young sires in North America has been a rapid one since his first crop began racing in 2010.  War Front will be represented in the Kentucky Derby by U.A.E.  Derby winner Lines of Battle. Departing’s dam, the Pulpit mare Leave, is a full sister to stakes winner Laity and a half-sister to Grade 3 winner and stakes producer Trip and to stakes winner Joke, the dam of Grade 1 winner and young Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm stallion Zensational.

Meanwhile at Keeneland Race Course, Winning Cause rallied from a pace-stalking position to take the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes by a length for New Mexico-based owner Gil Moutray’s Alto  Racing. The colt, who is by 2012 leading general sire Giant’s Causeway, earned 20 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings but any decision regarding a start in the classic will not be made for several days, trainer Todd Pletcher told Daily Racing Form’s Marty McGee on Monday. Winning Cause covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.93 and earned a Beyer of 89. He is a perfect three-for-three over Keeneland’s synthetic Polytrack surface, with two of those wins coming during the current meet.

Winning Cause is the only foal to race out of the winning Kingmambo mare Raffishing Look, who is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Society Hostess and is from the family of Grade 1 winner and sire Twilight Agenda and English classic winner and sire Refuse To Bend. Ashford Stud’s Giant’s Causeway, arguably the most successful all-surface sire in North America over the past several years, will be profiled Thursday as DRF Breeding’s Hot Sire of the Week.

Several top performers in the handicap division took center stage in prime time on Saturday, and when the dust settled it was multiple Grade 1 winner Game On Dude who managed to hold off both Ron the Greek and Clubhouse Ride in the $1.5 million Grade 2 Charles Town Classic at Charles Town Races in West Virginia. Game On Dude stalked the pace, rather than customarily setting it, in the three-turn, 1 1/8 mile race, and took the lead entering the stretch only to be challenged by a rallying Ron the Greek to his outside and Clubhouse Ride along the rail. The 6-year-old Awesome Again gelding held tough to post a half-length win in 1:49.93, a time that was announced on Tuesday after the initial time of 1:52.27 came under review by Charles Town stewards amid speculation that the teletimer was tripped prematurely. He received a 105 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance.

Game On Dude, who is out of the stakes-winning Devil His Due mare Wordly Pleasure, entered the Charles Town Classic off of his second 1 1/4-mile win in the Santa Anita Handicap. Awesome Again, the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner who stands at Adena Springs in Paris, Ky., for $75,000, is known as a sire of stamina, with Game On Dude joining such notables as brilliant Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and Awesome Gem as runners who have won Grade 1 stakes at 1 1/4 miles. One of the leading sires in North America, Awesome Again will be represented by Oxbow in the Kentucky Derby.

Weekend notes: Successful Dan made a smashing return to the racetrack after nearly a 10-month absence with a front-running, one-length score in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes on Sunday at Keeneland. The 7-year-old Successful Appeal gelding and half-brother to fellow Mort Fink homebred and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.14, good for a 98 Beyer. His pedigree is well-documented, as he is out of Kentucky Broodmare of the Year nominee Lisa Danielle, by Wolf Power. That award will be presented on Thursday at Keeneland.

Interaction, by leading Argentine sire Easing Along, captured his first graded stakes win Sunday in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita on the Arcadia, Calif., track’s closing day card. He edged All Squared Away by a nose in the about 1 3/4-mile turf stakes, finishing up in 2:44.49 for a 97 Beyer. Seven-year-old Interaction was Argentina’s Horse of the Year in 2010 as well as champion turf horse, champion stayer, and champion 3-year-old male. He is a three-time Group 1 winner in his native country, and his dam, the winning Ride the Rails mare Inter Rails, was honored as Argentina’s Broodmare of the Year in 2010.