12/18/2010 8:28PM

Due Date improves with age, rallies to take Bonapaw

Lou Hodges Jr.
Due Date, ridden by Tony Farina, leads a one-two finish for trainer Steve Margolis in the Bonapaw.

The $60,000 Bonapaw Stakes on Saturday at Fair Grounds marked Due Date’s 29th trip to the post, and less than two weeks from his 6th birthday, Due Date has hit peak form. After a strong fall campaign in Kentucky, Due Date crushed a decent field in the Bonapaw, passing all nine of his rivals, including favored Central City, in the final three furlongs.

“Coming to his 6-year-old year he’s getting better and better, which is hard for this caliber horse,” said trainer Steve Margolis, who also saddled second-place finisher Early Return.

Due Date didn’t factor in a pair of Fair Grounds grass races last season, but was given more than five months off following the second of them and returned with zeal. He won his first two post-layoff starts before finishing a fast-closing third in the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland and a close, troubled sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

Saturday, Western Smoke outsprinted 4-5 shot Central City for the early lead, setting seemingly moderate splits of 22.33 seconds for the first quarter-mile and 46.31 to the half, but the Fair Grounds grass course was labeled good and none of the speed would stick around to the end.

Jockey Tony Farina, meanwhile, settled Due Date into comfortable stride at the back of the field, commencing his rally midway around the far turn. Due Date raced several paths wide around the bend and came down the middle of the track for his stretch run, but by three-sixteenths pole he had taken full flight, easily rushing past the leaders in the final half-furlong. Early Return was no match for his entrymate, but also rallied wide and well for second. Backtalk barely held third, while Central City, second in the BC Turf Sprint, had no late lick, checking in fifth. The winner paid $7.20 and was timed in 1:04.24 for 51/2 furlongs.

Archarcharch gets first win in Sugar Bowl

Archarcharch’s left the maiden ranks with a stakes win, wearing down pacesetting Joe Hollywood in the $60,000 Sugar Bowl.
Three scratches, including morning-line favorite Cheyann Belief, reduced the Sugar Bowl field to just four, but though his rivals were few, Archarcharch looked good, pushing past a game Joe Hollywood in the final half-furlong, drawing clear at the wire, and galloping out well in front.

Archarcharch broke last of 12 and had trouble in his career debut at Churchill, rallying for second in a promising effort. Away cleanly Saturday, Archarcharch and jockey Jon Court took up a perfect stalking position as Joe Hollywood wrestled with Hydro Power for the early lead, setting splits of 22.32 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.08 to the half. Hydro Power dropped out as Archarcharch attacked coming into the stretch, but Joe Hollywood battled back, holding off Archarcharch until the winner belatedly switched leads at the sixteenth pole. The winning margin was 1 3/4 lengths, with B G Suavecito a distant third after a dismal start, and Hydro Power last. The winner was timed in a solid 1:10.40 for six furlongs and paid $4.

In the filly counterpart to the Sugar Bowl, the $60,000 Letellier, a brutal early pace took its toll on the front-runners and set the table for favored Fastation, who swept past the tiring speed in upper stretch, going on to a 3 1/2-length win. Fastation ($4.80), timed in 1:11.19 for six furlongs, is trained by Steve Asmussen for Heiligbrodt Racing Stables and was ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan. Fiscal Policy finished second, Street Storm third.

Country Flavor fires fresh in Tenacious
A physical setback is the last thing a horse needs while training for his first start after a layoff, but despite getting sick in November, Country Flavor was ready to win the $60,000 Tenacious in his first start since September.

“When we got here from Chicago he got sick and I had to stop on him,” said trainer Greg Geier, who wasn’t able to get a work into Country Flavor during November. “But he likes this racetrack, so we said let’s give it a try.”

Country Flavor, winner of the Grade 3 Hanshin Cup in May, was sixth of seven under Shane Sellers in the early part of the Tenacious, but wore down pace-pressing Z Humor by a neck despite moderate fractions up front. Dubious Miss had traffic trouble in midstretch, but didn’t punch home once clear and finished third. Favored Mad Flatter lacked his customary speed and wound up last of seven.

Country Flavor, bred and owned by Jim Tafel, paid $24.40 to win, and was timed in 1:44.74 for 1 1/16 miles on dirt.

Surface switch no problem for Wildcat Heiress

At this point it’s fair to say Wildcat Heiress carries her racetrack with her. Victorious in her career debut on Hoosier Park’s dirt surface, Wildcat Heiress won in October over Keeneland’s Polytrack and in November on the Churchill turf course. Back on dirt Saturday, she led from start to finish taking the $60,000 Esplanade by 3 1/4 lengths. Greeley’s Rocket finished second, Kimbo third, and 2-5 favorite Lady Alexander last of four. The winner was timed in 1:04.14 for 5 1/2 furlongs and paid $6.60. Wildcat Heiress is owned by Ron McCauley, trained by Tevis McCauley, and was ridden to victory by Corey Lanerie.