10/05/2013 6:38PM

Indiana Downs: Bernie the Maestro runs down Taptowne in Schaefer

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SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – Bernie the Maestro gunned down favored Taptowne in the final stages to win the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Stakes, chief among seven stakes races on the Indiana Derby and Oaks undercard, Saturday at Indiana Downs.

The victory gave owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey, trainer Mike Maker, and jockey David Flores a stakes double after they earlier won the $65,000 Ta Wee Stakes with Always Kitten.

Bernie the Maestro ($30.60), in a bit tight at the start, settled near the back of the pack early under David Flores as Joy Boy, away sharply from the rail, led the field through opening splits of  23.60 and 46.21 seconds. Taptowne, who tracked comfortably in third, advanced to poke a head in front after six furlongs in 1:09.92, and extended his lead to three lengths entering the stretch.

Bernie the Maestro commenced an extended rally four-wide around the far turn and wore down the favorite in deep stretch to win by a length, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.22 over a main track rated sloppy.

Taptowne held off the charging Neck ’n  Neck by a head to hold second. The latter was making his first start since winning the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap in November 2012 at Churchill Downs, after a sesamoid fracture ended his season.

Bernie the Maestro notched his third career stakes victory, but first since 2010 at Calder Race Course. The 6-year-old Bernstein gelding, who Maker claimed for $35,000 on behalf of the Ramseys in August 2012 at Saratoga, has found a second wind this year, winning five of nine starts.

“He’s a class horse that’s always done very well,” said assistant trainer John Lynde, who made the trip to Indiana to saddle Bernie the Maestro and Always Kitten. “Mike excels with horses like this.

“We kind of thought he might be closer to the front, but it worked out very well.”

Ian Wilkes, who saddled Neck ‘n Neck in the Schaefer, got a rich consolation prize, as his Magic Hour held off favored Don’t Tell Sophia to win the $100,000 Mari Hulman George Stakes for fillies and mares

The winner, a homebred for Janis Whitham –  for whom Wilkes trains defending Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Fort Larned – broke alertly under Leandro Goncalves and was not pressured as she rolled through the early splits. She shook loose turning for home and held off Don’t Tell Sophia under strong hand urging from Goncalves, winning by half a length while finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.88.

It was the second stakes win in five starts this year for Magic Hour ($7.60), who came in off a third in the Grade 3 Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park.

Always Kitten ($7.40) rallied to nip My Special J’s by a head in the Ta Wee for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. The homebred filly, by the Ramseys’ champion and leading turf sire Kitten’s Joy, covered a mile in 1:37.76 on turf rated soft to score her second career stakes win.

Ain’t She a Saint returns to form in Richmond

On her home state’s biggest day of racing, reigning Indiana-bred horse of the year Ain’t She a Saint scored her first victory of the year in the Richmond Stakes for fillies and mares, one of four $85,000 races for Indiana-bred or -sired horses on the program. Her younger full brother, Needmore Cash, later capped a big day for Sherri and Jeff Greenhill by rallying powerfully to defeat a strong field in the Gus Grissom Stakes.

Ain’t She a Saint ($3.40), the defending Richmond winner, broke alertly and settled in midpack early under Malcolm Franklin, poking a head in front after six furlongs. In clear command entering the stretch, she continued to draw away to win by 8 3/4  lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.04.

With Saturday’s victory, Ain’t She a Saint improved her career record to six wins from 19 starts for earnings of $439,997. Greenhill said the filly would be pointed to the $150,000 Frances Slocum Stakes Oct. 19 at Indiana Downs, another event she won last year.

In the Gus Grissom, Needmore Cash ($12) broke slowly and trailed the field of eight by a significant margin through the first half-mile. He regained touch with the field after six furlongs, then rallied powerfully around the turn to split horses in upper stretch, taking aim on three-length leader Unreachable Star, the champion Indiana-sired older horse of 2012. Needmore Cash struck the front in midstretch and powered clear to win by three, finishing the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:45.55 under Lori Wydick.

** Thank You Kisses ($14.80) rallied strongly in the stretch to win the colts and geldings division of the Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes for 3-year-olds by three lengths, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.57 under Rodney Prescott. Rivertown Belle ($6) captured the fillies’ division, winning by 3 1/4 lengths and finishing the same distance in 1:46.20 with Fernando De La Cruz aboard. The winners were trained by Michael Nance and Robert Gorham, respectively.