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Saturday's stakes recaps
Lady Tak proves she's the real deal
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Steve Asmussen felt the Grade 1 Test would enable Lady Tak to show how good a filly she could be. And on Saturday afternoon at Saratoga, Lady Tak did not disappoint him.
Pressing the pace from the outset under Jerry Bailey, Lady Tak took command of the $250,000 Test Stakes around the turn and powered home a 4 1/2-length winner over Kentucky Oaks and Acorn winner Bird Town. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to House Party in third.
Not only did Lady Tak win convincingly, but her final time of 1:20.83 for seven furlongs also set a stakes record and was .23 of a second off the track record, set by Darby Creek Road in 1978. Go for Wand set the Test record of 1:21 in 1990, and it was equaled by Capote Belle in 1996.
"Everything was conducive to her strengths, and I felt from a long ways out that this race would be a good opportunity for her to show how good she can be," said Asmussen. "She was away good, Jerry gave her a great ride, the weather turns out perfect for us today. Everything fell into place, and that's who she can be."
The Test more than made up for Lady Tak's head loss to Bird Town in the Grade 1 Acorn last month at Belmont Park. Lady Tak won for the sixth time in nine starts
Breaking from post 2, Lady Tak pressed the pace-setting Molto Vita through fractions of 22.66 seconds and 45.27. Around the turn, Bailey asked Lady Tak and she moved to the front. Turning for home, Bailey simply waved his whip at Lady Tak ($6) and she flew home.
"It was obvious early I wasn't getting out, so I made my bed and I decided to stay on the fence and do what I had to do to hold my spot," said Bailey, who won his sixth Test. "Very responsive, very impressive. Even sitting in the gate you know that she's going to be there for you all the way through the race."
Nick Zito, the trainer of Bird Town, said he hopes the Test will set his filly up nicely for the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 16.
"Just ran into a better horse today," Zito said. "But, hopefully, she'll have three pretty good weeks and just go forward and everything will be okay."
- David Grening
Diana: Voodoo Dancer turns tables
Exactly 364 days after enduring the most frustrating setback of her career, in the 2002 Diana Handicap, Voodoo Dancer scored her sweetest and perhaps most important victory - outgaming Heat Haze by a neck to win the Grade 1 Diana.
Voodoo Dancer lost a nose bob to Tates Creek in last year's Diana. Like Tates Creek, Heat Haze is owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Bobby Frankel.
"She's an amazing filly," said Christophe Clement. "She really has an explosive turn of foot. She lost a couple of close decisions to Frankel and Tates Creek last year. It's about time we beat him."
Voodoo Dancer almost missed the chance to avenge last year's loss. Heavy rains early in the week left the status of the turf course in question, and Clement had contingency plans to ship Voodoo Dancer to Del Mar for Saturday's John Mabee Handicap if the course was wet. But two days of clear weather dried the course and the Diana was run on firm ground.
Voodoo Dancer paid $7.20 as the second choice in a field of eight fillies and mares. Her time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:47.98.
With Corey Nakatani aboard, Voodoo Dancer settled along the hedge less than five lengths off a modest early pace set by Delta Princess, who was pressed by both Wonder Again and Riskaverse. Voodoo Dancer eased to the outside leaving the backstretch, made a quick move after swinging five wide into the stretch, and put her head in front of Heat Haze near the eighth pole. She then proved the gamest in a stirring duel. Heat Haze rallied four wide leaving the final turn but could not get by the winner in the final furlong.
Pertuisane, trapped behind a wall of horses in early stretch, rallied once clear to finish third. Snow Dance, the upset winner of the New York Handicap earlier this month, lost her best chance when she reared at the start and broke well behind the field. She finished seventh.
- Mike Welsch
Honor in War hangs on in prep for Million
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - The favored Honor in War reinforced his position as the Midwest's top turf distance horse Saturday in the Arlington Handicap. But just barely.
Honor in War made a big move on the turn and appeared to take command of the race a furlong from the finish, but as the horses raced into a raging prairie headwind he nearly was run down by the surging Better Talk Now, whose rally fell a neck short.
Mystery Giver finished strongly to catch the pace horse, Della Francesca, for the show. The strong second choice, Shaanmer, was bottled up for much of the race and never made a run. Honor in War, who ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.71 on firm turf, paid $5.20 and earned $150,000.
Trained by Paul McGee, Honor in War is likely to return here next month for the Million. Better Talk Now, however, is unlikely to make the trip back from trainer Graham Motion's base in Fair Hill, Md.
o Owsley began her season slowly, but incrementally she's reaching her peak. She took a long step toward her best form with a one-length win over a game Bien Nicole in the Grade 3, $150,000 Modesty Handicap.
Owsley paid $4.60 to win and ran 1 3/16 miles on firm turf in 1:55.06, a stakes record.
o The connections of Best Minister once had designs on the Belmont Stakes, but Best Minister was no match for the sharp Illinois-bred colt Wiggins in the $100,000 Round Table. Wiggins ($7.40) pressed a slow pace and got first run on Best Minister, whom he easily turned away for a 4 3/4-length win.
- Marcus Hersh
Monmouth: Vinemeister upsets Salvator
OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Alan Seewald was hunting for a fallback position when an allowance race he targeted for Vinemeister did not fill.
The Grade 3, $100,000 Salvator Mile was sitting there, so Seewald took a shot. Realistically, Seewald was hoping to hit the board with the 4-year-old colt, who had not won since last August.
Seewald got much more, as Vinemeister ($30.20), the second-longest shot in the field, dug in gamely to hold off Jersey Giant by three-quarters of a length for the biggest win of his career.
Vinemeister was timed in 1:36.74. It was his fourth win in 20 starts.
The win gave Jose Velez Jr. a sweep of both Monmouth stakes Saturday. He was also aboard Freedom's Honor in the $50,000 Colts Neck Stakes.
o Freedom's Honor ($8.80) romped to a 4 1/4-length win in the first running of the Colts Neck Stakes, for New Jersey-bred 3-year-olds going one mile on the turf. He stopped the clock in 1:36.74 in winning his grass debut. He is trained by Jamie Woodington.
Sultry Cat finished second, with Monster Jack third.
- Mike Farrell
Delaware: Sing Me Back Home fires fresh
The long-absent Sing Me Back Home was ready to run for about a month, but trainer Allen Iwinski had a difficult time finding a suitable race for the 5-year-old sprinter.
The $100,000 Vincent Moscarelli Memorial Handicap turned out to be an ideal spot for Sing Me Back Home's comeback. Ridden by Jeremy Rose, Sing Me Back Home ($8.80) withstood a late rally by another comebacker, Deer Run, to score a 1 1/4-length victory.
New York-based Say Florida Sandy, the 3-2 favorite, finished third in the field of five older horses. The winning time was 1:09.45 for six furlongs.
Sing Me Back Home, who has now won 9 of 39 starts, had not raced since last December, when he finished third in the Grade 3 Gravesend in New York. He resumed serious training in mid-June.
- Joe DeVivo
Finger Lakes: Traffic Chief wires
Traffic Chief went right to the front and led every step of the way to win the $125,000 New York Derby for 3-year-old New York-breds the way a 3-5 shot should win - by a widening three lengths.
Go Rockin' Robin, the 5-2 second choice, tracked Traffic Chief from the gate to the turn for home in the 1 1/16-mile race, then flattened out, enabling Spite the Devil to gain the place. Traffic Chief, ridden by John Davila Jr. and trained Michael Hushion, ran the distance in 1:44.74 and paid $3.30.
- Mike DelNagro
Calder: Supah Blitz wins on main track
Supah Blitz showed both his class and versatility with an easy 4 3/4-length victory over The Name's Bond and three other 3-year-olds in the $50,000 Roman Brother Stakes. The Roman Brother was taken off the turf and switched to a sloppy main track following late-morning showers.
The victory was the second straight for Supah Blitz since his 13th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. In his previous start, Supah Blitz won a second-level allowance race on the turf.
Trainer Manny Tortora said possibilities for Supah Blitz's next start are the Grade 3 $600,000 West Virginia Derby on Aug. 9 at Mountaineer Park and the Grade 1, $400,000 Secretariat on the turf at Arlington the following weekend.
Supah Blitz ($3.60) covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.77.
- Mike Welsch
Woodbine: La Grande Mamma dominates
La Grande Mamma ($3.30) seized command on the turn and coasted to an easy victory in the $137,375 Nandi Stakes.
La Grande Mamma stalked longshot Always Hope through an opening quarter of 22.66 seconds in the six-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired juvenile fillies. She assumed the lead before getting the half-mile in 46.34, and then drew off in the stretch to prevail by four lengths.
Boozin Blonde finished a clear second, while My Vintage Port ended up third in the 10-horse field. The final time, over a muddy track, was 1:12.73.
- Ron Gierkink
Ellis Park: Dubai Sheikh by a neck
Dubai Sheikh earned a trip to Saratoga when he posted the first stakes victory of his career in the $100,000 Don Bernhardt Stakes.
Ridden by Jason Lumpkins, who had avoided serious injury in a spill the previous day, Dubai Sheikh rallied from fifth in a field of seven older horses and drove past front-runner Shah Jehan to prevail by a neck. Sterling Gold was third, while Twilight Road, the 5-2 favorite, faded to last.
Dubai Sheikh, a 4-year-old gelding, returned $8.40 after finishing 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.28 over a fast track. Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trained by Dale Romans, Dubai Sheikh will head to Saratoga, where he will face deeper competition in races such as the Alfred Vanderbilt and Forego handicaps.
- Marty McGee
Canterbury: She's Scrumpy survives traffic
SHAKOPEE, Minn. - She's Scrumpy lived up to her billing when she rallied in the stretch to capture the $58,103 Minnesota Oaks, besting seven other statebred 3-year-old fillies.
The 3-2 favorite, She's Scrumpy overcame traffic problems on the backstretch to stalk pacesetting Madam Speaker and Maywood's Jill into the far turn. The pace battle was resolved in upper stretch when Maywood's Jill kicked clear, only to be confronted by She's Scrumpy. She's Scrumpy took command at the sixteenth pole and pulled away to win by two lengths while completing the mile and 70 yards in 1:44.45.
o Tricky Pick Six ($28), overlooked in the five-horse field for the $52,215 Minnesota Derby for statebred 3-year-olds, won the mile and-70-yard race by 16 1/2 lengths.
o Despite a rough start, McKenna Beach ($4.40) demonstrated that her recent placing in an open company stakes was no fluke when she captured the $35,000 Minnesota Juvenile Sprint Stakes, defeating seven other statebred 2-year-olds.
- David M. Miller
Other Saturday stakes
o Perfect Moment ($4.80), a filly facing the boys, took command on the backstretch and was never threatened thereafter as she scored a 3 1/4-length victory in the $75,900 Iowa Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds at Prairie Meadows.
o Docent ($3), carrying the most weight of his career at 128 pounds, cruised to a three-length victory to extend his winning streak to four races in the $50,000 Iroquois Handicap at Philadelphia Park.
o In a repeat performance from a year ago, Ghostly Numbers ($5.20) went wire to wire to win the $50,000 Mister Diz Stakes at Laurel Park for a second time.
o Mingun, a 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy and Miesque, made it 3-for-3 this year with a head victory over Carnival Dancer in the Group 3 Prix Daphnis at Leopardstown Racecourse in Dublin, Ireland.
o Hawkish emphasized his status as the top 2-year-old Quarter Horse in California with an impressive win in the $400,000 Ed Burke Memorial Futurity at Los Alamitos.