04/16/2012 9:01AM

Trip Notes: Blue Grass Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Charles Town Classic, and more


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Distaff Handicap (race 9)

It’s Tricky dominated this on paper and she came through – but it wasn’t without a few anxious moments. As the 7-10 favorite she was asked for run early to hold her stalking position in 3rd, moved up to challenge the leaders into the lane, was pushed on by her rider and responded to edge away to win clear. In her defense, she was giving weight and this provides a nice launching pad for the spring and summer. C C’s Pal, making her first start since a sharp 3rd (beaten a neck) in the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie at Laurel Feb. 18, was last early and came with a nice run in the lane though by the time she arrived on the scene the winner was already gone. Dontbeshy I’ll Buy dueled early with Nicole H, and was no match for the winner into the lane or the runner-up in the final furlong. Nicole H, easy winner of this last year, was a bit disappointing as she dueled early with Dontbeshy I’ll Buy while inside, seemed ready to fight back when hooked by It’s Tricky into the lane but then gave way readily.

Jenny Wiley Stakes (race 8)

A classic example of how pace makes the race. Zagora and Aruna were the 2 heavy favorites here but Daisy Devine stole the show. Coming off 3 straight wins (all stakes, and her only 3 prior turf tries), she  went right out to the lead, was able to lollygag through dawdling splits (25.12, 50.78, 1:15.35) and basically led the field on a merry chase. This race does show she belongs in the big time and she may next be seen in the Grade 2 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on the Derby undercard May 5 – though if Marketing Mix shows up there this gal won’t get such a soft pace scenario. Bay to Bay and Tapitsfly, 2nd and 1st, respectively, in the Grade 3 Honey  Fox at Gulfstream March 18, both chased the winner from the start, tried to make a run at her into the lane and to the wire but couldn’t get to her. Zagora and Aruna sat back as is their custom, both well in hand, but with no pace at which to run they could make no impact.

Commonwealth Stakes (race 9)

Lonesome Street apparently benefitted from a vacation and surface switch from turf to Polytrack. He had been working in stellar fashion for this. He was last early, still last on the far turn, swung very wide into the lane and roared home, blasting past his rivals to win easily. Bergerac, a winner of his only synthetic start (which came here last fall) stalked the pace, looked the winner when he moved to the lead in midstretch but had no answer for the winner’s charge. Right On, a winner on synthetic in France in 2010 and making his first start since a 3rd in grass stakes at Aqueduct Nov. 19, moved to challenge for the lead by midstretch but flattened out. Plutonium and Comedero dueled early and both paid the price, giving way in the lane.

Shakertown Stakes (race 10)

The rail draw turned out fine for Perfect Officer. Making his first start since finishing 3rd in the Grade 2 BC Turf Sprint, he saved ground while biding his time, came off the rail for the stretch run and put in a strong rally to just get up and nip speedster Great Mills on the wire. He set a course record in the process. Great Mills bounced right out to a clear lead, looked long gone when still 3 lengths clear at the eighth pole but just got edged by the winner. Zeb lagged back and finished with good energy, though he was never a threat as this was a 2-horse race in the lane. Havelock, the favorite, sat well back, swung very wide into the lane and finished well. Chamberlain Bridge, a gallant old warrior, chased Great Mills early but tired from those efforts. At age 8 he might not be up to this caliber any longer.

Blue Grass Stakes (race 11)

Dullahan moved forward smartly in his 2nd start of the year and stamped himself a legit Ky. Derby contender. The son of Even the Score lagged well back early, was still far back turning for home but got a dream trip as a huge hole opened up between horses into the lane, he cruised through and finished smartly to easily roll past favorite and pacesetter Hansen. While this was nice it’s worth noting it came on synthetic, and he hasn’t flourished on dirt. Hansen wasn’t really asked for speed but his natural strong gallop carried him to the lead. He set a strong pace but was always traveling well, opened up a bit of room into the lane as if he might draw off but was no match for the winner late. It was a good try but he’ll be hooking other speed in the Derby. Gung Po, a longshot, stalked the pace while saving ground, moved up nicely on the turn to briefly challenge Hansen, couldn’t keep up with the top 2 in the lane but stayed on gamely for 3rd. Holy Candy, a highly hyped maiden winner from Southern California, was far back early and finished well but was never really a threat.

Charles Town
Charles Town Classic (race 12)

Caixa Eletronica was claimed 13 months ago by Todd Pletcher for $62,500 and since has been twice Grade 1-placed and won a Grade 3. He returned from a layoff to post career win No. 17, a Grade 2. Making his first start since fading to 6th in the Grade 2 General George at Laurel Feb. 20 (came out of that race with a lung infection) he stalked the pace, made his run into the lane, collared leader Duke of Mischief and had no trouble going past him and drawing off. Last year he ran 3rd in the Grade 1 Met Mile so it’s possible he’ll take another swing at that race May 28 at BEL. Duke of Mischief, the defending champ, was well back early, came with a charge on the far turn, swooped to the lead into the lane and looked the winner until. Mister Marti Grass was well back much of the way, still 9th into the lane and finished well though he wasn’t really a threat. Tackleberry, the favorite, stalked the pace, got shuffled back into the lane, made a bit of a run but couldn’t sustain it. Pants On Fire set the pace but gave way.

Oaklawn Park
Count Fleet Handicap (race 8)

Outta Tune continued his ascent and his love affair with this track as he notched his 4th straight. He dogged the favored mare Izzy Rules, engaged that foe on the turn, got the better of her and gamely rebuffed a challenge from Apriority. Apriority was last early, steadily advanced to the top of the lane, doggedly went after the winner but just couldn’t quite get there. Hamazing Destiny sat back and finished with good energy. Izzy Rules, facing boys for the first time, was made the 9-10 favorite. She bounced right out to the lead, was hounded by the winner and Silver Magnus going to the far turn, tried to battle back into the lane but gave way.

Oaklawn Park
Oaklawn Handicap (race 10)

Alternation saw his name shoot up the list of top handicap horses with a powerful victory, his 3rd in a row, over a very strong field. Of course, he couldn’t have drawn it up any better pace-wise. He went right out to a clear lead, was able to set very slow splits (48.30, 1:12.59) leaving him plenty in reserve, so despite being challenged into the lane he was able to kick clear again late. These 3 big wins have all come at Oaklawn, where  he’s now 5 for 6, so the question is will he be as good elsewhere. Ron the Greek, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, ran splendidly. He was well back and despite having no pace at which to run finished with good energy to get 2nd. Yawanna Twist stalked the winner from the start but couldn’t keep up. Hymn Book sat back but couldn’t make an impact. Nehro likewise had the race shape work completely against him as he sat back and couldn’t make a dent.

Oaklawn Park
Arkansas Derby (race 11)

Bodemeister put on a dazzling display and made a case that he should be the favorite for next month’s Kentucky Derby. The son of Empire Maker, coming off a strong 2nd to Creative Cause in the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita, went right to the lead, took some pressure from Stat, was able to clear off a bit going to the far turn and then just ran off and hid to win in a romp. His time was over a second faster than top elder Alternation ran the same distance about 20 minutes earlier. Secret Circle made it a Baffert exacta. He stalked in 3rd, tried to go after his stablemate into the lane, was no match for that foe but stayed on gamely to hold 2nd. Sabercat, so disappointing in his first run of the year when 8th in the Grade 2 Rebel, took a nice leap forward as he sat well back and finished well – though he was never on the winner’s radar. Optimizer, a strong 2nd to Secret Circle in the Grade 2 Rebel here March 17, failed to duplicate that run as he sat back and instead of producing a rally actually lost ground.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Beaumont (race 8)

Gypsy Robin provides yet another test case for the importance of speed and pace control. She went right out to the lead, was able to get away with murder up front (24.15, 49.10) and really didn’t have a nervous moment from midway down the backstretch as she bounded along in front for the easy win. Sacristy stalked the pace in 3rd after a slow start, tried to make a run at the winner into the lane but with the pace scenario she was trying in vain to catch a fresh horse. Livi Makenzie was just behind the winner from the start and came up empty when the lane.