04/22/2013 11:04AM

Trip Notes: Lexington Stakes, Charles Town Classic, Illinois Derby, and more


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lexington Stakes (race 9)

Winning Cause continued his love affair with this track, as he made it three wins in as many starts here, notching his first graded stakes win and possibly earning a ticket to the Kentucky Derby. The $200,000 son of Giant’s Causeway sat in midpack while saving ground, remained there to the far turn, swung out to commence his run, and put in a sustained rally to get the job done. As nice as this was, if he goes to Churchill Downs for the Derby, he still figures to be a longshot. General Election was last early, still was last going down the backside, started a run into the lane, and finished well. Pick of the Litter stalked the pace and kept to his task decently, though he never really looked like the winner. Cerro dogged pacesetter River Rocks and took over into the lane but couldn’t keep up in the final furlong. Sunbean, the favorite, lagged back and never made a run. Pure Fun, the filly, sat well back and never got involved. She may simply have been overrated after winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in the fall.

Miami Mile Handicap (race 9)

Summer Front was good enough to get three straight Grade 1 assignments last summer and fall and handled himself well (two third-place finishes). His return at Gulfstream Park on March 3 was decent (ran third), and he moved forward nicely here with an impressive performance. From his rail draw, he bided his time while saving ground, angled out to start his run on the far turn, surged to the lead, and drew off to win nicely. He indicated last year he could be an important turf horse in 2013 and may well be ready to deliver on that promise, though the water will get a lot deeper with the likes of Wise Dan, Point of Entry, Data Link, Suggestive Boy, Jeranimo and Obviously waiting for him in those bigger races. El Commodore went right out to the lead, set a decent pace, tried to open up turning for home, and couldn’t match the winner late but stayed on well for second. Empire Builder chased El Commodore from the start and stayed on decently. Mucho Mas Macho was last early and still was last turning for home, when he swung out to make a run, but made minimal headway.

Illinois Derby (race 8)

Departing flattered the form of Revolutionary, as this son of War Front, third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby to that foe, proved a formidable favorite here. He bided his time, steadily advanced while staying wide, remained wide into the lane, and powered past his rivals to win impressively. That being said, he earned no Kentucky Derby qualifying points here, so he remains iffy for the big race. Fordubai, coming off a strong optional-claiming win here, sat in midpack, made a threatening run on the far turn, and couldn’t keep pace with the winner but persevered gamely to hold second. Siete de Oros, who chased Vyjack (twice) and Revolutionary in his last three starts in graded stakes at Aqueduct, was well back early and still was well back turning for home but finished with good energy. Abraham, third in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby, lagged back and made a smart run turning for home but couldn’t sustain it. Dewey Square, much ballyhooed last summer and fall, stalked in fourth but then gave way, so his Derby dreams have apparently been snuffed out.

Charles Town
Charles Town Classic (race 12)

Game On Dude, the overwhelming favorite, continued his superb season and continued to make his case that, along with Wise Dan, he’s the game’s top older horse on synthetic and dirt. He’s shown that that is particularly the case when he gets things the way he wants in terms of pace, as he did here. He used his speed to follow longshot Percussion from the start, bided his time in second, moved closer going to the clubhouse turn, dueled with Percussion the length of the backstretch, finally got rid of that foe going into the far turn, and was immediately challenged by Clubhouse Ride and Ron the Greek but gamely rebuffed those two to the line. This was really big considering that his rider said he was “slipping” all over the place on the track. He reportedly will return to California and campaign there as he readies for another crack at the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic in his sandbox, Santa Anita. Clubhouse Ride lagged back, surged into contention going to the far turn, and doggedly kept after the winner but just couldn’t get to him. Ron the Greek lagged back, came with a smart run to look very dangerous on the far turn, moved to the rail to continue his run, and kept after the winner but just couldn’t get to him and only narrowly missed second. Caixa Eletronica, the defending champ, seemed to be in a great spot stalking the pace just a couple lengths behind Game On Dude but then had nothing when the real racing began.

Santa Anita
Santa Barbara (race 4)

Lady of Shamrock confirmed that she’s likely the top grass distance distaffer out West, but she needed some help from the stewards to do so. The multiple Grade 1 winner was slow into stride and settled at the back of the pack, as is her custom, while Viva Carina set a very slow pace. She bided her time, started her run on the inside into the lane, and had to steady in deep stretch when Viva Carina drifted in, losing her momentum and finishing second. She was awarded the win because of that incident in the lane. Viva Carina went right out to set a dawdling pace and had plenty left turning for home but shifted inward, causing Lady of Shamrock to steady. She stayed on to finish first but got disqualified to second. It was the right call, though it was too bad, as she ran a winning race but for those antics. There may be a rematch in Betfair Hollywood Park’s Grade 1 Gamely on May 27. Caelis stalked in third but never really mustered a run. The Only Key was just behind Viva Carina much of the way but weakened.

Santa Anita
San Simeon (race 8)

Chips All In showed that he may indeed belong in the deeper end of the pool with regard to turf sprinters, as the son of Group 1 English Derby winner North Light posted a mild upset here. He bided his time in third while the favored Obviously set sizzling splits, doggedly went after that foe into the lane, and was just able to push past in the final yards. He can be effective at up to a mile, too, so the Grade 2 American Handicap at a mile at Betfair Hollywood Park on May 25 could be next. Obviously ran splendidly in his return. Making his first start since finishing a sharp third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile here in the fall (to Horse of the Year Wise Dan and Kentucky Derby/Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom), his speed was intact as he bounced out to a clear lead, set strong splits, and stayed on gamely but just couldn’t quite fend off the winner late. This should set him up well for the spring and summer, with his main goal likely the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood on June 29. He may get there via a rematch with Chips All In in the American. Chosen Miracle, coming off a smart win over the course, stalked in fourth from the start and tried to make a run through the lane but wasn’t good enough. Drill, trying turf, lagged back and did finish with good energy, though he never was really a threat.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ben Ali (race 8)

Another comeback for Successful Dan, and he showed he’s as good as ever with a convincing victory. He got away with murder up front, going right to the lead and setting dawdling splits. That left him with more than enough fuel in the tank to kick away on the far turn and keep the hard-trying Boisterous at bay. He might next go in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 15, but that would likely depend on plans for stablemate and Horse of the Year Wise Dan, who also could go in the Foster. Boisterous, trying synthetic for the first time, handled it quite nicely as he bided his time early, doggedly went after the winner in the lane, and while unable to get to that rival, was much the best of the rest (6 1/4 lengths). Richard’s Kid was just behind Boisterous much of the way and couldn’t keep pace with that foe in the lane but plugged along for third.

Santa Anita
San Juan Capistrano (race 7)

Interaction bounced back from a dull run (fourth) in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey, as he captured the meet’s closing-day fixture and showed again that for him, the longer, the better. But this sure wasn’t easy, as he won a desperate photo finish. He bided his time early, steadily moved closer, doggedly went after clear leader All Squared Away in the lane while angling to the rail, and just got up to win the photo. All Squared Away showed he’s the real deal as a stayer, as he ran third in the Grade 2 San Marcos, second in the San Luis Rey, and second again here. He stalked the pace in third, took over turning for home, and opened up as if he was the winner in midstretch but just got nipped by Interaction in the final strides. Smart Ellis pressed Sky Kingdom from the start and moved past that foe to challenge for the lead with All Squared Away turning for home but couldn’t keep up with that foe and couldn’t rally with Interaction. Sky Kingdom, the winner of the dirt marathon Grade 3 Tokyo City here last month and trying turf for the first time, set a modest pace, though he was under some pressure from Smart Ellis, and weakened once headed. In all likelihood, it’s back to dirt and synthetic after this.