03/25/2013 9:44AM

Trip Notes: Spiral Stakes, Sunland Derby, and more

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aqueduct
Excelsior (race 9)

Last Gunfighter continues his ascent as he made it 5 straight wins and notched his first graded win with a fine performance here. The son of First Samurai didn’t show as much speed as usual, lagging well back as Mordi’s Miracle and Colizeo set brisk splits. He volleyed bumps early with Isn’t He Perfect, finally got clear, moved up eagerly while still under a hold turning for home, looked poised to burst clear but had to wait as Mordi’s Miracle swerved out a bit into his path, darted to the now-vacated rail, challenged Mordi’s Miracle, took over, drew clear and actually won geared down. Mordi’s Miracle dueled early with Colizeo while outside that foe, dispatched with that rival into the lane to grab the lead, shifted out in midstretch, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner, was no match for that foe but was much the best of the rest (5 1/2 lengths). Isn’t He Perfect bumped repeatedly early with the winner, was then content to sit last, was still there turning for home and then finished decently but was never a factor. Ruler on Ice, the 2011 Belmont Stakes winner coming off a smart return win here Jan. 30, sat midpack but never mustered a run.

Gulfstream
Pan American (race 10)

Just last week Bright Thought broke a world record for 1 1/2 miles that had stood for 23 years. Well, Bright Thought’s mark lasted all of a week as Twilight Eclipse posted a new mark at the distance with a dazzling performance. Coming off a so-so 4th in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida here Feb. 16, his first start in 3 months, he vaulted forward. He stalked the pace in 4th, moved closer going into the far turn while saving ground, surged past pacesetter Ioya Bigtime and drew clear to win easily. Nice as this was he still might night quite be ready for the likes of Point of Entry, Little Mike and Bright Thought. Ioya Bigtime pressed Teaks North through solid splits early, took over going into the backstretch, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner turning for home, was no match but stayed on nicely for 2nd. Newsdad, the defending champ making his first start in 5 months, lagged back, came with a threatening run into the lane but couldn’t sustain it. Teaks North set a solid pace under pressure and weakened.

Turfway
Bourbonette (race 9)

Silsita, with only a maiden win to her credit, did some damage to the Kentucky Oaks aspirations of a few gals here while buoying her own hopes as she posted the upset. In her first start on synthetic footing the daughter of 2-year-old champion Macho Uno dogged pacesetter Martha’s Moon, moved up to challenge for the lead with Marathon Lady turning for home and battled gamely to the wire. Marathon Lady, coming off a maiden win at Oaklawn, stalked the pace, moved up eagerly to challenge Silsita for the lead into the lane, battled gamely to the line but just came up a nostril short in a fine try. Pure Fun, the heavy favorite making her first start since taking the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Dec. 8, stalked midpack, loomed ominously turning for home but then hung and was no factor in the final furlong. It’s possible she needed the race, though the Starlet form hasn’t exactly held up too well.

Turfway
Spiral (race 10)

Black Onyx broke a bit slowly but had the speed to sit midpack. He pitched wide on the far turn, surged into contention, grabbed the lead and drew clear to win impressively. Uncaptured, making his first start of the year after a few setbacks, stalked the pace, tried to move with the winner but was no match for that foe while keeping to his task to get 2nd. He may well have needed this race, but if he wanted to be a Derby player he should have beaten these. Giant Finish pressed the pace, didn’t accelerate as quickly as his rivals turning for him to actually lose ground, but finally got going and plugged along for 3rd. My Name Is Michael, 3rd in the Grade 3 Sam Davis at Tampa and the favorite here, sat back but never made a move. Capo Bastone, part of the Pletcher armada, was well back after stumbling at the start and never got involved. At this stage he does not look like a Derby horse. General Election, who beat Giant Finish when winning the Battaglia here March 2, was last early and never made a move. Balance the Books lagged back, made a mild move on the turn but gave way in a dull run. Mac the Man, previously 3 for 3 here, set the pace under pressure but gave way badly and was eased. His trainer said he may be dealing with a foot issue.

Santa Anita
Tokyo City (race 7)

Sky Kingdom, a son of Grade 1 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, may have found his calling - going long - as he posted a mild upset here over some legitimate stayers. He dogged pacesetter Batti Man from the start through slow splits, took over from that rival turning for home and bounded clear to win pretty easily. The Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano April 21 at about 1 3/4 miles on grass, a surface he’s bred to love, may be next. Oilisblackgold sat a few lengths off the pace, came with a smart run turning for home, kept on well but was chasing a fresh horse and really had no chance while finishing well clear of the others (4 1/4 lengths). He came into this off a big optional claiming win so he’s in peak form. Richard’s Kid perked up some after a series of dull races as he lagged back and plugged along well for 3rd. He’s no longer able to compete at the highest level but this run shows there’s still some gas in the tank. Calidoscopio, so impressive winning the Grade 2 BC Marathon here in the fall and making his first start since after a series of setbacks, was last early and the pace picture worked against him as he was unable to get involved since the leaders went slow early and had plenty left for the final furlongs. It was revealed later he raced with a slight injury (grabbed quarter) suffered the day before. Dhaamer, 2nd in this last year, seemed in a great spot stalking the pace but gave way.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunland
Sunland Park Derby (race 11)

Governor Charlie, coming off a smart maiden win at Santa Anita for Bob Baffert, handled a step up in class, travel and a longer trip and thrust himself into the Kentucky Derby conversation with a smart win. He comfortably stalked in 3rd, moved up easily to challenge on the turn, took command and drew off to win with ease, setting a track record. The track was playing sizzlingly fast – 3 track records were set today. Govenor Charlie’s sire Midnight Lute had a big day as he also sired impressive Sunland Oaks winner Midnight Lucky. Show Some Magic was just behind the winner much of the way, didn’t accelerate as quickly but found his best stride in the lane and finished well. He was no danger at all to the winner but was clearly best of the rest. Abraham dueled on the lead with Saint Prado, was still there when Govenor Charlie made it a 3-way fight for the lead turning for home, was no match for that foe but stayed on decently. Shakin It Up, the more publicized of the two Baffert runners, showed no speed as he was last early, was still well back turning for home and made some headway late. He’s also by Midnight Lute but at this stage of the game he may be better suited to the one-turn game. Mudflat broke slowly, was wide all the way while well back and never mustered a run.

Santa Anita
Santa Ana (race 7)

Tiz Flirtatious, coming off a restricted stakes win after two fine 2nds in Grade 1’s, showed she truly fits with these as she posted a smart victory. She bided her time early toward the back, with only Lady of Shamrock behind her, commenced her run into the lane which gave her the first move on Lady of Shamrock and she finished strongly going past pacesetter Quiet Oasis to win well. Lady of Shamrock, making her first start since running a respectable 5th in the Grade 1 BC Filly & Mare Turf here Nov. 2, had no speed as usual, bided her time, was still last turning for home before finding her best stride, came with a smart run to get 2nd but wasn’t really a danger to the winner. It’s possible Lady of shamrock and Tiz Flirtatious will be rematched in the Grade 1 Gamely at Betfair Hollywood May 27. Quiet Oasis, making her first start since winning the Grade 2 Royal Heroine at Hollywood last July 7, set the pace taking pressure from Smarty B, finally dispatched with that foe into the lane, opened up a clear lead but couldn’t fend off the top 2.