02/06/2012 10:28AM

Trip Notes: Withers Stakes, Stub Stakes, San Antonio Stakes, and more

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Aqueduct
Toboggan (race 8)

Calibrachoa won this last year as part of a 4-race win streak that also included the Tom Fool, and he hinted with a fine title defense that he’s ready for another smart winter/spring. He stumbled at the start but recovered quickly to get good position chasing pacesetter Diski Dance. He bided his time chasing that rival, moved up easily when asked into the lane, went up to challenge, took over and drew off without really any anxious moments in the lane. He successfully defended this title and may try to do the same in the Grade 3 Tom Fool March 3. Diski Dance broke alertly, bounced right out to a clear lead, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner but couldn’t keep pace while gamely holding 2nd. Caixa Eletronica sat back, commenced a wide run on the far turn and finished well, though he was never a threat to his winning entrymate. Flat Bold sat back, made an early move to try to reach contention into the lane but fell away.

Aqueduct
Withers (race 9)

Alpha had no trouble reasserting his superiority among the New York 3-year-olds as the son of champion Bernardini dominated this. Sent off the heavy favorite he behaved in the gate (which hasn’t always been his policy), stalked the pace, moved up on his own power into the lane, took over and drew off to win easily. Nice as this was it still didn’t prove much as the quality of opposition was suspect. The Grade 3 Gotham March 3 and Grade 1 Wood April 7 are on his radar. Speightcity was right next to the winner much of the way, couldn’t accelerate with that rival but kept on well to get 2nd even if he didn’t really threaten the winner. Tiger Walk lagged back, was still last turning for home and finished with good energy, though he was never really a factor.

Tampa
Endeavor (race 10)

Zagora, a Grade 1 winner last year, showed she may be ready for a big 2012 as the classy mare had no troubles handling a nice field in her first start of the year. She stalked the in 3rd, moved out into the lane, was asked for run and just rolled on past to win going away. Her goal this year is the Grade 1 BC F&M Turf but this was just the first step. She may stay here for her next step, the Grade 3 Hillsborough March 10. Exclusive Love went right out to the lead, was able to set a slow pace, tried to battle back when hooked by the winner into the lane, was no match for that rival but stayed on well to be a clear 2nd. Keertana, a multiple Grade 3 winner (including over males) and 3rd in the 2010 Grade 1 BC F&M Turf, sat just behind the winner much of the way, couldn’t accelerate with that rival and basically finished evenly. Race was marred as Abuelo stalked the pace, gave way, then collapsed and died in the stretch.

Tampa
Sam F. Davis (race 11)

Battle Hardened, a maiden, apparently wasn’t out of place when entered in this Grade 3 race. He stalked the pace, swung out into the lane and came home strongly to win going away. He may stay here for his next step on the Triple Crown trail for the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby March 10. Prospective sat well back while racing wide and came home with good energy though he wasn’t really a threat to catch the winner. Reveron, a winner of 3 straight including the Gulfstream Park Derby, stalked the pace, moved to the lead into the lane, couldn’t finish with the winner and appeared to hang just a bit late, losing 2nd in the final strides. State of Play, making his first start on dirt after success on turf, following the model of stablemate Animal Kingdom, went out to set the pace but gave way once headed. Ecabroni, the mild favorite off a big maiden win last month, broke slowly and never got involved.

Santa Anita
Arcadia (race 3)

Mr. Commons confirmed he is indeed the top grass miler out West, but there were some anxious moments after the finish as he had to survive an inquiry. He sat well back off Dewey’s Special’s fast pace, bided his time, commenced his run into the lane, did shift in some in midstretch which caused Massone to steady, found room and surged through for the win. The Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Mile March 3 figures next. Willyconker raced near the winner throughout but whereas that foe saved ground moving through inside, this guy swung out to put in his rally. He closed smartly in a fine effort and looks to have become the real deal. Massone sat back, was coming with his run into the lane when he had to steady briefly behind the winner, got going again and finished well. The stewards ruled that trouble he suffered in the lane didn’t affect the finish - it looked like the right call. Pathfork, a Group 1 winner in Ireland making his U.S. debut, was eager early, chased the pace but weakened from those efforts. He may do better with this outing under his belt.

Santa Anita
Robert B. Lewis (race 6)

I’ll Have Another, Grade 2-placed at Del Mar last summer but making his first start since a dull 6th in the slop Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga Sept. 5 and then suffering sore shins, won as the longest shot in the race. He chased pacesetter Isn’t He Clever from the start, went after that rival into the lane, took over and drew off to win with authority, while there was trouble behind him. The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby April 7 is his goal. Empire Way was last early but steadily advanced and finished smartly up the inside. This brother to champion Royal Delta looks legitimate. Groovin’ Solo stalked the pace, came inward in midstretch and was judged to be the cause of favored Liaison then clipping his heels and losing his jockey, stayed on for 3rd but was DQ’d to 7th. Rousing Sermon lagged back but made only modest headway in a somewhat disappointing effort. Still, it was just his first start of the year so he may move forward next time. Of course, he’d better. Sky Kingdom, coming off a big allowance score here, sat back and never made a run. Liaison seemed a bit eager early, was up between horses, looked poised to at least make a run but then got sandwiched between horses when Groovin’ Solo shifted out, causing him to clip heels and lose his rider. Surely the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity winner can rebound. Some of these may have to come back in the Grade 2 San Felipe March 10 to reestablish themselves.

Santa Anita
Strub (race 8)

Ultimate Eagle laid claim as one of the favorite for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 3 (along with defending champ Game On Dude) with a devastating score. A winner of the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby and Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, both on grass, he was trying dirt for the first time. Well, he loved it. He went right out to contest the lead with Tapizar, held a short advantage down the backstretch, began to edge away on the far turn and then blew the race wide open with a powerful run through the lane to win in a romp. Jaycito, making his first start since last August, sat back, made an early run to get within reach of the lead going to the far turn, was no match for the winner but kept on well to be a clear 2nd. This sets him up well for a shot at the Big Cap. Prayer for Relief stalked the pace, was allowed to settle back a bit further and came with a steady run though he was never a factor. Tapizar, the heavy favorite off a huge Grade 2 San Fernando win, showed again he has trouble putting together big efforts. He was up next to Ultimate Eagle early but when that runner started to edge away he was asked for run and not only could he not keep up but he then gave way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Santa Anita
San Antonio (race 7)

Game On Dude had no trouble outclassing his rivals here, setting up a title defense and intriguing match-up vs. Ultimate Eagle in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap March 3. He got away slowly but his natural speed still carried him to contest the lead. He briefly dueled with Skipshot early, took over from that rival coming off the clubhouse turn, kicked clear going to the far turn and drew off to win with ease. A pretty nice way to come back after that tough-beat 2nd in the Grade 1 BC Classic last fall. Uh Oh Bango, the Grade 2 San Pasqual winner, validated his good run there as he bided his time and finished well to finish far clear of the others (12 1/4 lengths). Even so, the winner was simply in a different class. Victory Pete was last early and plugged along to get 3rd though he was never a factor. Skipshot and El Gran Malo both showed some speed but both gave way after chasing the winner to the top of the lane.