Week of April 15, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The mighty Black Caviar continued her winning ways, chalking up her 25th straight victory—dare we dream she makes an appearance at the Breeders’ Cup in November?

After destroying yet another Group 1 field in the T.J. Smith Stakes at Royal Randwick in Sydney on Saturday, Australian supermare Black Caviar’s plans are still fluid, but we may know this week if she continues an Australian campaign, returns to Royal Ascot (and a possible date with Frankel in the breeding shed), or makes an appearance at Santa Anita for the Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint where she could meet defending champion Mizdirection.

Unbeaten in three starts this year, Mizdirection didn’t have it easy in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas on Saturday, but ultimately got past her stablemate Schiaparelli for the win. Next up: the 1-mile Grade 1 Just a Game on June 8. Mizdirection wasn’t the only Breeders’ Cup champion to find the winner’s circle this weekend. On Friday, BC Turf victor (and 2012 Horse of the Year) Wise Dan successfully began his 2013 campaign, winning the Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland—although he did appear a little tired in the effort. Last year’s Maker’s Mile winner Data Link came on strong from last place, but couldn’t get by Wise Dan, finishing a length back in second. It was another two lengths back to California-based Mr. Commons, a nice turf miler who hasn’t won a race in over a year. Overall, this wasn’t the toughest field of four other competitors that Wise Dan faced, so he’s got a lot to prove this year. His connections have indicated that, although he is nominated for it, the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Derby Day is out; instead, he may switch back to dirt and defend his title in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15.

That’s probably not a bad idea considering how uninspiring the dirt handicap division has proven to be thus far. Case in point: Saturday’s Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap where Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Fort Larned failed to hit the board as the odds-on favorite, finishing a distant fifth behind Arkansas-based Cyber Secret, last-out winner of the Grade 3 Razorback. The 4-year-old Broken Vow colt was nearly six lengths ahead of second-place Taptowne, a Tapit gelding whose greatest previous effort was a victory in the 2012 Cryptoclearance Stakes at Hawthorne—in other words, a worthy 28-1 longshot. Also finishing in front of Fort Larned were Sabercat (who finished nearly 10 lengths behind Bodemeister in last year’s Arkansas Derby) and Optimizer, an English Channel colt that trainer D. Wayne Lukas continues to try on dirt even though he’s proven to be far better on turf.

Fortunately, the distaffers provided us with a bit more entertainment. For Friday’s Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap, horseplayers made Grace Hall the even-money favorite even after her distant 8-1/2 length third-place finish behind Royal Delta in the Grade 3 Sabin in February. Once again, she disappointed, finishing dead-last after making a challenge around the final turn and then fading in the stretch. The wire-to-wire winner was On Fire Baby, the brilliant Smoke Glacken filly who hasn’t been seen on the track since last May’s Grade 1 Acorn. What a return it was, as she held off late-closing Grade 3 Azeri victress Tiz Miz Sue by a half-length. Azeri runner-up Don’t Tell Sophia was another four lengths back in third, just a neck in front of last-out Grade 2 Top Flight winner Summer Applause.

The weekend’s only Grade 1 turf event, the Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, went to Centre Court, a 4-year-old Smart Strike filly that has yet to finish worse than second in 10 turf starts. The 8-5 favorite caught front-running Daisy Devine in the final furlong to win by two lengths; it was another 1-3/4 lengths back to Grade 2 Honey Fox runner-up Samitar in third, while 2012 Grade 1 Matriarch winner Better Lucky made her 2013 debut finishing fourth. We’re likely to see many of these fillies in the Grade 1 Just a Game on June 8, including Centre Court.

The last major Kentucky Oaks prep race, the Grade 3 Fantasy Stakes was contested mid-week, with impressive Grade 3 Honeybee winner Rose to Gold happily splashing to victory in the slop. With a total of 164 points earned, she’s tied with Beholder atop the Kentucky Oaks points leaderboard, and thus guaranteed a starting spot. As a “wild card” race, the 7-furlong Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland on Sunday offered 20 points to its winner, but Ciao Bella Luna will need to be supplemented to the Oaks, something unlikely given her predilection for sprinting, not routing.

The final two major Kentucky Derby preps were this weekend, and both turned out to be event-filled races. In the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, lightly-raced 9-5 favorite War Academy was pulled up on the backstretch by cautious jockey Mike Smith after taking a series of awkward steps. While Grade 3 Sam F. Davis victor Falling Sky held the lead for much of the race, he gave way in the stretch, finishing fourth. The clear winner, Overanalyze, redeemed himself for a poor 2013 debut in the Grade 3 Gotham, with new rider Rafael Bejarano replacing the injured John Velazquez. It was nearly five lengths back to Frac Daddy, second in last November’s Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill, but an utter disappointment in his two previous starts this year—the Grade 3 Holy Bull and Grade 1 Florida Derby, which he lost by a combined 35 lengths. Third-place finisher Carve came up the rail to get third; his last effort was a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Rebel, where he was nine lengths behind the winner Will Take Charge. As visually dominating as Overanalyze’s victory appeared, it was against a relatively weak bunch of contenders and in a slow time (1:51.94). He’ll have to do a lot better in three weeks.

The Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes was not quite as slow (1:50.27), surprising given that it was contested over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface. Undrafted, a Purim gelding owned by former New England Patriots (and now Denver Broncos) wide receiver Wes Welker, contested the early lead with post-time favorite Rydilluc, but it was Todd Pletcher-trained Palace Malice who appeared to win the battle as they neared the wire. That is until Java’s War made his move, rallying from dead-last in the field of 14 to catch Palace Malice at the wire and winning by a neck. Turfster Charming Kitten got up for third, while Rydilluc held on for fourth. It was a mesmerizing performance by Java’s War, a War Pass colt who is bred to run all day—his dam’s half-brother is a French Group 2 winner at 12-furlongs, and finished third (just 1-1/2 lengths back) in the 16-furlong (2-mile) Group 3 Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in 1998. Another full-sister to Java War‘s dam Java, Fiji captured two 10-furlong Grade 1 turf events (the Yellow Ribbon and Santa Barbara Handicap) en route to her 1998 Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Female. Considering his runner-up performance behind Verrazano in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby, Java’s War could be a dangerous late-running threat at Churchill if he continues on his present trajectory.

While it may be easy to dismiss the Blue Grass’s importance as a Derby prep simply because it is on synthetic, that’s not a really a good idea. Consider Derby winner Street Sense’s runner-up effort here in 2007, not to mention Derby third-place finisher Paddy O’Prado’s runner-up Blue Grass finish in 2010, and Dullahan repeating his stablemate’s third-place Derby finish last year after winning the Blue Grass—a wise handicapper will look beyond the synthetic angle to find Derby value.

Finally, we couldn’t let this weekend’s action pass without commenting on what has become a viral sensation—a lowly $20,000 maiden claimer race at Pimlico on Saturday that featured some of the finest riding you will ever see, by jockey Xavier Perez. We’ve posted the video below, but here’s how the Equibase chart caller saw it:

“SPICER CUB assumed the early lead, set the pace slightly off the rail, bolted midway on the far turn, was in third position entering the stretch, was straightened at the head of the stretch to be in the six path, regained a clear lead in upper stretch, bolted inside the three sixteenths pole causing his rider to lose his iron, raced between the parked starting gate and the outside rail in midstretch, closed determinedly under game urging and just missed.”

Keep up with all the racing commentary and news at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

2013 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes Replay
Horse of the Year Wise Dan kicks off 2013 with a win.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Apple Blossom Handicap Replay
On Fire Baby returns with an emphatic win.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Distaff Handicap Replay
Cluster of Stars concedes the lead and still comes back to win.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Commonweath Stakes Replay
Handsome Mike wears down Gantry for the win.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Shakertown Stakes Replay
Havelock wins the exciting blanket finish.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Madison Stakes Replay
Last Full Measure gets up in the wire.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Jenny Wiley Stakes Replay
Centre Court denies Daisy Devine.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Blue Grass Stakes Replay
Java’s War walks out of the gate and comes running late.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Arkansas Derby Replay
Overanalyze makes it look easy.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Oaklawn Handicap Replay
Cyber Secret duels and wins.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Beaumont Stakes Replay
Ciao Bella Luna runs down Magical Moon for the lunar exacta!

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 TJ Smith Stakes Replay
Black Caviar, 25-0!

This video must be viewed at YouTube

Spicer Cub Replay
Spicer Cub produces one of the craziest races you may ever see.

Video courtesy of Maryland Racing

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Apple Blossom Handicap Chart
2013 Arkansas Derby Chart
2013 Beaumont Stakes Chart
2013 Blue Grass Stakes Chart
2013 Commonwealth Stakes Chart
2013 Count Fleet Stakes Chart
2013 Distaff Handicap Chart
2013 Jenny Wiley Stakes Chart
2013 Las Cienengas Stakes Chart
2013 Madison Stakes Chart
2013 Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes Chart
2013 Oaklawn Handicap Chart
2013 Shakertown Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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