Week of April 22, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

With less than two weeks now remaining before the Kentucky Derby, a relatively light weekend of racing featured a million dollar payday for Game on Dude—and the retirement of unbeaten superstar Black Caviar.

Racing fans knew it couldn’t last forever, but the announcement last week that Black Caviar would be retired was bittersweet, given that it came on heels of her 25th consecutive victory. After winning her 15th Group 1 race (the T.J. Smith Stakes) in typical dominating fashion, speculation began that her connections may attempt another of invasion of Royal Ascot, or even (dare to dream) a tilt at the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Alas, it was not to be, but at least from all accounts she is being retired completely sound and, with a career as a broodmare before her, we will hopefully be able to enjoy the exploits of her offspring for years to come.

As a gelding, 6-year-old Game on Dude doesn’t have a lucrative stud career in his future, which is all the better for racing fans, as he continues to thrill us on the track. This weekend he returned to Charles Town where, in 2011, he was outrun late over a sloppy track by Duke of Mischief, finishing second in the then-Grade 3 Charles Town Classic. Last year he skipped this race after a disappointing trip to Dubai, so it was with great anticipation that Mid-Atlantic fans welcomed him back to the East Coast this year, especially coming off three consecutive victories including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap last out. With a purse of $1.5 million—$1 million to the winner—how could his connections resist sending a healthy horse for this Grade 2 race? Made the 1-5 favorite in the six-horse field (Mordi’s Miracle was a pre-race scratch), top-weight Game on Dude sat just off front-running Percussion for much of the race before putting him away as they rounded the final turn. That’s when he was confronted by Clubhouse Ride and Ron the Greek, but the gutsy veteran was able to stave them off, even on a track he wasn’t entire comfortable on.

The weekend’s other major route race for older horses, the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, was won by 7-year-old Successful Dan. Making his first start since last June, the older half-brother of reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan was made the 4-5 favorite on Sunday and, allowed to set pedestrian fractions, held off second-choice Boisterous to win by one length. Veteran 8-year-old Richard’s Kid finished a distant third in the rather mediocre field of six.

Two Grade 3 events highlighted the weekend for older fillies and mares. At Keeneland on Friday, 6-5 favorite Mystical Star finished off the board in the 1-1/16 mile Doubledogdare Stakes, a race won by in wire-to-wire fashion by the Street Sense filly Ice Cream Silence. Rosie Napravnik was aboard her for the first time. Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Sisterhood was just a neck back in second, with her stablemate Artemus Kitten getting up for third. Perhaps even more disappointing than Mystical Star’s effort was that of Inglorious, the talented Canadian-bred whose last win came in the 2011 Queen’s Plate against males.

The 1-1/8 mile Grade 3 Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne went more according to plan, with Todd Pletcher’s Grade 1-placed Disposablepleasure chalking up her second consecutive victory, defeating second-choice Brushed by a Star by over three lengths. It was another six lengths back to third-place finisher Little Ms Protocol, a talented Louisiana-bred making her first start outside of the Pelican State.

Turf fans enjoyed graded action spanning quite an array of distances, ranging from the 6-1/2 furlong Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course to the 1-3/4 miles Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap. In the San Simeon, the post-time favorite was Irish-bred Obviously, making his first start since last year’s third-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile. After flying through along the rail early to the lead, he was caught late by hard-trying second-choice Chips All In, who won by a half length. At Calder, in the Grade 3 Miami Mile, front-running longshot El Commodore tried to steal the race, but was caught late by favored Summer Front who pulled away to win by 1-1/2 lengths. For recent Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale winner Mucho Mas Macho, it was his second consecutive disappointing start, as he finished out of the money in fifth place.

A small field of five fillies and mares went to post in the 1-1/4 miles Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap, including two-time Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock who was made the 1-5 favorite. The Argentine-bred Giant’s Causeway filly Viva Carina, who went to the early lead and set dawdling fractions throughout, actually crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified to second for inferring with Lady of Shamrock in the stretch. You can judge for yourself whether it was the right call—Bejarano on Lady of Shamrock attempted to pass Viva Carina on the inside when the leader drifted in, causing the favorite to check slightly rather than continue to muscle through.

No interference or disqualifications in the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano, but 6-5 favorite Sky Kingdom—an impressive winner in the 1-1/2 miles Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap on dirt last out—failed in his first turf attempt after leading early, finishing dead-last in the 6-horse field. Smart Ellis hung with him early, eventually passing him along with All Squared Away as they rounded the final turn. Whereas Smart Ellis eventually faded to third, All Squared Away was unable to withstand the driving finish of 7-year-old Argentine-bred Interaction who nosed him out for the win. Last year’s Grade 3 Lexington winner All Squared Away has had his ups-and-downs over the past 12 months, but seems to have found his niche on turf—and the longer, the better.

This year’s Lexington Stakes was won by Winning Cause, a Todd Pletcher trainee who broke his maiden over this Keeneland track last October. Here, he raced comfortably mid-field before swinging to the outside around the final turn and going to the lead. He stayed on for the win over late-closing 35-1 longshot General Election, a Harlan’s Holiday colt whose half-brother Ready’s Echo dead-heated for third with Anak Nakal in 2008’s forgettable Grade 1 Belmont Stakes won by Da’Tara. Dale Romans-trained Pick of the Litter finished a neck back in third, outlasting the game Cerro by a neck. Attempting to earn enough points to make the Kentucky Oaks field, the filly Pure Fun had no luck, finishing seventh of ten. With 20 points earned from his winning effort, Winning Cause may have enough points to make the Kentucky Derby field—giving Pletcher his sixth entry in the field—but the mega-trainer was non-committal after the race about the possibility.

One horse that will definitely not be in the Derby starting gate is Departing, third-place finisher in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby behind Revolutionary and Mylute—and winner of this weekend’s Grade 3 Illinois Derby. That’s because Churchill Downs’ newly-instituted Derby points system deliberately (and perhaps vindictively) left out the Illinois Derby, a race that while in recent years hasn’t produced significant Derby contenders has given us in the past decade the likes of Derby-Preakness winner War Emblem, Travers winner Ten Most Wanted, Preakness runner-up Sweetnorthernsaint and Derby third-place finisher Musket Man. With his impressive victory on Saturday, the well-bred Departing should be a fresh force to be reckoned with in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes in four weeks’ time.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Appalachian Stakes Replay
Unbelievable Dream closes from the back of the pack.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Doubledogdare Stakes Replay
Ice Cream Silence with a front-running win.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Giant’s Causeway Stakes Replay
Sweet Cassiopeia digs in for the win.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Lexington Stakes Replay
Winning Cause lives up to his name.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Illinois Derby Replay
Departing runs away from the field.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Charles Town Classic Replay
Game on Dude guts it out.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Ben Ali Stakes Replay
Successful Dan leads all the way.

Video courtesy of Keeneland

2013 Road Princess Stakes Replay
Kauai Katie takes them all the way

Video courtesy of Partymanners

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Appalachian Stakes Chart
2013 Ben Ali Stakes Chart
2013 Charles Town Classic Chart
2013 Doubledogdare Stakes Chart
2013 Lexington Stakes Chart
2013 Illinois Derby Chart
2013 Miami Mile Handicap Chart
2013 Road Princess Stakes Chart
2013 San Juan Capistrano Handicap Chart
2013 San Simeon Stakes Chart
2013 Santa Barbara Handicap Chart
2013 Sixty Sails Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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