Week of December 2, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

The 2013 racing season concluded with a host of graded stakes action over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, including a Grade 1 victory that may have solidified 3-year-old male honors for a most unlikely colt.

After three dreadful performances in the Triple Crown races, Will Take Charge put together a late season campaign that far surpassed his surviving peers, winning the Grade 1 Travers and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby before finishing just a nose back of Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. On Friday, he once again took on his elders, in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 1 Clark Handicap, and, as the field entered the stretch, it looked like Game on Dude was firmly in control and ready to rebound off his poor BC Classic showing. Alas, it was not to be for the gallant veteran as the chestnut half-brother of Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy made a final charge, nipping the favorite at the wire. It was another two lengths back to third-place finisher Easter Gift. If only by attrition, it appears likely the D. Wayne Lukas trainee will capture the 3-year-old male Eclipse award, as Kentucky Derby winner Orb, Preakness victor Oxbow and Belmont winner Palace Malice had uneven (or in Oxbow’s case, non-existent) fall campaigns.

In the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents was made the lukewarm 3-1 favorite, but despite being in contention early, faded to finish seventh in the 10-horse field. The clear winner: 7-year-old Flat Out who avoided the traffic issues (bumping and clipping heels) that others endured, including the gallant mare Groupie Doll who still finished a strong fourth despite checking severely entering the stretch. The unlikely Cigar runner-up, Grade 1 Vosburgh winner Private Zone, was the longest shot in the field, at 32-1. Obviously, the plan for him was to immediately go to the lead, setting a strong pace for stablemate Goldencents, but the confirmed sprinter nearly pulled off the upset, having been hampered by Clearly Now clipping heels with him and yet digging in to finish two lengths ahead of third-place finisher Verrazano.

We’ll continue tracking all 2013 Breeders’ Cup starters through the end of the year with daily updates. Among those of note this weekend, Last Gunfighter (Classic), Alpha (Dirt Mile) and Suns Out Guns Out (Marathon) clashed in the 1 1/4 miles Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup, where topweight Last Gunfighter outlasted local veteran Mister Marti Gras, with 30-1 longshot Street Spice getting third easily over Alpha. The only other graded stakes event for older horses, the 1 1/16 miles Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate Fields, was won in dominating front-running fashion by Summer Hit, in a final time (1:42.65) that was just a tick off the track record (1:42.15).

On the distaff side, the regally-bred Wine Princess (daughter of champions Ghostzapper and Azeri) captured the 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Falls City Handicap, successfully turning the table on favorite Don’t Tell Sophia who had defeated her in the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes last-out. The near-misses continued for Darley’s 5-year-old mare Centring, as she could not catch the unlikely 13-1 winner Royal Lahaina in the one-mile Grade 2 Go for Wand Handicap. Darley (actually, Godolphin) had better luck in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 3 Comely Stakes, as 3-year-old Wedding Toast continued her winning ways, defeating 32-1 longshot (?!) Toasting by just a head. Why Grade 1-placed Toasting went postward with such long odds—the longest in the field—is surprising, given that she hit the board in both of her prior efforts at this distance. It was over five lengths back to third-place finisher Teen Pauline, with Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks runner-up My Happy Face another 2 1/4 lengths back in fourth.

Hollywood Park’s three-day Turf Festival began with Friday’s running of the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Citation Handicap, and it was Breeders’ Cup Mile third-place finisher Silentio that was made the post-time favorite. The 4-year-old son of Silent Name didn’t disappoint, flying late to get up and win by a nose over Summer Front. Front-running Argentine-bred Winning Prize gamely finished three-quarters of a length back in third. On Saturday, juveniles took center stage, with the well-bred maiden winner Global View (Galileo) taking the Grade 3 Generous Stakes, while 12-1 longshot Full Ransom (Full Mandate) shocked the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes, with 8-1 Savings Account just a head back in second—and the favored Clenor fifth.

Sunday featured two Grade 1 turf events. A talented field of nine 3-year-olds, including Grade 1 Secretariat winner Admiral Kitten and two-time Grade 1-placed Jack Milton, went to post for the 1 1/4 miles Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, but it was the Euro invader Seek Again (Speightstown) who prevailed over two Kittens—Admiral Kitten and last-out Tropical Park Derby winner Amen Kitten, both owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Two races later, in the one-mile Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes, favorite Tiz Flirtatious ran out of room, flashing to the lead—but only well after the wire. Officially, it was the two grays—Egg Drop and Discreet Marq—that hit the wire first, with Mike Mitchell-trained Egg Drop nosing out Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks victress Discreet Marq, and last year’s Matriarch winner Better Lucky a half length back in third.

On the sprint side, beloved Woodbine veteran Essence Hit Man couldn’t hang on after setting blistering fractions in the 6-furlong Grade 2 Kennedy Road Stakes, and was defeated by 17-1 longshot Bear No Joke. The final time (1:08.63) was just a tick off of Essence Hit Man’s track record (1:08.16). Grade 1 Nearactic Stakes victor Phil’s Dream got up for third. Majestic Stride followed up his good fourth-place effort in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with a victory in the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park, while at Aqueduct, the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap was won by the New York-bred Palace, with Grade 1 Forego winner Strapping Groom holding on for second against 2012 BC Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy. The only graded sprint race for fillies and mares, the 7-furlong Grade 2 Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine, was upset by two local horses, 14-1 winner Part the Seas and 40-1 runner-up Mekong Delta—both daughters of Stormy Atlantic. Synthetic sensation Purely Hot, fearless runner-up to Groupie Doll in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Downs Masters, could only manage a fourth-place finish for her new connections, after selling for $225,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Keeneland sale earlier in November.

This time of year it’s usually the juveniles that most capture our attention, particularly considering their possible relevance on the Road to the Kentucky Derby (or Kentucky Oaks). Saturday’s all-juvenile card at Churchill Downs was all about the future, and among the more impressive winners was the filly Unbridled Forever (Unbridled’s Song), daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, who broke her maiden in dominating fashion in race 2, and first-time starter Gold Hawk (Empire Maker) who captured race 12—he’s a son of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Filly champion Caressing. In the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes, Claiborne Farm’s filly Vexed (Arch) defeated Marylou Whitney’s Bird Maker (Empire Maker), while Grade 2 Pocahontas runner-up Stonetastic (Mizzen Mast) gamely hung on for third. In the 1 1/16 miles Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, Grade 3-placed Tapiture (Tapit) finally broke his maiden, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Laddie Boy (War Pass) and Awesome Sky (Sky Mesa). At Aqueduct on Saturday, in the 1 1/8 miles Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes, runaway Grade 3 Tempted victress Stopchargingmaria survived more serious competition to prevail by a neck over Got Lucky (A.P. Indy)—a filly closely related to the dam of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver—and Penwith (Bernardini), a Darley filly whose dam Composure won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks. The final time for the Demoiselle (1:52.62) was slightly faster than for the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes (1:52.92) won by the regally-bred Shug McGaughey-trained colt Honor Code (A.P. Indy), who finished a nose in front of Grade 2 Nashua winner Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile), although it was third-place finisher Wicked Strong (Hard Spun) who perhaps most impressed.

If you are so inclined, keep up with the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks prep schedule here at Hello Race Fans, and, of course, don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly emails, the Derby Prep Alert (DPA), which also covers to Oaks prep races—they will start arriving in your mailbox in late February, and give you all the information you will need about the horses everyone’s talking about…and the underdogs who just might surprise.

May good fortune shine on you in the New Year! Happy Holidays, everyone!

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Fall Highweight Handicap Replay
Palace grinds out the win.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Vernon O. Underwood Handicap Replay
Majestic Stride becomes the first Breeders’ Cup starter to win next out.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Go For Wand Handicap Replay
Royal Lahaina with a royal upset.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Citation Handicap Replay
Silentio battles for the win.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Generous Stakes Replay
Global View wins with ease.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Demoiselle Stakes Replay
Stopchargingmaria guts out the win.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Comely Stakes Replay
Wedding Toast takes the field all the way.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Cigar Mile Replay
Flat Out prevails!

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Remsen Stakes Replay
Honor Code edges Cairo Prince.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Kennedy Road Stakes Replay
Bear No Jokes pulls a big upset.

Video courtesy of Woodbine

2013 Miesque Stakes Replay
Full Ransom rallies for the win.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Hollywood Derby Replay
Seek Again gets through on the rail for the score.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

2013 Matriarch Handicap Replay
Egg Drop noses out Discreet Marq

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Berkeley Handicap Chart
2013 Bessarabian Stakes Chart
2013 Cigar Mile Chart
2013 Clark Handicap Chart
2013 Comely Stakes Chart
2013 Demoiselle Stakes Chart
2013 Fall Highweight Handicap Chart
2013 Falls City Handicap Chart
2013 Fabulous Strike Handicap Chart
2013 Generous Stakes Chart
2013 Go For Wand Handicap Chart
2013 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap Chart
2013 Hollywood Derby Chart
2013 Kennedy Road Stakes Chart
2013 Matriarch Handicap Chart
2013 Miesque Stakes Chart
2013 Remsen Stakes Chart
2013 Vernon O. Underwood Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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