Week of February 18, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

On opposite sides of the globe, two superstar mares made victorious returns to the track, and now seek even greater glory in the coming year.

In Australia, Black Caviar set a new course record and extended her career win streak to 23 races, capturing her namesake Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning Stakes at Flemington. Injured during her successful conquest of Royal Ascot nearly eight months ago, the great mare looked incredibly fit in her dominating victory. On February 21, she will become only the second horse to be inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame while still racing, but her career appears far from over. Trainer Peter Moody has indicated two possible next starts, both Group 1 events: the prestigious Newmarket Handicap on March 9 (for which she could be assigned nearly 136 pounds), or the March 22 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley. While a return to Royal Ascot doesn’t seem likely, at least in the British press they are holding out hope that a potential breeding match with Frankel will be enough to tempt her connections.

On Sunday, jockey Mike Smith barely had to move on American champion older mare Royal Delta as she easily won the Grade 3 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream. Next up: an encore appearance against males in the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 30. She does appear stronger than last year when she unsuccessfully prepped in the Sabin, finishing a distant second behind Awesome Maria. Still, this isn’t a mare that’s regularly tested open company, and the Tapeta surface at Meydan isn’t exactly the same as the good old dirt tracks Royal Delta favors. How she’ll do in the world’s richest race depends as much on her competition as on her own preparation, but, at least in regards to the latter, trainer Bill Mott appears to have everything under control.

In the weekend’s other major route race for fillies and mares, jockey Gary Stevens continued his amazing comeback from retirement, winning the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes in wire-to-wire fashion with Brazilian-bred longshot Great Hot. A sprinter-type, Great Hot had not won a race since Keeneland’s 2011 Grade 2 Raven Run Stakes (where she just beat out Groupie Doll); the addition of blinkers and Stevens’ decision to send her to the early lead proved enough to hang on against the likes of Book Review and Lady of Fifty. The Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes on March 16 is Great Hot’s next target.

The sole graded event for sprinters this weekend was the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel, where post-time favorite My Wandy’s Girl (Grade 1-placed in her last race, the 9-fulong Gazelle Handicap) and sentimental favorite Nicole H proved to be no match for the upstart Funnys Approval. At odds of nearly 22-1, the first-time stakes starter paid a whopping $45.80 for the win under regular rider Juan Vargas. A proven affinity for muddy tracks should have clued bettors in on her potential, but who knew that when the more accomplished runners came up to her around the final turn that she had the guts to fight back? An impressive, feel-good victory for an underdog—what’s not to like about that?

Rain-affected turf proved to be much to the liking of Starformer on Saturday, as the Bill Mott-trained Dynaformer mare easily captured the Grade 3 Very One Stakes at Gulfstream. Two races later, Mott also won the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes with Irish-bred Amira’s Prince, capping an outstanding weekend for the Hall of Fame trainer. It was also a good weekend for Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado who is clicking at a 20% win rate thus far in 2013. In addition to his Very One victory on Starformer, Prado also finished second in the Mac Diarmida on Teaks North and, on Sunday, guided Grade 3-placed Manuka Honey to her maiden victory for trainer John Terranova II.

Terranova also enjoyed a Grade 3 victory on Saturday, as last-out Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Stakes winner Swift Warrior captured the grassy Tampa Bay Stakes. 2011 winner Doubles Partner could only manage a second-place dead-heat finish with longshot outsider Alley Oop Oop, while highly-regarded Tiz Sardonic Joe ran into traffic problems and finished fifth. It was disappointing that Big Blue Kitten was among those scratched before post-time.

The Kentucky Derby Championship Series officially gets underway next weekend, with 50-20-10-5 points available in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds and in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, both to be run on Saturday, February 23. This weekend, Golden Gate’s Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby offered a modest 10 points for the winner in his quest for Derby glory, and those were awarded to Dice Flavor, a Scat Daddy colt who is not (so far) Triple Crown nominated. He is, however, a half-brother to Tampa Bay Stakes victor Swift Warrior which does seem to indicate that a turf or synthetic career appears most likely for him. The more highly-thought of starters, including Bob Baffert’s stakes-winning duo of Carving and Manando proved disappointing, finishing fourth and dead-last respectively. So too did the top two finishers from the California Derby, Zeewat and Wildcat Moon, finishing fifth and sixth. Bottom line: it’s unlikely any serious Derby horse made an appearance in this race.

While not an official Derby prep race (but significantly better in terms of quality runners), the 7-furlong Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday did showcase the talents of Bob Baffert’s well-bred Shakin It Up. Jockey David Flores waited patiently before moving on him late in the stretch as he burst through for an impressive win over Triple Crown nominees Treasury Bill, War Academy, Mudflat and Belvin. Shakin It Up becomes the first graded stakes winner for his sire Midnight Lute, who was also trained by Baffert. Why should we consider a son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute a legitimate Derby contender? Well, when your unraced dam is the daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner Silverbulletday, a Hall of Fame mare who also won the 10-furlong Grade 1 Alabama Stakes, there’s every indication the required stamina may be present. The Lemon Drop Kid colt Treasury Bill also looks promising, as his dam Wow Me Free counts the 10-furlong Ladies Handicap among her victories. While no target has been announced for Shakin It Up, trainer Ron Ellis says Treasury Bill will be headed for the March 16 Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

A couple other 3-year-old maiden winners of note on that San Vicente card: Kid Dreams (Lemon Drop Kid) isn’t Triple Crown nominated, but it’s worth noting that his half-brother Elysium Fields finished second in the 2008 Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, while a full-brother Dreamy Kid captured the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes going 9 furlongs. Triple Crown nominated Govenor Charlie broke his maiden going 1 mile; he’s also a son of Midnight Lute, out of another unraced daughter of Silverbulletday.

Midnight Lute also had a maiden winner at Gulfstream on Saturday, as Midnight Aria victoriously traversed a sloppy track in a 1-1/8 mile maiden special weight race taken off the turf. No, he’s not related to Silverbulletday, but his half-brother Wanna Runner did win both the Grade 3 Lone Star and the WinStar Derby. Todd Pletcher had two impressive 3-year-old winners on that Gulfstream card, with Abraham (Distorted Humor) breaking his maiden in a 1-1/8 mile dirt contest, and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile third-place finisher Capo Bastone (Street Boss) beginning his 2013 campaign with an allowance optional claiming win.

Check back later for today’s Brisnet.com results charts!

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Last Week’s Races

2013 Very One Stakes Replay
Starformer is the very one.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Capo Bastone Allowance Race Replay
Capo Bastone makes his first start for Todd Pletcher a winning one.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Mac Diarmida Stakes Replay
Amira’s Prince makes it’s three for three in the U.S.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 El Camino Real Derby Replay
Dice Flavor rolls an exciting upset.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Barbara Fritchie Handicap Replay
Funnys Approval takes them all the way for the upset.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Sabin Stakes Replay
Royal Delta swans home with ease.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 General George Handicap Replay
Javarre puts in a stocks and pounces

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Southwest Stakes Replay
Super Ninety Nine stretches out with ease.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Black Caviar Lightening Stakes Replay
Black Caviar sets a new track record in her 23rd straight win.

Video courtesy of TVN Racing Network

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Barbara Fritchie Handicap Chart
2013 Buena Vista Handicap Chart New
2013 El Camino Real Derby Chart
2013 General George Handicap Chart New
2013 Mac Diarmida Stakes Chart
2013 Sabin Stakes Chart
2013 San Vicente Stakes Chart
2013 Santa Maria Stakes Chart
2013 Southwest Stakes Chart New
2013 Tampa Bay Stakes Chart
2013 Very One Stakes Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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