Week of March 25, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Records fell from coast to coast this weekend, on turf and dirt.

Bright Thought’s world record for going 1-1/2 miles on turf (2:22.72) lasted a mere six days. On Saturday, in Gulfstream’s Grade 2 Pan American, West Point Thoroughbreds’ top weight Twilight Eclipse stalked front-running Teaks North and Ioya Bigtime, and disposed of both in dramatic fashion to win by four lengths in 2:22.63. Ioya Bigtime held on for second, with post-time favorite (and last year’s winner) Newsdad finishing another one and half lengths back in third. For his next start, Twilight Eclipse may join the already star-studded field likely for the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

At Sunland Park on Sunday, the track maintenance crew had their dirt oval razor-sharp, resulting in three track records falling to the wayside. First, in the 6 1/2-furlong Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes, last year’s Sunland Derby runner-up Isn’t He Clever came roaring around the field and accelerated to win by nearly six lengths in 1:13.45. Two races later, it was Bob Baffert’s lightly-raced filly Midnight Lucky who blew away the 1-1/16 mile Sunland Park Oaks in 1:41.06. What made her victory so extraordinary is the ease with which she handled stretching out in distance for the first time—not to mention the fact that jockey Rafael Bejarano barely moved on her, as she cantered across the finish line eight lengths ahead of her nearest rival, Unusual Way. Island Fashion winner Countess Curlin ran third for Steve Asmussen, while Todd Pletcher’s Majestic River, after challenging Midnight Lucky early on, tired badly to finish next-to-last. Based on her performance, it’s hard not to consider Midnight Lucky one of the best American 3-year-olds of either gender currently racing on dirt.

One race later, it was her stablemate Govenor Charlie’s turn to impress, setting the day’s third track record, this time for 1-1/8 miles (1:47.54) in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby—and breaking a record that had lasted for over 50 years! Both Midnight Lucky and Govenor Charlie share something other than a trainer in common—both are foals from the first-crop of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Midnight Lute. Boy, isn’t he turning out some good horses? Before his Sunland Derby win, Govenor Charlie had only a maiden victory under his belt, but that was enough to make him the 6-5 post-time favorite. Stablemate Shakin It Up—also a son of Midnight Lute by a daughter of Silverbulletday—was the second-choice, but could only manage to finish fourth, one length behind Todd Pletcher’s maiden winner Abraham. At nearly 27-1, Show Some Magic gamely ran on for second, although it was five lengths behind the winner. Whether or not we see Govenor Charlie in the Kentucky Derby is not certain, according to owner Mike Pegram, who will reportedly leave the decision up to Baffert.

One horse that will be aimed for the Derby is Grade 3 Spiral winner Black Onyx; his connections paid $6,000 to supplement him to the Triple Crown races after he defeated 11 foes on Saturday at Turfway. While his final time for the 1-1/8 miles was pedestrian (1:51.98), Black Onyx impressed by holding off the challenge of highly-regarded Canadian-bred Uncaptured, winner of all but one of his seven previous starts. It was a length back to 23-1 third-place finisher Giant Finish, another colt made Triple Crown eligible late. After a nearly 4-month layoff, it’s understandable that Uncaptured wasn’t quite ready to fire first up; trainer Mark Casse will now aim him for the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland before taking a shot at the Derby.

Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet winner Pure Fun disappointed in her 2013 debut, finishing third in the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway after being made the 4-5 favorite. Jockey Garrett Gomez indicated she had problems handling the track and switching leads. Turf maiden winner Silsita obviously had no problems making the switch to Polytrack, gamely battling on to win by a nose over Marathon Lady. Grade 1-placed Broken Spell fleshed out the superfecta for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Older male routers highlighted Saturday’s racing at Aqueduct, with Chad Brown-trained Last Gunfighter capturing his fifth straight win, this time in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes going 1-1/8 miles. Surprisingly, he went off as third-choice, behind Todd Pletcher-trained allowance winner Mordi’s Miracle and Ruler on Ice, a horse that’s had real problems finding the winner circle since his 2011 Belmont Stakes victory. Things didn’t get any better for him, as he finished a distant fifth, more than 12 lengths behind the winner. Mordi’s Miracle finished second, over five lengths in front of third-place finisher Isn’t He Perfect, another veteran of the 2011 Triple Crown races.

Last year, Sky Kingdom made an abrupt exit from the Kentucky Derby trail in February; a son of Empire Maker, Sky Kingdom’s second dam is Grade 1-placed Weekend in Seattle, a full sister to A.P. Indy—a pedigree that put him on a number of Derby Top 10 lists including one by yours truly. On Saturday, he finally had the chance to prove his stamina-breeding, winning the 1-1/2 miles Grade 3 Tokyo City Cup by nearly 4 lengths. Admittedly, he didn’t beat much, as Jaycito and Richard’s Kid aren’t nearly the horses they once were, and last year’s narrow runner-up Dhaamer is really more of a turfster. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Calidoscopio was made the post-time favorite, but could only manage a fifth-place finish; it was subsequently learned that he had raced despite having incurred a minor training injury the day prior to the race—perhaps something, in a perfect world, bettors had a right to know before the race.

On Sunday, multiple Grade 1 winner Lady of Shamrock made her 2013 debut, finishing a length behind Tiz Flirtatious in the grassy Grade 2 Santa Ana Stakes at Santa Anita. Front-running Quiet Oasis faded to third. For the winner, the Grade 1 Gamely at Hollywood on May 27 is possible. Expect Lady of Shamrock to be better prepared next out.

It’s a busy week ahead for racing, especially for Derby and Oaks-bound horses, with major prep races at Fair Grounds and Gulfstream on Saturday including the Louisiana and Florida Derby races. Get ready for some early morning racing on Saturday too, as it’s Dubai World Cup Day! This year features a number of American runners, including Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Trinniberg in the Golden Shaheen, Breeders’ Cup Turf victor Little Mike in the Dubai Duty Free and an impressive trio of Grade 1 winners—Animal Kingdom, Dullahan and Royal Delta—in the $10 million Dubai World Cup. She may have finished a disappointing ninth last year, but Royal Delta is a much better, more mature mare—she could be the first to win the world’s richest horse race.

Speaking of beating up on males, how about that Black Caviar? This weekend, the 6-year-old Aussie mare won her 24th straight race, the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley. In doing so, she equaled Kingston Town’s record of 14 total Group 1 wins—and raised hopes that a return trip to Royal Ascot may still be in the cards, although this time she’d be aimed for the 5-furlong (1000 meters) King’s Stand rather than the 6-furlong (1200 meters) Diamond Jubilee which she barely won last year after being injured during the race. Some sources are reporting she may try both races, though—before a dream mating with Frankel.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Excelsior Replay
Last Gunfighter fights ’til the end.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Rushaway Stakes Replay
Crop Report lives up to the hype.

Video courtesy of Turfway Park

2013 Bourbonette Oaks Replay
Silsita wins the longshot photo finish by a nose.

Video courtesy of Turfway Park

2013 Spiral Stakes Replay
Black Onynx springs the upset.

Video courtesy of Turfway Park

2013 Pan American Stakes Replay
Twilight Eclipse makes it look easy.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Sunland Park Oaks Replay
Midnight Lucky gives Baffert his first domination at Sunland Park.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Sunland Derby Replay
And Govenor Charlie provides the second domination.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 William Reid Stakes Replay
Undefeated Black Caviar, “brutal power wrapped in an elegant machine” scores win number 24.

Video courtesy of TVN Racing Network

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Bourbonette Oaks Chart
2013 Excelsior Stakes Chart
2013 Pan American Stakes Chart
2013 Rushaway Stakes Chart
2013 Santa Ana Stakes Chart
2013 Spiral Stakes Chart
2013 Sunland Derby Chart
2013 Sunland Park Oaks Chart
2013 Tokyo City Cup Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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Charts and PPs provided by Brisnet