Week of May 20, 2013
By Valerie Grash, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor

Oxbow’s upset victory in the Preakness leaves us bereft of a Triple Crown winner yet again, but with familiar names in the winner’s circle, a sense of nostalgia reigned supreme this weekend.

It wasn’t the result that many had hoped for. With a much-respected Hall of Fame trainer and legendary owners, Orb was a sentimental choice to break the 35-year Triple Crown drought. Alas, the stars did not align for the son of Malibu Moon as the 3-5 favorite never looked comfortable on the Pimlico track and finished a rather dull (and distant) fourth, 9 lengths behind the winner, Oxbow. Sent off at odds of 15-1, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee grabbed the early lead and, under the wily guidance of veteran jockey Gary Stevens, set moderate fractions which no one sought to challenge—much to their disadvantage. Only the late-running Mylute was able to close on the high-cruising Oxbow, finishing third, just a half-length behind the runner-up Itsmyluckyday who looked to make a bold move as they entered the stretch, only to flatten out and finish nearly 2 lengths behind Oxbow.

Owned by Calumet Farm, Oxbow didn’t garner much respect off his inconsistent efforts this year, but he is extremely well-bred. A son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again, Oxbow is out of an unraced full sister of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic victor Tiznow; another full sister is the dam of last year’s Belmont Stakes runner-up Paynter, another Awesome Again colt who then won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational before being sidelined by a serious bout with colitis and laminitis. Miraculously, Paynter has recovered and has posted a series of eight steady workouts in anticipation of returning to the races, specifically the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

For Oxbow, a run in the Belmont Stakes next appears likely. There, he’ll likely take on Orb again, and possibly stablemate Will Take Charge, as well as some who skipped the second jewel of the Triple Crown—Derby runner-up Golden Soul, third-place finisher Revolutionary and Peter Pan winner Freedom Child. In addition to Revolutionary, trainer Todd Pletcher is considering a number of his runners for the Belmont, most notably Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze and Blue Grass runner-up Palace Malice. He’s also strongly considering entering a filly, Unlimited Budget who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks.

Oxbow’s Preakness win wasn’t the only surprise Stevens and Lukas sprung on Saturday. One race prior to the headline event, the two likewise combined on Calumet’s 24-1 longshot Skyring who led the Grade 2 Dixie Stakes victory on a merry chase, winning in wire-to-wire fashion over Willcox Inn and Skyring’s more highly-regarded stablemate Optimizer. If you were lucky enough to play the “Hall of Fame” daily double, your $2 investment returned a whopping $557.40.

Saturday’s other graded stakes at Pimlico included the grassy Grade 3 Gallorette Handicap, also won in wire-to-wire fashion by Chad Brown-trained Pianist under the guidance of jockey Mike Smith. Her stablemate Samitar, who went off as the odds-on favorite, finished fourth behind runner-up Hard Not to Like and third-place finisher Appealing Cat. Chad Brown also saddled the winner of the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff, Summer Applause who was reunited with jockey John Velazquez; the duo had previously captured the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap. On Friday, Brown’s Last Gunfighter continued his 6-race win streak dating back to his maiden win last October, winning the Grade 3 Pimlico Special by 4 lengths over 7-year-old Maryland legend Eighttofasttocatch; it was another 9 lengths back to 8-year-old Richard’s Kid. Given the rich history of this race—with winners including War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Twilight Tear, Assault, Citation, Cigar, Skip Away, Real Quiet and Invasor—this year’s contest was a crushing disappointment, with a field of has-beens and never-was horses. Time for another downgrade, to non-graded status, me thinks.

Making his first start in over 6 months, Sage Valley won the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap over Hardened Wildcat; D. Wayne Lukas’ Laurie’s Rocket settled for third, the same position he ran last-out on the Kentucky Derby undercard, in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes. Interestingly, the final time for the Maryland Sprint (1:10.51) was just a tick faster than the time posted by 3-year-old Zee Bros (1:10.72) in the non-graded Chick Lang Stakes earlier on the Preakness card. The son of Brother Derek led before fading to sixth in the one-mile Grade 3 Derby Trial last-out, so it appears his future is definitely in sprinting. Sage Valley also wasn’t the only son of Discreet Cat to win a stakes race at Pimlico on Saturday—2-year-old Debt Ceiling followed up his maiden win at Laurel with a victory in the 5-furlong Rollicking Stakes. Last seen winning a maiden $40,000 claimer, Silvertonguedtommy (Street Boss) took the early lead, but succumbed to Debt Ceiling’s late charge and finished second. New Zone, a Wilko filly trained by John Salzman, Sr. who also guided the career of the legendary Xtra Heat, finished nicely, gaining third by a neck over another filly, Wesley Ward-trained Sweet Emma Rose (City Zip) who was the post-time favorite.

The fillies took center stage on Friday at Pimlico, with the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan being captured by Fifyshadesofhay, a result that certainly flattered the form of Kentucky Oaks runner-up Beholder. The Bob Baffert trainee did not go off as the post-time favorite, however. That honor went to Bill Mott-trained Emollient, devastating winner of the Grade 1 Ashland most recently. That first-attempt Polytrack win, combined with her previous poor effort in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks, should have sent up red flags to handicappers—after initially stumbling at the break, she moved into contention before tiring in the stretch, finishing 21-1/2 lengths behind the winner. Lightly-regarded Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks runner-up Marathon Lady took the lead briefly from Grade 1 Frizette-placed Toasting before both were passed by the winner.

Two non-graded stakes races of note took place on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard. In the Skipat Stakes, Dance to Bristol followed up her awesome 9-length victory in Charles Town’s Sugar Maple Stakes with another tremendous win. It’s notable that the filly she beat in the Sugar Maple, Holiday Soiree, next out ran third in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff—finishing less than 2 lengths behind the winner, Aubby K. To suggest that Dance to Bristol’s connections should perhaps high a little higher with their filly is an understatement. The other notable contest was the 5-furlong Jim McKay Turf Sprint where 7-year-old Maryland legend Ben’s Cat continued his winning ways—his 21st victory in 31 starts, to be precise. According to his 81-year-old trainer King Leatherbury, his next appearance will be in the June 1 Pennsylvania Governor’s Cup at Penn National, most likely followed by a tilt at the Grade 3 Turf Monster Handicap at Parx on Labor Day, September 2.

Elsewhere this weekend, favored Za Approval got up late to win the Grade 3 Red Bank Stakes over Monmouth stalwart Tune Me In. Longshot Open Water shocked post-time favorite Lady of Fifty in winning the Grade 2 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap at Hollywood. She may have made 9 attempts before breaking her maiden, but since then 4-year-old filly Glorious View has been on fire—she padded her resume by capturing the Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap in gutsy wire-to-wire fashion. Recent Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie runner-up Fantasy of Flight mounted a strong attack, but was repelled by her rival and had to settle for second. Last-out Grade 2 Ruffian winner Withgreatpleasure wasted her energy pre-race, fractiously breaking through the gate before being reloaded; she belatedly ran on for third.

As a prep for the June 9 Woodbine Oaks, Sunday’s Grade 3 Selene Stakes was suppose to belong to Nipissing, a Niigon filly undefeated at Woodbine last year who had posted a disappointing sixth-place effort in the Grade 1 Ashland in her 2013 debut. Alas, it was not to be, as the second-choice Coffee Clique—notably carrying 7 pounds less weight—roared to the lead as they entered the stretch, defeating runner-up Nipissing by 4 lengths. Recent Grade 3 Appalachian runner-up Overheard finished third, with the once-highly regarded Spring Venture in fourth.

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

Last Week’s Races

2013 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Replay
Fifytyshadesofhay stalkes the pace and gets it done.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Pimlico Special Replay
The Last Gunfighter draws clear.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes Replay
Summer Applause for the win.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Gallorette Handicap Replay
Pianist takes them all the way.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Maryland Sprint Handicap Replay
The wide post does not hinder Sage Valley.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Dixie Stakes Replay
Sky Ring put it all together for the upset.

This video must be viewed at YouTube

2013 Preakness Stakes Replay
Oxbow takes them all the way.

Video courtesy of Partymanners

2013 Vagrancy Handicap Replay
Glorious View resolute in the stretch.

Video courtesy of NYRA

2013 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap Replay
Open Water sails home.

Video courtesy of Hollywood Park

Download Brisnet.com Results Charts
2013 Allaire duPont Distaff Stakes Chart
2013 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Chart
2013 Dixie Stakes Chart
2013 Gallorette Handicap Chart
2013 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap Chart
2013 Maryland Sprint Handicap Chart
2013 Pimlico Special Chart
2013 Preakness Stakes Chart
2013 Red Bank Stakes Chart
2013 Selene Stakes Chart
2013 Vagrancy Handicap Chart

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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