One week after the top state-bred fillies and mares went postward in the Original Gold Stakes, the Charles Town starting gate was empty for the week of racing Wednesday-Saturday nights as the track underwent maintenance designed to make the surface safer for humans and horses alike and offset the recent rash of breakdowns. But there was ample racing action at tracks throughout the Mid-Atlantic region as thoroughbred enthusiasts from across the country focused their attention on this Saturday’s Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Last Saturday afternoon at Pimlico Race Course, which has kicked off its Spring meet two weeks early after Laurel Park has suffered from related issues to its main track, a full field of sophomores was looking to earn a berth in the upcoming Grade I Preakness Stakes on May 15 when they went postward in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at nine furlongs, the last local prep for the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
Following a dramatic stretch battle, Excellorator (Angel Cruz) edged 9-5 favorite The Reds (Victor Carrasco) by a nose in 1:48.90 to earn an apparent trip to the Preakness. But following an objection and long inquiry, Excellorator was disqualified from first and placed second as The Reds was promoted to first. A sophomore son of Tonalist trained by John Kimmel, The Reds notched his second win in four starts this year and seven overall and doubled his earnings to nearly $150,000 and will look to add to that sum next month in the Preakness.
Then one race earlier in the $125,000 Weber City Miss Stakes for three-year-old fillies looking to earn a spot in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, Miss Leslie (J.D. Acosta) rallied from last early to forge a 9-1 upset. A sophomore daughter of Paynter trained by Claudio Gonzalez, Miss Leslie recorded her first win in three starts this year and now owns a 4-2-1 slate and over $250,000 banked after getting the one-mile and one-sixteenth in 1:44.28.
Two races earlier in the $100,000 Frank Whitely Stakes, a six-furlong dash for older males, Laki (Horacio Karamanos) sat just off the leader down the backside and through the far turn then overhauled Lebda in the lane for a half-length score. An eight-year-old Cuba gelding trained by Damon Dilodivico of Immortal Eyes fame, Laki notched his first win in three starts this year and now owns an 11-7-6 slate and over $800,000 banked from 33 career tries after getting the six furlongs in 1:09.33.
Also that afternoon at Fonner Park in Nebraska, Sleepy Eyes Todd settled for third as the 2-5 favorite in the $75,000 Gus Fonner Stakes as Mo Mosa forged a 9-2 upset. Hero of the Grade II, $600,000 Charles Town Classic last summer, Sleepy Eyes Todd remained winless in four starts this year, although his three previous tries had come in seven- and eight-figure stakes races that included stops in Florida, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
That same afternoon at Santa Anita Race Course in Southern California, Unbreakable looked to continue her winning ways when she went postward in a starter allowance race on the grass. A West Virginia-bred four-year-old daughter of Broken Vow trained by Mike Puype, Unbreakable launched her bid three-wide on the far turn but flattened out in the lane and settled for third as Lady Noguez overhauled Goodtingscominpink. She now owns a 1-0-3 slate from four starts this year and 1-0-4 slate from eight career tries.
Last Monday evening, Yonkers Raceway in New York hosted the most lucrative race of the week when the half-mile oval offered the $514,000 Borgata Pacing Series final for aged pacers. Three of the eight pacers that reached that final actually competed in the $100,000 Potomac Pace last fall at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland, where Leonidas A overhauled Bettor’s Wish in the final strides for a 15-1 upset in 1:48 flat, the second-fastest mile in the 70-year history of the oval.
Last Monday at Yonkers, This Is The Plan (Yannick Gingras) overcame post eight to gain command soon after the outset and led throughout to forge an 11-1 upset in 1:50.4. Trained by Ron Burke, This Is The Plan notched his second win from six starts this year and now owns 20 victories and over $2 million banked from 75 career tries. Favored Leonidas A was hindered by excess traffic in the outer flow and finished fifth in his first setback in six starts this year.
One night earlier last Sunday and one night after Charles Town offered its first stakes of the season, Rosecroft Raceway kicked off its stakes portion of the spring meet when it hosted a quartet of Maryland Sire Stakes events for trotters and pacers.
In the first of that group, Yall Beneath Me (Russell Foster) cruised to a 1:55.2 score in the $13,000 MDSS event for four- and five-year-old trotters. The dominant force in the group and potentially one of the best four-year-old trotters in the country, Yall Beneath Me kicked off his season with a handy score and now owns 15 wins in 16 career outings and lifetime earnings of nearly $170,000 for owner-trainer-breeder Richard Hans.
This Saturday, racing serious and novice racing fans across the land will turn their attention to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby, which includes a talented group led by last year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile hero and champion two-year-old male, Essential Quality, along with recent Arkansas Derby winner, Super Stock, Santa Anita Derby winner, Rock Your World, Florida Derby champ Known Agenda, longshot Wood hero Bourbonic and UAE Derby winner Rebel’s Romance.