Archive for April 2016

“SHEER DRAMA” WINS G1 $300,000 MADISON

SheerDramaBy the end of the 2015 racing season, Sheer Drama and Stopchargingmaria had combined to win five Grade 1 events and earn more than $4 million. Their connections could have retired them to their respective broodmare bands with few regrets.

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However, both mares returned to the track for 2016 – and rewarded their connections, and the crowd that braved the chilly weather at Keeneland on Saturday, with a stellar showdown in their season debuts. The two dueled the length of the stretch in the Grade 1, $300,000 Madison Stakes, with Sheer Drama prevailing by a neck.

Sheer Drama ($18.80), last seen finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland, exacted some revenge on Stopchargingmaria, who won that event. Wavell Avenue, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, finished another two lengths back in third.

“I talked to [Keeneland racing secretary] Ben Huffman about this race early in the year, and thought it might be a good starting spot. Never expected it to come up this tough,” said Sheer Drama’s trainer, David Fawkes. “But she ran her race – she brought her ‘A’ game. She worked so good last week, I thought she could do anything.”

When the gates opened, California invaders Sunday Rules and Enchanting Lady bounced out quickly, narrowly leading Fioretti through an opening quarter-mile of 22.42 seconds. Stopchargingmaria, breaking from post 10 under Javier Castellano, quickly cleared part of the field to sit in fifth early, while Sheer Drama and Joe Bravo, breaking from the rail after the scratch of Cavorting, settled in seventh behind horses.

“As the gates broke she took really good position,” Bravo said.

Sunday Rules still led the field through the half in 44.86, but was beginning to feel heavy pressure from Fioretti. Meanwhile, Bravo worked out a clear path for Sheer Drama, who moved into the five path around the far turn and into the lane, with Stopchargingmaria to her outside.

“The outside post didn’t help her much, and I had to go wide a little bit,” Castellano said. “That might have cost me the race but it’s something you just gotta deal with. You have to go through it and hope for much the best.”

Sheer Drama struck the lead inside the quarter pole, but Stopchargingmaria, still with momentum on the outside, came to her. The two prevailed in a battle for the length of the stretch, with Sheer Drama edging clear at the wire after being headed. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:22.07.

“Sheer Drama was having none of that,” Bravo said of the moment when his mare was headed. “She was passed and she didn’t care. And she outran the filly from the top of the lane to the wire. She just out-horsepowered her.”

After Wavell Avenue – who rallied from 10th in her first start since the Filly and Mare Sprint – in third, it was another length back to Grade 1 winner Birdatthewire in fourth.

Sheer Drama, a Florida-bred daughter of Burning Roma who runs as a homebred for Harold Queen, came into the best form of her career last summer at age 5, winning the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap and Grade 1 Personal Ensign Stakes. With the win in the Madison – her ninth career stakes win or placing – she pushed her earnings past $1.6 million. Fawkes admitted that he “begged” Queen to keep the star racemare in training for another season rather than retiring her.

“When you only have one Grade 1 horse in your barn you do a lot of begging,” Fawkes said. “Mr. Queen was really thinking about breeding her. I went out to the farm [to see her, and said], ‘Look at her, she’s put a bunch of weight on. She’s matured even more.’ I’m really glad we brought her back.”

Stopchargingmaria, a multiple graded stakes winner as a juvenile, blossomed into one of the top 3-year-old fillies in the summer of 2014, winning the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 winning the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga and finishing second to older foes in the Grade 1 Beldame Stakes at Belmont. At the end of that season, owner Mike Repole offered her at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale, but she failed to meet her reserve with a high bid of $3.15 million. Town and Country Farms subsequently stepped in to purchase her privately, and decided to leave her with Todd Pletcher to race on. She finished second in the 2015 Madison before winning the Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Distaff and Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap. After finishing fourth to Sheer Drama in the Personal Ensign, she outdueled eventual 3-year-old champion Stellar Wind by a neck for the Distaff win.

Stopchargingmaria and Sheer Drama finished second and third to three-time champion Beholder in Eclipse Award balloting for champion older dirt female of 2015. Both will contend in that division on the East Coast this year. Fawkes said a probable next start for Sheer Drama is the Grade 1 La Troienne Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard May 6 at Churchill Downs. Shannon Potter, the president of Town and Country Farm, said Stopchargingmaria will target the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on the Belmont Stakes undercard June 11 in New York.

“UNDRAFTED” WINS G2 $200,000 SHAKERTOWN

Undrafted
Last year, Undrafted needed a couple of races to hit his best stride after harsh winter weather delayed his preparation for spring racing.

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Returning Saturday for the first time in 2016 at Keeneland in the Grade 2, $200,000 Shakertown on the Blue Grass Stakes undercard, he showed no signs of lacking fitness. He swooped past the field with an outside rally, edging defending champion Something Extra by a half-length.

A closer, Undrafted capitalized on a furious pace in the 5 1/2-furlong Shakertown on “good” turf, as longshots Latent Heat and Rocket Heat blitzed the opening quarter in 20.93 seconds and a half-mile in 43.93.

Coming into the stretch, the front-runners were running on fumes, and it was Something Extra, who had stalked the pace, who got the jump on the competition. But after opening up in midstretch, he didn’t have enough to repel the late onslaught of the classy Undrafted, who completed the distance in 1:02.96.

“He just exploded turning for home,” said winning jockey Joe Bravo.

Trainer Wesley Ward also had high praise for Undrafted, a 6-year-old gelded son of Purim. He compared him to the horse’s co-owner, NFL receiver Wes Welker. “He’s kind of like his owner, a little guy but tough,” he said.

Undrafted ($9), who won the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Ascot last June, could follow the same path he took last year. If so, that could take him to Churchill Downs for the Twin Spires Turf Sprint on May 6 before going overseas.

Something Extra, one of the few horses to run well after sitting close to the pace, held on by half a length for the place over Commute, who rallied from 11th in the field of 12 to be third.

Power Alert, the 5-2 favorite, broke a step slowly from the inside post and, after stalking the leaders, weakened to eighth.

“KAIGUN” WINS G2 $200,000 PAN AMERICAN

KaigunHALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Kaigun found the cure to a severe bout of seconditis, outfinishing Wake Forest in deep stretch to win Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Pan American Stakes by a head at Gulfstream Park.

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The win ended a nine-race losing streak for Kaigun, who had finished second in four straight graded stakes, including the Mac Diarmida to Grand Tito on March 5. Grand Tito finished third as the favorite in the Pan American.

Under Joe Bravo, Kaigun lingered in the back of the pack while saving ground while Seeking Alpha set fractions of 23.83 seconds for the quarter-mile, 48.79 for a half-mile, and 1:14.28 for six furlongs.

Kaigun gradually advanced as did Wake Forest, who, under John Velazquez, was behind Kaigun. Coming to the top of the stretch, Kaigun split horses and Wake Forest followed him.

In upper stretch, Joe Bravo tipped Kaigun four wide while Velazquez continued to advance Wake Forest up the fence. The two were basically on equal terms in deep stretch with Kaigun getting his head on the wire first.

Kaigun, a gelding by Northern Afleet owned by a partnership led by Gary Barber, covered the 1 1/2 miles over a “good” turf course in 2:20.20 and returned $7.60 as the 5-2 second choice.

“I think today he really did dig in,” said Norm Casse, son of and assistant to trainer Mark Casse. “He wanted it today.”

Casse credited Bravo, who was aboard for Kaigun’s last three second-place finishes.

“He figured the horse out,” Casse said. “This is a horse that for whatever reason doesn’t seem to get the job done but always runs well. Maybe Joe’s figured him out a little bit. He had him right where he needed to be.”

Velazquez felt Wake Forest had a perfect trip and just got a little tired the last part of the race.

Velazquez said trainer Chad Brown “told me be careful with him. Going a mile and a quarter you can ride him a little more aggressively. At a mile and a half be cautious; even though I got through at the quarter pole and I thought I was going to win it, the last 20 yards he was a little tired.”

Wake Forest finished second by a half-length over Grand Tito, the 9-5 favorite.

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