Dudey Deeds done dirt cheap
When last they met, Game On Dude dismissed Imperative to the tune of a near 18-length drubbing in the Big Cap. That, and of course the former’s amazing list of accomplishments over the last several years, led to the large chasm between them in odds. In yet another great example of ‘that’s why they run the race on the track, and not on paper’, the 26-1 Imperative powered by the 3-5 Dude down the stretch in the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on Saturday night. Taking full advantage of a serious pace battle that involved Game On Dude, Moreno, Lucy’s Bob Boy, and Long River, Imperative and Kent Desormeaux were always in the race, but waited to pounce until the last turn. It all worked perfectly, and the large upset was consummated by the four-year-old Bernardini gelding. Was it predictable? I didn’t have him, but I will tell you that it was the second time in the last three races that Imperative ran by Game On Dude at odds of 26-1. ZATT's Star of the Week also did it when second in the Grade 2 San Antonio on February 8.
Beholder is back and looking fine
Beholder is back! Spendthrift Farms’ star filly dominated a race just about as much as a race can be dominated, in Sunday’s $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita. Don’t be fooled by the winning margin of only 5 ¼ lengths, Beholder and Gary Stevens could have named their margin in her 1 1/16 mile return to the races. Away since winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 1, it was that easy for the talented Beholder. The field was notably weak, but the walk in the park was a nice ease back into the racing thing for the now four-year-old filly. I know getting excited for a future race can be a losing proposition, but we continue to inch closer to a real showdown in the rich Ogden Phipps on Belmont Stakes Day. Beholder, Close Hatches, and Princess of Sylmar all look to be in absolute fine fettle 6 ½ weeks removed from the big race. As for Beholder, the two-time champion is now 13-9-3-0 lifetime, and looks to be every bit, if not more, the fantastic filly that we saw winning her second Breeders’ Cup race last fall.
European flat season off and running
Five days after a corking run by Kingman in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, it was the highest rated two-year-old’s chance to return in style. Sure enough, Thursday’s Group 3 Craven Stakes at Newmarket was highlighted by a professional looking 2014 debut for Toormore. He fielded a challenge from the unheralded The Grey Gatsby, but the son of Arakan had plenty left to repel the upset bid on the way to a facile victory. While the triumphant return of both undefeated sophomores adds to the intrigue of the highly anticipated English 2,000 Guineas, May 3rd at Newmarket, I, like most, fall strongly into the Kingman camp for the first English Classic of the year. The John Gosden trained Juddmonte runner has an explosive turn of foot that just screams out, “special horse” when you watch him run. From a formidable mating of Invincible Spirit and Zenda, the bay colt may not prove to be a twelve furlong horse, and has never been farther than seven-eighths, but he should have no trouble with the extra furlong of the Guineas.
Who’s your Frac Daddy?
I was pretty high on the potential of Frac Daddy when I saw him run as a two-year-old; Derby dreams and all that. It never all quite materialized, although he was given a shot. A 16th place finish under the twin spires was followed up with an equally lackluster 14th place finish in the Belmont Stakes. A new path was carved out by trainer Ken McPeek for the Magic City Thoroughbred Partners runner, and it is starting to get interesting again. Now four, Frac Daddy ran the race of his life on Saturday, with a romping score in the Grade 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland. Sent off at a bargain of 5.60-1, the son of Scat Daddy stalked and cruised to a big lead early in the stretch, before skipping home a 4 ¾ length winner over a field of ten. It’s now clear that Frac Daddy appreciates the Polytrack in Lexington, having also won there nicely last fall. What is not clear is just how good Frac Daddy is becoming, and if he can carry this kind of form over to other surfaces. With Keeneland going back to dirt in a few months, he is losing his favorite surface, but maybe an older and wiser Frac Daddy has matured to the point of excelling on turf or dirt as well. He has won on both surfaces in the past, so it is a possibility. Once a friend, always a friend, so I will continue to watch his career with interest.
Daring Dancer dazzles for Sagamore
Don’t look now, but it looks like the historic Sagamore Farm has a serious young turf filly in Daring Dancer. Trained by Graham Motion, the good looking daughter of Empire Maker rolled through a maiden and allowance last fall at Laurel and Churchill Downs respectively. Those smart scores were only a coming attraction to what she did on Thursday, though. Making her first start in nearly six months in the Grade 3 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland, the bay filly steadied briefly before finding a hole early in the lane. From there, she exploded home to run away from the rallying Sweet Acclaim by 2 ½ impressive lengths. Now perfect in three starts, she looks the part of a filly with a big future on the lawn. It’s always nice to see an old name flourish again and the near 90-year-old Maryland farm definitely qualifies with Discovery, Bed O’ Roses, and the great Native Dancer in its’ roster of champions of the past. Now led by Under Armour’s Kevin Plank, the farm is moving towards a return to glory and Daring Dancer looks to be another step in the right direction.
Cruzing to the Preakness
If you liked what you saw from Kid Cruz in Laurel Park’s Private Terms Stakes back in March, like I did, you were treated to more of the same when trainer Linda Rice unveiled the well put together son of Lemon Drop Kid on Saturday at Pimlico. Forced to miss the Grade 1 Wood Memorial due to a shoulder strain, Kid Cruz proved to be the class of the Maryland sophomore class with another impressive rally, carrying him to an easy 3 ½-length score in the Federico Tesio Stakes. The final time of 1:47.38 seems tedious, but a scan of the rest of the races during a solid card at the Baltimore oval reveals an extremely slow running surface. While I would love to see him as a late-running longshot option on the first Saturday in May, that simply is not meant to be; however, with a race like this over the Pimlico main track, he should be in great shape to make some waves with juicy odds in racing’s Middle Jewel, two weeks after the Derby.
Hoping for a Kentucky Curve ball