Centre Court Sets Sights on Just a Game

Centre Court and Julien Leparoux win the 25th running of the Jenny Wiley Grade 1 $300,000 at Keeneland Racecourse for owner G. Watts Humphrey Hr. and trainer George Arnold. April 13, 2013.

Connections of the four other graded stakes winners on Saturday’s card reported their horses were doing well Sunday morning.

G. Watts Humphrey Jr.’s Centre Court got her first Grade 1 win and fifth graded stakes victory with her two-length score in the Jenny Wiley Stakes. She defeated six graded stakes winners on Saturday.

“Most of the top horses on the East Coast were here with the exception of Marketing Mix and Dayatthespa and my guess is we may have to deal with (Dayatthespa) the next time,” trainer Rusty Arnold said. “Dayatthespa is the only three-year-old filly from last year to beat her that she did not come back and beat.”

Saturday’s victory improved Centre Court’s record on grass to six wins and four seconds in 10 starts. Her lone off-the-board finish in her career came in her debut, a 4½-furlong sprint on dirt.

“She was doing well and we wanted to get a race in her before we went to Saratoga and we didn’t know how she’d turn out on the grass,” Arnold said. “Then she came out of the race with a little chip and didn’t run for eight months.”

In the Jenny Wiley, Centre Court rated off the pace set by Daisy Devine before taking charge in midstretch.

“We thought she might be better at four than she was at three,” Arnold said. “She is a lot more manageable this year. Two steps out of the gate yesterday, she just dropped in right behind the leaders. I was worried at the three-eighths pole because Daisy Devine had such an easy lead and I have a lot of respect for her.”

Arnold said the $500,000 Just a Game Stakes (G1) at a mile at Belmont Park on June 8 is the next likely spot for Centre Court with the $600,000 Diana Stakes (G1 at Saratoga on July 27) or the $750,000 Beverly D. Stakes (G1 at Arlington Park on August 17) on the radar after that. The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Santa Anita on November 1 is the ultimate objective for 2013.

“We had targeted the Jenny Wiley,” Arnold said. “Ninety percent of the time, you make plans and they don’t work out. When they do, it is great.

“She probably will ship to Belmont the week before the Just a Game and then come back here, because I normally do not ship to Saratoga until the Churchill Downs meet ends.”

The biggest surprise for trainer Phil Oliver was not that Last Full Measure won the Madison Stakes, but that she went off as the second-longest shot in the field of 10 at 17-1.

“I didn’t think she’d be that price,” Oliver said of Last Full Measure, who is owned by St. George Farm Racing. “The last two horses to beat her were Old Tune (BRZ) and Daisy Devine who were in the Jenny Wiley. In her last race at Tampa, the jock took her back and she had a tough trip but before that had run well.”

Oliver was not sure what would be next for Last Full Measure, who never has raced on dirt in her 11-race career. “There are not a lot of races out there for her,” Oliver said, adding with a laugh, “I may just wait for the fall here.”

Reddam Racing’s Handsome Mike, winner of the Commonwealth Stakes (G3), may have earned a trip to Churchill Downs to keep stablemate Goldencents company during Kentucky Derby Week.

“He is nominated to the ($400,000) Churchill Downs (G2 on May 4) and he might possibly go there,” said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O’Neill. “But that will be up to Mr. (Paul) Reddam. Our horses here are going to Churchill on the 26th and Goldencents is scheduled to come in the next day.”

The Commonwealth victory was the first for Handsome Mike since winning the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby (G2). It was his first race on an all-weather track since the 2012 Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park.

“He had trained well on it all week,” Sisterson said. “There must have been something about it that he liked.”

Trainer Darrin Miller has the seven-furlong, $150,000 Jaipur (G3) at Belmont Park on June 7 next on tap for Silverton Hill’s Havelock following his victory in the 5½-furlong Shakertown Stakes (G3).

Now six, Havelock has won a graded stakes in each of the past three years, a fact that is pretty good for a horse that did not turn heads when he first arrived in the barn.

“When we first got him, none of the grooms wanted him because he was a lazy, fat colt,” Miller said. “But once we put him on the grass, he really stepped it up.”

Miller ruled out running Havelock back in three weeks in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by Ram (G3) at Churchill Downs. “Too short,” Miller said of the five-furlong race, “and I won’t run him on the synthetic.”

The long-term goal for Havelock this year is the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) at Santa Anita on November 2.



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