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Feb 14, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD

By: JOE GIRARDI


               There was only one Kentucky Derby prep this past weekend and that was the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. The race was run at 1 and 1/16th miles and carried a purse of $200,000. There was a field of seven that went postward and the favorite in the race was the undefeated Midnight Hawk from the Bob Baffert barn. When the gates opened, Diamond Bachelor was sent to the lead from post 2 while under pressure from the third choice in the race and the second Baffert entrant Chitu. The fractions of the race were moderate early on 23:1, 46:4, 1:10:4. As they moved around the turn Chitu had taken over the lead but Midnight Hawk had moved to challenge the leader with the second choice Candy Boy in close pursuit. As they ran down the lane Midnight Hawk didn’t go on and Candy Boy did running down Chitu late to score by a half-length with Midnight Hawk checking in third. The final time of the race was a solid 1:41:4. Candy Boy is bred to go on and should be one to watch while Midnight Hawk would need a bounce back effort to get himself back on the trail.

               Over the weekend at Gulfstream Park they hosted the Donn Handicap on Sunday February 9th and on Saturday the 8th they hosted the Grade III Gulfstream Park Sprint, a race for four year olds and upward run over seven furlongs with a purse of $100,000. When the gates opened, 14-1 Falling Sky came out of the gate running, battled through a sharp half mile in 44:1, opened up into the lane and drew away to score by more than five lengths in a very sharp time of 1:20:3 just 1/5 off the track record. Another longshot, Narvaez at 139-1 closed from last to get up for second over Brujo De Olleros who finished third. According to Falling Sky’s trainer, George Weaver the plan will be to keep him around one turn as he can be an interesting prospect on the sprint scene.

               There was three graded stakes on Sunday February 9th at Gulfstream Park, the Grade III Hurricane Bertie, the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap and the featured race, the Grade I Donn Handicap.

               In the Grade III Hurricane Bertie, the two time Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Groupie Doll, who was supposed to be making her final career start was sent off as the 2-5 favorite. A field of seven went postward and Groupie Doll was off a bit slow from the rail post trailing the field of seven behind fractions of 22:1, 45 flat. As they moved around the far turn Groupie Doll started to make a huge move while racing wide, took over into the lane and drew away sharply to score by seven lengths in a final time of 1:14:3, just 1/5th off the track record. Now the plan is still to retire her but that race would give you pause if you were her connections as she might be in the best form of her career.

               In the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, a race run at 1 and 1/8th miles over the turf and carried a purse of $300,000. There was a field of 8 that went postward and Summer Front was sent off as the 2-1 favorite. When they broke from the gate, Tetradrachm was sent to the lead, he set the pace of 23:2, 47:3, 1:11:2, he led from the start and to the top of the stretch but couldn’t go with the leaders when it counted. Amira’s Prince who was the 5-2 second choice and was undefeated in this country but was making his first start since March of 2013. He stalked the leaders from second but also couldn’t finish when it counted checking in third. Imagining, the 4-1 third choice and winner of two straight was away in last early on, came very wide into the lane and finished well for second but just couldn’t get to the winner Lochte. Lochte, who was the longest shot in the race at 39-1, stalked the leaders from third, slipped up the rail into the lane and drew away late to score by more than two lengths for trainer Marcus Vitali and jockey Orlando Bocachica.

               The final race of the day was the Grade I Donn Handicap for four year olds and upward, run over 1 and 1/8th miles with a purse of $500,000. A field of 12 went postward with Will Take Charge going off the 3-2 favorite in his first start since the nose defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Uncaptured broke running from the rail with Lea stalking him into the backstretch, Bourbon Courage was third and Will Take Charge was in behind the leaders. As they moved through fractions of 23:2, 47:1, 1:10:4, Lea took over that lead from Uncaptured and started to open up as they moved into the lane. Will Take Charge, who was caught in behind the leaders, came out around the turn and finished well through the lane to finish almost 10 lengths clear of the show horse while just 1 and ½ lengths behind Lea in track record time of 1:46:4. Lea who is now 2 for 2 in the Bill Mott barn and 2 for 2 on fast dirt tracks is going to be a force in the Handicap Division as well as Will Take Charge who ran extremely well in defeat.



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