US Graded Stakes Racing Review
In a quiet weekend for graded stakes racing, the star of the show was the Charles Town Classic, a Grade 2 event over a mile and an eighth, worth a cool $1.25m.
Charles Town’s tight 6 furlong circuit was favoring front runners all weekend and this situation held true for the Classic. Todd Pletcher’s Stanford broke well from his 7 draw and led all the way for a comfortable 2 length win while Page McKenney also broke well into second and stayed there throughout the race. The 5/2 favorite Donworth did best of those coming from off the pace. This was a fair effort from Donworth, who was tightened up early on and drifted in the stretch. He will do better when back on a more galloping track. Strangely the way the race was run was the opposite of the plans expressed by the trainers.
Over in Cypress, California, Los Alamitos was hosting a Grade 2 event, the $200k Great Lady m Stakes for fillies and mares over 6 ½ furlongs.
Here the Bob Baffert trained Fantastic Style was confidently expected to take the race en route to even richer pickings later on in the year. Unfortunately, no one told Finest City. She was held off the pace early on before making a big wide move into the stretch, gradually reeling in the leaders and won going away by 1 ½ lengths.
Finally, we head to Keeneland for some turf action, namely the Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes over a stamina sapping 1 ½ mile turf trip.
Old rivals Kaigun and Da Big Hoss (both sent off at 2.7/1) duly filled the first two places and this time the bragging rights went to Da Big Hoss. As expected, A Red Tie Day put the pace to the race and only gave way in the final furlong, eventually fading into fourth beaten 2 ¾ lengths.
Florent Geroux hadn’t had the best of meetings here at Keeneland but put that all behind him with a masterful ground-saving ride. He kept Da Big Hoss glued to the inside rail and nosed in front in the stretch to win by a hard fought half length. Kaigun gave his all as always but the basic fact is that he had to cover more real estate and that was decisive on the day. No doubt rivalries will be renewed over marathon turf trips throughout the season.