ALEXANDRIA FIGHTS BACK IN $75,000 JIM MORGAN TAH DAH
Constitution’s 2-year-old Ohio-bred daughter Alexandria kept her record unblemished in the newly named 5 ½ furlong Jim Morgan Tah Dah. Morgan won 300 stakes during his years as a trainer, Tah Dah was the champion 2-year-old filly in 1983 and Ohio Horse of the Year in 1984.
The Tim Hamm trained Alexandria made her debut on June 23 going 4 ½ over a sloppy sealed track. She led when the gates opened and increased her lead after every call with Gerardo Corrales asking for little. In her wake was Gonnabegood, who was off slowly at the start and wide in her stretch run, got the second spot over Lejeune, Congrats Jensen was fourth and Tap the Town fifth – all would be part of the six-horse Tah Dah field.
For horses coming off a 9-day heat wave, the fillies were well behaved in the paddock and several got a pre-race bath to cool down. When the gates opened there were six horses in the gate and five left. Lejeune refused to break despite the urging of jockey Rolandro Aragon and the assistant starter, she had no plans to race on July 10.
Corrales had the 1-5 favorite kicked away briskly from the gate and while Gonnabegood was off slow, she was urged to engage the leader by Erik Barbaran and the pace was quicker than their debut. Alexandria kept her head in front for most of the way, but Gonnabegood drew on even terms in the stretch and took a brief lead. “We were running comfortable and when that horse came coming, she dug in and finished strong,” said Gerardo Corrales who won by a length over Gonnabegood who held first-time starter Angel’s Sassy to the third spot.
Alexandria is a chestnut filly by red-hot sire Constitution out of Spring Water by Spring At Last and was bred by the partnership of Blazing Meadows Farm LLC and WinStar Farm LLC. She is owner by the same duo and Michael Lewis. Trainer Tim Hamm was impressed with her performance. “Charlie Williams horse was right there and she ran an awesome race, but my filly was up to the task.” Hamm then pulled out his phone and ran a video of Alexandria after she passed the wire, “Check this out, now this is a good gallop out!” The chestnut was not tiring, and as track announcer Ed Meyer said at the wire in a homage to the late announcer, Kevin Goemmer, was “showing her heels to the field!”
BACK IN OHIO – DISTINCTIVE FLOWER BLOOMS ON THE GRASS IN $75,000 VIVACIOUS STAKES
Some horses just have a natural penchant for the lead in a race and the ability to get it. Ohio-bred Distinctive Flower is one of those and she put it on display in the grassy 1 1/16 mile Vivacious Handicap. Drillit, coming off a 12 length romp in the J.W. Petro Memorial at Thistledown was made the morning line favorite and assigned highweight of 124 lbs., while the fleet footed Distinctive Flower was installed as the second choice toting 116 lbs. in the Belterra Park co-feature that hot afternoon.
When the ten registered Buckeye-breds left the gate, Distinctive Flower appeared to effortlessly stride to the lead, while Drillit didn’t take to her turf debut comfortably and ran behind over half the field rather than being poised in her usual close up stalking style. Multiple Ohio Champion mare Leona’s Reward took up the role of pace presser, it is hard to believe that in her pursuit of the $1 mark, he 7-year-old had never won a race on turf, or at Belterra Park for that matter.
As they rounded the “Coney Island Curve” and into the backstretch alongside the Ohio River, jockey Rafael Mojica, Jr., just let Distinctive Flower stride out on her own while building a 7-length lead. Turning into the stretch the margin diminished to 3 lengths over Leona’s Reward after travelling a brisk 1: 10.45 time for the first six panels, but she maintained her momentum to win by 1 1/3 lenghts to a fast closing Birdacious who won this race last year. Leona’s Reward was only ½ length behind for the third spot. The final time was 1:42.96.
It was a crowded winners circle for the partnership of Mark Kuntz LLC, Easy Money LLC and Michael Luebbe – always a good sign of new potential owners. At the mare’s hip was leading Belterra Park trainer Larry Smith who said, “She came to me up from Tampa in great shape and adapted well after competing in nine straight races in Pennsylvania and Florida. She was running against tough, mostly $32,000 Allowance optional claiming company and always hitting the board and always on the lead. She’s a horse that had to be on the front and what she did today, she did all on her own.” Jockey Mojica concurred, “She was just galloping along, and I saw no reason to fight her.”
The 5-year-old daughter of Flower Alley out of Real Distinctive by With Distinction was bred by Lowell Allen and John Bourke and was claimed off them in August of 2019 at Presque Isle for $27,500. She was claimed by her new partnership group for $32,000 at Tampa Bay Downs and with her win in the Vivacious pushed her career earnings to $174,762.
ESPLANANDE EMULATES HER BIG BROTHER IN THE $75,000 HOOVER STAKES
Almost a year to the day, Esplanande duplicated the performance of her brother in the 5 1/2 furlong Hoover Stakes in a very similar running style and almost exact time of finish at Belterra Park. Her brother is Liberate, Ohio’s top 2-year-old male who won 4 of his 5 starts and three stakes while racking up earnings of $206,250. Both runners broke their maiden vs. open company and went wire to wire in the Hoover. Both are trained by Tim Hamm and owned and bred by the partnership of WinStar Farm LLC and Blazing Meadows Farm LLC.
While she was a filly against the boys it made no difference when the gates flew open, with Gerardo Corrales on her back, she willingly went to the lead and established a comfortable one-length lead throughout. When Uptown and King B B launched their run at the furlong marker, Corrales roused Esplanande who responded at command and drew away by 2 ¼ lengths. “Being in the 1 hole we wanted to get out of there and she had no problem,” said Corrales. “I rode her in her first race and I knew I was sitting on a good horse. Into the stretch I had a good feeling and was 100% sure she would respond when called upon.”
Hamm, who has increased his presence at Belterra Park this year by filling 36 stalls, was very confident in his filly. “We had about 75 horses in training at our Ocala facility and she was so laid back in her training she did everything right and I’d have to rank her in the top five.” Esplande, a daughter of Daredevil out of Southern Silence by Dixie Union stopped the timer in 1:05.31 (Liberate’s time was 1:05.20). Uptown held off King B B by ½ length for the minor placings.
We haven’t seen the last the last of this family on the Ohio racing scene. Southern Silence has a yearling by Speightster, a weanling by Commissioner and is currently in foal to Preakness, Santa Anita Derby winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator. Expect this family to have an impact in the Buckeye State for years to come.
TING TANG NIPS HER STABLEMATE AT THE WIRE IN GRASSY $75,000 CINCINNATIAN STAKES
At this time of the season, when 3-year-olds take to the turf, its usually a first-time experience – as it was for the entire 10-filly field in the 1 1/16 mile Cincinnatian for 3-year-old accredited fillies at Belterra Park. As it turned out, trainer Robert Gorham and Mast Thoroughbreds found out they have two runners who can handle the greensward. The poster girl for the Ohio Mixed Sale, Edge of Night, appeared the stronger half of the duo. The $6,500 sale purchase came into the race with a resume that listed two stakes victories and a stakes second for the highest earnings in the field of $149,640.
Stablemate Ting Tang came into the race sporting a record of 9-2-0-2 for earnings of $48,316. She ran against Edge of Night unsuccessfully three times last season and was dismissed in the wagering at 15-1. True Light (the 2018 Ohio Mixed Sale sales topper at $17,500) was made the second choice behind Edge of Night and the Mike Rone trained and owned filly seems to relish the turf footing and sped to the front and held the lead into the stretch. Her closest pursuer was Edge of Night with Christian Pilares who got by her with good energy and appeared heading to victory – but don’t pop that champagne cork yet as Ting Tang got loose after having to steady inside on the far turn.
The final yards of the race turned into a “Battle Royale” between the stable mates and it appeared Edge of Night would last, but after examination of the photo finish, in the final stride Gerardo Corrales and Ting Tang got the head bob by a nose. It would be 2 ¾ lengths back to Lovely Lady Linda who got a neck decision for the third spot. The dueling duo ran the 1 1/16 in 1:43.79. The win pushed Ting Tang’s earnings to $93,316 and the $15,000 second prize pushed Edge of Night’s bankroll to $164,640, not bad for a $6,500 investment.
Ting Tang was bred by Bob Gorham and Mast Thoroughbreds, sired by their stallion City Weekend out of Tangueray Miss, so not only will they collect the $45,000 winner’s share, but the stallion and broodmare awards as well. After the race Gorham stated, “City Weekend has a limited reputation for siring grass runners, but I am familiar with the mare from her Michigan days and she does have turf credentials. Edge of Night ran a solid race, but I think she’s better on the dirt at slightly shorter distances.” It is early in the season, so we will have to watch where these stablemates display their talents next. We DO know that the 2020 Ohio Mixed Sale is October 15 at the Delaware County Fair and there may be more $6,500 bargains going under the gavel.
2020 GRADE 3 OHIO DERBY – FROM CLAIM TO FAME FOR THE KING OF COOL
With the national reshuffling of Kentucky Derby, Thistledown inherited a Derby points race in the Grade 3, $500,000 Ohio Derby this year. The chance for Derby points and a share of Ohio’s highest purse attracted an aspiring field of 13 starters in the 1 1/8 mile race. Included in the large group was last season’s 2-year-old champion Storm the Court. He had yet to repeat his form as a 3-year-old and trainer Peter Eurton enjoyed his rare visit to Thistledown when he captured this race in 2018 with Core Beliefs.
The eventual upset winner was named in part after a beloved Ohioan – Dino Crocetti, who grew up in Steubenville. Known nationally as “The King of Cool”, the son of Italian immigrants moved west and changed his name to Dean Martin…and the legend began. His equine namesake is Dean Martini and one race after moving to a new barn, the maiden gelding became a graded stakes winner. Originally sold at the Keeneland September Sale for $220,000, he ran exclusively in maiden special weight races at five different tracks from Kentucky to California.
Finally dropped into a $50,000 claiming race at Churchill Downs in May by trainer Brad Cox, he won in hand, but was claimed by the keen-eyed Tom Amoss for owner Raise the BAR Racing LLC. Amoss had the son of Cairo Prince gelded and he put in a strong second-place finish in his next outing at Churchill Downs. With no rider named at time of entry, Ricardo Mejias got the call and Dean Martini drew the inside post.
Mejias rode a perfect race. Breaking well astride the 14-1 shot, he kept him with the pacesetters to prevent being surrounded by the calvary of competitors and saved ground along the rail and let his mount drop back to fifth at the midpoint of the race. Holding his position, he quickly slipped past the leaders and was on top by three lengths in midstretch. Storm the Court, with blinkers off, launched a solid rally, but South Bend finished stronger in the final 40 yards. Dean Martini held sway by ¾ lengths, with South Bend two in front of Storm the Court.
With 9 defections from the leaderboard for the Kentucky Derby already. Dean Martini is currently tied with Candy Tycoon for the 20th position according to the points system. It will be interesting to see what path Tom Amoss takes with the new stable addition to get into the starting gate on the first Saturday in September. He will be hoping that minutes after hearing “My Old Kentucky Home,” he will be singing with Raise the BAR Racing – “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.”
CHIEF RANDEL PULLS OFF UPSET IN $75,000 DANIEL STEARNS
CLEVELAND GOLD CUP
It’s that time of the season when horses are asked to stretch their abilities from sprints to distances. Last season’s top 2-year-old male Liberate had already proven he could stretch out when he captured the $150,000 Best of Ohio to cap off his five-win season with three stakes victories. In his last start this year, he defeated older, open company at 5 ½ furlongs. The $226,360 earner was backed down to 2 to 5 favoritism in the field of seven who would travel 1 1/8 miles in the Cleveland Gold Cup.
As expected, Liberate went right to the front under Gerardo Corrales, but two-time stakes winner Betchaiwill and jockey John McKee were not about him to dictate the pace and made a quick move to take a short lead after the first turn and set the pace to the far turn. Liberate drew on even terms into the stretch and it looked like it would be a two-horse run to the finish.
Chief Randel, who had settled in behind the top two and made a determined move three-wide in the lane to edge to the front and eventually pull away at the wire by 2 ¾ lengths. Liberate held second by 7 ½ lengths over Betchaiwill. The winner travelled the 9 furlongs in 1:54.22. The 3-year-old gray colt was dismissed at odds of 23 to 1 and returned $49.80 to win.
Augustin Bracho was aboard Chief Randel for the race, but there was an anxious moment in the gate as he was bucked off previous to the start. It was the second win of the season for trainer Jose A, Romero. Chief Randel was bred in Ohio by Harry D. Waite & Ronald D. Waite, he is owned by Harry Waite. He is by Fibre Sonde out of She Could Be Good by Daylight Savings. Fibre Sonde is an unraced son of Unbridled’s Song who stands in West Virginia. The win in the Gold Cup pushed Chief Randel’s earnings to $94,500.
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