While Triple Crown preps were the featured attraction, weekend racing across the United States also included some important events, especially in the unsettled sprint and turf divisions.
Uncontested pretty much was unchallenged through the latter furlongs of Saturday's $250,000 Grade III General George at Laurel Park. After stumbling at the start, the 5-year-old son of Tiz Wonderful dueled to the lead, edged away and coasted home first by 1 length over Majestic Dunhill. Laki was third and the favorite, Still Having Fun, finished seventh. Uncontested ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.06 with Trevor McCarthy riding for trainer Jennifer Patterson. It was his second start and second win after a long vacation.
It was Patterson's first stakes win with only her 18th starter as a trainer. "I was crying," she said. "I definitely had tears in my eyes because it was the first stakes race. It's an honor training a horse like this, and for this horse alone I was excited about coming here and running in this race because he's been doing so well and I don't think he's been able to show how good he really is. He's got a lot of talent and he is very fast."
At Tampa Bay Downs, Killybegs Captain led most of the way in Saturday's $100,000 Pelican Stakes, turned back a bid from multiple graded stakes winner Imperial Hint and ran on to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Sweetontheladies rallied from last to edge Imperial Hint for second.
Killybegs Captain, a 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.66 for jockey Samy Camacho. Previously raced in New York, he now is 2-for-2 at the Gulf Coast oval. Imperial Hint, undefeated in three previous starts at Tampa Bay, was making his first start since finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint in November. "Right now, it's still a question mark," trainer Luis Carvajal, Jr. said of Imperial Hint's failure to fire.
Filly & Mare Sprint
Marley's Freedom continued her dominance in the division with a pace-stalking, 1 1/4-lengths victory in Saturday's $200,000 Grade II Santa Monica at Santa Anita. With Drayden Van Dyke riding for trainer Bob Baffert, the 5-year-old Blame mare bid for the lead at mid-stretch and came home smoothly, finishing 7 furlongs over a fast track in 1:22.34.
Selcourt was second, Mopotism third. Marley's Freedom has won six of her last seven, a streak interrupted only by a fourth-place finish as the odds-on favorite in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. "Bob told me to be sure to warm her up real good and to get her running away from there," Van Dyke said. "She did and we had a good tactical spot."
Late Night Pow Wow got to the lead in the lane in Saturday's $250,000 Grade III Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel Park and held on gamely to win by a head from Spiced Perfection. Dawn the Destroyer was third.
Late Night Pow Wow, a 4-year-old Fiber Sonde filly, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.61 for jockey Fredy Peltroche. It was her ninth straight win and 11th from 12 career starts. It was her second graded stakes win following the Grade III Charles Town Oaks last season. "Every race, when you get out of town and start facing the real racehorses, it's always a big deal," said Charles Town-based winning trainer Javier Contreras. "What an exciting thing. There's no words to really describe it. It's just amazing. She's come a long way. A long way."
Blamed was quickly out front in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Royal Delta Stakes at Gulfstream Park and won off by 1 1/4 lengths despite drifting a bit through deep stretch. Mexican-bred Jala Jala was second and Tequilita finished third. Blamed, a 4-year-old Blame filly, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.18 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons.
The Bill Mott trainee has missed a top-two finish only once in 10 lifetime starts. Mott also trained Royal Delta, who earlier in the week was named a finalist in the Hall of Fame balloting -- in her first year of eligibility. "It's one of those things that's really unique," said Mott assistant Ken McCarthy, who also helped with Royal Delta. "Just to have one in the race is special. Then, to win it and be able to present ourselves with the trophy is even nicer."
Raintree Starlet pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Oaklawn Park, assumed the lead inside the three-eighths pole and went on to win by 1 length. Lady T N T, the early leader, held off a late run from Unholy Alliance to salvage second.
Raintree Starlet, a Get Stormy filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.82 with Alex Canchari in the irons. She posted her third straight win -- one at Hawthorne Race Course and two at Oaklawn. "She's been great," trainer Brian Williamson said. "I thought she was live in here, but it looked like any horse in here could win if they run their race and thankfully we had our "A" game today."
Heavenly Score rallied along the rail in the final furlong of Saturday's $50,000 Minaret Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, scoring by 2 lengths over Silly Factor. Souper Echo led briefly and held on for show money. Heavenly Score, a 5-year-old, Arkansas-bred mare by Even the Score, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.63 with Pablo Morales up.
Filly and Mare Turf
Mitchell Road stalked the pacesetting long shot in Saturday's $75,000 Albert M. Stall Memorial at Fair Grounds, asserted herself when asked by jockey Luis Saez and powered home first by 3/4 length over the odds-on favorite, Beau Recall. Coachwhip was third. Mitchell Road, a 4-year-old English Channel filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on firm going in 1:41.32. She now has four wins and two tough seconds from six career starts for trainer Bill Mott.
Belvoir Bay dueled to the lead in Saturday's $70,000 Wishing Well Stakes at Santa Anita, then quickly pulled away from the field to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Lady Suebee was second, 1 1/4 length in front of A Little Bit Me. The race was moved off the downhill turf course and run at 5 furlongs over the good main turf. Belvoir Bay finished in 56.39 seconds with Joel Rosario up on the 6-year-old Equiano mare.
Chaos Theory, a lightly raced 4-year-old Curlin gelding, charged down the middle of the track to win Saturday's $75,000 Colonel Power at Fair Grounds by 1 length. Savage Battle was second and Latent Revenge third. Chaos Theory, under Tyler Gaffalione, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm going in 1:03.07. It was his third win from six starts. "I just had to help him out of the gate and he did the rest," Gaffalione said. Trainer Brendan Walsh said Chaos Theory worked "lights out" earlier in the week and he figured this was a spot for the gelding's first stakes effort. "It worked out," he said.
Silver Dust reared in the gate, then was a handful through the race but still managed to get home first by 2 1/4 lengths in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. With Jack Gilligan at the controls, Silver Dust reluctantly settled on the outside just behind the leaders, moved to the front as the field hit the stretch and wandered a bit in the final furlong before finishing the issue. Harlan Punch was second and Flameaway finished third. The 1 1/16 miles went in 1:45.46. Gilligan was rewarded with his first graded stakes win.
"He's a very talented horse but he's very difficult," trainer Bret Calhoun said of Silver Dust. "He's starting to show in the afternoons what he does in the morning."
At Laurel Park, Bonus Points rallied from next-last to win Saturday's $100,000 John B. Campbell Stakes by a neck over Monongahela and another neck from Unbridled Juan. Bonus Points, a 5-year-old son of Majestic Warrior, ran 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.93 with Feargal Lynch in the irons. "He kept finding more," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher from Gulfstream Park. "It was fun to watch and I'm proud of him for getting it done."
Monday, Oaklawn Park offers the $500,000 Grade III Razorback Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. Coal Front is the morning-line favorite in a field of 14 but will have to overcome the outside gate -- no picnic at the Hot Springs track going this distance.
Synchrony got going in the final furlong to win the $150,000 Grade III Fair Grounds Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over Bandua. Markitoff was third. Synchrony, now 4-for-4 on the New Orleans greensward, raced typically well off the pace until well into the stretch. Under energetic handling by jockey Joe Bravo, he managed to rally by Bandua near the sixteenth pole and put matters to rest. The 6-year-old son of Tapit finished 9 furlongs on firm going in 1:48.09, winning the race for the second straight year.
Trainer Michael Stidham said the immediate goal for Synchrony now is the $300,000 Grade III Muniz Memorial at Fair Grounds March 23 with an eye on the $1 million Grade I Old Forester Turf Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard. "I think he's still got a Grade I sitting out there somewhere waiting for him," Stidham said.
In other action:
Honor Up rallied to the lead in the stretch run in Sunday's $100,000 Haynesfield Stakes for New York-breds, then held off Syndergaard in the final strides to win by a nose. The favorite, Twisted Tom, as another 1 1/2 lengths in arrears while taking show money. Honor Up, a 4-year-old colt by To Honor and Serve, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.04 with Jose Lezcano up.
Holiday Disguise took over in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Broadway Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares and won off by a comfortable 4 1/2 lengths over odds-on favorite Pauseforthecause. Palladian Bridge was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Holiday Disguise, a 5-year-old Harlan's Holiday mare, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.13 for Lezcano.
Fast Gator was fast enough to set the early pace in Sunday's $85,000 La Coneja Stakes for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares, then stubborn enough to recover after being headed by Tijuana early in the stretch run. With Alfredo Juarez Jr. up, Fast Gator found more and won by 2 lengths over Tijuana. It was another 6 1/4 lengths to Bryn's Fancy Pants in third. Fast Gator, a 4-year-old Diabolical filly, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.98.