Russell Road, Immortal Eyes win on ‘Classic’ undercard at Charles Town

While the Grade II, $1 million Charles Town Classic clearly and deservedly took center stage last Saturday evening, it was hardly the only notable race on a stakes-filled card and it may have company from one or two preceding stakes races on the undercard that could eventually earn Graded status.

Although there were two horses that earned more than the $150,000 winner’s share that he collected that night, Flashy Dresser (Julien Leparoux) gets the nod as being the most impressive winner on the card. A lightly raced three-year-old son of Flashy Bull owned and trained by Fred Seitz, Flashy Dresser kept his perfect record in tact from three starts when he rallied between horses late to capture the $250,000 Robert Hilton Memorial by a length in 1:25.12 for the seven panels.
      Flashy Dresser emerged on the scene somewhat belatedly when he trounced a field of maiden special weight rivals at Gulfstream Park by seven lengths. Three weeks later he ventured to Turfway Park in Kentucky and captured the $75,000 Rushaway Stakes as the 9-5 choice in his first start around two turns and his first try over the synthetic surface. His effort that day was equally as impressive as Went The Day Well who prevailed in the $300,000 Spiral Stakes an hour later.
      Having already won an open stakes in Kentucky and runner-up Gung Ho came back to run third in the $750,000 Bluegrass Stakes earlier that afternoon at Keeneland, Flashy Dresser was viewed as a mortal cinch in the Robert Hilton and was made the overwhelming 1-2 favorite. Through the first five furlongs of that seven-furlong affair, however, his chances did not look good and Leparoux sat still aboard a talented runner with no room to run.
     At the top of the stretch in the Hilton, Trippi’s Secret surged to command and looked poised to draw clear but the Ollie Figgins trainee blew the turn and drifted toward the center of the track. Flashy Dresser was still tucked in behind horses and then finally found a narrow seam inside the sixteenth pole and the favorite exploded through there to forge a length victory to keep his perfect record in tact from there starts. Seitz noted the colt will get a brief respite and will likely skip the Triple Crown events, but he could be an obvious candidate for the $400,000 Red Legend Stakes here on Saturday, June 30.
      One race later on the card, Magical Feeling lived up to her role as the tepid 9-5 favorite in the $200,000 Sugar Maple Stakes when she rallied from just off the pace and widest of all on the far turn to score by two lengths in 1:25.10 for the seven furlongs. A six-year-old Empire Maker mare trained by Allen Iwinski for owner Peter Blum, Magical Feeling notched her second win in four starts this year and nearly doubled her seasonal earnings to $250,000. Her previous win occurred in the Grade II, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park as an overlooked 27-1 shot.
     Last spring and summer Immortal Eyes emerged as one of the best older sprinters in the Mid-Atlantic region and last Saturday evening the seven-year-old Greatness gelding enhanced his local reputation when he successfully defended his title in the $50,000 Webb Snyder Stakes. Named in honor of the late Webb Snyder, who was named on seven mounts on Charles Town’s opening day card in 1933 but missed them due to a snow storm, the stakes has become a showcase for Immortal Eyes who established a stakes and track record while taking the 2011 running in 50.09 for the 4 1/2-furlongs.
     Immortal Eyes (Travis Dunkelberger) benefited from patient handling from his rider last weekend and sat fourth along the rail through the far turn then found an opening along the fence turning for home and powered through to a two-length score in 50.71. It was his sixth win in seven local starts and his 10th win in 30 lifetime outings, pushing his career bankroll toward $500,000 for owner Robert Abbo. Last summer the Bowie-based runner captured the Webb Snyder and the Charles Town Dash and later established a track record by taking the six-furlong Chesapeake Stakes at Colonial Downs in 1:07.97.
      After two modest efforts in the opening preliminary rounds of the tournament, Go Maire Tu (Arnaldo Bocachica) peaked at the right time last Saturday when he rallied from midpack to post a 26-1 upset in the $55,000 Charles Town Starter Tournament for former $5000 claimers. A four-year-old Congrats gelding trained by Mark Shanley for owner Glen Shamburg, Go Maire Tu uncorked a solid kick leaving the three-eighths pole to assume command on the far turn then held safe 6-5 favorite Albrecht (J.D. Acosta) for the two-length victory in the one-mile and
one-sixteenth affair.
     One of the best performances on the card was, not surprisingly, delivered by one of the best West Virginia-bred runners of the past decade. Russell Road, a six-year-old Wheaton gelding trained by James W. Casey for owner Mark Russell, rallied from well off the pace with a powerful, four-wide move on the far turn and romped home six lengths clear in the $50,000 Confucius Say, named in honor of another stellar state-bred horse.
      Idle since running fourth in the A Huevo Stakes, named in honor of a Grade I-winning state-bred from more than a decade ago, Russell Road settled well off the early pace then launched an impressive bid into the far turn and romped home widest of all under wraps to score in 1:25.36 for the seven furlongs. It was the 19th victory in 29 starts for Russell Road over the CT strip and the 20th victory in 33 career outings overall for the millionaire and defending West Virginia Breeders Classic champ.
      One race earlier on the Classic card, Silver Heart led throughout to capture the second running of the $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares. A seven-year-old Lion Hearted mare trained by Gary Capuano for owner-breeder Nancy Terhune, Silver Heart notched her third win in four starts this year, her 13th victory in 29 local starts and her 14th tally in 32 career tries overall. She is the defending champion of the $250,000 Cavada BC and Capuano has won the past two editions of that race with two different mares, the other being Aspenglow.


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