While the serious stakes schedule does not get officially under way here until April 20 when the track hosts the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic, local owners and trainers again had the chance to see their horses compete in the $35,000 Ides of March Handicap, a two-turn sprint for older horses last Tuesday evening.
Among the seven runners who went postward in the Ides of March Handicap, named in honor of the famed day [actually March 15] when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated roughly 2000 years ago, the public had narrowed the group down to three serious contenders. Tomorrow’s Tale was made the 7-5 favorite, Wolfcamp was the 2-1 second choice and Great Vintage was the 3-1 third choice.
When the gate opened in the Ides of March Handicap, both Tomorrow’s Tale and Wolfcamp broke very alertly and both appeared intent on gaining command through the first turn and they dueled by the opener in 23 seconds flat. Great Vintage settled well off the quick early pace in his customary fashion and the rapid tempo would benefit him considerably over the final three furlongs.
Tomorrow’s Tale used his inside position to surge to command down the backside and gained a two-length lead before reaching the half in a rapid 45.3, with Wolfcamp under urging to stay close. Great Vintage launched his bid leaving the three-eighths pole and started a wide rally at that point to loom a serious threat through the far turn.
At the top of the lane, Tomorrow’s Tale had disposed of Wolfcamp but Great Vintage made his presence known with a three-wide bid on the far turn and looked poised to overtake the speedy leader. But Tomorrow’s Tale had something left in reserve and he held safe Great Vintage late for a length victory while covering the 6 1/2-furlongs in 1:18.52.
A five-year-old Petionville gelding trained by Tim Kreiser, Tomorrow’s Tale has won twice in four starts this year and earned $47,500. He now owns an 8-5-5 slate and $195,000 bankroll from 31 career outings. He finished second in his career debut at Charles Town two years ago, won his only two local starts last summer and then
prevailed in the Ides of March Handicap last week in his first local try this winter.
Great Vintage rallied well to finish second for trainer Jeff Runco and owner Linda Zang and now owns a 2-1-0 slate and $41,000 bankroll from three starts this year. In nine career outings, Great Vintage owns a 4-2-3 slate and $85,000 in career earnings from nine lifetime tries, all of which have been at Charles Town. The five-year-old Great Notion gelding was bred in Maryland by Dr. Tom Bowman and wife, Chris Bowman of Dance Forth Farms in Chestertown.
Three races earlier on the card in a two-turn, open maiden special weight event for three-year-old fillies, Orland Flash easily lived up to her role as the prohibitive 1-9 favorite when she cruised home five lengths clear in her local debut for trainer Jeff Runco.
A three-year-old daughter of Flashy Bull out of a Secret Hello mare, Orland Flash had been fifth and fourth in two previous tries this year against maiden special weight foes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. But in her first local outing last Tuesday the sophomore filly had little trouble with her seven rivals.
Despite being forced four-wide to gain command through the first turn, Orland Flash opened a clear lead down the backside under confident handling, widened her advantage through the far turn and simply coasted home as much the best to her first victory in five lifetime tries. Orland Flash covered the seven furlongs in a solid 1:27.30 and looks poised to run through her allowance conditions for Runco.
One night later on the Wednesday card, a field of seven older runners perhaps with their sights set on the $50,000 Webb Snyder Charles Town Dash Stakes on the Charles Town Classic undercard here next month went postward in a one-turn allowance event.
When the gate opened in that event, Smokin PK, Top Hawker and Fearsome all broke very well to duel for command briefly leaving the chute, but it was Fearsome who gained command before whistling by the opener in 21 flat. Fearsome maintained a clear lead through the far turn and sped by the half-mile mark in 44.2 and held safe Yukon Wildcat for a two-length score in 50.87.
A four-year-old Speightstown gelding trained by Hugh McMahon for owners Winners Circle Partners X, Fearsome prevailed as the 8-5 favorite in last Wednesday’s one-turn dash feature for his second win in three starts this year. The speedy gelding and son of a former Breeders Cup Sprint champ now owns a 5-2-2 slate and $96,500 bankroll from 14 career outings. He has won both of his starts over the CT strip, roughly six months apart.
Three races earlier on the card, Just Fuhr Real rallied from just off the pace to capture a one-turn dash for state-bred older horses. The four-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding owned, bred and trained by John McKee, found his best stride nearing the eighth pole and closed stoutly to prevail by three lengths in 52.08 for his first win in two starts this year. He now sports a 4-6-5 slate and $130,000 bankroll from 30 lifetime tries.
Game On Dude, the recent winner of the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap is heading to Charles Town next month to take another shot at the Grade II, $1.5 million Charles Town Classic. Game On Dude, the beaten favorite in last year’s Grade I, $5 million Breeders Cup Classic at Santa Anita, finished second in the 2011 edition of the Charles Town Classic for trainer Bob Baffert and will seek to claim the $1 million winner’s share in this year’s running of the nine-furlong Classic on April 20.