Familiar face headlines jumpstart to racing calendar

Track record-holder Immortal Eyes has sights on Charles Town handicap

CHARLES TOWN – The last time Immortal Eyes raced, which was October at Charles Town, the millionaire bay gelding did what he’s done so many times before – win in blistering time.

Five months removed from victory in the Jefferson County Handicap, the 9-year-old sprint specialist is set to return Thursday to the track where he has held the 4 1/2-furlong record for nearly three years and face four rivals going that distance in the Ides of March Handicap.

Thursday’s $35,000 feature for horses 4-years and upward is the first of three races scheduled this week to jumpstart the heart of the 2014 racing calendar, which includes the $1.5 million Grade 2 Charles Town Classic slated for April 19.

Immortal Eyes races to a Charles Town track record in 2011 while winning the Webb Snyder Stakes. The 9-year-old gelding’s record time of 50.09 seconds over the 4 1/2 furlong distance remains firm nearly three years later.

Immortal Eyes races to a Charles Town track record in 2011 while winning the Webb Snyder Stakes. The 9-year-old gelding’s record time of 50.09 seconds over the 4 1/2 furlong distance remains firm nearly three years later.

On Saturday, a nine-race card at Charles Town will feature the $35,000 Violet Handicap for older females going 4 1/2 furlongs, and also the $35,000 Spring Handicap for horses 4-years and upward going seven furlongs. Entries for those races will be taken Wednesday.

Immortal Eyes won six races last year, including the Valentine’s Day Handicap and Jefferson County Handicap, both at Charles Town. With lifetime earnings of more than $1.1 million, the Florida-bred owned by Robert Abbo has won nearly $350,000 by taking 10-of-12 career starts at Charles Town, with two seconds.

Immortal Eyes set the track record for 4 1/2 furlongs at Charles Town in 2011 with a 4 3/4-length victory that stopped the clock in 50.09 seconds in the Webb Synder Stakes. Last October, he topped a field of six in the Jefferson County Handicap winning by 1 1/4 lengths in 50.67 seconds.

“He’s doing fine,” said trainer Damon Dilodovico. “We gave him a little break. Mr. Abbo sent him to Florida to be on a farm in some decent weather. We did a little bit of work with him down there and we brought him up here. He’s given us a few good works and hopefully he’s ready to go.”

Immortal Eyes has been named the even money morning line favorite for the Ides of March Handicap. He will again be teamed with jockey Travis Dunkelberger, who rode him to victory in each of his past two starts.

His biggest competition appears likely to come from 5-year-old Fearsome, the horse that defeated Immortal Eyes by 3 lengths last April in the $50,000 Charles Town Dash. Immortal Eyes lost his next start in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint on the Preakness undercard the following month, but then won five of his next six, including turning the tables on Fearsome in the Jefferson County Handicap.

“The Maryland race was probably one of the poorest efforts he’s ever given us,” Dilodovico said. “But from that point on the only horse that beat him was Ribo Bobo, who’s winning just about everything he runs in.”

Fearsome has been named the 7-5 morning line second choice, as he will be ridden by jockey J.D. Acosta for trainer Hugh McMahon. The rest of a short field includes Freudian Dilemma (9-2), Wizwit (10-1) and Forastero (12-1).

Dilodovico, who has been Immortal Eyes’ trainer since the horse was 4, attributed his horse’s success at Charles Town to liking the tighter turns and shorter distance. He also said Immortal Eyes likes a firmer racing surface.

“That could be part of it,” he said. “Maybe it’s all three of those things together.”

Dilodovico said he expects Immortal Eyes will have a similar campaign this year to what he undertook in 2013. He said depending on his performance on Thursday, the horse may return next month for the Charles Town Dash or he may run at Penn National or Pimlico, to prep for a return to race on the Preakness undercard.

“It will just be a race by race thing,” he said. “We’re not really sure. There’s a couple of options.”

 

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