Sunday Stakes Recap

SUNDAY STAKES RECAP

PRAYER BAGS RUFFIAN HANDICAP

Unrivaled Belle pumped her reputation as an up-and-comer when she ran down Rachel Alexandra to win the La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on April 30. But as the 3-5 favorite in yesterday's Grade 1, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap -- a race "Rachel" passed on -- she found a filly she couldn't handle.

Malibu Prayer led all the way under the hot-riding John Velazquez to beat Unrivaled Belle by 1 ¾ lengths.

Coming off a stakes win at Monmouth Park in her second start of the year for trainer Todd Pletcher, Malibu Prayer set a lively pace of :46.96 and 1:10.47, with Unrivaled Belle breathing down her neck after stumbling soon after the start.

Kent Desormeaux sent Unrivaled Belle after Malibu Prayer on the far turn, and those two dueled to the top of the stretch, when Malibu Prayer kicked away again.

"I figured I would let her break and do it nice and easy," Velazquez said. "When I asked her, she responded very well. She did it easily."

Malibu Prayer ran the 1mile in 1:48.14 to pay $6.70, topping a $10.40 exacta.

In the day's co-feature, the Grade 2, $150,000 Fourstardave at a mile-and-a-sixteenth over the Mellon turf, Get Stormy shook loose on the lead under Javier Castellano, kicked away from his pursuers at the top of the stretch and cruised home by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:39.09, just 18/100ths off the course record set by Fourstardave himself in 1991.

Get Stormy's main goal for the year, trainer Tom Bush said, is the Breeders' Cup Mile on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

LUCKY STRIKES HASKELL JACKPOT

Solid, not spectacular, is how you would describe Lookin At Lucky's racing performances prior to yesterday's Grade 1, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

Last year, trainer Bob Baffert's handsome bay colt won five of six starts to earn the 2-year-old championship, and this spring he won the Rebel and Preakness.

But Lookin At Lucky's biggest winning margin in those seven victories was 1 ¾ lengths. The other six wins came by a length or less.

That streak of just good enough came to a sudden, dramatic end yesterday on the Jersey Shore when Lookin At Lucky surged to the lead around the far turn of the Haskell, then kicked on the after-burners to draw away through the stretch, beating the late-blooming Trappe Shot by four lengths in 1:49 4/5 for the mile-and-an-eighth.

"That was really a break-out race," said Baffert, who notched his record fourth Haskell after winning previously with Point Given, War Emblem and Roman Ruler. "He finally came out of his shell."

First Dude, runner-up in the Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes, was third, with Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver fourth in the field of seven.

First Dude set the pace, pressed by Our Dark Knight through splits of :23 2/5 and :47 4/5, with Super Saver sitting outside them in third and Lookin At Lucky stalking a few lengths back. Leaving the backside, Garcia asked Lookin At Lucky to go after the leaders, and when he did, Super Saver and Calvin Borel moved in tandem.

For several strides around the far turn, the Derby and Preakness winners were neck-and-neck, and it seemed as if an epic battle might be in the making. But then Lookin At Lucky took command.

"I was really confident when [Garcia] got him outside and let him settle into his rhythm," Baffert said. "At the three-eighths pole, when a horse starts dragging you there, he's ready to put them away. When I saw that move on the far turn, I knew it was over."

Lookin At Lucky, surprisingly the heavy favorite in a field Baffert called the toughest he ever faced in the Haskell, paid $4.40 to win, topping a $17.20 exacta.

The big question now is, will Lookin At Lucky -- who finished sixth after a nightmare trip in the Kentucky Derby, his only start at a mile-and-a-quarter -- now try to win the "Midsummer Derby," the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28 -- a race Baffert previously won with Point Given en route to Horse of the Year?

"I don't know yet about the Travers," Baffert said. "We'll decide whether he stays east and goes to Saratoga, or we bring him back west. Right now I'm not sure."

A dream went up in smoke before the race when Fantasy Lane Stable's Uptowncharlybrown was scratched after he spiked a fever just before getting on a van at Belmont Park.

"The timing was terrible," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "It's unfortunate for the owners, another bit of bad luck for this horse."

Winning the Haskell with Uptowncharlybrown had long been the main goal of Fantasy Lane and their original trainer, Monmouth-based Alan Seewald, who died in April

by Ed Fountaine
from nypost.com

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