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Las Vegas, NV - Spring is drawing closer and with that the world of graded stakes racing is ramping up as well. This past weekend saw no fewer than nine races contested all around the country - Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Tampa Bay Downs each hosted top graded stakes action. There were three important qualifying races for three year old Kentucky Derby hopefuls hoping to generate a few points in the new Kentucky Derby points system - the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Withers Stakes from Aqueduct all took place Saturday, February 2 - let's start with a look at what went down in those important races
In Saturday's Grade 3 $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs it was the skies that came away with the money and the points in one of the three "Road to the Kentucky Derby" points races for three years olds. Falling Sky earned the winner's portion of the purse and 10 valuable points at 7-1 odds while 9-5 second choice Dynamic Sky finished a neck behind in second and earned four points on his attempt to qualify for the Run for the Roses. My Name Is Michael, the 8-5 favorite finished another three lengths back in third. Speak Logistics, Midnite Poppa, Divine Ambition, Silver Day, Lightning Stone, and Balino completed the order of finish.
The $150,000 Grade 3 Florida Oaks took place at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday. It was 4-5 favorite Tapicat that earned his first stakes victory in the field of 10 by a somewhat easy 2 3/4 lengths. Kitten's Dumplings finished second at 8-1 odds, just holding off 5-2 Wave Theory who finished a neck behind in third. Rusty Slipper, Raven's Rockette, Floral Sky, Cindys Casino, Cotton Pickin, Caraquista, and Mariel N Kathy rounded out the order of finish. Toasting and Jadira scratched.
In the $200,000 Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct 3-5 favorite, Todd Pletcher trained Revolutionary rallied late to grab the winner's share of the purse and the more valuable 10 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Escapefromreality finished a head back in second while Siete de Oros failed to hold the lead and fell back to third. Amerigo Vespucci, Champion Boy, Smooth Bert, Valid, and Long River completed the order of finish.
Benefiting from a patient ride, second betting choice Head Heart Hoof took control leaving the turn and held off a tenacious rally by race favorite Johannesburg Smile to win the 120th renewal of the $150,000 Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack Feb. 2. Sinai finished another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. P J's Magical Wink held fourth, followed by Isn't He Perfect and Mine Over Matter, who leaped at the start and trailed throughout.
In the $200,000 Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Saturday, lightly raced Bob Baffert colt and 1-2 favorite Flashback tasted victory against a small field of four colts in just his second career start and along the way earned 10 points on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby". Den's Legacy, runner-up in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes was no match for Flashback while edging He's Had Enough for second by half a length. Little Jerry trailed. All four of the colts earned points toward qualification for possible starts in the Kentucky Derby in May.
In Saturday's $200,000 Grade 2 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita, Bob Baffert tasted victory for the second time on the afternoon Saturday when slight 2-1 favorite Guilt Trip gained his first stakes win by 1 1/2 lengths. Stephanoatsee, last at the three-eighths pole under Julien Leparoux, rallied four wide in the stretch and got up for second by three-quarters of a length over Fed Biz. Handsome Mike finished fourth with San Fernando runner-up Tritap and Groovin' Solo trailing the six-horse field. Shadow Runner scratched.
Also on Saturday at Santa Anita the $150,000 Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes was contested. Narrow second choice Suggestive Boy overcame a horrible post and ran away from the 13 horse field by 2 1/2 lengths. Wilkinson took second in the large field, with recent Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes winner and race favorite Silentio finishing third despite trouble. Akkadian was a nose behind the show horse, with Klisz just a head farther behind in fifth. They were followed home by Forest Mouse, Chosen Miracle, Tribal Tribute, Vagabond Shoes, Willyconker, Strong Suit, Key Decision, and Sebastian Flyte.
At Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Florida, 5-2 second choice Honorable Dillon came up big in the $150,000 Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes and raced to a half-length victory in the field of eight. 9-5 favorite Forty Tales got up late and finished second and nosed out Undrafted who finished third at the line. Merit Man, Weekend Hideaway, Singanothersong, Pataky Kid, and Really Sharp completed the order of finish.
In the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita, 1-20 favorite Game On Dude did what he was supposed to do - he won by 6 1/2 lengths for his sixth time in seven tries at Santa Anita in the miniscule field of four. Clubhouse Ride finished second and was 13 3/4 lengths clear of the third-place horse, Make Music for Me. Basmati weakened to last while Chosen Miracle, who ran in the Arcadia Stakes Feb. 2, was scratched.
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