Ahh Chocolate shows affinity for trip in duPont; Ben's Cat does it again in thriller

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May 20th, 2016

Stoneway Farm’s homebred Ahh Chocolate really needs nine furlongs to show her best, and got it in Friday’s $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3) on Black-Eyed Susan Day at Pimlico.

Trainer Neil Howard had noted that Ahh Chocolate was third in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) in just her career third start here on the corresponding Friday in 2015, and she subsequently improved with maturity and experience. In her sophomore finale, the well-named daughter of Candy Ride and Ahh achieved a career high by capturing the 1 1/8-mile Falls City (G2) at Churchill Downs.

Ahh Chocolate commenced her 4-year-old campaign with thirds in the March 18 Esplanade at Fair Grounds and April 22 Doubledogdare (G3) at Keeneland, both over trips slightly shorter than ideal. Back up a half-furlong for the DuPont, the 7-2 second choice stalked the moderate pace set by Super Majesty, asserted in the stretch, and held the closing Theogony and Joint Return. Super Majesty tired to fourth, and 2-1 favorite Mei Ling disappointed in sixth after failing to make the early lead.

Under Brian Hernandez Jr., Ahh Chocolate completed the circuit in 1:50.82 on the fast track and returned $9. She came back with blood on her right knee, but Hernandez reported that the vet examined her and it appeared to be “superficial.” Ahh Chocolate advanced her resume to 12-5-1-3, $386,677, including a second in last fall’s Chilukki (G2) prior to the Falls City.

Maryland icon Ben’s Cat showed just why he’s amassed legions of fans over the years in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Rescuing victory from the jaws of defeat, the evergreen 10-year-old produced a final lunge to maintain his longstanding crown in the five-furlong dash.

Ben’s Cat had the proverbial mountain to climb as 4-5 favorite Rocket Heat opened up on the lead, but down the stretch, he got his competitive juices flowing. As Spring to the Sky rallied on the outside, Ben’s Cat angled off the inside and surged between foes to get up by a neck. The 25-1 Spring to the Sky edged Rocket Heat by a half-length for second.

By zipping in :56.10 on the firm course, Ben’s Cat scored his fourth straight win in this race, and his fifth McKay title overall. This marks an incredible 26th career stakes victory. Bred, owned, and trained by fellow Maryland legend King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat has now bankrolled $2,590,937 from his 55-32-9-4 line.

In the $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3), Repole Stable’s homebred Lost Raven employed different tactics to swoop off the quick pace set by a pressured Quick Release. Trained by Todd Pletcher and piloted by John Velazquez, the 7-2 chance became the newest graded winner for the red-hot Uncle Mo, sire of Nyquist and three other Preakness (G1) runners. 

Hitherto always engaged up front, this time Lost Raven found herself near the back as the contentious tempo unfolded. Quick Release shook off pace rival Moment Is Right in upper stretch, but by that point, Lost Raven was flying into contention. Overtaking Quick Release, Lost Raven also outkicked fellow closer One True Kiss, who was emerging on the far outside. The three-quarters of a length winner finished six furlongs on the dirt in 1:11.43.

Quick Release checked in a further 1 1/4 lengths adrift in third. Moment Is Right wound up sixth, and 5-2 favorite R Girls a Charmer, who couldn’t get to the front, crossed the wire eighth of 10.

Lost Raven’s initial stakes score came at Laurel in the Smart Halo last November, and she added the March 26 Cicada in her latest at Aqueduct. Also placed in Laurel’s Marshua and Aqueduct’s Busanda, she sports a mark of 8-4-1-1, $290,350.

The $100,000 Hilltop attracted a large, competitive field of 3-year-old turf fillies, so it was no real surprise that there was a blanket finish with an upset. The 13-1 Gone Away took the overland route with Florent Geroux and prevailed by a head from Family Meeting, who finally speared through on the inside. The top two had been next-to-last and last early, while Wessex, another head back in third, performed best of those in shouting distance of the pace.

That’s because the real plot twist of the Hilltop was Morethanjusthello’s stirrup mishap that led to an unsustainable pace. Jockey Javier Castellano had the right iron go on him at the break, and there was no restraining Morethanjusthello thereafter. When she came back to the field turning for home, Castellano did well to throttle her down without incident to the others, and she was eased across the line.

The victorious Gone Away brought back memories of Barbaro on this 10th anniversary of his ill-fated Preakness (G1), for she’s also trained by Michael Matz. The Augustin Stable colorbearer was a non-threatening third to Canadian Horse of the Year Catch a Glimpse in the Herecomesthebride (G3) two back, and caught an unsuitably soft course when only fifth in an entry-level allowance at Keeneland last time. The Leroidesanimaux filly more than doubled her earnings to $109,495 while improving her mark to 5-2-0-1. Her dam, the unraced Mecke mare Miss Tullamore Dew, is a half-sister to Grade 1-winning sire Bellamy Road.

The Friday stakes action kicked off with the $100,000 Skipat S., where the Bob Baffert-trained Fantastic Style was sent off the prohibitive 1-5 favorite. But the California shipper couldn’t cope with the blistering early speed of the 9-2 Disco Chick.

Just freed from the Parx quarantine, Disco Chick scampered to the front beneath Trevor McCarthy and extended her margin to eight lengths. The Mario Serey Jr. mare clocked 1:10.33 for six furlongs and paid $11.20.

The 67-1 Dallas Cowgirl nabbed Fantastic Style in the final strides for second. Perhaps this explains why Baffert opted for an ostensibly easier spot rather than her original idea, Saturday’s $150,000 Vagrancy (G3).

Freedom Acres’ Disco Chick was earning her second straight stakes victory after another wire job in the May 7 My Juliet. Her handful of stakes placings includes a pair of seconds to Lady Sabelia at Laurel over the winter, and her record now stands at 26-8-8-3, $468,800.

Ahh Chocolate photo courtesy of Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos

Ben's Cat photo by Ronnie Betor/

Lost Raven photo courtesy of Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club