Ample stakes action among thoroughbreds on Saturday

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Ted Black

August 4th, 2018

There might typically be little in common between Saratoga Race Course, Laurel Park and Mountaineer Park, but Saturday afternoon all three of them offered numerous stakes races on the main tracks.

Saturday's feature at Saratoga was the Grade I, $1.2 million Whitney Stakes for older runners and the race proved well worth the wait for the connections. A severe thunderstorm passed through the area while the horses were in the paddock and the start of the race was delayed for more than 30 minutes until clear skies finally prevailed, although the main track was left sloppy.

When the gates opened in the Whitney, favored Diversify broke alertly and appeared to thrive over the off going. The New York-bred son of Bellamy Road gained command in a 23.1 opener, maintained a clear lead past the half in 46.2 and by three-quarters in 1:11 and then splashed home four lengths clear of Mind Your Biscuits to score in 1:49.62 for the nine furlongs. The five-year-old gelding trained by Richard Violette, Jr. recorded his third straight win after running last in the Grade II, $1.2 million Charles Town Classic to kick off his campaign.

Then one race earlier in the Grade I, $500,000 Test Stakes for three-year-old fillies, Separationofpowers lived up to her role as the 2-1 choice when she wore down Mia Mischief following a torrid stretch battle to score by a nose in 1:22.78 for the seven panels. A three-year-old daughter of Candy Ride trained by Chad Brown, Separationofpowers notched her first win in two starts this year and now owns three wins and $730,000 from six career tries. Mia Mischief was game in defeat and looms a contender in future spots against sophomores.

That same afternoon at Mountaineer Park on their stakes-filled card, Mr. Freeze rebounded from a narrow setback to High North in the Iowa Derby when he shook free from that rival on the far turn and romped home six lengths clear while stopping the timer in 1:47.95, a fast clocking over a surface that normally does not produce such times. Mr. Freeze has won three of four starts and earned $430,000 for trainer Dale Romans and looks as though he could handle Grade II rivals in the near future.

Then one race earlier in the Grade III, $200,000 West Virginia Governor's Cup Stakes for older horses, Leofric eventually got the better of stablemate Term Of Art to win by a neck. A five-year-old Candy Ride stallion trained by Brad Cox, Leofric notched his second straight score and his third win in four starts this year and now owns six wins and $450,000 banked from 11 career outings after getting the one-mile and one-sixteenth in 1:42.72.

One race earlier in the $75,000 Senator Robert Byrd Memoral Stakes for older males, Heartwood edged clear from longshot Woodland Walk to score by a length in 1:09.35. Three races earlier in the $75,000 West Virginia Secretary Stakes for fillies and mares, Golden Mischief easily lived up to her role as the 1-5 choice when she romped home six lengths clear in 1:09.24. The four-year-old daughter of Into Mischief trained by Brad Cox for Juddmonte Farms has won two straight and three of five this year and may head back into graded stakes company soon.

That same afternoon at Laurel Park, the quartet of Virginia-bred stakes initially slated for the turf were moved to the main track following two days of heavy rain. Homespun Hero captured the $75,000 Meadow Stable Stakes, River Deep romped home eight lengths clear in the $75,000 Hansel Stakes at one mile, Paulita won the $75,000 William M. Backer for fillies at one mile and Altamura captured the $75,000 Camptown Stakes at five-and-one-half furlongs.