Charles Town, Laurel offer Saturday stakes action

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Ted Black

April 20th, 2019

With the Kentucky Derby now just two weeks away, thoroughbred racing fans getting more than a glimpse of 'Derby fever' had the chance for a modest reprieve of sorts on Saturday afternoon as Charles Town and Laurel Park both offered stakes-filled cards.

In one of the early races on the Charles Town card, Strong Like Bull (Arnaldo Bocachica) proved fresh and fit off the layoff to gain command soon after the start and lead throughout en route to a two-length score over 4-5 choice Nova Boy in 51.53 in the first edition of the $35,000 Immortal Eyes overnight stakes. A seven-year-old Benny The Bull gelding trained by Jeff Runco for the Rockingham Ranch, Strong Like Bull prevailed in his seasonal debut and now owns nine wins and nearly $145,000 banked from 19 career outings.

Two races later in the $50,000 Coin Collector for state-bred three-year-old colts & geldings, Vic's Pick (Luis Batista) just lived up to his role as the 8-5 favorite when he wore down a game and gritty Best Shot (Oscar Flores) to score by a neck in 52.31. A gelded sophomore son of Fiber Sonde owned, bred and trained by Michael Sterling, Vic's Pick notched his third straight triumph and now owns four wins and nearly $70,000 banked from five lifetime tries, all at the one-turn sprint distance over the strip.

Then one race later in the $50,000 Original Gold Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, Anna's Bandit (Xavier Perez) easily lived up to her role as the 3-10 choice when she bided her time through the early stages, surged to command midway on the far turn and drew clear to a five-length score. A five-year-old Great Notion mare trained by John [Jerry] Robb for owner No Guts No Glory Farm, Anna's Bandit remained perfect in three starts this year and now owns 10 wins and over $400,000 banked from 24 career outings after getting the seven furlongs in 1:25.49.

One race later in the $50,000 Confucius Say Stakes for state-bred older males, Aaron's Tap lived up to his billing as the 4-5 favorite when he gained command through the clubhouse turn, rebuffed pressure from New Windsor down the backside then edged clear on the far turn and kept North Atlantic and Mean Bean at bay in the lane for a two-length score. A five-year-old Northern Alfeet gelding trained by Jeff Runco, Aaron's Tap notched his first win in two starts this year and now owns 11 wins and $215,000 banked from 19 career tries.

Then one race later in the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial for three-year-old colts and geldings, Malpais (Gabriel Saez) gained command entering the clubhouse turn, shook loose from War Tocsin down the backside, opened a clear lead on the far turn and held safe Admiral Lynch and Federal Case for a three-length score as the slight even-money choice. A sophomore son of Hard Spun trained by Joe Sharp, Malpais notched his second win in four starts this year and now owns three wins and nearly $130,000 banked from six career outings by getting the seven furlongs in 1:25.15.

One race later in the $75,000 Russell Road Stakes for older males, Clubman (Perez) rallied from well off the pace to overhaul Cool Arrow (Kendrick Carmouche) for a half-length score as an overlooked 10-1 shot. A Maryland-bred, five-year-old Not For Love gelding trained by Rodolpho Sanchez-Solomon, Clubman recorded his third win in four starts this year and now owns eight wins and nearly $320,000 banked from 28 lifetime tries. It was the first stakes win for his trainer.

Then one race later in the $100,000 Dance to Bristol Stakes for fillies and mares, Devine Mischief (J.D. Acosta) gained command soon after the break, was permitted to stroll through modest splits of 24.3, 48.1 and 1:12.2 for the first three calls then held safe the late bids of Isotope and Lake Ponchatrain for a neck score in 1:25.61. A four-year-old daughter of Into Mischief trained by Javier Contreras of Late Night Pow Wow fame, Devine Mischief recorded her first win from four starts this year and now owns five wins and $260,000 banked from 12 career tries.

One race later in the Grade II, $1 million Charles Town Classic, Runnin'toluvya (Oscar Flores) continued his torrid winning ways over the local strip and gave the hometown fans ample reason to cheer when the five-year-old Fiber Sonde gelding edged Diamond King by a neck in 1:50.56 for the nine furlongs. Trained by Tim Grams for owner and wife, Judy Grams, Runnin'toluvya notched his fifth straight stakes score, ninth straight win overall and now owns 12 wins and $900,000 banked from 16 career outings.

That same afternoon at Laurel Park, Alwaysmining punched his ticket to the Grade I, $1.5 million Preakness Stakes when he captured the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes by 11 lengths as the odds-on choice. Las Setas narrowly scored as the odds-on choice in the $125,000 Weber City Miss Stakes for three-year-old fillies one race earlier and next appears likely for Grade II, Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico.