Saturday Stakes Center on Mud, Sweat, and Tears

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Ted Black

April 24th, 2017

Last Saturday a trio of lucrative stakes worth a combined sum of over $2 million were decided on "off" tracks that produced a trio of mild upsets.

In the ninth running of the Grade II, $1.25 million Charles Town Classic at nine furlongs, Imperative benefited from an early speed duel that involved favored Stanford, the defending champion of this event, and the razor sharp Matt King Coal down the backside and into the far turn and then rallied widest of all to score by a length in 1:53.05 over a "muddy" track.

A seven-year-old Bernardini gelding trained by Robert Hess, Jr., for Looch Racing Stables, Imperative notched his second win in three starts this year and now owns a 6-8-3 slate and $3 million bankroll from 38 career tries. In four starts in the Classic, Imperative now owns two wins and a second-place finish and earnings of $2.1 million, meaning the Classic has accounted for 70 percent of his lifetime bankroll.

That same evening at Yonkers Raceway, Mackenzie A (Jordan Stratton) also posted a 5-1 upset in the $310,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker Series final for pacing free-for-all mares. A five-year-old Rock N Roll Heaven mare trained by Peter Tritton for owner Harry von Knoblauch, Mackenzie A recorded her second win in eight starts this year and now owns a 10-9-1 slate and $295,000 bankroll from 27 career outings.

Then one race later in the $100,000 George Morton Levy Series consolation, Clear Vision (Brett Miller) overcame a first over bid to wear down Mach It So (Tim Tetrick) to score by a length in 1:51.3. An 11-year-old Western Hanover gelding trained by John Kokinos, Clear Vision now owns a 3-2-3 slate and $120,000 banked from 11 starts this year and a 36-46-38 slate and $2.67 million bankroll from 210 lifetime outings.

After bypassing the first two legs of the Levy, Clear Vision finished first once, second once and third once in three elims to just earn a berth in the consolation. But two of his efforts were superb and his performance in the Levy consolation suggests Clear Vision will be a serious factor in several events for free-for-allers this season.

Mach It So finished second in a solid performance, but the durable seven-year-old Mach Three gelding remained winless in six starts this year for trainer Jeff Bamond, Jr. The Levy consolation marked the 100th lifetime start for Mach It So, who sports a 34-17-11 slate and $1.74 million bankroll in his career thus far.

Then one race later in the $530,000 George Morton Levy final, Keystone Velocity (Daniel Dube) left alertly to gain command early, yielded to McWicked (Matt Kakaley), sat a tight pocket down the backside and through the far turn and angled to the passing lane and outlasted the late kicks of Somewhere In L A (Jason Bartlett), Missile J (Tetrick) and defending champion Bit Of A Legend N (Stratton) to win by a neck in 1:51.2.

A nine-year-old Western Hanover stallion trained by Rene Allard, Keystone Velocity recorded his third win from seven starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings to $325,000. In 95 career outings, Keystone Velocity now owns a 22-16-8 slate and $865,000 banked and gave the Allard-Dube tandem their second Levy final score in the past three years.

Runner-up Somwhere In L A encountered trouble early, raced second over and finished well to gain the place spot for trainer Richard Banca and figures to be another major player in free-for-all events, especially on half-mile ovals. Missile J finished third in a decent try as the even-money choice following a third over trip, while defending champ Bit Of A Legend N settled for fourth and Soto, who missed leg five and then drew the eight hole for the final and grabbed the last check.