Duke of Mischief has no problem traveling or trying new racetracks, and the evening of April 16 he found Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races to his liking. And he picked the right time to stir up some trouble—in the $1 million Charles Town Classic (gr. III), the first graded stakes in the history of the West Virginia track (VIDEO).
With Joe Bravo riding for trainer David Fawkes, who co-owns the horse with Alex and Joann Lieblong and Marilyn McMaster, Duke of Mischief picked up on horses on the backstretch heading into the third and final turn, took over from Game On Dude approaching the top of the lane, and pulled away to win by 2 1/4 lengths.
The winning time for 1 1/8 miles on a sloppy track was 1:51.13. Game On Dude, alert early from post 10 and tracking front-running Tackleberry throughout, ran strongly to finish second, a head in front of Tizway . Tackleberry held for fourth.
Fractions for the race were :24.35 for the first quarter-mile, :48.62 for a half-mile, 1:13.37 for six furlongs, and 1:37.37 for one mile. Duke of Mischief paid $11.40 to win in what turned out to be a wide-open betting race.
Game On Dude, winner of the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) in his previous start, was dismissed as the sixth choice at almost 6-1 under David Flores. The slight favorite ended up being Rule , who raced in close attendance early but flattened out to finish ninth under John Velazquez.
Duke of Mischief, a 5-year-old horse bred in Florida by co-owner McMaster, is by Graeme Hall out of the Real Courage mare My Lady Amelia. He now has more than $1.7 million in earnings in 21 starts.
“He ran lights out tonight,” Fawkes said. “It’s the best race I’ve seen him run. I told Joe (Bravo) I though the horse should be no worse than third going into the last turn, and that’s how it turned out. The rest is history.”
Bravo said Duke of Mischief was especially sharp in his Charles Town debut.
“He made me look good tonight,” Bravo said. “On the backstretch I just had my feet on the dashboard. He was dragging me to horses down the backstretch. I give the credit to David and Celia Fawkes. After his last race we were all really confident.”
Duke of Mischief in his previous start finished a close fourth behind Tackleberry, Soaring Empire, and Tizway in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) at one mile around one turn.
Fawkes said when he looked at the race after entries were drawn he figured any of the 10 entrants could win. This year’s Classic is the first non-Breeders’ Cup race since 2006 to have a field of 10 or more horses that all won graded stakes.
“It turned out to be a great race,” Fawkes said. “Anybody could have won it. Our horse had trained unbelievable, so to me it was a no-brainer (to ship to Charles Town for the $1 million stakes). I gave every horse in the race a chance to win, but it was just our turn tonight.”
Fawkes said he hasn’t decided the next race for Duke of Mischief, but he mentioned New York or New Jersey. Fawkes will have a string in New York this spring rather than at Monmouth Park.
First post time at Charles Town was delayed a half hour until 6:30 p.m. EDT, and soon after the first race was run, another storm with wicked lightning blew through, forcing a delay in the proceedings.
In other action on the program:
$250,000 TVG Sugar Maple, fillies and mares: William Harris’ Sweet Goodbye confirmed her return to form with a smashing wire-to-wire victory in 1:24.38 for seven furlongs on a sloppy track. Her time was a little more than a second off the track record for the distance (VIDEO).
Maryland homebred Sweet Goodbye, 6, is by Louis Quatorze out of the Thirty Eight Paces mare Thirty Eight Steps. She has won six of seven starts at Charles Town.
$100,000 Blue & Gold Stakes, 3-year-olds: Jockey Velazquez arrived on time from Kentucky to accept the mount aboard Loranger Native for owner Peter Redekop and made the most of it by guiding the gelding to victory in a bang-bang finish (VIDEO).
Loranger Native, a Louisiana-bred gelding by Good and Tough out of the Gate Dancer mare Native Gate Dancer, paid $3 to win.
$55,000 Webb Snyder Stakes for 3-year-olds and up: Robert Abbo Racing Stable’s Immortal Eyes blew away three other foes in wire-to-wire fashion and established a new track for 4 1/2 furlongs in :50.09 on a sloppy track (VIDEO).
Trained by Damon Dildovico and ridden by Travis Dunkelberger, Immortal Eyes is a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Greatness out of the Private Terms mare Private Eyes. Ju Jitsu Jax chased the winner and finished second, followed by Ryan's Gold and Wonder Lite.
Five others were scratched. Immortal Eyes, now four-for-five at Charles Town, paid $5.60 to win.
$50,000 Confucius Say Stakes, 3-year-olds and up, West Virginia-bred: Mark Russell’s Russell Road made his 2011 debut a winning one when he rallied from off a fast pace to get up at the wire in 1:25.60 for seven furlongs on a sloppy track (VIDEO).
Russell Road, now 15-for-22 at Charles Town, is trained by James W. Casey and was ridden as usual by Travis Dunkleberger. He gradually wore down Son of a Bear, who also made a bold bid heading into the far turn. Tup Take' Please was third, with Lively Reparations fourth.
Russell Road, a 5-year-old by Wheatonout of the Verification mare Roberta Gump, paid $2.60 to win as part of a coupled entry.
$50,000 Original Gold Stakes, fillies and mares, West Virginia-bred: Premier Stables Unlimited Come Here Oonga returned to her front-running tactics to lead the field almost all the way in 1:26.58 on a sloppy track (VIDEO). Favored Little Shiney rallied for second, followed by Printscess Poach and Saint Zita.
Trained by Mark Shuman and ridden by Luis Garcia, Come on Oonga paid $9.20 to win. The 5-year-old mare, by Peak Dancer out of the Chimes Band mare Valentine’s Chime, won for the seventh time in 27 starts at Charles Town, the only track at which she has raced in her career.
$35,000 Classic Distaff Handicap, fillies and mares: Winners Circle Partners V’s Don'tgetsuspicious was part of a three-way duel through a scalding first quarter-mile in :21.00 on a sloppy track but managed to hold on by a head in :51.18, less than a second off the track record for 4 1/2 furlongs (VIDEO).