It was the third straight graded stakes victory for the son of Medaglia d'Oro, who also took the April 26 Elkhorn Stakes (gr. IIT) and May 25 Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT).
Ridden again by Rosie Napravnik, Dark Cove completed the 1 1/2-mile Stars and Stripes in 2:27.39, lowering the course record at the Illinois track. Suntracer (7-1), who was piloted by Julien Leparoux, was second by a nose, while The Pizza Man (4-1), under Geroux Florent, settled for third.
In the Stars and Stripes, early fractions of 25:27, 48:47, and 1:12.80 were set by Ioya Bigtime. He led by 4 1/2 lengths early and dictated the pace into the far turn before relinquishing his lead to Dark Cove in the stretch, who stalked Ioya Bigtime in second before taking command.
"It was a pretty clean trip," said Napravnik. "We sat just where I thought would be the best spot. This is a really cool horse. He's very responsive. Mike (trainer Maker) has done a great job with him."
"We had a good trip, clean trip," said Suntracer's jockey Julien Leparoux. "He broke well, settled for me in the first part and made a nice run for me on the last turn. At the quarter-pole I thought I was going to win, and he kept running, but the winner did too."
"Both (my) horses ran hard, and we were up against a better horse," said trainer Chris Block who saddled both Suntracer and Ioya Bigtime. "This was (Suntracer's) second start at that distance and he's run two solid races. (The twelve furlong distance) is definitely something to consider going forward."
Dark Cove paid $3.20, $2.40, and $2.10. Suntracer returned $4.80 and $3 to place, while The Pizza Man paid $2.80 to show. Completing the order of finish were Ioya Bigtime, Live In Joy, and Doctor Trotter.
Trainer Mike Maker claimed the winning 6-year-old horse for $50,000 on behalf of his current connections last April at Keeneland. Dark Cove was previously campaigned by Joseph Engelhart, Bobby Trussell, and Magdalena Racing. The Stars and Stripes winner was originally a $155,000 purchase at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Dark Cove improved his career record to 9-2-1 from 24 starts and boosted his earnings to $488,154 with his latest victory.
Bred in Kentucky by Stonewall Farm Stallions, the bay horse is out of the Kris S. mare Crystal Cove.