Vacare Makes Season Debut in Just a Game
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
First Lady winner Vacare makes her season debut in the Just a Game.
Jon and Sarah Kelly’s Vacare has aced nearly every test thrown at her thus far, from her most recent win in the First Lady Stakes (gr. IIT) last October to a score in the 2006 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup (gr. IT). But trainer Christophe Clement is asking for a career-best effort from the 5-year-old daughter of Lear Fan when he brings her back for her first start of the season in the $400,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park June 7.

Racing fans will be hard-pressed to find a more talent-laden weekend turf event than the $400,000 Just a Game, in which older fillies and mares go a mile on the turf. Familiar names include Bit of Whimsy, Criminologist, Sharp Susan, Lady of Venice, and Ventura.

While Vacare will have to dig deep to score this win, she is 2-for-2 at a mile. But Fred and Jane Brei’s Bayou’s Lassie seems poised to lead the field from start to finish. A frontrunning daughter of Outflanker, the three-time grade III winner comes off a 1 ¾-length victory in the May 3 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (gr. IIIT), in which she bested 2006 Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna along with Just a Game contenders Lady of Venice and Juddmonte Farms’ Ventura. The Bobby Frankel-trained Ventura is a co-high weight along with Joyce B. Young and Gerald McManis’ Bit of Whimsy, who was sixth in the April 27 Jenny Wiley Stakes (gr. IIT) at Keeneland but missed a score in that 1 1/16-mile event by just 2 1/2 lengths.
“Her game is to go to the front and see how far she can take them,” trainer Dale Romans said of Bayou’s Lassie. “As far as grade III’s go, I thought her last race was pretty tough. It was definitely a better-than-average grade III.”

The distance is no question for Bayou’s Lassie off her recent score, but Bit of Whimsy and Stuart Janney’s Criminologist may be hard-pressed to back down to one mile. Bit of Whimsy has never raced over a mile, while Criminologist ran second to Sharp Susan in an April 6 one-mile allowance at Keeneland, her five-wide bid for for trainer Shug McGaughey coming too late. She lengthened back out to 1 1/16 miles and promptly took the April 26 Beaugay Handicap (gr. IIIT), her most recent start.
$400,000 Just a Game Stakes (gr. I, race 7, approximate post 3:36 p.m.), one mile for older fillies and mares, turf
PP, Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Lady of Venice, 118, Edgar Prado
2. Spenditallbaby, 118, Julien Leparoux
3. Bit of Whimsy, 120, Javier Castellano
4. Ventura, 120, Garrett Gomez
5. Criminologist, 118, John Velazquez
6. Forever Together, 118, Ramon Dominguez
7. Bayou's Lassie, 118, Robbie Albarado
8. Sharp Susan, 118, Kent Desormeaux
9. Them There Eyes, 118, Jose Espinoza
10. Vacare, 118, Corey Nakatani

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