Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Saturday, June 22, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 06/22/2013 #
  • Meafara Stakes winner Flower Spell will start next in the Grade III Chicago 'Cap on June 29.

In Today’s Notes: Chicago Handicap Shaping Up Well; Ramsey Stable Owning the Arlington Exacta; Veteran Trainer Bettis Passes

The Chicago Handicap is looking to be a grand affair on June 29, with fillies from multiple tracks pointing toward the Grade III $150,000 event.  At seven furlongs, the Chicago Handicap is not only a chance for local fillies and mares  to establish where they stand in regard to some of the best sprinting fillies in the region, but is also chance to show they can perform at the same sprint distance as November’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.

In both 2009 and 2010, champion Informed Decision shipped into Arlington International Racecourse to carry the highweight of 124 lbs. en route to victory in the Chicago before ultimately competing in the Breeders’ Cup – winning impressively in 2009.  Leading the list of probable ship-ins this year is G. Watts Humphrey, Jr.’s Drama Drama, KatieRich Stable’s Dr. Diamonds Prize and and Luiz and D. Dannemann’s Queen’s Award. 

All three of the aforementioned competed in the Grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland, a race also over seven furlongs on Polytrack.  Drama Drama, primarily a turf runner around two turns, has made a habit of turning back to seven furlongs in stakes races and earning a check.  She finished fourth in the Madison, beaten only 3½ lengths.  In October she did the same thing at Keeneland in the Grade II Raven Run Stakes at the same course and distance, finishing third.  Trained by Victoria Oliver, Drama Drama exits a strong third last out at Arlington in the grassy Gaily Gaily Stakes on June 8, beaten only a length. 

After an uncharacteristic ninth in the Madison, the speedy Mark Hubley-trained Dr. Diamonds Prize returned in two good performances at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania.  After winning an allowance, she ran into a buzzsaw named Purely Hot in the Satin and Lace Stakes, finishing second.  The 5-year-old Pure Prize mare should appreciate the step up in distance from the 5½ furlongs to the seven panels of the Chicago. 

Veteran mare Queen’s Award, now 6, would enter the Chicago off a two-month break for trainer Eduardo Caramouri.  The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has raced competitively in four stakes races since December, including a respectable fifth in the Madison.  She may only have four wins to her credit, but Queen’s Award has hit the board in seven of her last 10 races.

Looking to return to the Chicago after competing last year are 2012 runner-up Maude S. and Lady Chesterfield, fifth beaten 3¾ lengths.    The latter, a recent allowance winner for trainer Mike Stidham, led the second flight for most of the way in last year’s edition until ultimately being outpaced by the top four.  Owned by M and M Thoroughbred Partners, Lady Chesterfield would be taking a significant step up in class.

Maude S., on the other hand, is looking to one-better her race this year, where she ran out of real estate in a closing effort from 13 lengths off the pace – losing by only a length.  Trained by Jimmy DiVito for James M. Miller, the daughter of Jump Start is coming off a good win around two turns in the Wild Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows over an off track.  First or second in seven of her last 10 races, she should be a major player if entered. 

An interesting probable for the Chicago is Dare to Dream Stable’s 3-year-old filly Flower Spell, who would be taking on elders for the first time for trainer Ingrid Mason.  The daughter of Flower Alley, sire of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner I’ll Have Another, exits an easy and impressive victory in the Meafara Stakes on June 1, where she showed immense early speed and went on to win by a half-dozen lengths.  With good physical size, home field advantage and able connections, the young filly is an exciting possible runner. 

Two slight possibilities for the Chicago Handicap who carry hefty credentials are James C. Spence’s Aubby K and John C. Oxley’s Delightful Mary.  Aubby K, trained by Ralph Nicks, would presumably go off as the favorite if entered in the Chicago based on her decisive wins in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day and Grade II Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 17.  The homebred daughter of Derby winner Street Sense, out of multiple stakes-winning Lilly Capote, won both of those races over seven furlongs, but has never competed over a synthetic surface.

Delightful Mary returned from a 16-month layoff to win sharply in the Grade III Hendrie Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack on June 1 over 6½ Polytrack furlongs.  After a recent herpesvirus outbreak at the Canadian facility and subsequent quarantine restrictions, it remains to be seen if Delightful Mary will be permitted to cross the American border for the Chicago.  The classy chestnut filly, who was third in the 2010 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and has earned nearly $600,000 in only 11 starts, would add great intrigue to the Grade III event.

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s powerhouse stable is not only ranked first in North American purses earned and striking at 29%, but is also making quite an impression at Arlington.  After winning the Keeneland owner’s title in a runaway and looking to do the same at the current Churchill Downs meet, the Kentucky-based outfit’s wide wingspan has reached up through Illinois with a noteworthy record of 7-6-0 in 13 starts at Arlington. 

Racing mostly with leading trainer Wayne Catalano, the owners have not failed to make the exacta at the current meet, including two stakes winners – Bold Kitten and Coalport.  Bold Kitten won the Purple Violet Stakes on June 1 at nearly 10-1 and Coalport easily won the Black Tie Affair June 15.  Bold Kitten is currently on target for a possible start in the Grade III $150,000 Arlington Oaks on July 20 and impressed the clockers while breezing an impressive five furlongs Saturday morning at Arlington in 1:01.20.

Perhaps even more impressive is that the owners are tied with Midwest Thoroughbreds for second in wins, two behind Richard Ravin’s nine, while only having thirteen starts as opposed to their 43 and 24.  Additionally, the Ramseys are currently in the lead in purses earned, with $288,364.  Only $28,101 behind them is Midwest Thoroughbreds, who also ranks second to them nationally. 

Longtime Chicago-based trainer Charlie Bettis passed away suddenly Friday night at the age of 62 from natural causes.   Bettis was preceded in death by his wife Janell, who died in September of 2011.  Bettis had two daughters, Renee and Erica, from a previous marriage.

In statistics provided by Equibase, the West Virginia native saddled 397 winners from 3,107 starters.  His most recent stakes winner was Francois, who ironically had been entered to run at Arlington International Racecourse on Saturday.

Before going out on his own, Bettis served as an assistant for the Grover “Buddy” Delp for more than a decade and was with Delp when he conditioned Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid.  Bettis was also an assistant to the late Ernie Poulos when that trainer had Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Black Tie Affair.

Memorial services are pending.