Kenneth & Sarah Ramsey's Dark Cove overtook pacesetter and defending champion Ioya Bigtime in the stretch to win the $150,000 Stars and Stripes Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths in course record time of 2:27.39 for the mile and half distance over firm turf.
Rosie Napravnik, riding in her first ever race at Arlington International, was aboard the Mike Maker-trained son of Medaglia d'Oro in the Grade III race which serves as a prep race to next month's second running of the $400,000 American St. Leger.
“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.”
Ioya Bigtime, the Illinois Horse of the Year who won the 2012 renewal of the race, set the fractions of 25.27 for the first quarter, 48.47 for a half-mile, 1:12.80 for three-quarters, 1:37:41 for the mile and 2:02.45 for the mile and a quarter before fading to fourth.
Illinois-breds Suntracer and The Pizza Man were separated by a nose for the place with the former, a stablemate to Ioya Bigitme, getting the nod in the photo.
“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.”
“He ran great for his first time at a mile and a half,” said Florent Geroux, who rode The Pizza Man. “Hopefully next time we can get a little more aggressive in the race. He was probably too relaxed. He definitely liked the 12 furlongs and hopefully we will be a little more lucky next time.”
“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.”
With the victory, Dark Cove earned $89,100 to elevate his career bankroll to $488,154. In addition the top three finishers will have their entry and start fees for the St. Leger waived should their connections decide to run there.
Dark Cove, the odds-on choice, paid $3.20, $2.40 and $2.10. Suntracer returned $4.80 and $3. The Pizza Man paid $2.80.
Ioya Bigtime, Live in Joy and Doctor Trotter completed the order of finish.
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