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Each week, TimeformUS Chief Figure Maker Craig Milkowski will take a look back at the weekend performances that earned the top TimeformUS Speed Figures.
Get TimeformUS PPs Free in the TVG Handicapping Store Get TimeformUS PPs from TimeformUS.com Learn More about TimeformUS Speed Figures There was plenty of stakes action this weekend, though no Grade 1 (G1) races were run. The trail for the Triple Crown continued with the Illinois Derby and the Lexington Stakes. Although neither had Kentucky Derby implications, some of the runners could appear later in the series. Game On Dude returned to the Charles Town Classic to defend his title, and a couple of exciting winners ran big TimeformUS speed figures in other stakes races. Charles Town The G2 Charles Town Classic, run at a mile and an eighth for a purse of $1,500,000, highlighted a big night of stakes action at the West Virginia track. Game On Dude was the heavy favorite. The TimeformUS Pace Projector, however, predicted a hot pace, and that is never a good thing for him. While the pace was only average numerically, when the running began, there was no easy lead. Moreno took control early, in a pace figure of 114 through the first quarter mile, and then was joined by Game On Dude at the half. Next up, Long River came to challenge, and the pace really increased at that point. The pace figure was 119 after 6f, which translates to the third quarter mile of the race being run in 129. Game On Dude won these battles, but they left him vulnerable, and Imperative was there to take advantage. He took over with just over a furlong to go and drew clear late, winning with a TimeformUS speed figure of 116. Imperative was the top-rated closer in the field of seven going into the race. Game On Dude was rated 115, and Moreno fought back for third after dropping back earlier. He was assigned a 112. Keeneland The G3 Ben Ali S. was run at nine furlongs on the polytrack. Norumbega and Newsdad were both sent off at 7-2 odds, but neither would factor in the outcome. Actually, only one horse really did, and that was the winner, Frac Daddy. He tracked the slow pace set by Red Rifle, an 86 for the first quarter mile and a 90 for the half mile, and then made his move. He took the lead after six furlongs and drew away from the field to win by nearly five. He ran a new lifetime-top speed figure of 119. Stealcase was rated 112 finishing second, and Nikki’s Sandcastle a 113 in third. He received a little extra credit for closing into the moderate pace. The next race on the card was the G3 Lexington S. While there were 10 points available to the winner towards a berth in the Kentucky Derby starting gate, none of the entrants had enough points going into the race to qualify even with a win. Mr. Speaker and Divine Oath, two turf runners to this point in time, were sent to the post as the top two choices. That is how they finished. Supermonic and Solitary Ranger hooked up early on the lead in a quick 117 quarter mile. The battle continued all the way until the furlong pole, when Mr Speaker took over and drew clear to win by over four lengths. Divine Oath got up for second over Supermonic in the last few strides. The top three finishers recorded TimeformUS speed figures of 102, 95, and 94 respectively. Aqueduct The G2 Distaff Handicap at six furlongs was the Saturday feature. La Verdad was favored to win her first graded stakes race, and she did so emphatically. She exploded from the gate and was clear on the lead after an opening quarter mile in a blazing 137 pace figure. Obviously, she couldn’t maintain that pace, but she was never really challenged. She reached the half mile in 128 and was over three lengths clear. She maintained that margin to the wire and ran a 121 TimeformUS speed figure. Kauai Katie finished second with a 109, My Pal Chrisy third with a 105. La Verdad has now won seven of her last eight races, the lone defeat coming when tiring late in the seven furlong G2 Fritchie H. at Laurel. She will be tough to handle in any sprint in her current form. Hawthorne The G3 Illinois Derby at one mile and one eighth was run on Saturday with a $500,000 purse. California invader Midnight Hawk was favored heavily at 2-5 after a good second in the G3 Sunland Derby. Midnight Hawk took the early lead and was pressed by Dynamic Impact for the first six furlongs. The pace figure was 100 at that point, and Midnight Hawk began to open up on his pursuer. He was a length and a half in front with a furlong to go, but Dynamic Impact began to come at him again. It came down to the wire, and Dynamic Impact was able to get up by a nose. It was nearly nine lengths back to Irish You Well in third. Both of the top two were assigned TimformUS speed figures of 101.