Lexington, KY — Metro Pace winner Tall Dark Stranger collected his seventh consecutive victory to maintain his perfect record in 1:50 in the third of four divisions for the $275,000 Betting Line International Stallion Stakes, sponsored by the Betting Line Syndicate and Hanover Shoe Farms, on Saturday (Oct. 5) at Red Mile.
Leaving from post position one, Tall Dark Stranger sat fourth to a :28.1 first quarter set by Tell Them Lou before driver Yannick Gingras angled the 1-9 favorite from the cones to pursue the lead. The Nancy Johansson-trained son of Bettor’s Delight-Precocious Beauty overtook the helm before a :55.1 half and faced little challenge through three-quarters in 1:23.1 in progress to a two-length victory over pocket-sitter Captain Barbosa. Father Nuno closed for third.
“He had just had great presence when he was brought out for us to look at [as a yearling],” said Johansson. “I think charisma is one of the most important attributes a racehorse can have. He was very easy to work with, very willing to please, always showed tremendous speed…it was pretty easy to train him down. He was strong across the wire [today]—Yannick [Gingras] said he had plenty of pace left.”
Earning $411,265, Tall Dark Stranger races for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor. The colt was bred by James Avritt Sr. and paid $2.10 to win.
“I think people here are knowledgeable and understanding this horse is doing this very easily—it’s spectacular,” co-owner Marvin Katz said. “I listened to Jimmy Takter [when] he said ‘This is the best horse [at the Lexington Sale and] you got to be in’ and I said I was in. That was it. It didn’t take much thinking—when Jimmy said you got to be in, that was it.”
World champion Elver Hanover also remained undefeated when winning his Betting Line division in 1:50.3.
Driver Chris Page placed the 1-9 favorite fourth as Seeyou At Thebeach led the field to a :27.3 first quarter. Page pulled Elver Hanover from fourth soon after and swept to the front before a :55.3 half. From there the Yankee Cruiser-Edra Hanover gelding slowed the tempo to three-quarters in 1:24 while pressed by Team Best moving to headstretch, but promptly turned away that rival as well as a pocket-popping move from Seeyou At Thebeach in the final eighth to win. Seeyou At Thebeach settled for second while Captain Groovy took third.
“The opportunity was presented in front of me and just like anything else you’ve got to take the reins,” Page said. “I’d like to thank all the owners and Ronnie [Burke] and the whole staff to have the faith in me to guide these nice horses which are high-priced investments. I was joking with the groom coming out here [and said] if every horse was like this horse it would make our jobs easy. The horse is a complete professional and does nothing wrong. He drives with two fingers and definitely makes my job easy.”
Victorious in nine starts, Elver Hanover, bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, has earned $397,825 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Bridgette Jablonsky, Jason Melillo and J&T Silva-Purnel & Libby.
“It’s been the best experience of our lives,” said Purnel. “Obviously Ronnie’s the best trainer in the business. Without them, I don’t know…it’s great.”
Capt Midnight rebounded from a third-place finish in the $562,500 Metro Pace with a 1:49.4 victory in the opening division of the Betting Line.
Roll With JR took command into the first turn while Catch The Fire dove into the pocket and Capt Midnight floated into third. He led the field through a :27.2 opening quarter but yielded the lead as Capt Midnight pulled wide and brushed to control through a :55.2 half. The Captaintreacherous-It Was Fascination colt continued to lead through three-quarters in 1:23 and strode clear of his competition to win by three lengths. Fortify closed for second and Roll With JR gave chase for third.
“I definitely don’t think we left [the Metro Pace] redfaced [sic] that night,” driver Andrew McCarthy said. “He raced terrific…I had to use him hard there in the second quarter and it caught up to us midstretch, but that’s fine—he still paced :49 and change so I knew what I had today.
“I was hoping to just sit and wait today but Dougie [McNair on Roll With JR] was slowing down there to the half and I figured I might as well get going; it wouldn’t be too taxing to get him there. It worked our great—I kicked the earplugs out at the head of the stretch and he did his job. He’s come a long way. I think he’s going to be a top three-year-old for sure.”
Winning his sixth race from nine starts, Capt Midnight has accrued $255,839 for owners Marvin Katz, Kenneth Jacobs, Brad Grant and Capt Midnight Racing. Hanover Shoe Farms bred the Tony Alagna trainee and the Breeders Crown-bound colt paid $2.40 to win.
“My partners are awesome and I’m very happy that we had a nice victory at The Red Mile and hopefully he’ll be as successful [at the Breeders Crown],” said Myron Bell, who co-owns Capt Midnight through Capt Midnight racing.
Major Betts vaulted to the front in a swift pace and sustained his speed through the finish to pace a 1:49.1 mile in the second division of the Betting Line.
Genius Man pushed for the lead wide of Moneyman Hill circling the first turn. Driver Dexter Dunn positioned Major Betts fourth through a :26.2 first quarter and sent the Art Major colt after Genius Man heading to a :53.4 half. From there the Mark Harder trainee separated himself from the competition moving to three-quarters in 1:21.2 and turned for home with an open lead. Put To Right, the 6-5 favorite, rallied from the backfield through the center of the course to take second with 3-2 second choice Cattlewash taking third.
“I think last week was an aberration,” Harder said. “He had a bad day—for whatever reason, I don’t know. I just told Dexter [to] forget about last week [and] race the colt—[Dexter’s] always liked him [so] I said ‘Race him like you still like him.’ He’s beaten some really good colts and gotten locked in in New York a couple of races there; he just never got a chance to race. He showed what he’s made of today. I hope [he’s Breeders Crown material].”
Paying $26.20 to win, Major Betts, bred by Southwind Farms, collected his third victory from seven starts, earning $86,460 for owners Joseph Jannuzzelli, Mark Harder and Deena Frost. He is by Art Major and out of Southwind Johanne.
Grand Circuit action concludes at Red Mile on Sunday (Oct. 6) with the 127th renewal of the Kentucky Futurity, which goes as a single heat with a field of 12 for $450,000. The 54th Kentucky Filly Futurity also goes as a single dash with an 11-horse draw for $267,000. Two divisions of the $540,000 Tattersalls Pace, the $69,500 Allerage Farms Fillies and Mares Trot and $87,000 Allerage Farms Fillies and Mares Pace will also go on the eight-race card. Racing gets underway for the season finale with first-race post at 1 p.m. (EDT).