William and Connie Heiligbrodt’s MITOLE romped home the easiest of winners in the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes, leading all the way for a 6 1/4-length score at Pimlico on 2018 Preakness Stakes Saturday.
The six-furlong sprint over the sloppy, sealed main track topped the four non-graded undercard stakes on Preakness Day.
Mitole was sent off the heavy 2-5 favorite against eight rivals in the Chick Lang, and established fractions of :21.67, :45.93 and :57.36 before stopping the clock in 1:09.29. The Eskendereya sophomore gave jockey Ricardo Santa Jr. and trainer Steve Asmussen a stakes double on the undercard after that duo kicked off the stakes action with Tap Daddy in the James W. Murphy Stakes. The jockey/trainer combo completed a stakes hat trick later on the day when taking the Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3) with Switzerland.
Mitole paid $2.80 while improving his scorecard to read 7-4-2-1, $348,710. He was followed under the wire by Still Having Fun, the 9-1 third choice, and Clouded Judgement. Pure Shot filled the fourth spot while completing the order of finish were 7-1 second favorite Soutache, Run Away, Aqua Bel Sar, Old Time Revival and Curly’s Rocket.
Mitole has now captured four of his last five races, including a nine-length victory in the Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 12. That was the bay colt’s first stake win and followed a seven-length score against allowance/optional claiming rivals at that same venue on March 17. He broke his maiden at Oaklawn by 10 lengths in early February and ran second while making his black-type bow in the Gazebo Stakes just three weeks later.
Bred in Kentucky by Edward A. Cox Jr., Mitole is out of the Indian Charlie mare Indian Miss, who is a half-sister to Grade 2 victress Live Lively.
CHICK LANG STAKES QUOTES
Steve Asmussen, trainer Mitole, winner
“He’s fast. Wow. He’s a special horse, he really is. His confidence level has gotten better, just the way he comes into a race, and acts during it, has been spectacular the past two or three races. He was solid and nice and ran some good races, but he was a horse that carried quite a bit of weight and ran solid, and got better.
“We thought the off-track caused him his trouble away from the gates. We really worked on him in the gates and being a little quieter in there. Ricardo has done a wonderful job with him away from the gate. He was in hand and traveling well today. That’s made the difference. Going fast easily, but still being within himself.
“I am hoping for the (June 9) Woody Stephens ([G2] at Belmont Park) off this. I felt he’s a horse that does not work that impressively; we needed this race today to get to the seven-eighths of the Woody Stephens.”
Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey Mitole, winner
“He’s one of my favorite horses. He’s very special. We were a little worried about the track, but he broke really well. And he broke so good I just sat and waited and on the turn for home he just ran away from them.”
The $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes was scheduled to be run at a mile on the turf, but the rain which has plagued Pimlico all Preakness week forced the contest to the sloppy, sealed main track.
Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s homebred TAP DADDY had no trouble with the switch in surfaces, or the extension to 1 1/16 miles, drawing off for a 6 1/2-length victory under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.
The duo immediately took command of the race out of the gate, setting splits of :23.52, :47.28 and 1:11.82 while pressed by California Night. Entering the lane while drifting out into the three path, Tap Daddy distanced himself from the rest of the field to stop the clock in 1:43.67.
The sophomore son of Scat Daddy paid $5.80 as the 9-5 favorite. Threes Over Deuces took second by 1 1/4 lengths over Takedown, who in turn had 3 1/4 lengths to spare on fourth-placer Whirlin Curlin. California Night just missed fourth by a nose while Magicalmeister finished last after running in that spot throughout.
Tap Daddy is now 8-3-1-1, $243,654 in his career after earning his first stakes win in this spot. The Kentucky-bred dark bay was third in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park to open his 2018 campaign on January 15, two races after a head third in the Bourbon Stakes (G3) at Keeneland saw him elevated to second in that latter event.
Trained by Steven Asmussen, Tap Daddy is out of the Tapit mare Easy Tap and counts as a half-brother dual stakes-placed Total Tap. This black-type rich female family also includes graded-winning half-sisters Sara Louise and Just Louise, as well as Grade 3 score and multiple Grade 1-placed Til Forbid.
JAMES W. MURPHY STAKES QUOTES
Steve Asmussen, trainer Tap Daddy, winner
“He ran well in the off going. He’s just a very nice horse. He’s a very versatile horse.
“Everyone always says speed is good in the mud because if you handle it you handle it immediately. He did, and when he went to the wire he was taking to it very much. He handle it early and he handled it late.”
Ricardo Santana Jr., jockey Tap Daddy, winner
“We had a lot of confidence in the horse. I knew he was going to run well. He ran well in the mud in a big race at Keeneland (when a head third but placed second in the Bourbon [G3] last October). My plan was to put him on the lead, let him keep going, and what’s what he did.”
The $100,000 The Very One Stakes was also originally set for the turf course before being moved to the sloppy, sealed dirt, but did retain its distance of five furlongs. Brian Chenvert and trainer Eddie Kenneally’s GIRLS KNOW BEST lived up to her even-money favoritism in the contest to score by 1 3/4 lengths.
The chestnut four-year-old deviated slightly from her usual front-running ways by pressing pacesetter Victorias Fire through the opening few furlongs. The Caleb’s Posse filly drifted out while taking over in upper stretch and pulled off under a hand ride from jockey Javier Castellano to finish up in :57 and return $4 for the win.
Pretty Perfection followed in second, with Anna’s Bandit taking third by three parts of a length over Chanteline. Smiling Causeway, Daylight Ahead, Keep Your Distance and Victorias Fire completed the order under the wire.
Girls Know Best added a second stakes win to her resume, having captured her first stakes score on January 27 in the Ladies’ Turf Sprint at Gulfstream Park. She was claimed by her current connections last October at Keeneland, and now boasts a 15-9-1-1 lifetime mark to go along with $320,024 in career earnings.
Bred in Kentucky by Don Von Hemel and Todd Dunn, Girls Know Best is out of the unraced Maria’s Mon mare Now U Know and is a half-sister to Grade 3 vixen Now I Know. This female family also includes multiple Grade 1-scoring millionaire and sire Mi Selecto as well as South African champion and multiple Group 1 winner Blossoming Fields.
THE VERY ONE STAKES QUOTES
Eddie Kenneally, co-owner and trainer Girls Know Best, winner
“I didn’t know what to think (about running on off track). I contemplated scratching her, even though she has won six races on the dirt, but not at this level. I didn’t know if I should run her or not, but we decided to go ahead and it worked out.
“She had won five races before we claimed her. She knew how to win. She was just a three-year-old last year. A three-year-old having already won five races means a lot. She looked like she was a pretty sound filly so we went ahead and claimed her. She’s matured and grew-up and I think she’s just sort of got lucky, really.
“(Javier Castellano) knows her and he’s won a stakes on her at Gulfstream this year. I think he rides her with some confidence and we figured that is the only way to ride her. She’s naturally quick, so there isn’t a whole lot of instructions, really.
“We’ll see what comes up for her. I think she will go back to the grass.”
Javier Castellano, jockey Girls Know Best, winner
“She’s very straightforward. She’s got the speed and she’s got the dimension. I like her because she doesn’t have to be in the lead, and that other horse she targeted and let dictate the race. She just sat right off her and relaxed. If she wants to go to the lead she can, but today they were going fast and my goal was to save something for the end and that’s what happened. She finished really strong.”
Closing out the undercard stakes action one race before the Preakness, Patti and Hal J. Earnhardt III’s AX MAN earned his first stakes victory with a 6 3/4-length triumph in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes with jockey Mike Smith holding the reins.
The Misremembered sophomore led throughout under a hand ride from Smith, who never moved an inch on the Bob Baffert trainee in the 1 1/16-mile affair. The duo established fractions of :23.56, :46,96, 1:11.30 and 1:36.30 before drawing off down the foggy lane to be clear on the wire in a final time of 1:42.53 over the sloppy, sealed track.
Sent off the 3-5 favorite, Ax Man paid $3.20 for the win. Nearly half of the field scratched, with only six of the 11 entered to run actually showing up. Title Ready took second by 4 1/2 lengths over Prince Lucky, who in turn had a neck to spare on Pony Up. Dream Baby Dream and Navy Commander completed the order of finish.
Ax Man is lightly raced, having just debuted with a 9 1/2-length maiden win at Santa Anita Park on New Year’s Day. The Kentucky-bred bay tried stakes company next out in the San Vicente Stakes (G2) on February 10, but was a well-beaten fourth on that occasion. Given more time to mature, Ax Man returned April 8 to capture a one-mile allowance/optional claimer by 8 1/2 lengths, and lined up in this one off that score. The colt improved his scorecard to 4-3-0-0, $138,000 here.
Bred by Hal J. Earnhardt, Ax Man is out of the stakes-scoring Flying Chevron mare Shameful, who ran third in the 2002 Miss Preakness Stakes (G3). She would find more fame in the breeding shed as the dam of 2007 champion two-year-old filly and 2008 champion female sprinter Indian Blessing, and also foaled Grade 3 victor Roman Threat, stakes hero Nightly News and stakes runner-up Spaniard.
This is the same female family as Grade 1 queen Roamin Rachel, another mare who found success as a dam when producing 2004 Japanese Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt Zenno Rob Roy.