June 19, 2024

Two Emmys stars in Diliberto comeback; Five Star General’s tactics pay off in Tenacious

Two Emmys returned triumphant in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial (Photo by Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography)

In addition to the quartet of juvenile stakes at Fair Grounds, the Santa Super Saturday card offered opportunities for the older brigade as well. Chief among them was Grade 1 veteran Two Emmys, who made a triumphant return in the $100,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial.

Unraced since capturing the Feb. 18 Fair Grounds (G3), Two Emmys had a fitness question to answer. The seven-year-old gelding’s forward style, coupled with co-top weight of 124 pounds and an outside post, figured to complicate his task off the layoff. Yet his back class as the winner of the last Million at Arlington Park in 2021, when contested as the Mr. D. (G1), and proficiency over this course, more than supplied for any ring-rustiness.

Under James Graham, who recently celebrated a 3,000-win milestone, Two Emmys grabbed the lead after the first quarter in :23.61 and established splits of :47.80, 1:11.49, and 1:35.68 on the firm turf. The son of turf champion English Channel kicked clear into the stretch and retained a one-length advantage at the wire, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.03.

Beatbox closed from far back in a checkered trip to take second, with English Tavern a one-paced third. Johny’s Fireball rounded out the superfecta. Next came Protonic Power; Harlan Estate; Fair Dinkum; Law Professor, the slight 7-2 favorite over the 3.90-1 Two Emmys; Rising Empire; and Street Ready. Sonny Smack unfortunately pulled up on the backstretch, and Duke of Carthania unseated jockey Mitchell Murrill in tight quarters down the lane.

Campaigned by trainer Hugh Robertson in partnership with Wolfe Racing, Two Emmys has compiled a record of 25-8-9-1, $985,083. The chestnut boasts a 12-5-4-1 mark on the Fair Grounds turf, including a victory in the 2022 Muniz Memorial Classic (G2) and a fine second in the 2021 running behind Colonel Liam. Two Emmys was a late scratch from his Muniz title defense in 2023, and the track’s signature turf event is likely on his radar again.

Saturday’s feature for older horses on the main track, the $99,000 Tenacious, witnessed a 12-1 upset courtesy of another seven-year-old warrior – Elttaes Stable’s Five Star General. Jockey Marcelino Pedroza Jr. made the wise decision to concede the early lead to Joel Rosario on Brigadier General, who was intent on hustling forward in :23.69. But after easing back and around to the outside, Five Star General wanted to re-engage, and Pedroza’s next key move was to let him roll. The Grant Forster charge regained the upper hand at the half in :47.42, edged away through six furlongs in 1:11.69, and kept motoring. Three lengths clear while completing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.04, Five Star General paid $26.60.

The stalking Pioneer of Medina held runner-up honors by 1 1/2 lengths from rallying defending champion Happy American. Brigadier General faded to fourth, trailed by Confidence Game, Stage Raider, Dash Attack, and Mbagnick.

Five Star General’s resume now reads 33-11-5-7, $677,429. The well-traveled son of Distorted Humor has often plied his trade in the Pacific Northwest, finally landing the Aug. 13 Longacres Mile after placing in three straight editions of the Emerald Downs feature. Five Star General’s biggest win came in the 2019 British Columbia Derby (G3) at Hastings. Also victorious in the April 8 Evangeline Mile, he was most recently third in the Nov. 3 Delta Mile.

The $100,000 Richard Scherer Memorial became a more open-looking event with the scratch of morning-line favorite Private Creed. Just Might, the 2021 Scherer Memorial hero, seized the chance to end his protracted losing skid. Winless since the summer of 2022, the Michelle Lovell trainee bounded straight to the front in the turf sprint and lasted by a length from Sosua Summer. Jaime Torres guided the 4.60-1 shot through about 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.33.

Just Might was earning his 10th stakes win, half of them coming at Fair Grounds, for an overall line of 49-12-8-10, $1,100,245.

Earlier in the $98,000 Blushing K. D. S. for turf distaffers, Lovely Princess broke through with her first stakes laurel. The Gentry Farms homebred ranked as the 7-10 favorite in light of a series of stakes placings, and she gamely got the job done. Trained by Ken McPeek and well handled by Brian Hernandez Jr., Lovely Princess leveraged a ground-saving rally into the lane and dug in to stave off Creative Cairo in a desperate photo. The Twirling Candy filly prevailed by a head in 1:42.59 for 1 1/16 grassy miles.

Lovely Princess, a matrilineal descendant of Hall of Famer Princess Rooney, improved her resume to 14-4-4-1, $403,295. Third in the Cardinal (G3) last out behind the runaway Star Fortress, the dark bay had been runner-up in a trio of stakes including the Keertana S. at Churchill Downs.