The following appeared in The Racing Biz on August 23 and was written by Frank Vespe.
How fast was the dirt track at Colonial Downs Monday afternoon?
The track played host to five dirt races and all five – a first-level allowance and four $100,000 stakes that are part of the MATCH Series – produced track records. One of those track records – Cordmaker’s 1:40.45 for 1 1/16 miles – lasted all of about 49 minutes, as two races later, Saracosa lowered that mark to 1:39.72.
Perhaps the day’s highlight was Just Might’s thrilling head victory over Mucho in the Chesapeake Stakes for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs. Those two hooked up early, dueled around the turn, and inched away from their rivals while never separated by much more than that final margin. In the end, they were three clear of the rest.
“It was a really nice race from both those horses, so I wasn’t going to be embarrassed by running second,” winning trainer Michelle Lovell said after sweating out the photo finish. “I was really proud of his effort, but I thought we got it.”
It’s been a productive Virginia sojourn for both the normally Kentucky-based Lovell and for Just Might. Lovell has won with seven of 17 starters at the meet and is among several trainers vying for the wins lead.
And Just Might now has two stakes wins at Colonial, having previously scored in the grassy Da Hoss. Both wins came with Colby Hernandez in the irons. Though grass has been his natural habitat for most of his career, Just Might’s ledger on dirt is nothing to sneeze at, either. He entered the day having finished in the money in five of six dirt starts with two wins.
“I’ve been questioned by many people. ‘Why won’t you start him on the turf?’” Lovell said. “I’m like, ‘Oh, when we get to the point where we have to, we’ll do it.’ [T]oday was the day and he answered the question, so that was pretty exciting.”
Just Might, co-owned and co-bred by Lovell and Griffon Farm, won for the seventh time in 28 starts while pushing his earnings past the half-million-dollar mark. He also – of course – set a track record, getting the six furlongs in 1:07.38.
And, for good measure, he earned 10 points in the MATCH Series, though whether he’ll return for additional MATCH races remains to be seen.
The Rodney Jenkins-trained Cordmaker kicked off the day’s stakes action, winning the Victory Gallop by more than two lengths under jockey Victor Carrasco in what was – briefly – track-record time. Three scratches knocked the field down to four and made Cordmaker the even-money favorite.
The win was Cordmaker’s 10th from 31 career starts and pushed his earnings to $673,640. It also gave him 18 points in the MATCH Series and the lead in the boys’ route division.
Two races later in the Love Sign Stakes, Saracosa, a six-year-old mare, got a perfect setup and rallied from last to win by more than a length in the Love Sign Stakes. She also erased Cordmaker’s briefly-held record.
Trained by Cipriano Contreras for Chad Schumer, Saracosa earned the third win of her career and second in stakes company. It was her first MATCH Series start.
Finally, in the Seeking the Pearl Stakes, Cheetara was dead game in leading throughout and holding off the posse to win by a neck in a track-record 1:20.61 for seven furlongs. It was the Chilean-bred’s first North American win, coming in her second North American start.
Jockey Horacio Karamanos had the ride for trainer Ignacio Correas. Multiple graded winner Frank’s Rockette, off at 1-2 for trainer Bill Mott, was sluggish early and could not quite make up the early deficit, finishing third, a neck behind the winner.
The next stakes at Colonial Downs take place August 31, when the Grade 3 Virginia Derby and $150,000 Virginia Oaks take center stage. The following day, which is closing day, the track will host five stakes for Virginia-breds.
TODAY’S TRACK RECORDS
- 6 furlongs: Just Might (1:07.38)
- 6 1/2 furlongs: Larimar (1:16.06)
- 7 furlongs: Cheetara (1:20.61)
- 1 1/16 miles: Saracosa (1:39.72), supplanting record set earlier in the day by Cordmaker