STICKNEY/CICERO -- Four weeks ago, Hawthorne ran two stakes on the dirt for three-and-up Illinois-breds. Scott Becker was the winning trainer in both races and also conditioned the second-place finisher. So when the Illinois-bred stakes were run on a chilly, damp late-April night that featured the Spring meet's only night card of season, Scott Becker came back to the scene of the crime with live horses. And once again, Scott Becker won both the stakes. In all during the meet, Becker would win four of the six stakes for Illinois-bred horses. He also had three races where he conditioned to the exacta. As is standard operating procedure, Becker trains for one owner: William Stiritz.
Milwaukee Avenue Handicap: LUV BANDIT Wins Second Milwaukee Avenue In Three Years
LUV BANDIT had run most of his big races going two turns, but in recent months he had seen a reinvention of sorts – as a sprinter. He won the six-furlong Lightning Jet Handicap last fall, finishing ahead of I GOT IT ALL, who finished third at odds-on that day. After wintering at Oaklawn, LUV BANDIT finished second behind stablemate Creative Art at six furlongs in the Robert S. Molaro Handicap on March 28. Today he stretched back out to a mile and a sixteenth. LUV BANDIT had been successful going that distance in the past, and had particularly been successful in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap. He won the Milwaukee Avenue in 2013, and finished second behind Big Looie in last year’s edition.
Today, in the Milwaukee Avenue, he and I GOT IT ALL faced each other again. On the tote board, the first of the money fell heavily on LUV BANDIT. He was 6/5 in the early stages, with I GOT IT ALL the second choice at 9/5. As post time drew nearer, they traded places. By the time the race began, I GOT IT ALL had been bet down to 4/5; LUV BANDIT drifted up to 2/1. The bettors’ third choice was another from the Becker barn: VALIANT CITY, unraced since November, went off the 5/1 third choice.
VALIANT CITY struck the front early, with I GOT IT ALL flanking him on the outside. Down the backstretch that pair duelled head and head, setting an honest early pace for a two-turn race in slop: the quarter in 24.26, the half in 47.69. LUV BANDIT stalked just a length off their pace. Coming into the far turn, VALIANT CITY began to drop away. I GOT IT ALL got his head in front, but he faced a new rival in the same green and white silks: LUV BANDIT. He got his head in front as the pair passed the three-sixteenths pole. I GOT IT ALL continued with interest on the inside, but LUV BANDIT kicked clear passing the sixteenth pole. He drifted in approaching the wire, forcing I GOT IT ALL to steady, but crossed the wire two lengths in front. LAHSHAD, midpack throughout, edged clear for third, 6 ¼ lengths behind the winner. VALIANT CITY, EMPIRESTRIKESAGAIN, and MY BORSALINO completed the order of finish.
Channing Hill, the rider of I GOT IT ALL, lodged a claim of foul against Chris Emigh and LUV BANDIT alleging interference in deep stretch. That claim of foul was disallowed.
LUV BANDIT is a six-year-old gelding by Yonaguska out of the Beau Genius mare Plus Beau. He is owned by William Stiritz, and trained by Scott Becker. Judy Dorris bred LUV BANDIT, and owned her for his first four stakes victories. Stiritz has owned LUV BANDIT for his four starts this year. This was LUV BANDIT's fifth career stakes victory, and his second career victory in the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap.
The race progressed how trainer Scott Becker envisioned it would. “I imagined VALIANT CITY on the pace and the other horse [LUV BANDIT] right there off of him.” Winning rider Chris Emigh remarked on that plan as well. “We wanted to keep him a bit closer, to save enough for the end. [Becker told me] you have to stay a little closer. He thought he’d like the wet. He’s a big long striding type.” As for a next race for LUV BANDIT, Becker stated that “I’m probably going to rest him a little bit, probably going to take a little break and see what options we have later in the summer.” Becker plans to run fourth-place VALIANT CITY at Arlington.
Tom Swearingen, trainer of second-place I GOT IT ALL, was pleased with his horse’s effort. “We thought with that outside position that he would place himself properly, and he did. He ran a game race all the way to the wire. I think he did as good as he could.” Swearingen did consider scratching I GOT IT ALL. “He doesn’t like an off track like this. We thought, it’s Illinois, and we wanted to make a showing at home.” Regarding I GOT IT ALL’s plans for the near future, Swearingen noted, “We’ll let him tell us, but right now I think we’re going to give him a little rest. He’s had a real hard campaign through the fall, the winter, run some huge races at Oaklawn. I think if he comes back this fall, possibly Keeneland, down back to Oaklawn.”
LUV BANDIT stopped the clock on a muddy sealed track in 1:43.50, and paid his backers $6.40 to win. The $1 exacta with I GOT IT ALL slotted below paid $5.90. The $0.20 trifecta with LAHSHAD in the third rung paid $3.76. The superfecta with VALIANT CITY placed fourth returned $9.64 for every $0.20 base bet. -- NN
Peach of It Handicap: ROSIE MY ROSIE Blossoms in Victory
The second of two stakes for Illinois-breds going a route of ground was the $59.325 Peach of It Handicap. OUR DOMAIN was tabbed the favorite by bettors at 5/2, but she would be a narrow favorite over ROSIE MY ROSIE, OUR DOMAIN's stablemate. ROSIE MY ROSIE took cash throughout the early stages of wagering and was favored right up to the end, with both horses going off at 5/2.
When the latch sprang, JULMAE was pushed to the lead and would dictate the early terms of the race, with OUR DOMAIN in close pursuit throughout. The pair of JULMAE and OUR DOMAIN were joined by COUNTESS CASHMERE and the three of them would serve as the early leaders for the Peach Of It. They as a trio would set clock splits of :24.76 for the first quarter, :49.52 for the half-mile, and 1:14.12 for the third quarter. On the turn, COUNTESS CASHMERE and JULMAE would wither and fall back while OUR DOMAIN would remain on the lead pack.
In the stretch, William Stiritz's ROSIE MY ROSIE would swing three-wide on the turn and kick clear, making a run from the back of the pack to surge to the front, passing her stablemate and clearing off to a three-length lead in deep stretch. The lead dwindled to two and a quarter lengths on the wire, but ROSIE MY ROSIE was a clear winner of the Peach of It Handicap. Santo Sanjur, who won the late double at Hawthorne, was aboard the four-year-old mare by Purge out of Marquetry mare Rosie's Ransom. Scott Becker conditoned the mare that stopped the clock for a mile and a sixteenth on a muddy, sealed dirt track in 1:44.62.
Winning rider Santo Sanjur post-race complemeted the winner, noting that “she’s a very nice horse. At the half-mile, I had a lot of horse. In the straight, she goes. She liked this track, she liked the wetter track. She’s nice on the sloppy track.” Even Chris Emigh, who was aboard OUR DOMAIN in the Peach of It (and a winner aboard LUV BANDIT earlier in the card) praised the winner, saying "he had way too much horse".
Winning trainer Scott Becker opined that "Santo Sanjur did a good job of saving ground in the race. He thought that ROSIE MY ROSIE was too far back in the last race. And he got a good clean trip." With respect to post-race plans for ROSIE MY ROSIE, Becker was wide-ranging in his plans, mentioning the Illinois-bred program and races like the Spellman Memorial in July for Illinois-breds on the turf or to give the horse a summer vacation.
The two dollar 4-2 exacta of ROSIE MY ROSIE and OUR DOMAIN returned $25.20. The twenty-cent 4-2-9 trifecta of ROSIE MY ROSIE, OUR DOMAIN, and PRAIRIE VISTA yielded $14.02. Twenty-cent 4-2-9-7 superfectas with BRAZYN APPEAL in the fourth slot paid out $41.54 to winning ticket holders. --PM
Stakes recap authors are denoted above by initials, PM for Paul Mazur and NN for Nicolle Neulist. All photography courtesy of Four Footed Fotos.
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