Jungle Java took the $40,670 Arizona Stallion Stakes while Az Ridge set a new track record in winning the marathon $35,000 Wildcat Handicap Saturday at Turf Paradise.
There will be simulcasting only Easter Sunday. Live racing resumes Monday with first post at 1:25 pm.
Az Stallion Stakes
Skyler White Shield skimmed the rail, giving Jungle Java a ground saving trip, but then found his way blocked in deep stretch. Yanking the 3-year-old Rocky Bar gelding to the outside, White Shield gave chase to the tenacious Best Asset, besting that one by a length at the wire with Prospector’s Blues third in the field of six sophomores.
Owned by Double Kee LLC and trained by Bobbie Grissom, the Arizona bred Jungle Java covered the 7 ½ furlongs over firm turf in 1:30.35.
It was the second win in nine starts and the first stakes win for Jungle Java who now has earnings of $50,100.
Leading turf rider Geovanni Franco and eventual winner Az Ridge ($3.20) gave a clinic on not only how to relax and win dominantly a 1 3/8 mile turf race but to set on new track record in the process.
Sitting off the pace set by Image of Joplin and Magic D’ Oro – which ran second and third in that order – the normally front-running Az Ridge yielded to Franco’s told hold, tracking the duo pace setters twice around the course before exploding in late stages, posting a six length victory as the prohibitive favorite in the field of seven older horses.
Adding the cherry to the victory cake, Franco and Az Ridge set a new track record for the 1 3/8 mile distance (turf) of 2:13.91, eclipsing the old record of 2:14.38 set by All Saint in 2011.
Az Ridge, a 6-year-old Toccet Kentucky bred, has been a war horse for Sawyer Cattle Company and trainer Dan McFarland, winning 12 of 37 starts for earnings of $358,335.
The day prior to the track going dark for Easter, will feature the $35,000 Arizona Stallion Stakes and the marathon $35,000 Wildcat Handicap Saturday at Turf Paradise.
The track will be dark for Easter Sunday, April 5, with simulcasting only and no live racing. The annual Easter Sunrise service, hosted by the Lutheran Church of the Master for the 55th year, will take place at 6:00 am in the Grandstand outside balcony. Everyone is invited to attend the service.
The Arizona Stallion Stakes, which drew a field of six 3-year-olds, including a filly, will be run at 7 ½ furlongs on the turf.The Wildcat Handicap, the traditional prep for closing day’s final race, the Hasta La Vista Handicap, will be run at 1 3/8 miles (turf), and attracted a field of ten.
The AZ Stallion Stakes
Of the six entrants, Jungle Java sports the best grass experience with a maiden win and a strong second in the Tempe Handicap. Trained by Bobbie Grissom, Jungle Java’s pedigree – Rocky Bar (In Excess), makes him well suited for the turf.
Best Asset, trained by Dan McFarlane and to be ridden by leading turf rider, Geovanni Franco, has sampled the turf twice in 11 lifetime efforts, with his best placing a second in the Chuck N Luck stakes.
The lone filly, appropriately named My Cinderella, has yet to break her maiden in two attempts.
The Wildcat Handicap
A curious race given the four shippers, three from southern California and one from Sunland Park.
The California shippers: Perfect Set is coming off a 4 ½ victory in a low-level claiming event at Santa Anita. He is win less on the turf is six tries. Juniper Pass has been racing in Graded stakes company, winning the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano in 2011 at 1 ¾ miles. His $379,925 in earnings leads all entrants.
Stoney Fleece finished fourth in the Turf Paradise Handicap after campaigning on the southern California circuit. The 6-year-old has won six of 31 efforts on the grass.From Sunland Park, comes Brainwash, trained by Robertino Diodoro. The well-traveled 6-year-old has won four of 20 efforts with a second place finish on the turf at the Fairgrounds.
Locally, the ultra-tough AZ Ridge will command attention. Impressive winner of the recent Turf Paradise Handicap (turf), the Dan McFarlane trainee has won 11 of 36 efforts for earnings of $337,335, with three of those victories coming on the turf.
Broadway Empire returned to the races with a vengeance and Lady Rosberg stamped her versatility on turf/dirt as each won their respective stakes Saturday at Turf Paradise.
Before a festive crowd of 6,300 attracted by camel and ostrich racing and an appearance of the famous Drama Llamas, Broadway Empire won the $35,000 Coyote Handicap and Lady Rosberg took the $35,000 Mesa Handicap.
Returning to the races following a four and one-half month layoff did little to dull the Robertino Diodoro-trained Broadway Empire ($3.00). Nursed to an effortless lead by Scott Stevens, multiple stakes winner Broadway Empire seized command at the outset and went into cruise control, winning by a deceptively easy one length over JP Rocker with Phoenix Gold Cup winner Absolutely Cool another nose back in third the field of six older horses.
Owned by the quartet of Randy Howg, Bob Butz, Rick Running Rabbit and Fouad El Kardy, Broadway Empire covered the 6 ½ furlongs in a sprightly 1:14.80 for his seventh win in 15 efforts for earnings of $523,224.
Already a proven double stakes winner on turf (Queen of the Green, Sun City), Lady Rosberg ($5.20) showed she’s equally adept on dirt, prevailing in the Mesa Handicap by 2 ¼ lengths over favored Small Moves with Peppy Miller third in the field of seven fillies and mares.
Tracking the spirited front runner Small Moves, Lady Rosberg switched leads and gears under Rocco Bowen in late stretch to notch her fourth victory of the meet.
Trained by Valorie Lund for Washington-based owner Karl Krieg, Lady Rosberg covered the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.80.
The 5-year-old, Washington bred Lady Rosberg, was winning for the sixth time in her 13 race career and now has surpassed a hundred thousand dollars with $106,772 in earnings.
Versatile sprint/distance ace Broadway Empire returns to competition in the $35,000 Coyote Handicap which is co-featured with the $35,000 Mesa Handicap Saturday at Turf Paradise.
Also Saturday, horses will share the spotlight with camel and ostrich races. Plus there will be a special photo/selfie-op appearance by the Drama Llamas. These two locally based alpacas, which go by the names Laney and Kahknetta, rose to fame by running loose in Sun City to the delight of a worldwide TV audience.
There will also be free bounce inflatables, face painting and pony rides for the kids.The Coyote, for 3-year-olds and up, drew a field of six, while the Mesa, for fillies and mares, attracted a field of seven. Both races will be run at 6 ½ furlongs.
Multiple stakes winner Broadway Empire has made a name for himself taking on tough opponents in Grade 1 stakes like the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Metropolitan Handicap. The 5-year-old son of Empire Maker didn’t win those prestigious events but neither did he disgrace himself.
Trained by leading conditioner Robertino Diodoro. Broadway Empire, who’s been off for nearly five months, has laid down a series of six workouts, three of them best of the day, for his race return. Leading rider Scott Stevens has the call.However, the rest of the field cannot be dismissed out of hand.
Absolutely Cool, winner of the Phoenix Gold Cup, has signed up with his patented closing kick; trainer Greg Tracy’s fresh off the bench trio of Just Win Baby. Tigger Town and Deadly Truth will insure a lively pace and then there’s JP Rocker who’s in search of his third consecutive win.
How good is Lady Rosberg?
The Valorie Lund trained 5-year-old mare has been in the money in her last eight starts, including five victories and two stakes wins. The Washington bred is as accomplished on dirt as she is on turf.
The Diodoro-trained Small Moves is working on her third consecutive win.
Robert Score’s Speckles debut with a four-length allowance win on the turf after shipping in from Santa Anita, will prompt the question, Can she transfer that form to dirt?