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Stakes Recaps: Black Gold Stakes & Dixie Poker Ace Stakes

Windy Hill Farm’s Anne Smith-trained Tuba pulled a slick one over on the $60,000 Black Gold Stakes field, going gate-to-wire over eight other 3-year-olds under Jose Riquelme at odds of 63-1.  After making it to the lead with relative ease, the 3-year-old gelded son of Magna Graduate welled up with confidence, fueling splits of :24.85, :48.61 and 1:12.77, while opening up by 3½ lengths at the top of the stretch.  The long-striding charge then fought gamely to hold off Rigney Racing’s even-money favorite Another Lemon Drop by a half-length in a final time of 1:30.66 for the 7½ grassy furlongs.

            “It was a very good trip.  I sent him to the lead and I knew he won when he was on the lead before, so I tried to do the same,” Riquelme said.  “He really responded to me.  I was worried a little bit; trying to slow things down, but when I turned for home he really ran.”

            Smith, who won her first stakes race as a trainer, was elated.  “I am relieved and excited and I very much wanted this,” she said.  “I was hoping I could get a similar trip to his win out of him and a confident ride.  You can see he has such a big stride, especially when he relaxes, and that’s his best asset.  Even when we gallop him, when he relaxes, it’s huge.  He’s a silly horse and does funny things in the stall, but I really believe in him and I’m so glad we tried.”

            Tuba, an $11,500 Keeneland September Yearling Sale bargain in 2013, earned $36,000 to increase his career earnings to $49,240.  The victory was his second in seven starts and comes after two consecutive losses to the well-regarded Wireless Future.  In his second start of the meet, on Dec. 7, the Kentucky-bred ran a similar gate-to-wire race to break his maiden.  He returned $129.40, $32 and $10.60.  Another Lemon Drop, under James Graham for trainer Phil Bauer, returned $3.40 and $2.40.  Whispering Oaks Farm’s Fly Friendly Sky returned $4.20 to show for trainer Steve Flint and jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.

Earlier in the card, Steve Stumpf’s Corale ‘Bunky’ Richards-trained McGehee’s Mercy was a stylish winner of the $60,000 Dixie Poker Ace Stakes over one mile for older Louisiana-bred turf horses.  Settling in 10th of 11 through most of the running, the 5-year-old gray son of Afleet Alex rallied resolutely outside of horses in mid-stretch under Florent Geroux to win by 2½ lengths in a time of 1:36.24.

            “He’s always been an improving horse,” Richards said.  “His breeding is really good.  There’s no telling how far he’ll go.”

            McGehee’s Mercy returned $20.40, $10.40 and $5.80, while What Else Racing’s Ron Faucheux-trained Heavy On Themister returned $11.60 and $6.40.  Oak Leaf T. C. LP’s Scot Tubbs-trained 3-1 favorite Benwill rounded out the top three, returning $3.20.  The winner earned $36,000 to increase his career earnings to $146,862, while winning for the sixth time in 21 career attempts.