BALTIMORE -- Vindy City returned from a four-month layoff ready to roll, putting away Argent Affair in midstretch and easily holding off Imanheiress for a one-length victory in Friday's $51,200 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
Imanheiress, under Travis Dunkelberger, rallied from last to get second by 1 1/4 lengths over Argent Affair. For Royalty and High Five Gal completed the order of finish. Cuff Me, the 4-5 morning-line favorite, and Starlite Starbrite, the morning-line second choice, both scratched.
Vindy City, a daughter of Vindication trained by John Servis, hadn't run since winning a two-turn first-level allowance race at Philadelphia Park on Jan. 10. Servis said the filly got injured and had a bad reaction to antibiotics. But she showed a steady work tab since mid-March and was ready to fire first off the layoff.
Though she had shown speed in all three of her previous starts, Vindy City was fourth early, as High Five Gal and Argent Affair knocked heads through a quarter in 22.66 seconds and a half in 45.58.
Kendrick Carmouche moved Vindy City into contention around the turn and she collared Argent Affair turning for home. The two ran stride for stride till the sixteenth pole, when Vindy City drew clear. Vindy City, who is now 3 for 4 for Marchfore Thoroughbreds, covered the six furlongs in 1:11.72 and returned $5 as the slight second choice behind Argent Affair.
"We wanted to take her off the pace today instead of letting her go to the lead and our game plan worked,'' Carmouche said. "She ran a lot better race today than she did the last three times. Today, it was perfect. It set up just right.''
Servis said he will most likely stretch out Vindy City in distance for her next start.
Jim McKay: Central City by a neck
Central City turned back all comers with Julien Leparoux aboard, digging in late to defeat Sacred Journey by a neck Friday in the $52,200 Jim McKay Turf Sprint on the Preakness eve undercard at Pimlico.
Owned by Preston Stable LLC and trained by Ronny Werner, Central City went to the early lead in the five-furlong McKay before being challenged from the outside by Blue Sailor late in the turn. He dispatched that rival, but then Sacred Journey angled out from his tracking spot to take dead aim with Ramon Dominguez aboard, only to fail to get past in a prolonged drive. Heros Reward rallied late to be third.
Central City, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt by City Place, returned $8.40 as third choice after finishing in 56.18 seconds over a firm course.
"At the quarter pole he really kicked in, and I was pretty sure I was going to hold off Ramon," said Leparoux.
As with Starfish Bay, who two races earlier on the card narrowly captured the The Very One Stakes, the filly-mare counterpart to the Jim McKay, Central City had been a factor on a ferocious pace in his last start, the April 30 Churchill Downs Turf Sprint, in which he wound up a close third.
Overall, Central City now has won 6 of 9 starts and $133,367. The McKay marked his first stakes win.
- Marty McGee
The Very One: Starfish Bay prevails
She didn't exactly do it the way an odds-on favorite is supposed to win, but Starfish Bay hung in there just long enough to withstand a stretch-long bid from Suzzona in posting a neck triumph in the $52,200 The Very One Stakes.
With John Velazquez riding for Gainesway Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher, Starfish Bay surged early from the rail to take command leaving the backstretch, shook off Canadian Ballet, then was all out to defeat Suzzona, an 11-1 shot in a field of 10 female turf sprinters. The winner returned $3.80 after finishing five furlongs in 56.56 seconds over a firm course.
"We just wanted to break and go, but she didn't break very well," said Velazquez. "I helped her out a little and when she got the lead, she was a fighter."
Starfish Bay came into the The Very One off two sharp efforts: an easy score in a minor Gulfstream Park stakes in February, and a close-up sixth versus male rivals in the Churchill Downs Turf Sprint on April 30. The 4-year-old Starfish Bay now has won 5 of 11 starts and $186,831.
After Suzzona, Kosmo's Buddy was 1 1/4 lengths back in third at 65-1. Canadian Ballet, the 2-1 second choice, faded to fifth.
- Marty McGee
Skipat: Lights Off Annie rolls
Lights Off Annie grabbed the lead shortly after the start and then increased her margin throughout, rolling to an impressive, 5 1/2-length victory in the $50,000 Skipat Stakes for older female sprinters.
Streetscape, an 11-1 shot, closed well to finish second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Beware of the Bop. There was a foul claim by Horacio Karamanos, the rider of second choice All Giving, against Streetscape, alleging interference on the turn, but the stewards rightly left the result alone.
Lights Off Annie ($4), the favorite, was sent aggressively to make the front in 22.83 seconds for the opening quarter-mile while stalked by What Time It Is. Lights Off Annie shook off that rival at the top of the stretch, then flew home, covering six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:10.33 for her sixth win in 11 lifetime starts.
Rajiv Maragh rode Lights Off Annie, 5, for trainer Mike Hushion. She is owned by the Repole Stable.
Lights Off Annie, a New York-bred, was coming off successive strong efforts on the inner track at Aqueduct, where she had finished first in the Broadway Stakes, and second in the Wheel Turns, in her last two starts.
The Skipat marked her first start outside of New York.
- Jay Privman
Joharmony rallies to Hilltop victory
Joharmony took advantage of a pace duel between the top two choices, sat a perfect trip, and rallied to win the $50,000 Hilltop Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf on Friday at Pimlico.
Joharmony ($6.60), under Javier Castellano, let Smart Seattle and Potosina battle for the lead for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile grass race. She moved up to take the lead on the far turn, then kicked clear, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Potosina in 1:44.17 on the firm course.
Potosina crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Kit Kats Luck, but that result was reversed by the stewards. With a furlong remaining, Potosina ducked sharply to the left, forcing Kit Kats Luck, who was rallying on the rail, to take up.
Worstcasescenario, who would have been one of the top choices in the race, was scratched.
Joharmony was winning for the fourth straight time following a debut loss. She had won a Keeneland allowance race in her prior start.
Leigh Delacour, who is having a sensational year with a strike rate hovering near 30 percent, trains Joharmony for owner Gary Chervenell.
- Jay Privman