LOUISVILLE — At the risk of stating the obvious, Successful Dan and his Grade I-winning half brother are now officially engaged in a game of HORSE.
Less than two weeks after Wise Dan set course and track records in winning the Grade III Ben Ali Stakes at Keeneland, his older half sibling Successful Dan raised the bar himself, setting course and stakes records of his own in winning the Grade II, $337,800 Alysheba Stakes by a length at Churchill Downs on Friday.
The 11⁄16-mile Alysheba was one of four graded stakes on the undercard of the Kentucky Oaks card.
When Successful Dan put away Mucho Macho Man in the lane after rating midpack and then kicked past Fort Larned to his inside, it marked the continuation of a storybook comeback for the bay gelding.
The 6-year-old son of Successful Appeal has battled a recurring suspensory problem in his left front, and he returned from a 17-month hiatus to win an allowance race at Keeneland on April 6.
"You worry about him every time he goes out and runs, but he loves to do it," said trainer Charlie Lopresti, who conditions both Successful Dan and Wise Dan. "When he came back from the farm, you could just see how happy he was. That's what he loves to do, he's a racehorse."
Successful Dan hit the wire in 1:41.04 over a track rated fast. Fort Larned was second with Mucho Macho Man third.
With Wise Dan already being pointed to the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap on June 16, Lopresti said he might keep Successful Dan on the shelf until Saratoga in order to keep the two apart. Juanita wins La Troienne
With Havre de Grace, the reigning Horse of the Year, retired, the Mike Maker-trained Juanita threw her name into wide-open older female division when she collared multiple Grade I-winner Plum Pretty off the final turn and kicked on to take the Grade II, $370,000 La Troienne Stakes by 2 lengths.
Plum Pretty was returning to the site of her greatest triumph as she captured last year's Kentucky Oaks nearly one year to the day. The front-running daughter of Medaglia d'Oro was coming into the 11⁄16-mile La Troienne off a victory in the Grade I Apple Blossom on April 13, but she couldn't turn back 16-1 shot Juanita when that one came after her after sailing through an opening half of :48.36.
Final time for the test over a fast main track was 1:42.82.
Contested makes it look easy in Eight Belles
In her fourth career start and first try against stakes horses, the Ghostzapper filly Contested drew off under jockey Martin Garcia after sitting just off the early pace to win the Grade III, $110,000 Eight Belles Stakes.
Contested recently returned from an 6-month hiatus to win her seasonal debut against allowance company by 53/4 lengths. The bay filly let pacesetter Good Deed reel off the opening half in :44.37 for the 7-furlong race, but she surged up on the outside to coast home to a 43/4-length victory.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Contested covered the distance in a stakes record time of 1:21.29 en route to collecting her third career victory.
Silver Max reigns in American Turf
With Rafael Bejarano in the irons, Silver Max held strong after zipping an opening half in :46.60, drawing off for 23/4-length victory in the Grade II, $238,200 American Turf Stakes.
Silver Max had won three of his past four starts and most recently took the Grade III Transylvania at Keeneland on April 6. After sitting in the three-wide path on the first turn, the son of Badge of Silver was never seriously threatened from there on, hitting the wire in 1:41.10 for 11⁄16 miles over a course rated firm.
Last-place finisher Star Channel provided a bit of a scare when she appeared to swerve in the stretch, unseating jockey Javier Castellano. Castellano was sporting a bruise to his left cheek, but he did return to ride favored Grace Hall to a third-place run in the Kentucky Oaks.
The American Turf was delayed almost an hour because of severe weather that moved through the area and caused Churchill Downs to temporarily evacuate the infield.