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>Coming off a month’s break, Darlins Delight was fresh and eager tonight as she captured the first of two $50,000 eliminations for the July 25 Roses Are Red Stakes for mature pacing mares, and later on the Mohawk card Tug River Princess won the second elim.


Four Starzz Meliss and Luc Ouellette led the charge off the gate, but quickly lost that advantage to Btwnyurheartnmine (Andy Miller), with Knock Three Times (Jody Jamieson) tucking into the pocket spot through a brisk early fraction of :25.4. Four Starzz Meliss fought back, locking horns with Knock Three Times, whereupon Jamieson put the hammer down, sending Knock Three Times to the front. The half-mile time of :53.4 started to tell on Knock Three Times as the field went to the ¾ marker, and she couldn’t hold off a charge from Darlins Delight and Paul MacDonell, who came firing from the backfield to overtake, with Tidewaterdragonfly (Jack Moiseyev) riding her cover.


Darlins Delight then kicked off to a three-length lead, stopping the timers in 1:51.1, with Tidewaterdragonfly winning the photo for second and Btwnyurheartnmine settling for third.


An inquiry posted for possible interference between Btwnyurheartnmine and Hana Hanover in the stretch was dismissed after the tape was examined by the judges.


Darlins Delight, a homebred six-year-old daughter of Bettors Delight out of Hall of Famer Town Pro, is bred and owned by the White Birch Farm of Allentown, New Jersey, and conditioned by Jeff Stafford. She has contested the Roses Are Red stakes twice before. She was fifth in the 2007 edition, and distanced in the eliminations for the 2008 version, thus failing to advance to the final. Tonight, however, she was clearly on her game and paid $6.20 for her efforts.


MacDonell commented, “A couple horses left pretty hard and they were pacing hard up to the half. It was setting up pretty nice for me, but then Luc’s horse started to stop on the outside flow and I had to go three-wide earlier than I thought. She’s just such a great mare that she overcame that.”


The hot middle fractions didn’t hurt Darlins Delight’s chances, as MacDonell attested. “That was a pretty tough half for Knock Three Times. My mare is closing in on $3 million lifetime, she knows how to get by horses. I was pretty confident. She’ll be better for (this start) next week, going into the final.”


Soft early fractions set 1-5 favorite, Southwind Tempo, and challenger, Tug River Princess, up for a speed duel in the second of the the two Roses Are Red eliminations, from which millionairess Tug River Princess emerged victorious.


It was 2008 Breeders’ Crown champion, A and Gs Confusion, who took command off the gate for Mark MacDonald, while Jody Jamieson tucked Southwind Tempo into the pocket spot and Tug River Princess followed in third for Steve Condren, who had picked up the drive from John Campbell.


Jamieson angled out to overtake by the 3/8 marker and let Southwind Tempo roll through an easy :56.1 half and 1:24.0 third-quarter with A and Gs Confusion in her wake, but Tug River Princess was perfectly positioned in third through that portion of the mile and lit up in the stretch, overtaking a tiring Southwind Tempo and crossing the line to win in 1:51.  A and Gs Confusion stepped up for second and Southwind Tempo was third.


A four-year-old daughter of Badlands Hanover, Tug River Princess is beginning to find her footing among the older mares and can now boast three wins in five starts this year. She has never been worse than second going back to August, 2008. Darren McCall trains for owners the Let It Ride Stables of Delray Beach, Robert Cooper Stables LLC of Boca Raton, and Jerry Silva of Long Beach, NY.


Tug River Princess returned $10.80, $4.30, and $2.30 for the win.


The $373,600 final of the Roses Are Red stakes goes next Saturday, July 25, with the top five finishers in tonight’s eliminations advancing. (WEG)