The Courageous Lady, the first national open stakes race of 2013 for three-year-old pacers, will be held at Northfield Park on Friday night. The track has rejoined the Grand Circuit so the CL will no longer be a curiously scheduled stand-alone outlier. In addition, the HANA Grand Circuit handicapping challenge will commence with this race.This has never been a top tier stakes race; the purse comes in at under $100,000. Three-year-old filly division winners have captured only 10% of the 38 editions held at Northfield and Monticello (Lady Catskill). Like its companion stake, the Cleveland Classic, which closes the season in mid-December, it is hit and miss when it comes to the talent level of its participants.
As is the case with other small track spring stakes—the Levy, Matchmaker and Molson—the Burke barn tends to be over represented; last year four of the eight fillies entered in the Courageous Lady were Burke’s; all of them raced uncoupled in the betting. Dave Palone cut a back down mile with the 2/5 favorite Destiny’s Chance only to have the pocket sitting Podges Lady come up the passing Lane and beat her.Two years ago the race was split into two divisions with Ron Burke’s American Ideal filly, Some Girls Do, winning one division for Dave Palone at 1/5 and Robin Schadt’s, I Kill Time, taking the other at 4/5.
None of the top ten money winners in last year’s juvenile class are staked to the CL, so Somwherovrarainbow, I Luv The Nitelife and L Dees Lioness are not entered. However, Champagne Tonight, a very good Western Terror filly, who held her own with the best in PA last year, winning the $106,000 Meadow Cheer as well as another $114,000 PASS race, is in the field. Chances are she’s entered because her owner/trainer, Clair Umholtz, is based at Northfield. Champagne Tonight, who banked more than $200,000 in 2012, is making her seasonal debut in the race.Ron Burke has two fillies in the seven horse field, Carol’s Desire, who will be driven by Ronnie Wrenn Jr and Charisma Hanover with Dave Palone.
Carol’s Desire is a full sister to Sheer Desire, the fastest 2-year-old pacer of 2008; she was a $25,000 Lexington purchase. She battled the top fillies in the PASS last year and won the $118,000 Kentuckiana in mid-September. Carol’s Desire beat NW2 at The Meadows a week ago at 1/5.Burke’s other filly, Charisma Hanover, beat two other starters, Miss Madi M and Whetstone Hanover, at The Meadows last week. She wired the field handily in :52.4 at 1/5 for Dave Palone. Last year the $25,000 Dragon Again yearling purchase was no match for the top GC fillies. She’s half to Runover Feeling.
Miss Madi M—rail—was raced aggressively in finishing second to Charisma Hanover. Last year she was successful in the second tier PASS Stallion series. She was no match for the top fillies, but she did set a season’s record in winning the Standardbred at Delaware. She blew by Whetstone Hanover a couple of weeks ago, went up in the air, and still came back to beat that one.Diligent Prospect was second in Miss Madi M’s Standardbred win. The Ponder filly, who made some money racing in the KYSS last year, drew the two. The $20,000 Lexington purchase hasn’t shown much in two 2013 starts.
Whetstone Hanover is a SBSW half-sister to Ace Of Pace, the Cams Card Shark filly who won the Countess Adios in 2010. She won first time out at The Meadows this year. She was a $30,000 yearling.Tony O’Sullivan’s Mach Three filly, Cam’s Macharena, drew the outside. She won three races in the Ontario Sire Stakes Grassroots program last year, including the $50,000 final in the pouring rain at Grand River. The half-sister to Cam’s Van Go earned about $90,000. She has a couple of third place finishes against NW2 at Woodbine this month.
This year’s Courageous Lady features some fillies on the come and appears to be competitive. In recent years it’s been something of a secret; let’s see if the renewed Grand Circuit sponsorship gives it a publicity boost.