L. William and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Yaupon kept his perfect record intact in impressive fashion Thursday, streaking to a stakes-record four-length triumph in the $200,000 Chick Lang (G3) at Pimlico Race Course.
The 45th running of the six-furlong Chick Lang for 3-year-olds helped launch a spectacular Preakness weekend program of 16 stakes, nine graded, worth $3.35 million in purses over three days featuring the 145th running of Saturday’s $1 million Preakness (G1).
Stakes action was kicked off earlier on Thursday’s card with upset victories by Hollis in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint and A Great Time in the $100,000 The Very One, both going five furlongs on the grass.
Favored at 3-5 over eight rivals, Yaupon ($3.20) improved to 4-0 with his second straight graded-stakes triumph following the Amsterdam (G2) Aug. 29 at Saratoga in his previous start. The winning time of 1:09.10 matched Lantana Mob from 2008 for the fastest in stakes history.
Both Yaupon and Lantana Mob came from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who also won the 2018 Chick Lang with 2019 champion sprinter Mitole. It was the first Chick Lang victory for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
“Put him on the lead and keep him on the lead, and he keeps running,” Velazquez said.
Velazquez did precisely that, hustling Yaupon to the front from the gate and assuming control through testing splits of 22.77 and 45.11 seconds, pressed to his outside by Arkaan while the rest of the field tried to keep pace. Yaupon was firmly in command as Arkaan dropped back once straightened for home and sprurted away as Double Crown came with a steady run to edge 17-1 long shot Relentless Dancer for third.
“You’ve got to ride him the first part. For the first three-sixteenths of a mile, I had to ride him just to keep his head on the business,” Velazquez said. “Even at the three-eighths pole I am reminding him, ‘Hey, keep your mind on your business.’ Then when he switched down the lane then he knew. It was ‘OK, time to go.’”
Unraced at 2, Yaupon debuted with a nose victory June 20 at Churchill Downs then rolled by 3 ¾ lengths in a Saratoga allowance July 18, both races coming over older horses. In his first race facing straight 3-year-olds he captured the six-furlong Amsterdam, his stakes debut.
Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Double Crown won the Roar and Carry Back over the spring and summer at Gulfstream Park, and was exiting a third-place finish in the Smile Sprint (G3) Sept. 5 under regular pilot Cristian Torres, who made the trip north to ride. Double Crown was racing for the first time in Maryland since his debut triumph last September, after which he was purchased privately.
“He always gives 100 percent,” Torres said. “I had a perfect trip. He broke good. I let him settle off the speed. At the three-eighths, he started picking it up very nice and down the stretch, when I got him clear, he was rolling.”
Run as the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes from its inception in 1975 to 2009, the Chick Lang was renamed in honor of the racing industry legend widely known as ‘Mr. Preakness,’ who passed away in 2010 at age 83.
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