Closethegame Sugar Runs Down Skelly in the Aristides

Closethegame Sugar  handed Skelly  a rare defeat June 1 when he ran down the free-wheeling front-runner for a length score in the $275,000 Aristides Stakes at Churchill Downs.

When the gates opened, the start played out differently than expected when the normally quick Skelly broke flat-footed. The gelding proceeded to drag jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. to the front in between horses while Closethegame Sugar benefitted from an off-the-pace trip under Irad Ortiz Jr.

Skelly showed no signs of stopping as the field turned for home despite carving out demanding early fractions of :21.73 and :44.19, opening up a two-length advantage at the eighth pole. Ortiz encouraged Closethegame Sugar wide down the center of the track, and the pair closed relentlessly on the 1-4 favorite to catch Skelly yards from the wire.

The final six furlongs was timed in a sharp 1:08.39 on a fast main track.

Tejano Twist  completed the trifecta.

Closethegame Sugar ($38.92), a stakes winner on the turf at Saratoga Race Course and stakes placed on the synthetic at Presque Isle Downs, registered his first career win on the dirt for owners Adam Rice and Sugar Diaz. Rice, who also trains Closethegame Sugar, picked up the 5-year-old Girvin   gelding for $10,000 at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

“He came off a pretty long layoff last time here at Churchill running in the allowance race Derby week,” Rice said. “I thought he may have needed that race and he came back really strong today. Irad (Ortiz Jr.) gave him a great ride and is a difference-maker. We won a stakes last year on turf but having him show another dimension today on dirt was very impressive.”