At the wire

CHESTER – The $75,000 Independence Day Stakes has been run at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort 36 times, and Wednesday’s finish was the most competitive in any edition of the race to date.

A little more than a length separated the first five horses at the wire. The one who prevailed was Bim Bam, whose margin was a neck with Jareth Loveberry aboard. Bim Bam’s final time for the one-mile tour over a yielding Mountaineer turf course was 1:37.01.

Bim Bam returned $13.40, $7.40 and $4.40 across the board. Machiavelique, at post-time odds of 64-1 the longest shot on the board, returned $51 to place and $14.80 to show. Machiavelique was a neck better than Keg Party, who returned $5 to show. Burn the Mortgage, the 9-5 favorite, had to check at the top of the stretch, had traffic problems in mid-stretch and finished eighth in the nine-horse field.

A 7-year-old Florida-bred by the sire Deputy Wildcat, Bim Bam is owned by Chuck and Ella Lou Hagaman, and is trained by Ron Moquett. Handicappers noted that Bim Bam was the only horse in the field with prior black-type victories on grass courses in the U.S. – in the Arthur Appleton Juvenile at Calder in 2009; in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park in 2010; and in Calder’s Lord Juban Stakes that same year.

“I had a real clean trip,” said Loveberry. “Going down the backside I was three-wide on the outside, and had a clear shot. I was able to keep Bim Bam on the outside, kept him moving well.

“When we turned for home, I knew we had a little more left. We were on the outside, which was the right place to be. The finish was tight, and I was a little bit worried about (Machiavelique) holding on. But we got there.”

In contrast, the 21st running of the $75,000 Firecracker Stakes fillies and mares wasn’t as tight – only three horses were involved in that photo. The winner by a neck was the longshot La Malaguena, who piloted by Albin Jimenez returned $51, $14.40 and $7.80.

La Malaguena’s clocking for her one-mile tour on the grass was 1:36.62. Sassy Kitten, the 9-5 favorite in the field of nine, was second by a head and returned $4 and $3.20. Another longshot, Bodacious Barb, was third and returned $7.60.

It appeared there was no one happier about La Malaguena’s triumph than Brian D. Michael. Michael trains the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of English Channel for owner Alan Tennenbaum.

Michael is based at the Thoroughbred Center near Lexington.

“I’ve been there for 17 years,” he said. “In the prep for this race, (a one-mile turf allowance) at Mountaineer 22 days ago, we thought La Malaguena should have won. She came in third with a rough trip, but we felt she’d be ready to fire back.

“She’s small, but she’s gritty. We claimed her for $20,000 from (trainer) Dale Romans at Keeneland in April of last year. This was a very exciting race, and La Malaguena gave us everything she’s got, and that’s something you can’t teach. And she’s fast, too.”

La Malaguena won the Wintergreen Stakes at Turfway Park in January. The Firecracker ranks as her most significant victory to date. Both Bim Bam and La Malaguena received $45,150 purse shares for their efforts on Wednesday.

Bim Bam’s career stats now include 44 starts, eight wins, 17 placings and purse earnings of $742,802. La Malaguena’s stats include 26 starts, seven wins, 11 placings and purse earnings of $216,132.

NOTES: Star Harbour, a 6-year-old son of Indian Charlie trained by Joe Woodard, was an easy winner of a $37,100 allowance on Wednesday. Ridden by Deshawn L. Parker, Star Harbour completed the 5 furlongs on a fast track in 1:02.95, the fastest time for that distance on the dirt at Mountaineer this year. Favored Russell Road finished fourth.