There might have been two winners in Saturday's $300,000 Frank DeFrancis Dash at Laurel Park in Maryland: Delaware Township in the race itself and Squirtle Squirt in the race for the Eclipse Award as the year's best sprinter.
As predicted, super filly Xtra Heat and Caller One zoomed out to the lead in the DeFrancis, just as they did in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park three weeks earlier. And again, a trailer came and got them. In the Breeders' Cup, it was Squirtle Squirt. Saturday, it was Delaware Township -- who ran sixth at Belmont.
Early Flyer was second in the DeFrancis, with Xtra Heat holding on for third after setting fractions of 21.50 and 44.22 seconds. The final time was 1:09.
Said winning rider Jerry Bailey, "Any time you have a come-from-behind sprinter, you need two things to go your way. You need some pace and you need a lack of traffic problems. You need luck getting through horses. With a short field, it's much easier for the latter. Then you only hope there's pace. It just stood to reason with Caller One and Xtra Heat you'd get plenty of pace."
While the others were knocking heads, trainer Bobby Frankel had Squirtle Squirt safely bedded down a continent away on the Hollywood Park backstretch. And he's keeping the colt there.
"It's a no-brainer now," Frankel said of the Eclipse Award voting. "No way am I going to run him again this year and give any voter the excuse he got beat."
Squirtle Squirt has three wins and three seconds from his six starts this year. The 3-year-old son of Marquetry also won the King's Bishop at Saratoga.
Delaware Township, a 5-year-old son of Notebook, picked up his fourth win in nine starts for 2001. He also won the Forego Handicap at Saratoga and the Forest Hills at Belmont. The DeFrancis was his last race before retiring to stud.
Trainer Jim Chapman said Caller One cut his left ankle leaving the gate in Saturday's race and will be rested until he defends his title in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March. He may face Squirtle Squirt again in that race.
Snow Dance took the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and held on to win by a neck over Stylish. Cozy Island was third. Snow Dance, by Forest Wildcat, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.86. Trainer John Ward said the victory was doubly impressive because Snow Dance had to work her way to the lead. "She'll race on the turf in Florida," he said. "But we'll also keep California in the mix."
Fonz's won a stretch battle with Popular to capture Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes by ½ length. Labamba Babe was third. Fonz's, a Florida-bred son of Out of Place, got the 7 furlongs under Laffit Pincay Jr. in 1:22.03. "This is a nice horse. He can run," Pincay said. Asked about plans, trainer Dvid LaCroix said, "Futurity next, I guess." He said he told Pincay to stay off the lead because, "There was a ton of speed. I wanted to see him running down the lane so we can set up for the next race."
In Sunday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, Ayanna went quickly to the lead, set a moderate pace and never looked back. At the wire, the In Excess filly was 3 ½ lengths ahead of her nearest pursuer, Ponche de Leona. Unforgettable R N was third. The 7 furlongs took 1:23.45. Trainer R. Kory Owens admitted the pace "was a big major benefit of the race." Added jockey Mike Smith, "She can run a good seven-eighths. Right now, two turns might be a little tough."
Mr. Pleasentfar collared pace-setting Eltawaasul in the late going to win Saturday's $150,00 Red Smith Handcap by ¾ length. Regal Dynasty was just a nose farther back in third with a late bid. Mr. Pleasentfar, a Brazilian-bred, 4-year-old son of Emmson, ran the 1 3/8 mile on firm turf in 2:16.94 for Jose Santos. "I think he's got a real big future," Santos said. "He was very handy during the last three eighths of the race and had no trouble coming a bit wide." Nicole Wiley, assistant to trainer Marty Wolfson, said the Florida invader will head back home even though he "loved the cool weather" up north.
Sunday, Forest Heiress drew off in the stretch to win the $75,000 Valley Stream Stakes for 2-year-old fillies by 3 lengths over A New Twist. On Parade was third. Forest Heiress, by Forest Wildcat, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.66. "She's a monster," said winning rider Richard Migliore. "Maybe next year's Xtra Heat."
Kimbralata worked through traffic to win Saturday's $75,000 Stefanita Stakes -- the key undercard event on DeFrancis Dash Day. The 3-year-old filly, with Travis Dunkelberger up, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.10. "Everybody else sort of sent, so I just sat off and waited and waited," Dunkelberger said. "She made her run when she had to."
Gottcha Last, with Dunkelberger again biding his time, won the $75,000 Thirty Eight Go Stakes by ½ length over Powerful Package. The 9 furlongs took 1:51.71. "I sat back in the pocket and waited for a spot to open and when it did, she fired," said the winning rider.
Bronze Abe led from gate to wire in winning the $60,000 Heavenly Cause Stakes for 2-year-old, Maryland-bred fillies. War Native scored by 6 ½ lengths in the $60,000 Rollicking Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds going 7 furlongs. And Grundlefoot, also with Dunkelberger up, made a wide move into the stretch to win the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes.
Calder Race Course
Groomstick Stock's opened up a daylight lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $60,000 Western Borders Handicap, then had enough left to win by 1 ½ lengths over a late-closing Dancing Guy. The favorite, Sea of Tranquility, was third. Groomstick Stock's, a 5-year-old Groomstick gelding, got the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.86. Winning rider Rosemary Homeister Jr. said the race "came out exactly the way we talked about it." And trainer Paul Brettler said Groomstick Stock's will run back in the Fred Hooper on Dec. 29.
Also Saturday, Grey Ballet worked through traffic in deep stretch to beat Blondaway by ½ length in a color-full finish to the $60,000 Lenta Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Jennasietta was third while the favorite, Sara's Success, was bumped at the start and finished sixth. Grey Ballet, by Imperial Ballet, came into the Lenta off a second-place finish in the Calder Oaks. With Jose Ferrer up, the filly got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.62. "I had some anxious moments in the last 100 yards wondering if she would get through. But she did," said winning trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. He said Grey Ballet will start next in the Frances A. Genter on Dec. 15.
Tails of the Crypt raced well off the lead down the backstretch in Saturday's $100,000 Display Stakes for 2-year-olds, then made up all the ground in the stretch to win by ¾ length over Streakin Rob. Funny Soldier was third as the 1 1/16-mile race went in 1:44.62. "He'll have a nice vacation in Florida," said winning trainer John Ross, "and resume training in a month or two. Hopefully he'll come back here and win some nice races next year."
Sunday, Elektraline scored a convincing, 3 ½-length victory over Feathers in the $140,000 Bessarabian Stakes. Ahead by a Century was third. Elektraline shipped in from her home base in Maryland for the event -- her first in Canada. "On form alone, I wasn't sure she would like the 7-furlong distance," said Mike Wright Jr., who deputized for trainer Scott Lake. "But this is a speed-favoring track and where she's been running, it's kind of deep. So I thought she had a good shot at getting the distance."
Amanda's Crown came from behind the early pace to win Friday night's $70,000 Miss Indiana Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths. Connies Travels, a 15-1 longshot, was second and Meladrie was third. Amanda's Crown is an Indiana-bred daughter of Crown Ambassador. The favorite, aptly named Miss Indiana, ran sixth after contesting the early pace.
Golden Gate Fields
Hall of Gold drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday's $55,000 Camilla Urso Handicap for fillies and mares over Creaseinherjeans. Time for Romance was third. Hall of Gold, a 3-year-old daughter of Petionville, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:07.88. "We've probably run out of competition here (in northern California)," said trainer Jeff Bonde. "We might be looking at something in Southern California" for Hall of Gold. Russell Baze, who rode Creaseinherjeans, commented: "Good riddance."
Hawthorne Race Course
Beware Avalanche outfinished Distinctive Mr. B in Saturday's $40,000 Glassy Dip Stakes at 5 furlongs on the turf. Beware Avalanche, a 5-year-old Mt. Livermore gelding with E.T. Baird in the irons, got a rough start, saved ground and made his move turning for home. "I was pretty confident that he could run them down," said Baird. "He responded well when he switched to his right lead and just took off." Beware Avalanche has won four of 10 starts this year -- including a $100,000 optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in January in which trainer Wayne Catalano took the gelding from Allen Iwinski's barn.
Hallowed Dreams is back. The Lousiana-bred, Louisiana-owned and almost exclusively Louisiana-raced filly returned from a three-month layoff to win an allowance event Saturday by 1 length over Dr. Lewis, a 4-year-old colt. Hallowed Dreams now has won 24 of her 26 lifetime starts. She has never raced outside the Louisiana/Texas circuit.
Trainer Eric Kruljac saddled the exacta in Saturday's $30,000 Paradise Valley Handicap. The winner, R. Baggio, took over from pace-setting stablemate Resolve at the top of the lane and the two finished in that order. Kruljac said he hasn't decided whether to leave R. Baggio in Arizona or ship the 3-year-old colt back to his Southern California base.
News and notes:
--Tiznow won't be back to try for a third straight Breeders' Cup Classic victory. Owner Michael Cooper said when he heard about Manndar breaking his leg in a training accident, he decided it wasn't worth risking Tiznow's future. He called trainer Jay Robbins at dawn Friday and told him to pull the 2000 Horse of the Year out of training. Tiznow earned $6,427,830 while winning eight of his 15 lifetime starts. The horse will stand at WinStar Farm in Lexington for a fee yet to be determined.
--Timboroa and With Anticipation head the U.S. contingent in next weekend's $4 million Japan Cup. Timboroa, 11th in the Japan Cup last year, was third in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf at Belmont Park. With Anticipation was a disappointing seventh in the Turf when he couldn't get to the lead but has won the Man o' War and the Sword Dancer this year. Cagney and White Heart also will contest the Japan Cup.
Lido Palace, who bypassed the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships because of nomination rules, will lead the U.S.-based charge in the $2 million Japan Cup Dirt. Dig for It and Generous Rosi also are set to run.