As some horses ease into a winter rest, others are gearing up to take advantage of opportunities in southern climes. Band Is Passing served notice Saturday that he is in the opportunistic mode.
The 5-year-old Florida-bred sat behind pace-maker Groomstick Stock's through most of the $100,000 Tropical Park Handicap at Calder Race Course. Then, when jockey Carlos Gonzalez asked him to go, Band Is Passing charged to the front and won by 3 ¼ lengths over late-running rival Crash Course. Groomstick Stock's held third. The 9 furlongs over "good" turf took 1:46.90.
"Last time was the first time back off the layoff," said Gonzalez, "and the course was a little soft. He got short and we just got beat (for second) by a neck."
Trainer Stanley Ersoff said travel weariness also may have played a role. But, he said, Band Is Passing "is back on top now and I'll probably look toward the Appleton (on Jan. 5) and the Canadian at Gulfstream now."
Band Is Passing has won 11 of his 25 lifetime starts, earning more than $570,000.
In other races on Calder's Grand Slam I card:
--O'Rocky and Speedy Leon completed an all-longshot exacta in the $100,000 What A Pleasure Stakes for 2-year-olds. O'Rocky, by Birdonthewire, led almost all the way and won by 2 ½ lengths over Speedy Leon. Both went off at better than 10-1 and the $2 exacta paid $479.20. The favorite, The Judge Sez Who, was third. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said O'Rocky will remain in Florida but didn't specify a next race for the colt.
--Ms Brookski pulled a minor upset in the $100,000 Three Ring Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, rallying down the stretch to beat favorite Stormy Frolic by 4 lengths. Redoubled Miss was third. Ms Brookski ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.65. "She's a big filly and it's taking her time to get it together," said winning trainer Reed Combest. "I really think she'll be better at 3 than she is at 2." He said Ms Brookski probably will run back in the Tropical Park Oaks on New Year's Day.
-- Batique charged from off the pace to win the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap for fillies and mares at 9 furlongs on the turf. Please Sign In led the way but came up ½ length short in the final yards. Wander Mom was another 1 length back in third. Batique, a 5-year-old Storm Cat mare, was clocked in 1:49.85. "We took the blinkers off and were trying to get her to relax a little more," said winning trainer Michael Matz. "It looks like it worked." He said Batique will race at Gulfstream, then will be bred.
Oak Hall seized the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic and went on to win by 2 ¼ lengths over One Brick Shy. The win was the third on the day for jockey Kirk LeBlanc "This was a super day for me, probably the best of my riding career," said LeBlanc, who also scored with Mr. Sulu in the Turf and Midge Too in the Ladies.
The day's biggest surprise, however, was My Brent's Diamond in the Sprint. The 21-1 longshot became the first filly to win the Sprint while Hallowed Dreams, returning on just a week's rest, finished ninth of 10. It was the first off-the-board finish in the filly's 27-race career.
In the day's other races for Louisiana-breds, Hail To Bag remained undefeated with a front-running victory in the Juvenile and Kwik Wash made quick work of her competition in the Lassie.
Hawthorne Race Course
Paddy's Spy, overlooked at 25-1 at the tote, used a rail-skimming ride by jockey Jesse Campbell to win Saturday's $100,000 High Alexander Stakes by 4 ½ lengths. "I'll tell you what this horse is," said Campbell. "He's one of those horses that runs every time. Sometimes he gets lucky. This was one of those times." Paddy's Spy finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.00.
Raging Fever took control early in Saturday's $75,000 Garland of Roses Handicap for fillies and mares and held off Dat You Miz Blue down the lane to win by 1 ½ lengths. Look of the Lynx was third. Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Xtra Heat was scratched with a cough and trainer John Salzman said she probably won't run again this year. Raging Fever, a 3-year-old daughter of Storm Cat from the Seattle Slew mare Pennant Fever, finished the 6 furlongs over a fast inner track in 1:10.38. "I was confident today because she had been training better than she had been in a long time," said trainer Mark Hennig. Hennig said Raging Fever will head to Florida and he plans to race her in January at Gulfstream Park.
Nepenthe stumbled out of the gate, was squeezed in the first turn and still managed to win Saturday's $70,000 Waya Handicap by 1 length over Built To Last. Boismorand was third in the 1 ½-mile turf event for fillies and mares. Nepenthe, a 4-year-old daughter of Broad Brush, finished in 2:30.21 under Chris McCarron. Despite the trouble, McCarron said, once he got the filly straightened out and running, "this filly has a tremendous amount of stamina. She can put in a real long run. After that, it was over."
In the co-featured $50,000 Golden Ballet Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, Bella Bella Bella turned in a beautiful stretch run to score by 2 lengths over Daddy's Gold. Martial's Princess was third. Bella Bella Bella, by Soft Gold, ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.59. She toted McCarron to his 281st stakes victory at Hollywood Park, moving him past Bill Shoemaker on that list. The Waya was his 282nd.
Fast Delivery used air mail down the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 My Charmer Stakes, roaring from last on the backstretch to win by ½ length over Miss Pickums. Momentous was third and the favorite, Minister's Baby, could do no better than sixth. Fast Delivery, a 4-year-old daughter of Little Missouri, ran 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:45.23.
Komax found running room between horses at the top of the lane in Saturday's $30,000 Cactus Wren and went on to defeat the early leader, G Malleah. Radical Rate was third. Komax ran the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.28 and trainer Kory Owens said he plans to leave the horse at Turf Paradise for now.
News and notes
The 2002 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are officially set for Arlington Park on Oct. 26. The deal, announced Monday, brings the WTC to the nation's third-largest market for the first time. Arlington officials pledged that the event will provide a major boost for racing in the Midwest....The Turf Publicists of American re-elected Michele Blanco of Calder and Mike Mooney of Hollywood Park as vice presidents for the east and west, respectively and elected Darren Rogers as vice president/central and NTRA's Eric Wing as vice president at large. The Jockey Club's Bob Curran Jr. and NYRA's Bruno Zalubil will serve the second year of two-year terms as president and secretary-treasurer.