Two years ago in the Santa Monica Handiap, Kalookan Queen held the lead in the stretch but was caught by Honest Lady. Saturday, she managed to finish the job -- but not without throwing a scare into her rider and trainer.
Kalookan Queen dueled with Favorite Funtime down the backstretch, got the lead on the turn for home and then held on to win by ½ length over Leading Light. Spain, prepping for longer races off a layoff, was up for third.
Kalookan Queen, a 6-year-old Lost Code mare, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.37. It was her first victory in five tries at the difficult distance.
For a moment, neither jockey Alex Solis nor trainer Bruce Headley was sure the mare was going on for the win.
"At the eighth pole," said Solis, "she really got to waiting for the other horses and it made it a little interesting. But she did it. She won the race."
Headley said he also noted the hesitation at the eighth pole. "She threw up her ears and kind of started waiting. That was scary for a moment," he added.
Headley said Kalookan Queen will point for the Las Flores Handicap at 6 furlongs on Feb. 23.
In other weekend racing:
Kentucky Derby preps
Trainer Steve Asmussen had a good day Saturday, winning 3-year-old stakes at both Fair Grounds in New Orleans and Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark.
Easyfromthegitgo saved ground through the early stages of Saturday's $100,000 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, then moved to the leaders three-wide on the turn. In the stretch run, Easyfromthegitgo wore down Sky Terrace to win by a nose. It'sallinthechase was third with a late move. The 1 mile took 1:37 4/5. Asmussen, however, noted that Sky Terrace got a bad start in the Lecomte "and that helped." Easyfromthegitgo "got the perfect trip and he barely won," Asmussen added. "So we're going to have to improve if we want to continue on in this division." Jockey Donnie Meche notched his 1,000th career win in the race.
In the $50,000 Mountain Valley at Oaklawn, Richest Half came from well back in a field of 12 to win by ¾ length over Cojet, the mutuel favorite. Red and Rare was third. Richest Half, a Florida-bred son of Rizzi, needed 1:11.81 for the 6 furlongs on a fast track. Winning rider Justin Vitek said Richest Half "was kind of push-button. The more I asked of him, the more he gave me."
In a Friday allowance event at Gulfstream, Governor Hickel rallied from off the pace to win by ½ length over Najran. Thunder Boot was third. Governor Hickel, one of trainer Nick Zito's Derby hopes, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.56. The Gulch colt delivered a disappointing effort in a longer event two weeks earlier.
Repent, runner-up in last fall's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, worked 5 furlongs at Gulfstream on Friday in 1 minute flat and trainer Kenny McPeek said it was "faster than I wanted." He said he hasn't decided whether to run Repent in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds or the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. He already has Harlan's Holiday penciled in for the Fountain.
The 7-furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday provides another chance for a couple who ran behind Mabry's Boy in the Jan. 3 Spectacular Bid. One is Showemitall, who led in the stretch run of the Jan. 3 Spectacular Bid before losing to Mabry's Boy. "I think Mabry's Boy may be one of the favorites for the Derby," said Showmeitall's trainer, Manny Tortora, after his colt worked on Wednesday. "But then again, we might have a pretty nice horse, too." Other rivals taking another run at Mabry's Boy may include Handsome Hunk, who won the Fort Springs at Keeneland last October but disappointed in the Spectacular Bid, finishing fifth. Many of the other top 3-year-olds on the grounds are waiting for the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 16.
At Santa Anita, the field for Saturday's 7-furlong SanVicente is expected to feature Came Home, a Gone West colt who was undefeated before getting home seventh in the Breeders' Cup last fall. "He's training very well," said jockey Chris McCarron after working Came Home 5 furlongs Sunday. Trainer Paco Gonzalez said he only hopes for good weather. "I would hate to have waited all these months and have it come up a wet track," he said. Also expected is the Bob Baffert-trained Popular, winner of the San Miguel on Jan. 13.
Snow Ridge got to the front in Sunday's $150,000 Palos Verde Handicap and used the extremely fast strip as a launching pad to a 4-length victory over Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Squirtle Squirt. Ceeband was third. The final time for the 6 furlongs was 1:07.70. "I entered this horse in the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "He just didn't get in....He'll gain a little respect off of this win. The time might not be realistic, seeing as how it was firm underneath. But they all had to run over the same track." Squirtle Squirt's rider, Jerry Bailey, said the surface and a layoff compromised his mount. "These probably weren't the ideal conditions for his first race back, but you've got to play the hand you're dealt," he said.
Del Mar Show was just up in the final yards to win Saturday's $100,000 Ft. Lauderdale Handicap by a neck over North East Bound. But neither jockey Jerry Bailey nor trainer Bill Mott was very happy about how the race was won. "I didn't just have to overcome the other horses. But I also had to overcome Eibar Coa," Bailey said. Bailey checked twice behind Coa's mount, Mr. Livingston, once on the first turn and again on the backstretch. "He pushed me out several times," Bailey said. Mott said Del Mar Show "should have been an easy winner" but that the rough trip might make it hard for the 5-year-old son of Theatrical to come back in the Feb. 23 Canadian Turf Handicap. Tv Sports Director was third in the Ft. Lauderdale with Mr. Livingston fading to finish fifth. The 1 1/16 mile on firm turf took 1:41.54.
Jockey Rene Douglas bided his time aboard Take the Cake in Sunday's $100,000 Forward Gal Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and the patience paid off. When asked, the Fly So Free filly kicked into gear, got the lead a furlong out and won off by 3 ¼ lengths. A New Twist was second as the odds-on favorite and Cherokee Gal was third. The 7 furlongs took 1:25.47. Douglas said trainer Carl Nafzger urged patience. "So I wait, and wait, and wait. And when I finally moved, she got the job done," he said.
In Friday's $100,000 De La Rose Handicap for fillies and mares, Veil of Avalon came along in the final yards to beat Snow Dance by a nose. Wander Mom was third as a longshot. Veil of Avalon, with Edgar Prado up, ran the 1 1/16 mile on the green course in 1:42.06.
Wrangler drew off in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Pumonok Handicap to win by 2 ¾ length over Late Carson. Run Kush Run was third. Wrangler, the favorite, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.07 under Aaron Gryder. Winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens said it "would be foolish not to think about the General George," a $200,000, 7-furlong dash at Laurel on Feb. 18. "Seven furlongs might fit him nice, the way he kicked in," Jerkens said. Wrangler is a 4-year-old son of Carson City.
In Sunday's $75,000 Busanda Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Totally Wild dueled down the stretch, trading the lead with Madame X Ski, before putting a neck in front at the wire. Sideways was well back in third. Totally Wild, by Wild Again, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:43.40 under Charles Lopez. "For her to come back like that was amazing," said winning trainer Tony Detrow. He said he will bring the filly back to Aqueduct for the Busher on March 2.
Steve Asmussen's enchanted weekend extended to the 3-year-old filly division on Sunday as Lake Lady won the $100,000 Tiffany Lass Stakes. Lake Lady tracked the leader, went after the lead on the turn and won by 1 ¼ lengths over Charmed Gift. Emeraldforajudge was third. "She makes it look so easy," Asmussen said. "I'm very relieved and she ran the way we expected her to." He said the filly, now winner of four straight, will move along to the Silverbulletday Stakes on Feb. 16 and the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 9.
Bedanken and Born to Dance battled to the wire in a stretch duel in Friday's $50,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, with Bedanken getting the victory in a very tight photo. For Rubies was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:12.45. "I wasn't sure she hadn't caught us right at the wire," said winning rider Don Pettinger. Added winning trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel: "She was dominating at Remington Park. Now we know she can compete at Oaklawn, and at a pretty high level."
Never count trainer Paul McGee out of a race, especially in Kentucky. McGee sent out Sense of Duty for Saturday's $50,000 Forego Stakes at odds of better than 7-1, then saw jockey Brian Peck boot the 6-year-old son of Meadowlake home on top. Sense of Dut, well back early, swung wide into the stretch and closed quickly to win by a neck over Golden Oldie. The favorite, Personal First, was third. Golden Oldie reared at the start and put in a good bid to just miss. Sense of Duty finished the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.38.
Adam Cat won his fifth straight race and 13th overall at Laurel Park in Saturday's $50,000 Hoover Stakes but he needed every jump of the 6 furlongs to do it. Starting near the rear, Adam Cat was just up at the line to beat Rusty Spur by a nose. The 6 furlongs was clocked in 1:09 flat. "He loves Laurel and finds a way to win," said jockey Harry Vega.
Tampa Bay Downs
Little Won was off slowly in Saturday's $50,000 Manatee Stakes for fillies and mares, worked her way to the lead along the rail and was just up to win by a head over Flashing Lil. Alley Ball was third. Little Won, a 7-year-old daughter of Mercedes Won, got the 7 furlongs in 1:24.37. "She usually is forced to go wide," said winning rider Derek Bell. "But today she got on the rail and we just had the perfect trip."
Gray Ryder, starting from the outside post in Saturday's $100,000 La Senora Handicap for 3-year-old New Mexico-bred fillies, circled the leaders on the turn for home and edged clear. At the wire, the daughter of Gee Ryder won by 1 ¼ lengths over pace-setter Quckkey. Dancing Promise was third as the mutuel favorite. Gray Rider got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.93.