Granted, the horse that would have been the favorite, Mizzen Mast, was scratched well before the race with a quarter crack. Still, Milwaukee Brew beat a solid field including a bunch of graded stakes winners.
Benefiting from a patient ride by jockey Kent Desormeaux, Milwaukee Brew settled well back in the field of 14, and started his move on the turn for home. Working through traffic, he caught pace-setting Western Pride in mid-stretch and went right on by, winning by 4 lengths and finishing 1 ¼ mile in 2:01.02
Western Pride held on to take second by a neck over Kudos. The favorite, Futural, ran out of gas early and finished 12th.
Mizzen Mast was scratched by trainer Bobby Frankel with the full knowledge that he had a great backup plan: Milwaukee Brew and Euchre. Still, Milwaukee Brew was coming off a sixth-place finish in the Whirlaway Handicap at Fair Grounds.
"It was a comeback race," Desormeaux said of the Whirlaway. "The New Orleans race tightened the screws."
He said he had some trouble finding running room for Milwaukee Brew at the top of the lane. But, "When I split horses, he just barreled through there with such a powerful run."
Frankel said he wasn't surprised by the outcome. "To be honest with you, I liked this horse," he said. "In New Orleans, he never ran a jump and got beat (only) 4 ½ lengths.
Frankel said he plans to find separate paths for his stable full of handicap horses, which also includes Lido Palace and Skimming.
Kentucky Derby preps
--Came Home did nothing to diminish his Kentucky Derby prospects with a convincing, 3-length victory over Easy Grades in Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita. Werblin was third. Came Home, by Gone West, tracked a moderately slow pace early and finished the 1 mile in 1:36.24, ridden out. "He ran pretty good," said trainer Paco Gonzalez. "He ran his race. It was his first time two turns and he handled it pretty good." In his previous distance test -- the one-turn, 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park, Came Home faded badly in the final furlong. Jockey Chris McCarron said the San Rafael extended the colt's distance horizons. "Going into this race, I didn't have any qualms about his ability to get a mile," McCarron said. "But now he showed me he'll go a mile and an eighth. The next eighth of a mile after that -- who knows?"
--Private Emblem won his second straight race and Paloma Parilla successfully stretched out to two turns in the $75,000 divisions of Saturday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. Private Emblem, by Our Emblem, came along inside pace-setting Dusty Spike to win by ¾ length and then survived a claim of foul. He now has won half his lifetime starts and both top finishers are headed for the Rebel Stakes on March 23. Paloma Parilla, a Maryland-bred son of Dove Hunt, made the lead on the turn for home and dueled to the wire with Cope With an Image before winning by a neck. He has won three of five starts.
--Request For Parole edged Perfect Drift for the second straight time in Saturday's $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park, the final local prep race for the March 23 Spiral Stakes. Jockey Brian Peck kept Request For Parole in third behind stablemate Thunder On Land, then swung to the outside for running room in the stretch. Perfect Drift got room on the rail and just missed, with the final margin only a nose. Thunder On Land held on for third, more than 13 lengths back of the leaders. The 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track took 1:43. Request For Parole is by Judge T C, who twice finished second in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway. Perfect Drift, by Dynaformer, has never been worse than second in five career starts. Both are expected to renew their rivalry -- albeit against some tougher invaders -- in the Spiral.
--Magic Weisner took advantage of a hot speed duel to win Saturday's $75,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds at Laurel Park by 1 ¾ lengths. Invent was second and Root With Style, one of the trio of front-runners. finished third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:44 1/5. Touch Love, a two-time stakes winner and the only filly in the race, tired to finish last of five after being challenged on the lead. Magic Weisner, a son of Ameri Valay, now has won four straight races, three of them local stakes.
--The $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday could feature a rematch of Danthebluegrassman and Cappuchino, who finished 1-2 in the Golden Gate Derby on Jan 12. However, trainer Bob Baffert also is considering the March 17 San Felipe at Santa Anita for Danthebluegrassman. Another likely starter is Yougottawanna, who beat Officer last year in the Cal Cup Juvenile.
--Repent is expected to take on Bob's Image again in Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby, unless trainer Ken McPeek decides to keep Repent for the March 23 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. Repent was second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and won his only previous start this year, the Risen Star on Feb. 17 at Fair Grounds. McPeek since has switched riders -- to Jerry Bailey.
In other weekend racing:
On the Big Cap undercard on Saturday, Decarchy was all out to win the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap by a neck over Sarafan, with Designed for Luck a head farther back in third and favorite Val Royal just a neck farther back in fourth. Decharchy, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Distant View, was timed in 1:34.04 on firm turf. "We really got a fortunate trip," said winning rider Kent Desormeaux, who moved up three-deep on the turn and rallied four-wide for the win. "Everything set up nicely."
The post-mortem on Val Royal's effort reflected how a race can look different from the stands and from the saddle. Said jockey Jose Valdiva Jr.: "We had a perfect trip in a full field. He finished awesome but it took him a couple of strides longer than usual to really get going." Said trainer Julio Canani: "He spent too much time on the fence, on the inside. How are you going to get a horse running when he's got no place to run?"
Sunday, Snow Ridge surged quickly to the lead in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap and went on to win by 1 ½ lengths over Alyzig. Grey Memo was third. Snow Ridge, a 4-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, picked up his first Grade I victory, finishing the 7 furlongs in 1:22.02 under Mike Smith. Winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the fact that Snow Ridge relaxed in the late stages Sunday "may give us a dimension to maybe get something like the Met Mile or something where we're goinog to go a little bit further." Smith said Snow Ridge appeared to enjoy his outing. "He's having fun out there," the rider said.
Forest Secrets was no secret in Saturday's $200,000 Rampart Handicap for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly tracked Summer Colony into the far turn, then took command in the stretch, winning by 3 lengths. Sent off as the even-money favorite, Forest Secrets got the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:49.83 under Pat Day. Day said the outside draw helped because it put his mount "out in the best part of the racetrack. I offered her some mild encouragement when I set her down for the drive and after that, she had it pretty much the way she wanted it." Donna Ward, wife of trainer John Ward, said Forest Secrets isn't quite 100 percent yet. "I was surprised she won so easy," she said. "We'll take her with us to Keeneland when they open and go on from there."
The same team of trainer, rider and sire accounted for Sunday's $100,000 Suwanee River Handicap as Snow Dance used a pace-stalking trip to win by ¾ length over Step with Style. Windsong was third. Snow Dance, also a 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly, raced 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.04. Donna Ward said the filly may have lost a shoe during the race "but she's a real trooper and she gutted it out." Ward said Snow Dance "can go farther and we might run her in the Orchid Handicap" here at 1 ½ mile on March 24.
When Saturday's $150,000 Bayou Breeders's Cup Handicap came off the turf, trainer Niall O'Callaghan was all smiles. His 4-year-old Forest Wildcat filly, Katy Kat, was in the field with just that situation in mind. Katy Kat sat behind pace-setting Pretty Gale, then took the lead in the stretch to post her first stakes win. "Here at Fair Grounds I always nominate my dirt horses to the turf stakes because it only takes a couple hundred to nominate," O'Callaghan explained. "With the weather front that looked to be coming through, we decided to enter. It drives my owners crazy that I nominate the dirt horses to the turf, but I've had a lot of success doing it at the Fair Grounds." Robby Albarado rode Katy Kat.
Bema took charge in the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Busher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, drawing clear to win by 3 ¼ lengths over Sideways. Cobblestone Road was third in the field of five. Bema, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Pulpit, raced 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.99 for jockey Javier Castellano. Buzz Tenney, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey, said blinkers helped Bema run "true the whole way around." He said the filly will get a short break and may return in the Fantasy at Oaklawn Park on April 12.
Golden Gate Fields
Secret Liaison was no secret and not hard to find, either, in Saturday's $55,000 Sacramento Handicap for fillies and mares. The 4-year-old Housebuster filly, dispatched as the odds-on favorite, shot right to the lead and never relinquished it, winning by 2 lengths over De Goddaughter. Princess Vye was third. Secret Liaison ran 1 mile on a fast track under Russell Baze in 1:36.01. "Wow, that filly is really fast out of the gate," Baze said. "I can see why she has all those 1's in her past performances."
Tampa Bay Downs
Technical Key led all the way in Saturday's $50,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for fillies and mares and drew off in the final furlong to win by 5 ¾ lengths. Coolbythepool was second and Pearly White, the lukewarm favorite, was third. Technical Key, with B.J. Walker Jr. up, raced 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:45.20. She is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Technology.
Bella Cash got to the lead in the stretch drive in Saturday's $30,000 Cactus Cup Handcap for 3-year-old fillies and edged clear to win by 1 ½ lengths over Queen Marge. Bully's Del Mar was third after leading the way for ½ mile. The favorite, Kendrick Peak, finished fourth. Bella Cash, a Cal-bred daughter of Chromite, got the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:17.03.
News and notes
Seattle Slew successfully underwent surgery Saturday to fuse the joint between two vertebrae in his neck. Three Chimneys Farm reports: "Surgery, anesthesia and his recovery went well" for the 1977 Triple Crown winner and sire of more than 100 stakes winners. Seattle Slew is expected to remain at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for up to 10 days. Two of the mares bred to him this year before he was removed from service have been confirmed in foal but no decision has been made whether to resume his duties later this spring.....Tracks around the Midwest closed Sunday because of a vicious, late-season snowstorm. Oaklawn, Turfway and Sportsmans were among the ovals closed. Meanwhile, in warm-weather climes, the weekend winners included Snow Dance and Snow Ridge. Rub it in, guys!