In politics, they call them "favorite sons." In racing, they're "state-breds."
Whatever the designation. 2-year-olds from around the country were showing their stuff in state-bred competition this weekend. Since no one can say for sure where next year's Triple Crown contestants will get their start, it pays to pay attention.
A few of the 2-year-olds on display Saturday and Sunday already are on the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks trail. But there's no law that says a horse running now at Delta Downs or Beula Park can't be at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Let's see how they ran:
--Toccet finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile three weeks ago, running wide and in trouble. Saturday, the Awesome Again colt made up for that performance with a dominating victory over a sloppy track in the $100,000 Laurel Futurity. After saving ground to the top of the lane, jockey Jorge Chavez let Toccet run and he spurted off to win by 6 ¼ lengths, running 1 1/16 mile in 1:46 1/5. "This is a nice type of horse to have when you only have to run one type of race," said Chavez. "Now we know this horse loves the slop, too. This will definitely be a Derby-type horse." Toccet now has won four of six starts, including the Champagne Stakes at Belmont in his final Breeders' Cup prep.
--Supah Blitz struggled in this year's Florida Stallion Series events but made up for it in Saturday's $150,000 Jack Price Juvenile during the Florida Million day at Calder Race Course. With Rosemary Homeister Jr. up, the Mecke colt raced in last place early on after a rough start, came wide into the stretch and was up to win by 1 length over pace-setting Hear No Evil. Unleash the Power was third. "He ran just like we planned," said Homeister, "off the pace and make one run." Trainer Manny Tortora said he thinks his colt can "go any distance" and may consider the NTRA Great State Challenge at Sam Houston on Dec. 7.
--Headed for Florida along with a lot of other "snowbirds" is Super Fuse, the easy winner of Sunday's $75,000 Huntington Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.The Lite the Fuse colt led by 6 ½ lengths at the top of the lane and got home 3 ¼ lengths better than American Mom. First Blush was third. "We have a good program figured out for him at Gulfstream," said trainer Richard Ciardullo Jr. That campaign, he said, will start with the Spectacular Bid on Opening Day on Jan 3.
--At Beulah Park in Ohio, Mercer's Cool Cat drew off convincingly to win Sunday's $40,000 Ohio Freshman Stakes for state-breds by 7 ¼ lengths. The son of Mercer Mill ran 1 1/16 mile on a muddy track in 1:49.84.
--K K Avey rallied in the stretch run to win Saturday's $70,000 Indiana Futurity for state-breds by 1 length over Groovy Zone. K K Avey, a son of Wavering Monarch, ran 6 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:11.98.
--Rocky is too heavy to ride but that didn't stop Yo from winning Saturday's $60,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes for state-breds by 1 length. With Tony Black up, Yo split foes in the stretch to finish 7 furlongs in 1:25.33 on a sloppy track. Yo is a son of Valid Wager.
--At Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, Leo's Last Hurrahy came down the stretch four-wide, survived a bump and went on to win Saturday's $150,000 Texan Juvenile Stakes by 1 ½ lengths over Worker Man. The winner is by Leo Castelli.
--at Delta Downs in the Louisiana bayous, Mighty Merlin bobbled at the start in Saturday's $50,000 Louisiana Premier Day Juvenile, rushed up to the lead and cruised home first, 3 ¾ lengths ahead of Justlikejessejames. Mighty Merlin is a gray son of Zuppardo's Prince.
--At Charles Town, stablemates Courageous Valor and Straight Star finished 1-2 in Saturday's $25,000 West Virgina Futurity for state-breds. However, Courageous Valor, a son of My Boy Adam, was the better of the two by 9 ½ lengths and ran the 7 furlongs in 1:28.29 on a sloppy track.
Among the 2-year-old fillies:
--At Hollywood Park, Puxa Saco worked clear in the stretch run to win Saturday's $100,000 Moccasin Stakes by 2 lengths over Watching You, with Atlantic Ocean third. Puxa Saco, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dehere, ran 7 furlongs under Mike Smith in 1:21.84, picking up her fourth win from five lifetime starts. Her only loss was in the two-turn Brave Raj Stakes at Calder, where she finished third behind Ivanavinalot. Trainer Jenine said she isn't sure whether she will try to stretch Puxa Saco out again for the Hollywood Starlet.
--At Laurel Park, Makin Heat scored her second straight stakes win in as many weeks, taking Saturday's $100,000 Selima Stakes by 2 ¾ lengths. Claimed at Delaware Park in September of $35,000, the Virginia-bred won a restricted stakes at that course a week ago. "The Delaware competition was like a workout," said winning trainer John Robb. "But these horses were pretty tough." He said Makin Heat probably will head to Gulfstream Park for the winter campaign.
--Elegant Designer returned from a successful northern sojurn to win Saturday's $150,000 Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies at Calder Race Course. The Suave Prospect filly, toting Jose Velez Jr., rallied from far back and outfinished Crimson and Roses to win by 3 lengths. Running Debate was third. Elegant Designer ran the 7 furlongs in 1:25.11. Mike Sherman saddled the filly Saturday and said he will send her back to Maryland to Richard Dutrow with an eye on races at Aqueduct or Churchill Downs.
--At Hoosier Park, Indy Fire won Friday's $75,000 Miss Indiana Stakes for state-bred 2-year-old fillies by a nose over Miss Dakota. Cattle Kat was third. The big favorite, Hurricane Hebe, led into mid stretch but then ducked in, hit the rail and faded to finish seventh. Indy Fire ran the 6 furlongs in 1:15.32 on a muddy track.
--At Sam Houston Race Park, Hannah's Royalrock was blocked on the turn for home in Saturday's $50,000 Bara Lass Stakes for TX-breds. The Superoyale filly swung to the outside and was still able to win by a convincing 2 ¼ lengths over Lady Mallory. Hannah's Royalrock ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.17.
--Itsmybag pressed the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Louisiana Premier Day Starlet at Delta Downs, got the advantage at the top of the stretch and won by 1 ½ lengths over Kool K. J. Itsmybag, a daughter of Bag, got the 5 furlong distance in 1:00.92.
In other racing:
Longshot D'Wildcat upstaged the favorites, including hard-luck Breeders' Cup runner-up Thunderello, in Saturday's $300,000 Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash. After tracking the leaders, D'Wildcat got through on the rail in deep stretch and went on to win by 1 ¾ lengths, finishing the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:10.81. Deer Run and Sassy Hound represented the home team, taking second and third. Thunderello was pulled up and vanned off. "It appears he re-injured his lower suspensory," said trainer Scott Lake, referring to an injury that cost Thunderello nearly a year of training. Winning rider Jorge Chavez said trainer Robert Hess Jr. told him that sometimes D'Wildcat shows speed and sometimes not, so Chavez should use his judgment in running the race. "It was a wonderful thing he told me and my horse did a really good job," Chavez said.
Also Saturday, Hunka Hunka Lori Z came four-wide into the stretch in the $50,000 Stefanita Stakes and took off, romping to a 4 ¾-length upset victory. BelleArtiste was second and Abundantly Blessed was third. Under Mario Pino, Hunka Hunka Lori Z ran the 7 furlongs in 1:24 4/5.
Pass The Virtue also took the overland route to victory in the $50,000 Thirty Eight Go Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, overcoming the wide trip to win by an easy 5 ¼ lengths. The 3-year-old daughter of Slavic will stick around the Maryland circuit, said trainer Leslie Glazier. And in the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes, Polish Pride led from gate to wire, scoring by 1 lengths over Pickupspeed. Polish Pride, a son of Polish Numbers, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.
Calder Race Course
Best of the Rest was best of them all in Saturday's $200,000 Carl G. Rose Classic, the marquee event of the inaugural Florida Million, for registered Florida-breds. With Jerry Bailey in the irons, the 7-year-old Skip Trial horse let Island Skipper show the way, then took over with 2 furlongs left and and won by 1 ½ lengths. The Judge Sez Who was second in his first try against older horses and Dancing Guy completed a trifecta that paid $8.40 for a $2 ticket. Hope you didn't box it. Said Bailey: "He won like a 2-5 shot is supposed to." Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. added, "It's great to see Florida getting the purses up with programs like this and the Sunshine Millions coming up. It helps keep good owner like the Oxenbergs (owner of Best of the Rest) in the Game."
Coolbythepool got home first in a three-horse, blanket finish in the $200,000 Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap. Coolbythepool and Sara's Success both came running late after pace-setting favorite Cellars Shiraz. The margin of victory was a neck, with Sara's Success second by a similar margin. Coolbythepool, a 5-year-old Notebook mare, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.29. Trainer Marty Wolfson said she may race once more in the Stage Door Betty at Calder on Dec. 28 before being bred to Montbrook.
Tour of the Cat won a stretch battle with My Cousin Matt to win the $150,000 Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap by ¾ length. Built Up was third in the 6-furlong race, which went in 1:10.18. Tour of the Cat is a 4-year-old Tour d'Or gelding. "He owns this racetrack," said winning trainer Myra Mora. "He loves it here." Tour of the Cat has scored five of his six lifetime wins at Calder.
Miesque's Approval rallied outside the leaders in the stretch drive of the $150,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup and just got up in time to win by a head over Sir Brian's Sword. Stay Forever was third. Miesque's Approval, a 3-year-old son of Miesque's Son, ran 9 furlongs on "good turf" in 1:48.33 under Jerry Bailey. "I was a little concerned coming into the stretch that he might be too far back off slow fractions," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "But he was able to run them down and it worked out fine." Referring to the Jan. 25 Sunshine Millions, Mott added, "I'm interested in that new deal at Gulfstream with Florida-breds against California-breds."
Caught in the Rain used a pace-stalking trip to upset Saturday's $150,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Dispatched at 32-1, the Petionville filly caught up to pace-setting Styleistick in the stretch, then survived late challenges from Glia and Bedanken to win by a neck. Glia was second and Bedanken third. The 9 furlongs on yielding turf went in 1:46.25.
Dr. Kashnikow hadn't won since last year's River City Handicap -- a fact which didn't stop him from repeating as victor in Sunday's renewal. With John McKee in the irons, Dr. Kashnikow, a 5-year-old El Gran Senor gelding, rallied outside the embattled leaders in deep stretch to win by a nose over Foster's Landing. Roxinho was third. "He's just come up with a lot of bad luck and bad turf courses," said trainer John Fisher, explaining Dr. Kashnikow's losing streak.
Uriah came from last in the a field of 11 to win Saturday's $150,000 Long Island Handicap for fillies and mares by a nose over Sunstone. Mot Juste was third. The favorite, Moon Queen, tired badly and finished last. Uriah, a German-bred 3-year-old, ran 1 ½ mile on soft turf in 2:42.48 under Norberto Arroyo Jr. "They wanted me sitting third, fourth or fifth early," said Arroyo. "But she didn't break that well. Everyone was fighting for position going into the first turn, so I decided just to let her settle. The more I rode her, the more she moved up in the pack and I was happy I was inside."
Rolly Polly ranged up three-wide in deep stretch to win Sunday's $75,000 Safely Kept Handicap by ½ length. Wild Tickle and Harvest Girl dead-heated for second and third. Rolly Polly, an Irish-bred 4-year-old, ran 5 ½ furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.01. "She never seems to want to win," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "But the last 50 yards, all the time, she takes off. No matter what the distance, she knows where the wire is. Maybe she's smarter than we are."
Crafty Shaw took the lead turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile Stakes and held the advantage to the wire, beating M B Sea by 1 ¼ lengths. Cool N Collective was third. Crafty Shaw, a son of Crafty Prospector, got the 1 mile on a good track in 1:35.69. Peter Vestal trains the 4-year-old for Charles Cella.
Docent broke last of five in Saturday's $100,000 Mountaineer Mile Handicap, swept to the lead turning for home and ran off to win by 6 lengths. Smashing Beau was second and Tour the Hive was third. Docent, a 4-year-old son of Waquoit, was clocked in 1:38.32 on a muddy track.
Walk in the Snow had a walk in the park in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Premier Day Championship for LA-breds, cruising out to a 3 ¼-length score over favorite Oak Hall. One Brick Shy finished two placings shy of the victory. Walk in the Snow, a 3-year-old son of In a Walk, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.15.
Red Pepper ran well enough in winning Saturday's inaugural International Cup Trial at Sha Tin that the son of Cadeaux Genereux now may be entered in the Cup, rather than his initial target of the Hong Kong Mile. Both races will be run on Dec. 15. Jockey Glyn Schofield set sail for pace-setting longshot Idol as the field turned for home, caught him about 100 metres out and held on to win by a head over Dr More. Precision was third. "I knew if we get to Idol in front, we win," said Schofield. But he added his colt, "battled on well. I knew something else was coming at us." Dr More also may start in either the Cup or the Mile on International Races Day. The Hong Kong Cup is the final leg of the World Series Racing Championship.