It's a variation of the "half-full, half-empty" question: Is racing winding down for this year or gearing up for next year?
For those who like the Kentucky Derby and the other 3-year-old classics, the answer is obvious. Forget about the battles of months past. Fix whatever pari-mutuel problems imperil the integrity of the game but don't dwell on the details. There are 2-year-olds to dream about.
Owner Stan Fulton, trainer Rafael Becerra and jockey Alex Solis can dream a little about Roll Hennessy Roll after the Hennessy colt sprinted off to a 4-length victory in Saturday's $125,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes at Hollywood Park. The winner wore blinkers for the first time.
After dueling for the early lead, Roll Hennessy Roll took the advantage and kicked into another gear when challenged by Red Apache in the stretch. Red Apache finished second and Hell Cat was third. The 7 furlongs took 1:22.68.
Solis said once he asked for run, Roll Hennessy Roll "opened up. As for his distance capabilities, he's still a baby and learning how to run. We've got to see in the future."
Becerra said he and Fulton "had talked before that if he ran good, there was a chance of running in the (Dec. 21) Hollywood Futurity."
In other 2-year-old racing:
--Coach Jimi Lee didn't need much coaching in Saturday's $100,000 Hoosier Juvenile at Hoosier Park. The Kentucky-bred son of Roar roared off to a 4 ¼-length victory over Mr. Whitestone with favorite Private Gold third. Coach Jimi Lee, owned by Lee Battaglia and trainer Jim Divito, ran 6 furlongs on a good track in 1:11.47. "He's a very talented horse," said jockey Randy Meier, who came along from Chicago for the ride. "He has an automatic push-button style and I didn't have to get after him at all. He opened up on the field bigger than I thought he would in the stretch."
-- Kaw Liga Sioux and Something Smith, both from the barn of Kevin Sleeter, finished 1-2 and a nose apart in Saturday's $50,000 New Jersey Futurity. Trueamericanspirit was third. Kaw Liga Sioux, a Jersey-bred son of Northern Idol, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.90.
--Buddy Gil, a Kentucky-bred son of Eastern Echo, ran away from four rivals in Sunday's $60,000 Golden Bear Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, scoring by 7 ½ lengths over Natural Balance. Bases Are Loaded was on third. "We knew this horse was doing good," said winning trainer Chuck Jenda, "but we think he'll be a better router." He said the 1-mile Gold Rush Stakes at Golden State on Dec. 14 might be next. Jockey Omar Figueroa picked up his first stakes win.
--Comic Truth dueled Mr. Decatur into submission by mid-stretch in Sunday's $75,000 Jean Laffite Stakes at Delta Downs in Louisiana, then went on to win by 2 lengths. Mr. Decatur held second and Gentlemen J J was third. Comic Truth, a Florida-bred son of Proudest Romeo, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.35.
--Randaroo had no problem winning Sunday's $100,000 Valley View Stakes at Aqueduct. Jumping quickly to the lead under John Velazquez, the Gold Case filly won by 5 ¼ lengths over House Party with Fast Cookie third. Randaroo ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.46. Said winning trainer Anthony Dutrow: "Here's an easy quote: 'As advertised.'" Velazquez said Randaroo was very quick out of the gate. "I was thinking to myself, 'Man, this is easy.' This filly is very, very good."
--In Saturday's $60,000 Piedmont Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at Golden Gate Fields, Global Finance took back at the start, then circled four-wide into the stretch and went on to win by 2 ¼ lengths over pace-setting Ain't It Sweep. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.52 on a fast track. "I took her to the outside because I thought I was on the best horse and she really responded," said winning jockey Frank Alvarado. Javier Lemon, assistant to trainer Jerry Dutton, said Global Finance, a daughter of End Sweep, may run next in the Dec. 27 California Breeders Champion Stakes at Santa Anita.
--Brattothecore showed she will be a force among Canadian filles next year, winning Sunday's $150,000 Ontario Lassie by 2 ¼ lengths in only her second career start. With Jake Barton up, the daughter of Katahaula County raced from off the pace. She made her bid on the turn for home, hit the stretch with two to beat and had no trouble doing so. She ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.80. Despite her lack of experience, trainer John Ross said he was confident. "She's been training well the past few weeks. With her pedigree behind her, we had some confidence in her," he said.
In other weekend racing:
Falbrav, with Frankie Dettori up, beat Sarafan in a photo finish in Sunday's Japan Cup at Nakayama Racecourse. The Japan Cup is the next-to-last leg of the 2002 World Series Racing Championship that began back in March in Dubai. Dettori, who has clinched the jockey championship for the Series, kept Falbrav in contact with pace-setting Magnaten. As the field surged for the finish, he got the 4-year-old son of Fairy King to the front and just held off Sarafan. Dettori also won Saturday's Japan Cup Dirt aboard Eagle Cafe. Falbrav, an Irish-bred colt, is trained in Italy by Luciano d'Auria. With only the Dec. 15 Hong Kong Cup to be run, Grandera leads the series with 32 points, including victories in the Singapore Cup and the Irish Champion Stakes.
Sligo Bay went between the leaders into the second turn of Saturday's $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup, then wore down pace-setting Grammarian to win by 1 length. The favorite, Delta Form, finished third after encountering traffic problems in both turns. Sligo Bay, trained by Beau Greeley and ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., ran the 1 ½ mile on firm turf in 2:27.22. He is a 4-year-old, Irish-bred son of Sadler's Wells. Pincay said he thought he could take Grammarian at any point in the stretch, then found the task more difficult than he expected. "Little by little, I was able to get to him. But I had to work hard. This horse is a trying son of a gun -- a very honest horse."
Hot Market went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $100,000 On Trust Handicap, extended his advantage throughout and won by 3 ½ lengths over Grey Memo. Spinelessjellyfish was third. Hot Market, a 4-year-old Cee's Tizzy gelding, ran 7 ½ furlongs in 1:28.27.
Sunday, Cee's Elegance used a pace-stalking trip to win the $100,000 Cat's Cradle Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares. Under Victor Espinoza, the 5-year-old Cee's Tizzy mare drew off in the late going to beat Castling by 4 lengths. Elaine's Angel was third. The 7 ½ furlongs took 1:29.32.
Evening Attire, the odds-on favorite off his fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, won pretty much as expected in Saturday's $150,000 Red Smith Handicap. Sitting behind the leaders, the 4-year-old son of Black Tie Affair swung four-wide into the stretch and took off, winning by 8 lengths over Fisher Pond. Pleasant Breeze was third. Shaun Bridgmohan rode the winner over 1 3/8 mile in 2:14.81. "It was as easy as it looked," he said. Winning trainer Patrick Kelly said he will "figure something out for him next spring."
Quick Tip swung wide into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares, got the lead and held off longshot San Dare to win by ½ length. Quick Tip, a 4-year-old Unaccounted For filly, got the 9 furlongs over yielding turf in 1:51.08. "She likes to go around horses," said winning rider Robby Albarado, "and when she made the lead turning for home, she messed around a bit. But she came through and she prevailed as the best one." Trainer Neil Howard said he will check with owner Will Farish, the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, before deciding where to send Quick Tip. He mentioned Fair Grounds as a possibility.
Barbeau Ruckus launched his bid with a half mile to go in Saturday's $150,000 Sir Barton Stakes, took the inside path to the lead and drew off to win by 3 ½ lengths over El Habanero. Twice Bid was third. The 1 1/16 mile was clocked in 1:44.47 on a fast track. "That's exactly where we wanted to sit today," said winning rider Constant Montpellier. "We knew there was going to be some speed." Trainer Ross Armata said Barbeau Ruckus, a 3-year-old son of Barbeau, will get a rest "and next year we'll bring him back. He's a nice horse and hopefully he'll be even better."
Espeedytoo was the speedy one in Sunday's $125,000 New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap, taking control at the top of the stretch and cruising on home a 1 ¾-length winner over Fritzie's Prospect. Gollygot was third in the 6-furlong event for state-bred fillies and mares, clocked in 1:11.66. The favorite, Wampus Who, finished fifth after being boxed during the run down the backstretch.
Saturday, American Pastime just got up in time to upset Saturday's $50,000 KLAQ Handicap. Working through on the inside, the 4-year-old son of Twining scored by a nose over pari-mutuel favorite Abajo. Reflecting Colors was third. American Pastime ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03.32.
True Sensation broke last, checked sharply in the first turn and still was able to win Saturday's $75,000 Twixt Stakes for 3-year-old, statebred fillies by ½ length over Tamayo. Ribbon Cane was third as the 1 1/8 mile went in 1:54.09. The race was scrambled when pace-setting Darnestown bolted to the outside on the second turn, hit the rail and dumped her rider. The favorite, Undercover, was right behind Darnestown and was unable to recover from the interruption. "It certainly messed with my filly's mind," said Undercover's rider, Mario Pino.
Double Cat sprinted to a clear lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $50,000 Queen of the Green Handicap, then just held on to beat Polaire by a neck. Moonlit Maddie was third and favorite Reine de Romance finished fifth after a late start and traffic problems. Double Cat, a 4-year-old Storm Cat filly trained by Neil Drysdale, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:37.07.