To his trainer, New York Hero is "powerful and good-looking, just like a New York hero should be." To the rest of the racing world, after Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Stakes, he is the latest potential star on the Kentucky Derby trail.
New York Hero went to the post as a 15-1 longshot in Turfway Park's signature race, stalked the early pace set by Saintly Look, then took charge in the stretch and gamely held off Eugene's Third Son in the final strides to win by a neck. Local hero Champali was third and the favorite, Lion Tamer, finished fourth after a slow start.
It was only the fifth career start for New York Hero - all this year - and his first race outside New York. It also was his first stakes effort.
Despite that, "I had confidence," said winning trainer Jennifer Pedersen, who also manages owner Ernie Paragallo's farm. "I knew this horse is improving. He's just getting better and better."
The Maryland-bred son of Partner's Hero, she said, shipped well on his first journey and looks like a winner. "He's powerful and good-looking, just like a New York hero should be. He's just getting better and better," she said.
And jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. said New York Hero should have no trouble stretching our from the 9 furlongs of the Lane's End to the Kentucky Derby's 10 furlongs. "When he saw the other horse (Eugene's Third Son), he took right off again," Arroyo said. "I think if we went another quarter mile, he'd still be ahead."
In the meantime, she added, "Home, hopefully to the Wood," meaning the final New York prep for the Kentucky Derby, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Sunday Lion Tamer, still is under consideration for the Kentucky Derby but may need another prep. And trainer Greg Foley said he hasn't decided how to proceed with Champali but added, "There's a lot of good races out there."
In other races:
--Crowned King was the longest of longshots in Saturday's $125,000 Rebel at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas but nobody told him. So when jockey Chandra Rennie angled out for running room at the top of the lane, the Kentucky-bred son of Barkerville went right on by pace-setting Great Notion and scored a 1 1/4-length victory. Great Notion held second and Comic Truth was third. The 1 1/16 mile was clocked in 1:44.00. Said winning trainer Billy McKeever: "The Arkansas Derby? We'll make up our minds in a couple of days." Trainer Darrin Miller said he also is still thinking Derby for Great Notion.
--Bob Baffert saddled half the six-horse field in Saturday's $75,000 San Pedro but it was Jeff Mullins who sent out the winner, King Robyn. The Robyn Dancer gelding went quickly to the fore and eased under the wire 1/2 length ahead of Truckle Feature, who posted the best showing for the Baffert barn. Eye of the Tiger was third and Baffert's other two - Indian Express and Rojo Toro - were fourth and fifth. The 6 1/2 furlongs took 1:15.21. Mullins said "blinks off" helped King Robyn. Baffert said of his trio, "They all ran good."
Kentucky Oaks preps
--Buffythecenterfold surrendered the lead to Watching You at the eighth pole in Sunday's $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita, then came back to win by a nose. Tavy's Plan was a distant third. Buffythecenterfold, a daughter of Capote, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.56 with Victor Espinoza aboard. "She's really grown up and matured," said winning trainer Mel Stute, "so I'm looking forward to a good year with her."
In other weekend racing:
Go figure. Last time he showed up in New Orleans, Candid Glen was a well-beaten fourth in the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap. Sunday, therefore, he was dismissed at 84-1 in the $650,000 Explosive Bid Handicap - and promptly scored a shocking upset, beating favorite Rouvres by a neck. Freefourinternet and Seinne were only a nose and another nose farther back at the exciting finish. And besides those, Mystery Giver was in with a chance as the field worked its way down the stretch. But it was Candid Glen, a 6-year-old El Gran Senor gelding, who got the job done, turning back challenges from all comers. Despite the long odds, Sunday's victory fit the old warrior's new-found, closer-to-the-lead running style - a technique that jockey E.J. Perrodin used to win his last outing, the $200,000 John Connolly Breeders' Cup Handicap at Sam Houston on Feb. 15. So maybe Sunday's result did figure - at least at 84-1 on the tote board.
Zarb's Music played sweet zydeco for his backers in Saturday's $100,000 Gentilly Handicap for state-bred 3-year-olds. The Zarbyev gelding saved ground early before swinging out for room, then got the lead and scored by 1 length over Lighter Knot. Lac Laronge was third and the favorite, Witt Ante, could do no better than fourth. Zarb's Magic, with Gerard Melancon up, ran the about 1 mile on firm turf in 1:40.86.
Adopted Daughter won the $150,000 Bourbonette Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on a disqualification after finishing second behind Golden Marlin. The stewards ruled that Golden Marlin, with Jason Lumpkins up, came in on Adopted Daughter as the two battled down the stretch. Unbridled Femme was third, 8 ¼ lengths farther back. Adopted Daughter is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Elusive Quality. The 1 mile went in 1:37.41.
In the $50,000 Queen Stakes for fillies and mares, Belle Artiste bucked the apparent track bias with an off-the-pace, nose victory over Timeless Love. Ballado's Halo was another nose back in third. Belle Artiste, a 5-year-old Broad Brush mare, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.26, picking up her first win since last September at Philadelphia Park.
Quick Draw won a four-horse battle for the lead in the $50,000 Hansel Stakes for 3-year-olds, then took command in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Clayton's Trick was third. Quick Draw, who wintered in Florida for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.82 and now has two wins and two seconds from four lifetime starts.
Jockey Rene Douglas put Tweedside behind the early leader in Sunday's $200,000 Orchid Handicap, moved to the front on the final turn and drew off easily to win by 5 1/2 lengths. San Dare was second and Hi Tech Honeycomb was third in the 1 1/2-mile event, which was moved from the turf to a sloppy main track. Tweedside finished in 2:31.36. "I thought the filly was going to run well no matter what surface it was on," said winning trainer Todd Pletcher. "But when it came off the grass, it didn't hurt our feelings any." Tweedside is a 5-year-old Thunder Gulch mare from the Roberto mare Twitchet.
In Sunday's $200,000 Pan American Handicap, Quest Star just kept going on an easy lead and the heavy favorite, Man From Wicklow, couldn't do much about it. At the wire, Quest Star was 1 3/4 lengths in front, with Reduit third. The 4-year-old son of Broad Brush ran the about 1 1/2 mile on the grass in 2:28.45. "I was able to take the lead nice and easy and move along at my own pace," said winning rider Edgar Prado. "After that, everything was easy."
Road to Slew took a road through traffic to win Sunday's $100,000 Crystal Water Handicap for Cal-breds at 1 mile on the grass. The 8-year-old Slewpy gelding saved ground early but found a wall of horses at the top of the stretch. When jockey David Flores found a hole, Road to Slew took it and got clear to win by 1/2 length over Mr. Joe C. Sea to See was third and Spinelessjellyfish settled for fourth. The time was 1:34.20. The course was firm. Road to Slew now has won the Crystal Water three times.
In Saturday's $150,000 Santa Anna Hancicap for fillies and mares, Noches De Rosa got to the lead and kept it through snail-like fractions, posting a 1/2-length, upset victory over Garden in the Rain. Megahertz was third as the even-money favorite, another neck back. Noches De Rosa, a Chilean-bred 5-year-old, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.31. "I couldn't believe they let her get away with that," winning trainer Richard Mandella said of the slow pace. Jockey Mike Smith said Mandella told him to go to the front "and get away with everything you can," so he was prepared for the front-end theft. Mandella said he will try Noches De Rosa back in the $250,000 Santa Barbara on April 19.
Canada's flagship track kicked off its 2003 season with clash of heavyweights in Saturday's $100,000 Briartic Stakes. At the wire, it was Krz Ruckus winning by 1 length over Olympian, finishing the 5 furlongs on a muddy track in 57.25 seconds. Olympian is the track record-holder at the distance. Left in the wake of the exactor duo were the likes of last year's Canadian Horse of the Year, Wake At Noon, and former champion Rare Friends. "He broke very well and we were more than happy to be on the lead," said winning rider Dino Luciani. Krz Ruckus is a 6-year-old, Ontario-bred son of Bold Ruckus.
Sunday, Acting Deputy, claimed for $45,000 just three starts earlier, passed tiring pace-setter Dreams Go Bye in mid-stretch and went on to win the $100,000 La Voyageuse Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths. Dreams Go Bye was second and favorite Fleet of Foot, who was not after stumbling at the start, finished third.
Smok'n Frolic broke in front and finished in front in Sunday's $100,000 Next Move Handicap, reporting home 2 1/4 lengths ahead of runner-up Ellie's Moment. Pupil was third. Smok'n Frolic, a 4-year-old daughter of Smoke Glacken, got the 9 furlongs over a fast track in 1:49.11. "She broke so good, I just put my hands down and let her run," said winning jockey John Velazquez. "She was real comfortable out there."
In Saturday's $100,000 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Cyber Secret raced close to the lead early, took command entering the stretch and raced off to win by 4 1/2 lenghts over Roar Emotion. Boxer Girl came from last to finish third. Cyber Secret, a Florida-bred daughter of Cyberspace, raced 7 furlongs in 1:22.55. Trainer Richard Dutrow said he will "look at" the $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup at Belmont on May 10.
No Its Not posted a 16-1 "yes it is" in the $150,000 Gulf Coast Handicap on Sunday getaway day. The 5-year-old son of Is It True sat just behind the pace, got to the front in the stretch and won by 1 1/4 length over Parrott Bay. The favorite, Ask the Lord, finished third. No Its Not, with B.J. Hernandez in the irons, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.36.
Salty Farma surged to the lead on the turn for home in Saturday's $100,000 Goddess Handicap and worked clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Blue Guru. Meteor Miracle was third. Salty Farma, a 5-year-old daughter of Salt Lake, finished the 1 mile over a fast track in 1:39.20.
Undercover was no secret in Saturday's $75,000 Gala Lil Stakes, going to the post as the favorite and then rolling home first, 4 1/2 lengths ahead of Shop Till You Drop. With Mario Pino in the irons, the 4-year-old Allen's Prospect filly ran 9 furlongs in 1:50 1/5. "She just ran off in the stretch," Pino said. "This was just a ride around the park." Trainer Tony Dutrow said he has been giving Undercover time to mature. "She has been impressive in these last three races and she really could raise the ante later on in the spring," he said. The filly is owned by Will Farish, currently taking a break from racing to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James.
Sunday, Deadline survived a four-horse duel for the lead to win the $60,000 Horatius Stakes for 3-year-olds by a neck over Gators N Bears. With Rick Wilson up, Deadline ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.
Golden Gate Fields
Ema Bovary went to the lead with a half mile to go in Sunday's $60,000 Soviet Problem Handicap, then held off pari-mutuel favorite Lacie Girl at the wire by a bare nose. Fertile was third and Onslaught, the early leader, was last of four. Ema Bovary, a Chilean-bred filly, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.88. "She really had a lot of acceleration when I made my move," said winning rider Roberto Gonzalez. Trainer Larry Ross said if Ema Bovary will relax, "I think she can improve from here and should be able to get a mile."
Saturday, Presidio Heights scored a minor upset in the $60,000 Danville Handicap, leading most of the way to beat favored El Dorado Shooter by a neck. Texas Chili (hey, 'chilli' has two L's around here!) was third. Presidio Heights, a 5-year-old son of Allen's Prospect, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:08.11 while getting 7 pounds from El Dorado Shooter. "I was able to give him a bit of a breather on the turn and he had something left for the stretch," said winning rider Gonzalez. "He doesn't like the whip much, so I just kept slapping him on the shoulder." Trainer Art Sherman said the winner will stay in northern California "and we're looking for a rematch with El Dorado at Bay Meadows."
Honor Me tracked pace-setting favorite Cojet until the top of the lane in Sunday's $50,000 Hot Springs Stakes, then swung wide and went on by to win by 1/2 length over a late-closing Chindi. Sand Ridge was third while Cojet faded to finish fifth of six. Honor Me, a 5-year-old son of Honor Grades, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.82 for jockey Rodney Trader. "He moved me right where I hoped we would be - sitting second, just off the leader," Trader said.
Tampa Bay Downs
Admiral Lance came four-wide on the final turn in Saturday's $50,000 Budweiser Challenge Stakes for 3-year-olds, got the lead and then held off the only filly in the race, Askforaraise, by a neck. North Broad was third. The 1 mile on firm turf was clocked in 1:38.58. Admiral Lance, a son of Formal Dinner, was coming off a 63-day layoff. "There was nothing wrong with him," said owner/trainer James Little. "We just wanted to give him a rest."
The Downs at Albuquerque
Spirit de Azure rallied from last at the start to win Sunday's $50,000 Pinon Handicap for New Mexico-bred fillies and mares by 1 1/2 length over Scarzane. Stormy Brie, the favorite, finished third. Spirit de Asure, a 4-year-old daughter of Ghost Ranch, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.23.
Absolutely True powered to the front entering the stretch in Saturday's $30,000 Harvest Handicap for 3-year-olds and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Spaced Out. Sutter Butte was third in the 5 1/2-furlong event, timed in 1:03.71. Absolutely True is a Kentucky-bred son of 1988 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner (over Easy Goer) Is It True.
Elegant Fashion powered to the front at the top of the straight in Sunday's HK$14 million Honk Kong Derby and went on to win by 1 1/2 lengths, becoming the first filly to win the classic since Corvette in 1976. Self Flit, who set the early pace, held on for second and Beverly Green was third. Elegant Fashion is a 4-year-old, Australia-bred daughter of Danewin. She was a triple Group 2 winner last year in her native land and runner-up in the Australian Oaks. "Secretly, we were very confident," trainer David Hayes said after Sunday's race. "We were very disappointed when she lost a bit unluckily in the Gold Cup last month. But afterwards, (jockey) Gerald Mosse told me that she would win in the Derby. I'm very relieved that she has." Hayes said the filly's next task will be the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 27.
Also Sunday at Sha Tin, Grand Delight defeated Firebolt by 1 length in the Centenary Sprint Cup, with All Thrills Too third and Electronic Unicorn captured the Chairman's Trophy by 2 lengths over Goggles. Both of the winners are expected to return for the appropriate events on QEII Cup day.
News and Notes
The miscreants in last October's "Fix Six" wagering scandal have been sentenced to jail terms and, with that, Arlington Park has been authorized to finally pay out the rest of the money due 5-of-6 winners. There are 78 valid winning tickets, each now worth $43,937.60....The British Horseracing Board has announced a bonus scheme worth as much as $8 million (5 million pounds sterling) to the winner four races. To collect the full bonus, a horse would have to win one of four specified races in mid-June, then sweep the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown on July 5, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot on July 26 and the Juddmonte International Stakes at York on Aug. 19. Godolphin's Simon Crisford was complimentary, adding, "Hopefully, we will have a horse who is good enough to attempt it."