Do the questions about Funny Cide's victory in the Kentucky Derby amount to anything? Trainer Bobby Frankel, for one, is so convinced they do not that he's risking a potential chance for a Triple Crown championship on it.
A published report late last week raised the question whether jockey Jose Santos had something in his hand besides his whip when he crossed the finish line first in the 129th Run for the Roses. Churchill Downs and Kentucky racing officials said they will look into the matter.
Should Funny Cide be disqualified, Derby runner-up Empire Maker would be promoted to first place and have a shot at the Triple Crown. Frankel, who originally said he would not start Empire Maker in Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, initially changed his mind after hearing about the inquiry.
Sunday, he said he will stick to his original plan. "I don't think anything is going to happen," Frankel said of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Funny Cide's trainer, Barclay Tagg, called the allegations "ridiculous." "It's clear as day," he said of the photo that sparked the questions. "You can see right through his (Santos's) whole hand. You can see the colors and the horse's ear. I don't know what they're talking about. They're nuts."
Despite the confusion, the Preakness is shaping up as a relatively light field. In addition to Funny Cide and Frankel's third-place Derby horse, Peace Rules, the prospective field for the second jewel of the Triple Crown includes Scrimshaw, Kissin Saint, Alysweep, Senior Swinger, Champali and Cherokee's Boy. As of Sunday morning, potential starters also included New York Hero and Foufa's Warrior. Trainer Bob Baffert Sunday declared Indian Express out with a minor foot problem.
Funny Cide schooled in the paddock at Belmont Park on Saturday after the second race. "I thought he needed more schooling," Tagg said. "It gave him another crowd to get used to. I wouldn't want to have to school him twice at Pimlico. I want to go to Baltimore as late as I can and I don't know when that is."
The June 6 Belmont Stakes may get at least two additional starters from Saturday's $500,000 Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park.
New York shipper Dynever had to wait for running room before jockey Edgar Prado could ask for his best in the $500,000 Lone Star Derby. When the Dynaformer colt got free, he surged to a 1 1/2-length victory over Most Feared. "I waited some time just to find a hole and let him roll," Prado said, "and you saw what he did when we found that hole." Arnaud Delacour, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement, said Dynever "looks like he has another gear, really. He just appears to be racing with the other horses and then he puts in another gear. It was very impressive." Dynever ran the 9 furlongs in 1:50.43.
In other weekend racing:
Storming Home, who has been traveling the globe lately, lived up to his name in Saturday's $400,000 Jim Murray Handicap, rallying from last in the field of eight to win by 2 lengths over Denon with a determined stretch run. Ballingarry was third under the line and the favorite, The Tin Man, faded from the pace to finish seventh. Storming Home, a British-bred, 5-year-old son of Machiavellian, ran the 1 1/2 mile on firm turf in 2:25.31 for Gary Stevens. "Things didn't really go according to plan," Stevens said. "We thought we were going to be laying closer much earlier. He didn't break real well, which is normal from horses coming from Europe." Winning trainer Neil Drysdale said Storming Home was shipped back to Britain after racing in the Japan Cup, then shipped again to California. "The long-term goal for this horse is the Breeders' Cup," Drysdale said. The race is named after the long-time Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray.
Continuing the trend of appropriate monikers, Hombre Rapido was as rapid as any hombre needed to be in Saturday's $200,000 Los Angeles Times Handicap, shooting through a quarter mile in 21.51 seconds and a half in 43.43 en route to a 1-length victory over Publication in the Los Angeles Times Handicap (although Publication would have been the hunch bet, come to think of it). Giovanetti was third and the pari-mutuel favorite Darrell Vienna entry of Disturbingthepeace and Echo Eddie finished fourth and fifth. Hombre Rapido, a 6-year-old Falstaff gelding, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:08.49 under Jose Valdiva Jr. "He broke like a shot and had enough wind to hold them off," said Valdiva.
Total Impact lived up to his name, too, in the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap, blowing by the leaders in the stretch to win by 2 lengths over Fleetstreet Dancer. Piensa Sonando was third and Sunday Break was fourth. Total Impact, with Mike Smith in the irons, covered the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:40.88.
Sunday, Wacky Patty took the inside route to victory in the $75,000 Nursery Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The Florida-bred daughter of Formal Dinner broke from the inside gate, dueled for the early lead and slowly drew clear. She then easily held off Yogi's Polar Bear by 2 lengths, finishing 5 furlongs in 58.22 seconds. "She's got a future, all right," said winning jockey Corey Nakatani.
House Party dominated three rivals in Saturday's $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. After racing under restraint into the turn, the French Deputy filly got room, drew clear and won off by 3 lengths. Cyber Secret, the favorite, was second, and City Sister was third. House Party ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.28. "I feel the only way I can get her to relax," said winning rider Jose Santos, "is to put her right in between horses. When I asked her to run in the clear, she just took off and won easy." Trainer Allen Jerkens said he hasn't thought yet about House Party's next race.
Also Saturday, Shake You Down led from gate to wire in winning the $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap by 1 length over Here's Zealous. Peeping Tom was third. Shake You Down, the favorite in a field of seven, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.47. Shake You Down is a 5-year-old son of Montbrook. Trainer Scott Lake said he will "have to take a serious look" at the True North Breeders' Cup Handicap on Belmont Stakes day, which would be the horse's third race in five weeks.
Friday, Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi returned to action but lost a neck decision to Speightstown in a 7-furlong conditioned allowance race. Volponi chased a quarter in 22:26 and finished well. "I couldn't be happier with the outcome," said Volponi's trainer, Phil Johnson. "He pulled up good and galloped out well." Johnson said Volponi will return in the Brooklyn Handicap.
Sunday, Shine Again drew off in the stretch to beat Carson Hollow by 4 lengths in the $150,000 Genuine Risk Handicap for fillies and mares. Shine Again, a 6-year-old daughter of Wild Again, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.19. "When I asked her, she responded," said winning rider Jean-Luc Samyn.
Just Wonder rallied from the back of the seven-horse field in Saturday's $100,000 Ascot Handicap for 3-year-olds, gaining the lead in the stretch, and then went on to win by 2 lengths over the pace-setter, Rapier Dance. Obermeister was third. Just Wonder, a British-bred son of Hernando, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.63. Jockey Russell Baze said he looked for an opening at the top of the stretch. "Nothing was happening so I went ahead and swung him out. He was kind of just doing what I asked him to do. He had another gear if I needed it." Trainer Laura de Seroux said Just Wonder will start next in the Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 29.
Posse was reserved behind the leaders as they raced down the backstretch in Saturday's $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds. With Corey Lanerie in the irons, the Silver Deputy colt then began to advance through the field, reaching striking distance turning for home. In the stretch run, he got past Bossanova to win by 1/2 length. Coach Jimi Lee was third. Posse won the Lafayette at Keeneland in his last previous start. "I was just waiting," Lanerie said of his patient ride, adding that trainer Steve Asmussen "gave me specific instructions not to get there too soon. At the three-sixteenths pole, I thought I might have waited a little too long because that horse (Bossanova) kept going. But it worked out, thank God."
Full Mandate was last through the early stages of Saturday's $100,000 Black Tie Affair Handicap and didn't responded to the urging of jockey Rene Douglas until the field was headed into the turn. Then, he circled the field to get the lead and held on through a fierce stretch battle to beat Bonus Pack by a neck. "He didn't want any part of running today," Douglas said. "I knew he was going slow but I couldn't make him run. I never gave up." Full Mandate, a son of A.P. Indy, ran the 1 1/8 mile on a fast track in 1:50.24. Woodmoon was third.
Phantom Light, after stalking the early pace, went to the lead with a half mile left in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Eclipse Stakes and drew clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over No Comprende. Anglian Prince was third. The 4-year-old son of Alphabet Soup, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1996 at Woobine, finished in 1:43.62. "It's been a long time coming for this horse," said winning trainer Daniel Vella, "and it's nice to see him reach his potential." Phantom Light came into the Eclipse as the winner of only two of his six career starts.
Sunday, El Prado Essence drew off in the stretch to win the $150,000 (Canadian) George C. Hendrie Handicap by 4 lengths over Leading Role. Brass in Pocket was third. El Prado Essence, a 6-year-old El Prado mare, broke last in the field of 10, came five wide into the stretch and won easily under Patrick Husbands. She ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:15.66.
Calder Race Course
Love the Game rolled from near the back of a 12-horse field in Saturday's $75,000 Carterista Handicap, swung wide into the stretch and was just up in the final strides to win by 1 length over Honorable Pic. Cellars Merlot was third. Love the Game, a 5-year-old son of Mecke, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.55 for Jose Ferrer. Ferrer said he thought about an inside move but couldn't find room. "I swung outside at the quarter pole and he ran like a freight train down the lane. He took off." Trainer Henry Collazo said Love the Game will remain at Calder.
Nice a person as she was, it might be a stretch to connect Mamie Eisenhower with the phrase "one fine shweetie." Be that as it may, One Fine Shweetie drew off in the stretch drive to win Saturday's $60,000 Mamie Eisenhower Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/2 lengths over Sharky's Review. Only at Night was third. One Fine Shweetie, a 4-year-old Shuailaan filly trained by Don Von Hemel, was dispatched as the favorite and finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.55.
Saturday's $50,000 Hilltop Stakes lost nine entrants when it was moved from the turf to the main track and the best of the remainder was City Fire, who led all the way to win by 3 lengths over Impolite. Apple Juice was third. The 1 1/16 mile on a "good" track took 1:44.30. "I was surprised how quickly she came out of the gate and how easily she relaxed," said winning rider Jeremy Rose.
The Downs at Albuquerque
Fame Ina Minute needed 37.60 seconds more than a minute to win Saturday's $35,000 Charlie Iles Derby. The California-bred son of Western Fame, trained by Gary Cross, sat right behind the early speed through the first half of the 1-mile event, then came around pace-setting Ubi's General and took charge to win by 1 length. Latenite Trice finished second.
Youcan'ttakeme made all the pace in Sunday's $40,000 Federal Way Handicap for 3-year-old fillies, then still had plenty left in the stretch, running away from five rivals to win by 6 lengths. Top Penny was second and Bisbee's Prospect finished third as the favorite. Youcan'ttakeme, a Washington-bred daughter of He's Tops, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 2/5.