Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide is going to have no shortage of competition when he tries to sweep Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown with a win in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. In fact, he may be picking up rivals as the days go by.
And one potential Belmont challenger -- Go Rockin' Robin – already has a history against Funny Cide.
Go Rockin' Robin was the third-place finisher in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont Park on New York Showcase Day last Oct. 19 – behind Funny Cide and Spite the Devil. Saturday at Belmont Park, Go Rockin' Robin moved into serious consideration for the Belmont Stakes with a 6-length upset victory in Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes.
The colt could be supplemented to the Belmont Stakes at a cost of $100,000, plus $20,000 to start. "He would have to go against the elite of what's around," trainer Peter Schwartz said after Go Rockin' Robin came from off the pace in the Peter Pan, got by early leader Alysweep with ease and drew off with authority.
"We'll think about it. He can definitely get a mile and a half. Can he go against Funny Cide, Empire Maker and Dynever? Who knows?" Schwartz said.
Go Rockin' Robin, who like Funny Cide is a son of Distorted Humor, earned $120,000 in the Peter Pan, while running the 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:48.47.
In other Belmont Stakes developments:
--Trainer Bobby Frankel entered Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker in Monday's $100,000 Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park, saying rain and wet tracks had disrupted the colt's training schedule and the nearby race would provide an alternative to a workout. Sunday, he worked Empire Maker on the Belmont Park turf and said that effort served the purpose. "I think we'll be okay now," Frankel said. "Hopefully the main track will be okay by next weekend." He got a bonus as jockey Jerry Bailey said the colt, who has an outstanding turf pedigree, "felt unbelievable on the grass." Added Frankel, "He'd probably be a champion on the grass."
--The Jockey Club and NTRA announced that Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide already has moved to No. 24 on a list of top money-winning geldings, with earnings of $1,889,395. A victory in the Belmont Stakes, with the $5 million Visa bonus for winning the Triple Crown, would boost Funny Cide right to top of the list, ahead of the current leader, John Henry, who earned $6,597,947.
In other weekend racing:
Irish Colonial brushed off contact at the start of Sunday's $100,000 Kingston Handicap for New York-breds, shot quickly to the lead and never looked back, winning by 4 lengths over Celtic Sky Whitmore's Conn and Haggs Castle completed a Celt's-dream superfecta. Irish Colonial, a 4-year-old son of Colonial Affair, ran 9 furlongs on soft turf in 1:52.44. "I was confident when we went 51 (seconds) to the half," said winning rider Javier Castellano. "I still had a lot of horse. He won easy."
Trainer Laura de Seroux promised beforehand that Azeri wouldn't provide as many thrills in Saturday's $200,000 Milady Breeders' Cup Handicap as she had in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. At Oaklawn, Azeri needed the entire length of the stretch to win, defending her 2002 "Horse of the Year" honors. Saturday, the 5-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter tugged jockey Mike Smith to lead early in the run down the backstretch and cruised home a 3-length winner over Enjoy. Tropical Blossom was third. Azeri ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.87. "It's been seven weeks since the Apple Blossom," de Seroux said, "and from the way she's been working, I didn't know whether to be happy or sad. I've had to do things a little different and spaced her works out. But as I've said before, Azeri tells me not to worry and I believe in her." The trainer said she is considering running the mare in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13. "We're going to talk about it and look at it." One of the arguments against Azeri's selection as last year's "Horse of the Year" was that she had not run against males. The next race, however, likely will be the Vanity on June 21.
Sunday, Private Chef got things cooking in the stretch run of the $100,000 Will Rogers Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 mile on the grass. The Maryland-bred son of Partner's Hero, after running last in the field of six, made his move on the turn and was under stout urging from jockey Victor Espinoza before catching Banshee King to win by 3/4 length. Singletary was third. Private Chef was clocked in 1:35.57. Espinoza said he "didn't know anything about this horse" and took his instructions from trainer John Shirreffs. "Then we wound up winning the race."
Lone Star Park
Miss Bridget Jones contested the early lead with Letishappencaptain in Saturday's $150,000 Stonerside Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then shook clear at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 3 lengths. Souris was second and City Sleeper finished third. Miss Bridget Jones, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Peaks and Valleys, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.56. She now is undefeated in three career starts, advancing quickly from a maiden win last December at Hollywood to a conditioned allowance victory here on April 19 and to triumph in her stakes debut. "She just does everything perfect," said trainer Cole Norman. "I wish I had 10 more like her."
Chiming put in her bid a furlong from home in Saturday's $150,000 Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup Handicap, seized the lead and drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Noches De Rosa raced from last in the seven-horse field to take second while Lindsay Jean settled for third after leading at the top of the stretch. Chiming, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Danehill, ran the "about" 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:45.41 – just .07 second off the course record. "She's really improving," said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "But I don't know what is next. We have so many fillies right now." Winning rider Corey Nakatani said he "might have ridden her a little harder," had he known he was close to the record time.
Kiss The Devil upset Saturday's $150,000 Early Times Mint Julep for fillies and mares at odds of 13-1. Kiss The Devil, a 5-year-old daughter of Kris S., chased pace-setting Crystal Sea through the early furlongs, moved to the front on the turn and just held off Quick Tip at the wire. Cellars Shiraz was third. Kiss The Devil ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.73. "As long as my filly had something to look at, she was comfortable," said winning rider Lonnie Meche.
Fly Smartly tracked the early leaders in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Connaught Cup, went to the lead as the field hit the stretch and held off Solitary Dancer to win by 3/4 length. Mr. Sulu was along for third. Fly Smartly, a 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding, was timed in 1:47.71. Trainer Mark Frostad said Fly Smartly more than lived up to expectations. "It looked like a pretty tough race and I wasn't sure if he would handle the soft turf and the distance," said Frostad.
Saturday's $100,000 Red Bank Handicap came off the grass and all but four prospective starters scratched from the 1-mile event over the sloppy main track. That left things open for Just Le Facts, who led all the way, twice turning back challenges from Saint Verre before prevailing by a neck. Runspastum didn't, finishing third. Just Le Facts, a 4-year-old son of Lac Ouimet, was clocked in 1:37.73. "The old Joe Bravo is back," said the winning rider, who notched three victories on the card. "I'm fit, I'm healthy and I'm ready to roll."
Bravo also won the $50,000 Gilded Time Stakes aboard Buzzy's Gold, also leading all the way. Buzzy's Gold, a son of Touch Gold, ran 5 furlongs in 57.11 seconds, defeating Valid Video by 2 3/4 lengths.
Sunday, Classic Endeavor led virtually all the way to a 1-length victory in the $60,000 Frisk Me Now Stakes. Iron Chancellor was second and My Request finished third. Classic Endeavor turned back challenges from a pair of challengers before crossing the line first. The 5-year-old son of Silver Buck ran 1 mile and 70 yards on a "good" track in 1:41.09.
Also Sunday, Pali Princess got her nose in front at the wire in the $50,000 Thomas J. Malley Stakes. Barbara O'Brien was second and Boundanddetermined finished third in the 5-furlong event for fillies and mares. Pali Princess, a 4-year-old Fortunate Prospect filly, finished in 58.55 seconds.
Calder Race Course
The Name's Bond took charge on the turn for home in Saturday's $75,000 Simply Majestic Stakes for 3-year-olds and drew clear to win by 6 3/4 lengths, barely shaken and certainly not stirred by jockey Gary Boulanger. The favorite, Hear No Evil, was second after leading and Sea Pleasure cruised home third. The Name's Bond, a Florida-bred son of Jules, ran 1 1/16 mile on a "good" track in 1:45.05. "When I asked him in the middle of the turn, he was there and I knew I had the leaders easy," Boulanger said.
Native Heir caught pace-setting Baby Shark a sixteenth of a mile from the wire and went on to win Saturday's $75,000 Ben Cohen Stakes, running 5 muddy furlongs in 57.56 seconds. Baby Shark held off Sassy Hound to take second-place money. Winning rider Rick Wilson said he was surprised to see Baby Shark sprint to the front. "But my horse has some natural speed, too, so I just tried to be patient and wait to see if we closed the gap," Wilson said.
Don Six drew off through the stretch run in Saturday's $55,000 Floor Show Stakes for 3-year-olds, despite drifting out, and won by 3 1/2 lengths over Gimmeawink. High Watermark was third. Don Six, a Florida-bred son of Wild Escapade, ran 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:45.69.
Dancing With Me drew in from the also-eligibles for Saturday's $40,000 Reluctant Guest Handicap, then was overlooked in the wagering. Nonetheless, the filly had the best punch in the stretch run, beating Soccory by a neck in a duel of longshots. Dancing With Me, a daughter of Mt. Livermore, ran the 1 mile on the grass in 1:37.99.
Coding led throughout Saturday's $50,000 Bob Bryant Sweepstakes, winning by nearly 3 lengths over Soup for Lunch. Eolica was third. Coding, with little urging from jockey Cindy Noll, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:11.35. Noll said Coding is learning to relax this year. "I know I was still on the front end. But she was relaxing up there," Noll said. "She's just got a lot of natural ability." The filly now has three wins from seven career starts.
In Sunday's $50,000 Precisionist, Patton's Victory dueled Colorful Tour into submission in the stretch run, then went on to win by 3 lengths. Colorful Tour held second and Northwest Hill was third. The favorite, McMahon, completed the order of finish. Patton's Victory, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Patton, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.69.
Ema Bovary broke last of five in Sunday's $35,000 Washington State Legislators Handicap, then endured some holiday weekend traffic troubles before getting room in the stretch. Free, the Chilean-bred 4-year-old filly blasted off to win by 6 lengths over Princess Forever. Elana d'Amour was third. Ema Bovary, toting R.M Gonzalez, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.