The biggest race of a slow pre-Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be controversial as the stewards decided the outcome of Sunday's $250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup after some traffic problems in the stretch.
Epicentre crossed the wire first, a nose in front of Continuously, a stablemate in Bobby Frankel's barn. But the stewards ruled that Epicentre lugged in at mid-stretch, bumping pace setter Bowman Mill, who finished third. They placed Epicentre third and advanced Continuously and Bowman Mill to the exacta.
"Those stewards must be blind," said Corey Nakatani, who rode Epicentre. Nakatani's version was that Bowman Mill floated him wide on the turn, then drifted out, causing the contact. "It didn't affect the outcome of any race. I'm sure of that," he added.
Alex Solis, who rode Continuously, said his mount didn't switch leads in the stretch. "But, with some help from the stewards, we won anyway," Solis added. "I wasn't sure of what happened until I saw the replay. But I have to think it was a good decision."
Frankel called the decision "a little controversial."
In other weekend racing....
Riskaverse collared pace-setting Bien Nicole inside the furlong marker and went on to win Saturday's $150,000 Cardinal Handicap for fillies and mares by 3/4 length. Firth of Lorne was third under the wire. Riskaverse, a 4-year-old Dynaformer filly, covered the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.53, toting Cornelio Velasquez. Velasquez said trainer Patrick Kelly told him to keep Riskaverse "inside behind the other horses and when I get to the stretch, to put her to the outside and get her clear and let her run. That's exactly what I did." Riskaverse finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf in her last outing. Bien Nicole was ninth in that event after setting the pace.
Balto Star seems to either run a big race or not run at all. Saturday, he ran a big race, winning the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap by 3 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Macaw. Cetewayo was third. Balto Star, a 5-year-old son of Glitterman, led all the way and finished the 1 3/8 mile on soft turf in 2:18.86. "He's one of those in-and-out horses," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "When things are right, he can fire huge. And when things aren't right, he'll throw in a clunker....If he makes it to the top of the stretch, you know he's going to run good." In his most recent clunker, Balto Star finished last in the Breeders' Cup Turf after leading into the second turn. Pletcher said he may ship Balto Star to Florida and "keep an eye on" the $200,000 W.L. McKnight at Calder Race Course on Dec. 27.
Smokey Glacken took total charge of Sunday's $100,000 Valley Stream Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, opening up by more than 5 lengths, then coasting home a 3 3/4-lengths winner over Baldomera. Stoic was third. Smokey Glacken, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Forestry, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.18 with Jose Santos riding. "She's got a good turn of foot," said winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "We'll take her to Florida and let her get settled." The filly has won three of her four starts and finished second in the Astarita at Belmont Park. She is a half-sister to Smoke Glacken, 1997 sprint champion.
Here's another nightmare for track announcers: Six Sexy Sisters came from off the pace to win Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Ontario Lassie Stakes by 2 lengths over Duet.
Six Sexy Sisters, a full sister to 2003 Canadian Triple Crown champion Wando, now has won both of her starts. "She's a classy filly and very nice," said winning rider Patrick Husbands after covering the 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.26. Trainer Mike Keogh said both Six Sexy Sisters and Wando will head for Florida for the winter.
Saturday, Time of War came from the middle of the pack to upset the $125,000 (Canadian) Sir Barton Stakes at odds of 22-1. The 3-year-old son of Iskandar Elakbar, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.10. Executive Legacy was second and Biddy's Lad was third. "He fooled me," said winning trainer Alec Fehr. "I was surprised."
Ironton got the lead on the backstretch in Saturday's $75,000 Northern Dancer Stakes and held onto it all the way to the wire -- by a nose over James. Conservation was just a neck further back in third in the 9-furlong event for 3-year-old Maryland-breds. Ironton, a son of Not for Love, was timed in 1:50.32.
Golden Gate Fields
The Herc went quickly to the lead from the No. 2 post position in Sunday's $60,000 Golden Bear Stakes for 2-year-olds and held on to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Badgett's Mandate with Corvallis Dee third. The Herc, a Kentucky-bred son of Lord Carson, ran 6 furlongs for Russell Baze in 1:09.21. "He was running out of gas the last part of it but he never quit," Baze said. Despite that, trainer Gary Stute said he may run the colt back in the 1-mile Gold Rush Stakes on Dec. 13.
Saturday, Wildwood Flower bested only three rivals in the $60,000 Piedmont Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, rallying nicely through the stretch to win by 5 lengths. Siberian Shamrock was second, followed by Intuitional and Hot Weekend. Wildwood Flower, a Kentucky-bred Langfuhr filly, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.48. Winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he will add some distance for Wildwood Flower. "She has a chance to be a very good filly," he said.
Fencelineneighbor sat right behind the pace-setter in Sunday's $70,000 Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, got to the fore turning for home and held off a late run by Katdogawn to win by 1/2 length. Desert View was home third. Fencelineneighbor, a Florida-bred daughter of Wild Rush, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.18. Trainer Michael Machowsky said she may run back in a Sunshine Millions event.
Abbey Bridge came from near the back of a seven-horse field to win Saturday's $50,000 Queen of the Green Handicap for fillies and mares by 3 1/2 lengths. Lacrystal Classic was second and No Turbulence was third in the 1-mile turf event, clocked in 1:36.43. Abbey Bridge is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Irish River.
Hesa Bad Cat pressed the early pace in Sunday's $70,000 Dine Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old colts and geldings, then took charge in the stretch, winning off by 7 1/2 lengths over Gulchrunsweet. Bubba Hyde was third. Hesa Bad Cat, a son of Devon Lane, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15 4/5.
Saturday, Moro Grande led all the way to a 2-length victory over America's Storm in the $50,000 San Juan County Commissioners Handcap. Personal Beau was third. Moro Grande, a Colorado-bred gelding by Fuzzy, ran 9 furlongs in 1:49 2/5.
News and Notes
The $6 million Dubai World Cup has received 94 nominations, including Breeders' Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect. Also nominated are Classic runner-up Medaglia d'Oro, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide and Congaree, who was fourth in the Classic. The world's richest race, to be run March 27, also drew nominations from the top runners in Europe, Japan and Australia. Supporting races on the card also drew interest from likely divisional and regional champions from around the world. ... Gulfstream Park received a record 160 nominations for the 2004 Florida Derby, to be run on March 13. The previous record was 134 nominations for the 1992 edition. "Every top 2-year-old in the United States is an Early Bird nominee," said Director of Racing David Bailey, "as is the winner of practically every major race for 2-year-olds in the United States." ... Gene Cilio, a successful and well-respected trainer in Illinois and Chicago for more than 50 years, died on Saturday of cancer at the age of 74. Born in Chicago, Cilio was a strong supporter of the Illinois-bred program. His father, Angelo Cilio, also was a horseman.