The first major Kentucky Derby preps of the Florida and California season produced minor upsets.
At Gulfstream Park Saturday, Second of June got the lead turning for home in the $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes and won by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Silver Wagon. And at Santa Anita, St Averil came from well off the pace to win Saturday's $150,000 Santa Catalina Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Lucky Pulpit, with the favorite, Master David, third.
Second of June, a Florida-bred son of Louis Quatorze, has been racing all winter whereas Silver Wagon, a son of Wagon Limit, was making only his second start since winning the Hopeful at Saratoga last August.
Winning trainer William Cesare said he will point Second of June to the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby "and then go to Kentucky. ... He can win here, in Kentucky or anywhere. The money is all green. He can win on the right Saturday. Any Saturday is a good day to win," Cesare said.
Jerry Bailey, who rode Silver Wagon, said his colt "ran like a first-time starter. He was in, out, back in again. He wouldn't even stay in the pocket on the backside."
Second of June, with Cornelio Velasquez up, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.00.
Out west, St Averil, a Kentucky-bred son of Saint Ballado, was making just his third start after winning a maiden event and then finishing second to Lion Heart in the Hollywood Futurity Dec. 20.
The Rafael Becerra trainee endured a wide trip under Tyler Baze and sat behind the pace until the turn. He got to the front at mid-stretch, worked clear and finished 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.62.
"He didn't surprise me that he won," Becerra said. "But it wasn't easy because (Lucky Pulpit) ran game." He said he will work out a game plan for the colt. "I'm pretty sure we'll stay here," he added.
Baze said St Averil "got a perfect trip. We'll see how far he goes."
In other races for 3-year-olds:
-- Arcus upset Saturday's $75,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds. With Shane Laviolette up, the son of Dayjur went quickly to the front and had things pretty much his own way, winning by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:48.84. Walk This Way, the favorite, was second and Old Lee was third. Arcus, who broke his maiden in October at Hawthorne, won for only the second time in five starts.
-- At Sunland Park in New Mexico, Rocky Gulch survived a rocky start to win Saturday's $125,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap for New Mexico-bred 3-year-olds by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. The son of Dry Gulch was rushed to the front, clicked off a half mile in 44.12 seconds and finished in 1:09.16. Youareaggravatin' was second and Jonnygetachex was third.
-- At Delta Downs in Louisiana, Britt's Jules came out of the fog to win Saturday's $40,000 Triple Sec Stakes by a neck over Next Bandit. Iron Expectations was third. Britt's Jules, a Florida-bred son of Jules, ran 5 furlongs in 59.03 seconds on a muddy track.
In races for 3-year-old fillies:
-- Stoneaway, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Storm Boot, took the lead from the gate in Saturday's $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park and won by 2 lengths from Beau Watch. Plumlake Lady, who acted up before entering the gate, rallied to take third. Stoneaway, trained by Bernie Flint, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a wet-fast course in 1:19.67. Flint said the filly was found to have a lung infection after running poorly in the Pepsi Bassinet Stakes last August at River Downs. After a layoff to recover from that malady, she has won two of three starts. "She's got some talent," Flint said.
-- Heavenly Humor was boxed in until the quarter pole in Saturday's $60,000 Miss California Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. But when the Kentucky-bred daughter of Distorted Humor got room, she made the most of it, winning by 5 lengths over Smoke Break. Uppity Kitty was third. Heavenly Humor, with Kevin Radke up for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.92. "She drew off like a good horse and looked like she might prefer more distance, which would be very nice," said Hollendorfer.
In other weekend racing:
Super Kid, unperturbed by yielding ground after a sudden rain, came on in the final 200 meters to win Sunday's HK$8 million (US$1.03 million) Stewards' Cup by 1 1/4 length from Hidden Dragon. The race is the first leg of Hong Kong's Triple Crown. Bowman's Crossing was third. Super Kid, a 4-year-old who previously raced in New Zealand, likely will be tested next in the Hong Kong Classic Mile on Feb. 15, said winning trainer John Size. But Size said he has his doubts about the horse's ability to get the 2,000 meters of the Hong Kong Derby in March. "But, still, there might be other horses in the race not as qualified as him," the trainer added.
Victory Encounter got first run at the lead in Sunday's $150,000 El Encino Stakes for 4-year-old fillies, then held off the favorite, Personal Legend, to win by 1 1/4 length. Cat Fighter was third. Victory Encounter, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Victory Speech, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:42.52. Trainer John Sadler, who claimed Victory Encounter last April for $32,000, said the filly has "absolutely surpassed my expectations" and will be pointed to the Feb. 14 La Canada Stakes. The early favorite, Island Fashion, was scratched and will start instead in next Sunday's Santa Monica Handicap.
Seattle Fitz got by pace-setting Rogue Agent in the stretch drive of Saturday's $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap, then held off the favorite, Evening Attire, to win by a nose. Rogue Agent held third as the 1 1/16 mile went in 1:42.13 on a fast track. Seattle Fitz, a 5-year-old, Argentine-bred son of Fitzcarraldo, got an 8-pound break in the weights from Evening Attire. The victory was the fourth in 15 lifetime starts for Seattle Fitz and his second in nine tries in the United States. "He tries hard every time," said winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "It's nice to finally get him to the winner's circle in a race that is worth some money."
Also Saturday, Austin's Mom rolled from near the back of an eight-horse field to win the $100,000 Affectionately Handicap for fillies and mares by 5 1/2 lengths over Golden Damsel. Consort Music was third. Austin's Mom, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Sefapiano, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.02.
Tap Day sat behind the pace until the turn in Sunday's $60,000 Dave Feldman Stakes for 3-year-olds, then bid for the lead and edged clear to win by a head over the late-running Zakocity. Commendation was third and the favorite, Artie Schiller, finished fourth. Tap Day, a Virginia-bred son of Pleasant Tap, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.99. "He's a big, huge horse who looks like he wants to run long," said winning trainer Mark Hennig. The race is named for the late colorful Chicago Sun-Times turf writer, owner, trainer and race track habitue.
Sam Houston Race Park
Sir Cherokee got the lead after a long pace duel in Saturday's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup, then was headed by Freefourinternet in the stretch before battling back to win by 3/4 length. Dusty Spike, always close, held on for third. Sir Cherokee, a 4-year-old Cherokee Run colt, ran 9 furlongs on a "good" track in 1:51.76.
Also Saturday, Zee Oh Six ran like a Corvette in the $40,000 Sam Houston Sprint. After tracking the pace, the 5-year-old son of Alphabet Soup surged to a daylight lead in the stretch and coasted home, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Term Sheet with Won C C finishing third. The 7 furlongs took 1:23.96 over the muddy surface. And in the $40,000 Sam Houston Distaff Handicap, Spectacular Lisa drew off in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Cherylville Slew. Reason to Talk was third. Spectacular Lisa, a daughter of Formal Gold, ran 1 1/16 mile on a "good" track in 1:45.88.
Bronze Abe broke loose from a pace duel with Bamba to win Saturday's $75,000 What A Summer Stakes by 1/2 length. Gazillion, who tracked the leaders through most of the race, finished third. Bronze Abe, a daughter of Two Punch, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.53. She now has won an added-money race in Maryland in four straight years.
Tampa Bay Downs
Midguided Left won a stretch-long battle with Wire Bound in Saturday's $60,000 Pasco Stakes. At the line, the margin was a head and the 7 furlongs took 1:25.94. Bourbon N Blues was third, another 2 3/4 lengths back, after showing the way early. Winning rider Jesus Castanon said he was in tight quarters on the rail in the stretch drive. "I switched to my right hand and was able to hit him on the shoulder a couple of times. I think that made him put the other horse away," Castanon said. Misguided Left is by Double Honor.
Put Me In worked through traffic on the turn in Sunday's $60,000 Dr. A.B. Leggio Memorial Handicap, got to the lead with a furlong to go and won by 4 1/2 lengths over pace-setting Leslie's Love. Brown Eyed Beauty was third as the favorite. Put Me In, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Take Me Out, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.14.
News and Notes
The latest in a long series of recent, untimely deaths is Jere Smith Sr., who died Wednesday at age 63. Smith began his training career in 1955 at Beulah Park and moved to the Chicago area in the 1960s. He won 12 training titles in the area and posted graded stakes wins with the likes of former claimers Chicago Six and Recoup the Cash.