Medaglia d'Oro truly gets the gold medal for his performance in Saturday's Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
The 5-year-old son of El Prado, making his first start since finishing second in the Breeders' Cup Classic last October, won with ease despite a little traffic problem in the first turn and a challenge in the stretch turn from last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Funny Cide.
Jockey Jerry Bailey eased Medaglia d'Oro back when he was squeezed by longshot pace-setter Predawn Raid, content to let him track the speed. When Bailey sent him to the lead, Medaglia d'Oro moved effortlessly and had plenty left to turn back the final challenge. He won by 4 3/4 lengths, ridden out, in 1:47.68.
Seattle Fitz got by a tiring Funny Cide in the stretch to take second.
Bailey said he was watching Funny Cide through much of the race, "but I was never worried. The way my horse exploded at the three-eighths pole, I don't think there were too many horses that could have had me worried," Bailey added.
You have to look back to the 2002 Preakness to find Medaglia d'Oro finishing worse than second in a race. Since that time, he has six wins and four seconds, all in Grade I and Grade II events.
"I haven't really figured out what's next," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. Maybe Dubai. I don't know for sure. ... Bailey said this was one of his strongest races."
Even the competition seemed to feel Medaglia d'Oro is the current gold standard. "There will be plenty of Grade Is, and Medaglia d'Oro won't be in all of them," said Jack Knowlton, managing partner of the Funny Cide ownership group.
In other top weekend events in the handicap division:
-- Domestic Dispute rallied through the stretch in Saturday's $300,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at Santa Anita, beating During to the line by a neck. Buckland Manor was third and the favorite, Midas Eyes, finished fourth with Formal Attire completing the Superfecta. Jockey Kent Desormeaux had to swing Domestic Dispute to the outside at mid-stretch to find running room before the chestnut son of Unbridled's Song could make the winning move. "I thought I was going to have to eat this one," Desormeaux said of the traffic jam. "And then he got out and exploded and it was such a complete change of emotion in 21 seconds." Trainer Paddy Gallagher said he was "just happy he showed up today. He looked like he was the best horse." Gallagher said Domestic Dispute may get a chance in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap March 6. "I don't know if he's good enough but the Handicap probably might be a race to look at," Gallagher said Sunday morning, adding the horse came out of the Strub in "good shape."
In Kentucky Derby prep races:
-- Master David rallied by the pace-setter midway through the second turn in Sunday's $75,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita and went on to win by 1 length over Borrego. Preachinatthebar was a head farther back in third with Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day another head back in fourth. Despite the presence of the Juvenile winner in the field, Master David went to the post as the pari-mutuel favorite. Master David, a Kentucky-bred son of Grand Slam, ran 1 1/8 mile in 1:49.20. "Everything went well," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel, who added Master David will be pointed toward the Florida Derby on March 13. Trainer Richard Mandella said Action This Day "finished strong and as long as he comes out in good shape, that's the main thing." He said the Santa Anita Derby on April 3 is a likely next step for his colt. In the misnomer department, True Contender refused to leave the gate and was declared a non-starter.
-- Imperialism broke dead last in Saturday's $150,000 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita, dawdled behind all five rivals until the turn, then came four-wide and went on to win by 1 1/4 length over the favorite, Hosco. Consecrate was third. Imperialism, a gray son of Langfuhr, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.34 with Victor Espinoza in the irons. Espinoza said he wasn't troubled by the slow start. "When it was time to go, I just loosened the reins a little bit and I had a lot of horse in there," he said. Tyler Baze, aboard Hosco, said his mount didn't see Imperialism coming. "But, I think it's a little bit too far for him," Baze added of Hosco.
-- Little Math Man upset Saturday's $75,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, rushing up from the back of the field to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Risky Trick. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Quick Action was third as the favorite, tiring in the final furlong after opening a clear lead at the top of the lane in his first try past 6 furlongs. Little Math Man, a New York-bred son of Matty G, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.78. "We're going to look at nominating him to the Visa Triple Crown," said sponsorship-conscious trainer Martin Ciresa. "We really haven't looked beyond this race. We're going to try to not put him in against the wolves just yet. ... There aren't too many 3-year-olds that can run the way he does, making one run from the back of the pack."
-- Silver Minister justified his favorite's role with a 5 1/4-length victory in Saturday's $50,000 WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park in northern Kentucky. The Silver Deputy gelding stayed just off the pace, split the leaders with a quarter mile to go and won easily. Revolver Six, the longest shot in the pari-mutuel field, finished second, a head in front of Dollar a Dip, producing a $955.40 trifecta despite the odds-on favorite on top.
-- Mambo Train, a Kentucky-bred son of Kingmambo, outfinished odds-on favorite Perfect Moon to win Saturday's $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby by 2 1/2 lengths. Bradford led the way, then held on to finish a well-beaten third. Mambo Train, with Emile Ramsammy up, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.07. "It was a small field in the Derby and I thought I had as good a chance as the favorite," Ramsammy said Sunday from Santa Anita. "It was a little bit of a surprise but he ran to my expectations."
-- O.K. Mikie came from last in a field of eight to win Sunday's $100,000 Golden State Mile at Golden Gate Fields. The Cal-bred son of Michael's Flyer, with Adalberto Lopez up, ran the mile in 1:37.49. The favorite, Bending Strings, finished second and Point Dume was third. "We'll try to point him for the El Camino Real Derby now," said winning trainer Jerry McArthur, who scored his first stakes victory. "That will be crunch time. We'll see what we have then."
-- White Mountain Boy launched an assault on pace-setting Hands on at mid-stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Goss L. Stryker Stakes for Maryland-breds at Laurel Park, just getting up to win by 1/2 length. Thiruvengadam was third. White Mountain Boy, a bay son of Meadowlake from the Cormorant mare La Sarto, ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.22 under Abel Castellano Jr. "We have several options," said winning trainer Phil Schoenthal. "But he likes time in between races so it could be the Illinois Derby and then possibly Churchill Downs."
-- Old Lee upset Saturday night's $125,000 Louisiana Premier Night Prince Stakes, racing from last in a field of 10 to win by a nose over Brandon's Marfa. Arcus was third and the favorite, Walk This Way, finished fifth. Old Lee is a gelded son of Leestown from the Runaway Groom mare Old Timey Girl.
-- Eurosilver, one of several top 2-year-olds who skipped the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall, returned to the races with a vengeance Wednesday in a conditioned allowance race at Gulfstream Park. The Unbridled's Song colt, trained by Nick Zito, sat just off the pace, opened up in the stretch and won by 5 lengths. He ran 7 furlongs in 1:24.45, giving Zito all the options.
-- On the international front, Little Jim stayed close to the lead, tracking Rosencrans, in Thursday night's 2,000 Guineas at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, the $250,000 first leg of the Dubai Triple Crown. With Ted Durcan in the irons, the Argentine-bred took the lead on the turn and sailed home first, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Jack Sullivan. Rosencrans held third. Little Jim, a son of Roar, is owned by Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed al Maktoum. "He is a lovely horse," said Durcan, "and there is improvement in him. I would think a mile is his shortest trip and we will check with the owner but the UAE Derby could be his target." Little Jim finished first in all four starts in Argentina last year but was disqualified to third in one of them. In his final start as a 2-year-old, he won by 14 lengths and then was sold to Sheikh Mohammed.
In Kentucky Oaks preps:
-- Miss Coronado led "from go to whoa" in Saturday's $150,000 Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, winning by a head over a late-running Eye Dazzler. Society Selection was third as the odds-on favorite. Miss Coronado, a daughter of Coronado's Quest, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.62 with Cornelio Velasquez up for trainer Bobby Frankel. "She just kept on fighting," Velasquez said of the battle in deep stretch. "She really knows how to fight." Frankel said he will "take her back to California and keep our options open."
-- Very Vegas shot to a 9-length lead in Saturday's $75,000 Arizona Oaks at Turf Paradise and held on to win by a head over Coke's Melody. Muir Beach was third. The favorite, Church Editor, was never in contention and finished next-last in the six-filly field. Very Vegas, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Storm Boot, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.67.
-- Placid Star rallied from well back to win Saturday night's $125,000 Louisiana Premier Night Starlet Stakes at Delta Downs by 3 1/2 lengths over Commanding Lady. Placid Star, a daughter of Placid Fund from a Risen Star mare, ran 7 furlongs in 1:28.50.
-- Breeders' Cup and Eclipse Award champion Halfbridled is scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut Saturday in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita, going 1 mile. Julie Krone, sidelined for more than two months after a spill, is scheduled to return to the saddle to ride Halfbridled. Krone is the filly's regular rider.
In other weekend racing:
Add another name to the growing ranks of top sprinters. Alke dueled with defending sprint champion Cajun Beat until mid-stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap, then went by to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Coach Jimi Lee was third. Alke, a 4-year-old son of Grand Slam, finished the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.80 under John Velazquez. Trainer Todd Pletcher noted Alke ran a meet-best 6-furlong time of 1:08 1/5 in his last start. "My biggest concern was if he could repeat that performance in a month and step up into this company," Pletcher said, reasonably. The colt has won four straight but the Deputy Minister was his first stakes try. He said he nominated Alke to the sprint and mile races on Dubai World Cup Day but has not been invited. "I told them to watch him in here and reconsider that," he added. Cajun Beat was coming off a victory in the Mr. Prospector Handicap last month and jockey Cornelio Velasquez said he didn't like being caught inside his rival.
Sunday, Randaroo hopped out of the gate in the $100,000 Shirley Jones Handicap for fillies and mares and bounced off to a 7 1/4-length victory. The favorite, Harmony Lodge, gave futile chase and just did beat Halory Leigh for second-place money. Randaroo, a 4-year-old daughter of Gold Case, ran 7 furlongs in stakes-record time of 1:21.42. "It was pretty easy," said winning rider John Velazquez. Added trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, "There's a chance she could go to Dubai. She has been invited and these American horses just do so well on the dirt over there, we all want to go for that $2 million."
In other Premier Night events:
Jockey Shane Sellers had a good night. After bobbling at the start, Sellers guided Spritely Walker through a battle with several rivals before winning Saturday night's $200,000 Championship Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Mr. Archibald. Prince Slew was third. Spritely Walker, a son of Skywalker, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.71. Sellers also was aboard Zarb's Luck in the $100,000 Sprint Stakes, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Believe Im Special, running 5 furlongs in 58.76 seconds. ... And he rode Destiny Calls, who led most of the way to a neck victory in the $150,000 Distaff, with Legs O'Neal just missing a pacestalking bid. Destiny Calls, a 4-year-old With Approval filly, ran 1 mile in 1:40.29. Oddly enough, Sellers did not have a ride in the $100,000 Matron Stakes. Leslie's Love, with Gerard Melancon riding, emerged from an early pace duel to win that 5-furlong event by 1 1/4 lengths over Fuse It. Kool K.J. was third. Leslie's Love, a 7-year-old daughter of Combat Ready, finished in 59.61 seconds.
Golden Gate Fields
Wixoc Express sat right outside pace-setting Expresso Bay through most of Saturday's $75,000 Tanforan Handicap, then got the lead with a sixteenth to go and won off by 2 lengths over a late-running Aly Bubba. Gold Ruckus was along for third. Wixoc Express, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred son of Anabaa, ran 1 1/16 mile on yielding turf in 1:45.35 under Matt Garcia. Garcia said he mostly let the horse do as he wanted. "I knew I didn't want to fight him. He's a lot bigger than I am," the happy rider reflected. Winning trainer Neil Drysdale did not make the trip north.
Irish Warrior settled in mid-pack in Saturday's $75,000 Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap, rallied wide on the turn and was just up at the wire to win by a head over Black Bart. Rock N Rosh was third in the 1 1/16-mile turf event, clocked in 1:40.89. Irish Warrior, a 6-year-old son of Irish Warrior, is trained by Wally Dollase and was ridden by Emile Ramsammy. "Irish Warrior was the best horse in the race and I had all the confidence in the world going in," Ramsammy said Sunday upon his return to Santa Anita. "Wally assured me the horse was at his best and for me just to be patient and let him come running at the speed, which is how he likes to run."
Handpainted, returning from a nine-month layoff, surged to the front with a furlong to go in Saturday's $60,000 Pan Zareta Handicap and went on to win 1 1/2 lengths over Tina Bull. Pace-setter Raymond's dream lost second by a nose. Handpainted, a daughter of A.P. Indy, picked up her third stakes victory and fourth overall from seven lifetime starts. She ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.23 with Larry Melancon up. "We've had a few injuries with this filly but we've been patient because she has a lot of ability," said winning trainer Josie Carroll. I think she can stretch out two turns."
Eternal Cup pulled a mild upset in Saturday's $50,000 American Beauty Stakes, rallying from near the back of the field to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Holiday Runner. Emily Ring was third and the favorite, Surf N Sand, dead-heated for fourth with For Rubies. Eternal Cup, a 4-year-old Montbrook filly, started at 6-1 odds and finished the 6 furlongs in 1:10.99. "It looked like there was a ton of speed in the field, so I just decided to lay off the leaders even if it meant losing a little ground," said winning rider Terry Thompson.
Fame Ina Minute had just about a minute of fame after Saturday's $50,000 Curribot Handicap. Despite finishing first by a neck over Face the Band, the 6-year-old son of Chimes Band was demoted to second by the stewards for interference at the sixteenth pole. Streak of Royalty, the favorite, was third before and after the deliberations. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42.78.
Sunday, Big Score lived up to her name in the $50,000 Czaria Handicap. After breaking sideways and bumping a rival, the 4-year-old Grand Slam filly went right to the lead, dueled with Hacienda Del Mar and then edged clear to win by 3/4 length. City Sleeper, the favorite, rolled in third. Big Score finished the 6 furlongs in 1:09.00.
Saturday, Catstar, with Frankie Dettori up, led throughout and won the $250,000 1,000 Guineas at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai by 1 1/4 length over Menhoubah. Festive Style was third and Ibda Ae fourth after making an early challenge to the leader. Catstar is owned by Godolphin Racing, which now has won all four runnings of the 1,000 Guineas. "There was a question mark whether she was going to get the mile," Dettori said. "She has showed a lot of speed at home."
Thursday at Nad Al Sheba, National Currency, with Weichong Marwing up, rolled to an easy 6 1/2 length win in the 1,200-meter Al Shindagha Sprint. "The plan now is to run him in the Mahab al Shimalla on Super Saturday and then in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (on World Cup Day)," said winning trainer Micheal Azzie. National Currency was a sprint champion in South Africa and finished second to Silent Witness last year in the Hong Kong Sprint.