The first Derby of 2005 went to Lord Robyn - but don't look for the Florida-bred gelding to be eyeing the Kentucky Derby as a result.
Lord Robyn went right to the front in Saturday's $100,000 Tropical Park Derby at Calder Race Course, drew out to a comfortable lead and was never challenged, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. Fire Path was second, Crown Point third and the favorite, Exceptional Ride, got home ninth of 12 starters.
However, the Tropical Park Derby is contested on grass, while the Kentucky Derby is run over Churchill Downs' main track. Young horses don't often switch between those surfaces with facility and Lord Robyn, a son of Robyn Dancer, is no exception.
"He loves the turf, obviously," said winning trainer David Fawkes. "That will be his future - for now, at least. We'll look at those 3-year-old turf stakes at Gulfstream like the Dave Feldman."
The first Oaks of the year -- for 3-year-old fillies - also was contested Saturday at Calder and Dansetta Light got home first in that event, the Calder Oaks. After tracking the pace, the Florida-bred daughter of Colony Light got to the front in the stretch and held off Dynamite Lass to win by a neck. Silver Stage was another neck back in third and Rich in Spirit was only a nose back of her in fourth.
The Oaks also was run on the turf, but winning trainer David Brownlee said Dansetta Light is versatile. "She'll run on dirt, mud, turf - anything," he said. "We'll look at the 3-year-old filly races on turf at Gulfstream. But she has other options."
Also on Saturday's Grand Slam III card, Personal Legend rallied through the stretch to win the $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares by 3/4 length over Pampered Princess. Shady Woman was third. Personal Legend, a 5-year-old daughter of Awesome Again, covered 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.12 with Jerry Bailey aboard.
And in the day's final stake at Calder, Lady in Pink led most of the way to win the $50,000 Happy New Year Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths over Running Bobcats. Lady in Pink, a Florida-bred daughter of Double Honor, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on "good" turf in 56.43 seconds.
In other weekend racing:
Truly a Judge was judged best by the bettors before Saturday's $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap and the verdict proved that a correct decision. Truly a Judge, a 7-year-old Judge T C gelding, sat just behind the early pace, got to the lead turning for home and held on to win by a length over Star Cross. Continental Red was third. Truly a Judge ran 9 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:48.90 with Martin Pedrosa handling the reins. The race originally had been scheduled for the grass.
"This is the best horse we ever claimed," said trainer David Bernstein, who took Truly a Judge for $20,000 on Oct. 8, 2001. "He's earned well over a half a million for us." He said Truly a Judge will try the San Antonio Handicap on Feb 6 "and see where it takes us."
In Sunday's $100,000 El Conejo Handicap, Areyoutalkintome won the pace duel, then won the race, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Hombre Rapido. Woke Up Dreamin was third and the favorite, McCann's Mojave, finished fifth. Areyoutalkintome, a 4-year-old, California-bred son of Smokester, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:02.52 with Tyler Baze riding.
Bank Audit stuck close to the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Interborough Handicap for fillies and mares, took charge turning for home and drew clear to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Mariakel. Belong to Sea was third. Bank Audit, the pari-mutuel favorite, covered the requisite 6 furlongs in 1:10.55. She is a 4-year-old daughter of Wild Rush, bred in Virginia.
In Sunday's $75,000 Ruthless Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Megascape surged quickly to the lead and drew clear, winning by 3 lengths, ridden out. Pelham Bay was second, Academy Brass third and Dancin On Broadway fourth and last. Megascape, a New York-bred daughter of Cape Canaveral, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.45.
More Moonlight fought with Hot Storm for the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Letellier Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, took command with a furlong to go and drew clear to win by 3 1/4 length. Hot Storm held second and Steal the Show was third. Galactic Cat completed the order of finish. More Moonlight, a Kentucky-bred filly by More Than Ready, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.81 with Donnie Meche riding.
Golden Gate Fields
Jake Skate drew clear in the stretch to win Saturday's $75,000 Lafayette Handicap by 3 lengths over Adreamisborn. Yougottawanna was third and Motel Staff completed the order of finish. Jake Skate, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Arch, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:35.73.
More Smoke grabbed a big lead in Saturday's $50,000 Dancing Count Stakes for 3-year-olds and then easily held on to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Timely Impulse. Primal Storm was third. More Smoke, a Kentucky-bred son of Smoke Glacken, ran 6 furlongs under Mario Pino in 1:11.81. Monster Chaser was a late scratch. More Smoke now has won three of four lifetime starts.
"It looks like he could go on and be nice," said Pino.
Friday, a well-bred youngster -- Legal Control -- won the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship in convincing fashion. The son of 1995 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Thunder Gulch tracked the pace, moved when asked by jockey Jozbin Santana, and scooted home first by 2 1/2 lengths over Monster Chaser. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:42.61. "I'm not sure he's good enough to go chasing after the Derby preps," said winning trainer Richard Small. "But we'll see."
Tampa Bay Downs
Above the Wind was sent right to the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Pelican Stakes, got clear and never looked back. At the wire, the 8-year-old Island Whirl gelding won by 2 3/4 lengths over Ranger Chance. The favorite, Sing Me Back Home, was third. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.04 - a stakes record. Above the Wind also won the Pelican last year but came into this year's edition off a 3 1/2-month vacation. "We freshened him specifically to come to Tampa," said winning trainer Ron Allen Sr.
Deer Lake stayed close to the lead into the turn in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Cheer Stakes, took the point turning for home and held on to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Private Horde. Saintly Look was third. Deer Lake, a 6-year-old son of Meadowlake, covered 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.58. "I want to win races like this and give him a chance to be a stallion in Indiana or Ohio," said winning trainer Steve Fugitte.
Souris came three-wide on the turn in Sunday's $50,000 Bold Ego Handicap for fillies and mares, took the lead with a sixteenth to go and won by 1 1/4 length over Sandia's Flicka. The favorite, Yet Anothernatalie, was third after leading. Souris, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Defrere, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.01.