It's unusual these days that the Derby Trial actually turns up a contender for the Kentucky Derby. But that may be the case this year -- depending on how many horses are entered for Saturday's Run for the Roses.
The latecomer would be Don't Get Mad, who finished sixth in the Santa Anita Derby. In Saturday's $100,000 Derby Trial, the son of Stephen Got Even came from last to win by 7 lengths, improving his record at Churchill Downs to three wins in three tries. Gallardo was second and the favorite, Vicarage, was third.
Don't Get Mad is owned by B. Wayne Hughes, who also owns Illinois Derby winner and Kentucky Derby hopeful Greeley's Galaxy. With a week to go before the big race, 21 horses appeared likely to enter for the Kentucky Derby, with Greeley Galaxy on the bubble. If there are no defectors, Hughes likely would not enter Don't Get Mad to ensure Greeley's Galaxy a place in the starting gate.
"Hopefully, both of them can get in," said winning trainer Ron Ellis. "This guy is a fresh horse and I think it would be okay to bring him back in a week. We'll look for a rider for him. If only one of Mr. Hughes's horses gets in, I have a feeling it will be Greeley's Galaxy."
While the Derby Trial was the only weekend race with potential direct bearing on the Derby, two other races could impact other Triple Crown events.
-- Scrappy T moved into contention for the Preakness Stakes with a determined victory in Saturday's $150,000 Withers at Aqueduct in New York. The gelded son of Fit to Fight wore down pace-setting War Plan and went on to win by 1 length over Park Avenue Ball under jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. War Plan held on for third. The 1 mile went in 1:35 3/5. Scrappy T had been on the Kentucky Derby trail until his saddle slipped during an eventful running of the Wood Memorial, after which he finished third in that event. "This is a nice colt," said winning trainer Robert Bailes. "I think he is still learning. He's going to have to learn real quick because we're on our way to Maryland for the Preakness."
-- Hal's Image, a half-brother to 2000 Florida Derby winner Hal's Hope, won Saturday's $100,000 Unbridled Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths over Talented Prince, with Captain Lindsay third. The Florida-bred son of Halo's Image covered the 1 1/16 mile in 1:48.89 under Carlos Olivero. "Before today, he was still eligible for "an other-than' but we've always thought he had ability," said winning trainer Barry Rose. "He's going to the Peakness. We'll ship him up with enough time to work him over the track."
In other weekend racing:
Lone Star Park
High Strike Zone caught pace-setting Yessirgeneralsir with an outside move on the turn for home in Saturday's $300,000 Texas Mile while the favorite, Supah Blitz, got past on the inside. Down the stretch, High Strike Zone had the best of it, beating Supah Blitz to the wire by 1 1/4 lengths. Twilight Road was up for third while Yessirgeneralsir held on for fourth after setting the quick pace. "Our game plan was to lay off the speed and let him come running," said Ricky Faul, up on High Strike Zone. "He did what we wanted him to do today." Supah Blitz's rider, Victor Espinoza, said he "got stuck down on the inside and the track is a little bit deep down there for him. And 1 mile is just a little bit short for him. He prefers more distance." High Strike Zone is a 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding, owned by Don Erickson of Albuquerque, N.M., finished in a smart 1:34.34.
Calder Race Course
Wend sat behind the pace in Saturday's $150,000 Hollywood Wildcat Breeders' Cup Handicap, got to the front when encouraged by jockey Jerry Bailey and won by 5 1/2 lengths over Minge Cove. Hymn of Love was third. Sent off the odds-on favorite, Wend ran 1 1/16 mile on the green course in 1:40.73. She is a 4-year-old Pulpit filly whose career has been delayed by nagging problems. Bailey said the waiting tactics reflected the fact that Wend "is learning to relax and that is making her a better racehorse. Added distance shouldn't be a problem for her since she seems to open up every time she gets to the lead."
Nightmare Affair, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred son of Out of Place, came from off the pace to win Saturday's $75,000 Ponche Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths over Toscani. Paradise Dancer was third and the favorite, Weigelia, finished fourth. Nightmare Affair covered the 6 furlongs in 1:11.65 under Eddie Castro. "I thought there would be plenty of pace in there and I told the jock to let him sit back and come running the last quarter mile," said winning trainer Manny Azpurua. "I think he'll handle races up to a mile."
King of Happiness, coming off a long layoff, stalked the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Inglewood Handicap, got to the front in the stretch and then held off the favorite, Red Fort, by a nose under the wire. Just Wonder was third in the 1 1/16-mile turf event, clocked in 1:40.67. King of Happiness, a 6-year-old son of Spinning world from the Nijinsky II mare Mystery Rays, had Pat Valenzuela up. "I didn't want to hit him," Valenzuela said, "because he was giving it everything he had. But I had to give him that little tap at the end to maybe get that nose on this stablemate." Both King of Happiness and Red Fort are trained by Neil Drysdale. "I would have been happy with a dead heat," the trainer said.
Sunday, Short Route caught favorite Inspiring in the final jumps to win Sunday's $100,000 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Inspiring, under David Flores, fought for the early lead and gained a 1-length advantage turning for home. But when Valenzuela asked her for run, Short Route got to even terms at mid-stretch and won the sprint to the wire. "She was sitting there in the catbird seat," Valenzuela said. "When Flores opened up at the head of the lane, I had plenty of filly to get next to him and my filly outfinished him, outgamed him." Short Route, a daughter of Mud Route, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.99. Off the Richter was third.
Hawthorne Race Course
Illinois Champions Day at Hawthorne Race Course provided a showcase for state-bred animals and jockey Chris Emigh, who won four of the six stakes events, worth $100,000 each. Emigh also was in the money in the other two.
In the Chicagoland Handicap for older sprinters, Emigh took Take Achance On Me out to the early lead and favorite Silver Bid fell 2 lengths short of catching the leader. Shandy was third. Emigh, who picked up the mount late, said the race "was like walking the dog."
The Governor's Lady Handicap had a fitting outcome as Fighting Fever, owned by former Gov. Jim Edgar, came from just off the pace under Emigh to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Dutchie. Deno's Connection was third and the favorite, Synco Peach, never reached contention.
Emigh inherited a victory in the Peach Of It Handicap for fillies and mares. Jaguar City was home first by 6 1/2 lengths but was disqualified and placed last for interference at the start, leaving Emigh and Ms. Lydonia as the official winners. Cashmere Miss was promoted to second and Di's Delight moved up to third. "It's probably not the best way to win a race. But I guess I'll take it," Emigh said.
Emigh's fourth win of the day came in the Lady Hallie Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 furlongs. Emigh broke Pretty Jenny in front, disposed of stalking rival Spanning on the turn and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Li'lbito'sunshine was second and Meadow Bride was third.
"Before the races," Emigh said, "I was kind of complaining that I didn't do very well on Illinois Day (in the past). I guess that changed."
Home of Stars got through an opening in the stretch run and went on to win the Milwaukee Avenue Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths over Magic Doe. Garesche was third. Home of Stars, with James Graham aboard, picked up his sixth win in 17 career starts. And in the Land of Lincoln Stakes for 3-year-old males, Top Kick got to the fore and rode the speed-favoring track to a 4 1/2-length upset victory, improving his record to two wins in two starts. Odds-on favorite Humor at Last was second. "He is a nice colt," said winning rider Uriel Lopez. "Easy to ride and just a nice horse.
Judiths Wild Push made a wild push from last to first to win Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Vigil Stakes. The 2-year-old champion colt in Canada in 2003, Judiths Wild Rush got home 1 1/4 lengths ahead of Mobil, the country's reigning older horse champion. Bit O'Gold, the 3-year-old champion, was third. Judiths Wild Rush, a son of Wild Rush, sat last on purpose, according to jockey Slade Callaghan, then was fortunate to get through to the lead. "We got shuffled back at the three-eighths pole," he said. "But he came running and we got there."
Missile Bay went straight to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Xtra Heat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and eased home a 2 3/4-length winner over Coastal Strike. Partners Due was third. Missile Bay, a daughter of Yes It's True, ran 5 furlongs in 58.58 seconds on a sloppy track with Jose Flores up for trainer Scott Lake. She now has been in the money 10 straight times and won three straight. "She loves the mud," said Flores. "She grabs hold of it like it's turf."
Maddalena, defeated for the first time in her last previous outing, got back to the winner's circle after Saturday's $75,000 Legal Light Stakes. The 3-year-old daughter of Good and Tough overcame some problems at the start to win by 1 length over Platinum, with Broadway Gold third. Maddaldena was fifth in the Forward Gal at Gulfstream last time out. He had won her first three starts before that setback. "She was standing perfect and I was expecting to have a good break and she just broke a little flat-footed," said winning rider Ramon Dominguez. "I understand that is basically what she had done at Gulfstreak Park, so this is the second time she has done it."
Abounding Truth overcame a one-year layoff to win Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Rose Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Wildwood Royal. Glitterbugdancing was third. The race was clocked in stakes-record time of 1:09.31. "She runs good first time every year," said winning trainer Dick Clark. "I didn't think she'd be fit enough to do this but she's a tough mare." Abounding Truth is a 5-year-old daughter of Proudest Romeo.
Finery put in a late rally to catch Changing World and win Saturday's $100,000 Beaugay Handicap for fillies and mares by a neck. Asti finished third. Finery, a 5-year-old daughter of Lear Fan, finished the 1 1/16 mile on the turf in 1:45 2/5. "This filly is very powerful," said winning trainer Billy Turner. "She's been a little slow to mature but it seems like she's come around now. I thought she would be ready off the (five-month) layoff. She was training well."
Wind Water was on fire in Saturday's $58,000 Gregson Foundation Sprint Stakes for 3-year-olds, taking the lead quickly and jetting off to a 5-length victory over Family Guy. Elegant Ice was third. Wind Water, a California-bred son of Bold Badgett, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.06.
Crowned King rallied from last in a five-horse field to win Saturday's $50,000 Alliance Stakes by a neck over Run to the Border, with Northern Scene another neck back in third. The favorite, Mauk Four, led early but then faded to finish last. Crowned King, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Barkerville, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.60 with Luis Quinonez up.