When Lost in the Fog failed in his first try in top company in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, he left a question mark about who really is the top sprinter of 2005.
Certainly, Lost in the Fog is the likely candidate for the Eclipse Award after winning all 10 of his prior starts, eight of them this year, and traveling all over the country during the streak. Trainer Greg Gilchrist also brought the 3-year-old son of Lost Soldier to Saratoga, where he won the King's Bishop.
But his only races against older horses were the Breeders' Cup and a total mismatch at Bay Meadows on Oct. 1 -- a race Gilchrist chose as an alternative to the Grade I Vosburgh, contested on the same day at Belmont Park.
Now, that's a complicating factor for those who would play the game of "so-and-so beat such-and-such and then such-and-such beat those other guys, so ..." a trio of talented pussycats showed up in the Vosburgh and, even though Taste of Paradise won that race by 2 lengths, Tiger Heart finished second, Lion Tamer was third and I'm the Tiger finished a good fifth.
Four weeks later in the main event, Taste of Paradise ran second to Silver Train, with Lion Tamer third and Lost in the Fog a fading seventh.
I'm the Tiger and Tiger Heart were no-shows for the Breeders' Cup. But Saturday, that duo finished 1-2 in the Grade I Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park in Maryland. Elusive Jazz, who ran fifth in the Breeders' Cup, was sixth in the DeFrancis.
I'm the Tiger, a 5-year-old gelding by Siphon, with Jerry Bailey up, went right to the lead and pretty easily drew clear when asked at the top of the stretch, winning by 3 1/4 lengths. Clever Electrician was third, 1/2 length behind Tiger Heart. The 6 furlongs went in 1:09.06.
Making only his fourth start of the year, I'm the Tiger posted his first win of 2005. He finished second in the A.G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga, behind Pomeroy.
Bailey said I'm the Tiger, owned by Stronach Stables, "was totally in command of this race at every pole."
"I was planning to run him in this race all along because he was not nominated for the Breeders' Cup," explained winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "I had not seen him until he came down from Canada. And, when I did see him, I knew he was a very nice horse. He's definitely one of the top five sprinters in the country although I think Lost in the Fog will be sprinter of the year."
It would be hard to vote against a horse who won eight straight races during the year, no matter what.
The DeFrancis was the highlight of an eight-stakes card composing Laurel's Fall Festival of Racing. Other results:
-- Barbaro posted the mildest of upsets in the $125,00 Laurel Futurity, moving to the lead at the quarter pole after a pace-pressing trip and drawing off to win by 8 lengths over Diabolical. Exton was third and the favorite, Wedding Singer, was sixth after a tough trip. Barbaro, a Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.17 for Jose Caraballo. "We thought he was a good horse from day one," said winning trainer Michael Matz. "He's living up to that expectation. I think we have to try him on the dirt at some time. ... This horse makes me shiver when I see him work on the dirt."
-- J'ray, with Jerry Bailey riding, came wide into the stretch in the $125,000 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and shook clear to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Nice Nelly. Rasta Farian was third. J'ray, a New York-bred filly by Distant View, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:41.87. Virginia Dipasquale, assistant to winning trainer Tod Pletcher, said J'ray is "a little horse with a big heart. She's shown the desire to compete from day one, but two stakes wins in a row does come as a little bit of a surprise."
-- Trickle of Gold took the early lead in the $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and made the advantage hold up, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Sticky. Lexi Star was third. Trickle of Gold, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Formal Gold, ran 1 mile on the fast main track in 1:37.01 with Jeremy Rose in the irons.
-- Princess Polonia came from off the pace to upset the $75,000 Stefanita Stakes for fillies and mares by 3 lengths over Traci Girl. The odds-on choice, Sensibly Chic, was third. Princess Polonia, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of El Prado, got the 7 furlongs in 1:24.27 with Ramon Dominguez up.
-- The $75,000 April Run Stakes for fillies and mares produced another upset as Smart N Classy rallied from well back to win by a neck over Art Fan at nearly 15-1 odds. Moon Dazzle was third and the favorite, Dynamia, finished 10th of 13. Smart N Classy is a 5-year-old, New Jersey-bred mare by Smart Strike. Jose Velez Jr. steered her over 9 furlongs of firm turf in 1:47.96.
-- Bailey picked up another win in the $75,000 Laurel Turf Cup, bringing Dreadnaught from the back of the field to win by a head over Major Rhythm. Patrol was third. Dreadnaught, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Lac Ouimet, ran 9 furlongs on the green course in 1:47.50.
In other weekend racing:
Silent Witness and Cape of Good Hope sat out Sunday's Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial at Sha Tin in Hong Kong. That opened up the way for Planet Ruler to post his first victory over 1,000 meters, Planet Ruler stayed close to the pace under Gerald Mosse, got to the front with less than a furlong to go and held off the challenge of Able Prince. Although he is not nominated to the Dec. 11 Hong Kong Sprint, trainer Almond Lee said Planet Ruler will be supplemented before the close of entries Tuesday.
Also Sunday, Dave's Best, at odds of 78-1, beat Hong Kong's champion miler, Bullish Luck by a neck in the Cathay Pacific International Mile Trial. Getting 22 pounds from the champ, Dave's Best rallied from the back of the field under Dwayne Dunn, surprising even his trainer, Dennis Yip Chor-hong. "I thought he would run well," the trainer said. "But I wasn't expecting Dave's Best to win." Nonetheless, he said he would gladly bring the horse back next month if Dave's Best is selected for the Hong Kong Mile.
Your Tent or Mine rallied past pace-setter Da Stoops to win Saturday's $100,000 Hollywood Prevue Stakes for 2-year-olds and remain undefeated in two starts. The Forest Camp colt, under Patrick Valenzuela, won off by 2 1/2 lengths after willingly going between horses to the lead with a furlong to run. The Pharoh was third and the favorite, Old Thunder, was a quiet fourth. Bengal Lore completed the order of finish. Your Tent or Mine ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.12. "I like the fact that Patrick took him through there," said winning trainer Neil Drysdale. "He's got a great attitude. ... He's very relaxed. He acts very seasoned." Drysdale said if all remains well with the colt, he will run back in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 17.
Sunday, Private World was headed in the stretch run in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes for 2-year-old fillies but battled back to win by a nose over True Xena and remain undefeated in three starts. Cotton Bay was third. Private World, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Thunder Gulch, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.39 with Kent Desormeaux up. "She was lucky to win," said Desormeaux, blaming himself for sending the filly too early. "She did a very good job to battle on."
Sundrop was eased in last month's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and vanned off the Belmont Park track. But trainer Saeed bin Suroor found nothing wrong with the Japanese-bred daughter of Sunday Silence and wanted to give her one more chance to go out to a broodmare career in a blaze of glory. Sundrop delivered in Saturday's $150,000 Cardinal Handicap, rallying to the lead with a quarter-mile to go and winning by 1 length over Delta Princess. Finery was third and the lukewarm favorite, Movie Star, finished an even fourth. Sundrop ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:37.99 with Mark Guidry aboard. Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee said in the Breeders' Cup, jockey Frankie Dettori "just thought that she felt wrong behind, that she took a bad step behind, and just eased her up. She was making a nice run in that Breeders' Cup." But, he noted, "She did a real good piece of work the other day at Belmont that most people might not have noticed. She worked 0:59 and change on the dirt, which is a really good work for a turf filly." Mettee said Godolphin is sending Sundrop to Johabell Farm for breeding.
In Sunday's $150,000 River City Handicap, America Alive took his time getting going and just got up at the wire to nip G P Fleet for the win. Shaniko was third. America Alive, a 4-year-old son of American Chance, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.78 under Robby Albarado. "I was in the pocket the whole way," Albarado said, "and I only had a few horses in front of me. So I always had my sights on where to go with him. When I did turn it on - bang!" It was the eight victory from 20 starts for America Alive.
Evening Attire caught West Virginia at the wire to win Saturday's $100,000 Stuyvesant Handicap by a neck. The favorite, Aggadan, led but faded to finish third, another 3/4 length back. Evening Attire, a 7-year-old gelding by Black Tie Affair, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.38 with Jose Santos up for trainer Patrick Kelly. "When he is up there, stalking horses, he is happy," said Kelly. "I was glad to see him up there. ... He likes the two turns. He is not done yet. He is hanging in there. He is a tough son of a gun and he is a nice horse." Evening Attire now has 12 wins and 12 seconds from 45 lifetime starts and career earnings of $2,483,352.
Sunday, Miraculous Miss remained undefeated with a come-from-behind victory in the $100,000 Valley Stream Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The Kentucky-bred daughter of Mr. Greeley raced last of five under Ramon Dominguez, then came wide into the stretch and got loose, winning by 2 lengths over Diamond Spirit. The favorite, India, finished third. The 6 furlongs took 1:11.13 over a track rated "fast." "She had a lot of ground to make up," said winning trainer and part-owner Steve Klesaris. "But she's got a tremendous late kick ... I like this filly very much." He said Miraculous Miss will winter in the south.
Cryptograph was no puzzle for the Toronto fans in Saturday's $150,000 (Canadian) Woodbine Slots Cup. Sent to the post as the pari-mutuel favorite, the 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Cryptoclearance bided his time under Todd Kabel, came through traffic on the turn and took charge in the stretch, winning off by 2 1/2 lengths. Niigon, the 2004 Queen's Plate hero, was second and Powerful Touch was third. Cryptograph negotiated the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43.96. "It looked like there was going to be a hot pace in here," said Kabel. "But nobody really pushed the pace. That put us just in behind, stalking perfectly, and when I called on him, he just exploded."
Top Notch Lady upset Sunday's $125,000 (Canadian) Glorious Song Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, rallying four-wide to beat Angel On Watch by a neck. The favorite, Gumboots, led for a time and held on to finish third, just another neck back. Top Notch Lady, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Sultry Song, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.86 with Raymond Saboruin in the irons.
Iosilver, from the versatile Chris Block barn, invaded to take Saturday's $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile in what amounted to a paid workout. Breaking sharply from the inside gate under Eusebio Razo Jr., the 4-year-old, Maryland-bred son of Silver Ghost quickly left a half-dozen rivals in his wake and was 16 lengths in front at the wire. Artemus Sunrise was second, 1/2 length ahead of Private Horde. Iosilver got the 1 mile over a fast track in 1:37.52 with Razo providing encouragement through the stretch.
Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs
Odds-on favorite Desert Wheat rallied from mid-pack to win Saturday's $50,000 Gentilly Stakes for Louisiana-bred 2-year-olds by 4 lengths as Fair Grounds began its abbreviated, transplanted season. Willtosucceed and Waystogeaux also came from off the pace to finish second and third, respectively. Desert Wheat, a bay son of Wheaton, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.22 with Elvis Perrodin riding.
In Sunday's $50,000 Sarah Lane's Oates Handicap for state-bred 2-year-old fillies, Leestown Light got to the lead at the top of the stretch and held on to beat Royal Madame by a head. Supreme Trick was third and the favorite, McKella, finished fourth. Leestown Light, a daughter of Leestown, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.59.
Escrow Acount caught Valay Night in deep stretch to win Saturday's $50,000 Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes for state-bred 2-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths. The favorite, Evening Meadow, was 2 lengths farther back in third. Escrow Account is by Patton. Nick Santagata rode for trainer Tim Kreiser. The 7 furlongs went in 1:26.41.
Sam Houston Race Park
The $100,000 Star of Texas headlined Saturday's multiple-stakes card for Texas-breds and Dixie Meister was the master of the marquee. After pressing the pace, the 3-year-old son of Holzmeister rallied three-wide into the stretch and drew clear, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Agrivating General. Dreamsandvisions was third. Dixie Meister, with Roman Chapa in the irons, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44.95.
In the co-featured $75,000 Martanza Stakes for state-bred fillies and mares, Slewpy's Storm stormed right to the lead and didn't look back, winning by an easy 1 1/4 length. Shons Secret was second and Cookin's Cast third. Slewpy's Storm, a 4-year-old Storm Creek filly, ran the 1 mile in 1:40.38 with Larry Taylor handling the reins.