But that doesn't mean it's easy. And the latest to discover that hard truth is Folklore, winner of last October's Juvenile Fillies at Belmont Park.
Folklore made her 3-year-old debut on Martin Luther King Day at Santa Anita in the $150,000 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita. Out on the lead, the daughter of Five Star Day set a moderate pace. But when the running started in the stretch, she didn't have enough to hang on for the win -- or even second. Instead, it was Dance Daily, a stablemate in the D. Wayne Lukas Barn, who came along to win by a nose with Talullah Lula just missing. Folklore was third.
"She might have needed the race," Lukas said of Folklore. "The first and second finishers had the recency and that doesn't hurt here. ... I think she got a little late right there at the end. But we'll be back. We'll build off this. I'm not too concerned."
It wasn't even a tough call to the owners for Lukas, which sometimes is the case when stablemates face off and a favorite loses. Both Folklore and Dance Dailey are owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis. As the man said, "Them as has, gets."
In this weekend's races with potential Kentucky Oaks impact:
-- Mighty Martha got to the front early in Saturday's $50,000 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park and extended her advantage through the stretch, winning by 5 1/2 lengths. Anna Dana was second and Money Code third. Mighty Martha, a daughter of Chester House, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:20.20 with Jason Lumpkins up. "Our plan wasn't to go to the lead today," said winning trainer Eric Reed. "It was kind of to sit off of it. But nobody broke really good, is what I think happened." He said he will consult with the owner before deciding on the filly's next race.
-- At Tampa Bay Downs, Sweet Fervor rallied from the back of the pack, came five-wide into the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $60,000 Gasparilla Stakes by 7 lengths. Sparkling Pink was second with an even effort and Taylor Madison was third. Sweet Fervor, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Seeking the Gold, got the 7 furlongs in 1:23.78 with T. Houghton aboard. She has two wins in two starts. Winning trainer Bill Mott said Sweet Fervor "looked like she'd be ready to run in a 7-furlong stakes. I always had high expectations for her." He said the filly may start next in the March 18 Florida Oaks.
-- Seam Seeker allowed Cinderella Liberty to set the pace in Saturday's $75,000 Burlingame Handicap at Bay Meadows in California, got the lead on the second turn and held on to win by 2 lengths over Crystal Event. Elusive Air was third. Make Mine Minnie, the favorite, never got going and finished last of six. Seam Seeker is a California-bred daughter of Bertrando. She finished 1 mile on a "wet-fast" track in 1:35.81 with Joe Castro up.
-- Sunday at Gulfstream Park, a Storm Cat filly named Burmilla drew off convincingly in the stretch run to win a Maiden Special Weight at 6 furlongs. Burmilla, owned by Darley Stable and trained by Eoin Harty, got home first by 4 1/2 lengths, covering 6 furlongs in 1:10.01.
-- Peppers Pride (an appropriate name for a New Mexico-bred), caught pace-setting Zzzs Ghost in the final sixteenth and went on to win Saturday's $125,000 La Senora Handicap at Sunland Park by 1 1/4 lengths. The Desert God filly, with Carlos Madeira up for trainer Joel Marr, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.29.
-- And back at Louisiana Downs among the state-breds, Grand Facile got a lead in the stretch and held it to win the $100,000 Crescent City Oaks by 1 1/2 lengths over Leesa Lee. Carl's Frosty was third. Grand Facile is a daughter of Zuppardo's Prince. She ran 1 1/16 mile on the sloppy, sealed main track in 1:48.19.
In Potential Kentucky Derby developments ...
-- Kingsfield had things all his own way in Sunday's $75,000 Black Gold Stakes at the Fair Grounds meeting at Louisiana Downs. Starting on the rail, the Kentucky-bred son of Ecton Park was quickly on the pace and drew off to win by 5 1/2 lengths over Warwick Wonder. Lemonbuster was third. Kingsfield, trained by Thad Keller, ran 1 mile and 70 yards in 1:45.64 under Robby Albarado.
-- Nob Hill Deelite rallied on the outside through the stretch run in Saturday's $100,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-breds at the Fair Grounds meeting, catching Big Herm in the last yards to win by a head. Willtosucceed, in the mix all the way, was another neck back in third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:46.14 on a fast track with Elvis Perrodin in the irons. Nob Hill Deelite is a chestnut son of Afternoon Deelites.
In other weekend racing:
Fair Grounds at Louisiana Downs
Fort Prado was just up in the late going in Saturday's $200,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, beating pace-setter Onthedeanslist by a neck. Waupaca rallied from last to take third, another 1/2 length back. Fort Prado, a 5-year-old Illinois-bred by El Prado, ran second to Onthedeanslist in last month's Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap. "Last time, I left him a little more work to do," said winning rider Robby Albarado and (Onthedeanslist) got a little bit of an uncontested lead up there. Today, Sampson's Son pressed him a little bit, enough to soften him up." Fort Prado ran the 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:43.16.
All Wired Up led from the git-go in Saturday's $100,000 Lagniappe Sprint Stakes for state-breds, winning by an easy 4 1/4 lengths over Meteor Impact. Zarb's Luck finished third. All Wired Up, a 4-year-old colt by Wire Me Collect, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.77 under Marlon St. Julien.
The Beter Man Can also had things all her way in the $100,000 Lagniappe Ladies Stakes, dueling for the lead and then opening up to win by 2 lengths over Catlaan. Raspberry Wine was third. The Beter Man Can, a 4-year-old Lord Avie filly, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.85.
Sunday, Destiny Calls won the $100,000 Lagniappe Ladies Sprint by 3 lengths, rallying by pace-setter Kool K.J. at the top of the lane. Crypto Em rallied to be second and Kook K.J. held third. Destiny Calls, a 6-year-old With Approval mare, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:05.16 for James Graham.
And in the $100,000 Lagniappe Classic, Nitro Chip won a stretch duel with Prince T., prevailing by 1/2 length. Badtotheboneandrew was third. Nitro Chip, a 5-year-old Finest Hour gelding, got the 1 1/16 mile on sloppy going in 1:46.51.
Smokey Glacken stalked the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 First Lady Handicap, moved to the lead with a quarter mile to go and drew off, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Kuanyan. So Much More (at odds of 126-1) rallied for third, missing second by only a neck. Smokey Glacken, a 5-year-old daughter of Forestry, finished the 6 furlongs in 1:08.98 with Javier Castellano providing the urging. Smokey Glacken was coming back from a nearly 3-month vacation. She was third in the First Flight Handicap at Belmont Park on Oct. 30 in her last outing. She now has eight wins from 16 lifetime starts. "She come from off it but not far off it," said winning trainer James Jerkens. "The way the race happened was perfect. She broke sharp and was able to sit. I was really confident on the far turn because Javier hadn't really cut her loose."
He's 8 years old and had only one race in the past 14 months. But that didn't prevent The Tin Man from stepping up to win Sunday's $150,000, Grade II San Marcos Stakes by 1 length over Milk It Mick. Whilly was third. The Tin Man ran 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:58.39. Trainer Richard Mandella has had trouble getting The Tin Man, an Affirmed gelding, to the races with any regularity. "How happy am I?" asked Mandella, who has only three wins at the meeting. "Considering the terrible meet I'm having here, I'd let this horse sleep in my own bed if I had to." The allowance "prep" for the San Marcos was another of the three victories Mandella has to his credit this term.
Major Success, more experienced at a distance of ground, found good success at the 6 furlongs of Saturday's $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap. The 5-year-old son of Mazel Trick sat right behind the early pace set by Attila's Storm, was sent between horses in the stretch run by jockey Tyler Baze and prevailed by a neck. Jet West was second. Attilla's Storm, the favorite after finishing fourth in the Breeder's Cup Sprint last fall, held on for third. "He was beaten, he came back," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. Frankel added he sent Major Success sprinting because, "You want to know the truth, there's no other races for him." He now has won three straight going short. Frankel, by the way, is closing in on Charlie Whittingham's record 869 Santa Anita wins. Frankel now has 869. In stakes races, however, Frankel's second-place mark of 116 victories is still far short of Whittingham's 204.
In Saturday's $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap, Happy Hunting put away pace-setter Mr. Whitestone after a long duel, then held on to win by 1 length over Evening Attire. Mr. Whitestone held on for third. Happy Hunting, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Seeking the Gold, ran 1 1/16 mile on the inner track in 1:44.56 with Norberto Arroyo in the irons.
Sam Houston Race Park
Middleweight rallied three-wide on the turn in Saturday night's $100,000 Maxxam Gold Cup and went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Matched. Seainsky was third and the favorite, Pass Rush, faded to finish fifth after leading for much of the 9-furlong event. Middleweight, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Grand Slam, finished in 1:52.02 under Gerard Melancon. Albert Stall Jr. is the winning trainer.
Flame of Love dominated Saturday's $60,000 What A Summer Stakes for fillies and mares, running away to a 10 1/2-length victory. Spirited Game beat the rest and See Alice was third. Flame of Love, a 6-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Not For Love, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.36. Jozbin Santana had the winning ride for trainer Scott Lake. "She broke really sharp and was into the bit the whole way around," said Santana.
More Moonlight opened up a daylight lead in Saturday's $50,000 American Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares, then held on to win by 1/2 length over odds-on favorite Josh's Madelyn. Immune to Gloom was third. More Moonlight is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of More Than Ready. She covered the 6 furlongs in 1:11.17 under Luis Quinonez.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club kicked off its Triple Crown series with Sunday's Stewards' Cup. Russian Pearl, with a solid fourth place in the Hong Kong Cup under his belt, had just enough to get home first this time, besting Best Gift by a short head. The Duke was third. Russian Pearl has sustained a string of injuries, limiting his racing opportunities. Despite that, he was Mercedes Benz Hong Kong Derby last spring and followed that with a third in the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup before going down for repairs. December's Cup effort was his first outing in eight months. "He's had all those injury problems before," said trainer Tony Cruz, "so I just hope he pulls up well and is sound in the morning. If that's all good, he will go next for the Hong Kong Gold Cup and then attempt the Dubai Duty Free late in march -- the first leg of the Asian Mile Challenge."
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