The bay colt, a son of Storm Cat from the A.P. Indy mare She's a Winner, won his last three races as a 2-year-old, then skipped the Breeders' Cup in favor of a three-month rest. Saturday's $125,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs was his 3-year-old debut.
And a good one it was. Bluegrass Cat, with John Velazquez in the irons, stalked the pace, advanced on the turn in textbook fashion and battled hard through the stretch before edging clear to win by 1 1/4 length. Deputy Glitters was second and R Loyal Man was third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:44.17.
"I was in a comfortable position," Velazquez said. "He rated perfectly. He has done everything we have asked him to do so far."
Trainer Todd Pletcher said Bluegrass Cat, off the layoff, "was a fresh horse and ran exactly the way we wanted him to. Our intention is to return for the Tampa Bay Derby."
In other Derby activity:
-- The holiday weekend's other major Kentucky Derby prep, Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, was a victim of the weather. A frozen track forced cancellation of racing Sunday and Monday at the Hot Springs, Ark., oval. The Southwest was rescheduled for this Saturday. Look for Lawyer Ron to go to the post as favorite whenever the event is staged.
-- At Sam Houston Race Course in Texas, Brick Fight brought the right weapon to Saturday night's $125,000 Jim's Orbit Stakes for state-breds. The 42-1 shot stalked odds-on favorite Upstream, seized the lead on the turn for home and drew off, winning by 3 1/2 lengths. Gambling Wolfe beat Upstream by a head for place money. Brick Fight is a son of Rare Brick, trained by Danny Pish and ridden by Quincy Hamilton. He covered the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.80.
In potential Kentucky Oaks preps:
-- Crystal Currant pressed the early pace in Saturday's $60,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, got to the front after 6 furlongs and drew off, winning by 4 1/2 lengths over Saffronista. Taylor Madison led early and held on for third. The 1 1/16 mile went in 1:45.37 over a fast track. Crystal Currant is a Kentucky-bred daughter of A.P. Indy. Bill Mott trains the filly for George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable.
-- Monday, Ring True stalked the pace in the $65,000 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct, got to the front at the top of the stretch and able to hold on to beat Vasa by 1/2 length. The early leader, Pure Disco, was third home. Ring True, a Florida-bred daughter of Is It True, ran 6 furlongs in 1:12.01 for jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. Oprah Winney was a late scratch.
-- In Saturday's $125,000 Two Altazano Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, Chit Chat Pam rallied past pace-setter Kathy's Rocket on the turn, swinging four-wide, then went on to win by 2 lengths. Kathy's Rocket held second and Valor Storm was third. Chit Chat Pam, a daughter of Valid Expectations, ran 1 mile in 1:41.45 with Filemon Rodriguez in the irons.
In other weekend racing:
-- The 2005 Japan Racing Association Champion on dirt, Kane Hekili, is off to a good start in the 2006 racing season. The 4-year-old son of Fuji Kiseki and grandson of Sunday Silence drew off for an easy 3-length victory Sunday in the February Stakes at Fuchu Racecourse in Tokyo. With Yutaka Take up, Kane Hekili raced in mid-pack until the stretch run, then dominated. Seeking the Dia was second and Utopia was third. Kane Hekili now is scheduled to head to Dubai to contest the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba on March 25.
-- Vague got the lead at the top of the straight in Thursday's $250,000 UAE 1000 Guines at Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in Dubai and went on to win by 5 lengths over Rock Opera.
Surf Cat rallied nicely into the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap and drew clear to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Major Success. Oceanus was third. Surf Cat, a 4-year-old son of Sir Cat, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.09 with Alex Solis in the irons. "He's a great horse," said Solis of Surf Cat, who was coming off a five-month layoff. "I think he's going to do better this year. He's more mature. In the past, he was a young horse and a little aggressive. But now he's matured." Trainer Bruce Headley added, "I don't ever tell Alex anything. He's the maestro." Solis won with all four of his mounts on the card.
Sunday's $80,000 Daytona Handicap came off the turf and seven of the original 12 entrants scratched. Best of the rest was Siren Lure, who came along in the stretch run to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Railroad, with Jungle Prince third. Siren Lure, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred gelding by Joyeaux Danseur, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:16.20 under Alex Solis.
Proud Tower Too went right to the front in Sunday's $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap for state-breds, dueled for the lead and then held on to win by 1 length over Thor's Echo. Red Warrior was third. Proud Tower Too, a 4-year-old son of Proud Irish, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a wet-fast track in 1:15.55 with David Cohen aboard.
Monday, Silver Cup came three-wide into the stretch and rallied gamely to catch Elusive Diva and win the $150,000 Buena Vista Handicap by 3/4 length. Mirabilis was third, just a nose farther back. Silver Cup is a 4-year-old, Irish-bred filly by Almutawakel. Victor Espinoza applied the winning ride for trainer Patrick Biancone.
Golden Gate Fields
Last year's Santa Anita Derby winner, Buzzards Bay, flew home nicely in Monday's $150,000 All American Handicap, rallying down the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Melanyhasthepapers. The rest of the field included some other names recognizable from last year's Triple Crown trail: Ace Blue was third, followed by Molengao, Greely's Galaxy and Trickey Trevor. Buzzards Bay, a Florida-bred colt by Marco Bay, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:47.11 with Jose Valdivia Jr. up.
Tampa Bay Downs
My Lordship came off a pace-stalking rail trip on the turn for home in Saturday's $125,000 Endeavour Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares, got to the lead with a furlong to go and won by 1 length over Laurafina. The favorite, Amorama, came from last but could get no closer than third at the end. My Lordship, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Lord Avie, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.26 under Cornelio Velasquez.
Smokey Glacken shot to the front in Saturday's $100,000 Hurricane Bertie Handicap, shook off a couple of pursuers and drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Atlas Valley was second and Beautiful Bets was third. Smokey Glacken, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Forestry, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.47 for jockey Javier Castellano. "I'm not sure what's next," said winning trainer Jimmy Jerkens. "She's really a dyed-in-the-wool sprinter and you don't want to mess with that too much."
Taittinger Rose rallied from last to win Saturday's $100,000 Sabin Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths over Mocita. Darling Daughter was third. Taittinger Rose, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Kentucky Derby runner-up Menifee (behind Charismatic), ran 9 furlogns in 1:50.49 with Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Bill Mott. "It worked out great for me today," said Prado. "The other horses in the race all had a little speed. So I just waited and when I went outside in the stretch, she gave me another gear."
Sunday, Dyna's Destiny rated well of the pace in the $60,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the grass, rallied three-wide on the turn and was just up to beat Delmarva by 3/4 length at the end. Diamond Spirit was third. Dyna's Destiny, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer, ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:39.76 under John Velazquez. All three of her career wins have come on turf.
Your Bluffing, the prohibitive favorite, ran as advertised in Saturday's $100,000 John B. Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap. After rating nicely on the inside, the 5-year-old Pine Bluff gelding came out into the lane, surged to the front and ran off to win by 6 3/4 lengths over Water Cannon. Whats What was third. Your Bluffing, with Mario Pino in the irons, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.30. "I knew anytime he was going to get a clear shot he was going to go on by them," said Pino. "He had a couple extra gears but I didn't want to use them because he had put them away at the top of the lane."
Laurel officials announced Monday the Barbara Fritchie and General George Handicaps will not be run this year because of the equine herpes virus situation in Maryland, which has restricted movement of horses. Maryland Jockey Club President and CEO Lou Raffetto said the decision was tough, but added: "To preserve the integrity, quality and grading of the race, we thought this was the best move to make." The races had been scheduled for the Presidents Day weekend but earlier were moved to later in the season.
Ninety Nine Jack worked through traffic to get the lead at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $125,000 New Mexico State University Handicap for state-breds, then battled to the wire to secure victory by a nose over Some Ghost. Romeos Wilson was just a head farther back in third and the favorite, Rocky Gulch, was fourth. Ninety Nine Jack, a 7-year-old gelding by Jack Wilson, got the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.08 with Casey Lambert up.
Sunday, Dee Dee's Diner tracked the early pace in the $50,000 Czaria Handicap for fillies and mares, got to the front leaving the turn and won by 1 length over Water Park. Red Lifesaver was third. Dee Dee's Diner ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.53 under Ken Tohill.
Like Now was quickly out to a big lead in Saturday's $65,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes for 3-year-olds and had enough left at the end to win by 2 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Sunshine Alpine. Strummer was third. Like Now, a Florida-bred gelding by Jules, set a brisk but sensible pace dictated by jockey Fernando Jara and finished the 6 furlongs in 1:11.80. "Like Now has matured an awful lot," said Art Magnuson, assistant to winning trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "He's turned into a very nice horse."
Sunday, Big Apple Daddy had the best stretch run and won the $65,000 Hollie Hughes Handicap for state-breds by 2 1/4 lengths over Introspect. Melodeeman was third. Big Apple Daddy, a son of Precise End, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.49. Orlando Mojica rode.
Espirit Du Roi, the longest chance in the field, got off to an easy lead in Saturday's $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes and wasn't caught, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over King of Speed -- completing a $237 "all royal" exacta. The favorite, Storm Surge, tried to go with the leader early but didn't have enough steam and settled for third-place money. Espirit Du Roi, a 7-year-old Chilean-bred, ran 1 mile on the all-weather surface in 1:39.86 for jockey Godofredo Laurente. "He really wanted to go and I had to let him run," said Laurente.
Prince T. raced in mid-pack until the second turn in Saturday's $150,000 Louisiana Premier Night Championship Stakes, seized the lead and then just held on to beat Badtotheboneandrew by a neck at the wire. Nitro Chip, the favorite, was well back in third. Prince T is a 4-year-old son of Royal Anthem. He ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.54 under Guy Smith.