Fierce Wind blew into the Kentucky Derby picture with a stretch-running victory in Saturday's $200,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Making his first stakes start for trainer Nick Zito, who already has several other live Derby prospects, Fierce Wind surged to the lead on the turn for home and held on to win by 1/2 length over a more experienced rival, Big Truck. Smooth Air was third and the favorite, Z Humor, faded to finish fifth.
Fierce Wind, a Kentucky-bred son of Dixie Union, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in stakes-record time of 1:44.13 with Cornelio Velasquez riding. He now has three straight wins since shipping to Florida last October.
Velasquez said Fierce Wind is "a very nice horse, I think." But he said his mount "was waiting on the other horses" after making the lead in the Sam F. Davis. "The other horse came at the end, but I had a lot of horse."
Zito assistant Tim Poole added: "This is the time of year when they all start coming out of the woodwork -- start to separate the men from the boys. This is one of those stepping stones. He took a step in the right direction today. Hopefully, we can stay on that path towards the ultimate goal. You all know where that is."
In other races for 3-year-olds:
-- Why Tonto and Cowboy Cat, both from the golden barn of trainer Todd Pletcher, ran 1-2 all the way around in Saturday's $100,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, with Why Tonto posting the upset over his stablemate by 1 1/2 lengths. Cannonball finished third. Why Tonto, a Kentucky-bred colt by Indian Charlie, ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:40.2 under Edgar Prado and now has three wins from eight starts. "Why Tonto ran an improved race today while Cowboy Cal was a little rank and didn't handle the first turn too well, although he still ran a good race to be second after those (quick) fractions," Pletcher said. "I think there are things he (Cowboy Cal) can improve on from here. We'll see how they come back and see where we go from there." He said he still hopes to get Cowboy Cal to the Blue Grass at Keeneland.
-- Poni Colada rallied from last of five to win Saturday's $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico by 8 lengths over Cape Time. No Jeopardy finished third, followed by Capetown Royal and the early pace-setter, Mr. Golden Ruler. Poni Colada, with only mild urging from jockey Alfredo Juarez Jr., ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:47.19. Steve Asmussen trains the Kentucky-bred Volponi colt. "I knew the pace was very fast," said Juarez. "So we sat back and waited. He started rolling really good down the backside. He's a really nice horse." Owner Robert Zollars said the colt may move on to the WinStar Derby next month.
-- Ablaze With Spirit dropped to the rail in deep stretch in Saturday's $125,000 Jim's Orbit Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, then just got up with a late surge to win by 1/2 length over the favorite, Gold Coyote. Summer Ballad was third. The race was restricted to horses nominated and remaining eligible to the Texas Stallion Stakes. Ablaze With Spirit, a son of American Spirit, ran the 1 mile on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:39.97. Shaun Bridgmohan rode for trainer Steve Asmussen.
-- Sea of Pleasure, the odds-on favorite, ran to his notices in Saturday's $55,000 Sophomore Sprint Stakes, drawing clear in the stretch to win by 3 lengths over Topper Shopper. Vadheim finished third. Sea of Pleasure, an Illinois-bred colt by Sea of Secrets, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:09.72 under Russell Baze.
Kentucky Oaks preps
-- Vaulcluse trailed most of the field into the turn in Saturday's $75,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, then challenged for the lead and prevailed after a long drive by 1 length over My Baby Baby. No Use Denying finished third and the favorite, Sunday Holiday, was fifth. Vaulcluse, an Ontario-bred filly by A.P. Indy out of the Dehere mare Betty's Pet, ran the 1 mile and 40 yards on a fast track in 1:39.36 under Eibar Coa. Thomas Albertrani trains. "We could come back here for the (Florida) Oaks," Albertrani said. "We think a lot of her and hopefully she'll turn out to be a nice filly for the (Kentucky) Oaks later on."
-- Sax Appeal stalked the pace in Saturday's $60,000 Happy Ticket Stakes for Louisiana-breds at Fair Grounds, got a clear lead at the top of the stretch and held on to win by a head over stablemate Hisse. Biduadeau finished third. Sax Appeal, a daughter of Successful Appeal, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:11.09 under James Graham.
-- Ready for Fortune came from last of six to win Sunday's $75,000 Dearly Precious Stakes at Aqueduct in New York by a neck over Armonk. True Intentions finished third. Ready for Fortune, a Kentucky-bred daughter of More than Ready, got the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.31 with Mario Pino riding for trainer Gary Contessa.
-- R Charlie's Angel rated behind the lead into the turn in Sunday's $50,000 Island Fashion Stakes at Sunland Park in New Mexico, came to the front three-wide, then drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Snake Proof. Magandalooker finished third and the favorite, Catera, got home fourth. R Charlie's Angel, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Indian Charlie, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.68 for jockey Jorge Bourdieu. Henry Dominguez trains.
-- Classie Baloo rallied from far back to upset Saturday's $125,000 Two Altazano Stakes at Sam Houston Race Park, winning by 3/4 length over pace-setting Surfboard. Island in the Sand was third and the favorite, Ms Classic Seneca, finished seventh, showing little. Classie Baloo, a daughter of Uncle Abbie, ran the 1 mile in 1:43.21 under Perry Whetstone. The race was limited to fillies nominated to the Texas Stallion Stakes series.
In other weekend racing:
Sacred Kingdom's 1 1/2-length victory over Absolute Champion in Sunday's Chairman's Sprint Prize at Sha Tin in Hong Kong sets up a showdown next month with Good Ba Ba in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup. Sunday's victory was a bounce-back for Sacred Kingdom after a disappointing last out. "He's back to his best," said trainer Ricky Yiu. "It was disappointing he lost last time. There was a delay at the start and he became agitated in the gate and missed the kick. Gerald (jockey Gerald Mosse) said the slightly slower track that day also worked against him."
Golden Dawn stalked the pace in Saturday's $225,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap for fillies and mares, then drew off in the stretch to win by 6 lengths over the favorite, Control System. For Kisses ran third. Golden Dawn, a 4-year-old daughter of Hennessey, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.24 with Channing Hill up for trainer Michael Hushion. Golden Dawn was coming off a win in the Fiesta Lady at Aqueduct in her last start and now has three wins from nine career starts. "Her last race was huge and everything pointed to giving this a try," Hushion said. "She trained like a monster." Last year's winner, Oprah Winney, led through the early furlongs Saturday but stopped badly and was eased through the stretch.
Sugar Swirl sat behind a quick early pace in Sunday's $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Handicap for fillies and mares, surged to the lead midway through the turn and won off by 8 3/4 lengths. Change UP was second and Silver Knockers finished third. Sugar Swirl, a 5-year-old, Ontario-bred mare by Touch Gold, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.77 for jockey Javier Castellano. "She's really blossomed as a 5-year-old," said winning trainer Brian Lynch. "She just puts herself into the race when she wants." He said he hopes to bring Sugar Swirl back in the Shirley Jones Handicap at the same distance on March 22.
Tampa Bay Downs
Dreaming of Anna shot right to the lead in Saturday's $150,000 Endeavour Stakes, then held on at the end to win by a nose over Lear's Princess. Meribel was just 3/4 length farther back in third. Dreaming of Anna, a 4-year-old daughter of Rahy, was juvenile filly champion for 2006. Saturday, she ran the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:42.38 under Cornelio Velasquez. Wayne Catalano trains for Frank Calabrese, who said he tried to give his filly a rest on the farm. "She wouldn't stay. She didn't like it," he said. "So we took her back, put her in training and this is what happened. The jockey said she needed a race but she won anyway. We're aiming for the Breeders' Cup." Added Velasquez: "I still think she needed the race."
Surf Cat rallied from a ground-saving trip to win Saturday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap by 1/2 length over Greg's Gold. Soul City Slew finished third. Surf Cat, a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Sir Cat, ran the 7 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:21.62 with Alex Solis up for trainer Bruce Headley. Headley said Surf Cat missed some work during Santa Anita's weather-troubled, early season track woes. "He probably needed his last race," he said. "He had everything his own way today. He had a perfect spot, perfect position and he was ready to go today."
Sunday, Cheroot found room between horses in the stretch run of the $75,000 Daytona Handicap, got to the front and won by a nose over Moth Ball. The favorite, Notional, was just another neck back in third with a late rush from the back of the pack and Tenga Cat was fourth, another head in arrears. Cheroot, a 7-year-old, California-bred son of Smokester, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs down this hillside turf course in 1:12.82. Martin Pedroza had the ride for trainer Darrell Vienna.
Tribesman led into the turn in Saturday's $100,000 Phoenix Gold Cup, then dug in when asked by jockey Chad Schvaneveldt to repulse odds-on favorite Idiot Proof and win by 1 3/4 lengths. Sailors Sunset finished third. Idiot Proof also was second in last October's Breeders' Cup Sprint. Tribesman, a 4-year-old, California-bred son of Tribal Rule, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:07.8. The gelding is trained by Roger Hansen.
Billy Allen rallied to the lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Turf Paradise Handicap and held on gamely to win by 1/2 length over Prorunner. Willow O Wisp was third. Billy Allen, a 7-year-old, Irish-bred son of Night Shift, ran 1 1/16 miles on "good" turf in 1:42.59 with Chris Landeros aboard.
Fleet Caroline was quickly in front in Saturday's $50,000 Sun City Handicap for fillies and mares, clipped along at a moderate pace and then accelerated through the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths over Along Came Jones. Fortunate Event took third. Fleet Caroline is a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred filly by Tejano Run. Alonso Quinonez rode.
Nite Light took the lead in deep stretch and drew clear to win Saturday's $75,000 John B. Campbell Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths over Happy Surprise. Angliana was third. Nite Light, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Thunder Gulch, ran the 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:50.33 under Mike Luzzi. "I was a little unsure if he'd get there," Luzzi said, "but I did kind of get going." The Todd Pletcher-trained colt now has three straight stakes wins and five wins overall from eight career starts.
Gold and Roses pressed the pace set by Whistlin' in Saturday's $75,000 Hollie Hughes Handicap for New York-breds, then finally got by on the outside to win by 3/4 length. Prince of Peace was third with a late move. Gold and Roses, a 6-year-old gelding by Gold Token, ran the 6 furlongs in 1:10.82. Rajiv Maragh rode for trainer Thomas Bush.
Elliecat, off at odds of nearly 80-1, set a pressured pace in Saturday's $60,000 Chou Croute Handicap for fillies and mares, got a daylight lead at the top of the stretch and then held on to win by a neck over the favorite, Unforgotten. Sweetdownthelane was 1 length farther back in third. Elliecat, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Craft Prospector, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.51 under Lonnie Meche. Dallas Keene trains the mare.
Self Made Man made the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes, found another gear when challenged on the stretch turn and got home first, 1 length to the good of Win Me Over. High Blues finished third and the favorite, Jade's Revenge, settled for fourth. Self Made Man, a 4-year-old, New York-bred gelding by Catienus, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.86 with Victor Lebron up for trainer Mike Maker.
Kettleoneup, last of six into the turn, circled most of her rivals entering the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $50,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths. Gasia was second and Clever Strike settled for third after making the pace. Kettleoneup, the odds-on choice, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a sloppy track in 1:45.46 with Calvin Borel riding for trainer Michael Tomlinson.