I Want Revenge apparently also wanted a change of surface. And, if that's the case, the dark bay colt could be a major factor in the Kentucky Derby picture.
I Want Revenge shipped in to New York's Aqueduct from the West Coast with a record of just one win from six starts on artificial surfaces. But in Saturday's $250,000 Gotham Stakes over the real dirt of the Big A's inner track, he was a different animal. After contesting the pace with Mr. Fantasy into the stretch run, I Want Revenge simply drew off and won easily, by 8 1/2 lengths. Imperial Council was up for second and Mr. Fantasy, the betting favorite, settled for third.
I Want Revenge, a Kentucky-bred son of Stephen Got Even, ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.65 with Joe Talamo in the irons.
"We thought the dirt would move him up," said winning trainer Jeff Mullins. "I don't know if that's what did it or not. We might have just picked the right spot."
Talamo was more certain. "There is no comparison between real dirt and synthetic," the rider said. "He really took to it. When we went past the three-sixteenths pole, I was smiling. We'll be back in four weeks." The Wood Memorial, last New York prep for the Kentucky Derby, is four weeks away.
The Gotham was the only major Derby prep on the weekend calendar. Next weekend's schedule features the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, the San Felipe at Santa Anita, the Rebel at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas and the Tampa Bay Derby -- all with legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders.
Kentucky Oaks preps
Stardom Bound put in her usual stupendous stretch run in Saturday's $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks but this time she had some unexpected competition in the final yards. At the end, 35-1 shot Third Dawn came within a nose of upsetting last year's juvenile filly champ and two more longshots, Hooh Why and Nan, were only another nose and a neck behind. Stardom Bound, a gray daughter of Tapit, finished the 1 1/16 miles on the all-weather track in 1:43.62 with Mike Smith riding for trainer Bobby Frankel. The tight finish had Frankel and owner Mike Iavarone reconsidering whether to run Stardom Bound back in the Santa Anita Derby with an eye on the Kentucky Derby. "I'm not talking," Frankel said when asked about the April 4 Santa Anita Derby. Iavarone added, "I think she worked pretty hard today against the girls. She's going to have to really prove herself to handle horses like Pioneerof the Nile … If they think they want to go forward, I'm willing to go forward. But she worked pretty hard against girls today."
In other weekend racing:
I Want Revenge thrived on a change of surface off the California artificial tracks but Einstein found his first taste of the synthetic surface just right. The 7-year-old Brazilian-bred got a perfect trip in Saturday's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, stalking the pace, sweeping to the lead on the turn and edging off to win by 1 length over Champs Elysees. Matto Mondo was third as the favorite. Einstein, trained by Helen Pitts Blasi and ridden by Julien Leparoux, ran the 1 1/4 miles on the all-weather track in 2:01.93. "He's a good horse on the turf. He's a good horse on the dirt. He's a good horse on anything," said Leparoux. Pitts said there was every indication Einstein would like the surface. "He was very comfortable with this track from the time he got here," he said. "I worked him on the grass and I galloped him on the grass and he felt very similar on the Pro-Ride." Asked if Einstein, who earned $600,000 in the Big 'Cap, might return for the Breeders' Cup Classic during the Oak Tree meeting on Nov. 7, he said, "It certainly is an option. We'd have to supplement him, but obviously, after today, it's worth doing it."
Gio Ponti and the favorite, Ventura, staged a spirited stretch battle in Saturday's $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile before Gio Ponti prevailed by a nose. Dixie Chatter, who took the lead turning for home, was only 3/4 length behind in third. Gio Ponti, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Tale of the Cat, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.65. Ramon Dominguez rode for trainer Christophe Clement. "I was trying to save ground and I was trying to follow Ventura," Dominguez said. "She was getting a great trip and so were we. My horse is usually on the bridle, but they were going pretty quick so he was nice and relaxed. When Garrett (Gomez on Ventura) asked her to go at the three-eighths, that filly just took off and I didn't know if I could catch her. I showed some emotion at the wire because I still feel bad about getting beat on this horse in the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile Turf, at Monmouth Park) two years ago. He should have won that day and today I feel vindicated."
Sweet August Moon came between horses to take the lead in deep stretch in Saturday's $100,000 Honest Lady Stakes for fillies and mares, then got clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over the favorite, Foxy Danseur. Coco Belle finished third. Sweet August Moon, a 4-year-old, Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Malibu Moon, ran the 6 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:09.1 with John Velazquez in the irons.
April Pride rallied around the stretch turn in Sunday's $70,000 China Doll Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf, got the lead and won off by 2 lengths over Acting Lady. Century Park was third. Saucey Evening, the odds-on favorite off a close third behind Stardom Bound last month in the Las Virgenes Stakes, struggled home fourth, costing some bridge-jumpers in the show pool. April Pride, with David Flores up, ran the 1 mile in 1:35.4. Garrett Gomez, who rode Saucey Evening, said she "kind of went through the motions. I don't have any kind of answers."
Asiatic Boy, runner-up to Curlin in last year's Dubai World Cup, is poised to move up a notch after winning Thursday's Macktoum Challenge III at Nad al-Sheba under Johnny Murtagh. "The Dubai World Cup has been his target ever since last March," said winning trainer Mike De Kock. "That run should have put him spot on."
Front House won Thursday's Dubai City of Gold, the prep for the Dubai Sheema Classic, under Kevin Shea and also trained by De Kock. "She has improved for each of her last two runs and hopefully we can look at the Dubai Sheema Classic now," Shea said.
Let it Rock rolled down the stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Razorback Handicap and got home 3/4 length in front of another late runner, Shim's Pride. Calmantoo finished third and the favorite, Jonesboro, faded late and settled for sixth. Let It Rock, a 4-year-old, Florida-bred colt by Trippi, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.18 under Terry Thompson. Let It Rock came into the race off a third-place finish in the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and now trainer Judi Hicklin said she may look at either the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap on April 4, or the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes later in the Racing Festival of the South. "We couldn't find a race for Let It Rock in Florida," she said. "I always thought we hadn't seen the best of this horse yet and I never doubted he could do it. I'd never saddled a horse in the infield before," she added with a smile. "But I sure have now and it worked out great."
Acoma rallied from far back to win Sunday's $175,000 Azeri Stakes for fillies and mares by a decisive 5 lengths over Bear Now. Devil House was third. Acoma, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Empire Maker, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.55. Julien Leparoux rode for trainer David Carroll. Acoma came into the race off victories on the grass at Keeneland and Churchill Downs and Carroll admitted he was "a little concerned with how she would handle the dirt. But, obviously, that didn't affect her today," he said. He said one of the "main options" for Fair Grounds-based Acoma now is the Apple Blossom back at Oaklawn on April 4.
Ah Day came from last in Saturday's $100,000 Toboggan Stakes, swung six-wide into the stretch and went on to win by a head over Eternal Star. Saint DAimon was third and the favorite, Driven by Success, finished fifth after a bad start. Ah Day, a 6-year-old, Maryland-bred gelding by Malibu Moon, ran the 6 furlongs on the fast inner track in 1:10.28 with Sheldon Russell in the irons.
I Lost My Choo apparently kept all her shoes in Saturday's $100,000 Honey Fox Stakes as the 4-year-old, New York-bred filly caught Flibberjibit near the sixteenth pole and opened up to a 2-lengths victory. Rustic Flame ran well from the back of the pack to finish second, 3/4 length ahead of Flibberjibit. I Lost My Choo, a daughter of Western Expression, ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.4. Jose Lezcano rode for trainer Phil Serpe. The filly won all three of her races at Gulfstream last year but hadn't raced since last August at Saratoga. "She trained great to come back, and obviously likes it down here," Serpe said. "She was three-for-three over the course last year and now she's four-for-four." He said he will look at Keeneland for I Lost My Choo's next start.
Hypocrite stumbled at the start of Saturday's $75,000 Sunshine State Stakes for Florida-breds, recovered and then rallied to win by 3/4 length over odds-on favorite Yesbyjimminy. Hal's My Hope led early, then held third. Hypocrite, a 4-year-old Outofthebox colt, ran the 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:23.4 with Manoel Cruz up.
Peisinoe was quickly on the lead in Sunday's $75,000 Ocala Stakes for Florida-bred fillies and mares and maintained the advantage to the wire, winning by 1 length over Zee Zee. Peach Flambe was the dessert in the trifecta. Peisinoe, a 4-year-old daughter of Yes It's True, ran the 1 mile in 1:37.47 with Jermaine Bridgmohan in the irons. The favorite, So Glitzy, finished fourth.
Gold Wonder was quickly on the lead in Saturday's $60,000 Allen LaCombe Memorial Handicap, turned back a bid from Acting Zippy, then held off Get Rich Quick at the end to win by 3/4 length. Antrim County was third while Acting Zippy faded to finish fourth. Gold Wonder, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Golden Missile, ran the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:38.45. John Jacinto rode for trainer Michelle Lovell.
Tampa Bay Downs
Fierce Wind wore down Fearless Vision in the final strides of a long stretch battle to win Saturday's $65,000 Challenger Stakes by a neck. Paradise Dancer finished third. Fierce Wind, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred colt by Dixie Union, ran the 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:45.01. Daniel Centeno was in the irons.
Kiss With a Twist rallied to the lead near the quarter pole in Saturday's $50,000 Wintergreen Stakes for fillies and mares and won the sprint to the wire by 3/4 length over De Star Xpress. Unspoken Word, the odds-on favorite, led but faded to finish third. Kiss With a Twist, a 5-year-old Lemon Drop Kid mare, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:37.61 with William Troilo riding.