A race is supposed to make it clear to everyone which horse is best. That wasn't the case after Saturday's eventful $500,000 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.
Mongoose got the perfect trip in a full field of 14 starters. Under Edgar Prado, the Broad Brush colt saved ground through the first turn and down the backstretch behind Keats and Ubiquity, came out to take the lead on the turn and then just held off Red Bullet to win by a neck.
For Red Bullet and his rider, Jerry Bailey, the trip was the opposite of perfect. Red Bullet broke in the air, losing three lengths to the field. Bailey worked him into contention down the backstretch but had to alter course suddenly when Keats stopped badly right in front of him.
While the move got Red Bullet into the clear, it shut out Rize, who was right behind and to the outside of Red Bullet. Rize's rider, Jose Santos, claimed foul and it didn't take the stewards long to uphold the claim. Kiss a Native, who finished third, was promoted to second. Rize moved up from fourth to third and Red Bullet, the property of Gulfstream owner Frank Stronach, was set down to fourth.
"There is no doubt in my mind that he was the best horse," Red Bullet's trainer, Joe Orseno, said Sunday. "To overcome the bad start he had, then he had that trouble in the backstretch and he still almost won the race."
Rize's trainer, Norman Pointer, had a similar point. "I think I might have had the best horse in the Donn," he said Sunday. "My horse threw his head in the air and almost unseated Jose when Red Bullet came out in front of him on the backstretch. It stopped my horse's momentum and then when he got to running again, he had to race wide."
But as the losers sat around singing, "Shut up and deal," winning trainer H. James Bond was sitting back, enjoying his accomplishments. Not only was Mongoose the winner, but his stablemate, Ubiquity, had recovered completely from heat exhaustion suffered after setting the early pace in the Donn.
"Right now, we're just going to enjoy today after yesterday's big win and we're going to go forward from there," said Bond, declining to map out a firm schedule for his charges. "It's a long season and there will be plenty of opportunities for both horses."
Mongoose now has beaten the winner of a Triple Crown race in each of his last two starts. He beat Red Bullet, the 2000 Preakness victor, Saturday, and 2001 Kentucky Derby champ Monarchos in an allowance race last month.
Kentucky Derby preps
And speaking of the Triple Crown, West Coast trainer Jerry Hollendorfer suddenly is holding a hot hand. Hollendorfer won the $75,000 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Friday with U S S Tinosa, then came right back to run 1-2 in Sunday's $55,000 Golden State Mile at Golden Gate Fields with Cappuchino and Yougottawanna.
"There are no standouts among the 3-year-olds," Hollendorfer said in a bit of an overstatement, "and our horses are consistent. We think they'll fit in well."
He said Cappuchino, who won by 2 ½ lengths under a hand ride in the Golden State Mile, likely will face his stablemate again in the El Camino Real Derby on March 9 at Golden Gate. U S S Tinosa, the easiest of winners against statebreds in the Sham, may point for the San Felipe Stakes March 17 at Santa Anita. And yet another Hollendorfer charge, Metatron, is aiming for the March 2 San Rafael Stakes.
In New York, Saratoga Blues put away six rivals in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Whirlaway Stakes, winning by 2 lengths over D' Coach, who then was disqualified for stretch interference and set down to third behind Smoked Em.
"I'll try to find something that fits him realistically," winning trainer Anthony Dutrow said of Saratoga Blues. "I think he's a two-turn horse and I want to keep him around two turns." Dutrow said the March 10 Louisiana Derby is a possibility.
Next weekend: Saturday's Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream will sort out the Florida Derby contenders. Sunday's Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds will do the same for the Louisiana Derby prospects.
In other weekend racing:
It was no 33-length romp like her maiden victory out east, by Summer Colony got the job done in her first major California test in Saturday's $200,000 La Canada Stakes. With Gary Stevens up, the Summer Squall filly sat behind the early leaders, then gained command a furlong out and won by 1 length over Azeri. Ask Me No Secrets got home third. Summer Colony rolled over 9 furlongs in 1:49.26. "She hadn't faced this kind before," Stevens said. "Even when they win like she's been winning, there's still a question if they're for real. And I think she just proved that she is." Summer Colony now has won six straight races, after losing her first six starts. "She's a really, really classy filly," Stevens added.
In Sunday's $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, You rallied nicely into the lane and got home first, 1 length ahead of Habibti, who got a slow start. Tali'sluckybusride was third. You, a Kentucky-bred daughter of You and I, got the 1 mile in 1:36.84. Winning rider Jerry Bailey said he kept You in the race, knowing she could stalk the speed. "She responded well in the stretch and it was a good win for her," he added. Trainer Bobby Frankel said Bailey "could have had a better trip, but it doesn't always work out perfect."
Valhol took a major step forward with an easy, 2 ½-length victory in Sunday's $125,000 Whirlaway Handicap. With Robby Albarado up for the first time, Valhol grabbed the lead for good at the top of the stretch and finished in 1:42 4/5 -- the best time of the meet for 1 1/16 mile. Parade Leader was second. "It's kind of scary because since he's got here, he's been training almost too well," said trainer Dallas Keen. Albarado said Valhol "places himself on his own," and credited Keene with preparing him. Valhol won he Tenacious Handicap in December and last month got home third in the Diplomat Way.
Saturday, Hallowed Dreams suffered her second straight loss, coming up short ¾ length short of My Brent's Diamond in the $75,000 Pan Zaretta Handicap. Hallowed Dreams was forced by Serena's Tune through the early furlongs, leaving them both easier prey for the closer. "The race just sorted out for me," said winning rider Frank Lovato. "All I had to do was sit there and wait." Still, he said, Hallowed Dreams is "quite a challenge to get by. It wasn't that easy." Hallowed Dreams has won 25 of her 29 starts. This is the first time she has lost two straight.
Fappie's Notebook rallied to the leaders around the turn in Sunday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap, battled to the wire inside Twilight Road, then put a head in front in time for the wire. Binthebest was third, well behind the first pair. Fappie's Notebook, a 5-year-old son of Notebook, ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.19 for jockey Jorge Chavez. "There was a lot of speed today, so the plan was to come from off the pace," said Chavez. That part was fine, he added, but, "The last sixteenth, I wasn't sure and I was very happy to see that other horse (Twilight Road) drift out." Winning trainer Manny Tortora, celebrating his 66th birthday, said to look for Fappie's Notebook to return in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship on March 9.
On Friday, Miss Linda had little trouble winning the $100,000 Sabin Handicap for fillies and mares. The 5-year-old Southern Halo mare set the pace and took flight in the stretch, winning by 4 ¼ lengths over Forest Secrets. Tap dance was third. Miss Linda, with Richard Migliore in for the ride, needed 1:42.61 to finish the 1 1/16 mile.
Golden Gate Fields
Decarchy got room to run on the inside at the top of the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $100,000 Tanforan Handicap by 2 lengths over Ninebanks. Takin It Deep finished third as a 67-1 longshot but then was demoted to seventh for interference. Decarchy, a 5-year-old Juddmonte Farms homebred by Distant View, raced the 1 1/16 mile on good turf in 1:44.25.
Tampa Bay Downs
Chausson Poire kept after pace-setting Kelly Bag in Saturday's $75,000 Endeavour Stakes until she wore her down, then went by and won by 1 length. Kelly Bag held second with Golden Antigua third. Chasusson Poire, a 4-year-old daughter of Northern Lights, raced 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:50.40.
Magic Weisner retreated to the back of the field in Saturday's $60,000 Goss Stryker Stakes before roaring down the stretch on the outside to score a 2-length victory. Majestic Sir was second and Radio One third. The favorite, The Sewickley Kid, who scratched out of Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes in favor of the restricted Goss Stryker, finished fourth. "I had planned to sit back and take a run at them," said winning jockey Phil Teator, "so it worked out perfectly for us."
Miss Pickums picked 'em up and laid 'em down on the far turn in Saturday's $50,000 Likely Exchange Stakes, surging clear of her 10 rivals and drawing off to win by 3 ¾ lengths over the favorite, Seven Four Seven. Growth Stock was third. Miss Pickums, trained by Paul McGee, finished the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:37.18. She is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred, by Afternoon Delites.
Spanish Glitter proved that some glitter really is gold with a 5 ¾-length victory as the favorite in Saturday's $50,000 American Beauty Stakes for fillies and mares. The Glitterman filly battled Naturalingredients into submission in the first half mile, then opened up a daylight lead and brooked no further challenge. Southern Tour was second under the wire, with Sweet and Firm third. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.95.