The ink wasn't even dry on the Kentucky Derby charts and already there was trash talk leading up to the next jewel of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown.
Chief "talkers" were Bobby Frankel and Jerry Bailey - the trainer and rider of Empire Maker, the Derby favorite who was unable to get past Funny Cide in the stretch run of Saturday's 129th Run for the Roses and finished second.
Funny Cide, who was second to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial, easily held his rival at bay in the big race, winning by 1 3/4 length. Another Frankel trainee, Peace Rules, who beat Funny Cide in the Louisiana Derby, finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
Funny Cide became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby and the first gelding to win the race since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.
Frankel, who has never won any Triple Crown race, accepted the outcome but not what it seemed to imply. "I still think he (Empire Maker) is a better horse than that other horse," he said, referring to Funny Cide. "But that doesn't change what happened."
So, if Empire Maker is better than Funny Cide, what happed at Churchill Downs? Bailey provided an explanation.
"I'm going to get criticized for this, I'm sure. But I still think that my horse is much better than those other two," referring to Funny Cide and Peace Rules. "But that doesn't matter at all today. He didn't exactly struggle with the race track. But he had to work harder today to get over it," Bailey said.
Funny Cide's trainer, Barclay Tagg, said he definitely will give his colt a chance at the elusive Triple Crown. "I don't know how I will train him for it," Tagg said. "I will have to do that kind of by feel. We'll see how he is day by day."
Ironically, Frankel indicated he might not give Empire Maker a chance to redeem himself in the May 17 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. "I think I'll run Peace Rules in the Preakness," he said. "The other horse (Empire Maker) - no. I don't know what I'll do with him next."
Frankel has been known to change his mind about these things. After Empire Maker's dominant win in the Florida Derby, he initially said he planned to train the colt up to the Kentucky Derby. Instead, he started him in the Wood. And the Maryland Jockey Club Sunday listed Empire Maker as a Preakness contender.
Others coming out of the Derby with a chance to go to the Preakness are Eye of the Tiger (fifth in the Derby), Buddy Gil (sixth), Domestic Dispute (10th), Scrimshaw (11th), and Indian Express (15th with a troubled trip). Derby Trial winner Midas Eyes also is expected at Pimlico.
As usual, the Derby overshadowed some great racing leading up to it. Among the stakes races at Churchill Downs during Derby week:
--Honor In War, a longshot who had never won a major stakes event, upset the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic with a classic stretch run under jockey David Flores. The 4-year-old son of Lord at War, trained by local conditioner Paul McGee, romped past a good field of grass runners in a final time of 1:46.67. Requete was second and Patrol, the early leader, finished third. With Anticipation, making his first start since finishing second in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf at Arlington Park, finished fifth Saturday.
--Aldebaran was sent off as the heavy favorite in the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap and justified the confidence. After racing well back early, the 5-year-old Mr. Prospector horse rallied on the outside to win going away by 2 ½ lengths over Pass Rush. Cappuchino was third. Aldebaran ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.80.
--In the $100,000 Three Chimneys Juvenile, the first 2-year-old stakes event of the Kentucky racing year, Limehouse found running room on the rail and went through to win by 1 ¼ length over pace-setting longshot El Sysco Kid. East Bay was third and the favorite, Heckle, was a dull fourth. Limehouse, a Florida-bred son of Grand Slam, ran the 5 furlongs in 57.47 seconds, just a tick off the track record.
--Heat Haze rallied from last at the start to win the $100,000 Citgo Distaff Turf Mile by 1 ½ lengths over Quick Tip. Sentimental Value was third. Heat Haze, with Jose Valdiva Jr. up, ran 1 mile over firm turf in 1:33.96. She is a British-bred, 4-year-old daughter of Green Desert. Bobby Frankel continued his tour de force weekend by saddling Heat Haze.
--One race later, Frankel continued his dominance of Derby week by saddling Sightseek to an easy, 4 ½-length win in the $200,000 Humana Distaff. The 4-year-old daughter of Distant View rallied from mid-pack under Jerry Bailey, split horses in mid-stretch and was clearly the best. Gold Mover edged Miss Lodi for second. The 7 furlongs went in 1:22.12.
--Bird Town, an 18-1 outsider, stumbled at the start of the $500,000 Kentucky Oaks but then put in a furious run in the stretch to get home first, 3 ¼ lengths ahead of Santa Catarina. Bird Town, with Edgar Prado riding, was well back when the field passed the finish line for the first time, led by 5-2 favorite Elloluv. But as Elloluv led through stakes-record times at each call, Prado got his filly moving. At the top of the stretch, Santa Catarina moved to the lead and appeared to have every chance to win. But when Prado put Bird Town to the drive, she went by willingly and drew clear. Prado said trainer Nick Zito "told me to get a good position going into the first turn and save something for the end. Unfortunately, none of that happened." Prado said he was fortunate to stay aboard when Bird Town stumbled at the start but did not lose faith and his filly kept to the task until he could get her into position to make her winning move.
-- Bob and Beverly Lewis got a consolation prize when the Kentucky Derby colt that trainer Bob Baffert bought for them, Senor Swinger, instead rallied from mid-pack to win the $100,000 Crown Royal American Turf by 2 ½ lengths over Remind. Foufa's Warrior was third. Senor Swinger, a son of El Prado, wasn't good enough to make it to the Derby but ran the 1 1/16 mile on the green course in a classy 1:41.38 with Pat Day aboard.
--You battled hammer and tongs with longshot Fly Borboleta to the top of the stretch in the $300,000 Louisville Breeders' Cup Handicap, then brushed off that rival and took charge, winning by 7 ¾ lengths. Fly Borboleta held second, with Seven Four Seven third. You, a 4-year-old daughter of You and I, ran 1 1/16 mile under Jerry Bailey in 1:43.21.
-- In the $100,000 Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, Forest Shadows came from well back in the field to catch Unbridled Femme at the wire, winning by a neck. Ebony Breeze was just another neck back in third. Forest Shadows, a Woodman filly, ran 1 mile on firm turf in 1:35.35.
--And in the Aegon Turf Sprint, Fiscally Speaking, at 47-1, ran down the leaders on the outside in the final sixteenth to win by a head over Morluc, with Testify third. Fiscally Speaking, a 4-year-old son of Belong to Me, finished in 56.01 seconds with Jon Court providing the well-timed ride.
--Final Round rolled from off the pace to win the $100,000 La Troienne for 3-year-old fillies by 1 length over Lovely Sage, finishing 7 furlongs in 1:22.13. Jerry Bailey inherited the mount from Pat Day, who was resting his bad back.
-- Full Spectrum took charge at mid-stretch in the $100,000 Mamzelle Stakes for fillies and mares and drew clear to win by 2 ¾ lengths over Senorita Ziggy. Full Spectrum, a 4-year-old daughter of Broad Brush, had Calvin Borel in the irons.
In other weekend racing:
While Funny Cide was boosting the stock of New York-breds at Churchill Downs, Spite the Devil was the best of the 3-year-olds left in New York for Saturday's $150,000 Withers Stakes. Also bred in the Empire State, the Devil His Due colt overcame a stumble at the start, some bumping and a bit of a traffic jam to just get up at the wire and win by a neck over Alysweep. Stanislavsky was third and the favorite, Halo Homewrecker, faded through the stretch to finish sixth. Spite the Devil ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.89 for jockey Luis Chavez. Despite the good showing, "He's not going to be in any Triple Crown races," said winning trainer H. Allen Jerkens. "Maybe he'll run in the Peter Pan or the New York-bred races."
Also Saturday, Delta Princess rallied from well back to capture the $100,000 Beaugay Handicap for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Wonder Again. Voodoo Dancer was third as the heavy favorite. Delta Princess, with Michael Luzzi up, got the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.36.
Sunday, Lord Ofthe Thunder rallied from last to dominate the stretch run in the $75,000 Kings Point Handicap for New York-breds. Lord Ofthe Thunder, a 4-year-old son of Saint Ballado, finished 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Mr. Determined, who led early but lacked the determination to hold the advantage. Union One was third. Javier Castellano had the winning ride for trainer Jennifer Pedersen.
Gondolieri surged to the lead turning for home in Saturday's $100,000 Inglewood Handicap and won by 3 lengths over Truly a Judge. Freefourinternet was third under the wire and Leprechaun Kid completed the order of finish. Gondolieri, a Chilean-bred, 4-year-old son of Gold Tribute, finished the 1 1/16 mile on a wet/fast track in 1:40.32. Blue Stellar and Touch of the Blues were scratched when the race came off the turf. "The first time he ran at Santa Anita, he ran very well on the dirt," said Dan Landers, assistant to winning trainer Ron McAnally. "I believe that was his first time on the dirt."
Sunday, Buffythecenterfold went to the lead in the stretch in the $100,000 Railbird Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, then held off Honest Answer to win by 1 length. Dash for Money was third. Buffythecenterfold, a daughter of Capote, ran 7 furlongs in 1:22.54. "When it was time to go, she really kicked in," said winning jockey Victor Espinoza. "I just kind of left her alone."
Mobil took the lead at mid-stretch in Saturday's $150,000 Queenston Stakes for Ontario-bred 3-year-olds and won by 1 length over the favorite, Quiet Dare. Awesome Action was third. Mobil, a bay son of Langfuhr, ran 7 furlongs with Todd Kabel aboard in 1:24.26. "I was just a little concerned around the turn," said Kabel. "Once I got him straightened up down the lane, he switched leads, got straightened out and fired like a real good horse." Both Mobil and Quiet Dare still are considered prospects for the Juen 22 Queen's Plate.
Sunday, Elusive Thought jumped quickly to the front in the $150,000 Fury Stakes for 3-3-year-old fillies and slowed down the pace. With jockey Jim McAleney controlling the speed, Elusive Thought had plenty left at the end to hold off Mountain Dawn and win by 1 length. The race went in 1:24.10. Trainer Reade Baker said he was happy with Elusive Thought's performance but is not yet ready to announce her as a candidate for the Labatt Woodbine Oaks. "She'd have to pass the test in the Selene," he said, referring to the May 19 Selene Stakes at 1 1/16 mile. "I don't know about the Oaks. But she's a pretty nice filly."
Gimmeawink got good running position coming into the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Francis "Jock" LaBelle Memorial for 3-year-olds, then ran down pace-setting Only the Best to win by 1 length. First Blush, the favorite, closed from the back of the six-horse field to finish third. Gimmeawink, a Kentucky-bred Elusive Quality colt, ran 6 furlongs in 1:11.22.
Aunt Sophie found room between horses with a furlong to go in Saturday's $60,000 Santa Clara Handicap, went through and got home first, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of the odds-on favorite, Lacie Girl. Lost at Sea was third. Aunt Sophie, a 5-year-old Altazarr mare, ran the 1 mile on a wet/fast track in 1:34.74. "There wasn't much room," said winning rider Roberto Gonzalez, but she really showed some guts and went right through. She rebroke when she saw daylight and I knew I had it."
Lone Star Park
That Tat ran his 2003 record to 3-for-3 with a 3/4-length victory over Doctor Mike in Saturday's $75,000 Ford Express. Front Nine was third. That Tat, with Eddie Martin Jr. in the irons, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.05 as the odds-on favorite. For his career, the 5-year-old gelding shows 10 wins from 26 starts.
Crossing Point took charge at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $75,000 Panhandle Handicap and won off easily, beating Tanky Boy by 5 1/2 lengths. High Flying Bid was third and the only other starter, Boston Brat, lost action after turning into the stretch and was eased. Crossing Point, a 6-year-old son of Allen's Prospect, ran 5 furlongs in 58.47 seconds.
Pie's Lil Brother let a quartet of rivals carve out a suicidal pace in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Express Stakes, then came along to pick up the pieces, winning by a nose over another closer, Sand Ridge. Outathechute, who led the first quarter mile in a sparkling 21.75 seconds, held on for third. "It was a good race and it laid perfectly for this colt, who likes to come from off the pace," said winning rider Alex Birzer.
Tampa Bay Downs
Guardianofthegate caught pace-setting Atiba on the second turn in Saturday's $50,000 Columbia Stakes, then held off a pair of contenders in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Total Anilation. Dell Place was third after a bid at the top of the lane fell short. Guardianofthegate, a 7-year-old son of Gate Dancer, ran the 9 furlongs on a firm turf course in 1:50.16.
Hawthorne Race Course
Attico, rebounding from a series of losses in southern climes during the winter, unleashed a strong move through the stretch to win Saturday's $40,000 Nicole Stakes by 1/2 length over Spice Island. I Can Fan Fan was the early leader but faded to finish third in the 1 1/16 mile event, clocked in 1:40.39 over yielding turf.
Unyielding lived up to his name in Saturday's $35,000 Auburn Stakes for 3-year-olds, working quickly to the front and turning back all rival bids. The Detox gelding, bred in Washington, won by 3 1/4 lengths over Knightsbridge Road with Marbury finishing third. The favorite, Mr. Elusive, faded to get home last of six. The 6 furlongs went in 1:08 2/5 over a wet/fast track.
Centerofattention upset Saturday's $35,000 Sun City Handicap, winning a stretch battle with Aspen Hill before working clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. A Smile Per Mile was third in the 1-mile turf event for fillies and mares, clocked in 1:36.07.
Bruanna ran behind Special Jude through most of Saturday's $35,000 Miss Indy Ana Stakes for fillies and mares - right up to the wire, where she surged to win by a neck. Mrscoppolaskitchen was well back in third. Bruanna, a 5-year-old daughter of Housebuster, finished the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:12.94.
Marquee surged quickly to the lead in Saturday's $35,000 Thoroughbred Futurity Finals and won by 2 3/4 lengths over Print in Black. Movin N Crusin was third. Marquee, the wagering favorite in the field of 10 starters, finished the 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.97 seconds. She is a daughter of Gold Regent.
No Its Not rallied from a stalking position to win Saturday's $35,000 John Henry Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths over Silky Zarb. Two Knight's, coupled with the winner for wagering, ran evenly to finish third. No Its Not, a 4-year-old Is It True gelding, ran the 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:44 4/5.
Ema Bovary, a Chilean-bred filly, romped home down the stretch in Sunday's $35,000 Hastings Park Handicap, winning by 2 1/4 lengths over Whatdidshesay. Silver Screen Girl was third. Ema Bovary, despite a slow start, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14 2/5.
Intervene came around the early leaders to win Sunday's Nebraska Derby by 3 1/4 lengths over heavy favorite Albert E. Grayglen was third in the field of nine. Intervene, a Nebraska-bred son of Siyah Kalem, ran 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:42 4/5.