The 2004 Kentucky Derby winner will turn 3 on Thursday, as all Thoroughbreds officially add a year to their age. With no clear favorite for the May 1 Derby, the winner could come from anywhere - even one of the 2-year-old events that spiced up the final weekend of 2003.
-- Don'tsellmeshort had the best punch in the stretch run of Friday's $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes, winning by 1 1/2 lengths over Badgett's Mandate. Watch Over Me was third and the favorite, Race for Glory, struggled home ninth of 10, never in contention. Don'tsellmeshort, a son of Benchmark, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.09 for Alex Solis. "I think today he proved he's the best Cal-bred and the early favorite for the Sunshine Millions (6-furlong Dash)," said winning trainer Dan Hendricks.
-- At Fair Grounds in New Orleans, Wildcat Shoes surged to the lead entering the stretch in Sunday's $60,000 Sugar Bowl Stakes and won off by 5 lengths as the favorite. The chestnut son of Forest Wildcat, with Robby Albarado up, ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.78. The colt is trained by William H. Fires.
-- Tin Can Sailor, a Kentucky-bred son of Military, pressed the pace in Saturday's $100,000 Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park in New Mexico, then took a clear lead in the stretch and held on to beat Hi Teck Man by 1/2 length in a five-horse blanket finish. Fleet Deputy was only another neck behind in third. Tin Can Sailor ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.29.
-- In Texas, There Goes Rocket settled behind the leaders in Saturday's $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes colts & geldings division, then lived up to his name in the stretch run, winning by 2 1/2 lengths. Roundabout Jones was second and Sling Shot was third. There Goes Rocket, the pari-mutuel favorite, ran 1 mile in 1:38.48 with E.J. Perrodin in the irons. He is a Texas-bred son of Valid Expectations.
-- On Friday, Scary Bob got the lead in the stretch run of the $60,000 Maria's Mon Stakes and held on to win by a neck over Tale of Woe. War's Prospect was third and the favorite, Quick Action, faded to finish fourth after leading. Scary Bob, a New York-bred son of Lucky Roberto, got the 6 furlongs in 1:11.35.
In weekend races for 2-year-old fillies:
-- Silent Sighs led most of the way in Saturday's $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes, winning by 3 lengths over Yearly Report. Nicole and Ben was third. Silent Sighs, a daughter of Benchmark, finished the 7 furlongs in 1:22.12 under David Flores. Trainer Julio Canani said he hasn't yet decided whether to try Silent Sighs in open company. "We'll take our time, one race at a time," he said.
-- Swingn' Notes caught pace-setting Secret Corsage in the stretch drive of Saturday's $60,000 Corte Madera Stakes, winning by 3/4 length. Renaissance Lady finished third but was disqualified to fourth for interfering with Church Editor in the stretch run. Swingn' Notes is a Kentucky-bred daughter of French Deputy. She ran the 1 mile in 1:37.76 on a muddy track. "She handled the mud real well and I think that helped her," said winning rider Chad Schvaneveldt.
-- Native Annie started last of eight in Saturday's $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes filly division but then finished first of eight, 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Marxie. She's a Deputy Too was third. Native Annie, a daughter of Manzotti, ran the 1 mile in 1:40.70.
In other weekend racing:
Calder Race Course
It was Grand Slam II on Saturday, with four stakes races -- three of them graded -- on the card.
Balto Star got loose on an easy lead in the $200,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap at 1 1/2 miles on the grass and nobody caught the 5-year-old gelding in the late going. At the wire, Balto Star was 1 1/2 lengths in front of Continuously, with Rowans Park third. Balto Star, with John Velazquez aboard, finished in 2:24.87. "He gets brave. He gets a big heart when he gets loose on the lead like that," Velazquez said. "When we turned for home, he was already running and it was too late."
Volga came from just off the pace to win the $200,000 La Prevoyante Handicap for distaffers at the 12-furlong distance on the grass. The 5-year-old, Irish-bred daughter of Caerleon finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of New Zealand-bred Lady Annaliese, with Lost Appeal third. Volga was clocked in 2:26.13. "I didn't quite expect her to explode as strongly as she did turning for home," said winning jockey Richard Migliore. Owner Joe Allen noted the Grade I winner is turning 6 "and you would naturally consider breeding her. But I haven't made that decision yet," he added.
Redoubled Miss was just up at the wire to win the $100,000 Stage Door Betty Handicap for fillies and mares by a nose over Grab Bag. Pampered Princess was third. Redoubled Miss, a 4-year-old Adhocracy filly, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.78 with Eibar Coa up, ending a streak of four consecutive second-place finishes. Trainer Ron Spatz said he is aiming for the Sunshine Million on Jan. 24.
Predawn Raid led from gate to wire in the $100,000 Fred W. Hooper Handicap, winning by 4 1/4 lengths over Best of the Rest. Deeeliteful Guy was third. The 1 1/8 mile took 1:52.47. Predawn Raid is a 4-year-old Sir Cat gelding. Winning trainer Ben Stutts Jr. said he had not expected to run Predawn Raid in a stakes at this point but was convinced by owner Brian Burns. "We'll see what's next," he added. "He'd be real tough in a 'three other-than' allowance."
Fashion Island rallied strongly through the stretch to win Saturday's $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 6 lengths over Randaroo. Buffythecenterfold was third and the favorite, Elloluv, ran a dull sixth in her last-ditch effort to win Eclipse Award consideration. Island Fashion, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Petionville, ran 7 furlongs in 1:21.79 with Kent Desormeaux aboard. Desormeaux said Fashion Island's race was so good, "At the quarter pole, I let up on her and she finished easily." Trainer Marcelo Polanco said he hopes to run Fashion Island back in the La Canada on Feb. 14. Corey Nakatani said Elloluv "didn't do things like she normally does. She was not herself today."
Redattore sat right behind Denied through the early stages of Sunday's $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap, then took charge into the stretch and won off by 2 lengths. Continental Red was along to take second with Denied finishing third. Redattore, an 8-year-old Brazilian-bred by Roi Normand, ran 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.17. Trainer Richard Mandella said there is a chance the horse will be retired but he also might start in the $400,000 Franke E. Kilroe Mile on March 6. Continental Red is headed for the Classic or the Turf on Sunshine Millions Day, Jan. 24.
On Friday, Southern Image upset the $250,000 Malibu Stakes for 3-year-olds, rallying in the final strides to win by a head over Marino Mariani. The favorite, Midas Eyes, led through the early furlongs and held on for third. Southern Image, a Florida-bred son of Halo's Image, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:22.65. "We'll look at the Sunshine Millions or the Strub Stakes next," said winning trainer Mike Machowsky, who picked up his first Grade I victory.
Also on Friday, Buckland Manor dueled with Saint Buddy through most of the $75,000, 1-mile Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds before prevailing by 2 lengths. Kewen was third, 6 lengths behind Saint Buddy under the wire. Buckland Manor, a Kentucky-bred son of Bien Bien, finished in 1:36.08 under Corey Nakatani. The race was moved off the turf.
Ciento opened up a commanding lead at the head of the lane in Sunday's $100,000 City of Sunland Park for New Mexico-breds, then held off the late bid of Casperino to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Sharethetime was third. Ciento, a 5-year-old son of Prospector Jones, ran the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.13.
On Friday, Shemoveslikeaghost moved through a dust storm to win the $125,000 La Coneja Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 3 3/4 lengths over Jackie Jan. Miss Trixie finished third. Shemoveslikeaghost, a New Mexico-bred daughter of Ghostly Moves, finished the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.76.
Waupaca gave up the lead in the stretch run of Saturday's $75,000 Woodchopper Handicap for 3-year-olds but battled back to win by a neck over Gentlemen JJ, with Stone Cat third. Waupaca, with Robby Albarado at the controls, ran "about" 1 1/16 mile on the firm turf in 1:44.33. Waupaca is a Kentucky-bred son of Forest Wildcat. Waupaca also is a resort destination in central Wisconsin.
Bedanken rallied from well back in the field of 13 to win Friday's $60,000 Furl Sail Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 length over Flager. Due to Win Again finished third. Bedanken, a 4-year-old daughter of Geri, ran the "about" 1 mile on firm turf in 1:36.19 with Don Pettinger in the irons.
Salute Him angled out at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $75,000 Alex M. Robb Handicap for state-breds, then accelerated through the stretch to win by 4 1/4 lengths over Rogue Agent. Lord Of the Thunder was third in the 1 /16-mile event, timed in 1:44.48. Winning rider Richard Migliore said Salute Him, a 5-year-old Sea Salute gelding, only has one short run, "I shifted in the clear and asked him to run inside the three-sixteenths pole."
Loving, at nearly 20-1, dominated Saturday's $75,000 Gallant Fox Handicap, leading by double digits before winning by 7 3/4 lengths over Nothing Flat. Fisher Pond was third. Loving is a Brazilian-bred, 7-year-old gelding by Thundering Force. With Jose Espinoza up, he finished the 1 5/8 mile in 2:45.08. "I asked him to go on before the half-mile pole and he really started running," said Espinoza. "I was surprised how much he opened up by....I wasn't worried about anyone catching us."
Crossing Point led from gate to wire in Friday's $75,000 Christmas Stakes and won by 4 3/4 lengths, ridden out. High Flying Bid was second, with Frazee's Folly third. Crossing Point, a 6-year-old Allen's Prospect gelding, ran 6 furlongs in 1:13.23.
Tampa Bay Downs
Above the Wind bid for the lead turning into the stretch in Saturday's $60,000 Pelican Stakes, then drew clear to win by 1 length over last year's winner, Secret Romeo. Wacky for Love was third. Above the Wind, a 6-year-old son of Island Whirl, was coming off a 161-day layoff and went to the post at 65-1 odds, paying $132.40 for a $2 win ticket. "I pushed him a little more than usual to stay close to the pace," said winning jockey Federico Mata.
Founding Chairman got the lead turning into the stretch in Saturday's $50,000 Holiday Cheer, then extended his margin steadily to the wire, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Dubai Sheikh. Wild Lies, the early leader, held on to finish third. "We usually let him settle further back," trainer Wayne Mackey said of Founding Chairman. "But it didn't look like there was a lot of speed in the race." Founding Chairman picked up his first stakes victory by running 6 furlongs in 1:10.09.
Search For A Cure sat behind the pace duel in Saturday's $50,000 Squan Song Stakes for state-bred distaffers, then came wide at the top of the lane for running room at got up to win by 1/2 length over Darnestown. Bamba was third. The 7 furlongs took 1:25.15. "She didn't pick up the pieces today," said winning rider Jeremy Rose. "She really had to fight to beat the other two fillies, who weren't quitting."