Last year, Smarty Jones's path to the Kentucky Derby came through Oaklawn Park. This year, the leader down that path is Greater Good, who rallied from last to win Saturday's $100,000 Southwest Stakes at the Arkansas oval.
Greater Good, a Kentucky-bred son on Intidab, hopped at the start of the race and was off last of seven. He came five-wide into the stretch to get by the leaders and won by 3/4 length over Munificence. Humor at Last was third. The 1 mile on a wet-fast track took 1:39.09.
While the bad start left Greater Good a lot to do, coming from off the pace is his preferred style. He has run that way in all five of his previous races and won three of those, including the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park and the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs last year.
The colt is trained by Robert Holtus and ridden by John McKee.
"I would have liked a better start," said McKee, "and I would have liked to have been closer when we came out of the first turn. I was urging him a little at that point so that we weren't too far behind. I had to use him at the half pole so that I was in contention by the quarter pole."
The next step in the Oaklawn Park road to the May 7 Derby is the Rebel Stakes on March 19. There, more highly regarded Derby prospects Afleet Alex and Rockport Harbor will be waiting in the wings.
In other races for 3-year-olds:
-- At Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, Dixie Meister rallied five-wide into the stretch and went on to win Saturday's $125,000 Jim's Orbit Stakes for Texas-breds by 1 length over General Charlie. Leaving On My Mind, the favorite, was 2 1/4 lengths farther back in third after breaking poorly. Dixie Meister, a son of Holzmeister from the Dixieland Band mare Dixity Do Dah, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.86.
In weekend races for 3-year-old fillies:
-- Cosmic Lady led a parade of longshots under the wire in Saturday's $55,000 Burlingame Stakes at Bay Meadows in California. Cosmic Lady, a California-bred daughter of High Brite, survived some bumping early in the stretch run, then rallied between horses to win by a nose over Tense Wager. Hold the Game was just a neck farther back in third, beating favorite Laguna Pointe by another head. The $1 2-4-7 trifecta ticket returned $1,545.
-- Timber Jones rallied to challenge "all alone" pace-setter Angela Marjorie at the top of the stretch in Saturday's $125,000Two Altazano Stakes for Texas-breds at Sam Houston Race Park in Texas, then won a long duel to the wire by a neck. Ms Seneca Rock finished third. Timber Jones, a daughter of Seneca Jones, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.73.
In other weekend racing:
Perfect Partner wasted no time taking the lead in Sunday's Hong Kong Gold Cup -- the second leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown. And when he got to the front, Perfect Partner and jockey Christophe Soumillon never looked back. At he wire, they were 1 3/4 lengths ahead of stablemate Floral Dynamite. Elegant Fashion was third. Soumillon turned the trick the classic way -- get to the front and slow things down. "Tony (trainer Tony Cruz) told me to go in front on him, to go his own pace and ride him like it was a race in France -- slow, slow and then sprint," Soumillon said. Perfect Partner was declared a non-starter in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the Stewards Cup, when he broke through the barrier just before the official start of the race. Next up, said Cruz, is likely to be the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup on April 24, the first leg of the 2005 World Series Racing Championship. The third leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown is the Champions & Chater Cup on May 29.
The Presidents Day weekend "Sprintfest" started with a bang as Cativa, with Edgar Prado in the irons, upset Saturday's $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap for fillies and mares. After dueling for the lead, the 5-year-old Sir Cat mare took charge in the stretch and won by 2 1/4 lengths over Sensibly Chic, with Silmaril third. The favorite, Bear Fan, faded badly in the stretch and finished eighth of 10. Cativa ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.64. "We took a shot," winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said of his former claimer. "We didn't expect or hope for anything like this ... but we're ready for more. She ran a big race today. She just ran them into the ground."
Also on Saturday's card at Laurel, Coast Line led all the way to an even-odds victory in the $75,000 John B. Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap. Offlee Wild was just a neck behind in second and Ole Faunty was a distant third. Coast Line, a 4-year-old son of Boston Harbor from the Mr. Prospector mare Mission Pass, ran 9 furlongs under John Velazquez in 1:50.09. He is trained by Todd Pletcher for Overbrook Farm. "He was really gutsy today. He was just determined to win," said Velazquez.
Jockey Jerry Bailey was just aboard for the ride in Saturday's $150,000 Shirley Jones Handicap. Odds-on favorite Madcap Escapade, coming off a nine-month layoff, overcame some trouble at the start, surged to a big lead and won easily by 2 lengths, ridden out. Alix M was second and D'Wildcat Speed finished third. Madcap Escapade, a 4-year-old daughter of Hennessy, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:22.06. "Once she gets in gear, she has a very high cruising speed," Bailey said. Winning trainer Frankie Brothers said after seeing the bad start, "I wanted to throw up. ... I figured she'd catch up pretty quick. But you have to figure how much of a toll that takes out of her later."
Sunday, Cape Hope, also with Bailey riding, also got a bad start and also overcame that handicap to win the $60,000 Gaily Gaily Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 mile on the turf. Cape Hope, an Overbrook Farm homebred by Cape Town, beat Dynamite Lass to the wire by 2 lengths, with Paddy's Daisy third as the favorite. The time was 1:39.31 over firm going.
Shadow Cast got running room along the rail in the stretch drive of Saturday's $125,000 Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap and drove through to win by 2 lengths over Bijou. The favorite, Sister Swank, was third in the 9-furlong event for fillies and mares. Shadow Cast, a 4-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, finished in 1:53.75, toting Robby Albarado.
In Sunday's $75,000 Chou Croute Handicap, Storm's Darling had things all her own way in the stretch run after a pace-stalking trip. Swinging three-wide, the 4-year-old Storm Boot filly passed the leaders with ease and drew off to win by 6 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Spectacular Lisa. Oneofacat was third. Storm's Darling ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.32.
Even though the race came off the turf, there were no scratches in Saturday's $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap -- and no regrets about the surface change affecting the winner, License To Run. The 5-year-old Brazilian-bred, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard, dueled for the lead, got clear and jetted off to win by 5 lengths. Californian was second and T.H. Approval was third. Continental Red competed early, then faded to finish last of eight. License to Run finished the 12 furlongs on a sloppy track in 2:28.72. "I don't think it mattered that this was taken off the grass," said Humberto Ascanio, assistant to winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "He came from Brazil and the owner told me he liked to run on anything." Valenzuela said he wasn't worried about running on the engine in a marathon. "We were pretty much walking," he said. "Around the three-eighths pole I asked him to pick it up and he picked it up really nicely."
Sunday's $125,000 Sensational Star Handicap for Cal-breds also came off the turf. Again, Valenzuela had the winning ride, this time aboard Grand Appointment, a 7-year-old Unbridled gelding. Grand Appointment stalked the pace, got the lead in the lane and held on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Red Warrior despite drifting out in the late going. Excessivepleasure was third and the favorite, Bilo, finished seventh. "He drifted out a little bit," said Valenzuela. "But he finished very strongly and I was happy with his race."
Tampa Bay Downs
Wire Bound rallied from far back to live up to his name in Saturday's $100,000 Tampa Bay Breeders Cup Stakes. The 4-year-old son of Hesabull set sail toward the leaders as the field turned for home and won off by 2 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Remind, whose own late rally fell short. Above the Wind was third. Wire Bound ran the 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.14 after sitting off a quick pace. "We really liked seeing the fast pace because we knew we could pick up on the speed," said owner Jay Wertheim. Trainer Manuel Criollo agreed. "It really helped," he said. Wertheim said Wire Bound will be spotted carefully. "We want to have a horse at 6 or 7," he said. "If we can space his races, he's a tough as anyone."
Distinctive Trick upset Saturday's $75,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes for 3-year-olds with a front-running effort. Leading from the early stages, the Distinctive Pro colt held on gamely during the stretch drive to best Pavo by 1/2 length. Benjamin's Baby was third and the favorite, Attilla's Storm, finished fourth. The 6 furlongs took 1:10.96. Distinctive Trick now has won three of 10 starts. "Blinkers have made a big difference," said owner-trainer Uriah St. Lewis. "They have helped him concentrate." He said he considered running Distinctive Trick in Sunday's Hollie Hughes. "But that was against older horses and I didn't want to race against older horses," St. Lewis said. "He's just coming into his own right now."
Sunday, Papua rallied strongly through the stretch to win the $75,000 Hollie Hughes Handicap for New York-breds by 3 3/4 lengths. Show Boot was second and Citizenship finished third. Papua, a 6-year-old son of Louis Quatorze, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.76 with Richard Migliore providing the urging.
Rocky Gulch stalked the pace in Saturday's $125,000 New Mexico State University Handicap for state-breds, got to the lead turning for home and won by 3/4 length over Cattleman Prospect. Some Ghost was third. Rocky Gulch, the favorite, covered 1 mile on a fast track in 1:36.48. He is a 4-year-old gelding by Dry Gulch.
Sunday, Bar Bailey surged to the lead with a sixteenth to go in the $50,000 Czaria Handicap for fillies and mares, then held on to win by a neck over the odds-on favorite, Savorthetime. Elegant Mercedes was third. Bar Bailey, a 5-year-old, Colorado-bred, Bates Motel mare, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.99.
Bonus Pack, claimed last year at Churchill Downs for $80,000, began his ROI Saturday, rolling to a 2-length victory over favorite Paging in the $50,000 Dust Commander Stakes. Alpha to Omega was third. Bonus Pack, an 8-year-old Colonial Affair gelding, ran 1 mile in 1:38.93. Trainer Greg Foley, who claimed Bonus Pack for owner Bob Bone, said the horse is "just an old class horse. ... We knew this Turfway meet was coming up and thought he would fit in the stakes here." Mike Manganello, who rode Dust Commander to win the 1970 Kentucky Derby, made the trophy presentation.
Casual Attire swung four-wide in the second turn and got clear in the stretch to win Sunday's $50,000 Pippin Stakes for fillies and mares by 1 1/2 lengths over Island Sand. Catboat was third. Casual Attire, a 5-year-old Formal Gold mare, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.43 under Tim Doocy.