It's early innings yet for the Kentucky Derby but add to the list of potential candidates Andromeda's Hero, the star of Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Andromeda's Hero, a Kentucky-bred son of Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, survived a rough trip and some traffic issues while coming from off the pace to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Summer Legacy. Captain Lindsay was third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:46.63.
Andromeda's Hero is trained by Nick Zito, a familiar figure on the Derby trail, who used the Sam F. Davis last year as a Triple Crown stepping stone for The Cliff's Edge.
"We've been waiting to get him a route of ground," said Zito assistant Tim Poole. "He obviously handled the track and came on late, which we expected."
In other races for 3-year-olds:
-- Southern Africa was bumped at the start, then caught in traffic in Sunday's $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico. No matter. Jockey Garrett Gomez took Southern Africa four-wide for running room and caught a tiring Thor's Echo, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Dover Dere was third and the previously undefeated Cajun Pepper, also enduring a rough trip, faded badly and finished 11th. Southern Africa, a Kentucky-bred son of Cape Town, finished in 1:43.18.
In races for 3-year-old fillies:
-- Amazing Buy won her fourth straight race in Sunday's $75,000 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct, starting for the first time with blinkers. The High Yield filly, with Norberto Arroyo Jr. up, went right to the lead and won by 1 length. Neverlacken was second and Winning Season third. The 1 1/16 mile took 1:44 3/5. "The blinkers made a huge difference," said Arroyo. "She settled and I had so much horse. ... I didn't even ask her for anything. She had plenty left." Trainer Jennifer Pederson added: "Today I saw a real racehorse. I knew it was in there. She was just playing around."
-- Brett's Favrette was bumped at the start and then caught in traffic on the second turn in Saturday's $50,000 Valdale Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Turfway Park, yet still managed to rally and win by a head over Patty Seattle. Touch of Splendor was third. Brett's Favrette, a daughter of Smart Strike, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:40.89. It was the first time around two turns for the winner but trainer Greg Foley said offspring of Smart Strike "run a route of ground. She was jammed up or I think she would have won by more." He said Brett's Favrette will point for the Bourbonette Breeders' Cup on Lane's End Stakes day, March 26.
-- Toll Taker, the even-money favorite, won Saturday's $60,000 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by 1 3/4 lengths over Gotta Rush, with Gallant Secret third. Toll Taker, an Illinois-bred daughter of Bernstein, ran 1 1/16 mile on a wet-fast track in 1:46.15. Toll Taker had gate trouble in her last two starts in Illinois, including losing her rider in the Showtime Deb Stakes at Hawthorne in November. "I prayed when she jumped out of the gate that she would get away cleanly," said trainer Tim Hills. "It was a huge relief when she broke well." He said Toll Taker likely will contest the Florida Oaks on March 14.
-- The Beter Man Can, sent to the post as even-money favorite, proved the punters right in Sunday's $75,000 Battler Star Handicap for state-breds at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. With E.J. Perrodin up, The Beter Man Can raced near the back of the pack until the far turn. Then, she began to work toward the front, swung outside for room and drew clear to win by 7 1/4 lengths over Maid in China. The 6 furlongs went in 1:11.02.
In other weekend racing:
In Hong Kong, Silent Witness moved within one win of the record of 16 straight held by Citation and Cigar as he won Sunday's Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin. Without much apparent effort, Silent Witness scored by 2 lengths over Country Music, with Multidandy third. The 5-year-old Australian-bred gelding, with Felix Coetzee up, ran 1,000 meters in 56.7 seconds. He is expected to start next in the Chairman's Sprint Prize on April 3.
G P Fleet disposed of front-running favorite Warleigh midway through the stretch run of Saturday's $125,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap, then held on to win by 1 1/4 length over Honor in War. Rapid Proof was third while Warleigh faded to finish fifth. G P Fleet, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Northern Afleet, ran 9 furlongs on the firm turf in 1:53.79 after a sluggish early pace. He now has won four of his last five starts. "With the slow pace, I made a decision to go," said winning rider Jose Martinez Jr. "He allowed himself to dictate the pace because he is so versatile. He's a push-button horse."
Saturday, Friel's for Real tracked the early pace in the $50,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap for fillies and mares, then surged to a big lead in the stretch and won off by 5 1/2 lengths over Pour It On. Summer Rainbow was third. Friel's for Real, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred daughter of Sword Dance, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:52.81.
Tampa Bay Downs
Delta Princess rallied from last in a field of 11 to win Saturday's $100,000 Endeavour Stakes for fillies and mares by 1/2 length over Fast Cookie. Lentil finished third after leading most of the way. Delta Princess is a 6-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by A.P. Indy. She got the 1 1/16 mile on "good" turf in 1:43.54. "Both fillies were in tight," said winning trainer Bill Mott. "Fast Cookie was bottled up but got through even though she hesitated. She was able to come again. At the head of the lane, I questioned whether Delta Princess would kick in at all. But she got it in gear once she got outside."
Isola Piu Bella stalked the early pace in Saturday's $100,000 Sabin Handicap for fillies and mares, swung into contention on the turn and drew clear to win by 2 1/2 lengths. Pampered Princess was second, Adobe Gold was third and the favorite, Daydreaming, faded to finish fourth. Isola Piu Bella, a Chilean-bred daughter of Rich Man's Gold, ran 9 furlongs in 1:50.68 for John Velazquez. The 5-year-old mare is trained by Todd Pletcher. "I gold Todd my perfect trip would be for me to sit right next to (Daydreaming) and stalk her and never lose focus on where she is on the track," said Velazquez. "Right from the start, I knew I was going to get that trip."
Dubleo tracked pace-setting Lord Robyn through much of Sunday's $60,000 Dave Feldman Stakes for 3-year-olds, then got to the front in the stretch and held on to win by 1/2 length over a late-running Tadreeb. Crown Point was third. Dubleo, a son of Southern Halo, finished 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:40.72 with John Velazquez aboard. The race is named for the late irascible Chicago Sun-Times turf writer, a frequent wintertime denizen of South Florida.
Miss Fortunate rallied from last to win Saturday's $75,000 Rare Treat Handicap for fillies and mares by 2 3/4 lengths over Lady Libby. Rare Gift was third as the favorite. Miss Fortunate is a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Deputy Minister from the Secretariat mare Fantastic Ways. She ran 9 furlongs in 1:51.17.
On President's Day, Acey Deucey provided the holiday crowd with a celebratory upset in the $75,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. At odds of nearly 25-1, the Abaginone filly rallied from last of six to win by 1 1/4 lengths over Phyllis Sassy Girl. The favorite, Megascape, was third. Acey Deucey ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.68.
Hawthorne Race Course
Silver Bid won the first added-money event of the new season in Illinois. After tracking the pace in Saturday's $40,000 Hula Chief Stakes, the 7-year-old Illinois-bred gelding got to the lead in the stretch and worked clear, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Stormy Impact. Silver Zipper zipped home third. Silver Bid ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:11.10. "When we were 3 lengths clear of the rest of the field in the turn, I knew we had this race," said winning trainer Joel Berndt. "He's going good and I'm looking forward to another good year with him."
Miss Terrible, returning to the races after a year and a half layoff, caught Mazella in deep stretch, then held off Puxa Saco and Quero Quero to win Sunday's $100,000 Las Flores Handicap by 1/2 length. Bradley Ross, a former blacksmith, scored his first victory in his first training start. "I have a picture of me holding Gallant Man when I was a kid. I rode horses, dressage, jumpers. I've basically done it all and then I went into shoeing and I've been doing that for 33 years," said Ross, 52.
Hasty Kris took charge in the stretch run to win Saturday's $150,000 San Carlos Handicap by 1/2 length over Harvard Avenue. Perfect Moon was third and the favorite, Mass Media, got home sixth, showing little. Hasty Kris, an 8-year-old, Florida-bred gelding by Kissin Kris, ran 7 furlongs on a fast track in 1:21.42 for Rene Douglas. "I had a perfect trip," said Douglas. "I knew I wanted to be in the clear with this horse. I know this horse and there's no other way I could do it." Trainer John Sadler said he is eyeing the Potero Grande on April 3 as Hasty Kris's next race.
Shezsospiritual went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Glendale Handicap for fillies and mares, then drew off to win by 2 lengths over Muir Beach, the favorite. V'ville Lady rallied from last to be third at the end. Shezsospiritual, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred mare by Fly Till Dawn, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:44.63.
Souris broke last of seven in Saturday's $50,000 Spring Fever Stakes for fillies and mares, then came running in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths over Forest Music. Saltwater Runner was third. Souris, a 5-year-old Defrere mare, bred in Kentucky, ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.78.
Sam Houston Race Park
Ambition Unbridled dominated four rivals in Saturday's $40,000 Citgo Stakes for fillies and mares. After an awkward break, the 4-year-old Unbridled's Song filly quickly got to the front and drew clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths, ridden out. Peace Symbol was best of the rest with Seneca Song third. Ambition Unbridled ran the 5 furlongs in 57.56 seconds.
Miss Confusion led all the way to a 2-length victory over odds-on favorite So Much More in Saturday's $50,000 Sweetheart Stakes for fillies and mares. Cute N Noble finished third. Miss Confusion, a 5-year-old, Florida-bred mare by Miswaki, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:39.65.
Heavenly Humor led most of the way in Saturday's $55,000 Soviet Problem Handicap, winning by 5 lengths over Crypto's Best. Our Mango was third and the favorite, Allswellthatnswell faded steadily to end up last of six. Heavenly Humor, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Distorted Humor, got 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.04 for Russell Baze.