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“Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships”


June 14, 2004     E-mail this page to a friend!

By Eric Wing, NTRA News

SOUTHERN IMAGE UPSET BY COLONIAL COLONY IN STEPHEN FOSTER; ‘SMARTY’ BRAVE SECOND TO BIRDSTONE IN BELMONT STAKES

 Blahut Stables and Kaegle Brothers’ 4-year-old SOUTHERN IMAGE was the 3-to-2 favorite to win Saturday’s Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs after stunning victories in the Santa Anita Handicap and Pimlico Special in his last two starts for trainer Michael Machowsky.

Southern Image appeared to have the finish line measured to win in the final strides of the nine-furlong test, but Lakeside Farm’s 6-year-old horse COLONIAL COLONY put his nose down on the wire for a shocking upset at odds of 62-to-1 under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Southern Image, who conceded 11 pounds to the winner, had a difficult trip as he spent much of the run up the backstretch trapped on the rail in behind Edmund Gann’s PEACE RULES setting the pace and William S. Farish’s MIDWAY ROAD lapped outside of him.

Espinoza got Southern Image clear in the upper stretch but Colonial Colony had rallied from last to duel through the final furlong. Trained by veteran Kentucky horseman Walter Bindner Jr., Colonial Colony is by Pleasant Colony, sire of 6-year-old Pleasantly Perfect (see below), winner of the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge.

Prior to the Stephen Foster, Colonial Colony had gone winless in his previous 12 starts, although placing in some major events. Stonecrest Farm’s 5-year-old gelding PERFECT DRIFT, winner of the Stephen Foster last year over Mineshaft, rallied for third in Saturday’s renewal, beaten five lengths by the top two. Peace Rules finished a distant fourth and Midway Road retired to last in the field of six.

Southern Image is due to return to Machowsky’s Santa Anita headquarters with his career record now standing at 8-6-1-1. The trainer indicated the son of Halo’s Image could run back next in the Hollywood Gold Cup at Hollywood Park on July 10 if he is up to it.

Pat and Roy Chapman’s marvelous 3-year-old SMARTY JONES became the darling of the sports world while racing undefeated through the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Trainer John Servis directed the chestnut son of Elusive Quality through eight consecutive victories under jockey Stewart Elliott, but the streak came to an end in sight of the finish line at Belmont Park on Sat., June 5.

Smarty Jones’ bid to become only the second undefeated Visa Triple Crown winner appeared possible at the top of the long stretch of the grueling mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, but Mary Lou Whitney’s diminutive stretch-runner BIRDSTONE wore down the game favorite in the final sixteenth to win by a length.

Smarty Jones remains a star to adoring fans and will be back to add to his wonderful accomplishments. The Pennsylvania homebred’s connections have identified the Pennsylvania Derby at his home track at Philadelphia Park on Labor Day, Sept. 6 and the Breeders’ Cup Classic as likely targets on his schedule later this season. A start in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 8 will be considered.

At a press conference the day after the Belmont, Servis said, “He’ll get three or four weeks off as planned and then we’ll map out a schedule to get to the Breeders’ Cup. I think there is going to have to be one race against older horses before then. I’m just not sure which one.”

Trainer Nick Zito had sent out horses to finish second five times in the Belmont Stakes before Birdstone’s 35-to-1 upset victory, but was subdued in victory along with most of the 120,000-plus in attendance at Belmont.

Birdstone’s credentials were there for some to see after Zito chose to pass the Preakness after the homebred son of Grindstone had finished a dull eighth on a ‘sloppy’ track in the Kentucky Derby. A homebred half-brother to the stable’s 2003 Kentucky Oaks winner and Eclipse champion Bird Town, Birdstone was impressive winning the Champagne Stakes last fall at Belmont.

This year, Birdstone won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February but was a disappointment when fifth as the 3-to-5 favorite over a ‘sealed’ track at Turfway Park in the Lane’s End Stakes in March, his final Derby prep. Zito and others attributed his dull performance in that race and the Derby to wet track conditions his colt does not handle. Birdstone will be pointed for the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

While the spotlight has been focused on Smarty Jones and the Visa Triple Crown this spring, Diamond A. Racing Stable’s 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic hero PLEASANTLY PERFECT is quietly gearing up for the ‘second half’ of the season leading to the Classic at Lone Star Park.

Trainer Richard Mandella has given Pleasantly Perfect a good break since the 6-year-old son of Pleasant Colony won the Dubai World Cup on March on March 27 over Edmund Gann’s Medaglia d’Oro, who was recently retired to stand stud next year.

Pleasantly Perfect’s victory in Dubai confirmed the form of his 1 lengths tally over Medaglia d’Oro in the Classic at Santa Anita. Pleasantly Perfect, who has won eight of only 15 career starts, breezed a half-mile in 51 seconds at Santa Anita last Wednesday. The trainer has indicated his stable star may return to competition at Del Mar, possibly in the Aug. 1 San Diego Handicap, a prep for the Pacific Classic three weeks later.

Two other stakes for the Classic Division were run Saturday with the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park and the Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park. West Point Stable’s 5-year-old SEATTLE FITZ (ARG) held on for a half-length victory in the Brooklyn and Ro Parra’a 6-year-old EVEN THE SCORE romped by 3 lengths in the Hollywood race.

Seattle Fitz was in a duel from the start of the nine-furlong Brooklyn, clipping off very fast fractions along the way, including 1:08 3/5 for three-quarters under jockey Richard Migliore, but was able to hold off Peter Karches and Catherine Wills’ 8-to-5 favorite DYNEVER.

Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Seattle Fitz had won the William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day in his previous start. Dynever ran well after his disappointing fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Pimlico Special in his previous start, a performance trainer Christophe Clement attributed to sore feet.

Dynever finished a game third behind Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d’Oro in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, beaten only 2 lengths for it all. The homebred colt by Dynaformer will likely come back in the 10-furlong Suburban Handicap at Belmont on July 3 with Seattle Fitz.

Even the Score joined trainer Vladimir Cerin’s barn at Hollywood Park this year after campaigning in the Midwest with trainer Dallas Stewart last year. Prior to his impressive victory in the Californian, the son of Unbridled’s Song had won the Mervyn Leroy Handicap at Hollywood. He will bid for a sweep of the track’s three major events for handicap horses in the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 10.

METEOR STORM ON THE MOVE IN JOHN DEERE TURF DIVISION

In the race before the Belmont Stakes, Horizon Stable’s 5-year-old METEOR STORM (GB) rallied to a 1 lengths victory in the Manhattan Handicap, invading from California where he captured the San Luis Rey and San Juan Capistrano handicaps at Santa Anita in his previous two starts.

The Manhattan was the first race outside of California for Meteor Storm since he arrived from France as a 3-year-old. The son of Bigstone is trained by Wally Dollase, who saddled Ten Most Wanted to finish second behind Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes last spring. Dollase indicated that the major summer goal for Meteor Storm is the Arlington Million on Aug. 14.

Trainer Bob Baffert won two turf stakes on Saturday, most notably the Charles Whittingham Mmeorial Handicap at Hollywood Park with Monty Roberts’ 6-year-old SABIANGO (GER). The son of Acatenango went wire-to-wire under jockey Tyler Baze and scored by three-quarters of a length in the mile-and-a-quarter test.

Robarts is a veteran horseman best known as the subject of the book and subsequent movie ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and purchased Sabiango privately. The chestnut was making his first start for Baffert and first start since finishing unplaced in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in mid-December.

Sabiango was a two-time Group I winner in Germany. He finished fourth in the Turf Classic at Belmont and fifth in the Canadian International last fall in two previous North American starts for his former German owner and trainer Andreas Wohler.

Baffert’s other turf stakes victory Saturday came at Churchill Downs with Bob and Beverly Lewis’ 4-year-old SENOR SWINGER winning the 1st running of the Opening Verse Handicap by 1 lengths over Team Victory I’s favored HARD BUCK (BRZ) in the 1 1/16 miles test.

Senor Swinger is a roan/gray son of El Prado and remained undefeated in four career starts over the Churchill course. He won the American Turf and the Jefferson Cup at Churchill last year. Hard Buck, trained by Ken McPeek was making his first start since finishing second by a half-length in the 12-furlong Dubai Sheema Classic on March 27.

ADORATION WINS FLEUR DE LIS ON WAY TO CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE; AZERI & STORM FLAG FLYING TO MEET IN OGDEN PHIPPS SATURDAY

Amerman Racing Stable’s 5-year-old mare ADORATION was a 40-to-1 longshot when capturing the Breeders’ Cup Distaff – Presented by Nextel at Santa Anita. She was the third choice in a field of only six fillies and mares to run in Saturday’s Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Adoration was in the winner’s circle again after splashing to a 1 lengths victory under jockey Victor Espinoza in the race prior to the Stephen Foster. Iron County Farms’ second choice BARE NECESSITIES finished second with K and K Racing’s 50-to-1 LA REASON chance third. Claiborne Farm and Adele Dischneider’s favored YELL finished a dull fifth.

Trained by David Hofmans, Adoration won the Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita in March but was upset when second as the odds-on favorite last out in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Oak in her last start. The Fleur de Lis was the fifth start since the Breeders’ Cup for 5-year-old daughter of Honor Grades, who will be pointed toward a title defense at Lone Star Park in October after a little summer break.

Saturday’s Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park is expected to bring together two Breeders’ Cup champions with Allen Paulson Living Trust’s AZERI and Ogden Mills Phipps’ STORM FLAG FLYING the probable favorites in the 1 1/16-miles test.

Azeri comes back after suffering the worst defeat of her career when eighth in the Metropolitan Handicap, her first ever start against male rivals. Now trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the 6-year-old daughter of Jade Hunter had never finished worse than second with 15 victories and three seconds prior to the Met Mile.

Azeri’s string of 11 straight victories included the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Arlington Park, a win that led to Horse of the Year honors that season for trainer Laura DeSeroux. She began this season with Lukas with a ‘three-peat’ victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap and a narrow loss in the Humana Distaff Handicap at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

Storm Flag Flying won the 2002 Juvenile Fillies at Arlington for trainer Shug McGaughey to remain undefeated for the season and earn an Eclipse Award. The daughter of Storm Cat out of 1995 Juvenile Fillies winner My Flag has struggled to find her best form the last two years but appears to be getting closer to her best after a game victory last out in the Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 15.

SPRINT WINNER CAJUN BEAT ON SCHEDULE FOR TITLE DEFENSE IN TEXAS

Padua Stable and John and Joseph Iracane’s 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint CAJUN BEAT winner has been out of the news this spring, but is on a schedule designed to have him more than ready to bid for a repeat victory in the Sprint at Lone Star Park in October.

Cajun Beat has not run since finishing fourth in the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 27, but is in training at Satish Sanan’s showplace Padua Stables in Summerfield near Ocala, Fla. The Grand Slam gelding will be returning to the racetrack sometime in July, according to the owner’s daughter and Padua general manager Nadia Sanan.

“He’s doing just great here,” said Sanan Monday morning from the farm. “Knowing the history of how demanding the trip and a race in Dubai can be, we took a pre-emptive course with him and gave him a month off here whether he might need it or not. He had already had a pretty aggressive campaign this year.

“He’s in full training here at the farm. Basically, we’ll plan a schedule from the Breeders’ Cup backward where he will go back to the track in about a month and have time for a couple of races before Lone Star. We haven’t decided what races and where at this point, but he is on the schedule we planned for him.”

Cajun Beat won the Sprint at Santa Anita by 2 lengths for trainer Steve Margolis, who brought him back this winter at Gulfstream Park for two races prior to the Dubai trip. Cajun Beat looked good winning the Mr. Prospector Handicap on Jan. 3 and ran well to finish second in the Deputy Minister Handicap in early February.