<b>Saratoga Notebook:</b> Smiles From Walden for 'Humor'; Midnight Cry Frizette Bound; Medaglia d'Oro Returns to Training; Turf Races On Tap; Prado Nears Bailey Mark
by Mike Kane
Date Posted: 8/31/2002 8:41:12 PM
Last Updated: 9/2/2002 8:42:13 AM

Trainer Elliott Walden smiled and nodded his head Saturday morning when the word ¨impressive" came up in a description of Awesome Humor's performance in Friday's Spinaway (gr.I) for 2-year-old fillies.

"Yeah, it was," Walden said. "We had hoped for it, but it's always nice when they do it. Hoping and doing is two different things."

After running on a contested lead for first five furlongs, the WinStar Farm filly pulled away from Forever Partners, trained by Anthony Dutrow, in the stretch to win by 2 3/4 lengths for jockey Pat Day. The victory in the seven-furlong Spinaway kept Awesome Humor unbeaten through four races.

WinStar purchased the Distorted Humor filly from Tom Durant after her victory in the Debutante (gr.III). In her debut for Walden, she cruised to a 1 1/4-length win over Stellar in the Adirondack (gr.II) on Aug. 12.

As a result, Walden was very positive about her chances against the 11 others she faced in the Spinaway.

"When you get to know them a little bit, your confidence level goes up," he said. "We were still trying to get to know her a little bit going into the last race.I had only had her four weeks. Then she runs well and that always gets your confidence level up, too."

Walden said he wasn't concerned when Awesome Humor drew the rail in the large field.

"I felt like I had a lot of confidence in Pat, felt like he had the ability to negotiate whatever came his way. I really didn't give her any instructions. He'd already ridden the filly.

"At that point, there's nothing I can tell him and he's always going to give his best. I felt real confident. I just let him play it how he felt like he needed to and it worked out well for us."

Awesome Humor is from the first crop of 2-year-olds by Distorted Humor. Walden trained Distorted Humor, who now stands at WinStar, so she attracted the attention of the trainer and the farm's management team.

"It kind of clicked on the radar screen a bit more," Walden said. "We had watched her run her first start at Keeneland because she was a Distorted Humor and was impressed with her race.

"Then she came back in the Debutante and repeated that performance, probably even better. She showed that she could come off the pace a little bit. That was encouraging, so then we stepped in and tried to buy."

The next stop on the road to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies should be the Walmac International Alcibiades (gr.II) at Keeneland on Oct. 4.

From what he saw in the Spinaway, Walden feels Awesome Humor should be able to stretch out and make the transition to two-turn racing.

"I think she can because because of the fact that she can rate," he said. "She was waiting for Pat to give her the signal to go. Even thought she was in front, she wasn't pulling so hard that she was using up her energy.

"From that standpoint, if you can get a filly to be on the lead going long and yet turn it off and relax, it's a pretty good advantage. You don't lose any ground that way."

Midnight Cry Headed for Frizette

One filly Awesome Humor won't see in the Alcibiades is Midnight Cry, who ran third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Spinaway at odds of 32-1.

Trainer Kenny McPeek said he will go out of his way to avoid Awesome Humor prior to the Breeders' Cup. So the Smart Strike filly owned by Barrister Hall Stables is likely to make her next start in the Frizette (gr.I) Oct. 5 at Belmont Park.

Though bettors dismissed her chances, McPeek was expecting a big performance from Midnight Cry in the Spinaway.

"I wasn't surprised," he said. "She'a very good filly. I think she wants more ground than seven-eighths, but I knew she would run better at seven-eighths than she did at five and a half."

Medaglia d'Oro Returns to Track

Travers (gr.I) winner Medaglia d'Oro returned to the track Saturday morning. He suffered a cut on his left foreleg in the Travers, slowing his return. Trainer Bobby Frankel said the injury is healing.

"It was his first day back and he trotted the wrong way," Frankel said. "He's got plenty of time, so I wasn't worried about missing a week. He wasn't going to the track for three days anyway, so he only missed four days. Sometimes it's a blessing, especially with a horse that's been running all year."

After You ran third in the Alabama (gr.I) on Aug. 17, Frankel said he would give her the rest of the year off. A few days later, he reversed that decision. On Saturday, Frankel said she has continued training. The Ruffian (gr.I) and a start in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) are options he is considering.

Five Turf Races Carded for Closing Day

Saratoga will complete its 134th season Monday with an 11-race program, one more than had previously been scheduled.

Rainy weather in the Northeast really did a number on grass racing from Aug. 24 through Aug. 30. NYRA racing secretary Mike Lakow has scheduled five turf races Monday and they drew large fields.

The fifth race, a $60,000 money allowance at 1 1/16 mile on the inner turf course, drew several horses, including Babae and Watch, who were scratched from the Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap when it was taken off the grass on Aug. 24.

Prado Has Bailey Victory Mark in Sight

Edgar Prado's victory on Sky Mesa in the Hopeful (gr.I) Saturday was his 52nd of the meeting and gave him a 10-win lead over three-time defending champion Jerry Bailey in the jockey standings.

Prado only has one day remaining to challenge the record of 55 winners Bailey established last summer. Prado is scheduled to ride in all 10 races Sunday.

On Monday, Prado will be at Philadelphia Park to ride Harlan's Holiday in the Pennsylvania Derby. Bailey is named on seven mounts Sunday and another seven on Monday.

Todd Pletcher enters the final two days of the season atop the trainer's standings with 18 wins, one more than perennial titlist Bill Mott.

Quest Star to Start in Saranac

After Quest Star won the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Handicap (gr.II), Walden was considering the Saranac (gr.III) and the Pennsylvania Derby (gr.III) for the 3-year-old colt, both scheduled for Sept. 2.

After checking out the competition, Walden decided to stay in Saratoga for the Saranac on the turf instead of putting Quest Star back on the dirt in the Pennsylvania Derby.

"I just thought that race was coming up pretty tough," Walden said. "Harlan's Holiday is coming back. Magic Weisner is a very solid horse.

"I was going to try the dirt if it was going to be a weak field, if the Travers had drawn a lot of the tough horses away from the Pennsylvania Derby and the Pennsylvania Derby was going to be soft.

"But it really didn't turn out that way. It's not a super race, but it's a very solid race."

Holiday Runner to Take a Break

Multiple stakes winner Holiday Runner is headed for a vacation after finishing 10th of 12 in the Spinaway.

"She didn't run and we're going to turn her out," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "We're going to give her a little time.

"She had that little virus up here at the start and I think that took more of a toll than I'd care to admit. She trained well and acted well, but she didn't run well. She's an exceptional filly and I think we'll just kick her out for 60 days and see where we're at."

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