Three weeks later and with an extra furlong to race, the results remain the same as Flame Thrower reprised his wire-to-wire performance from last month's Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) to win the one-mile $200,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) by a neck over the late-charging Street Cry Saturday at Santa Anita. In the seven-furlong Futurity, Flame Thrower just lasted to best Street Cry by a head.
"Those are two top horses," said Flame Thower's trainer Bob Baffert. "You hate to see them run that hard but ... I was trying to tell Eoin (Harty, trainer of Street Cry and a former Baffert assistant) to go out of town, go to the Champagne or anywhere else but he didn't want to ship."
Two-year-old Flame Thrower (Saint Ballado--Metromane, by Metrogrand) remains perfect for his career while picking up his fourth win. He earned Gary M. Garber the $120,000 winner's share of the purse. Flame Thrower was bred in Florida by Suzanne Collins. In addition to the Del Mar Futurity, he also won the Best Pal Stakes (gr. III).
Flame Thrower set fractions of :23.02 and :46.69 while only slightly pressured by Mr. Freckles, a Mike Harrington-trained son of Meadowlake ridden by Gary Stevens. Flame Thrower, ridden by Victor Espinoza for the first time, continued to lead after six furlongs run in 1:10.31 with Mr. Freckles still a half-length back and Street Cry beginning to rally. Flame Thrower began to pull away from Mr. Freckles but Street Cry remained in pursuit to the wire to once again just miss. Over a fast track, Flame Thrower completed the distance in 1:34.86.
"It was a fast time on a not-so-fast track -- two good horses," said Harty.
Mr. Freckles finished third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Street Cry. Sudden Glory, Revelling, Dubai Breeze, Mo Mon, and Learing At Kathy completed the order of finish.
"Those are two really gutsy, really tough horses," said Baffert. "He amazes me, you look at him, he looks like a quarter horse with the flaxen mane and tail and sort of big gut on him. He looks fat, he's a big barreled horse."
Sent off as the even-money favorite, Flame Thrower returned $4.00, $2.40, and $2.10. The $1 exacta paid $3.10.
"He reminds me of Silver Charm," said Baffert. "They come up to Silver Charm -- he guts it out and is not gonna let 'em pass. He did it again today -- he let the horse come to him and then he takes off again."
Both Baffert and Harty indicated the Breeders' Cup Juvenile would be the next stop for their horses. (Chart, Equibase