Oaklawn Park Report: Balto Star Repeats

Oaklawn Park Report: Balto Star Repeats
Photo: Associated Press/Danny Johnston
Balto Star romps to victory in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday.
By Kim Brazzel
Those who thought Balto Star's romping win in the March 24 Spiral Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park was a fluke better think again. It appears Balto Star is indeed a star.

Under Mark Guidry, Balto Star danced away from what was thought to be a competitive field of 11 3-year-olds April 14 in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Finely tuned by trainer Todd Pletcher, Balto Star went fast early and late and drew off to a 4 1/2-length win in the slop. He covered the nine furlongs in a solid 1:49.04.

Owned by the Anstu Stables of Stuart and Anita Subotnick of Millbrook, N.Y., Balto Star is a gelded son of Glitterman out of the Devil's Bag mare Miss Livi.

Jamaican Rum, under Eddie Delahoussaye, was the only rival doing much running through the lane. Last early by as many as 16 lengths, he shied from something in the crowd just outside the eighth pole and ducked inside. Quickly straightened by Delahoussaye, Jamaican Rum finished with good determination while certainly no threat to the winner.

Son of Rocket, under Calvin Borel, figured to try and keep up early with Balto Star. But trainer Bob Holthus decided to try stalk and pounce tactics. Son of Rocket finished third, 5 3/4 lengths behind Jamaican Rum.

Balto Star, who is headed to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) for Team Pletcher, earned $300,000 to push his career earnings to $720,190 from four wins in eight starts. Sent off the 8-5 favorite by the rain-dodging crowd of 39,872, he paid $5.20.

"We're going to Kentucky," Holthus said, referring to Son of Rocket, "but it won't be for the Derby. That is just too long for him. This was too long for him. We might look at the (one mile) Derby Trial (gr. III). He also likes the grass, so we have others for him. I think we'll look at the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) at Churchill."

Guidry, another in the long line of fine south Louisiana riders, admitted he was a tad surprised by Balto Star's smasher in the Spiral.

"I really didn't know what I had under me in the Spiral," Guidry said, referring to the 12 3/4-length win. "I knew what I had under me today. I was much more confident today. I felt good about our chances if he could just stay on his feet when he broke.

"This horse is very athletic; light on his feet. He did this very, very easy. I knew if others tried to go with him, they couldn't keep pace. And I really do think he will go all day."

The chasers jumped on the "off track" excuse boat. But in reality, Balto Star was simply the best.

"The winner ran an awesome race," True Concern's trainer Tom Amoss said. True Concern finished 10th.

"It looks like this is a good year for 3-year-olds," said Tony Richey, who saddled Arctic Boy. "When you run as bad as we did (last) you always look for reasons why or excuses. This colt didn't at all care for the sloppy going. He's normally very aggressive, but he never got into the bit.

"I'll discount this race, but what are you going to do with horses like Point Given and even this horse (Balto Star)? Wow, what a year for 3-year-olds. So many nice ones."

 Quite a Lady

As the field of 10 3-year-old fillies in the $200,000 Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) turned for home April 13, it appeared maybe as many as eight had a chance to win. Not a straw was in their path.

Rider Eibar Coa, aboard Lee Lewis' Mystic Lady, knew better. He had yet to ask her to run. When he sat down on Mystic Lady as the field straightened for home, and really got after her the last sixteenth of a mile, she drew off to an impressive 3 3/4-length victory.

Collect Call, under Alex Solis, showed a little grit to close for second, while 67-1 Mysia Jo overcame a little traffic to finish third under Tim Doocy.

The highly regarded Serena's Tune, sent off the 9-5 choice under Gary Stevens, ran eighth.

"I rode her wrong," Stevens said. "Not bad, just wrong. I had discussed the strategy going into this race with (trainer) Neil (Drysdale) and we decided to take her back a little. When I realized she wasn't liking it and that I needed to let her run, I was boxed in, along the inside. We're going back in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) with her and I promise you I'll let her go right to the front."

Coa was patient with Mystic Lady. He said the slightest movement would cause her to accelerate.

"She was a little rank early," Coa said, "but she did finally relax. When I did ask her in the stretch, she gave me her all. I knew that anybody else that made a run at us was going to have to be real good to catch us."

In addition to earning a berth in the Kentucky Oaks, Mystic Lady earned $120,000 and returned $23.80.

"As tough as this field was, I was just hoping for a top three finish," said Lewis, who is in the construction business in Lubbock, Texas. "We're thrilled with this, and now it's on to the Oaks."

Jockey Gerard Melancon made the long drive from New Orleans early the morning of April 12 to ride Jim and Dennis Richard's Bonapaw in the $125,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (gr. III).

Maybe he should have ridden Bonapaw to Hot Springs. He might have arrived sooner.

The 5-year-old Bonapaw, kept on edge by New Orleans-based trainer Howard (Tucker) Alonzo, made a shambles of the dash for older sprinters.

Bonapaw, breaking from the inside post in what was thought to be a quality field of seven, raced his Fair Grounds competitor Abajo into submission after an opening quarter in :21.62 and took a deep breath after the half in :44.57. He went five furlongs in :56.58 and came home in a smart 1:08.18, by far the fastest six furlongs of the meeting and just off the track record of 1:07 4/5 set by Karen's Tom in 1990.

Bonapaw, a 5-year-old horse by Sabona out of Pawlova, was bred in Kentucky by veterinarian William O. Reed. Bonapaw suffered a crack in his right front, just above the ankle, in May of 1999.

Bonapaw, first or second in 15 of 21 starts, all in Louisiana before Thursday, earned $75,000 to push his career earnings to a hard-earned $377,976. Veteran Chindi tried hard to make his last to first move, but came up 4 3/4 lengths short. He was still a neck better than Bidis, the 8-5 favorite.

Alonzo is now ready to test even deeper waters in the $150,000 Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) May 5 at seven furlongs.

Final Furlong

The Arkansas Racing Commission granted Oaklawn Park's request for a 54-day meeting in 2002, up two days from this year's meeting. Oaklawn will open Jan. 25 for a three-day weekend of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday cards. The meet will continue with another three-day weekend the following week and then conduct five-day (Wednesday through Sunday) racing through April 13...The streak of Terry Wallace, track announcer at Oaklawn, has stretched to a remarkable 27 years. Not once during the span has Wallace missed a day or even a race. "That streak in horse racing compares to what Cal Ripken did in baseball," said Oaklawn general manager Eric Jackson. "The streak impresses countless people in our industry. It certainly does me." Wallace, 56, has been director of media relations since 1984. He joined Oaklawn as announcer in 1975, succeeding the late Chic Anderson...Oaklawn drew an average of 11,251 fans a day this season, down from last year's 12,428.

(Chart, Equibase)

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