There is an air to Bienamado, a cocksure attitude laced with a dash of hubris, that exudes pride. That head held high, those white-rimmed eyes scanning the scene for anything of interest, he swaggers around like he owns the joint. If body language means anything, Bienamado knows he's the man. "Oh, yeah," said jockey Chris McCarron, grinning like a teen holding the keys to his dad's Porsche. "He's an extremely confident individual. Yeah, he knows he's good. He's a dream to ride." For those with their hands on a decent long-distance grass horse, however, Bienamado's been nothing but a nightmare. The intrepid chestnut took aim on his latest victims in the $350,000 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) on June 10, and he was all business yet again, hammering home his reputation as the country's top turf horse with a decisive length and a half triumph. By now, it seems Bienamado is a lock each time he heads to the post, and McCarron, who knows the 5-year-old inside out, acknowledged Bienamado's confidence level is at an all-time high. "He's getting to the point where he kind of reminds me a little bit of a Precisionist," McCarron explained. "He is so professional, so willing to run, and he's got so much desire to win, you go out there and you hope you don't get in his way. You key on trying to give him the best trip you can give him and then just kind of point him in the right direction 'cause you know he's reliable, very reliable." The 1 1/4-mile Whittingham was textbook Bienamado. McCarron remained motionless in the saddle as Bienamado settled into second, methodically tracking pacesetter Bombard. Three furlongs out--as usual--Bienamado cruised alongside the leader. A slight tap from McCarron's whip at the quarter pole and it was over. "Twenty-three and one the last quarter-mile," the rider later beamed. "That's a little tough to catch." Try impossible. With a stride best described as a blend of power and poetry in motion, Bienamado needed just :23.32 to reach the wire in 1:59.34. The true battle was for second, with Senure beating stablemate Timboroa by a nose. Defending winner White Heart was just a head back in fourth. Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan, who bred the son of Bien Bien and co-own him with Robert Sangster, have settled on just one race between now and Bienamado's date in the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). "We'll run him fresh," noted trainer Paco Gonzalez. "Why give him so many races?" Watch out for him next in the grade I Arlington Million on Aug. 18.
SKIMMING ON TOP Earlier on the card, Skimming turned the tables on Futural in the $500,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II) at nine furlongs, recalling the same form that sent the son of Nureyev to the top last summer. Though Skimming's powerhouse Del Mar meet was soon overshadowed by a forgettable East Coast foray in the fall, his recent return to action suggests the Juddmonte Farm homebred is now even tougher to deal with. Under Garrett Gomez, Skimming could not be caught in the Californian, setting all the pace before holding off Futural by a length in 1:48.12. His barnmate, Aptitude, was third. Skimming's trainer, Bobby Frankel, admits the 5-year-old is much healthier than last fall. To Gomez, there are even more significant changes from the saddle. "He's actually matured and kind of learned how to do things on his own a little better," said Gomez. "He's not as eager and head-strong like he was before. He feels better than ever, so hopefully, he'll just keep on getting better." Skimming will get another chance to shine on July 1 in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I). Interestingly, the one-two finishers from last year's Californian--Big Ten and defending Gold Cup winner Early Pioneer--showed up earlier in the week, both kicking off their 2001 campaigns in the $90,550 Ack Ack Stakes. They were no match, however, for Grey Memo, who seems to strike right when most have him ignored. As it is, the 4-year-old son of Memo has found a home at the long end of the sprint spectrum. The 7 1/2-furlong Ack Ack was right up his alley. Ridden by Gomez, Grey Memo ignited in deep stretch, blasting between National Saint and Elaborate to prevail by a desperate nose. Bred by Pat Thompson, who co-owns the colt with Russ Sarno and Ron Manzani, Grey Memo will be turning up July 1, as well, but don't look for him in the Gold Cup. His sights are set instead on the Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at seven furlongs. Warren Stute is his trainer.