M375 Thoroughbreds Inc.'s Diamond Studs closed from next-to-last in the field of four Thoroughbreds and four Quarter Horses to win the $25,000 Challenge Stakes, the first race on Calder Race Course's "Summit of Speed" card Saturday. On a fast track, the winner completed the 880 yards in :46.21 seconds, .23 seconds faster than second-place King Rick Rack, a Quarter Horse owned by Lewis Allen.
"My horse didn't have a lot of speed but had a strong finish," said winning jockey Cornelio Velasquez. "I had a lot of problems the first part of the race. The three (Whataluckyboy) horse was having trouble and the one was a bad post position for me. At the quarter pole I knew my horse was going to win easy -- I had a lot of horse."
King Rick Rack broke from the extreme outside and opened a half-length lead over fellow Quarter Horse Streakin Md at the quarter-mile pole but was outkicked in the final furlong by Diamond Studs, who pulled away to the 1 1/4-length victory.
"His horse (Diamond Studs) just had more left down the lane than I did. I was on the lead the whole time," said Tomey Swan, King Rick Rack's rider. "He felt real strong but I knew I was using him pretty hard to drop over (from post eight). I didn't want to get caught way wide because I have had trouble getting him to make the turn. He did everything I asked him to do except win. He tried. We just flat got beat by a better horse today. Maybe we can come back and get him next time."
Diamond Studs (Black Tie Affair--Macharoundtheclock, by Devil's Bag), a winner of four of 29 races prior to Saturday's Challenge Stakes, earned $15,000 for the win. The win marks the second on the year for the Joseph J. Waunsch trainee, who last won at Gulfstream Park in a six-furlong allowance race in February. Diamond Studs finished third in the 1998 Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) and second in three other stakes events in Florida. The 6-year-old was bred in Kentucky by Jayeff B Stables.
"That was fun," said winning owner Rob Murphy. "I first found out about the race on the Calder Web site. I asked Joe (Waunsch) what he thought and he was a little skeptical at first. But then we got closer and the timing was just right. We had given him a little extra time since his last race because that was his third race in a month, but it was time for him to come back and run in something. I had pulled up some past performances from Los Alamitos and saw that the record there for a half-mile was 43.99, although they run a few yards less than a half-mile, and figured we would be competitive. Then we drew well and I said 'let's do it.' He was able to get through when he needed to."
The race, the first ever inter-breed race hosted by Calder, kicked off the track's "Summit of Speed" card, which features five stakes races worth more than $1 million. The 13-race card is comprised of only sprint races, including a two-furlong race for 2-year-olds and up, the $50,000 Rocket Man Stakes. (Chart, Equibase