Acting Zippy dictated a slow pace for jockey Robby Albarado and had enough left to hold off Orientate Express for a neck victory in the $197,000 John B. Connally Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Sam Houston Race Park on the night of Jan. 30.
A multiple stakes winner previously on dirt last year, 5-year-old Acting Zippy registered his first graded victory for trainer and co-owner William Don Bennett. Acting Zippy completed the 1 1/8-mile event in 1:53.21 over firm going under good handling from Albarado. The time was well off the course mark established by Lost Soldier of 1:48.75 in 1997.
Acting Zippy and Orientate Express, ridden by Glen Murphy, ran one-two virtually all the way as Acting Zippy got away with quarter-mile fractions of :25.37, :50.08 and 1:15.63. Acting Zippy spurted away a bit in the lane to open a daylight advantage mid-stretch, then dug down as Orientate Express, under right-handed urging from Murphy, made it close in the final strides.
The stalking Baltimore Bob, after acting up at the gate, closed mildly to gain the show spot with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard. He finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Grade IIII Canadian winner Pool Play, the 5-2 favorite in the field of 12, never threatened and finished eighth.
This was the first turf race for Acting Zippy since he ran fourth in a stakes at Fair Grounds last March. He has now won two of seven starts on grass following his initial try on the Sam Houston lawn.
A Florida-bred gelding by City Zip out of the Future Storm mare Stormack, Acting Zippy improved his career mark to 10-7-4 in 31 lifetime starts with earnings of $574,228 thanks to the winning purse of $120,000, which included $50,000 from the Breeders' Cup Fund. Bennett owns Acting Zippy in partnership with Carl Bowling, who bred the chestnut with Ellen Thompson.
Asked what's next for Acting Zippy, Bennett said, "I don't know, maybe something on the dirt."
After winning five times in 13 starts last year, including a pair of stakes triumphs at Delaware Park and one at Monmouth Park, Acting Zippy has won both of his races so far in 2010. He returned from a 5 1/2-month layoff Jan. 16 to win an off-the-turf allowance race over a muddy Sam Houston main track in front-running style by 2 1/2 lengths.
Sent off as the third choice, Acting Zippy carried 118 pounds and paid $12.40, $7.60 and $5.40. Orientate Express returned $6.40 and $4. The exacta was worth $97.60. Baltimore Bob was $5.20 to show.
Gran Estreno finished fourth. He was followed by Gretsky, Ablaze With Spirit, Going Ballistic, Pool Play, My Happiness, Red Rock Creek, Fifteen Love and Real Appeal. Ernesto and King Dan scratched.