From the Print Edition: Broad Band

Published in the Dec. 15 issue of The Blood-Horse
While the public may have deserted him, the man who knows him best never lost faith. Though the highweight among the dozen starters, Band Is Passing, the favorite in 11 of his past 12 starts--each of which came in a stakes--could muster no more support from his home crowd than the 7-1 fourth-betting choice in Calder's Tropical Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) on Dec. 8. But his handy win by 3 1/4 lengths validated what his owner and trainer Stanley Ersoff had been saying all along.

"He's a special horse," said Ersoff, who bred the son of his stallion Pass the Line at his Triple E Farm near Ocala, Fla. "We always had confidence in him because he always tries so hard. Even when he was coming in second and third, he was running good races, but somebody just jumped up to beat him."

Ersoff referred primarily to a frustrating streak that commenced in last year's Tropical Turf during which Band Is Passing finished second in four straight stakes by a combined margin of 2 1/4 lengths. Following what Ersoff called "a confidence-building win" over the strip in an overnight stakes in June, the 5-year-old was en route to Kentucky for Churchill's Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) when he was caught in a deluge and became sick. He finished fourth there, then subsequently lost twice back home at Calder while carrying weighty expectations.

"You know how top athletes are," Ersoff said in the winner's circle, postulating that his horse took longer to overcome his illness than expected. "They play hard even when they're not feeling their best, so it's hard to discern if something is wrong."

There was clearly nothing wrong in the 1 1/8-mile Tropical Turf, one of a quartet of $100,000 races carded during the Miami track's Grand Slam I. Carlos Gonzalez, who has been the barn's regular rider since moving his tack south from Kentucky in September, kept Band Is Passing glued to the hedge in second while the speedy Groomstick Stock's carved out three successive quarter-miles in under :24.

When a cadre of runners, led by Slew Valley, moved up inside the three-eighths pole, Gonzalez urged the solidly built bay past the pacesetter, and cleared him quickly. Despite drifting out down the stretch under persistent left-handed urging, Band Is Passing was a convincing winner, timed in 1:46.90, over the late rallying Crash Course.

Though only his second win in 13 months, Band Is Passing now boasts a solid eight for 19 mark on turf, including seven stakes victories, and earnings just shy of $600,000. He is back in the form that made him one of the top middle-distance grass runners on the East Coast for the past two winters, a streak Ersoff hopes to extend to three during the Gulfstream meet.

BATIQUE IS CHARMING

In the corresponding grade III race for distaffers, the My Charmer Handicap, Batique surprised trainer Michael Matz not by winning--she was, after all, the 2-1 favorite--but in the means by which she accomplished her second stakes victory.

"I thought she'd be on the lead," Matz admitted, a logical expectation given the daughter of Storm Cat's proclivity for the front end. But jockey Jorge Chavez, explaining that his instructions were to "try to get her to relax," rated Batique in fifth while Please Sign In--who had cleared to the inside from the widest post of 12--hit all the poles in front except for the final one. Racing with blinkers off, Batique wore down the game pacesetter inside the final sixteenth for a half-length win, accomplished in 1:49.85.

It was an all-in-the-family win for Matz, who trains the homebred for his mother-in-law, Helen Groves, and took over her training in August only after brother-in-law Laird George was called to manage the Camden, S.C., training facility that George's wife, Henrietta, had purchased. Batique is scheduled to be retired for broodmare duty following a Gulfstream campaign.

CALDER NOTES

Following the Dec. 9 $50,000 Tropical Park Steeplechase Handicap (NSA-III), the concluding race of the National Steeplechase Association season, a McCarron stood in Calder's winner's circle for the first time in memory. But it wasn't Gregg or Hall of Famer Chris who piloted Kinross Farm's 5-year-old gelding P.C. Plod to a hard-earned neck win; it was Gregg's son Matthew McCarron. The 30-year-old has been a steeplechase jockey for nearly 10 years and has won over 100 races. "My father told me I don't care what you do--I'll support you one thousand percent--just don't become a jump jockey," he laughed.

(Chart, Equibase)

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