Big-time races for fillies and mares and marathons for grass stayers usually have zero impact in the countdown to the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I). There was, nevertheless, a million-dollar ring to both the $200,000 Santa Maria Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 18 and the $200,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) the day before. By the time the weekend was in the books and the results began to sink in, the only thing anyone knew for sure was there really is nothing for sure.
Spook Express rallied from last place to overtake pacesetter Gaviola in the deep stretch, winning the $100,000 Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) by a half-length Sunday at Gulfstream Park. The win was the second straight graded stakes win for the 1998 South African champion.
After the first round of the 2001 Kentucky Derby Future Wager closed Sunday the mutuel field remained the 3-1 favorite in the betting with Point Given (7-1) the lowest priced individual horse. Dollar Bill, who won the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds in the closing minutes of the bet, closed at 14-1, up from his 10-1 listing on the morning line.
Gary and Mary West's Dollar Bill stalked early leader Gracie's Dancer while racing in third-place on the backstretch before collaring that rival in the stretch en route to a 2 1/2-length win in the $125,000 Risen Star Stakes Sunday at Fair Grounds. Under jockey Chris McCarron, Dollar Bill completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.45 on a fast track.
Start with a hard-hitting New York-bred, who's been fast enough to win more than $775,000, making the last start of her career in a race she won last year. Add a six-year-old mare that earned $389,000 in 2000, chasing the likes of Beautiful Pleasure, Riboletta and Heritage of Gold and top it off with an improving four-year-old that has taken giant steps forward over the last few months, giving every indication she'll be a force in major New York stakes this year. And right there you have the makings of a Rare Treat -- or, specifically, Monday's President's Day feature at Aqueduct, the 29th running of the Rarae Treat.
The mutuel field remained the fans' favorite in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, but an upset in the weekend's major Kentucky Derby prep race resulted in a shuffling of the odds on several Derby contenders heading into the final day of wagering in the pool. The biggest move of the day was made by Songandaprayer, the upset winner of the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. Songandaprayer opened Saturday's wagering as the longest shot in the field at 99-1, but the odds on that colt had dropped to 30-1 by the end of Saturday's betting
Under jockey Jorge Chavez, Hero's Tribute pressed the early pace set by Liberty Township and drew away to a four-length win over Dream Run in a seven-furlong allowance race Saturday at Gulfstream Park. 11-10 favorite A P Valentine finished another 2 1/2 lengths back in third.
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