Eaglestone Farm's Alannan scored an impressive four-length victory in the $270,750 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes at odds of 17-1. The race marked the first time the 5-year-old Conquistador Cielo horse has started since being transferred from the barn of the late John Tammaro II to Carl Nafzger.
Takin It Deep, running in last place after a half-mile, rallied to upset favored Early Flyer and Startac in the $200,000 California Derby at Bay Meadows Saturday. Early Flyer finished a half-length back in second, followed by Sirpa, Startac, Stocks Are Rising, Othersideofthehill, and Wa Dancer.
Bienamado leaned against the stall webbing, craning his neck down the shedrow. The sinews beneath his glowing coat were alluring, and there was no mistaking the urgent look cast by his white-rimmed eyes. As the stalwart colt strained for something to chow down on, nowhere were there signs that just an hour earlier he had been stretched to the limits of class and stamina. There was no trace of fatigue, no wrung-out guise you might expect from an animal who had not only pulled down the $400,000 San Juan Capistrano Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at about 1 3/4 miles, but did it fast. Faster than Cougar II or Exceller. Faster than John Henry, Kotashaan, or even his very own sire, Bien Bien. The small crowd gathered near his stall was simply awed.
Like any worthwhile Broadway production, the 2001 version of "Perfect Sting: The Sequel" took its show on the road for tune-ups on April 14 in an effort to iron out any kinks in the act before hitting the Great White Way. And, somewhat to the surprise of the show's director -- trainer Joe Orseno -- the kinks were few.
Sunday at Hialeah
The Allen E. Paulson Living Trust's Astra unleashed a furious stretch run to defeat Beautiful Noise and five other older fillies and mares in Saturday's $250,000 Santa Barbara Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita. Kent Desormeaux booted home the 5-year-old Theatrical mare after running the 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.33 on a firm turf course.
Those who thought Balto Star's romping win in the March 24 Spiral Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park was a fluke better think again. It appears Balto Star is indeed a star. Under Mark Guidry, Balto Star danced away from what was thought to be a competitive field of 11 3-year-olds April 14 in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby (gr. II). Finely tuned by trainer Todd Pletcher, Balto Star went fast early and late and drew off to a 4 1/2-length win in the slop. He covered the nine furlongs in a solid 1:49.04.
One week before the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), Laffit Pincay Jr. sat comfortably in a rocking chair half a continent away from Keeneland in the Santa Anita Park jocks' room. Asked to pick his biggest thrill in racing, Pincay could be forgiven if he tussled awhile with the question. After all, there have been 35 years of memories: the ascension to all-time leading rider; induction into the Hall of Fame; six Eclipse Awards; seven wins on one card; historic stakes wins on horses like Affirmed and John Henry. Yet his answer came before the question had time to dry--his win aboard Swale in the 1984 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
Go ahead, tell Congaree he doesn't have the experience or seasoning to win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). He'll laugh in your face, just as he did to those who questioned his ability to defeat the mighty Monarchos in the April 17 Wood Memorial (gr. II) off only three career starts. We're talking about a colt who literally was born a fighter, and who has been defying the odds ever since. When you have to fight to get born, there isn't a challenge life has to offer that you back away from. To Congaree, the $750,000 Wood was just another race at just another track against just another horse. And the result was just another of his resounding victories.
Say Florida Sandy rebounded Saturday from a fifth-place finish in the Westchester Handicap (gr. III) last weekend to win Aqueduct's $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) by 1 1/2 lengths over a troubled Delaware Township. The win is the third from six starts on the current year for the 7-year-old New York-bred.
Paraneck Stable's recent Lafayette Stakes (gr. III) winner Griffinite will race next in the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) on April 21 at Keeneland, according to trainer Jennifer Pedersen. "He had been training awesomely," Pedersen said. "We were very happy for the win, but we knew that it was a just a prep for the Lexington. He came out of the race full of himself. He knows he won."
Khalid Abdullah's Ryafan died April 12 from major uterine artery hemorrhaging at the owner's Juddmonte Farms near Lexington.
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