Buy the Sport in Thorny Spot for '04 Debut

(from Aqueduct report)
Buy the Sport rose to the occasion when it was least expected of her, winning the prestigious Gazelle (gr. I) over three Grade 1 winners in Lady Tak, Spoken Fur and Island Fashion at 48-1 late last summer at Belmont Park.

She spent the rest of the season battling top company and never seriously threatened in the Beldame and Breeders' Cup Distaff (both gr. I). On Saturday, Buy the Sport will take the first step in what trainer Bobby Barbara is hoping will be a memorable season when she makes her 4-year-old debut in the $150,000-added Bed O' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) for fillies and mares at a mile.

Adding muscle to an outstanding renewal of the Bed O' Roses are grade I winners Passing Shot, Nonsuch Bay and millionaire Smok'n Frolic.

Buy the Sport, a New York-bred daughter of Devil's Bag, is making her first start since finishing fifth behind longshot Adoration in the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. She spent the first few months of the season in Ocala, Fla., before returning to Barbara's Belmont Park shedrow in early March.

Since returning to New York, Buy the Sport has worked four times, most recently going five furlongs on Monday in :59 1/5, handily. The move convinced Barbara, who had considered skipping the Bed O' Roses in favor of Churchill Downs' Louisville Handicap on April 30, to enter.

"I was happy with her work on Monday and I've been happy with her since she came back to New York," he said. "It's a long season and we're not in any rush with her. There are two other grade one winners in the field, but this is a better spot to get her back in action. She's ready to run, but I haven't pushed the buttons by any means. She'll be fine. Her class will get her through it."

Buy the Sport, who will be making her Aqueduct debut and only her fourth start in the U.S., drew post 2 under jockey Richard Migliore.

Migliore, who is shooting for his fourth New York stakes victory this year, got a feel for the filly on Monday morning at Belmont Park.

"I was impressed," he said. "I remember her winning the Gazelle last year, but I thought the race fell apart in front of her. After working her the other day I've got a really different impression of her. She's very catlike, like a sports car. She's real handy and shifty. When you move your hands, she's right there. She gave me a great feeling the other morning. I think she's going to have a big year."

Barbara and owner Peter Minikes of Georgica Stable have yet to map out a campaign for Buy the Sport, although one would think she'd be prominent in the majority of New York's grade I older filly and mare stakes at Belmont Park and Saratoga this season.

Buy the Sport was assigned 116 pounds, three less than starting highweight Smok'n Frolic.

Thorn Stable's Nonsuch Bay earned her grade I victory in Belmont Park's Mother Goose in the spring of 2002. The wins have been few and far between since then, but Nonsuch Bay has put together an admirable record of 7-5-5 from 22 starts with earnings of more than $700,000 for trainer Frank Alexander.

Nonsuch Bay, third in this race last year behind Raging Fever and Smok'n Frolic, is coming off a successful title defense of Gulfstream's Banshee Breeze.

"She's as good as she's ever been," Alexander said. "She might be a little better around two turns, but we'll take her over there and gave it our best shot."

Nonsuch Bay drew post 3 under 116 pounds.

Perhaps Tom Mankiewicz's Victory Encounter is the most interesting horse in the cast. She'll make her first start outside of Southern California for trainer John Sadler. A daughter of Victory Speech, Victory Encounter won Santa Anita's El Encino (gr. II) and is six for nine lifetime. But she is coming off the worst effort of her career when beaten nearly 30 lengths in the Feb. 14 La Canada. She arrived in New York on Wednesday and will be ridden by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan in the Bed O' Roses.

"We gave her a thorough look over after the La Canada and couldn't come up with anything," Sadler said. "We gave her the time and she seems okay. She's trained really well. I don't know what happened in the La Canada, it's one of the those races where you scratch your head."

Sadler said he expects Victory Encounter, a $32,000 claim by him in her second career start last April, to race close to the lead on Saturday, although the filly has won races rallying from far off the pace.

Smok'n Frolic has won three graded stakes over the main track at Aqueduct – the 2001 Demoislle and the last two runnings of the Next Move – for trainer Todd Pletcher. The lone millionaire in the group, she will be ridden by jockey John Velazquez, a two-time winner of the Bed O' Roses.

Joseph Shields Jr.'s Passing Shot pulled off a major upset when defeating Wild Spirit in Saratoga's Personal Ensign (gr. I) in August, but has gone winless in four subsequent starts and was soundly beaten by Smok'n Frolic in the March 14 Next Move. Perhaps Passing Shot's biggest asset is her trainer, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, who has won five runnings of the Bed O' Roses.

$150,000-added Bed O' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) F&M 3 & up, one mile
1. Passing Shot, H. Allen Jerkens, Jose Santos, 115
2. Buy the Sport, Bob Barbara, Richard Migliore, 116
3. Nonsuch Bay, Frank Alexander, Jorge Chavez, 116
4. Victory Encounter, John Sadler, Shaun Bridgmohan, 118
5. Chirimoya, Mike Hushion, Pedro Cotto, 111
6. Princess Dixie, H. James Bond, Mike Luzzi, 112
7. Smok'n Frolic, Todd Pletcher, John Velazquez, 119