Surprise House Party Wins Nassau County

Joseph V. Shields Jr.'s homebred House Party and jockey Jose Santos waited patiently for an opportunity in mid-stretch and squeezed through an opening to surprise 3-5 favorite Cyber Secret in the $200,000 Nassau County Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) for 3-year-old fillies at Belmont Park Saturday.

On a day that tried his patience, Santos, the target of questions about whether he had an illegal object in his hand when he won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) a week ago aboard Funny Cide, demonstrated that he can maintain his focus for the task at hand.

House Party, trained by Allen Jerkens, won going away by about three lengths over Cyber Secret in a time of 1:23 1/5 for the seven-furlong test on a fast track. The field was reduced to four fillies when Randaroo was a morning scratch due to a lung infection.

Cyber Secret had won two graded stakes impressively in her two most recent efforts, including a 5 1/2-length romp over Storm Flag Flying in the Comely (gr. III) at Aqueduct on April 18.

Ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, Cyber Secret jumped out in front from the gate but was under fairly strong pressure from Uphill Racer and City Sister through early fractions of :22 4/5 for the first quarter mile, :46 3/5 for the half and 1:11 for six furlongs. Near the eighth pole, Santos brought House Party, at the rear throughout but close to the lead, through a narrow gap as Uphill Skier and City Sister dropped out of it. City Sister finished third.

"I tried to relax my filly," Santos said. "I feel the only way I can get her to relax is to put her right in between horses. When I asked her to run in the clear, she just took off and won easy. "

The loss was the second in five starts for Cyber Secret this year.

"We got beat, but I'm satisfied," said trainer Richard Dutrow. "She ran her race. We've really got no excuses; everything went our way. She was outrun by a good horse."

Bridgmohan added, "She ran hard. I don't think she punched the way she did in the Comely a few weeks ago, but she gave me a little run. We got beat by an improving horse."

Santos' day began with a major Southern newspaper questioning if he had something in his hand during the running of the Kentucky Derby. As a result of the article, Santos and his attorney are expected to meet with Kentucky authorities on Monday.

The rest of the day became hectic with 10,193 fans and a bevy of reporters and photographers already at the track to watch Funny Cide, bound for next Saturday's Preakness (gr. I), school in the paddock before the third race in his first public appearance since the Kentucky Derby.

Santos kept his composure and demonstrated his ability in the Nassau County. There appeared to be nowhere to go, but when a seam opened Santos shot his mount through for the victory.

"He had to put her in between horses so she wouldn't run off with him," Jerkens. "She finished full of run. She got a break today with it only being a four-horse race, and I guess, the second horse wasn't as good today as she was last time."

The Florida-bred grey/roan daughter of French Deputy from the Relaunch dam Bill Back won for the fourth time in nine starts. She was coming off a smashing 8 1/2-length victory in the Legal Light at Delaware Park on a sloppy track. Her first graded stakes triumph for Shields, vice chairman of The New York Racing Association's Board of Trustees, pushed House Party's career bankroll over the $300,000 mark.

House Party paid $6.50 and $2.30. Cyber Secret returned $2.10. There was no show payoff. The $2 exacta was worth $9.90.

(Chart, Equibase)