Gulfstream Park Race Report: Snowbird

Published in the March 8 issue of The Blood-Horse
Like the switch-hitting middle infielder who can play multiple positions, it is equally valuable in horse racing to have a utility man--someone who can be called upon in a pinch to put forth a solid effort with few demands. With jockeys like Jerry Bailey and Edgar Prado out of town, the red-hot John Velazquez aboard stablemate Calista, and the barn's main man Jose Santos committed to Stay Forever, trainer Chris Clement needed a utility man. A call to the bench brought in Jean-Luc Samyn.

"He's a very solid rider--especially on the grass--and did a great job harnessing her speed," Clement said after Haras du Mezeray's 5-year-old mare Amonita scored in the Suwannee River Handicap (gr. IIIT) on March 2. A broad grin then crossed his face as he added, "The only thing is that he looks a little pale."

That was fully excusable since Samyn popped into the record-setting heat of South Florida the morning of the race and was scheduled to return to his New York base shortly after his first Gulfstream ride of the year. In just those few hours, though, he used his steady hands to keep the daughter of Anabaa glued to the flank of longshot Sparkling Ava as the latter jogged through soft fractions.

"I was ready to go to the lead if the eight didn't want to, but she did, so I was able to sit right behind and bide my time," Samyn said. "Mr. Clement told me she might not want to go as far as a mile and an eighth, so I needed to ease her along."

"With her tremendous speed she's truly a miler," said Clement, and the Suwannee River was the first time Amonita had traveled nine furlongs. At a mile, though, the British-bred (by Ship Commodities International) was good enough to win the Prix Marcel Boussac (Fr-I) during her 2000 campaign, and to have run Tates Creek to a length when second best in the Noble Damsel (gr. IIIT) last September. Last out, she faded to sixth after taking the lead at the head of the stretch in the 1 1/16-mile Honey Fox (gr. IIIT).

Given that history, Amonita's final furlong of :11.31 in the Suwannee River was remarkable. She disposed of Sparkling Ava near the eighth pole and galloped strongly to the line, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of What a Price, who nosed out 3-2 favorite Calista for second.

Clement had asserted before the race that the Suwannee River was to be the final start for both Calista and Amonita, but afterward he was hedging his bets regarding the winner. "She's booked (to be bred) to Kingmambo but I might like to have a little look around," he smiled. "Maybe the owners will let me have another race or two."

If so, he knows where he can find a rider.

Crystal Clear

The traditional 50th wedding anniversary gift is gold. On March 1, though, Elaine and Bert Klein chose to celebrate with crystal--as in the trophy that accompanies the winner of the Rampart Handicap (gr. II).

In a 7 3/4-length domination over five overmatched rivals, the Kleins' homebred Allamerican Bertie was winning her fourth graded stakes and establishing herself as one of the best distaffers not named Azeri. "If Azeri comes back the way she finished last year she's in a class by herself, but I'm not afraid of anybody else," said trainer Steve Flint.

Allamerican Bertie, so well regarded that she caused a minus show pool of $88,792, got to the front easily and cruised. Smok'n Frolic gave chase and easily held second.

"I was a passenger," Velazquez said to Bert Klein. "All I had to do was make sure I didn't fall off. It was the easiest ride I've ever had." The jockey has had his share lately, as the Rampart was his fifth graded stakes win at Gulfstream in a span of 15 days. b

At the Wire
Trainer Ken McPeek experienced dramatic highs and lows all within a span of minutes during and following the Feb. 28 Gaily Gaily Stakes. First, he watched Taulbee, Banks, Griggs, and Team Victory's Devil At the Wire earn black type with a neck win in the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies. Moments later he endured the sight of the daughter of Devil His Due being vanned off, a cast on her right rear leg evidence of a fractured sesamoid. McPeek said Devil At the Wire would be retired and sent to Kentucky to be bred. By Scott Davis

(Chart, Equibase)