Aqueduct Race Report (Cont.)

A Sight to See

Speaking of Bailey and Frankel, the pair started off the weekend on a winning note by teaming up to capture the Top Flight Handicap with Juddmonte Farms' exciting 3-year-old filly Sightseek on Nov. 29.

The daughter of Distant View accomplished a lot more in the Top Flight than defeating older horses and showing what she's made of under pressure. Horses handle adversity in different ways. Some will sulk when they run into unforeseen obstacles, while others rise to the occasion.

Coming down the stretch in the Top Flight, Sightseek, favored at 7-5, was put to the test by the front-running Zonk, who had taken the field on a merry chase through rapid fractions of :45.14 and 1:09.61. Sightseek, who had been tracking her throughout, took her on at the head of the stretch. Most expected her to blow right on by, but Zonk was tenacious. Bailey knew he had his work cut out for him and he went to work on Sightseek.

Those with upset on their minds could see the headlines: "Sightseek Gets Zonked in Top Flight." Well, Sightseek did indeed get zonked. It was not, however, by Zonk, but by the whip of Zonk's rider Chuck Lopez.

As Lopez brought the whip down with his right hand, he whacked Sightseek across the face, causing her to throw her head in the air. Now came the test. Would she sulk or would it get her blood boiling? It didn't take long to find out the answer. Sightseek took off as if she had been given a hotfoot instead of a smack across the face. She charged past Zonk nearing the finish and quickly opened up to win by 1 3/4 lengths. The time for the mile was 1:35.46. Nasty Storm rallied for third, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Ruffian Handicap (gr. I) winner Mandy's Gold.

"The whip across the face was pretty significant," Bailey said. "Horses will either do one of two things when that happens: they will either get discouraged or more determined. I think she was more determined after it happened. She is one exceptional filly."

Frankel said Sightseek likely will run next in the $200,000 La Brea Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Dec. 28.

Top-Class Toccet

It's not exactly taken from Webster's, but a good definition of hype is: a horse going off as the 7-5 favorite coming off one maiden start over another horse coming off victories in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and Laurel Futurity. Add to that, the same unproven horse being quoted at 10-1 in the Kentucky Derby Future Book odds, while the proven grade I stakes winner is listed at 40-1.

The horses in question are Empire Maker, the much-hyped Frankel-trained 2-year-old, and Toccet, the proven grade I stakes winner. You can understand why Toccet's connections were a bit peeved when their colt was relegated to second choice in the $200,000 Remsen Stakes on Nov. 30. You can also understand the sarcasm by Toccet's owner and breeder Dan Borislow following his colt's 2 1/4-length victory in the Remsen, with Empire Maker finishing third. After accepting the trophy, Borislow said with an impish grin on his face, "We're going to change (Toccet's) name to Empire Breaker."

All hype and sarcasm aside, the Remsen proved that Toccet is a top-class colt and a legitimate contender for next year's classics. It also showed that Empire Maker may turn out to be as special as trainer Bobby Frankel believes he is.

When the son of Unbridled out of Toussaud stumbled leaving the gate, dropping back to last, it pretty much cost him the race over the speed-biased track. He put in a strong run around the turn to reach contention, but had to settle for third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths. Considering the 1 1/8-mile Remsen was only his second career start and first in six weeks, this was an excellent effort.

But the star of the race was Toccet, who forced the pace early, then eased back off the front-running Bham through solid fractions of :46.90 and 1:11.40. When Chavez called on him, he forged to the front in mid-stretch, then drew off to win comfortably, covering the nine furlongs in 1:50.40. He did give a few shakes of his head nearing the wire, jumping back to his left lead.

"He just keeps getting better and better," trainer John Scanlan said, as he waited for Toccet to return. "And the farther the race the better it is for him."

Coming back, Toccet was still right alongside Bham. "Look at him; he's still chasing this horse," Scanlan said. "Hey, Chop Chop, get him away from that horse."

Borislow said afterward that Toccet will either stay home at Laurel this winter or go to Fair Grounds.

Emotional Victory

Trainer Jose Martin and owner Joseph Allen, two powerful names from the past who have been silent in recent years, embraced following the victory of Allen's Roar Emotion in the $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes on Nov. 30. "I've waited a long time for this," Allen said. All Martin said was, "This is my Christmas present to you."

Roar Emotion, a $37,000 purchase this year at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2-year-olds in training sale in April, took control of the race early after breaking from the rail, then drew off to win by two lengths over Savedbythelight. Roar Emotion, who went off as the second choice at 5-2 under John Velazquez, has now won two of her three career starts, breaking her maiden by 10 1/2 lengths at Belmont in her career debut.

"I told Johnny, with the way she's been training and her inside post, how could we take her back?" Martin said. "We hate to go a mile and an eighth on the lead, but we were forced to do that. She's a good filly and she proved it today, but I would have liked to have seen her come from off the pace."

Pulling Up

Moreton Binn's True Direction, carrying top weight of 134 pounds, wore down Maryland invader Crossing Point to win the Nov. 28 Fall Highweight Handicap (gr. III) by a half-length. Ridden by Javier Castellano, the son of French Deputy covered the six furlongs in 1:09.62. By Steve Haskin

(Chart, Equibase)