Humorous Lady, inside, goes wire-to-wire to win the Astarita at Belmont Park on Sunday.

Humorous Lady, inside, goes wire-to-wire to win the Astarita at Belmont Park on Sunday.

AP/NYRA: Adam Coglianese

Belmont Park Race Report: Lady of Slop

Published in the Oct. 19 issue of The Blood-Horse
Three days of torrential rains turned the Belmont Park racing strip into a sea of slop for its featured weekend stakes events.

On Oct. 13, a cast of late-developing 2-year-olds took center stage in the Astarita (gr. II) for fillies and Cowdin (gr. III) for males, both at 6 1/2 furlongs.

In the Astarita, Humorous Lady flaunted her scintillating speed from the gate beneath Jerry Bailey. The S. David Plummer-owned daughter of Distorted Humor arrived at the top of the stretch in front by three lengths, after setting blistering fractions of :21.91 and :45.23.

"This is one of the fastest fillies I've ever been on," said Bailey, whose trip left his white silks unsoiled by the slop.

Trainer Michael R. Smith knew his West Coast invader would clear the field, comprised of New York and New Jersey runners, with ease.

"California fast is fast," said Smith confidently. "She's very rapid."
Inside the final sixteenth, however, the fractions took their toll as Fast Cookie closed boldly on the leader, losing by a nose in a photo at the wire. "She ran a super race," said trainer Bill Mott of the runner-up. "She came on late and was catching up to a very fast pace."

Humorous Lady, bred in California by Malibu Valley Farms, ran her career record to four victories from five starts, stopping the timer in 1:17.76. Bailey was the budding star's fifth different rider.

In the Cowdin, Dogwood Stable's Boston Bull shook loose from an early speed duel, finishing strongly through the stretch to post a conclusive four-length victory with John Velazquez aboard. After hitting the half-mile marker in :45.27, the bay son of Boston Harbor ran the final five-sixteenths of a mile in :31.10, clocking the distance in 1:16.37.

"He was pretty professional today," said trainer Todd Pletcher, who was surprised to find his charge on the lead. The trainer was also impressed with his colt's performance past the finish line. "The way he galloped out gives you the impression that he'll go farther," he said.

Bred in Kentucky by Marvin Delfiner and Fred Seitz, Boston Bull improved his record to two wins from three starts, including a trouble-line debut in which he was narrowly defeated.

Edward P. Evans' homebred Roaring Fever, a full brother to Raging Fever, finished second after rallying strongly on the turn.

On Oct. 12, the unyielding precipitation played particular havoc with the 109th running of the 1 1/2-mile Lawrence Realization. The event was washed off the turf, and a thin field of five competed, including the two "main track only" entrants. Though the race may have lost its most talented runners to the track conditions, the stretch run was highlighted by a display of pure heart and ingenuity.

The Pletcher-trained Fisher Pond, minus his usual blinkers, rated comfortably on the outside in second for almost 1 1/4 miles. Velazquez then gave the 3-year-old son of A.P. Indy his cue. The colt willingly assumed the lead. But Irish Colonial, a son of Colonial Affair, was in the midst of a bold rally from the back of the pack beneath Shaun Bridgmohan.

The pair's gene pools, both topped off by Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winners, were ready to assert themselves over the final two furlongs.

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Fisher Pond dug down deep, holding off the oncoming Irish Colonial, who clearly appeared to have the momentum in upper stretch. Velazquez, who lost the whip in the lane, urged his charge home with a pair of goggles. Inside the sixteenth pole, Fisher Pond found another gear, pulling away to a gutsy 4 1/4-length victory in 2:30.34 over the Randy Schulhofer-trained Irish Colonial.

Despite Velazquez' quick thinking, hitting a Thoroughbred with goggles is strictly forbidden. "We're taking it under advisement," said New York Racing Association steward David Hicks, who believed a slight penalty would result from Velazquez' actions. "It's something we would expect from an apprentice," added Hicks.

(Chart, Equibase)