Delaware Park Report: Long, Hot Summer

Published in the July 27 issue of The Blood-Horse
The question as to who is the best filly or mare on the East Coast was answered in emphatic fashion on July 21 by Edward P. Evans' Summer Colony, who achieved an amazing victory in the $601,200 Delaware Handicap (gr. III) at Delaware Park. It was one of the most exciting finishes in the 65-year history of the filly and mare classic.

Like a desperation three-pointer that's hurled towards the basket with time running out, jockey John Velazquez had to try something...anything. He had had enough of being trapped down at the rail for nearly the entire 1 1/4-mile distance of the Del 'Cap, and realized Eugene Ford's Your Out in front was on her way to the winner's circle. So he muscled Summer Colony out nearing the eighth pole and, in the blink of an eye, she made up nearly two lengths, collaring Your Out in the shadow of the wire and edging ahead for the last-second neck decision.

Trainer Mark Hennig had a hard time believing what he had just witnessed. "She was boxed in pretty good," he said, a glazed look in his eyes. "To be honest, I really felt helpless when I saw that horse (Your Out) circle the field, and she (Summer Colony) was locked in with no where to go. I guess John (Velazquez) just got mad and forced his way out."

Summer Colony, a 4-year-old daughter of Summer Squall, out of the Pleasant Colony mare Probable Colony, has been a model of consistency for Hennig since she debuted last summer in New York. Prior to the Del 'Cap, she'd won seven of 15 starts and placed four times while competing at tracks across the country.

Based on her iron-clad record, Summer Colony was installed the even-money choice for the Del 'Cap. Two Item Limit, third in the Ogden Phipps Handicap (gr. I) and with Jerry Bailey riding, was next at 9-2, while California invader Starrer, winner of the Bayakoa Handicap (gr. II) last December, was 5-1. Local heroine Your Out, who'd won the Obeah Stakes at Delaware, the traditional Del 'Cap prep, received some support at 7-1 due to her red-hot jockey, Ramon Dominguez, who'd won two stakes the day before.

The distance proved no obstacle for Summer Colony, as she had won at the same distance in last December's Ladies Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct. However, it was poor racing luck that nearly did her in. Whether on purpose or by happenstance, Velazquez was unable to maneuver her off the rail from the time they'd gone past the stands the first time to deep stretch. Canadian invader Mountain Angel and jockey Jorge Chavez set the early fractions, getting the half in :48.40, and three-quarters in 1:13.41, and then Your Out and Dominguez blew past with a four-wide sweep entering the homestretch. Your Out's victory seemed all but a done deal as her closest challenger, Two Item Limit, wasn't making up any solid ground late.

But just as Dominguez and trainer H. Graham Motion were planning the victory party, Summer Colony shook loose and launched an eye-popping rally, nailing Your Out in the final strides. Two Item Limit was 2 1/4 lengths back in third. The final time was 2:04.52.

Motion, who'd won the Del 'Cap in 1996 with Power Play, was visibly shaken as he left the unsaddling area.

"I went from thinking she had won it to watching her get nipped at the wire," he said. "It was a very emotional swing. I didn't think Summer Colony was going that well, actually. The instant I thought she (Your Out) won it, I realized she had lost. I really thought we had it."

"Turning for home, when I went by the horse on my side who ended up winning the race (Summer Colony), I felt like I had put her away," said Dominguez, who won the Del 'Cap last year with Irving's Baby. "The last sixteenth of a mile it felt like my filly got a little tired, but she kept on trying."

Hennig said he believes Summer Colony is the best older filly or mare in the East.

"I really feel that she is," he said. "We've traveled all over, and we've even gone to California, given Azeri weight in the La Canada (gr. II, Feb. 9) and beaten her. She'll run in the Personal Ensign (gr. I, Aug. 23 at Saratoga) next."

With the victory, Summer Colony has won eight of 16 starts and has earned $869,930.

Plenty of Approval
In stark contrast to Summer Colony's difficult journey in the Del 'Cap, Live Oak Plantation's Miesque's Approval had the easiest of trips in the $250,900 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT), at 1 1/8 miles over a firm course.

Trained by Bill Mott and ridden by Bailey, the son of Miesque's Son made a quick move leaving the far turn to take the lead and extend it to 4 1/4 lengths at the wire without being hit by the whip.

Susan and John Moore's Regal Sanction finished second, while Mansell Stables' Quest Star was third in the field of eight sophomores.

The victory was the fourth from eight starts for Miesque's Approval, and he's never been worse than third. He has now earned $354,405.

"He's more effective when he has less than a quarter-mile to run," said Bailey. "Today he got real aggressive when we turned onto the backside, and started drifting out a little bit. But as it turned out he was much the best."

Bailey said after Miesque's Approval handy score, he could be one of Mott's candidates for the Secretariat Stakes (gr. I) at Arlington Park on Aug. 17.

All American Oaks
A trip from Churchill Downs to Stanton, Del., proved profitably for Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein's Allamerican Bertie, who registered her first stakes victory in the $250,300 Delaware Oaks (gr. III) on July 20. The half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Hurricane Bertie was unraced as a juvenile, but has quickly made up for lost time, earning $242,100 since February.

Trained by Steve Flint, the 3-year-old daughter of Quiet American, out of the Timeless Native mare Clever Bertie, was installed the 2-1 second choice behind 9-5 local heroine Alternate. She wound up winning by 6 1/4 lengths after tracking that rival early and then accelerating through the stretch under rider Larry Melancon.

Allamerican Bertie covered the 1 1/16-miles in 1:43.81, about one second less than the stakes record. Pin Oak Stable's Alternate, with Dominguez up and trained by Motion, was second in the field of six while Susan Christiansen's Pass the Virtue finished third.

"Once she got to the front, she dropped the bit and went from there," said Flint. "I thought she ran a phenomenal time for this track. We'll probably run her next in the Alabama (gr. I at Saratoga, Aug. 17)," said Flint. "The mile and a quarter really intrigues me."

"The first thing I wanted to do was to get her to relax," said Melancon. "The last time I rode her, she didn't relax. Today she broke and really settled. I had her in hand and when she turned for home she just exploded."

(Chart, Equibase)