Belmont Park Race Report: Stroke of Genius

Published in the May 25 issue of The Blood-Horse
By Paul Volponi
Famed equine artist Richard Stone Reeves presented the winner's trophy to the Bohemia Stable and trainer Allen Jerkens after Shiny Band scored an upset victory in the Shuvee Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park on May 18. If only Reeves had a canvas before him. For it was a classic moment in Thoroughbred racing--a Jerkens-trained horse had just laid low two star runners with one fell swoop.

Raging Fever, who arrived as the winner of three of four graded stakes this year, and Victory Ride, who captured last summer's Test (gr. I) at Saratoga, were the main attractions in the mile event. Both were on their toes in the paddock and post parade. Their connections kept close watch on the other's presence. Perhaps too close.

Out of the gate, Edward Evans' front-running Raging Fever was on the engine within a few strides. "She's gone in no time," said jockey John Velazquez. "You just let her break and help her out the first two jumps."

The Rusty Arnold-trained Victory Ride was not about to let the speedy daughter of Storm Cat out of her sights. Raging Fever ran an opening quarter-mile in :23.16 with Jean-Luc Samyn and Victory Ride a half-length off her heels over a track labeled "good" after heavy morning rains. Meanwhile, Robbie Davis, who was aboard Shiny Band for the first time, was urging his filly to stay within striking distance, a little more than two lengths from the top pair.

A superior runner on the turns, Raging Fever got her cue from Velazquez heading into the bend. She opened up another length on the pursuing Victory Ride. Raging Fever scorched a middle half-mile in :45.70, arriving at the quarter pole in 1:09.56. But Shiny Band was starting to pick up serious momentum on the outside.

"I thought she might have those two in a bind. They had to chase each other pretty good," said Jerkens.

Victory Ride made her strongest assault on the leader at the top of the lane. "When it's time to move, she's going to tell me," said Samyn, who extended his whip for the filly to glimpse. Samyn went to work right-handed in upper stretch, but couldn't get by Raging Fever. He switched to the left side with no better results.

Shiny Band found her best stride and darted over to the inside rail. "She kicked in nice, and made a strong move at the eighth pole," said Davis.

The Mark Hennig-trained Raging Fever held determinedly to the lead. But as the trio of fillies struck the sixteenth pole, it was obvious that the best energy belonged to Shiny Band. The gray daughter of Dixieland Band exploded through on the rail, leaving her opponents behind under a heavy drive by Davis.

"He knew the rail was fast," said Jerkens of Davis' decision making. "He got through on the rail and that was a big help today."

Shiny Band hit the wire 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Raging Fever, who finished a half-length ahead of Victory Ride. She stopped the timer in 1:34.95, racing the final quarter-mile in about :25.

Velazquez' first words to trainer Hennig summed up the race for pace-making Raging Fever and her pursuer, Victory Ride. "Too fast," said the rider with a shake of the head.

Bred in Maryland by Mrs. Richard C. du Pont, Shiny Band had finished no closer than 6 1/2 lengths to Raging Fever in their previous two encounters. It did not deter Jerkens from entering his filly in search of her first stakes win. "She showed better last time than you think. She was coming around," said Jerkens.

The least respected in the wagering at nearly 18-1, Shiny Band's victory did not dampen the mood of fans, who lined the winner's circle to ask for Jerkens' autograph.

"You've got to give all the credit to 'The Chief,' " said an appreciative Davis.

(Chart, Equibase)