Raging Fever held on to win Saturday's Bed o' Roses Stakes.

Raging Fever held on to win Saturday's Bed o' Roses Stakes.

AP/NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Aqueduct Race Report: All the Rage

By Paul Volponi
Published in the April 27 issue of The Blood-Horse
Horsemen and handicappers could hang their hats on one thing going into the Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct on April 20--Raging Fever would make the lead. The 4-year-old, dark bay daughter of Storm Cat did not disappoint them.

Raging Fever began snorting as she was led onto the sloppy racetrack in a light rain. She continued to bellow her dominance throughout the post parade for her five rivals to hear. And jockey John Velazquez needed to take a firm hold of the Mark Hennig-trained filly before the running even began.

She broke in rhythm with the gate, and the yellow and black colors of owner Edward P. Evans were quickly in front of the rest. A few strides into the fray, Velazquez took a tight hold of Raging Fever while racing in the four-path. The pair held the lead by a measured length through an easy opening quarter in :23.90.

Edgar Prado, sensing a repeat of the Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in which Raging Fever built an unchallenged start into a devastating victory only three weeks prior, sent the Shug McGaughey-trained Atelier up the rail to vie for the lead.

"Somebody had to go with her," said Hennig of the tactic. "Edgar sensed it was not a typical Raging Fever pace."

Atelier poked her head in front, and held the lead for a furlong. But as the front two leaned into the turn, Velazquez let out a notch. Raging Fever reclaimed the lead in a half-dozen strides. Understanding his dilemma, Prado pulled the whip halfway on the turn. Then Velazquez asked Raging Fever to run. She was quickly clear of Atelier by two lengths, and dropped over to the rail in front of her lone competition.

"She was always a good runner on the turns," noted Hennig of his filly.

At the top of the stretch, the race appeared all but over except for the final margin. But inside the eighth-pole, Atelier angled out on Raging Fever, and was suddenly starting to close ground. Velazquez showed his filly the whip. He hit her twice right-handed, and twice more with the left. Then he hand rode her hard inside the final 70 yards, holding Atelier safe by three-quarters of a length.

"She made the lead and started to take it easy," said Velazquez of his adventure in mid-stretch. "As soon as I hit her she responded. Then I hit her with the left hand and surprised her."

The rider also noted Raging Fever galloped out strongly past the wire when she saw the other fillies coming.

Hennig was pleased with Raging Fever's performance. "She was relaxed and settled. She's matured a lot," he said.

Of the finish, Hennig said, "Maybe she (Atelier) was starting to get to her in the last 50 yards. I knew the wire was coming. I was kind of glad."

A proud Edward Evans led his filly into the winner's circle to collect the crystal and silver spoils. "We're very pleased with her," he said. "She would have won all her races this year except for that speed duel in Florida (grade III Shirley Jones Handicap). We're expecting big things from her."

The 1-2 betting favorite, Raging Fever stopped the timer in 1:34.96 for the mile. The tactical advantage was set when the nominations for the Bed o' Roses were published. Only Pleasant County, another Evans filly, had the natural speed to contend with Raging Fever early. Hennig entered both fillies, but planned on scratching Pleasant County all along.

A few hours before the entries closed, only three challengers were willing to take on Raging Fever under such conditions. Finally, the racing office was able to entice two others with the dream of black type and the reality of running for second money.

The 5-year-old Critical Eye made her first start in the Bed o' Roses since finishing eighth in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Belmont Park. The Scott Schwartz pupil finished fourth, 10 lengths behind Raging Fever. Owned and bred by Schwartz' parents, Herbert and Carol Schwartz, Critical Eye is being prepped for the major races in her division...Raging Fever's half-brother won a $20,000 maiden hurdle race the same day she won the Bed o' Roses. Ghost Fever (by Silver Ghost), also owned by Edward Evans, won at the Middleburg (Va.) Spring Races in his first hurdle start. Trained by Doug Fout and ridden by Robert Massey, Ghost Fever is a 6-year-old. By Paul Volponi

(Chart, Equibase)