Gulfstream Park Race Report (Cont.)

Orchard Grass
Through his Health Communications publishing firm, Peter Vegso publishes a series of inspirational books called Chicken Soup for the Soul. The successful books bill themselves as "101 stories to open the heart and rekindle the spirit."

So when Vegso's homebred Orchard Park moved to the top of the class among sophomore turfers in the Feb. 22 Palm Beach Stakes (gr. IIIT), the owner told his own heart-opening and spirit-rekindling story. "This business is nine-tenths frustration and one-tenth elation; this is one of the one-tenths," he said after Orchard Park drew off in the final furlong for a 1 3/4-length win over Lord Juban.

"With the market the way it is now, it seems like racing is the only thing you can count on. But I'm pretty fortunate because when you have a trainer like Bill Mott and a jockey like Jerry Bailey in your corner, you're in pretty good shape."

Orchard Park was purchased in utero by Vegso when he bought the With Approval mare Blue Begum for $200,000 at the Keeneland November sale in 1998. Orchard Park showed a lot of promise throughout a 2-year-old campaign that saw four close-but-no-cigar maiden runs from August through October in New York. Then Mott tried the son of Hennessy on the grass for a second time in an Aqueduct maiden race last November and the colt really took off.

"I had a notion from the beginning that his future would be turf," said Mott. "When we worked him on the turf last spring, he really liked it. And he's got all the characteristics to run on grass--the turf foot and all of that. His dirt races were credible, but it looked as if he was going to make that move forward into stakes company it would happen on turf."

Though he faced 11 other competitive sophomores in the Palm Beach, including the top three finishers in last month's Dave Feldman Stakes, Orchard Park went postward the 6-5 favorite because of an easy win in a turf allowance in his Florida debut Jan. 11 and his Hall of Fame connections. Bailey was more concerned than the bettors with his starting position. "It's tough when you have the 12 post because you no sooner break than you have to turn left," he said. But Bailey accommodated for that by sliding into the two path and settling into mid-pack.

Recognizing soft fractions up front, Bailey urged Orchard Park heading into the turn and emerged from the bend with leads in both the race and the division. Though the final time of 1:49.80 was unspectacular, the winner's final furlong of :11.75 was. For the near future, Orchard Park's schedule may include some time off. "We kept him going all through the winter and there's really not a great program for 3-year-olds on the grass until later in the year," Mott said.