Gulfstream Park Race Report: Donnybrook

Published in the March 2 issue of The Blood-Horse
Girls just want to have fun. So sang Cyndi Lauper, the guest musician in Gulfstream's entertainment complex on Feb. 24, whose presence attracted the third-largest Sunday crowd ever at the track. Rosemary Homeister Jr. and Ms Brookski had fun also, by winning the meet's first two-turn stakes race for 3-year-old fillies on dirt, the Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II).

The 1 1/16-mile race was expected to belong to a couple of Frolics: favored Smok'n Frolic, making her seasonal bow following stakes wins in New York's Tempted (gr. III) and Demoiselle (gr. II) Stakes which closed out her 2001 campaign; and Stormy Frolic, who dusted Ms Brookski in the Tropical Park Oaks on New Year's Day. But with the field turning for home, the former was getting leg weary after chasing the pace, set by French Satin and Colonial Glitter, three wide and the latter was not doing nearly enough. Homeister neatly split the pair to find running room, then, extending Ms Brookski's stride, collared Colonial Glitter near the sixteenth pole and drew off for a 3 3/4-length score timed in 1:45.14.

"I knew there was a lot of speed in the race and because my filly isn't as quick as some of the others, I took back and let things happen," said Homeister, her natural jubilance enhanced by her first grade II win. "Even as late as the quarter pole I didn't know if I was going to the inside or the outside until a hole opened up."

Ms Brookski races for Phil Combest, a former screenwriter for the television show "Magnum P.I.," and is trained by his father, Reed. She showed talent last year across town at Calder Race Course, where she ran second in the $400,000 My Dear Girl division of the Florida Stallion Stakes and later won the Three Ring Stakes. However, her last two starts had been dull.

Combest said a poor break explained her fourth-place effort in the Tropical Park Oaks, and he blamed himself for her last-place finish in the Herecomesthebride Stakes (gr. IIIT) in her start before the Davona Dale. "I probably shouldn't have run her in that grass race," he said. "But there was such a huge space between races and I really wanted to get a race under her."

He expects her next start to come in Gulfstream's centerpiece for sophomore fillies, the March 15 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II), where she would likely confront fellow Florida-bred Smok'n Frolic again. Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable which owns Smok'n Frolic, blamed his runner's seventh-place finish on her three-month layoff since the Demoiselle. "Johnny (Velazquez) said he was sitting on a whole lot of horse, but when he asked her for run she was empty," he said.

The win brought some light to an otherwise dark weekend for Ocala Stud, the nursery that stands Ms Brookski's sire Montbrook. The farm lost 22 horses in a fire the day before the Davona Dale (see page 1261).

Canadian Bound
Gulfstream Park should know better than to tempt fate by naming a feature race after a place with a climate like Canada's. Following three consecutive showery South Florida Saturdays, chances were slim the Canadian Turf Handicap (gr. IIIT) would remain on the grass, and that caused a bit of a quandary for trainer Bill Perry. He had North East Bound back in peak form, and the 6-year-old gelding is a proven middle-distance turf runner with a résumé including a win in last year's Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland (gr. IIT) and a runner-up finish in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). Considering his only two starts over the Gulfstream dirt resulted in poor finishes, a 3 3/4-length drubbing in last year's Donn Handicap (gr. I) the most recent debacle, the trainer was a whisker away from scratching North East Bound when the Canadian Turf became the Canadian slop.

However, when Perry saw that the field for $150,000 race was reduced to only four runners, with heavyweights Hap and Pisces opting out when the main track became sloppy, he saw an opportunity for the gelding to redeem himself. The trainer also had about 35 other good reasons to stay in the race--friends and family members of co-owners Julian "Butch" DeMarco and Richard Disano--and they all piled into the winner's circle when North East Bound circled the track as much the best.

"It cost us twenty grand in airplane fares to get these people here from Rhode Island," laughed DeMarco, who first met Disano while both were high school students in Cranston, R.I. "There was no way these people were going to get down here and not watch him run."

DeMarco and Disano bred North East Bound along with partner Scott Ricker and the son of D'Accord has now earned more than $1.3 million

With a diminished field, North East Bound assumed a clear lead from the gate, and led his three rivals around the 1 3/16-miles as if directing a parade. While North East Bound had always shown speed, Perry amplified that by removing his blinkers for this race. "I think I like him better like this," said regular pilot Jose Velez Jr. "He was always fast, but he used to wait on horses a little bit. Now that he can see what's around him, he takes off. I knew I was the speed of the race and if they wanted the lead they had to come with me."

Capsized came closest, chasing North East Bound through a gradually quickening pace, but was never really a threat. Velez whistled at North East Bound hitting the turn and they drew away, clear by 43?4 lengths at the wire in a final time of 1:44.01.

Redemption accomplished. Still, Perry and DeMarco feel North East Bound is a better turf runner, mentioning that a repeat attempt in the Maker's Mark Mile would be a short-term goal. "And long-term we would like another shot at the Breeders' Cup," said DeMarco. "We got a nice taste of it and now we want more."


(Chart, Equibase)