Belmont Report (Cont.)

Continued from part 1

Run Away Renee

Michael Dickinson has been called a mad genius on several occasions. But two words not associated with the trainer are cocky and overconfident. In fact, it's when Dickinson goes into a big race with apprehension that he's most dangerous.

And he certainly was apprehensive when he saddled Verne Winchell's Fleet Renee in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) June 30. "To tell you the truth, I didn't think she'd win," Dickinson said the morning after Fleet Renee ran off and hid from her opponents, winning by 5 1/2 lengths in a blazing 1:47.19.

The reason for the concern was Fleet Renee's fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) following a runaway victory in the Ashland Stakes (gr. I). "She wasn't quite at her best going into the Mother Goose," he said. "Nothing specific; just little things. After the Kentucky Oaks, she was blowing very hard, in a heavy sort of way. Something just wasn't right, and that destroyed my confidence for the Mother Goose."

But it is Dickinson's worrisome nature that makes him a stickler for details, and causes him to search for every advantage he can find. He worked Fleet Renee a sharp half-mile on the turf at his Tapeta Farm in Maryland, because he felt it was a safer surface and gave her a turf-to-dirt advantage that many handicappers adhere to. He then sent her up to New York and watched her destroy nine 3-year-old fillies in much the same manner as she did in the Ashland. And she defeated runner-up Real Cozzy by double the margin that Flute had in the Kentucky Oaks. With Flute withdrawn from the Mother Goose because of a foot abscess, we'll have to wait for the Alabama Stakes (gr. I) for the next showdown between these two exceptional fillies.

By the following morning, Fleet Renee was back at Tapeta and enjoying a quiet morning in her paddock. She didn't even seem to mind that her two boyfriends, A Huevo and Sick as a Parrot, weren't around. A Huevo was off having a few problems taken care of, while Sick as a Parrot was racing in Canada.

"She loves both of those horses and they love her," Dickinson said. "They're kept in an adjoining paddock, but they always come close to the fence to stay close to her. They're never apart. She can be pretty feisty, and when I go there she'll pin her ears, but she just turns to sweetness around them. But even without her friends, she's pretty happy this morning."

And there's nothing that puts a smile on Dickinson's face more than a happy Fleet Renee. Unlike Da Hoss, whom Dickinson saddled to two Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) victories, the daughter of Seattle Slew is a pleasure to train. "Comparing the two is like apples and oranges," Dickinson said. "She makes training easy, while Da Hoss was more difficult to train. She's a grade I winner, she's a great mover, and she has a grade I heart. How difficult can it be to train her? She's no problem at all, bless her."