Electron, who began the year in a $20,000 claiming race, spoiled the seasonal debut of reigning steeplechase champion All Gong in Saturday's $100,000 Coca-Cola/UPS Atlanta Cup at Kingston Downs.An 8-year-old making his first National Steeplechase Association grade I start, Electron took the lead from Greek Hero after three fences and repulsed a strong bid from Eclipse Award winner All Gong (David Bentley) in the stretch to win by a half-length under jockey Craig Thornton. Masamadas (Cyril Murphy) was third. The winner covered the 2 3/8 miles in 4:41 2/5.Now 3-for-3 in 2001, Electron has progressed up the ladder from an open claiming hurdle (March 11 at Dade City, Fla.) to an allowance hurdle (March 24 at Aiken, S.C.) to Grade I stakes winner and the year's leading earner with $84,000 in earnings. In receipt of 16 pounds from the runner-up under the race's allowance conditions, Electron turned in a game effort."I knew I had a light weight and a fit horse and a tough horse and a well-prepared horse," said Thornton, off to a quick start with seven wins this season. "I knew he would keep giving, whether it was going to be enough – that was going to be the question – and it was."Barely. All Gong threatened boldly on the final turn and hit the stretch with a short lead. Electron, flashing the determination of his sire Wild Again, battled back on the inside to draw even at the last fence and inch away at the finish.Griggs shipped out of Lexington, Ky. for the race and was confident – if fully aware that he was taking a shot."I felt pretty certain we'd beat (All Gong) because he was carrying a lot of weight and hadn't had a race this year," said Griggs, who campaigned 1994 steeplechase champion Warm Spell. "All Gong is a tremendous horse, he was just carrying 158 pounds today and we were carrying 142. He is the champion. My horse ran well in the warm climate twice before, and I figured it would be warm in Atlanta too, so here we are."Electron improved to 5-for-12 in a hurdle career that began in 1997. The $60,000 winner's share boosted the Kentucky-bred's career earnings past $103,000.
Also on the Atlanta card, Contrarian Stable's Tres Touche (Bentley) won the $50,000 Beaulieu of America Novice Stakes (NSA-III), final prep for the Steeplechase Triple Crown, by 10 lengths over Devil's Egg and War Talk. The Triple Crown begins May 3 at Churchill Downs with the $100,000 Hard Scuffle Stakes.Campanile Fifth in Japan
American hopeful Campanile placed fifth in the $1.4 million Nakayama Grand Jump Saturday at Nakayama Race Course in Japan. Owned by Greg Hawkins and trained by Janet Elliot, Campanile raced near the back of the field before making up some ground late. He finished 21 lengths behind the winner Gokai, a Japanese steeplechase who also won the race in 2000. Gokai, a son of Judge Angelucci, won for the eighth time in 45 career starts while taking home the winner's share of approximately $750,000 in the world's richest steeplechase. Japanese horses swept the first three places. New Zealand's Rand placed seventh. Campanile, ridden by Blythe Miller, earned about $75,000 for his efforts.