Aqueduct Report: Perkins Fires Another Shot

Published in March 24 issue of The Blood-Horse
If you heard a shot ring out at Aqueduct on March 18, it was just another of those Benny and Buzz bullets that have been known on occasion to blast a hole in the wind. The latest speeding bullet from the Benny Perkins Jr./Buzz Chace arsenal is Richly Blended, a son of Rizzi who left his field for dead in the $200,000 Gotham Stakes (gr. III).

With his 5 1/4-length victory, Richly Blended, owned by Raymond Dweck, has now won all three of his starts by a combined margin of 28 lengths. Before you go searching for a calculator, that's more than nine lengths a victory.

Dweck, who is 74 and retired, has got it made these days. He just sits back and watches Chace pick 'em out at the sales and Perkins train 'em to run like the devil. Last year, Dweck spent a good deal of time collecting hardware in winner's circles all over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Max's Pal won seven stakes at six different racetracks (two at Aqueduct and one each at Laurel, Pimlico, Delaware, Monmouth, and Meadowlands), and Stormy Pick captured the Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga and Sorority Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth.

Chace bought Max's Pal at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.'s March 2-year-old sale for $120,000 and Stormy Pick at the OBS August yearling sale for $145,000. He was able to get Richly Blended for $100,000 at the OBS February 2-year-old sale. "He had the best gallop-out time of any horse in the sale," said Chace, who watched the Gotham on television from the Ocala sales pavilion. "He was one of those hidden bargains, probably because Rizzi is not a well-known sire. He was a beautiful athlete and was out of a Valid Appeal mare. And I love Valid Appeal mares."

While training at Monmouth Park last year, Richly Blended didn't show anything in the morning to get his connections overly excited. That is until he breezed out of the gate for the first time, sizzling five furlongs in :58 and change. "He turned in one of the best works by any baby at Monmouth all summer," Perkins said.

Richly Blended was on a possible collision course with one of the most talked about 2-year-olds in years named Songandaprayer, whom Chace had also bought as a yearling at Saratoga for $470,000 for Ernie Paragallo. The son of Unbridled's Song was pinhooked the following year for $1 million. Songandaprayer opened a big lead and barely held on to win that maiden race on June 15, but it was discovered he had a chip in his ankle, forcing him to the sidelines for five months. Richly Blended never made that race, and wound up missing the entire year due to minor shin and foot problems.

When he drew on the also-eligible list for a maiden race at Aqueduct in February, Perkins sent him to Laurel, where he romped by 15 lengths in 1:04.41 for 5 1/2 furlongs, earning a huge 105 Beyer Speed Figure. Looking to stretch him out to seven furlongs, Perkins found a perfect race at Laurel March 1 and shipped the colt back down. As he had in his debut, Richly Blended led all the way, winning easily by 7 3/4 lengths in a sharp 1:23.65.

The next logical step was the one-mile Gotham. "It was one turn, and I liked the way the race set up," Perkins said. "Many of the others were using the race as a stepping-stone to other Derby preps, while we were looking at it as a race we wanted to win. We had no illusions of trying to take him back. He drew the rail, and we knew if he broke sharply, he had enough speed to outrun the field."

When Perkins worked him five furlongs the Monday before the race, however, he was not happy with the result. He was looking for something around 1:01, but after the rider chirped to the colt, he just sat on him, and Richly Blended shut down, going a half in :51 1/5 and five furlongs in 1:06. Perkins decided to work him back in three days, and this time the colt breezed his half in :48 3/5.

Richly Blended was made the 3-1 second choice behind the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Scorpion in the Gotham. Lukas had suffered a crushing blow the day before when his main Derby hope, Gold Trader, fractured a cannon bone in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and had to be euthanized.

When Richly Blended broke sharply, jockey Rick Wilson let him roll, and he carved out solid, but not blistering, fractions of :22.94 and :46.09. Mr. John and Speightstown, both coming out of a Gulfstream allowance sprint, sat just off him, but as they headed around the far turn, Richly Blended began to ease away. He came to the quarter pole with a 1 1/2-length lead in 1:10.64. After a sharp quarter in :24.55, he still managed to close his final quarter in :24.50, which cooked the others. He opened up by 5 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, then maintained his advantage to the wire, winning by 5 1/4 lengths in 1:35.14 for the one-turn mile. He has an efficient stride, with smooth, low action, and there is little wasted motion. Inside the sixteenth pole, he did jump back onto his left lead, showing he still has a touch of greenness.

No one, not even Richly Blended's connections, have any idea just how good this colt is, and they likely will take it one step further by stretching him out to two turns in the $750,000 Wood Memorial (gr. II) on April 14. "Although his sire was purely a sprinter, he does have some length to him, and he doesn't have the stride of a sprinter," Perkins said. "We could point him for races like the Derby Trial (gr. III) or the Lafayette Stakes (gr. III), but we'll learn more about him by running him in the Wood."

"There's no telling how good this horse is," Wilson said. "He's kind of a lazy horse in the morning, but once you put blinkers on him and get him to the gate, he's in a different zone."

Mr. John, after pressing the pace, gamely held off Voodoo by a neck to keep the second spot. Scorpion did not get a hold of the track, according to Lukas and jockey David Flores, and faded to fifth, beaten 13 lengths.

Toboggan Run

If there were a most improved sprinter award, one horse who surely would receive a number of votes is Peeping Tom, who captured the $107,300 Toboggan Handicap on March 17. The 4-year-old son of the Danzig stallion Eagle Eyed rallied strongly on the outside and outran Say Florida Sandy to the wire, winning by a half-length in a sizzling 1:21.25 for the seven furlongs.

Peeping Tom, owned by Flatbird Stable and trained by Patrick Reynolds, has now won three in a row and five of his last six, with his only defeat a second behind El Corredor in last November's grade I Cigar Mile. In his start prior to the Toboggan he captured the General George Handicap (gr. II) at Laurel, and his final time of 1:22.00 earned him a 113 Beyer Speed Figure.

(Chart, Equibase)