WildcattingIt wasn't part of the Super Track Racing Series, but West Coast invader D'wildcat smacked down five East Coast rivals with a 10 1/2-length tour de force in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes (gr. III) on the Florida Derby undercard. It marked the first graded stakes win for Fog City Stable and their principals, David Shimmon and Bill Bianco. "I was concerned about the last furlong, but that turned out to be the strongest part of the race," Shimmon said after the stunning performance. "He was facing some stiff competition, and his last eighth was unexpected." Also unexpected was the eighth of a mile before that, when the stalking D'wildcat moved to, then put away Yonaguska, opening daylight in a flash. The stretch run was impressive as D'wildcat separated himself from the field with ease. Yonaguska, a multiple graded stakes winner, finished a tired third behind a rallying Tarek. Time for the seven furlongs was 1:22.25. D'wildcat, a $600,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's March 2-year-old sale purchase, is just one of several expensive horses purchased by Shimmon and trainer Bob Hess Jr. since the summer of 1998. "I got a lot of ink for spending money," Shimmon said. "But now we're just beginning to get to the level of our expectations. He's got the body and size -- we thought all along he'd be a sprinter, but I'm confident he can get up to a mile." Equal partner Bianco, former chairman and CEO of Kinetics Corp., hired Shimmon to work for Kinetics 13 years ago. Bianco sold the company three years ago and now Shimmon is at the helm. "David is like a son to me," Bianco said. "He's the same age as my son. My father always wanted to own horses, but he died young. I'm living my father's dream."
Up the LadderIn the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Sprint Championship Handicap (gr. II) the day before the Florida Derby, it was the story of the up-and-coming runner facing the experienced but rusty proven star. Chester and Mary Broman's Hook and Ladder, a two-time winner at the meet but light on stakes experience, challenged Dogwood Stable's grade I-winning Trippi from the get-go and held on for a half-length decision in a thriller. Breaking sharply, Hook and Ladder took the early advantage and never relinquished it while carving out splits of :22.17, :43.89, and 1:08.55. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:21.85. In a game of cat and mouse, Trippi, under Jerry Bailey, made several moves at the leader, but was never able to get in front. "I was surprised to see him come back at me," said winning rider Richard Migliore. "I figured I had finished him off. Then he came back at me again." Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Rollin With Nolan, another two-time winner at the meet, closed for third under Pat Day, a half-length behind Trippi. Showing true grit, Trippi ran gamely despite "grabbing a quarter in his second jump out of the gate," according to Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable. Campbell said there was a lot of blood when the horse got back to the barn, but Trippi should be fine after a week of rest. Trippi, winner of the Vosburgh (gr. I) last year before a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), was making his first start of the year. After wintering in Aiken, S.C., Trippi shipped to trainer Todd Pletcher's barn at Hialeah. An ambitious campaign remains on the table for Dogwood's sprint star, with the Met Mile (gr. I) at Belmont Park in May figuring prominently on his dance card.