Favored Silver Tree, with Jerry Bailey working hard for the wire, found the winner's circle for the first time in 2005, making up two lengths on 40-1 shot Demeteor in the final furlong to capture the $100,00 Tropical Turf Handicap. (gr. IIIT) on the Calder turf course Saturday.
Silver Tree, who won the 2004 Bernard Baruch Handicap Handicap (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, was the lone favorite to win in the four-race Grand Slam I at the Miami track.
Always in contention in the 1 1/8-mile event while racing along the inside, Bailey angled out slightly in the stretch and the 5-year-old Silver Tree found room on the outside of pacesetting Keep Cool. Silver Tree slipped through on the inside of Demeteor, who had taken control with a sixteenth to go, and got up in the final couple of strides after Bailey switched to left-handed urging. Silver Tree won by a neck in a time of 1:46 1/5. It was two lengths back to Settle Up.
"I dropped over to the hedge going into the first turn," Bailey said. "We were able to get clear in the stretch. When you stay inside like that, you have to be patient and take what you are given. That's why I had to wait as long as I did to move on him. He doesn't win a lot of races, but he is very consistent."
Bill Mott trains Silver Tree for Peter Vegso of Florida, who bred him. The son of Hennessy
, fifth in the 2004 NetJets Breeders Cup Mile (gr. IT), was winless in six previous starts in 2005.
"He's run against a lot of tough horses and ended up second, like Artie Schiller and 'Leroi'(Leroidesanimeaux)," Mott said. "We ran him in the Breeders' Cup in Dallas last year and he ran well, finished fifth, and got beat about three lengths. He simply wasn't good enough. So we decided to pass the Breeders' Cup this year, recognizing his limitations."
Silver Tree ran second in last year's Tropical Turf, a neck behind Host, while edging Demeteor for the runner-up slot.
Keep Cool, ridden by Jose Rivera, led by a half-length after a quarter-mile in :23 3/5 and continued to set the pace through fractions of :47 4/5 and 1:11 1/5 as Demeteor and Jorge Chavez stalked. Silver Tree, carrying 116 pounds (two less than the high weight Hotstufanthensome), enjoyed a ground-saving trip under Bailey, working his way up into third on the far turn.
Silver Tree won for the seventh time in a 23-race career and increased his earnings to $948,140. Silver Tree was second last out at Calder in the Bonnie Heath Turf Cup on Florida Million day Nov. 12.
Mott said Silver Tree is likely to run in the Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.
He paid $4.60, $3.40, and $2.60.
Demeteor returned $22.40 and $10.40 while completing a $121.20 exacta.
Settle Up, ridden by Mike Smith, came on for third by three-quarters of a length over Keep Cool and paid $6.
Icy Atlantic finished fifth, followed by Cointreau, Saint Stephen, Hotstufanthensome, Noble Masterpiece, Stormy Ray, and Bob's Proud Moment. Scratched were Supervisor and Whos Crying Now.
Dogwood Stable's Saint Augustus, ridden by Ramon Dominguez, won the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes
The win was the 2,500th career victory for Dominguez.
It was Saint Augustus' first start in Florida and his first stakes win. He covered the 1 1/16-mile distance 1:47.94, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Big Lover in second. Rehoboth finished third.
Sent off at long odds of 11-to-1, Saint Augustus paid $24.00, $9.60, and $5.40. Big Lover returned $7.20 and $4.80; Rehoboth paid $7.40 to show.
Flanders Field, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven, finished fourth. The previously undefeated Electrify was fifth.
Bea Oxenberg, David Mellin and Marion Montanari's Stolen Prayer won the $100,000 Three Ring Stakes
for 2-year-old fillies.
The winner is trained by Eddie Plesa, Jr., who also trained the late Three Ring for owner Barry Schwartz.
A Florida-bred daughter of Songandaprayer
, Stolen Prayer won the 1 1/16-mile event by one length over Capozzene, covering the distance in 1:50.01 with jockey Eddie Castro.
Sent off at odds of 5-2, Stolen Prayer paid $7.40, $3.40, and $2.60.
Capozzene, with jockey Jerry Bailey aboard, was the 8-5 favorite and paid $3.20 and $2.60.
El Bank Robber was four lengths back in third and returned $3.40 for the show.
Stolen Prayer has not finished worse than second in five starts at Calder. She finished second in both the Joe O'Farrell Juvenile Fillies during the Florida Million and the My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Festival of the Sun day. Her lone off-the-board finish came in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont in June, when she came in fifth after setting the pace. The win pushes her lifetime earnings to $211, 230.