Aqueduct Racing Report: Fever Pitch

Aqueduct Racing Report: Fever Pitch
Photo: NYRA/Adam Coglianese
Raging Fever wires the field in the Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Published in the April 6 issue of The Blood-Horse
Edward P. Evans' mouth must water at the thought of what his broodmare band is going to look like in a couple of years. But visions of little Raging Fevers and With Abilitys and Summer Colonys and Gold Movers and Tap Dances frolicking about the fields of his Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., will have to be put on hold for a while.

First, there's a little business of winning stakes and earning money to attend to. And Evans' band of filly phenoms is a moneymaking machine that just keeps cranking out the stakes victories for trainer Mark Hennig.

The machine gobbled up both of last weekend's stakes at Aqueduct, as With Ability romped by 5 1/4 lengths in the March 29 Next Move Handicap (gr. III), and Raging Fever followed with a brilliant 3 3/4-length score in the March 30 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II).

Raging Fever's victory increased her career earnings to a hefty $861,385, while With Ability, winner of the Fashion Stakes two years ago, has now earned $230,350. Gold Mover, who captured the Hurricane Bertie Stakes at Gulfstream on March 17, has bankrolled $657,098; Summer Colony, who knocked off the best fillies in California in the Feb. 9 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) before finishing second in the Rampart Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream on March 2, has earned $359,930; and Tap Dance, who won an allowance race at Gulfstream, then finished on the board in the grade III Sabin Handicap (third), grade III Suwannee River (fourth), and grade II Orchid Handicap (fourth), has upped her career earnings to $304,416. That's $2,413,179 in filly power. Evans also has the stakes-winning Unrestrained, second to Unbridled Elaine in last year's Monmouth Breeders' Cup Oaks (gr. II), who finished a disappointing seventh in the Next Move, but has earned $190,513.

But the star of the group is Raging Fever, who came one race away from giving Evans and Hennig their first champion in 2000. After winning her first five career starts, including victories in the Frizette (gr. I), Matron (gr. I), Adirondack (gr. II), and Astoria Stakes, she finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), but was found to have a fracture of the growth plate.

"We could tell something was bothering her after the Breeders' Cup," Hennig said. "She was getting away from the gate slow and it was taking her longer to warm up behind."

Following two defeats in 2001, she was given seven and a half months off. She returned with a victory in the Garland of Roses Handicap at Aqueduct on Dec. 8, then won the six-furlong First Lady Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream, defeating the Shug McGaughey-trained Cat Cay, who was coming off victories in the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) and Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (gr. III). In the seven-furlong Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. III), Cat Cay turned the tables on Raging Fever, who got hooked in a torrid opening quarter in :21.79. After blazing through fractions of :44.09 and 1:08.80, Raging Fever opened a clear lead, only to get nailed by Cat Cay in the final strides.

"After she got over her problem, she started training like she did when she was a 2-year-old," Hennig said. "I didn't want to run her back off that tough race (in the Shirley Jones), so I waited for the Distaff."

The rubber match between Raging Fever and Cat Cay turned into a mismatch. Raging Fever was sent off as the 6-5 favorite, with Cat Cay at 9-5. Also in the field was the classy Two Item Limit, winner of the Demoiselle (gr. II), Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II), and Tempted (gr. III) Stakes, who had also placed in the Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I), Alabama (gr. I), Gazelle Handicap (gr. I), and Las Virgenes (gr. I). Another tough opponent was La Galerie, a group I winner in Argentina and winner of her two previous starts by a combined margin of 12 3/4 lengths.

La Galerie got the early jump on Raging Fever and attempted to run with her, but the favorite held a half-length lead through a relatively easy opening quarter in :23.27. Cat Cay, who normally comes from well out of it, was in fifth in the six-horse field, but only 3 1/2 lengths off the lead. With a leisurely opening quarter under her belt, Raging Fever poured it on the rest of the way, running her opponents into the ground with a final five-eighths in :58.51. After putting La Galerie away nearing the head of the stretch, the daughter of Storm Cat drew clear by 5 1/2 lengths at the eighth pole, then was hand-ridden to the wire by jockey John Velazquez, defeating longshot Prized Stamp by 3 3/4 lengths. La Galerie finished third, with Cat Cay a non-threatening fourth. The time for the seven furlongs was a swift 1:21.78.

"We were tickled when we saw the first quarter and Cat Cay was only about five lengths off the lead," Hennig said. "She settled great today and really kicked nicely in the stretch. I'm thinking the Bed o' Roses Handicap (gr. III) at a mile would be a good spot for her."

The weekend started off on an up note for Hennig and Evans when With Ability made easy pickings of the Next Move Handicap, going right to the front, then drawing clear in the stretch under Javier Castellano to defeat Irving's Baby in 1:49.88 for the mile and an eighth.
"
She's very quick from the gate and Javier rode a great race," Hennig said. "We were going to retire her, but then we decided we should try her around two turns before we did. She had a rough year last year. She has vision problems and she spent a lot of time last year with a needle in her eye. Seth (assistant Seth Gregory) has really done a great job with her this winter. I don't know where we'll go next with her."

Pulling Up
The popular 9-year-old Arromanches, who had his 10-race winning streak ended last time out with new trainer Arthur Wendel, was returned to his previous trainer, Scott Lake, and immediately returned to his winning ways, capturing a $50,000 claiming race by a nose on March 30, upping his career earnings to $750,154.

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