|Daily Racing Form|
Monday, July 31
Florida shines during Calder's 'Summit of Speed'
By Scott Davis
Wire to Wire
It was a big day for Florida as Sunshine State products captured three of the seven sprint stakes offered by Calder during its $1.8 million Summit of Speed in July.
And it was an even bigger day for owner Robert "RC" Cole and trainer Scott Lake as they watched their son of Montbrook, Shake You Down, turn in arguably the best sprinting performance of the year with a crushing 8 3/4-length win in the grade three Smile Sprint Handicap.
"Just our luck -- we have two of the top four sprinters in the country and they're both geldings," Lake grinned, speaking of his Florida-breds Shake You Down and My Cousin Matt -- relatively recent claims both -- who were the two highweights for the half-million race. "Now we can't make any money breeding them."
No, but Lake and Cole certainly can make some dough on the racetrack, especially if Shake You Down continues the remarkable progression that has transformed him from a $65,000 claim just four months ago.
Thinking "he looks good on paper" and "he might make a nice claiming or allowance horse," the trainer, for his own account, dipped in at Aqueduct precisely three months ago to claim the product of Ocala Stud Farm. To that point Shake You Down had won seven of 26 lifetime starts.
Now, with a perfect five for five record for Lake and consecutive wins in the Bold Ruler (G3), True North Breeders' Cup (G2) and Smile Sprint Handicaps, Shake You Down may rank as the best sprinter in the country.
"When you win a $500,000 race like that, I'd say you really are as good as anyone," said Cole, who purchased the horse from Lake for an undisclosed sum after he had won consecutive money allowance races at Aqueduct.
Ironically, it was Cole -- the Maryland-based mortgage broker saw Shake You Down racing at Pimlico and Laurel -- who tipped Lake that the 5-year-old might be worth claiming.
In his first start in New York and first time ever for a tag, Lake grabbed Shake You Down and watched his transformation from an underweight horse with a dull coat and a blood problem to a superstar.
"Basically, he's a super horse right now," said Mike Luzzi, aboard for all three of his stakes wins. "I'm impressed more today than I have ever been."
Luzzi, faced with breaking from the widest post of 13 in the six-furlong Smile, was able to watch the race develop to his inside and place Shake You Down in the position he deemed most favorable.
"I told Luzzi just get out quick and get over as far as you can. I though the 13 was an advantage since he could let someone else go all out and he didn't have to breathe for his life," said Lake.
The someone who went all out was Here's Zealous, the leader through a blistering :43.83 half mile. By the turn, though, Luzzi had the 5-2 favorite right at his flank and the pair had opened up a gaping margin on the remainder of the field.
The battle was not engaged long: Shake You Down made short work of Here's Zealous and coasted down the stretch without feeling the whip. Longshot Private Horde rallied for second, three-quarters of alength better than Lake's other contestant, the Richard Englander-owned My Cousin Matt.
"After this, Rick will probably start looking to stay away from us," chided Cole.
And with good reason: Shake You Down's win was reminiscent of the Smile win recorded last year by Orientate, whose six-length margin of victory was recorded just a tick quicker than Shake You Down's 1:10.03.
All Orientate did following the Smile was to rip through his final three 2002 starts, capturing the NAPA Auto Parts Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) on his way to an Eclipse Award as top sprinter.
Though he cannot enjoy retirement to the life of a high-priced stallion as Orientate did after the Breeders' Cup, Shake You Down will in other ways try to emulate the champion. "Now we'll try not to ship him too much and try to keep him in top form for the Breeders' Cup," said Cole.
Princess Rooney Handicap
In the first race of the afternoon, Baby Shark became the first horse ever to successfully defend a Summit of Speed win by scoring a win as the heavy favorite in the two-furlong Rocket Man Handicap.
But for sheer drama, it was Gold Mover's narrow defense of her 2002 victory -- earned over champion Xtra Heat - in the $500,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (G2) that highlighted the afternoon.
"She really had to work for it today," said winning trainer Mark Hennig. "It was a lot like last year. Even though it wasn't Xtra Heat, first Jerry (Bailey) had to chase a filly we had a lot of respect for and then hold off a local horse with more experience over the track."
The filly Gold Mover chased was multiple graded stakes winner Harmony Lodge, who set the pace through splits of :21.47 and :44.56. Gold Mover edged by her near the eighth-pole, and then was all out when Florida-bred Vision in Flight came to her on the outside. The two hit the wire together and there was a minute of tension before the placing judges determined Gold Mover's nose had hit the line first.
"Gary (Boulanger) was pumping his arms like he had it won; I really didn't know," admitted Bailey, who was in the irons of the Edward Evans' homebred for her win in this race last year.
"I thought I had it," said a dejected Boulanger. "My filly was running perfect and the other one was just digging in. I knew it would be a head bob either way."
That head bob improves the record of the 5-year-old daughter of Gold Fever to 13 for 30 -- 11 of her wins have come in stakes -- and pushes her earnings to just over $1.5 million. Moreover, it significantly brightened the day of her trainer.
"She is one of my favorite horses all-time," said the trainer, who also conditions talented Evans' homebreds Raging Fever, Summer Colony, and Gygistar.
"She just goes out every day and does her work with a smile. It's like having a great employee that does everything with happiness. And not just in her races, but in training every morning she does whatever you ask of her."
One thing that Gold Mover does not have on her resume is a grade one win, and Hennig hopes to remedy that in next month's Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga. "She deserves to be a grade one winner," he said.
Carry Back Stakes
Everything about Carry Back winner Valid Video screams Florida.
Bred by Casey Seaman at his Crystal Eclipse Stable in Ocala, the son of Valid Wager – Miss Video, by Star Gallant, went through the ring as a weanling at the Ocala Breeders' Sale mixed October auction, where he was bought for Mac Fehsenfeld by Ocala resident Dennis Manning.
And following his score over Cajun Beat in the grade three race for 3-year-olds -- his fifth win from just eight lifetime starts -- the gelding can claim victory at three of the State's racetracks.
"Florida is his home and it is my home, so I guess it's natural how well he does down here," trainer Manning. "I planned this race for him a long time ago."
Valid Video captured his first graded stakes in Monmouth's Sapling Stakes last August in just his second career start. After failing in the Belmont Futurity (G1), he began his 2003 campaign with wins in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream and the OBS Sprint during Ocala's Day of Champions.
In by far his career's worst performance, he was sixth when trying a route in April's Aventura Stakes. "I had to try him going long once to see if he could do it," explained Manning of that performance.
Finding out that he could not, the trainer gave Valid Video some time to recover at his summer base of Monmouth and sent him out for the May 24 Gilded Time Stakes as the 4-5 favorite. He ran second.
"I had glue on shoes on him without toe grabs, and when it came up sloppy I couldn't change them," Manning said of his charge's Gilded Time performance.
With a dry track for the Carry Back, the trainer had no such worries. Additionally, with a solid but challenged pace set by fellow Florida-bred King Robyn, Valid Video had a target to shoot at.
"This race set up perfectly for us with the pace scenario," said Joe Bravo, who cruised up three-wide to challenge King Robyn off the turn and edged away down the lane. "I was mostly concerned about the horse on the outside of me (King Robyn), but when I saw Alex (Solis) already asking him to run I became even more confident."
The crowd of 10,760 -- another Summit of Speed record -- was not as confident, allowing Valid Video to pay a surprising $19.60. "I didn't understand that," said Manning. "Except for that last time he had never been beaten going short and he was training great." Valid Video's the final time of 1:10.15 ties the stakes record set in 2000 by the ultra-fast Caller One.
And with a bankroll now swelled to $445,700, Valid Video will now shoot for Saratoga's Amsterdam Stakes (G2) on Aug 2. "We know now for sure that he wants to go short, so he'll stay doing that," concluded Manning.
Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes
Ebony Breeze earned her fourth career stakes win in the Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes. For sophomore fillies, it too was a six-furlong, grade three event carrying a purse of $300,000.
And, also like the Carry Back, it belonged to a horse for which Florida seems to bring out the best.
Spending last winter in Florida, the Kinsman Stable homebred was a perfect four for four, her three stakes wins at Tampa Bay Downs culminating in the Florida Oaks (G3) on March 26.
In her two subsequent starts in Kentucky, though, the daughter of Belong to Me failed in turf routes before being freshened and then returning to what she does best: sprinting, on the dirt, in Florida.
"She needed a break and after those three hard races going a distance it did her a world of good," said Mark Shriver, assistant to winning trainer Bill Mott. Speaking of an impressive 47 3/5 seconds half-mile breeze at Churchill last week, he added. "That got her sharpened up."
For Mott, who remained in New York to saddle Thompson Rouge (IRE) in the Bowling Green Handicap (G2), the win by Ebony Breeze was his third in the 4-year history of the Summit of Speed.
In 2001, the Hall of Fame trainer captured the Carry Back with Illusioned and the Princess Rooney with Dream Supreme, both also Kinsman homebreds. Ironically, although best known for his success teaming with Bailey, none of his three winners had the services of the six-time Eclipse winning jockey.
"I think my filly was the best in the race," said Cornelio Velasquez, riding Ebony Breeze for the first time since her maiden win accomplished last November at Calder.
"The last two times she tried the turf she didn't like it. Three-quarters, seven-eighths, six and a half on the dirt this filly is better. Today, the trainer told me to be close to the pace but it was pretty fast."
That was courtesy of Storm Flag, the Florida-bred speedster, who cleared the field through a quarter mile timed in :21.59. It did not hurt that favored Buffythecenterfold, expected to challenge for the lead, was smashed at the start and trailed the field before turning in a futile late rally.
Velasquez, meanwhile, weaved his way through horses until reaching contention on the turn. From there he simply lowered his hands and drew off to a commanding win, timed in 1:10.82. Florida-bred Crafty Brat closed for the show.
"The last sixteenth was pretty easy," said Velasquez. "I had a lot of horse."
Calder Turf Sprint Handicap
With an impressive score in the $100,000 Calder Turf Sprint Handicap, Joe Lunetta's 5-year-old Joe's Son Joey may have earned himself a place in the breeding shed.
"I think he's almost a stallion prospect now," said trainer Tim Hills after the son of Fast Play exploded down the stretch, overtaking the dueling leaders Placido and Tricky Storm and holding off the late charge by Florida-bred Callthesherrif.
"Now we'll need to run him in races up to about a mile -- which he can handle -- and see if we can get some graded wins into him."
A top turf sprinter in early 2002, a season in which he was in the exacta in all four starts, Joe's Son Joey missed the second half of the year with an ankle injury and didn't return to the races until Philadelphia's Turf Monster Handicap on May 31.
"We were kind of rolling the dice there and I just couldn't get him fit enough," said Hills, blaming the fifth-place finish on the nearly 11-month layoff and a wet turf course. "The owner insisted after the race that we look at this one in Florida. He asked me if I thoughthe was fit enough and I said 'Oh yeah!'"
Agreeing was jockey Bravo, making a rare Florida appearance. Bravo was filled with confidence from the moment he mounted Joe's Son Joey.
"When we were sitting in the gate I thought these other guys better have their running shoes on because he was ready to roll," related Bravo. "He was calm, cool and collected – but alert. When I turned for home it was pretty much over."
Gobbling up ground after splitting horses and angling out turning for home, Joe's Son Joey blew by the leaders and, though being urged to the wire, won with authority. The final five-furlong time was :55.63.
"There were some nice horses in this race," Bravo acknowledged of a group that included top turf sprinters Nuclear Debate (fourth) and Testify (ninth). "But remember, last year at Gulfstream he got beat just a nose to Texas Glitter who was one of the best in the country at that time."
Ironically, while discussing the Yankee Affair Handicap, the jockey invoked the name of the Florida-bred who had won the last two editions of the Calder Turf Sprint. Hills, though, was only comparing the horse to himself.
"Last year he was really good - if you ever saw the tape of that race in Canada you wouldn't believe it," Hills recalled the Nearctic Handicap (G2) when Joe's Son Joey managed to lose by a length after jumping a brown spot in the grass. "And I think he may have come back this year even better, which is scary."
Roamin Rachel Stakes
Though less heralded than the five "big stakes" on the afternoon and not as quirky as the quarter-mile Rocket Man, this $50,000 race for 2-year-old fillies could have a big impact on the Florida Stallion Stakes.
"If we can keep her together, that's where we're headed," said trainer Tim Ritvo after Outstanding Lady slipped through a narrow opening between tiring pacesetter Usual Manner and Mystical Delite in the late stages for a head win.
Mystical Delite, also Stallion Stakes eligible, was second while Usual Manner -- who had opened up as many as seven-length on the field while running an opening half-mile in 44.90 -- was third.
The winner, bred by Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm, was a $50,000 purchase for Sixto Figueroa's Rey-Wan Racing in February's Ocala Breeders' Sale, held at Calder, and made her first starts over the track before a journey to New York for the Fashion Stakes. "But she got sick there and we had to take her back home without running," Ritvo described. In last month's J J's Dream Stakes, Outstanding Lady was wide throughout and finished sixth.
"I think the outside post really hurt and she was a little green," the trainer described. "It was the first time she wasn't in the race early and I think she got a little intimidated."
Noting that the daughter of Outflanker -- Rob's Lady, by No Robbery, broke sharply inward from the rail, he added: "Even today she was still green and got a little intimidated when that other horse was alongside her."
That "other horse" was Mystical Delite, but Jorge Chavez -- reminding locals why the nickname "Chop Chop" still fits with a series of hard left-handed urging -- managed to find room near the sixteenth pole, hitting the line in 1:21.44.
"She was going good early but got a little afraid when (Mystical Delite) came next to her," Chavez described. "But she never gave up."
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