This weekend, several Triple Crown nominees were out for the start of serious prep season, including Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day making his 2004 debut. All together there were eight preps from coast to coast. Here are the results for the more influential ones.
Little Matth Man winner of the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct.
On Saturday, Aqueduct in New York was the site of the $75,000-added Whirlaway Stakes, a 1 1/16 mile event over the inner dirt track. Sent off as the 3-2 favorite in the field of seven (after three scratched) was Quick Action. However, 9-1 shot Little Matth Man pulled off the upset, rallying from last after half a mile to catch 4-1 shot Risky Trick inside the final furlong to get the win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:45.78 over the muddy track. It was another 1 1/2 lengths back to the favorite Quick Action in third.
Little Matth Man was not among the early nominees for the Triple Crown but the win may have put him on the trail. Winning trainer Martin Ciresa said, "We're going to look at nominating him to the Visa Triple Crown. He came back so good after the last race. He runs a little bit better every time. We really haven't looked beyond this race; we're going to try not to put him in against the wolves just yet. There aren't too many three-year-olds that can run the way he does, making one run from the back of the pack."
Silver Minister winner of the WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park.
Turfway Park had originally scheduled the WEBN Stakes for last Saturday, but due to the very cold weather the race was postponed to this weekend. In this $50,000 event over 1 mile, 4-5 favorite Silver Minister did not disappoint, staying with the early pace of 5-2 second choice Danieltown for the first 3/4 mile in 1:13.63, and then taking over at the top of the stretch drawing off to win by 5 1/4 lengths over late-closing 69-1 longshot Revolver Six, in a time of 1:41.98 over the good track. It was a head back to 22-1 shot Dollar a Dip. Danieltown was done after six furlongs and finished seventh. Trainer Greg Foley said, "The only thing I was concerned about was that we missed a lot of training. "He showed he's got some class, running on limited training. He's got route pedigree, and I don't see why he can't get a mile and a sixteenth, mile and an eighth. He's a quality kind of colt, this colt is. If he comes out the race good, we're going to the Battaglia."
Imperialism, winner of the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita.
Moving to the west coast, a field of six contested the $150,000 Grade 2 San Vicente on Saturday, a 7 furlong sprint at Santa Anita. 11-10 favorite Hosco made all the running early, setting brisk early fractions of 22.44, 44.77, and 1:09.34 under Tyler Baze. However, 14-1 shot Imperialism, unhurried early, made a four wide move on the turn and collared the favorite in mid stretch, winning by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:22.34. It was just a head back from Hosco to 10-1 shot Consecrate in third. 3-2 second choice Teton Forest was boxed in during the stretch run and could not rally, finishing fifth. Winning trainer Kristin Mulhall said, "I was expecting the pace to be much faster. I was a little worried but I was actually thinking he was going to be further back. But I've seen him close and he can fly down the stretch. We were just hoping he (Victor Espinoza) was going to swing him out and make one run and that's what he did." Jockey Victor Espinoza added, "I was not worried about it. There was so much horse I didn't want to take him inside. I had to go around and make sure that I didn't get stuck. He's easy to control. If there's one thing about him, he never stops running. He just keeps going and nothing seems to bother him."
Master David winner of the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita.
On Sunday, two more preps were contested on the west coast. Santa Anita hosted the $75,000-added Sham Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on the main track. 11-10 favorite Master David pressed the pace of 16-1 longshot Gethsemani through early fractions of 23.46, 47.01, 1:11.08, and 1:36.57, and then battled with the longshot through the final furlong finally prevailing inside the 1/16 pole to win by a length in 1:49.20 over 8-1 shot Borrego. It was just a head back to Preachinatthebar in third, and another head back to 2-1 second choice and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Action This Day, who lagged behind the whole field, going wide around the far turn, but was left with too much to do and could only get third.
Jockey Alex Solis and trainer Bobby Frankel (right) at the trophy presentation for the Sham Stakes.
Winning trainer Bobby Frankel said, "Everything went well. I told [jockey Alex Solis] there's not much pace in the race so wherever you're going to be, just be comfortable." Jockey Alex Solis added, "We had a great trip, I couldn't ask for a better trip, just laying second the whole way. At the quarter pole that horse (Borrego) came up outside of me and my horse kept trying. Down the stretch he found another gear and we got him. At that point you don't have time to worry, you've got to keep riding. I was hoping he would come back and he did. He ran a very game race." Frankel said that Master David would start next in the Florida Derby on March 16.
Action This Day in the walking ring prior to the Sham Stakes.
Richard Mandella, trainer of Action This Day, said "I'm happy with his start. I mean I'd have liked to won it but he finished strong and as long as he comes out in good shape that's the main thing. Most likely (his next race will be) the Santa Anita Derby (on April 3) but we'll look at everything."
The last prep of the weekend was the $75,000-added Golden State Mile over one mile at Golden Gate Fields. 9-2 second choice and former claimer O.K. Mikie rallied from last early under jockey Adalberto Lopez to catch 2-1 favorite Bending Strings in the final strides to win by 1/2 a length in 1:37.49. It was three lengths back to 11-1 shot Point Dume in third.