By JIM WELLS
One was pretty much a two-horse contest that turned into a one-horse race, the other a horse’s race to lose and she did just that.
Oh, the vagaries of the game and how they come into play!
The first race, as a side note, was so cut and dried from one perspective (likely a consolidation of opinion) that the winning animal drew more than $191,000, in show bet cash, $185,000 of that total put down in New Jersey.
That 6 ½-furlong event was the $25,000 MTA Stallion Auction Stakes for colts and geldings the progeny of stallions whose service was sold at the 2006 MTA Stallion Auction.
The 1-2 favorite was Samendra, a 3-year-old chestnut colt by Demidoff, owned by Kissoon Thoroughbreds, trained by Bernell Rhone and ridden by Dean Butler.
He was the overwhelming pick backed by the big bridge-jumping wager from New Jersey. He had beaten the second choice in the race, Dancingwithbigron, twice before.
Would the third time be the charm for Dancing…?
“I sure hope so,” said trainer Franciso Bravo.
Rhone wasn’t taking anything for granted, despite two earlier victories over Bravo’s horse. “We won but not by much,” he said.
There still was no doubt about the horse to beat.
“You have to beat the three horse (Samendra),” said Dancing’s owner Dale Schenian. “If you don’t beat the three horse, you finish second or third.”
Which is precisely what happened. Samendra won and Dancingwithbigron finished second.
This time the winner finished in front by a stout 1 ¾ lengths.
“I think he got in some trouble before, was checked once or twice,” said winning owner Deon Kissoon, clearly pleased with the stake victory.
The overwhelming choice to win the fillies half of the auction stakes, at the same distance for the same money, was Bert’slittlesister, owned by Curtis Sampson, trained by Tony Rengstorf and ridden by Dean Butler.
The horse’s name, if you care to know, came about this way:
A while back, when Bert Blyleven was still hoping to reach the baseball Hall of Fame, he got involved in racing through the Sampsons. They had a horse named Bertsquestforfame, who had won two races in a row and was on the way to winning a third when she injured a sesamoid and didn’t race again.
The horse running on Saturday got her name quite naturally, since she was a full sister to the injured filly.
She had a stable mate running in Saturday’s race, too, a Demidoff filly called All Bets Are Off, same owner and trainer with Derek Bell up.
Bert’slittlesister, a recent winner of the Minnesota Oaks with two sprint wins to boot, was sent off the 1-9 favorite. Her stable mate was 15-1.
All Bets Are Off likes to run on the lead but wasn’t given much chance of stealing this race despite her preferred running style. Say what!
Bell put his horse on the lead by the quarter pole and she stayed right there. Bert’slittlesister tried to challenge in the stretch drive but could not reach her stable mate, who got there first by 2 ½ lengths in 1:19.
The third-place horse, Silent Copy, was seven lengths behind the winner.
“She gets in front and she’s tough,” said Rengstorf about his $32.60 winner..
“Running on the lead works,” Sampson said to Bell in the winner’s circle.
Bell was grinning like the cat that had swallowed the canary as he headed down the steps from the winner’s circle. “Don’t ask me,” he said. ‘I just put her on the lead….”
Nik Goodwin was grinning, too, although for different reasons after recording a hat trick on Saturday’s card, the first time he has won three races in a couple of years, as he recalled.
“And it was almost four,” he said after losing on Heavenly Due by a short head in race eight.
He got that mount as a replacement for Dustin Dugas who was thrown in the paddock shortly before the first race by his mount, Demis Native Dancer, landing very hard with an impact that could be heard several yards away..
He was hospitalized for observation. Tests revealed no broken bones and there was hope he would ride on Sunday’s card.