Sunday, March 25, 2001

Balto Star upsets Spiral field

6-1 shot steals Derby prep on the lead

By George Rorrer
Enquirer contributor

Balto Star pulls away down the stretch.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        FLORENCE — In what was billed as a wide-open Spiral Stakes Saturday at Turfway Park, 6-1 choice Balto Star and jockey Mark Guidry sped through an early opening and won the $600,000 Kentucky Derby prep race by 12 3/4 lengths.

        Trainer Todd Pletcher said his horse got a break when Keats, expected to be the early pacesetter, broke poorly and left Balto Star alone in the lead. The gelding showed a chilled crowd of 18,700 he belongs in the Triple Crown picture.

        Mongoose challenged briefly on the backstretch, but Balto Star pulled away with ease.

        Halo's Stride, a 55-1 shot, closed to finish second. Mongoose, the 4-1 second choice, was third, another 5 1/2 lengths back.

  1. Balto Star
  2. Halo's Stride
  3. Mongoose
  4. Camden Park
  5. Fan Club's Mister
  6. Buckle Down Ben
  7. Meetyouathebrig
  8. Keats
  9. Clutch Player
        Guidry said: “He had a lot of speed, and we got away and took advantage of the situation. He broke sharp and then ran effortlessly. I can't believe the fractions. There was true speed on the inside, but he ran so easily that he made my job easy.”

        Balto Star was clocked in 22.93 seconds after a quarter-mile, 25:22 for the next, 24.42 the next, and 12.13 the rest of the way for a total of 1:47.23. The record for the 1-mile race is 1:47.2, set by Atticus in 1996 and tied by Silver Charm in 1998. The track record is 1:46.3 set by Hansel in the Kentucky Cup in 1991.

        “On a given day certain situations set up well and a horse is sometimes capable of putting together a monstrous performance,” Pletcher said. “And that is what this horse did today.

        “I don't know if any (of the Triple Crown contenders) has run any better than he ran today. Does that mean he's going to do it at Churchill Downs? I don't know, but we're talking about a horse who has won his last two starts by 25 lengths.

        “He stepped up to another whole league today and he did it authoritatively. I think you can add him to the horses with a chance.”

        Saturday's race was only the seventh of Balto Star's career. After he acted up in his first start, Pletcher and owner Stuart Subotdnick had the horse gelded. Since then, he has overwhelmed his rivals.

        Subotnick, a newcomer to this level of racing, was excited. “It's amazing!” he said. “He goes to the front and just keeps going. I think we haven't seen the distance yet that he can't compete in.

        “Of course we're looking at May, and I think we've got a good shot with this horse.”

        John Velazquez, who rode beaten 3.30-1 favorite Buckle Down Ben, said his horse “just didn't seem to respond at any point in the race.”

        Added Velazquez: “We broke OK, but he never seemed to be too interested in running today.”

        No.3 choice Meetyouathebrig finished seventh. Trainer W. Elliot Walden, said, “I don't think he wants to go this far, but we'll find a race for him.”

        Walden was pleased with lightly regarded Camden Park, who finished fourth. “This was only his fourth race,” Walden said, “and we think he'll improve from there.”

        Keats, who finished eighth, stumbled at the start and, jockey Larry Melancon said, had “an extremely rough trip.”

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