Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Filly AB What A Runner Wins $2 million race

AP Sports Writer

        RUIDOSO DOWNS, N.M. — AB What A Runner scored a wire-to-wire victory Monday in one of the closest finishes in the 44-year history of the All American Futurity, the world's richest quarterhorse race.

        The 2-year-old filly, who set the track record for 440 yards in the trials two weeks ago, held off the fast closing geldings Eye Opening Episode and Meteoric to earn the $1 million that goes to the winner of the $2 million sprint.

        AB What A Runner, now 3-for-3 in her brief racing career, hit the finish line a head in front of the 12-to-1 longshot Eye Opening Episode, who was another head in front of Meteoric.

        AB What A Runner went off as the betting favorite and paid $6.20, $4.40 and $3.20. Eye Opening Episode paid $9.40 and $5.20 and Meteoric paid $3.20.

        The finish was so close that it took several minutes before the photo decided the order of the blanket finish.

        “They were coming to me on the end, but she pinned back her ears and got there on top,” winning jockey Jay Conklin said. “I knew I was right there, but I wasn't sure I had won it. I had my fingers crossed on both hands.”

        The filly's winning time of 21.308 seconds over a sloppy track was well off her track-record time of 20.993 seconds that she ran in the trials on Aug. 15 that determined the 10-horse field for the futurity.

        The win was the third straight for AB What A Runner in as many races. Idaho cattle rancher Dennie Hill and trainer Bret Vickery decided to point their horse for the $2 million race after she won her first race over 330 yards by five lengths at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, in May.

        Unaffected by the sloppy track and living up to her name, the filly took the lead right out of the gate, opened a length lead 300 yards into the race and then held on as Eye Opening Episode closed in on her right side and Meteoric came rushing up to her left.

        “When the gates opened, I was gone,” said Conklin, who said he never touched the filly with his whip during the race. “She had not run on an off track, and I was a little concerned, but I knew that she would run hard and run honest.”

        Meteoric, who came into the race having won all six of his previous races, flipped and fell on his side in the paddock about 20 minutes before the race. The gray gelding didn't seem to be affected by the pre-race mishap and ran a solid race.

        Eye Opening Episode earned $293,150 for owner Sandra Erwin of Dallas, Texas. Meteoric, one of two horses owned by the Dutch Masters III partnership of Anaheim, Calif., earned $129,150.


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