Sunday, February 2, 2003

Medaglia d'Oro wins Strub Stakes after three-month layoff

By Beth Harris
The Associated Press

ARCADIA, Calif. - If one of Bobby Frankel's horses is racing off a long layoff, look for it in the winner's circle.

Medaglia d'Oro, fresh from a three-month vacation and making his debut as a 4-year-old, romped to a seven-length victory in the $400,000 Strub Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

"It seems like when he gets an easy lead it's impossible to catch him," said Frankel, who won his fourth Eclipse Award as the nation's top trainer for 2002 on Monday. "Once he made the lead like that, I felt pretty good."

Ridden by Jerry Bailey, who flew in from Florida, Medaglia d'Oro easily put away five lesser rivals, none of whom have won a Grade I race. He didn't have to face any of his opponents from last year's 3-year-old division, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem and Santa Anita Derby winner Came Home, both of whom have retired.

Medaglia d'Oro lost out to War Emblem as 3-year-old of the year in the Eclipse voting. Came Home was the other finalist.

Medaglia d'Oro covered 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.04 and paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10 as the 2-5 wagering favorite. He carried high weight of 123 pounds in the prep for next month's $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.

Olmodavor returned $3.20 and $2.10, while Tracemark was another half-length back in third and paid $2.10 to show.

"When I saw Medaglia d'Oro sprint away at the head of the stretch, I knew we were running for second-place money," said Richard Mandella, who trains Olmodavor. "That's a super horse right there. He might be the real big horse this year, judging by that performance."

Bailey guided Medaglia d'Oro to the lead, dropped down to the rail at the first turn, and moved clear by the second turn. After pushing Medaglia d'Oro to a bigger lead in the stretch, Bailey backed off and didn't use his whip.

"I knew Bobby would have him ready after the layoff. I never touched him," said Bailey, who was at Santa Anita last weekend to win the Sunshine Millions Distaff and will ride Congaree on Sunday in the San Antonio Handicap.

"I'm going back and forth between here and Florida to ride these stakes. But when you ride a horse like this, you feel like you can go around the world and you wouldn't get tired," he said.

It was Medaglia d'Oro's first race since finishing second to long shot winner Volponi in the Breeders' Cup Classic in October at Chicago's Arlington Park. He was second to 70-1 shot Sarava in the Belmont Stakes, then won the Jim Dandy and Travers Stakes at Saratoga before losing in Chicago.

Frankel wins with 18 percent of his horses that have been rested between two and six months.

"I thought he had improved, but you never know until you run them," he said. "It looks like he's on the right track now."

Frankel said he's considering running Medaglia d'Oro in the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 29.

"But who knows what's going to go on with the war (in the Middle East), so if that doesn't work out, maybe the Santa Anita Handicap (on March 1)," he said.

Frankel, who saddled Mizzen Mast last year, became the third trainer to win consecutive Strubs. Bob Baffert did so in 2000 with General Challenge and in 2001 with Wooden Phone, while John Canty won in 1972 and '73.

Easy Grades, 13th in the Kentucky Derby, was fourth; Pass Rush was fifth; and Castle Gandolfo, 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Bailey, was sixth after being eased across the wire. Trainer Craig Dollase said the horse ran down through his hind bandages.

Medaglia d'Oro earned $240,000.

Kafwain makes winning 3-year-old debut at Santa Anita

ARCADIA, Calif. - Kafwain defeated Sum Trick by 41/2 lengths in the $150,000 San Vicente Stakes to win his 3-year-old debut for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita on Saturday.

Kafwain is one of nine colts in Baffert's barn who are possibilities for the Kentucky Derby, a race the white-haired trainer has won three times in the last six years.

"They don't talk about him," Baffert said of Kafwain's low profile. "Maybe after today they will. I expected him to win, just not like that."

After running last in the field of five early, Kafwain went four-wide on the far turn under Victor Espinoza and blew past Sum Trick and Southern Image in the stretch.

Kafwain covered seven furlongs in 1:21.12 and paid $3.60, $2.60 and $2.10 as the 3-5 wagering favorite.

"I love the way he ran. He ran very fast," Baffert said. "He was in control all the way. He didn't panic. He was just cruising."

Sum Trick returned $7 and $2.10, while Southern Image was another 11/2 lengths back in third and paid $2.10 to show. Runnin' On Nitro was fourth and Mr. Technique was fifth. Storm Gulch was scratched.

Kafwain proved consistent as a 2-year-old, winning three of eight starts and earning more than $530,000. He was second to stablemate Vindication in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in October at Chicago's Arlington Park, then was disqualified after winning the Hollywood Futurity in December and placed fourth in his previous start.

Baffert said the chestnut colt reminds him of Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who didn't work hard in the mornings and appeared to need a hard ride in races.

"He's a big, heavy horse like Silver Charm," he said. "You usually have to nudge him to get him going. Today he did it on his own."

The San Vicente is a prep for the Santa Anita Derby on April 5, but Baffert said he hadn't finalized Kafwain's schedule yet other than the colt will run twice more before the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

Baffert won the San Vicente for the third time. He saddled Exploit in 1999 and Silver Charm in 1997.

Vindication, undefeated in four career starts and winner of the Eclipse Award as last year's top 2-year-old colt, is Baffert's best-known 3-year-old hopeful. He worked four furlongs in 46 4-5 seconds on Jan. 18, but his 2003 debut is unknown.

Another of Baffert's colts, Truckle Feature, will run in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 7.

Future starts for his other 3-year-olds have not been decided. They are Apalachian Thunder, Domestic Dispute, Echeverria, Martinblestme, Sailinwithcaptain and Spensive.

Gal O Gal wins $100,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gal O Gal won her first stakes start, edging Formal Miss by a half-length Saturday in the $100,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Gulfstream Park.

Ridden by Chris Decarlo, Gal O Gal ran 1 1-16 miles on the turf course in 1:42 1-5 and paid $8.60, $5.20 and $3.60.

Formal Miss returned $11.20 and $7, and Devil At The Wire paid $3 to show. Favored Sweettrickydancer, seeking her fifth straight victory, finished last in the eight-horse field.

Gal O Gal, a Florida-bred daughter of Manlove owned by Max Hugel, has won five of eight starts with earnings of $120,220. She has won four in a row on grass.

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