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Four jockeys turned in hat tricks in the first four days of the Tropical at Calder meeting. Three of the jockeys - Luis Arango, Cecilio Penalba, and Daniel Coa - were not among the top six riders in the local standings at the recently concluded Calder session.
Penalba had 12 victories all year before his breakout performance Oct. 23, which included wins on both ends of the late daily double. One of the wins came aboard Labadeel in a rare appearance for trainer Marty Wolfson in the featured ninth race.
Coa and Arango shared riding honors Saturday with three victories apiece. Coa began and ended the long afternoon with wins, capturing the opener and finale with Country Code and Wat. He also won the seventh event aboard Heaven's Awesome. Arango got his hat trick in less than two hours, winning the ninth race with longshot Raymundo, the featured 10th on Colonial Causeway, and the 12th aboard Bidham.
Manoel Cruz, the defending Tropical at Calder riding champion, got off to the quickest start among a well-bunched leaderboard in the opening week of the meet. He won five races, including three Oct. 25.
Anybody with a turf horse who tried to run in the first four days of the Tropical meet had plenty to gripe about. All 12 races scheduled for the grass were switched to the main track, including the featured events on the Oct. 24 and 25 programs. Heavy rain made the decision to close the turf course a no-brainer Oct. 22 and 23, and although conditions cleared out for the weekend, management played it safe and protected the already-beleaguered course for the long road ahead. The meet runs through Jan. 2.
AMAZING STAT OF THE WEEK
Of the 40 races decided in the first four days of the meet, 38 trainers sent out a winner. Only Bill White, who is coming off another training title here this summer, and Stanley Gold, he of Jackson Bend fame, had more than one win through Sunday. White and Gold were dead-locked atop the standings with two victories apiece, with a 36-way tie for third when week 2 of the meet began Oct. 22.
Unlike the previous weekend, no overwhelming bias to speak about during the opening week of Tropical.
Thursday, Oct. 22, the card favored speed and stalkers over a sloppy track. Each of the afternoon's eight winners were either on or coming from just off the pace, the majority doing the bulk of their running near or right on the rail. Trippi's Sailor was easily the most impressive of the rail runners to post a victory over the wet going, rushing up the inside and dueling for the lead following a slow start, then reasserting herself along the fence after being shuffled back to fourth near the quarter pole to win going away.
Speed was pretty good again Oct. 23, although Gold Prospect did buck the trend when circling five wide to capture the third race. Joan's Royal Dawn rode the mild track bias to register a wire-to-wire upset over the odds-on Flankers Lady later in the afternoon.
The Saturday and Sunday cards offered a mixed bag of winning styles. Saturday featured more off-the-pace victories than usual, although not enough to be characterized as a bias. The day's best-looking performance belonged to Repeal, a promising 3-year-old son of Repent who returned from a 10-month vacation and dominated an overmatched field of older maidens despite getting stuffed and shuffled back badly on the final turn in a race originally scheduled for the turf.
On Sunday, New York-bred 2-year-old Out of Respect went wire to wire to win his debut in a maiden special weight over another highly touted first-time starter Among Friends, who chased and finished second. Easy Aces, who had held his own against some of the better juveniles on the grounds this summer, returned from a two-month layoff only to walk out of the gate far behind the field and lose all chance.
Not much going on this weekend or next, for that matter, with the Breeders' Cup on tap. The Tropical at Calder stakes schedule is pretty much wrapped into three big days, the next of which is the Florida Million on Nov. 14. That will be followed by Grand Slam I on Dec. 5, a card that has already been reduced from three stakes to two because of recent purse cuts. Grand Slam II on Dec. 26 has also been slashed from four stakes to three, with the meet's main event, the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight, now worth $150,000. The final stakes of the year will be the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day.
About the only race worth delving into on the Saturday, Oct. 31, program based on workouts is the ninth, a 2-year-old maiden special weight race scheduled to be run at five furlongs on the turf. The field features six first-time starters, the best of whom may be either Fortunate Rooster or Flash Forever.
* Fortunate Rooster: Shows a steady string of workouts on his resume dating back to mid-August. His best works were a couple of gate drills Sept. 27 and Oct. 4, when he flashed sharp early speed, including a 35.79 opening three-eighths on the 27th. He has worked in blinkers and has Eibar Coa signed on. Unfortunately, he does not show much in the way of turf breeding.
* Flash Forever: Will have to draw in off the also-eligible list. He was also trapped on the AE list for Thursday's fifth race, in which he was entered under a $16,000 claiming tag. He, too, has shown speed from the gate in the morning, including a 35-and-change opening three-eighths before tiring around the bend in that Oct. 22 drill. He is the first foal of an unraced dam, but sire During is off to a good start with debuting 2-year-olds and with his offspring on the grass.
* Gorlock: A couple of fast gate drills. He shaded 36 but was under heavy pressure throughout Oct. 26. He went even faster a week earlier under similarly stiff pressure. The rider selection was somewhat of a surprise; Antonio Gallardo hadn't previously accepted a mount for trainer Larry Pilotti. This is the first of the winless dam's five foals to try grass.
* Black Ops Honor: Has shown little in four previous starts but does own a 315 Tomlinson Figure for the grass. He also blew out nicely for the race, going three-eighths in 35.78 from the gate before galloping out a half-mile in 49.66 earlier in the week.
Other notable works this week were turned in by Peace At Dawn, La Chica Sensual, and Dance of the Tiger.
* Peace At Dawn: Cruised an easy three furlongs in 36.28 from the gate before galloping out a half in 49.91 on Monday. This talented 2-year-old was an impressive debut winner but appeared to need a race when returning from a four-month layoff and catching a deep rail early on in the Birdonthewire Stakes.
* La Chica Sensual: Has not started since closing out her very successful 2-year-old campaign with an easy victory in the 1 1/16-mile My Dear Girl finale of the 2008 Florida Stallion stakes series and falling a neck shy of sweeping the filly division of the series. She has had four published works on the comeback trail, the best of which came Oct. 24, when she drilled a half-mile in 47.79 late in the morning over a deep track, including a final quarter-mile in 23.78 under some urging.
* Dance of the Tiger: Was beaten a head going a quarter-mile over a sloppy track in her only previous start early in the year, but this 2-year-old filly looks about ready to return after breezing a half-mile in 49.02 while completing her final furlong in 11.88 without pressure over a tiring track last Saturday.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Stanley Gold
Last race: Oct. 22, 1st
Finish: 2nd by 4 1/2
This young colt has shown improvement since stretching around two turns and appears to be sitting on a win against mid-level claimers going a route of ground. Might have been best in his latest when angling out extremely wide while seemingly full of run exiting the final turn before flattening out behind a loose-on-the-lead winner over a speed-favoring course.
Trainer: David Vivian
Last race: Oct. 22, 4th
Finish: 4th by 11
Looked nicely spotted the other day against mid-level starter allowance opposition but caught a wet track and then compounded the issue when breaking through the gate just prior to the start. Took a three-wide run at the leaders approaching the stretch but could not sustain the rally over a track that favored front-runners.
Trainer: Bill White
Last race: Oct. 24, 3rd
Finish: 1st by 4
The winning margin doesn't do justice to this colt's performance, considering he was taken up sharply along the rail near the three-eighths pole. Eventually wound up circling four wide for clearance approaching the stretch, readily overtaking the leaders, and winning with speed to spare while going a mile in his first start since December.
Trainer: Jose Pinchin
Last race: Oct. 25, 5th
Finish: 2nd by 4 1/4
Good-looking 2-year-old prospect was well backed for his debut but ran into a fast one in fellow first-time starter Out of Respect, who was well honed for his unveiling and ran away to an easy victory. Did well to outgame a more experienced rival for second money after chasing the winner from the outset and should have little trouble graduating at second asking.