09/28/2008 12:00AM

Fairbanks runs to his odds in Gold Cup win


STICKNEY, Ill. - Fairbanks can be a tricky horse to ride. Sometimes his stifles bother him and keep him from showing all he might. But when Fairbanks is right, as he was in the Hawthorne Gold Cup on Saturday, he can run pretty darn fast.

"When he's feeling good, he's close to being a hell of a horse," said Barry Irwin, head of Team Valor Stable LLC, Fairbanks' owner.

Irwin was speaking from the winner's circle, where moments before, Fairbanks ($3.40) had gotten his picture taken after capturing the Grade 2, $500,000 Gold Cup by 2 3/4 lengths under Richard Migliore. Fairbanks, shipped to Chicago from New York by trainer Todd Pletcher, was heavily favored, and unlike in the Bill Hartack Memorial here this past spring, he did not disappoint his backers.

Fairbanks's only dicey moment came as he passed the stands for the first time in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup. Trapped inside behind pacesetting Barcola, with Better Than Bonds lapped on his flank, Fairbanks tossed his head a couple times and tried to get rank.

"He can be tricky to ride," said Migliore, who was aboard Fairbanks for the second straight race.

Irwin said Fairbanks' stifles were bothering him in the April 19 Hartack, and Fairbanks spent most of the summer resting before coming back with a big win in a minor Saratoga stakes last month. And Fairbanks fired again at Hawthorne. Migliore was able to ease Fairbanks into the three path down the backstretch, which was just where he wanted to be going into the far turn. Barcola stopped first after setting fractions of 23.87 seconds for his first quarter-mile, 48.90 for the half, and 1:13.47 for three-quarters, and Better than Bonds also threw in the towel. Fairbanks surged and took over before the eighth pole and easily turned back a decent challenge from Magna Graduate. Wayzata Bay, who also ran gamely, was a neck farther back in third.

Fairbanks was timed in 2:04.57 over a track labeled fast.

Carey Memorial: Cisco feeling at home on Wise River

Once again, Cisco Torres is back in Chicago, his hometown. Suspensions, stints in rehab, aborted comebacks – this has been the substance of Torres's recent years. But no one ever questioned whether Torres could ride, and his second day back at Hawthorne, he guided Wise River to a 15-1 upset in the $150,000 Robert F. Carey Memorial Handicap.

Torres made still another comeback this summer at Louisiana Downs, and it was there he picked up the Wise River mount for trainer Clark Hanna and owner Don Benge. Wise River finished second under Torres in the $106,000 World series of Poker Stakes races there last month, and ran the race of his life here on Saturday, turning back challenges from favored Galantas and second-choice Jungle Fighter to score by one length.

"I feel awesome," Torres said after the win. "I appreciate this opportunity, and I want to make the best of it."

Jungle Fighter looked like he might be the speed of the Carey, a one-mile grass race, but it was Wise River - normally a pace-presser - who took control early, backing up the pace through a 48.27-second half-mile. Torres cut him loose turning for home, and Wise River came home his final quarter-mile in less than 24 seconds. He was timed in 1:35.04 on firm turf, and paid $33.40 to win.

Galantas was disqualified from second to third for forcing in Jungle Fighter in the final furlong.

Indian Maid: Ciao ends losing streak

Ciao came into the Indian Maid Handicap with five losses from her 2008 campaign, but she took heavy betting action in the early wagering and powered past Ballymore Lady to win the $115,650 Indian Maid by a half-length under Inez Karlsson.

Ciao almost beat the good filly Bit of Whimsy last fall in the Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill and off that performance seemed like she'd have a nice season, but a mixture of bad luck and iffy performances brought Ciao into the Indian Maid looking for her first win of the year.

She took care of that, beating seven horses in the Indian Maid, a 1 1/16-mile turf race. Karlsson said traffic trouble put Ciao farther off pacesetting Drop a Line than she'd planned, and once Ciao started moving coming into the stretch, Karlsson had to shop around for racing room.

"I don't ever get nervous," Karlsson said. "I figure sooner or later I'm going to find a hole."

With time ticking down, Karlsson slipped to the outside, found running room, and Ciao collared Ballymore in the final half-furlong. Ciao paid $8.60 to win and was timed in 1:41.55 on firm turf. Drop a Line held on for third.

* The 4-5 favorite Palanka City took care of business in the $52,000 Regal Rumor Stakes, turning back a mild challenge from Lune Rouge to win by four lengths. Palanka City, ridden by Chris Emigh for trainer Terry Gestes, was timed in 1:10.76 for six furlongs on dirt and paid $3.60 to win.