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Forest Heiress not ready for weekend
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The eagerly anticipated rubber match between archrivals A New Twist and Forest Heiress, which was expected to be in Sunday's $100,000 Forward Gal Stakes, will have to wait as a bruised foot will keep Forest Heiress out of the seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.
"We discovered a little bruise in her foot when we shod her this week and it cost her a few days of training," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr. "It's nothing serious, but we didn't want to come right back with her in this race. There's a little overnight handicap later in the book we might shoot for if all goes well."
Forest Heiress easily defeated A New Twist in the Grade 3 Valley Stream Stakes to close out her 2-year-old campaign but had that decision reversed when the pair met in the six-furlong Old Hat Stakes here on Jan. 6.
"The first time we met, A New Twist broke a step slow. The second time our filly did the same thing and Jerry [Bailey] had to use her a little after that," said Perkins when asked about Forest Heiress's setback in the Old Hat. "But take nothing away from A New Twist. She ran a super race. Naturally, we'd like to have gotten another crack at her Sunday. But hopefully they'll have the chance to meet again somewhere down the road."
Monarchos 'needed the scrimmage'
After having 48 hours to digest the results and watch the replays, trainer John Ward was feeling good about Monarchos's performance in his 2002 debut and elated over Booklet's game win in the Holy Bull Stakes Saturday.
"Monarchos came out of the race well and scoped clean," said Ward. "He just needed the scrimmage. He was a bit lackadaisical coming out of the gate but made a good middle move and then got tired over the deep track. But he got a lot out of the race."
Monarchos, making his first start since the Belmont Stakes, finished third beaten nearly nine lengths by Mongoose under allowance conditions on Saturday.
"Handicap racing for older horses is like a college basketball season," said Ward. "There are a lot of important games during the early part of the year and you'd like to win as many of them as you can, but nothing really counts until the end of the season at tournament time. That's when you want your athletes at their best. Three-year-old racing is just the opposite. When you're shooting for the Kentucky Derby you've got to press your horse a lot harder during the winter and spring. So Monarchos and Booklet will be on totally different programs between now and May."
Booklet, making his first start since being purchased by Ward for owner John Oxley earlier this month, outgamed even-money favorite Harlan's Holiday to win the Holy Bull under a stellar ride by jockey Eibar Coa.
"I was very pleased with what I saw from Booklet," said Ward. "I thought he was very impressive the way he ran down the backside, very straight and true and in a good time. Then he made a decisive move down the lane to hold off that other horse. It looks like he cocks his eye and wants to move towards another horse and really compete when he gets challenged."
Ward was so pleased with Coa's performance he plans to ride him back in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 16.
"The Holy Bull was supposed to be a one-shot deal for the jockey but I was so impressed with the way he rode the horse I've extended his contract for another race," Ward said. "I like his confidence in this horse. In the paddock he told John [Oxley] and I just to go up in the grandstand, sit down and watch. We got a real kick out of that."
McPeek: Harlan's Holiday will improve
Harlan's Holiday, who raced wide around both turns in the Holy Bull, will get another shot at Booklet in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth according to trainer Ken McPeek.
"Under different circumstances I think [Harlan's Holiday] wins," said McPeek. "I think we ran the best horse. But that's racing. Before the race I thought we were closer to 100 percent than 80 percent. But after the race I felt we were closer to 80 than 100. The track was pretty deep. No doubt in my mind he's going to improve and beat [Booklet] next time."
Trainer Todd Pletcher was less certain of Nokoma's next stop after his disappointing fourth-place finish in the Holy Bull.
"He was blowing very, very hard after the race," said Pletcher. "I don't use being short as an excuse very often but I got to think he came up empty at the top of the stretch. I think the way the track's playing it's 15 lengths slow. Maybe you've got to be a little tighter than I had him. If I'm not pleased the way he works over this track the next couple of times I might look to go somewhere else."
Stephentown poses threat
Of the new faces who may challenge Ward and Booklet in the Fountain of Youth, the main competition could come from the other side of the barn where trainer Anthony Reinstedler is stabled with Stephentown.
Stephentown showed himself to be a major contender for the Fountain of Youth when overcoming a rough trip to easily handle preliminary allowance competition in his two-turn debut here on Jan. 9.
"Right now we're probably looking at the Fountain of Youth for his next start," said Reinstedler. "I'm happy where we are with him at the moment. My only job is to keep him happy and sound. I'm not on any specific schedule with this horse. He'll probably breeze sometime near the end of the week."
Reinstedler was also high on Deferred Comp, a 4-year-old who toyed with second-level allowance competition on Sunday and appears to be improving with every start.
"He's a stakes-caliber horse," Reinstedler said. "He's had a lot of physical problems and is one of the few horses I've ever seen who has made it back from a slab fracture. I'm not sure what we'll do with him next."
Zito picks spot for High Star
Trainer Nick Zito opted to pass the Holy Bull and work High Star five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday morning. Zito plans to run High Star, who finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Repent, in the Kentucky Jockey Club, in a preliminary allowance race here next Saturday.
"I talked it over with the people from Buckram Oak Farm, and we decided it was a better idea to wait another week and run him in the allowance race instead of starting back in the stakes," said Zito. "Right now he qualifies to be on the Derby trail. We just have to see how good he is. Although this is a horse who I think will definitely get better with age."
Alexander pair wins split maiden
Frank Alexander sent out a pair of promising 3-year-old fillies, Dynamite Miss and Nonsuch Bay, to win both divisions of a maiden allowance race on Sunday. Nonsuch Bay was the more impressive of the pair with her split running better than two seconds faster than the opening division.
"They have been workmates right along and I liked them both," said Alexander. "I'll take things one race at a time with both fillies and give them at least 2 1/2 to three weeks before I think about running them back again."
The previous afternoon Hit the Trail ran to his spectacular works, easily winning his debut for trainer John Mazza in the faster division of a split maiden allowance dash for 2-year-old colts and geldings.
* Ochoco, a $3 million purchase at the 1999 Saratoga yearling sales, finally made his career debut in Monday's fifth race finishing a late-running second following a slow start. A son of Mr. Prospector, Ochoco is owned by Aaron and Marie Jones and trained by Elliott Walden.
- additional reporting by David Grening