04/20/2005 11:00PM

Gun Salute gives Mott another turf stakes win

Bill Straus
Gun Salute wins the $110,500 Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland on Thursday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Among his many talents as a Hall of Fame trainer, Bill Mott has fared especially well with young grass horses. That knack was on full display again Thursday when Mott sent out Gun Salute to a 2 1/2-length score in the $110,500 on the Keeneland turf course.

Gun Salute, the 3-1 second choice in a field of eight 3-year-olds, drew clear in the final furlong of the 1 1/8-mile Forerunner to prevail over a host of longshots. Mad Adam was second at 34-1, while 46-1 shot Cosmic Kris finished another three-quarters of a length back in third. Interpatation, an 8-1 shot, ran fourth, while Tadreeb, the even-money favorite, faded steadily and checked in seventh.

The stakes victory was the first for Gun Salute, who was ridden by Cornelio Velasquez and was treated with Lasix for the first time. Gun Salute, by the Danzig sire Military, was bred and is owned by Brant Laue.

"He started out the year with a good race at Gulfstream Park," said Mott, referring to a 2 1/4-length loss in the March 26 Palm Beach Stakes. "He had a race under his belt, and it showed today."

Gun Salute paid $8.20 to win after finishing in 1:48.51 over a firm course. Mott said he had "plenty of options" for the colt while mentioning the Mid-America Triple summer grass series at Arlington Park as an attractive alternative.

Lord Robyn set the fractions in the 20th Forerunner, while Gun Salute and Tadreeb were among several horses tracking him closely. Leaving the far turn, Gun Salute started his winning move from a clear outside position, as Lord Robyn and Tadreeb began tiring and the longshots began filling the minor slots.

The $2 exacta returned $216.40 and the $2 trifecta paid $2,970.40.

In an earlier race, Perfect Drift ($5.20), ridden by Gary Stevens, drove to his first victory in nearly 19 months, capturing a $64,810 turf allowance by three lengths.

Perfect Drift, in his 6-year-old debut, looped the field in the far turn, then rolled past Ay Caramba to complete one mile in 1:35.07. Although Perfect Drift had not won since the Hawthorne Gold Cup in September 2003, the gelding had earned nearly $950,000 in nine starts last year facing the likes of Ghostzapper, Roses in May, Pleasantly Perfect, and Saint Liam. This latest victory pushed his career bankroll past the $3.2 million mark.

Murray Johnson, who trains Perfect Drift for owner-breeder Dr. William Reed, said the gelding likely would make his next start on Kentucky Derby weekend at Churchill Downs in either the Alysheba Stakes on dirt or the Woodford Reserve on turf.

Also earlier, Royal Assault ($12.40), ridden by Rafael Bejarano, got his first win in more than 11 months, drawing clear to win a second-level, $58,000 allowance route on a fast main track. Royal Assault, trained by Nick Zito, had not won since the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico last May.

Thursday attendance was 9,750.

Joan Scott's memorable day

Joan Scott says she will never forget the afternoon of April 20, 2005. That was Wednesday, when Scott sent out two winners from as many starters at Keeneland.

Scott, who grew up around show horses in Virginia, has held a trainer's license for about 18 months. Based primarily at the Thorough-bred Training Center in Lexington, she now has about 18 horses in her care.

Scott's big day started with a 10-length victory by Pining ($10.60) in the second race and ended with a 1 1/4-length triumph by Halo Sun ($9.20) in the ninth. "They were both doing very well coming into their races," said Scott. "They made it a great day."

Also on Coolmore Day . . .

Besides the Coolmore Lexington (race 9), the Saturday card also includes the $100,000 Stravinsky Stakes, sister race to the Shakertown, a turf sprint that was won last Saturday by the venerable gelding Soaring Free.

A full field of 12 fillies and mares was entered in the 5 1/2-furlong Stravinsky (race 7), and happily for horseplayers, there does not appear to be an obvious favorite, although Shauvanon, Gold Vault, and Tara's Touch could take fair measures of support. Four allowances (races 4, 6, 8, 10) also are on tap.

Another sizable crowd is expected Saturday, but because of unseasonably cold weather, it doesn't figure to be nearly as large as last year, when a crowd of 31,028 crammed in for the Lexington. That was Keeneland's record crowd until last Saturday, when 33,621 showed up for the Blue Grass.