10/14/2005 11:00PM

Gun Salute survives inquiry

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Four-Footed Fotos
Heavy favorite Gun Salute digs deep to win Saturday's Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby over Cosmic Kris after a messy stretch run.

STICKNEY, Ill. - In horse races, what looks black and white on paper often turns into something much blurrier in reality. Gun Salute was favored at 1-5 to win the $250,000 . His presence in a five-horse field created a negative show pool of more than $47,000. And it wasn't hard to see why. Gun Salute had beaten the high-class English Channel in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes the last time he raced. On paper, he looked five lengths the best.

But Gun Salute found himself in a dogfight Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course. The short field ran all over each other in the stretch run of the Grade 3 race, and Gun Salute was all out to score by a neck over Cosmic Kris. Then, he had to survive a serious inquiry. It looked like Gun Salute and jockey Cornelio Velasquez might have fouled Embossed at the top of the stretch, and like they might have bumped Cosmic Kris yards before the wire.

No question, Gun Salute swerved out at about the three-sixteenths pole, and drifted out late. But no opposing jockey claimed foul, and the Hawthorne stewards left his number up.

"He came over a little, but it didn't change the finish," Velasquez said.

Gun Salute, who shipped in from Churchill Downs on Friday, was off cleanly and stalked the early pace of Thunder Mission and Bellator. The fractions of the 1 1/8-mile race were quick, but not crazy, with the leaders going the opening half-mile in 47.14 seconds.

"That was our plan going in, to stalk the speed," said Ken McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott.

But when Gun Salute moved up to challenge coming into the stretch, the plan began unraveling. Gun Salute and Thunder Mission, who raced on the inside, made contact, with Gun Salute bouncing to the outside and into the path of Embossed. Cosmic Kris took up the chase at the eighth pole and drew nearly even with the favorite. But Gun Salute fought on while drifting out. He paid $2.40 to win, and was timed in 1:47.51 over firm turf.

Embossed finished third, with Bellator and Thunder Mission much farther back.

Isla Cozzene clearly best in Hawthorne Oaks

Isla Cozzene was entered in two stakes races Saturday for 3-year-old turf fillies. Her connections chose the ungraded Hawthorne Oaks over the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II at Keeneland. Who knows how Isla Cozzene would have fared in the tougher spot, but she made short work of nine rivals in the $150,000 Oaks, a 1 1/16-mile grass race.

A jockey's task is made much easier when he's on the best horse, but give Brice Blanc credit for a textbook ride on Isla Cozzene, who paid just $4.20 to win. Blanc settled Isla Cozzene in fourth as a headstrong Radiant Avie went winging on the lead, going a fast half-mile in 46.42 seconds. Blanc let Isla Cozzene move up on her own while saving ground on the far turn, took the lead at the top of the stretch, and Isla Cozzene went on to a thoroughly dominant 3 3/4-length victory.

You Dancing Devil, saddled with an outside post, ran on late for second, with Baena third. Isla Cozzene was timed in a fast 1:40.54.

Trained by Nick Canani for Everest Stable, Isla Cozzene faced the best horses of her division on the West Coast all summer, and had finished third behind Royal Copenhagen and Singhalese in the Sept. 17 Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington. The Oaks was a softer spot, and Isla Cozzene took advantage of it.