05/20/2001 11:00PM

Hawthorne: Duckhorn wires Gold Cup


STICKNEY, Ill. - Duckhorn bounced back from an abysmal race last month and upset the Grade 2 $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Saturday, setting a fast pace and holding off a late run by Lido Palace.

Duckhorn had not been pointed for the Gold Cup. Trainer Pat Byrne cautiously evaluated the horse's condition following a 23-length loss in his last start, the National Jockey Club Handicap at Sportsman's Park. "I thought maybe I'd run him in an allowance race" at Churchill Downs, Byrne said. But with Duckhorn training "brilliantly," Byrne said, he opted to enter him here at the 11th hour.

Duckhorn broke sharply from post one under jockey Randall Meier and took control of the race as the horses ran down the stretch for the first time in the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup.

Duckhorn was flying on a track that wasn't fast Saturday, running a half-mile in 46.34 seconds and three-quarters in a blistering 1:10.23, but he appeared to be running easily. Byrne had instructed Meier to let the horse roll from the start. "I didn't want to grab him," Meier said.

"I know we were going fast, but he was just pricking his ears. When we turned for home, he just cut."

Lido Palace, who saved ground through the race, ran at Duckhorn in the stretch. He was gaining through the last quarter-mile, but fell 1 1/4 lengths short. Guided Tour, the narrow favorite, outgamed Jadada for the show spot.

Duckhorn, a 4-year-old Not For Love colt owned by Michael Tabor, paid $25.60 to win.

- Marcus Hersh

Hollywood: Fertile wins again

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Fertile dragged jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. into the winner's circle of Saturday's Nursery Stakes at Hollywood Park.

Running in fourth-place on the turn of the five-furlong race, Fertile rapidly jumped into contention after Pincay urged her on the turn. Pincay had to do as much steering as riding entering the stretch.

Once settled, Fertile caught Georgia's Storm in early stretch and won comfortably by 3 1/2 lengths, finishing five furlongs in 57.95 seconds.

"I was surprised she was so far back," Pincay said. "She didn't have a lot of speed, but came running. She was flying and the horse in front of me backed off. I didn't want to clip heels."

Georgia's Storm held second, finishing a length in front of Asian Adventure in the field of seven 2-year-old fillies. Britetonzmyday was scratched after becoming unruly in the gate.

Fertile is unbeaten in two starts, having won a maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths on April 27. She is co-owned by trainer Jeff Bonde, Angelo Ferro, and Michael Rovner.

- Steve Andersen

Churchill: Megans Bluff with ease

Megans Bluff easily won the Grade 3, $100,000 Mint Julep Handicap at Churchill Downs Saturday. Megans Bluff rated behind the pace set by Trip, then blew past at the top of the stretch and won by 2 1/4 lengths.

The longshot Sitka made a late run in midtrack to finish second, with Good Game third. Megans Bluff, a narrow second choice to Trip, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.88 on a turf course upgraded from yielding to good in the middle of Churchill's program.

A 4-year-old by Pine Bluff, Megans Bluff had a great 2000 season for owner James Routsong and trainer John Hennig, winning six of 12 starts and more than $450,000. Megans Bluff started this year with an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Suwannee River at Gulfstream, but rebounded with a second in the Hillsborough at Tampa and a third in her last start, the Sixty Sails at Sportsman's.

Trip set a quick pace in the Mint Julep for a course that had taken rain, reeling off six furlongs in 1:11.71, and Megans Bluff ($8), ridden by Craig Perret, was in perfect position to take command when Trip tired turning for home. She easily held clear Sitka's late move.

- Marcus Hersh

Woodbine: Win City gets through

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Win City overcame traffic problems at Woodbine Saturday to take the $136,000 Marine Stakes, a prep for the June 24 Queen's Plate.

Win City raced four lengths off Runnin West, who set an honest pace and was tracked by New York invader High Commissioner, the 4-5 favorite in the 1 1/16 mile race for 3-year-olds.

High Commissioner assumed command heading into the far turn, as Win City moved into contention. Win City lacked a clear path midway on the turn and was steadied by jockey Constant Montpellier, who angled him wide at the quarter pole.

Lunar Secret made a premature bid to take the lead at the quarter pole, but High Commissioner regained control with an eighth left. Win City was in the midst of his rally at that point, and overhauled High Commissioner in the drive en route to a three-quarter-length victory.

Lunar Secret finished five lengths back in third in the six-horse field. The final time was 1:45.89.

Win City ($6.90) earned $81,600 for owners Frank DiGiulio and Frank DiGiulio Jr. and trainer Bob Tiller.

- Ron Gierkink