09/06/2010 5:38PM

Tanzana wins stretch duel in Cradle

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CINCINNATI – Tanzana battled to victory Monday in the $100,000 Cradle Stakes at River Downs in a symbolic tribute to the struggles his trainer, Garry Simms, has endured in recent months.

With Leandro Goncalves riding, Tanzana was kept a few lengths off the pace of the Cradle, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 2-year-olds, before surging late to prevail by a half-length over longshot Conservative Value.

Simms, 58, was stricken last winter with multiple myeloma but continues to come to work whenever he can at his Churchill Downs barn – that is, when he isn’t in the hospital.

“I’ve had 14 chemotherapy treatments and have 24 more to go,” said Simms, adding he also has undergone radiation treatments and had several vertebrae replaced with concrete-like devices.

No wonder the crowded River Downs winner’s circle, with Simms looking remarkably healthy while front and center, was as giddy as it was. Making his third overall start and his stakes debut while exiting a maiden sprint win at Hoosier Park, Tanzana returned $11.60 as fourth choice in a field of seven.

The Cradle, the showcase event and closing-day feature at River, was seen as a race among two other Churchill-based colts: Mesonic, the 3-2 favorite, and Awesome Attack, the 5-2 second choice. Into the first turn, Awesome Attack dueled from the rail, with Conservative Value, a 16-1 shot finally getting the best of him leaving the final turn.

Down the stretch, Conservative Value and jockey Rafael Hernandez drew clear, but he was lugging in noticeably while racing very close to the inside hedge and a rear hoof appeared to clip a bush in deep stretch. The colt appeared to lose just enough momentum that Tanzana was able to sail past, with the winning time being 1:44.60 over firm turf.

Tanzana, a Florida-bred by Freefourinternet, is owned by Morgeson Travis LLC. He earned $60,000.

Mesonic finished third, another three-quarters of a length back, followed by Cat Sweep, the lone remaining starter trained by Tim Hamm. Rustler Hustler and Lesson Learned, both trained by Hamm, were early scratches from an original field of nine.

The Cradle purse was cut in half for the 34th running after years of being a $200,000 race.