Wide Country finds tougher company

May 17, 1991|By Marty McGee

The last time Wide Country lost a horse race was Nov. 6. That was before Operation Desert Storm, before Strike the Gold broke his maiden, and before the filly ran off seven straight victories.

As the streak progressed, Wide Country's owner, Tommy Tanner, said he was anxiously awaiting a race against tougher company.

Today, in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, Tanner will get his wish.

The Black-Eyed Susan, the traditional filly counterpart to the Preakness, heads a solid 11-race program that includes the $150,000 Early Times Dixie Handicap.

Wide Country embarked on her streak in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship on Nov. 24. She has been unbeatable while remaining in Maryland under the care of trainer Bob Camac.

The filly has a tough task today, having drawn the far outside post in a field of nine. Shippers such as Nalees Pin, Fancy Ribbons and Doitwithstyle figure well, while another local filly, Silver Tango, brings a 6-for-7 record into the 1 1/8 -mile race.

In the Early Times Dixie, Opening Verse will be trying to go 2-for-2 with a win in the middle leg of the new Turf Triple, a series sponsored by a Kentucky-based distillery that coincides with the Triple Crown and offers a potential $1 million bonus.

Opening Verse, to be ridden by Chris McCarron, won the first race in the Turf Triple, the Early Times Classic at Churchill Downs on the day before the Kentucky Derby. The final leg, the Early Times Manhattan, will be run June 7 at Belmont Park on the day before the Belmont Stakes.

Opening Verse used a late surge to defeat 1990 turf champion Itsallgreektome at Churchill. "It will be tough to sweep all three [races]," said Dick Lundy, his trainer. "But he has a good chance and I expect he will run real well."

The Triple Turf bonus is an all-or-nothing proposition -- as opposed to the Triple Crown, which offers a total of $5 million in purses and bonuses for a sweep or a $1 million bonus to the top point-earning horse.

The 1 1/8 -mile Dixie, being run for the 90th time, was shortened this year from its traditional 1 1/2 -mile distance to fit the progression of the series.

* When the Preakness horses are being saddled on the turf course tomorrow, don't strain too hard looking for No. 2, Mane Minister.

The colt probably will be saddled in the regular indoor paddock, trainer Paco Gonzalez said yesterday.

* With no entries nor a mutuel field, saddlecloth numbers in the Preakness will correspond to post positions.

* Trainer Nick Zito, on his stay in Baltimore: "It's been great. All we've met is nice people in Baltimore."

* If you had a speed horse and you drew the one-hole at Pimlico Race Course, wouldn't you be ecstatic?

After Corporate Report drew the rail, trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn't appear to be.

"The only hole I would not have wanted was the one-hole," he said. "I think you lose a few of your options."

* Change A Babe, ridden by Jacinto Vasquez, led most of the way to win the $20,500 feature at Pimlico yesterday.

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