A Kentucky Derby dream was dashed yesterday at Pimlico Race Course.
John the Bold, who was being pointed toward Churchill Downs, was never a factor in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes, a race he had to win to earn a run at the roses.
Instead, Speakerphone impressively thrashed 10 rivals, leading at every post for a 3 1/2 -length victory that made him a possibility to run in the 117th Preakness on May 16.
John the Bold, the favorite in the field, ran a dull eighth and bled after the race. His next start is uncertain.
"I'm disappointed, but not crushed," said Jim McKay, the ABC sportscaster whose wife, Margaret McManus, is the owner of John the Bold. "Maybe he'll bounce back the next time.
"We have, in fact, experienced a dream up until seven days before the Derby, not being able to sleep, picturing what the sight of the roses might be, playing the music.
"We really do have a lot of satisfaction in having a horse go this far. It would be a great thrill to go to the Kentucky Derby, but we're not going."
Speakerphone was coming off a solid victory in the six-furlong Hirsch Jacobs Stakes in a swift 1 minute, 10 2/5 seconds. He was drawing away at the end, suggesting he could go a distance.
The Fappiano colt proved the 1 1/8 -mile test yesterday was no problem. He had to resist only one mild challenge -- from long shot Berkley Fitz at the half-mile mark -- and notched his fourth lifetime victory in nine starts.
Trainer Dean Gaudet said there are no plans to run Speakerphone in the Kentucky Derby, but "we hope to be here for the Preakness if everything goes well.
"We weren't planning on this one either, but things turned around."
Speakerphone flashed considerable promise last fall, running second in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct, but his form dropped off in later appearances out of the state. The Hirsch Jacobs two weeks ago showed he had regained his form.
"He's maturing, coming into himself," said jockey Clarence Ladner. "I always thought he was a really nice kind of horse and now it seems like he has his stuff together."
Ladner went right to the lead in a race with no tactical intrigue. Speakerphone simply blew away the competition with his speed.
"He seems to run better races when he makes the lead," Ladner said. "He got a nice relaxing lead, even though the pace was a little fast. He dug in and went on about his business."
John the Bold broke last over a track downgraded to good following a thunderstorm. He made a slight move rounding the final turn, but never kicked in.
"He never picked up the bit," said jockey Larry Reynolds. "He started climbing around the turn and never picked it up."
Berkley Fitz held on gamely for second and Ameri Valay closed for third, 12 1/2 lengths behind the leader. Frottage, a head loser to John the Bold in the Deputed Testamony Stakes, was fourth as the second choice.
"Mr. Small [trainer Richard Small] told me to make one move," said Frottage's rider, Edgar Prado. "But he didn't fire and wasn't handling the track very well."
John the Bold's six-furlong workout at Bonita Farm in Harford County on Tuesday had his connections encouraged about the Derby chances. But he needed earnings in a graded stakes (the Tesio is a Grade III event) to qualify for the field.
"I'm not giving up on the horse," said McKay. "Lots of horses run one you can throw out later. And I don't want to run in big races just to run. There is lots of money out there."