Master Dreamer takes slow-paced Turf Cup

November 08, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

Less than half a length separated three long shots at the conclusion of the slowest running of the Laurel Turf Cup yesterday.

The winner by a neck was Master Dreamer, a horse who early in his career was so uncoordinated and clumsy, that no one wanted him.

He went off at 22-1 odds, the third longest-price in the 10-horse field, but picked up the $60,000 first-place paycheck.

Be Nimble, at 9-1, was second, another neck in front of 16-1 Tidemark.

Either horses handled the soft footing, like Master Dreamer, or they hated it, like 6-5 favorite, Royal Ninja, who finished next to last.

The time for the 12 furlongs on deep grass footing was 2 minutes, 43 4/5 seconds, 20 seconds off the track record of 2:23 4/5 set by Kelso in 1964 and 18 4/5 off Native Courier's stakes mark of 2:25 registered in 1978.

The pace was so slow that some riders seemed to be choking their horses to keep them from overhauling crawling pace-setters, Karmani and Forlibend, too soon.

Mike Luzzi, who rode Master Dreamer, said he had a tough time rating his horse behind the slow pace. "But then he kicked in at the top of the stretch when he took the lead, and then he kicked in again at the wire when the other horses came to him," he said.

It was Luzzi's second Turf Cup victory. He won last year with Learned Jake.

Other long shots also had a field day yesterday at Laurel Race Course.

Only one favorite, Federal League, won on the card, which featured 10 live races and the simulcast of the Discovery Handicap from Aqueduct.

Of the five Triples on the program, the smallest pay-off was $2,473.20 in the 11th race. The largest return was the 8-1-6 combination in the Turf Cup which paid $8,401.50

Despite his long odds, Master Dreamer actually has a credible record in stakes company -- a win in the Camden Handicap at 10 furlongs at Garden State Park and two seconds in the Kelly Olympic and Longfellow handicaps, also at New Jersey tracks. The last stakes is rated Grade III, like the Laurel Turf Cup.

But it is not the first time the 4-year-old gelded son of Master Willie has gotten no respect.

Octogenarian owner, Anderson Fowler, whose racing stable includes double Maryland Million winner Timely Warning as well as Green Alligator, fourth in the 1991 Kentucky Derby, said he was laughed at when he bought the horse as a yearling at the Keeneland Sales for $10,000.

"He was big and awkward, and no one thought much of him," Fowler said.

When he sent the horse to trainer Buddy Raines as a 2-year-old, Master Dreamer made even less of an impression.

"One day coming off the track, he crossed his legs and fell down," Fowler said. "Buddy was so embarrassed to have a horse like that in his barn, he called me up and told me to take him home."

That winter when Raines went to Aiken, S.C., Master Dreamer went along. But his destination was Camden, S.C. Fowler sent the horse to Sheila Maloney to be schooled as a jumper.

But the next spring when Maloney went back to the New York tracks, she left the horse with one of her assistants, Annie Weeden-Smart.

Weeden-Smart, who is married to steeplechase rider Jonathan Smart, recalled even she had her doubts about Master Dreamer.

"I rode him, and he stumbled all the time," she said. But gradually the horse improved. Weeden-Smart recalls she rode him herself when he finished fourth in his first flat race as a 3-year-old at the Camden Hunt Meet.

Since then, it's been steadily uphill for the horse who has now won six of 21 lifetime starts and earned $154,539.

Fowler, of course, couldn't be more delighted.

He still has horses with Raines, including Timely Warning, recently third in the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct, and with Murray Johnson, husband of his granddaughter, Kim Houghton Johnson, who has headquarters in Kentucky.

But Master Dreamer stays with Weeden-Smart, who will now give the horse a vacation and winter him once again in Camden.

NOTES: Laurel will race Wednesday, Veterans Day although the track is usually dark on Wednesdays. . . . The Charles Town Races also starts simulcasting entire cards from Hollywood Park on Wednesday. The West Virginia track has been successfully simulcasting the Santa Anita races. . . . Rosecroft Raceway starts simulcasting its card to Freehold, N.J., this week. . . . Pimlico-based trainer Mary Eppler won the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct yesterday with Alfred Vanderbilt's 2-year-old Over The Brink.

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