Popol's Gold to test Gotham field

March 26, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Billy Turner is reluctant to call Popol's Gold his "Derby horse."

"Let's put it this way. He's going to have to drag me to the [Kentucky] Derby," the trainer said last night, just hours before he was to load the horse onto a van and ship him from Laurel Race Course to Aqueduct to start in today's $250,000 Gotham Stakes.

The New York feature, simulcast at Laurel as the sixth race, pits two Maryland-based horses, Popol's Gold and Mr. Meadow, against 10 other 3-year-olds, including California invader Irgun, a son of 1983 Kentucky Derby winner, Sunny's Halo.

If Popol's Gold wins, Turner is likely to run the horse in the April 16 Wood Memorial, the final New York tuneup for the May 7 Derby. "But I've never thought of him as a Derby horse," Turner said. "I didn't think he had the right Dosage [a mathematical formula derived from the horse's pedigree]."

Turner said there is too much speed in Popol's Gold's lineage to go the 10-furlong Derby route, although his horse's come-from-behind running style indicates staying power. In both his 1994 starts, the horse rallied and finished third in the Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel and the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct.

Turner, who won the Triple Crown in 1977 with Seattle Slew, has not had another Derby starter since then, although he has trained plenty of good horses, including Strike Gold, sire of Popol's Gold, and Czaravich, the horse's maternal grandsire.

Strike Gold was a sprinter who lasted for only six races. Czaravich was a tough handicap horse who won the Metropolitan and Carter Handicaps and finished third in the Wood Memorial as a 3-year-old.

Today, Turner will tell jockey Mike Luzzi to lay behind the speed horses and hope the race sets up for Popol's Gold late stretch burst. There is plenty of speed, expected to be provided by Bay Shore Stakes winner Prank Call, Irgun and Mr. Meadow, who is trained at Pimlico by Earl Begley Jr. and ridden by local jockey Donna Burnham.

Maryland horses at Oaklawn

The expected duel between Maryland horses, Valley Crossing and Greatsilverfleet, will not take place today in the $150,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park. But the horses could meet April 16 in the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

Trainer Dick Small is running 1993 Maryland Horse of the Year Valley Crossing, along with his stablemate, Frottage, in a $40,000 mile allowance race preceding the Razorback. It is the first start this year for both Small horses, listed as a slight 9-5 second choice behind Loblolly Stable's Dalhart at 8-5 odds.

Greatsilverfleet, trained by Dale Capuano, will take on New Orleans Handicap winner Brother Brown in the Razorback.

Capuano purchased Greatsilverfleet from Canadian trainer Michael Wright last fall for a five-man local partnership headed by Arnold Smolen of Baltimore and Mark Lenes from Columbia. They paid $80,000. Capuano said "it might be one of the best buys I've ever made."

The horse has won three of four starts since being purchased by the partnership, including his last two races at Oaklawn. He is the 2-1 Razorback second choice.

Prado looks to repeat

Edgar Prado attempts to win his second Snow Goose Handicap at Laurel today when he rides Hickory Tree Stable's Double Sixes in the $100,000 stakes.

B6 Prado won the race in 1992 aboard Brilliant Brass.

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