Stormy Blues plays happy tune

October 10, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Harriet Finkelstein's pulse was racing nearly as fast yesterday as her filly, Stormy Blues, in the Grade III Selima Stakes.

But in Las Vegas, one bettor was playing it cool, dropping $100,000 to show on the Finkelstein horse via simulcast from Laurel Race Course just a couple of minutes before post time.

Sent off at 1-5 odds, the lowest price for a winning favorite in a Maryland stakes this year, Stormy Blues didn't disappoint either her owner or the bettors.

Responding to an understated ride by jockey Jose Santos, who was the riding star on Saturday's Breeders' Cup Preview card at Belmont Park, the New York-based horse with Pikesville owners came between horses in the upper stretch and defeated the rallying Maryland-bred, Special Broad, by 1 1/4 lengths. Upper Noosh, another New York-based runner, stumbled badly at the start and finished third.

Stormy Blues, a 2-year-old daughter of 1980 Laurel Futurity winner Cure the Blues, raced the 7 1/2 furlongs in 1 minute, 30 1/5 seconds, four-fifths of a second off the track mark of 1:29 2/5 set by the 4-year-old gelding, Tidal Surge, in a March 12 head victory over eventual stakes standout Taking Risks.

Stormy Blues paid $2.40, $2.20 and $2.10, meaning that the so-called Las Vegas bridge jumper netted $5,000 for his $100,000 plunge and created a minus show pool at Laurel of $23,781.

The filly's trainer, Hall of Famer Scotty Schulhofer, said he now will take on division leader Flanders with Stormy Blues in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies stakes on the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup card at Churchill Downs.

Flanders has beaten Stormy Blues in her past two starts, prompting Schulhofer to avoid racing against her Saturday in the Grade I Frizette Stakes, which Flanders won by 21 lengths at Belmont. Instead, Schulhofer opted for the easier spot in the Selima and is committed to taking on Flanders again even though Stormy Blues won by a much narrower margin yesterday.

Santos said he was surprised that the filly didn't have an easier time winning yesterday, but attributed it to her appearance on a strange racing surface.

"She was looking around and I had to hit her 10 or 12 times," Santos said. "But not hard."

Schulhofer added that the horse had only arrived at Laurel the night before and was in unfamiliar surroundings. She will go to Churchill Downs two weeks before the Breeders' Cup to acclimate to the surface there, he said.

"She was looking around an awful lot [yesterday] and then they )) tried to squeeze her out at the top of the stretch," he said.

At one point, Stormy Blues, who was racing in second behind surprising pacesetter Square Up The Bet, dropped back around the turn and looked for a moment that she was faltering.

"But Scotty told me not to worry, so I didn't," Finkelstein said.

Santos said that he thought jockey Raphael Verderosa was riding the 40-1 long shot, Square Up The Bet, "too hard, and I didn't want to go on with my filly then and get ahead of her around the turn." He also was trying to stay out of possible trouble with Verderosa's horse who had bolted on the turn in her previous start in the Everget Stakes at Delaware Park.

At the top of the stretch, Santos got Stormy Blues moving again and she rallied between a tiring Square Up The Bet and Upper Noosh, who was three horses wide.

For a while, it looked as if Laurel jockey Steve Hamilton, who saved ground and hugged the rail with Special Broad, would get the lead, but Stormy Blues held off that filly's challenge in the final furlong.

The big Selima disappointment was Miss Claratius, the Bowie-based filly trained by Marilyn Goldman and ridden by Mary Wiley.

The filly usually lags far behind and kicks in the stretch. But yesterday she switched running styles and raced instead near the pace, but tired and finished fifth.

"She ran like a wild horse today," Goldman said. "Mary tried to pull her back, but she didn't want to snag her down too much. The filly raced up there on her own."

Because Miss Claratius had cut her heel on Thursday, Goldman could only jog her the last couple of days and the light training schedule might have made her too eager.

"The pace was too slow and she was too fresh," Goldman said. It was also the filly's first start on Lasix.

For Finkelstein, who owns Stormy Blues with her husband David, the victory was especially gratifying since it came in Maryland. The Pikesville couple run the majority of their horses at Laurel/Pimlico.

"We thought we might have to wait until next spring in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes to run her here," said Harriet Finkelstein.

The Finkelsteins have about a half-dozen runners stabled at Pimlico with trainer Frannie Campitelli. But they opted to send Stormy Blues to Schulhofer in New York last spring after they purchased the filly in the Florida 2-year-old sales for $115,000.

The Finkelsteins are close friends with Schulhofer clients, Tommy Valando and John Kluge, "and we thought this horse deserved a shot to race in New York," Harriet Finkelstein said.

Stormy Blues officially has won four of five starts and earned $283,740, although about $31,000 of that winning purse money is being held in an escrow account by the Finkelsteins.

That money comes from a disputed win in the Grade I Matron Stakes on Sept. 17 at Belmont Park. Although Flanders defeated Stormy Blues in that race, Flanders tested positive for a prohibited drug after the race. The case is being appealed by Flanders' trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, although the Finkelsteins were awarded the winning purse money.

In addition to Stormy Blues, Schulhofer also will take Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Colonial Affair to the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup and will run him in the $3 million Classic.

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