'Reckoning' rallies to win Native Dancer N.J. gelding has captured three stakes since Nov. 3

January 21, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The field of eight required almost five minutes to load while Sunny Sunrise balked and required some equipment adjustments.

Once they were off, Sunny Sunrise seemed to like the changes, setting punishing fractions in the 1 1/8 -mile Native Dancer Handicap yesterday at Laurel Park.

But in the end, Gulf Reckoning showed his versatility, rallying from just off the lead to nail the pacesetter by 1 3/4 lengths and win the $75,000 event.

Gulf Reckoning had won the Congressional Handicap here three weeks ago by setting his own tempo while running on the front end from wire to wire.

"We left it up to C. C. [Marquez, the rider], and he made the right decision," trainer Ben Perkins Jr. said of the decision to let Sunny Sunrise run alone at the front. "Last time he went on and this time he waited. He is a very tractable horse."

Marquez confirmed his trainer's view, noting that he saw Jeffrey Carle send Sunny Sunrise from the outside.

"I said 'Let him go,' " said Marquez. "I just waited, and when I asked him I had a lot of horse. He is a super horse to ride, very patient and very responsive.

"He was especially good while we were in the gate waiting for that one horse to go in. It seemed to take a long time, but he just didn't get rattled."

Gulf Reckoning's two trips from New Jersey have both been positive. The 5-year-old gelding owned by Larry Hall has 12 victories in 22 lifetime outings and has captured three stakes since Nov. 3, two in Maryland.

Perkins said he is now considering a shot at the General George Stakes, the showcase event of the winter meeting, on Feb. 19.

"We'll see how he comes out of this one," said Perkins. "But he looks good. This certainly makes for a good trip home . . . again."

The race was a good one for Sunny Sunrise, who returned last month after missing more than a year with health problems. He roared around the track without being pressured in 23 1/5, 46 3/5 and 1:10 4/5 at the first three checkpoints. He was still running well at the end, and gained second by 2 1/2 lengths over Greatsilverfleet.

"He can get a little stubborn sometimes at the gate," said Carle. "But considering that trouble and not running a distance for 15 months, I thought he ran a hell of a race."

Meanwhile, Western Echo returned from a seven-month layoff to capture a 7 1/2 -furlong allowance race by three-quarters of a length over Bert's Bubblecto.

As one of the top Maryland 3-year-olds last year, Western Echo's most memorable race locally was a neck loss to Oliver's Twist in the Grade 3 Federico Tesio Stakes that serves as a prep for the Preakness.

Western Echo went on to finish a fast-closing third in the Illinois Derby on May 13 in his last start before yesterday. Thunder Gulch, the Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner, beat him by a neck in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct in November of 1994. Trained by Bud Delp, the colt came from off the pace to uphold his favorite's role, running the distance in a respectable 1:30 4/5.

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