Romano Gucci reaches Derby status Gotham win earns gelding spot as late nominee

March 31, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

A Maryland-bred racehorse roared into the Kentucky Derby picture yesterday, and his name isn't Roar.

The Shug McGaughey-trained Roar won the $600,000 Jim Beam Stakes at Kentucky's Turfway Park, but the Maryland-bred Romano Gucci kept his perfect record intact by winning the $200,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in New York.

A 3-year-old gelding owned by Herbert W. Kushner, Romano Gucci led the Grade II Gotham virtually wire-to-wire. His time of 1 minute, 34 2/5 seconds over the muddy, one-mile track was the sixth fastest in Gotham history.

Kushner is a retired dentist who lives in Rockville. Romano Gucci, who won the Grade III Best Turn Stakes at Aqueduct on March 2, is Kushner's first graded-stakes winner in the 11 years he has owned and bred horses.

"There's nothing like having your own baby who you watched grow up win a big race," Kushner said in a telephone interview from Aqueduct.

Now 4-for-4 at Aqueduct, Romano Gucci was not nominated to run in the Triple Crown races. But after the impressive win yesterday, worth $120,000 to Kushner, the owner quickly paid the $6,000 to make his horse eligible as a late nominee.

But first, the son of Kushner's own stallion, Aaron's Concorde, most likely will race April 13 in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, Kushner said. Unbridled's Song, the current favorite for the May 4 Kentucky Derby, is also slated for the Wood.

Romano Gucci paid $10.60 to win. Tiger Talk finished second and Feather Box third. Appealing Skier, the probable favorite, was scratched because of the muddy track. Viv, the Maryland contender trained by Buddy Delp, was fifth.

More on Roar

After winning the 1 1/8-mile Jim Beam Stakes with authority, Roar also is pointed toward the Kentucky Derby.

The Forty Niner colt stalked early leader Ensign Ray, a 35-to-1 long shot, caught him around the final turn and then drew off in the stretch. Ensign Ray held on for second.

Victory Speech, the even-money favorite trained by D. Wayne Lukas, finished a distant third and never mounted a serious challenge. Lukas' other entry, Dr. Caton, finished seventh in the nine-horse field.

Roar was the bettors' second choice and paid $7.80 to win.

Mixed Count rallies

In the $54,925 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park, heavily favored Mixed Count rallied from fourth place and dominated the field of seven 3-year-olds. He won by 2 1/4 lengths and paid $4.

Shananie's Wish, the leader into the stretch, held on for second, and Silver Dollar Kids finished third. The winner's time was 1 minute, 51 seconds.

Although Mixed Count is nominated for the Triple Crown, trainer Ron Benshoff said the Polish Numbers colt would remain in Maryland and probably race next in the $200,000 Grade III Federico Tesio Stakes on April 20 at Pimlico.

"This horse is still a baby, and he's still learning," jockey Edgar Prado said of the colt who now has won three of six starts. "He's going to be a very nice horse."

Two more for Capuano

Dale Capuano, a 33-year-old trainer from Laurel, wasted no time launching into his second thousand victories, saddling two more winners yesterday at Laurel. On Friday, he recorded his 1,000th win in typical fashion -- with a horse, Veredictum, he had claimed last month.

Currently second in the trainer standings at Laurel, Capuano often claims horses and then finds success running them in higher categories. He saddled his first winner in 1981 at the old Bowie Race Course. That winner's name? Who's Lucky.

Faster than Cigar

He's no Cigar, but Key of Luck may ship to Pimlico via Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One hour before Cigar electrified the racing world by winning Wednesday's $4 million Dubai World Cup, Key of Luck won the $500,000 Dubai Duty Free Invitational at the same 1 1/4 -mile distance over the same sand course in a faster time than Cigar.

Cigar won his 14th straight and became the richest thoroughbred ever to race in North America with a time of 2 minutes, 3.84 seconds. The time for Key of Luck, a 5-year-old son of Chief's Crown, was 2 minutes, 3.77 seconds.

After Key of Luck's 20-length victory, his jockey, Gary Stevens, said: "He should have run in the big race."

On Friday, two days after the races in Dubai, Key of Luck's trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sent a fax to Laurel/Pimlico racing secretary Thomas J. Baker, nominating the U.S. horse to run in the $600,000 Pimlico Special. The 1 3/16-mile race is May 11, one week before the Preakness Stakes.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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