Steinbrenner's decision: Beam Concerto to Derby Quality races bypassed

top showing needed today

March 29, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

FLORENCE, Ky. -- Call it a working vacation.

John J. Tammaro III, a horse trainer from Cooksville in Howard County, loaded his wife and children into the car and headed west. Speaking on his car phone yesterday on the way to Kentucky, Tammaro said that he was driving to Florence but that his destination was Louisville.

If Concerto, the outstanding 3-year-old Tammaro trains for George Steinbrenner, asserts himself today in the $600,000 Jim Beam Stakes here at Turfway Park, he likely will collect a transfer for a trip to Louisville on May 3 and the 123rd Kentucky Derby.

"I think there's a real good chance of it," Tammaro said of another family outing to Louisville. "But I'll let Mr. Steinbrenner make that call."

Steinbrenner, who owns the New York Yankees, is planning to attend the Jim Beam, which is more than just a horse race. For owners, trainers and their families, there are star-studded extravaganzas that feature Paula Abdul, Neil Sedaka, John Forsythe, Blair Underwood, Jonathan Silverman, Barbara Eden and Red Buttons.

But the real party for Tammaro, his wife Beatrice, daughters Dora and Amanda, and son John IV will take place in the winner's circle -- if Concerto masters his 10 challengers in this 1 1/8 -mile prep for the Kentucky Derby.

"I think he'll run good," Tammaro said. "It's just a question of how tough the California horses are this year."

The Kentucky-bred Concerto has won five of his past six races, including three stakes in a row, but his opposition's quality is the concern. Tammaro and Steinbrenner plotted a schedule that bypassed the heavy hitters -- until now.

Concerto's two main foes -- Funontherun and Inexcessivelygood traveled from Santa Anita Park, where they ran one-two March 2 in the one-mile San Rafael Stakes. Although Funontherun, owned by Dave Alpert and his trumpeter brother Herb, won the San Rafael, Inexcessivelygood might hold the advantage today.

"I don't think Bobby had him wound as tight as he could have that day we ran against him," said Funontherun's trainer, Mel Stute.

He was referring to Bob Baffert, trainer of Inexcessivelygood. Asked about Stute's observation, Baffert agreed, and then said: "He's wound now."

Baffert, whose Cavonnier lost last year's Kentucky Derby by a nose, said Chris McCarron, who will fly in to ride Inexcessivelygood, loves the colt. McCarron also rode Cavonnier.

"McCarron's always thought he's a better horse than Cavonnier," Baffert said. "I expect a big, big race out of him."

Nick Zito will saddle two in the Jim Beam: Jack Flash and Shammy Davis. Of the two, the fast-closing Jack Flash most resembles a Derby horse. And D. Wayne Lukas also will start two: the long shots Twin Spires and Mercer Hill.

Jules, a promising juvenile last year in New York, will race only if the track is dry, said his trainer, Alan Goldberg. It poured for 30 minutes yesterday morning. Today's forecast calls for clear skies with temperatures in the mid-50s.

But the cool air didn't bother Baffert. "This is the time of year you find out if you've got a Derby horse," said Baffert, a Californian. "When they run the Beam, you know they're getting ready to run the big race."

NOTE: Two offspring of Allen's Prospect, Maryland's leading sire, compete on the Jim Beam undercard. They are the Donald H. Barr-trained In C C's Honor in the $75,000 Rushaway Stakes and the Tammaro-trained Secret Prospect in the $110,000 Queen Breeders' Cup.

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Jim Beam Stakes

Where: Turfway Park, Florence, Ky.

Purse: $600,000

Distance: 1 1/8 miles

TV: 6 p.m. (taped) ESPN

The field:

PP Horse, Jockey, Odds

1 Celt. Warrior, Torres, 30-1

2 Hoxie, Arguello, 15-1

3 Twin Spires, Barton, 20-1

4 Air Cool, Platts, 20-1

5 Funon'run, Almeida, 7-2

6 Concerto, Marquez, 3-1

7 Jack Flash, Perret, 8-1

8 Sham.Davis, McCauley, 8-1

9 Mercer Mill, Martinez, 15-1

10 Inex'good, McCarron, 4-1

11 Jules, Santos 6-1

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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