Fight for M'Lady dominates Laurel Futurity Never threatened, winner overcomes slop, 5 rivals

November 02, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

This time, there was no driving finish, no suspense whatsoever.

The 1997 Laurel Futurity was a one-horse show, with Fight for M'Lady dictating all the way to score an easy victory over five rivals and a sloppy track yesterday at Laurel Park.

Fight for M'Lady thus avenged his only defeat -- by less than a length to Victory Gallop in the Chenery Stakes at Colonial Downs on Sept. 10 -- and positioned himself for a possible run at next year's Triple Crown.

"We'll give him a break now and let him get ready for the spring campaign," said trainer Ben Perkins Jr., whose father, Ben Sr., won the Futurity two years ago with Appealing Skier.

"He'll go to Gulfstream [Park], and we'll probably only run him two or three times before the [Kentucky] Derby. He's a late [May] foal."

Part-owner Gene Cox of Pepperstone Stable said the colt is destined to take the Arkansas route to Kentucky because "Jack [Hood] and I are from Fort Smith, Ark."

That means, if all goes well, Fight for M'Lady is a likely starter in the Arkansas Derby as his final prep race for the classics.

The 75th edition of the Grade III, $100,000 Futurity was over on the backstretch when jockey Carlos Marquez eased off his moderate pace with the winner and loped along, conserving his mount's energy. No rival really pushed for the lead, and Fight for M'Lady thus had plenty of run left for the stretch drive and was never threatened. He coasted to the wire.

"All I had to do was get him out of the gate and slow him down, and he did the rest," Marquez said. "I was concerned that the entry [Carniverous Habit and Eastern Glow] might try to use one horse to kill the speed, but it never happened.

"When I asked him again, his ears went straight up and off we went."

Victory Gallop and Essential rallied in virtual tandem through the goo to finish second and third, respectively, behind the winner's 1-minute, 53 3/5-second clocking for 1 1/8 miles.

Fight for M'Lady is bred for distance. By Fit to Fight out of $H Flowers For M'lady, his grandsire is noted long-distance runner Stage Door Johnny.

Going the route was no concern for the connections of the colt, which included Larry Hall and Ben Miller and Pepperstone Stable, each of whom owns 50 percent.

"He has the kind of pedigree you need to run long," Perkins said.

Fight for M'Lady joins some prestigious company as Futurity champion. During a 13-year stretch starting in 1971, this race was won by the likes of Riva Ridge, Secretariat, Honest Pleasure, Affirmed, Spectacular Bid and Devil's Bag, all Eclipse Award winners as 2-year-olds.

Last year, victorious Captain Bodgit staged a stirring duel with Concerto in the Futurity and went on to Triple Crown fame.

But Perkins sounded one note of caution.

"I was pretty confident," he said. "But with the Breeders' Cup coming up, we may have gotten off a little easier in this race."

NOTES: The only other father-son combination to win the Futurity was Ben and Jimmy Jones. Gentlemen, who was knocked out of the Breeders' Cup Classic with a fever, is among the four American horses invited to the Japan Cup Nov. 23. The others are Chief Bearhart, Maxzene and Val's Prince. Colonial Downs, Va., will be host to most of the 1998 Breeders' Crown series, harness racing's most prestigious event. With a 1 1/4 -mile racing strip, Colonial allows the races to be run around one turn and sets up the possibility of a rash of records. Bob Lillis will be honored for outstanding service to Maryland horsemen and John Passero as the unsung hero at the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association Christmas party Dec. 1 at Laurel Park. Jockey Esteban Unsihuay has been suspended for five days for careless riding.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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