Testing rules Congressional 'Cap Instant Friendship defects to Aqueduct, where he wins

November 23, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

With the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct off the grass yesterday, trainer Leo O'Brien decided to run Instant Friendship there instead of at Laurel Park.

It turned out to be a good decision for O'Brien and Bill Boniface.

Instant Friendship, second behind Skip Away in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in his previous start, drew off through the stretch and scored a seven-length victory at rain-soaked Aqueduct.

And with the probable favorite in the $100,000 Congressional Handicap scratched, the Boniface-trained Testing rallied on the outside and chased down Richie the Coach to win by a head at 7-5 odds.

It was the second straight victory for the gray/roan gelding after a disappointing third in the Maryland Million Classic.

"He didn't get the best of it in the Classic," said Boniface. "He was too far off a slow pace. Now he has finally rounded into form. With a legitimate pace, he is as good as anybody around here."

The race developed into a thriller as the field soared into the stretch with any one of four horses (front-running Richie the Coach, stalking Western Echo and closing Testing and Dr. Banting) in position to win.

Jockey Mario Pino took Testing to the far lane and drove him home just in time.

"I knew he got up," said Pino. "Bill told me if the pace was slow to lay close and if it was fast to lay back. We stayed close enough and just got there."

Richie the Coach, who gave way in his last race, was game to the finish, out-dueling Western Echo by 1 1/2 lengths.

Testing's time over a muddy track was 2 minutes, 5 seconds.

Winning owner Richard Granville said Testing, a Deputed Testamony gelding, is a half-brother to Boniface's grass star, Ops Smile, who is getting the winter off.

"We'll probably give Testing one more shot this year, then set him down for the winter, too," said Boniface.

New York invader Mickeray was pulled up by jockey Mark Johnston in the feature after losing his action several times.

"It felt like he was going to just stop, so I took him back and when he did it the third time, I decided it was best to pull him up," said Johnston.

MATCH news

The bonus awards in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship series were presented in the winner's circle yesterday at the same time a proposal to create a circuit among the participating tracks was drawing criticism.

Maryland's horsemen reacted negatively to a suggestion from Hal Handel, chief operating officer at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, that would severely decrease racing dates.

The proposal calls for only two mid-Atlantic tracks to run live at the same time. There is a glut in the summer months.

Richard Hoffberger, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, opposed the idea vehemently in an interview with the Daily Racing Form.

"This is the weirdest thing I've ever heard," he said. "We've got as much of a circuit as we need and to some people's way of thinking, too much of a circuit. It's not worth discussing; it's so far from reality."

Among MATCH bonus winners were trainers Ronald Cartwright (Palliser Bay), John R.S. Fisher (Sangria) and Dick Small (Tough Broad), all based in Maryland.

Et cetera

Delaware Park reported a 30.8 percent increase in total wagering for the meet concluded last weekend, the Daily Racing Form said. The live handle of $291 million was an increase of 6.8 percent. New York fans bid farewell to jockey Jorge Velasquez yesterday. The 50-year-old Hall of Famer, sixth all time in victories, will officially retire in Florida Dec. 31. Jockey Edgar Prado won two races to raise his yearly total to 485.

Laurel's week

Post times: 12: 15 p.m. today; 12: 35 p.m. Wednesday; 11: 05 a.m. Thursday; 12: 35 p.m. Friday; 12: 15 p.m. Saturday.

Simulcast: Monday

Dark: Tuesday

Information: 410-792-7775

Out-of-town simulcasts: For results, scratches, call 410-792-7464

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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