'Lad' DQ'd in Fla. Derby Cape Town emerges as Derby contender after being placed 1st

March 15, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- In a race with more thrills and chills than a three-ring circus, Cape Town re-emerged as a Kentucky Derby contender yesterday by winning the $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park -- by disqualification -- over a game and tenacious Lil's Lad.

Lil's Lad crossed under the wire a nose ahead of Cape Town, but was placed second for bumping Cape Town in the stretch. That occurred after Lil's Lad and Coronado's Quest brushed repeatedly around the far turn. Jerry Bailey, the rider of Lil's Lad, said his horse got so mad that he "dove out" later at Cape Town, thinking it was Coronado's Quest.

"He wanted to drop that horse," Bailey said. "Coronado's Quest laid all over him, I mean, bumped him five or six times, hard, around the turn. I struggled to keep my horse straight, but as soon as he saw Cape Town, he dove out to get him [thinking it was Coronado's Quest].

"He was still fighting. He was mad."

That assault against Cape Town, if indeed Bailey interpreted it correctly, disrupted Cape Town's stride and likely prevented him from overtaking Lil's Lad in the final yards of the 1 1/8 -mile race. Nevertheless, Lil's Lad showed tremendous talent still to be battling after blitzing the first half mile in 46 seconds and three-quarters mile in 1 minute, 10 seconds.

That smoking pace deflated Coronado's Quest, who raced at the heels of Lil's Lad until the far turn. Coronado's Quest passed him on the bend, but then wilted to fifth in a field of six.

"I think he just got tired," said Stuart S. Janney III, who lives in Butler and owns Coronado's Quest. "It was a very fast pace, and Lil's Lad is an awfully good horse."

Shug McGaughey, trainer of Coronado's Quest, said the problem might have been more than fitness. He said his substitute jockey, Robbie Davis, who replaced the injured Mike Smith, said he twice heard "a wind noise" from Coronado's Quest.

McGaughey said the horse might have displaced his soft palate, which would have cut off his air flow. That followed another unruly performance by Coronado's Quest before the race.

After McGaughey saddled him in the tunnel between the track and paddock, Coronado's Quest froze on his way to the track, forcing Davis to dismount. Then the hot-headed colt reared up and spun around, nearly kicking the rider of the lead pony.

"It just wasn't our day," McGaughey said. "It was sort of a $H disaster starting a couple of hours ago when Mike got hurt."

Mike Smith, who rode Coronado's Quest his first eight races, suffered a broken collarbone in a horrendous spill three races before the Florida Derby. His horse, Seaview, broke a leg in the stretch and fell. Smith crashed into the ground. Then another horse tripped over Smith.

vTC Smith walked off the track, but was later taken to a hospital. Seaview was euthanized in front of more than 28,000 spectators.

Asked about the chances of Coronado's Quest making the Kentucky Derby in seven weeks, McGaughey said: "I'd say it's 50-50. I sure don't like this kind of a race. We have to sort of just pick up the pieces and see what we've got and take it from there."

Cape Town thrust his high-profile trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, back into the Derby picture. Until yesterday, Lukas' high-priced 3-year-olds, one by one, had stalled along the Derby trail.

Owned by William T. Young's Overbrook Farm, Cape Town circled the track in third place until the stretch, when his four-wide charge under Shane Sellers placed him in contention. The winning time was 1 minute, 49 1/5 seconds.

After finishing last three weeks ago in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Cape Town paid $27.80 to win. The exacta with Lil's Lad returned $70.40. Halory Hunter finished third, followed by Voyamerican, Coronado's Quest and Starship Charles. The trifecta paid $203.80.

Lukas said Cape Town's next task will be the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 11 at Keeneland, where he'll likely meet the reigning Horse of the Year, Favorite Trick.

"At this point, there's no place to hide," Lukas said. "It's going to be an interesting spring."

Pub Date: 3/15/98

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