Talk's Cheap finds open path to Tesio win

Drifting Millions finishes 3rd in Challenge feature

April 18, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Michael Luzzi saw Edgar Prado struggling on Millions. Luzzi knew what to do next.

The jockey from New York steered Talk's Cheap to the inside. When Millions drifted wide, a disturbing habit he can't seem to break, Luzzi and Talk's Cheap barreled through the opening on the far turn and drove down the Pimlico homestretch to victory yesterday in the $200,000 Federico Tesio Stakes.

The triumph by Talk's Cheap, who broke his maiden by 20 lengths at Aqueduct, capped the Maryland Spring Challenge, a lively afternoon of racing featuring five stakes, four of them for Maryland-breds, as well as the oldies band Stevie and the Satellites and the final appearance in Maryland of jockey Julie Krone.

A crowd of 7,214 streamed into Pimlico on a cool spring day graced by mostly sunny skies. But Talk's Cheap grabbed the glory from the large Maryland contingent that contested the Tesio, a stakes for 3-year-olds that usually produces a starter or two in the spring classics.

This year is no different. Talk's Cheap may be headed to the Preakness. That would cost his owners a $100,000 supplemental fee because he was not nominated to the Triple Crown series.

"We'll consider it," said Tony Canonie, the business consultant from Michigan who heads Team Canonie Inc. "We'll see how he comes out of this race, and then we'll see what happens in the [Kentucky] Derby."

Trained by Linda Rice at Belmont Park, Talk's Cheap had won only once in five tries before yesterday, but that one was stunning.

The son of Corporate Report scored by 20 lengths in the slop in a 1 1/16th-mile maiden race Feb. 28 at Aqueduct. And then, March 27, Talk's Cheap finished second by a half length at Aqueduct to Best of Luck in a 1 1/8-mile allowance test. Best of Luck came back to run second in the Wood Memorial Stakes.

In the 1 1/8-mile Tesio, Talk's Cheap was the bettors' third choice at 7-2 behind Millions and the Fitzhugh Farm entry of Rushing Brush and Stellar Brush, both at 2-1. Krone rode Rushing Brush, winner of a recent allowance race at the Fair Grounds, and Stellar Brush had finished sixth by less than six lengths in the Louisiana Derby.

Racing for the first time with blinkers, Millions broke sharply and pressured the early leader, Smart Guy, around the first turn and into the backstretch. Entering the far turn, Prado urged Millions to pick up the pace. He did, but he also started drifting to the outside. Third on Talk's Cheap, Luzzi noticed.

"Edgar was having a hard time trying to keep that horse in," Luzzi said. "Edgar was practically hanging off the side of him."

A horse drifting out often signals a physical problem. But Leon Blusiewicz, trainer of Millions, has insisted for weeks that the horse is OK. Nevertheless, Luzzi was aware of the tendency, so he drove Talk's Cheap inside Millions, outside Smart Guy and straight down the stretch to a 1 1/2-length victory in 1 minute 50.11 seconds.

Stellar Brush charged for second, and Millions held on for third. Blusiewicz, the East Baltimore native who had hoped Millions would contend in the Kentucky Derby, said he was pleased with the effort and might consider Millions for the Preakness.

The four races before the Tesio, the opening race of MATCH (Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships), were for Maryland-breds.

$100,000 Jennings Handicap: In his first race since breaking a bone in a rear leg last summer, Praise Heaven drew away from five challengers to win the 1 1/8-mile race by 2 1/2 lengths in 1 minute 49.36 seconds.

Dale Capuano, his trainer, said the 7-year-old son of Acallade and Guardian Angel suffered a condylar fracture in his left rear leg in a muddy allowance race last June at Pimlico. Praise Heaven underwent surgery, and he raced yesterday with three screws in his leg.

"He's been training fabulously," Capuano said. "He's better now than he was before."

The bettors weren't convinced. Praise Heaven paid $28.60 to win. Fred Bear Claw, the 6-5 favorite, "never really ran his race," said his jockey, Rick Wilson, and finished fourth.

$100,000 Geisha Handicap: Overcoming a bump at the break, Truth and Nobility rallied from last and captured the 1 1/16th-mile race by a half length in 1 minute 43.72 seconds. Proud Run claimed second. Both are daughters of Proud Truth. Truth and Nobility was bred by Ann W. Merryman. Proud Run was bred by Merryman's mother, Katharine W. Merryman.

Stabled at Philadelphia Park, Truth and Nobility benefited from a speed duel between the 3-5 favorite Merengue and the 6-1 Proud Run. Few handicappers could see that coming. The winner returned $40.

$75,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes: Owned by Hal C.B. Clagett and bred by Clagett and Jeannie F. Clagett, Silent Valay exploded into the lead and never looked back, winning the 1 1/16th-mile stakes by 1 1/2 lengths in 1 minute 44.95 seconds. The daughter of Carnivalay and Silent Bullet paid $11.80 to win.

$60,000 Star de Naskra Stakes: Goodtobeking, the 3-5 favorite in the six-furlong sprint, kicked off the Spring Challenge with a 1 1/4-length triumph in 1 minute 10.47 seconds. Rick Wilson, jockey of the Premiership-Kenwood Park colt, hustled him into the lead on the rail, which this day at Pimlico was the place to be.

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