`Hope' proves he's real thing, edging `Yield' in Florida Derby

Colt rushes to early lead, rebuffs favorite by head, shoots to top of Derby list

March 12, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Harold J. "Hal" Rose, 88, bred, trains and owns Hal's Hope. Rose even named the 3-year-old colt after himself.

Yesterday, the horse lived up to his name in the Florida Derby here at Gulfstream Park, providing Rose his greatest victory. Hal's Hope outfought the even-money favorite, High Yield, to capture the prestigious Florida Derby and catapult to the head of the class of Kentucky Derby contenders.

Asked whether this ranked among the highlights of his 32-year training career, the mild-mannered Rose said: "It is the highlight."

Hal's Hope turned the tables on High Yield, who led all the way three weeks ago here in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. In that 1 1/16-mile race, Hal's Hope chased, but couldn't catch High Yield. They finished one-two.

In the $750,000 Florida Derby, a Grade I stakes of 1 1/8 miles, the little-known jockey Roger Velez gunned Hal's Hope into the lead. High Yield and his Hall of Fame jockey, Pat Day, settled into second on the rail.

Racing down the backstretch toward the final turn, High Yield inched alongside Hal's Hope. But around the bend, Hal's Hope began pulling away. Day guided High Yield to the outside and challenged again down the homestretch.

High Yield appeared to gain the lead briefly with an eighth of a mile to go, but Hal's Hope repulsed the charge and prevailed by a head in 1 minute, 51.49 seconds. High Yield finished 10 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher and 57-1 long shot, Tahkodha Hills.

The 69-1 Settlement, 13-1 Postponed, 5-1 Scottish Halo, 13-1 Deputy Warlock, 4-1 Elite Mercedes, 22-1 Bare Outline and 56-1 Hades completed the race's order of finish.

Postponed, who broke tardily and attempted a mild, six-wide late charge, is owned by Jinny Vance and Laddie Dance. They own Taylor's Purchase Farm in Baltimore County.

As the 6-1 fourth choice, Hal's Hope, a son of Jolie's Halo, paid $15.80 to win. The exacta returned $34.20, the trifecta $593.60 and the superfecta $10,262.20.

Competing for the first time in the Florida Derby, the 43-year-old Velez said Hal's Hope was the best horse he has ever ridden. He said winning this race was especially gratifying because of Rose.

"I kind of wanted to cry because it's such a beautiful story," Velez said. "He was so sick, and the good Lord sent him a horse to keep him going."

Last summer, Rose suffered a stroke and underwent quadruple-bypass heart surgery.

"One of the reasons I got back from the surgery so quickly was because I knew this horse was in the barn," Rose said. "I was anxious to get back to him."

Rose did not even start training horses until he had retired from his first careers. In 1968, he sold two businesses in New Jersey -- a printing and publishing company and a 40-acre resort for corporate retreats -- and began training thoroughbreds in South Florida.

Rose bred Hal's Hope from his best racing filly, Mia's Hope, a graded-stakes winner. He also raced Mia's Hope's sire, Rexson's Hope, Rose's only entrant in the Kentucky Derby. He finished 10th in the 1984 Derby as a long-shot member of the mutuel field.

Rose said Hal's Hope would provide more hope for a victory in this year's Derby May 6 at Churchill Downs than Rexson's Hope did 16 years ago.

"This time, I'm going to the Derby with a contender," Rose said.

D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of High Yield, said he hated to lose the Florida Derby, one of the premier Kentucky Derby preps. "But heck," Lukas said, "if I had to lose, there is nobody I would rather lose to than Mr. Rose."

Rose will turn 89 in June. Asked whether he had considered when he might retire, he said: "Possibly at 100."

NOTES: On the Florida Derby undercard, Trippi padded his credentials as a Kentucky Derby contender by remaining undefeated in the Grade III, $100,000 Swale Stakes.

After winning his debut by 4 3/4 lengths and an allowance race by 9 1/4 lengths, the End Sweep colt captured the seven-furlong Swale by 1 3/4 lengths in 1 minute 23.43 seconds. For the first time, Trippi did not lead entering the homestretch. He overtook Ultimate Warrior, the early leader, with one-sixteenth mile to go, and then edged away for the victory.

Trippi's trainer, Todd Pletcher, said he would consult with the colt's owner, Cot Campbell of Dogwood Stable, before deciding on the next race.

"He's done nothing wrong so far," Pletcher said. "We'll keep testing him."

Jerry Bailey, the winning jockey and winner of five races, said Trippi's settling behind the leader rather than bolting into the lead boded well for the colt's future in longer races.

"I think he'll go around two turns," Bailey said, "but it's too early to say whether he can go a mile and a quarter."

Trippi paid $3.60 to win as the heavy favorite. The exacta with the 5-1 Ultimate Warrior returned $17. The trifecta with the 13-1 Harlan Traveler third paid $112.

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