Runspastum ends up squarely in winner's circle at Tesio Stakes

After Pimlico victory, colt's trainer is now eyeing Illinois Derby

Horse Racing

April 23, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Tim's Crossing thrilled the bettors early and fellow Maryland horse Grundlefoot thrilled them late.

But when the rain began yesterday after the $200,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, New Jersey colt Runspastum stood proudly in the winner's circle.

The Tesio is Maryland's major stakes for 3-year-olds still sniffing for roses in the Kentucky Derby or black-eyed Susans in the Preakness. But the connections of Runspastum have another idea: the Illinois Derby.

`The Triple Crown, that's a brutal deal," said Alan E. Goldberg, the trainer of Runspastum, stabled at a private center near Monmouth Park. "You've got to have an iron horse."

A Kentucky-bred son of Woodman, Runspastum is flesh and bones. Because of minor medical problems, he had raced only four times entering the Tesio.

He won twice at Gulfstream Park, once by nearly six lengths and later by 10. Then, a month ago in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby, Runspastum encountered trouble, and his immaturity showed. He finished fifth.

As the 9-5 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Tesio, Runspastum hugged the rail in fifth position down the backstretch. The previously undefeated Tim's Crossing blazed away on the lead.

As the bettors' 2-1 second choice, Tim's Crossing had won all three of his races at Laurel Park, impressing observers as one of the state's most promising 3-year-olds in years. But he had never raced farther than seven furlongs. His Laurel trainer, Jimmy Murphy, had tried to run him two weeks ago in a two-turn allowance race, but the race didn't fill. Then yesterday, the track at Pimlico was rated "good" after rain had soaked it the previous day.

Murphy said those factors added up to a tough assignment for Tim's Crossing, an exceptionally large gelded son of Valley Crossing at about 17 hands.

"It wasn't fair to the horse," Murphy said.

Tim's Crossing led until the far turn, where runners with greater stamina engulfed him. He faded to sixth. Runspastum claimed the lead, but Grundlefoot exploded with speed far on the outside.

Trained by Gary Capuano at Bowie, Grundlefoot raced at Gulfstream Park and then in the Tampa Bay Derby as Capuano tried to assess his ability.

The long-striding son of Unaccounted For had displayed promise in the mornings but had never proven his merit in the afternoon.

Yesterday, when jockey Travis Dunkelberger urged him around the final turn, Grundlefoot accelerated like a motorcycle. He challenged Runspastum at the head of the stretch, then the two game colts battled to the wire. Runspastum prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths in 1 minute, 51.16 seconds.

He paid $5.60 and topped a $108.60 exacta, with the 23-1 Grundlefoot second, a $1,106.20 trifecta, with the 30-1 Inner Harbour third, and a $2,894.80 superfecta with the late-charging 14-1 Pickupspeed fourth.

"He's learning every race," trainer Goldberg said of the winner.

His jockey, Robbie Davis, said that Runspastum tried to play with his pony before the Spiral and didn't take his job seriously.

"He was all business today," Davis said. "He had his game face on."

The Tesio was the opening race in the six-month Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships, or MATCH, a series of stakes for regional horses. MATCH runs through Oct. 7, when its five divisions conclude with races at the Meadowlands, Colonial Downs and Delaware Park.

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