Dunkelberger rides 5 winners

Duckhorn's domination in feature part of big day

Horse Racing

March 19, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It was a day for the "Dunk" at Laurel Park.

The first hint came in the seventh race when Travis Dunkelberger's mount, Summer Tides, finished third but was placed first through disqualifications of the horses who beat him to the wire.

In the program finale, Dunkelberger and Home Run Derby overtook True Lover by a nose to give the jockey his fifth win of the afternoon and a narrow lead over Ramon Dominguez in the meet jockey standings, 62 to 61.

Between those major accomplishments, Dunkelberger enjoyed a breeze aboard Duckhorn in the day's feature, the $85,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap.

The Maryland-bred colt flashed the form that made him unbeatable last summer and fall, dashing to a 6 1/2 -length score over Do I Ever in a blazing 2:00 2/5 for 1 1/4 miles. That was just four-fifths of a second off the track record, despite a headwind on the backstretch.

Jill Byrne, representing her husband and trainer Patrick Byrne, said Dunkelberger was instructed not to "grab hold of him and fight him because he's got a fast cruising speed. If he can make the lead comfortably, go ahead with him."

Duckhorn received some pressure from Mercaldo for six furlongs, but opened up on the far turn and won as he pleased to push his lifetime earnings above $200,000. Do I Ever was a thoroughly beaten runner-up.

"He was just cruising along nice and easy," said Dunkelberger. "We were going to go to the lead and if somebody wanted it bad enough, we'd let them go. At 46 [and two-fifths for a half mile] nobody wanted it."

The remaining fractions were rapid: 1:10 2/5 for six furlongs and 1:35 1/5 for a mile.

Duckhorn wintered in Florida, but was the victim of a lot of bad racing luck.

"Things just went wrong," Byrne said, "and we needed a spot to get his confidence back. We had this race picked out as a backup plan in case things didn't go well in Florida. He did today what we always knew he was capable of. He never lacked for talent."

In the Grade III Skip Away Handicap at Gulfstream, Duckhorn stumbled at the start and then tired, finishing seventh. In the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap, he was bumped and faded again to seventh.

NOTES: The Maryland Jockey Club will participate in the simulcast of the $6 million Dubai World Cup Saturday. Three undercard races will start at 9:40 a.m., with post time for the World Cup at 12:15 p.m. Only the grandstand will be available for wagering at Laurel Park until 11:30 a.m.

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