Irving's Baby cruises to Media win

Belmont-based mare finishes first by 8 lengths

February 24, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Ramon Dominguez wound up and smacked Irving's Baby with his whip left-handed. An adorable bay mare already leading by two lengths at the head of the stretch, Irving's Baby shied away as if to say: "Hey, I'm running as fast as I can."

Dominguez, who won more races last year (431) than any other jockey, tapped Irving's Baby twice more, and the Belmont-based runner cruised to an eight-length victory yesterday in the $50,000 Maryland Racing Media Handicap at Laurel Park, covering 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 50.32 seconds.

As she neared the finish line, the 5-year-old mare slowed nearly to a gallop and playfully flicked her ears forward. Later, Dominguez said that Irving's Baby is the smartest horse he's ever ridden.

"She enjoys what she's doing and is so relaxed," Dominguez said.

She especially enjoys herself in Maryland. A Kentucky-bred daughter of Quiet American trained by Todd Pletcher, Irving's Baby has raced six times in Maryland and won four, finished second once and third once (after finishing third she was disqualified to fourth for bumping).

In fact, she salvaged her racing career Jan. 20 in the Nellie Morse Stakes at Laurel. After being eased and then finishing 73 lengths behind in her last two races in New York, Irving's Baby was a prime candidate for motherhood.

"We were on the fence on whether to retire her or not," said John Hassett, Pletcher's assistant.

In the Nellie Morse she finished a close second and earned her chance in the Maryland Racing Media Handicap, a race she won last year. After leading every step yesterday as the 2-5 favorite, Irving's Baby punched her return ticket for the Gala Lil Stakes March 23 at Laurel.

"I guess she likes the track," Hassett said. "That's why we keep coming back."

Dominguez, who won four races yesterday, has won at least one race 12 straight days.

Two races before the Maryland Racing Media Handicap, the Maryland Racing Media Association presented its inaugural Maryland-based Horse of the Year award to the owners of Xtra Heat.

Aqueduct: Eight of the nine horses in the $82,950 Best Turn Stakes in New York had ties to Maryland. The first five to finish the six-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds were trained by Tony Dutrow, Dale Capuano or Scott Lake.

Dutrow's Smooth Jazz, ridden by Mario Pino, led the parade with a 2 3/4 -length score and is undefeated in two starts. The victory padded Dutrow's lead as the top stakes-winning trainer this winter in New York.

The Laurel-based Dutrow, who owns Smooth Jazz, bagged his fourth stakes victory of 2002 at Aqueduct. As a trainer, he is 8-3-2 from 15 starts this year in New York.

Coupled with Dutrow's War Native, who finished fifth, Smooth Jazz paid $6 to win and completed the six furlongs in 1:10 3/5.

"We thought a lot about Smooth Jazz before he ran," Dutrow said of the Storm Boot colt he bought for $95,000 as a yearling. "I don't think he beat any stars today, but he beat horses with a lot of experience. I was happy with his professionalism."

Tank's Expectation, part of an uncoupled entry trained by Capuano, rallied for second and an $82 exacta. President Butler, the other Capuano entry, finished third to complete a $364.50 trifecta. The Lake-trained and -owned Double My Prospect, a son of Allen's Prospect, claimed fourth.

Gulfstream Park: North East Bound beat Capsized by 4 3/4 lengths in the $150,000 Canadian Turf Handicap in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Ridden by Jose Velez Jr., North East Bound ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.

Fair Grounds: Descapate pulled away to beat Mimi's Tizzy by seven lengths in the $150,000 Chou Croute Handicap for fillies and mares in New Orleans, going 1 1/16 miles in 1:42 4/5.

Santa Anita Park: Above Perfection withstood a battle in the stretch from Kalookan Queen to win the $125,000 Las Flores Handicap by a length in Arcadia, Calif., covering six furlongs in 1:08.7.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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