Victory by `Yankee' helps ease pain

Repeat win in Mister Diz comes day after Wrights' Proud Benny is put down

Horse Racing

August 21, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Only the day before, longtime horse breeder and owner Virginia Wright was crying. Her horse, Proud Benny, a 4-year-old, had broken his leg in the ninth race and had to be put down.

Twenty-four hours later, she was standing in Pimlico Race Course's winner's circle after the Mister Diz Stakes with another of her horses, Yankee Wildcat, and pondering a sport that brings such sudden lows and highs.

"Last night, I was crying my eyes out," she said. "And this morning I wasn't going to come. I told my husband, Frank, `I'm not up to it. I can't go and watch horses be put down.' But he said, `Oh, come on. Something good might happen.' And it did. This is justice."

The Mister Diz, a $50,000, 5-furlong race for Maryland-breds 3 years old and up, was filled with fast horses.

And though Yankee Wildcat couldn't match his Pimlico turf-course record of 55.99, he captured the race for the second straight year - his first win since last year's Mister Diz.

His trainer, Tim Tullock, said he would have been happier at the start if his horse had drawn an inside post position, but though Yankee Wildcat broke from the ninth spot, only No. 8 Procreate got out of the gate faster.

Procreate set the world record (53.79) for 5 furlongs on turf on a very fast Gulfstream Park course in April. But yesterday, Procreate's jockey, Erick Rodriguez, said, "I had to use up my horse to get out of the gate and it hurt us."

Yankee Wildcat's rider, Enrique Jurado, was content to press the pace from second.

"Right now, the course is hard and fast," said Jurado. "And 5 furlongs is not much to think about. My horse, the way he was running, made it look easy. He was basically dragging me [to the front]. ... At the finish, there was still a lot left in his tank."

Yankee Wildcat closed over the final furlong and then pulled away, beating Procreate to the finish by 1 1/4 lengths in 56.87 seconds, paying $11, $5.20 and $3.60.

Procreate was second and paid $4.40 and $3.20, while Spring Kitten, ridden by William Pagonakis, finished third and paid $5.20.

No one, of course, could have been more pleased than Virginia Wright, who, with her husband, breeds and races horses.

Yesterday's victory was their fourth in the Mister Diz in the past 13 years. Their first win came in 1992 with North Carroll, followed by Tyaskin (1998)and then Yankee Wildcat.

Yankee Wildcat is the grandson of Valley Maid, the horse Wright considers the best she has ever raised and raced. Valley Maid was third in the Maryland Breeders' Cup in 1990-91 and is buried on the couple's 340-acre farm in Hampstead.

Valley Maid produced some stakes contenders, but Yankee Wildcat is her only stakes winner.

"We don't buy horses," said Wright, 74. "So this is nice. It means something to have success with one of your own, especially to have it the day after something so terrible happens. It really is justice."

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