`Saint' bests tiny field at Laurel

All but 2 rivals scratch, avoid 1-20 favorite

Horse racing

October 20, 2006|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

The name Sweetnorthernsaint was enough to beat the majority of horses scheduled for yesterday's eighth race at Laurel Park, and the horse himself easily beat the two others who actually came to the starting gate.

The Saint completed the 7-furlong course in 1 minute, 23.70 seconds and beat Terrific Tom by 4 1/2 lengths. It'sallabout-youlou simply galloped around the course after the early furlongs and came home third, 66 1/4 lengths farther back.

Sweetnorthernsaint, the betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby, was running his first race since finishing second in the Preakness on May 20.

"I was happy with this," said trainer Mike Trombetta, as he looked at the scoreboard and saw his horse had run the first quarter-mile in 23.45 seconds. "He has 21 and change in him, but it's too early for that. We'll get back there in time."

Trombetta noted that five horses had scratched since the race for 3-year-olds and up was carded last Friday - including four scratches yesterday morning - and said: "Scratching is easy. I appreciate the guys who hung in there."

Sweetnorthernsaint went off at 1-20 and paid $2.10. There was no place or show betting because of the short field.

Despite the betting public's confidence in the gelded son of Sweetsouthernsaint, Trombetta and owner Ted Theos said they were worried.

"I wondered if the race was going to be worthwhile, whether anyone would be there to challenge him," Theos said.

Trombetta, meanwhile, was concerned about getting his horse healthy. When Sweetnorthernsaint stumbled out of the gate, Trombetta's heart rose to his throat.

But on the track, jockey Ramon Dominguez had Sweetnorthern-saint under control.

"He stumbled pretty good out of the gate," Dominguez said. "But he came up relaxed and gained control. The other horse had a little speed, but we were running comfortably. Coming down the stretch, he was looking around for some competition. He ran a nice race. You don't want to see them too rank and running too fast coming back from a long layoff."

Dominguez let The Saint take the lead 5 1/2 furlongs from the finish and set a moderate pace.

"The other horse was a lot of horse," said Terrific Tom's jockey, Oliver Castillo. "His jockey never let him out really, and my directive was, `Don't kill his heart. Save it for the next race.'"

Sweetnorthernsaint's next race is still to be determined. Trombetta said he will see how the 3-year-old trains next week and then begin making plans.

"I wanted to get a race under him, and I didn't want a big one today," Trombetta said. "He isn't ready for that. I didn't want to do too much. I just wanted to find out where his conditioning is. ... Hopefully, this didn't take anything out of him. I don't think it did. Now we'll move on."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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