`Oprah' outruns Silmaril in Fritchie

Stewards disallow interference claim

February 18, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun reporter

This Oprah wasn't pushing a diet or asking personal questions yesterday at Laurel Park, but she was all about showing off.

In the $300,000 Grade II Barbara Fritchie Breeders' Cup Handicap Oprah Winney, a 4-year-old New York bred who was facing her toughest test in the seven-furlong sprint for 3-years-old-and-up fillies and mares, showed her star is on the rise. She scored a 1 3/4 -length victory over local favorite Silmaril on the track and then survived an objection by Silmaril's jockey, Ryan Fogelsonger, who claimed interference.

"This was [Oprah Winney's] test," said Chip Dutrow, an assistant trainer for both his brother Tony Dutrow, whose name the horse ran under yesterday, and his other brother, Richard Jr., who trains Oprah Winney but is serving a 14-day suspension in New York.

"She proved she is a good one today," said Dutrow, after accepting the crystal trophy and first-place check for $180,000. "She was game every step of the way. This is the kind of win that can change a lot for her in the breeding end."

Silmaril and third-place finisher Smart and Fancy were the early-line favorites, and looked the class of the closely matched field. But the betting public made Leah's Secret its favorite and Oprah Winney the second choice.

Oprah, a gray-roan daughter of Royal Academy, came through, paying $8.20, $4.60 and $3.60. Silmaril, the third-betting choice, paid $3.80 and $2.60, and fourth-choice Smart and Fancy, who finished third, paid $3.20.

Leah's Secret had not raced since winning here in the Anne Arundel Stakes on Nov. 25. She finished fifth after being fractious in the starting gate.

"She just didn't break," owner George Krall said. "She had to hurry up then, but didn't fire."

This was the first of two Grade II Breeders' Cup races at Laurel Park in three days. The Grade II $300,000 General George, a seven-furlong test for males 3 and up, will be run tomorrow.

In yesterday's co-feature, the $115,000 John B. Campbell Handicap for 3-year-olds and up, Future Fantasy (by Future Storm) pulled an upset. Breaking from the outside, he trailed the other seven horses nearly to the second turn before turning on the jets and beating Due to the finish by 4 3/4 lengths. He paid $28.60, $12 and $5.60.

"I knew there was a lot of speed in this race," said Future Fantasy's jockey, Winston Thompson. "I wanted to save all the ground early because I wasn't sure if I would have to go wide around the second turn. ... At the top of the stretch, I asked him to go on and he just exploded."

In the Barbara Fritchie, it was Oprah Winney who fired early and late.

Breaking from the inside post, she pressed the pace for the lead and never gave it up, though Great Intentions made a move as they entered the turn and Silmaril moved up along the rail as they headed down the stretch.

Oprah Winney's jockey, Mike Smith, gave nothing away along the rail and closed down Silmaril's charge.

That's when Fogelsonger felt his horse was interfered with, but the stewards disallowed the claim, and trainer Chris Grove shrugged it off.

On the track, Fogelsonger pushed Silmaril to give another big effort and the 6-year-old dug in to make up ground as she and Oprah Winney approached the finish.

"She ran a gallant race," Grove said. "I'm proud of her."

Grove is a native of Frederick, where the race's namesake, Barbara Fritchie, gained fame as an American patriot, according to legend.

Grove wanted to recite eight lines from the 1864 poem "Barbara Frietchie" by John Greenleaf Whittier in the winner's circle had Silmaril won.

"We'll just have to try again next year," he said.


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