It was a good trade all the way around. Chris McCarron, who would have ridden The Medic at Santa Anita Sunday, went to Canada instead and won a $750,000 race. Meanwhile, Sandy Hawley replaced McCarron on The Medic and urged the 3-year-old colt to a narrow victory over Temperate Sil in the $104,300 Volante Handicap.
Before McCarron left for Woodbine to ride River Memories to victory in the Rothmans International, he gave Hawley a scouting report on The Medic.
"Every little bit helps when you're riding a horse for the first time," Hawley said. "And the horse was just the way Chris said he would be.
"He gets lackadaisical if you don't keep his mind on his business. He likes to get into the bit to give you the feeling that he's really in the race and he had that strong kick at the end. But I didn't want to be so far back coming into the stretch."
Besides having half of his eight opponents to pass, The Medic was also in the middle of a crowd. But the two horses outside him were tiring and Hawley was able to squeeze his mount between them and a horse on the inside.
Then it took some steady right-handed whipping to get The Medic to the wire a head in front of Temperate Sil--the same winning margin that McCarron had with River Memories at Woodbine.
Temperate Sil was being tested on grass for the first time to see if he might be able to run in the Breeders' Cup Mile on the turf at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21. He was almost a wire-to-wire winner despite carrying top weight of 122 pounds and a different jockey.
Eddie Delahoussaye was riding Temperate Sil for the first time after Bill Shoemaker--who finished eighth at Woodbine with Swink--had been aboard the roan colt for his first 12 races. Delahoussaye didn't think the three pounds Temperate Sil was giving The Medic played a part, but trainer Charlie Whittingham did.
"We gave the other horse three pounds, and just got beat a nod," Whittingham said. "That's life in the fast lane. We might have been better off if Eddie could have saved him some early."
But just as McCarron had coached Hawley, Shoemaker told Delahoussaye what to expect before he left for Canada and the message was clear that Temperate Sil has a mind of his own.
Delahoussaye got a first-hand idea when he worked Temperate Sil Thursday morning. There were plastic cones protecting the grass on the inner fence, and Temperate Sil, who loves to hug the rail, didn't even try jumping. He just ran right over them.
In the Volante, it was the same thing--Temperate Sil going steady with the fence.
"He was so close to the fence that I closed my eyes," Delahoussaye said. "It would be to his advantage if he could relax, because with his speed that would make him so much better. But Shoe told me not to fight him, because it doesn't help. He's a nasty colt."
The Medic has been on the board in his last 13 starts and has a record of 4 wins, 5 seconds and 3 thirds in 12 starts since trainer Gary Jones bought him for $50,000 for Ed Giammarino, a former eye doctor who is now in the fast-food business in the San Diego area.
Sunday's win was worth $63,800 and increased The Medic's career earnings to more than $350,000.
Hot and Smoggy finished third, a length behind Temperate Sil, with Neshad and Baba Karam--European horses making their first American starts--running fourth and fifth.
The crowd of 38,472, noting Baba Karam's three straight wins this summer in Ireland, sent him off as the 19-10 favorite.
The Medic, the second betting choice, paid $8.40, $3.60 and $2.80. Temperate Sil, third in the betting, paid $5 and $4.40 and Hot and Smoggy returned $7.40.
The Medic, a Kentucky-bred son of Sweet Candy and Mel Has Flipped, ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47 4/5, which was 1 3/5 seconds slower than the stakes record.
"This is as tough a horse as I've ever trained," Jones said of The Medic. "He's tough in the morning and tough when he runs, but he's lazy and you've got to keep after him.
"He had trouble getting through, and then I thought he was going to be short in the stretch. He loves this course, and that's a big edge."
Jones is considering four races for The Medic. The Breeders' Cup Mile and the Breeders' Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles really don't fit the colt, because his best distance is somewhere in between. The Hollywood Derby is Nov. 22, the day after the Breeders' Cup, and the Bay Meadows Derby is Nov. 28.
"Those other two races aren't nearly as rich as the Breeders' Cup," Jones said. "But you have to consider that he'd been about 15-1 in the Breeders' Cup and the 3-5 favorite in the other two races."
It sounds as though The Medic won't be running on Breeders' Cup day. But no matter where he runs, it's likely he'll finish in the money.
Horse Racing Notes