Angel Cordero, a neutral observer, says that the rivalry between Goodbye Halo and Winning Colors will be a lot like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
"These fillies are going to dance a lot of dances with each other before the year is over," Cordero said.
Without a mount in Saturday's $126,500 Las Virgenes Stakes between Goodbye Halo and Winning Colors and three other 3-year-old fillies along for the ride, Cordero watched the race on television.
"I didn't know who to root for," Cordero said to fellow jockey Jorge Velasquez after the race. "I ride a lot of horses for Wayne (Lukas), but you're my friend. But I'll tell you one thing--when you won, I gave you a standing ovation."
Velasquez shot Goodbye Halo into contention leaving the backstretch and she took the lead at the top of the stretch and endured for a victory by a neck over the Lukas-trained Winning Colors. It was eight lengths farther back to Sadie B. Fast in third place.
Both Goodbye Halo and Winning Colors ran winning races. "The other filly kept coming back at us," Velasquez said. "But my filly is a Cadillac. You just step on the pedal and she goes. She ranks right up there with some of the real good fillies I've ridden--horses like Desert Vixen, Late Bloomer and Lady's Secret."
Winning Colors, who lost for the first time after winning her three previous starts by 12 1/2 lengths, went off the 7-10 favorite in the crowd of 33,717. Goodbye Halo, the second choice off stakes wins in her last three starts, paid $4.80, $2.20 and $2.10, running a mile in 1:36 4/5, which was three-fifths of a second off the stake record. Winning Colors paid $2.20 and $2.10, and Sadie B. Fast's show price was $2.10.
Goodbye Halo, who was bought privately by Arthur Hancock after the first race of her current four-race winning streak, earned $74,750, increasing her career total to $554,235.
Winning Colors is nominated to the Triple Crown races and Goodbye Halo isn't, and it's unlikely that her trainer, Charlie Whittingham, would pay a late nominating fee of $3,000 by March 17 to make her eligible. Running fillies against colts has seldom been Whittingham's style.
"I doubt that we'll do it," Whittingham said. "There's too much money to be made just by running within her own division. And I think Mr. Hancock would love to win the Kentucky Oaks."
The Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, is run at Churchill Downs the day before the Kentucky Derby.
Goodbye Halo's resolve around the far turn and through the stretch staggered Gary Stevens, Winning Colors' jockey.
"When Jorge moved at me (early), my filly responded and pulled away," Stevens said. "At the quarter pole, he came after me again. When I asked her and she pulled away, I thought I had her, but Jorge's filly just kept coming at me. I can't believe Goodbye Halo didn't stop. Nine out of 10 horses, you just jerk the heart out of them with a move like that."
This was only Winning Colors' second stakes race, and Lukas thought seasoning had something to do with the outcome. Goodbye Halo carried 123 pounds, 4 more than Winning Colors.
"My filly is green and she's learning," Lukas said. "These two sure gave the people their money's worth. But we have no excuses, the other filly was just better today."
Winning Colors and Bolchina, longest price in the field at 23-1, ran 1-2 down the backstretch. Goodbye Halo was in third place, five lengths behind Winning Colors, when she spurted past Sadie B. Fast at the top of the turn.
"The one horse gave up early, so I had to go with my filly because I didn't want Winning Colors to get away from us," Velasquez said. "We actually lost a couple of lengths on the first turn when we got squeezed between horses after a horse on the inside came out. Heading home, my filly never gave up. She just kept digging in."
Velasquez rode Halo, Goodbye Halo's sire, to stakes wins 14 years ago.
"Halo was a top grass runner," Velasquez said. "He had a tendency to pull himself up in the stretch, but he was a class runner."
Goodbye Halo has all the class that her sire could possibly give her.
"She's a trier, and today the dirt hit her in the face and it didn't bother her," Whittingham said. "She's not big, but she's tough and wiry."
Horse Racing Notes