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Congaree Wins One for Baffert

Horse racing: After two losses, 4-year-old gives trainer third straight victory in Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap.

September 03, 2002|BOB MIESZERSKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DEL MAR — Trainer Bob Baffert has taken control of another race here besides the Del Mar Futurity.

Congaree's one-length victory over Kela in the $250,000 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap on Monday was the third in a row in the Grade II for Baffert, who in eight days will try to make off with the Futurity for the seventh consecutive year.

Rebounding after two losses as the favorite--the second coming in the San Diego Handicap, Del Mar's prep for the Pacific Classic--Congaree, the 7-5 favorite, led throughout under new jockey Mike Smith en route to his sixth victory in 12 starts.

Racing without blinkers for the first time since he won the Lone Star Park Handicap on May 27, his first race of 2002, the 4-year-old Arazi colt ran the mile in 1:36 1/5.

Afterward, Baffert, who had won the Del Mar Breeders' Cup the previous two years with El Corredor, indicated Congaree will make his next start on the turf at Santa Anita--the $250,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 5--possibly with an eye toward the Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 26 at Arlington Park.

"[Jockey] David [Flores] worked him on the turf for me and he thought he handled the turf better," said Baffert. "He can't go 1 1/4 miles, so if he turns out to be a turf runner, we can go to the Breeders' Cup. He's bred for the turf."

Kela, the 8-5 second choice, was wide while rallying after being last most of the trip in his graded stakes debut. The 4-year-old beat out 10-1 shot Reba's Gold by a head and Euchre, the 7-2 third choice, was a neck back in fourth place.

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Making his first start since finishing fourth in the Preakness and his first for trainer Todd Pletcher, Harlan's Holiday easily won the $500,000 Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park.

Narrowly favored at even-money over fourth-place finisher Wiseman's Ferry in the field of five, the son of Harlan won by 4 1/2 lengths under Edgar Prado and completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.

Owned by Starlight Stable, Harlan's Holiday has won seven of 13 and the $300,000 payday pushed his earnings to more than $1.8 million.

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Lakenheath, the 3-1 third choice in a field of five, defeated 6-5 favorite With Ability by a head to win the $150,000 Arlington Matron over a muddy surface at Arlington Park.

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The Matron was the middle leg of a national pick three; the other winners were heavily favored Lone Star Sky in the $200,000 Cradle Stakes at River Downs and Super High in the $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar. The payout on a $1 bet was $38.60.

Owned by Harris Farms and trained by Carla Gaines, Super High, the 2-1 favorite while racing coupled with fourth-place finisher Top Of Our Game, went wire to wire and won by 2 1/2 lengths under jockey Garrett Gomez.

The final time for the mile on turf was a stakes-record 1:33 3/5.

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AB What A Runner, the fastest qualifier, edged 13-1 shot Eye Opening Episode and Meteoric to win the $2,050,000 All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs.

Owned by Dennis and Kris Hill and trained by Bret Vickery, AB What A Runner ($6.20) won by a nose and completed the 440 yards on a sloppy track in 21.30 seconds. The 2-year-old Arizona-bred filly was ridden by Jay Conklin and remained unbeaten in three starts.

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Winless in eight races on the main track, Ibn Al Haitham is now perfect in two races on the grass after he won the $100,000 Saranac, the closing-day feature at Saratoga.

Owned by Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the 3-year-old Zafonic colt was ridden by Richard Migliore and ran the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55 1/5. Miesque's Approval, the 6-5 favorite, wound up fourth.

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