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Rojo Toro Is Perfect, Not Pretty

Baffert's horse improves to 3-0 with a lumbering, one-length victory over Spensive in the San Rafael Stakes.

March 02, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

In the last eight years, two winners of the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes have returned to win the Santa Anita Derby. Larry The Legend completed the double in 1995 and so did Came Home last year.

Don't expect it to happen in 2003.

Rojo Toro, the 2-1 favorite in a field of seven 3-year-olds in one of the last major preps for the April 5 Derby, remained unbeaten in his third career start, but it was far from pretty.

Wide while prompting the pace under jockey Jerry Bailey, the son of Mountain Cat took over from 5-2 second choice Our Bobby V. after about a half-mile, then held on through an agonizing stretch run to win by a length over stablemate Spensive.

Owned by Phoenix auto dealer Hal Earnhardt III and trained by Bob Baffert, Rojo Toro was making his first race since Nov. 17 at Churchill Downs, so he does have a right to move forward.

However, he looks as though he might not want to run any farther than he did Saturday. After a 45.33 first half, the final four furlongs were run in 50.56 seconds.

"He kind of didn't know what the first turn was about and I had to give him his head to make the turn and then he kind of ran off with me," said Bailey, who, despite his limited appearances locally, is tied with Patrick Valenzuela for the most stakes wins at the meet with six. "This was his first time going two turns and he is still undefeated, so I can't knock him too much."

Helped by the quick early pace, Spensive, the 5-1 fourth choice, finished 2 1/2 lengths ahead of 17-1 shot Crowned Dancer. Then came Our Bobby V., Sum Trick, Just Wonder and Iron Lad. Peace Rules was scratched by trainer Bobby Frankel in favor of the Louisiana Derby a week from today.

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Taking over for Laffit Pincay after the world's winningest jockey suffered minor injuries in a spill earlier in the day, Alex Solis rode Redattore to a one-length victory over 6-5 favorite Good Journey in the $400,000 Kilroe Mile.

Owned by Luis Alfredo Taunay and trained by Richard Mandella, the 8-year-old, Brazilian-bred led every step of the way over a turf course labeled good for his 12th win in 26 starts. The 5-1 second choice, he completed the distance in 1:34.94.

Making his first start since he won the $500,000 Citation Handicap some three months ago, Good Journey, who was spotting the winner four pounds (124-120), finished two lengths ahead of defending Kilroe champion Decarchy. Good Journey has now been second in all four of his races over the Santa Anita turf.

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Allamerican Bertie, the 2-5 favorite, was never challenged winning the $200,000 Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

With Bailey in California, John Velasquez picked up the mount on the 4-year-old Quiet American filly, who led all the way to win by nearly eight lengths in 1:47.92 for the 1 1/8 miles.

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