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JUVENILE

Slow Start Was Call to Action

Last after half a mile, Action This Day pulls out a victory and gives Mandella a sweep of both 2-year-old races.

October 26, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Even when the horse he thought might win didn't do so, Richard Mandella still ended up in the winner's circle Saturday.

The field of 12 in the $1.5-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile was heading into the stretch and Alex Solis, aboard the Mandella-trained Minister Eric, was in second place, a head behind John Velazquez on Chapel Royal

Minister Eric caught and passed Chapel Royal in midstretch and Solis appeared to have the 1 1/16-mile race won for Mandella.

He didn't count on David Flores, however.

Flores, bringing Action This Day from far back in the early going, swept past his stablemate near the sixteenth pole and won going away to make Mandella only the third trainer after Wayne Lukas and Patrick Byrne to sweep both 2-year-old races, the Juvenile Fillies and the Juvenile.

Lukas accomplished the feat in 1988 with Open Mind and Is It True, and Byrne matched it in 1997 with Countess Diana and Favorite Trick.

Action This Day, which won by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:43.62, paid $55.60 after going off at almost 27-1.

Minister Eric had been the fifth choice at almost 9-1.

"They both ran their hearts out," Mandella said. "Minister Eric ran a great race. The winner had the right style because of the hot pace.... [Action This Day] was the ugly duckling this spring, and now he's the swan."

Ornithological comparisons notwithstanding, it was the patient and tactically astute ride by Flores that gave the bay colt the victory for owner B. Wayne Hughes, who bought the horse at auction for a bargain price of $150,000.

Action This Day was last after half a mile and was only 10th at the three-quarter pole, but was running easily.

"He breaks a little slow, so I just let him come out of the gate," Flores said. "At the three-eighths pole, he started picking up horses and I was just hoping no one got in my way."

No one did, although Solis and Minister Eric made Action This Day work for the victory.

"Around the five-sixteenths pole, I thought I had it won," Solis said. "I got to the lead at the top of the stretch, and I saw the other horse coming. Then I saw it was Action This Day.

"I'm happy for the barn. It's a team effort. In fact, I took off the winner to ride this one."

Chapel Royal, trained by Todd Pletcher, finished third, five lengths behind Minister Eric.

"They [the starters] grabbed his ear at the start," Pletcher said. "I don't know why they have to do that. He got off a little slow, but he got into the race and he ran a big race."

Favorite Cuvee finished last, and jockey Jerry Bailey said the colt was never in it.

"With a horse like this, things have to happen easy or they don't happen at all," he said. "I went out there, I thought I could get the lead and I wound up biting the bullet and getting four wide. But it didn't matter, by the half-mile pole he was spent."

Trainer Steve Asmussen blamed a wide trip and a fast pace for the disappointing finish.

"Four wide on the first turn, pushing a half in 45 3/5, it's not where you want to be," he said. "But it happens and it's over."

For Mandella, meanwhile, it still had a long and profitable way to go.

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