By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 18, 2002
OLDSMAR -- The Tampa Bay Derby and Florida Oaks always have been about validation for 3-year-olds not quite in the Triple Crown pipeline. Sunday's Grade III renewals were no different as Equality made a strong move to win the $200,000 Derby and a fractious French Satin led wire to wire in the $150,000 Oaks.
The real coming out, however, might have involved Ramon Dominguez, who became the fourth jockey to win both races on the same day. Dominguez, the Laurel Park money leader with $2.83-million, joined Jorge Guerra (1996), Pat Day (1998) and Richard Migliore (2001).
He also might have earned himself higher-profile dates aboard both winners.
"This is amazing," Dominguez said. "It doesn't get any better than this.
"I guess it has not sunk in yet. Is that how you say it?"
Trainer Graham Motion and Dominguez opted to challenge for the lead quickly with Equality after noticing a discernible speed bias. In earlier races, a 7-year-old named Mr. Buffum set a track record over 5 furlongs, and French Satin won by surging ahead early.
Despite a stumble at the start, Equality recovered to press the pack at the first turn and took the lead for good after 5 furlongs, with little urging. He seemed to tire at the top of the stretch, but Dominguez coerced a final burst that opened a 21/4-lengths final margin over Tails of the Crypt.
Equality set a Tampa Bay Derby record in 1:43.66 and paid $10.20, $5.20 and $4.40. Motion brought the son of Mt. Livermore to the Oldsmar track because his last win -- also at 1 1/16 miles -- had come against what he called a "suspect field" and he didn't want to test the "heavy heads" in Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
"He might have won a place in one of the prep races," Motion said. "Ramon didn't think distance was going to be a problem, so the Blue Grass (Stakes) may be nice."
French Satin, who had finished third twice and fourth as a 3-year-old, was balky before and after the Oaks, but true the entire 1 1/16 miles. The favorite broke from the sixth hole and bolted for the lead, then fought off brief challenges from Ease Ahead and Cuidad de Carson along the far turn and the late-charging Romancin Dixie to win by 13/4 lengths.
French Satin finished in 1:45.49 and paid $5, $3.40 and $2.80.
Trainer Steven Standridge said he was not concerned when the filly would not go into the paddock and had to be walked around several minutes before being saddled.
"That's just her," he said. "She's flipped in the paddock before. But she ran a good race, and we knew we had to get out front because of the speed today.
"Ramon had a lot to do with this. There's a lot of options for her now."
Track officials announced a crowd of 8,160. Total handle was $3.96-million.
SIGNALS: Tampa Bay Downs began receiving simulcast signals from Turfway (Kentucky) and Beulah (Ohio) parks on Sunday, ending a boycott by Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Associations at those facilities.
The situation improved when TBD general manager Peter Berube and attorney Robert Clark visited Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline almost three weeks ago, and a deal was agreed to in principle.
"We wanted to go there and let them see our position so they could make their own judgment," Berube said of the Kentucky trip. "It was more about getting an understanding of each other's positions.
"I think with (Turfway and Beulah) back, you might see a few more very shortly."
The negotiations to return the signals involved the dropping of a federal lawsuit by the Kentucky HBPA that could end the continued boycott by six more tracks.
HBPAs at Charles Town, Mountaineer, Delta Downs, Fair Grounds, Sam Houston and Sportsman's Park are withholding their tracks' signals in support of several members of the Tampa Bay HBPA board -- including president Bob Jeffries -- who were again denied stalls this meet.
Berube said he will assess whether to return purses to normal levels in the next condition book.
SAN FELIPE STAKES: Medaglia D'oro beat U S S Tinosa by 21/2 lengths in the $250,000 race at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.
Siphonic, the favorite, was third. It was the second straight defeat for a horse considered a contender for the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Laffit Pincay, Medaglia D'oro covered 1 1/16-miles in 1:41.95, just off the stakes record of 1:41 1/5, set by Pole Position in 1979.
Medaglia D'oro, the Florida-bred son of El Prado trained by Bobby Frankel, won for the second time in three starts and earned $150,000.
In an earlier race, Above Perfection won the $107,000 IrishO'Brien Stakes.
GOTHAM STAKES: Mayakovsky triumphed in his 3-year-old debut, beating Saarland by 33/4 lengths in the $200,000 race at Aqueduct in New York and moving a step closer to the Kentucky Derby.
"Tonight, I am going to dream about the Kentucky Derby," said winning trainer Patrick Biancone, who was sending the son of Matty G. out after a 197-day layoff. "Maybe tomorrow when I wake up, I can change my mind. Tonight, we're allowed to dream."
Ridden by Edgar Prado, Mayakovsky took the lead soon after the break and was never headed, covering the mile in 1:34.90.
Last year's Gotham did not produce a Kentucky Derby starter. The 2000 runner-up, Aptitude, finished second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Derby.
HURRICANE BERTIE HANDICAP: Gold Mover held off Celtic Monday to win by a length in the $100,000 race for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale. Gold Mover ran 61/2 furlongs in 1:15 1/5, a fifth of a second over the track record. Gold Mover has earned $630,720, winning four of five starts, including two stakes at Gulfstream last year.
-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.