REMARKS: Trainer Charlie Whittingham, whose Ferdinand will probably run against Snow Chief in the Santa Anita Derby April 6, said that Snow Chief's slow winning time in Saturday's Florida Derby should not be held against the colt.
"It's the way you win, not the final time," Whittingham said. "Time's only important if you're trying to catch an airplane."
Snow Chief's 1:51 4/5 clocking was the slowest winning time in the Florida Derby in 31 years. For that reason, Lenny Hale, one of the members of The Times' Triple Crown panel, thought that Tasso should have been ranked No. 1 in the first edition of the ratings. Tasso, last year's champion 2-year-old colt, is in training at Hollywood Park, but probably won't make his first 3-year-old start until late March.
One longtime racing observer greatly impressed by Snow Chief's Florida Derby was Oscar Otis, the retired columnist for the Daily Racing Form.
"The colt's jockey (Alex Solis) hit him five times through the stretch, but they were only taps," Otis said. "If I had been calling the race chart, I would have had him winning ridden out rather than driving, although it's a fine line between the two. But I thought the horse won the race comfortably."
The disappointment in the Florida Derby was Mogambo, who finished third, almost seven lengths behind the winner. Mogambo and his coupled stablemate, Glow, were the early favorites through much of the betting, until a late surge sent Snow Chief off as the choice.
Angel Cordero, Mogambo's jockey, said the colt couldn't handle the track at Gulfstream Park--a strange occurrence, since Mogambo had turned in a good allowance win at Gulfstream two weeks before.
The two California horses, Snow Chief and Badger Land, had been suspect because they hadn't previously run at Gulfstream.
"But this is what a lot of people forgot," said Tommy Trotter, another Times panelist. "Both horses had run (in the El Camino Real Derby) at Bay Meadows before they came to Florida, and the track (there) is more like Gulfstream than it is the other California tracks."
Snow Chief and Badger Land ran 1-2 in the El Camino Real, just as they did in the Florida Derby. Although the pickings would seem to be easier in the East, Badger Land is going back to California, where he might try to finish ahead of Snow Chief for the fifth time.
"Our horse tried all the way to the finish, it's just that the other horse didn't give up," Jeff Lukas said after the Florida Derby. Lukas owns Badger Land with Melvin Hatley and the colt is trained by Jeff's father, Wayne.
"We were pleased and encouraged by Badger Land's race and we're going to try it again," Jeff Lukas said.
If there is a pattern to Snow Chief's record, it's that it doesn't seem to matter what track he runs on. In first starts at Del Mar, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows and now Gulfstream, he's won every time. The exception has been Hollywood Park, where he won in his second start after having run on a sloppy track the first time.
Chris McCarron, who has replaced Juvenal Diaz as the jockey for Meadowlake, will be at Hialeah Friday morning to work the horse for the first time. McCarron will stay to ride Turkoman on Friday before returning to Santa Anita. Both Meadowlake and the 4-year-old colt Turkoman are owned by the Saron Stable.
Triple Crown Ratings
Career Horse S 1 2 3 Earnings 1. Snow Chief 12 8 2 1 $1,444,040 2. Tasso 7 5 1 1 $761,534 3. Meadowlake 2 2 0 0 $293,580 4. Pillaster 4 3 1 0 $248,390 5. Ketoh 5 3 0 0 $173,550 6. Badger Land 10 3 2 0 $251,325 7. Variety Road 7 2 1 4 $135,575 8. Ferdinand 8 2 3 2 $265,900 9. Mogambo 9 3 1 4 $380,096 10. Broad Brush 7 5 1 0 $176,943
Advisory panel for The Times' Triple Crown Ratings: Lenny Hale, racing secretary at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga; Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, vice president for racing at Santa Anita; and Tommy Trotter, director of racing at Hollywood Park and racing secretary at Gulfstream Park.