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Wood Memorial : Outsider Broad Brush Weaves Way to Win

Times Staff Writer

The knock against Broad Brush going into Saturday’s $297,500 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct was that the 3-year-old Maryland-bred had never raced in the big leagues. Before Saturday, Broad Brush’s eight starts had been in his own backyard, in insignificant races in Philadelphia and in a minor stake at Latonia, the small track near Cincinnati.

Even Dick Small, the 40-year-old former Green Beret who trains Broad Brush, didn’t go into the Wood with the gung-ho braggadocio of a John Wayne.

Despite winning the Jim Beam Stakes at Latonia in his last start on March 22, Broad Brush acted then as though he had been nipping at some of the race sponsor’s product in the final yards. After taking a clear lead with a quarter-mile to run, Broad Brush lost interest. He ducked out, then weaved in, not unlike a tosspot on New Year’s Eve, but still hung on to win.

Broad Brush’s stretch run in the Wood was much the same. “It looked like a replay of the Jim Beam,” Small said, but the result at the wire was also similar, with Broad Brush beating a late-running Mogambo by a half-length before 23,240 fans.

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Groovy, the early leader in the 1 1/8-mile race, finished third, a neck behind Mogambo and 1 lengths in front of the fourth-place Tasso, the 4-5 favorite who hurt himself in the race. Behind the first four in the seven-horse field were Mr. Classic, Tinchen’s Prince and Glider Pilot.

“We showed these New Yorkers, Dick,” Robert Meyerhoff said to Small after the race. Meyerhoff, a 62-year-old Marylander who saw his younger brother Harry win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness with Spectacular Bid in 1979, bred Broad Brush by mating Hay Patcher, a minor stakes winner, with Ack Ack, the Horse of the Year in 1971.

Whether Broad Brush will try to show everybody at Churchill Downs in the May 3 Kentucky Derby was left slightly in the air following the Wood. Small said a decision would be made in a few days, and Robert Meyerhoff said the decision would be the trainer’s. Later, however, Meyerhoff reportedly indicated that Broad Brush would run in the Derby.

Combined with Broad Brush’s penchant for loafing in the stretch, the extra eighth of a mile in the Derby could be a tall assignment for the colt. His time of 1:50 3/5 on a drying-out but fast track in the Wood was more than three seconds slower than the Aqueduct record, and the last eighth of a mile was covered in a sluggish :14 2/5.

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Mogambo, continuing his pattern over the last six races by not winning every other time he runs, is still headed for the Kentucky Derby, according to trainer Leroy Jolley. Mogambo, the second betting choice Saturday at 5-2, broke slowly, something neither Jolley nor jockey Jacinto Vasquez felt was a factor.

Tasso apparently is out of the Derby, the result of cutting himself for the second straight day. During a gallop Friday morning, last year’s champion 2-year-old colt suffered a minor cut on his right foreleg, but in the Wood he whacked himself five or six times on the left hind leg.

“He was bleeding all over the place,” trainer Neil Drysdale said. “It might be serious. I don’t think X-rays are going to be necessary, but he’s got some bad cuts.”

Tasso, ridden by Laffit Pincay, was in a good early position, not far behind Groovy, Broad Brush and Mogambo, but just before the far turn he started dropping back.

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“He warmed up fine before the race,” Pincay said. “If he hurt himself, maybe he decided on his own not to run. He made a bold, speedy move down the stretch when I asked him, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Broad Brush, earning $178,500 with his seventh win in nine starts, increased his career total to $565,443. He paid $16, $5.80 and $6.40. Mogambo paid $4.60 and $4.60, and Groovy’s show price was $5.40.

Broad Brush, ridden by Vincent (Jimbo) Bracciale, still trailed Groovy by about a length midway around the far turn, but he caught the leader as they hit the corner for home. Near the eighth pole, Broad Brush got about two lengths ahead, but then he ducked out and Groovy attempted to come back. Groovy then hung, and Mogambo’s rush on the outside was not enough to catch the winner.

“My horse got past Groovy very easily,” Small said. “Then it looked like it wouldn’t be that easy, because Groovy came back. Can my horse make a mile and a quarter (the Derby distance)? We’ll have to wait until the first Saturday in May to find out.”

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Both Small and Bracciale are perplexed about curing Broad Brush of his lazy habits once he gets the lead. During a mile workout at Pimlico before Broad Brush went to the Jim Beam, Small even worked the colt in split company with different horses. After Broad Brush went the first three-eighths with one horse, Small broke off a speedy filly who picked up the colt the rest of the way. Broad Brush worked in a creditable 1:38--identical half miles of :49.

But in the Jim Beam, Broad Brush reverted to zig-zagging through the stretch, as he had in at least two previous races.

“He’s not like most horses,” Bracciale said. “When he gets to the front, he just refuses to open up and draw off by six or seven lengths.”

Because of a riding infraction at Pimlico last week, Bracciale starts a seven-day suspension Tuesday.

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“That’ll give me time to get to Kentucky and get acclimated,” the jockey said.

That’s providing Broad Brush goes to Kentucky. If he does, nothing he showed Saturday should scare Snow Chief and Badger Land, the two Derby favorites. Both of them have never done a drunk act through the stretch.


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