In Saturday’s Daily Racing Form, trainer Craig Lewis went out on an awfully long limb.
“I was shocked when I saw the size of the field,” Lewis was quoted as saying, referring to the eight 2-year-olds that would challenge his Music Merci Saturday in the Norfolk Stakes. “Personally, I wouldn’t run against Music Merci if I had a loaded gun. I guess with some people you’ve got to knock their teeth out before they believe.”
Music Merci, winner of the Del Mar Futurity and considered the West’s best 2-year-old, went off as the 1-5 favorite in the $312,900 Norfolk, but finished sixth as Hawkster won the 1 1/16-mile race by 7 lengths in front of 27,575 fans.
Shelly Meredith, the Del Mar medical electronics manufacturer who owns Hawkster, couldn’t resist gloating in the winner’s circle over the remarks. “Tell Craig Lewis that I’ve still got my teeth,” Meredith said. “I haven’t gotten rid of my toothbrush, either.”
In the Del Mar Futurity, Hawkster had trouble running in a straight line and finished fourth, 7 lengths behind Music Merci. Hawkster’s saddle slipped that day, but trainer Ron McAnally, who was at an out-of-town horse sale and didn’t see the race, said that jockey Frank Olivares didn’t use that as an excuse.
On Saturday, Pat Valenzuela became the fourth jockey to ride Hawkster as the $26,000 Silver Hawk-Strait Lane yearling ran in his fifth race. McAnally said that several prominent jockeys refused the chance to ride Hawkster before Valenzuela, who has never been riding better. The Norfolk was his second stakes victory of the week and his 17th win of the season, more than anybody at the Oak Tree meeting.
Bold Bryn, a last-minute choice to run in the race by trainer Charlie Whittingham, finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Double Quick, who was was another 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Nassau Square, the 151-1 shot, in fourth place. Then came Texian and Music Merci, who was beaten by 17 lengths.
Hawkster’s only other victory was against maidens at Del Mar in August. Not nominated to the Norfolk, Hawkster was made eligible for the race with a $10,000 supplementary payment and earned $187,l74 after being clocked in 1:43 2/5, which is 1 4/5 seconds slower than Roving Boy’s 1982 stakes’ record.
Hawkster paid $20.80, $9.60 and $7.60. Bold Bryn, ridden by Ray Sibille because Bill Shoemaker, thinking Whittingham wasn’t going to run, took a call in a stakes race at Bay Meadows, returned $11.20 and $9.60 and Double Quick, also a $10,000 supplementary starter, returned $10.
Chris McCarron didn’t have a perfect trip aboard Music Merci, but neither he nor Lewis would use that as an excuse. Music Merci, on the rail most of the way, was in a striking position, 1 1/2 lengths behind Double Quick after a half-mile and in third, less than a length behind Double Quick and Hawkster, after 6 furlongs.
Hawkster, circling on the outside, gained the lead by the top of the stretch and needed only a hand ride from Valenzuela from mid-stretch to the wire.
“I was getting bounced around a little around the first turn, but the winner took all the worst of it,” McCarron said. “My horse just didn’t fire. He just didn’t run his race.”
McAnally said that one of the reasons he and Meredith considered supplementing was that they heard rumors that Music Merci had developed a 105-degree after he won the Del Mar Futurity.
“The horse seemingly came out of this race OK,” Lewis said. “He did get bounced around a little, but I’m as surprised as anybody that we didn’t win. I’ll have to review the race before I can say anything else.”
Valenzuela, who turns 26 Monday, would like to see Hawkster run in the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5, but Meredith said that the $120,000 supplementary fee is too steep, especially with Easy Goer, the strong East Coast horse, destined to be the race’s odds-on favorite.
“I had never been on this horse before,” Valenzuela said. “Ron (McAnally) said that there was a little speed and to let them go and to come running. Hawkster is a little nervous now. Imagine what he’ll be like when he’s calm.
“He got a little washy (lathered) in the post parade. He was a little bit fresh (anxious) going into the first turn. It started getting a little tight and I got him back behind horses. He relaxed well and I asked him to pick it up at the far turn.”
McAnally couldn’t remember the last time he won a major race. “Do So, that good filly before she got hurt, did she win a Grade I?” he said. “I don’t know. It might have been John Henry.”
If that’s correct, it has been a long time. John Henry quit running in 1984.
Horse Racing Notes
Bill Shoemaker finished second at Bay Meadows aboard World Court, with Variety Road under Jack Kaenel winning the $100,000 Tanforan Handicap. Shoemaker won two other races on the card. . . . At Remington Park, Rafael Meza rode Perceive Arrogance to a second-place finish, behind Sportin Okie, in the $100,000 Midwest Derby.