Palm Beach recap: Out in Style

- -

WELLINGTON, Fla. – Halfway through the $75,000 Palm Beach Stakes, trainer Tom Voss is just another guy at the races. He’s standing behind a woman in an orange-white-and-brown Thanksgiving dress, he’s taking six drags on a cigarette, he’s watching, he’s leaning on a fence (one foot on the lower rail).

And then he gives three “come on, girl” encouragements, snuffs out the cigarette and watches with pride as Guelph rolls home with a championship-clinching win in the final start of her career.

“It’s a big sigh of relief, this is,” said Voss. “They overcome you, these kind. They overcome all the things you do and they’re still good.”

The Fields Stable’s Guelph came into the race needing to win or finish second to clinch the NSA filly/mare championship. Facing males for the first time since finishing fifth in the A.P. Smithwick this summer, Guelph (Padge Whelan) scooted around the tight course – using her superb jumping and quick gallop – to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 3:39 for the 2 1/4 miles. Dr. Bloomer (Robbie Walsh) tested the winner with a circuit remaining and again on the backside but was no match while finishing second. Baby League (Danielle Hodsdon) finished third with the race’s only other starter, Orison, losing Matt McCarron at the second-last.

Guelph zoomed past Class Shadow in the filly/mare standings, won for the fourth time this year and went out a champion as Voss and owners Betty Merck, Laddie Merck and Mimi Voss announced the 7-year-old’s retirement.

“You try to ride the same whether it’s a maiden claimer or a horse like her,” said Whelan. “You go out and try to do your best. That’s all you can do, but she gave me such a great spin it’s just a case of steering her around. She did all the work. What a joy to ride.”

Guelph thrives on heart and determination, which more than make up for her small size and withers injury (sustained in 2006).

“She’s really, really tough, she jumps great, she’s not overly big as everyone knows but she’s got a huge heart,” said Whelan. “It’s a great feeling.”

• Trainer Dave Washer gave Matt McCarron a leg up on Roseland for the Palm Beach opener, a $25,000 filly/mare maiden hurdle, and provided specific instructions.

“You know, if you don’t screw this one up we’re undefeated for the year,” Washer said. He was laughing at the time, but McCarron heeded the warning and guided Roseland to a 1 1/4-length victory to improve the trainer/jockey combination to a perfect 3-for-3. Washer and McCarron won a pair with Junood way back in the spring, and repeated the tally on the season’s final day.

Roseland found a spot near the back of the five-horse field as Complete Ray set the pace. Racing greenly and bearing left on the right-handed course, Complete Ray took the field through nine fences but began to yield on the backside. Moon Dolly (Whelan) took over coming to the stretch, but Roseland cut the corner and quickened to the last. She drew off late to win in 3:46 2/5 for the 2 1/4 miles with Moon Dolly second and Class Tie (Xavier Aizpuru) third.

Owned by Daniel Geitner, Roseland came into the race off two thirds in three NSA starts and had run once this fall, a seventh against open company at Virginia Fall.

“I thought she’d be in front and maybe stop but on this course everybody wanted to be in front,” said Washer. “She really sprinted from the last fence. That was good, she’s all right. I came down here because I wanted to run in the claimer at Camden but they didn’t use it. That’s a good maiden race to win so it was worth coming.”

McCarron loved winning for Washer, a former jockey (he won the Colonial Cup on Cafe Prince in 1975) with a small stable based in Camden, S.C.

“Winning for him means more to me than the $25,000 purse,” said the jockey. “I dropped back to fourth so I thought my chances were compromised but she jumped so well that she kept herself in it. We went around the last turn and she still had something there. If you stay down on the inside you can save a lot of ground, but trying to hold the inside you lose a lot of your momentum too. I let my horse drift and that kept her momentum.”

• Winless in six starts over jumps this year, Arcadia Stable’s Seeking No More headed south to Florida looking for that elusive maiden-breaker.

And took care of business like Tim Tebow.

Fourth early, Seeking No More (Aizpuru) cruised into third behind Plum Brush (Walsh) and Coupe De Ville (Paddy Young) with a circuit remaining and simply waited. Couple De Ville took over on the backside and Seeking No More drafted into second, before powering away late with 1-length win in 3:41. Coupe De Ville stayed for second with Class Deputy (Richard Boucher) third.

A 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, the winner came into the race with two seconds and two thirds but put it all together on the sharp Palm Beach course.

“He’s a sports car and  you need a Lamborghini for this course where the other one I had in there (Commodore Bob) is a Rolls Royce and he can’t handle these turns,” said trainer Jack Fisher. “I don’t think he’s quite a Lamborghini, but maybe he’s (an Alfa Romeo) Spider.”

Sporty or not, Seeking No More finally broke through to the land of winners – even if rival Coupe De Ville (they ran against each other three times) didn’t.

“They had a good battle at Kentucky Downs, but then another horse came and got both of them,” said Aizpuru. “Coupe De Ville was in a good position and going comfortably so I was going to follow him for as long as I could. He was my main concern toward the end. My horse jumped the second-last and the last fantastic and once he jumped the last, in three strides I was pretty sure he’d get there.”

• Forgive Doug Fout for sounding like a desperate man as Torino Luge charged down the stretch of the $30,000 optional claimer at Palm Beach. It’s been a long year.

“We’ve had such an up and down year,” he said. “One minute you think it’s going good and the next minute it’s going bad.”

Torino Luge has no such problem. It’s going great. Two weeks after winning his American debut in a training flat race at Camden, the Australian import added a hurdle win. Owned by Calvin Houghland, Torino Luge (Young) pressed the pace throughout and seemed to be holding off Dreadnaught when the latter fell at the last. Torino Luge sprinted home to win by 5 1/4 lengths in 3:39 2/5. Prep School (McCarron) inherited second with Fogcutter (Whelan) third.

Bought through Fout’s agent Kevin Myers, the winner joined the barn in October after winning once over hurdles and three times on the flat in Australia. Fout likes what he sees so far.

“I think this is going to be a good horse, he does everything the right way,” said the trainer. “He’s only 15.3 (hands) but you get on him and he feels like a big horse – he’s got a huge stride.”

The win gave Fout 12 wins (fifth in the standings) from 107 starts (second highest) on the year.

• When Good Night Shirt won the Colonial Cup, he became the first horse to win five races in an NSA season since Regal Again won six in 2004. At Palm Beach, Slip Away joined the champion with five wins in 2008.

Slip Away (Whelan) faced five in the $25,000 starter allowance hurdle and let chief rival Cradle Will Rock (Hodsdon) set the pace. The winner advanced from third to second on the backside, moved alongside at the second-last fence and sped off to win by 1-length in 3:35 2/5. Cradle Will Rock hung on for second with Major Malibu (Willie Dowling) third.

“It’s a great achievement, really,” said Whelan of the five-pack. “He’s a lovely horse and it’s nice to see him do it considering he lost his form halfway through the year. He’s flying again.”

Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, the 5-year-old started his season with a win at High Hope before losing twice at Saratoga. Voss dropped him into a $10,000 conditioned claimer at Foxfield where he finished second to Cradle Will Rock, who subsequently won the Appleton only to be disqualified. Slip Away returned with easy wins at Morven Park (claimer), Aiken (claimer) and the Colonial Cup (starter allowance).