Alfano, Rocco fast out of Pimlico gate


Ron Alfano had one saved for a sloppy day. Joe Rocco had five.

Risk It, trained by Alfano and ridden by Rocco, sped to victory in the $60,000 Mister Diz Stakes over a super-saturated Pimlico Race Course oval yesterday.

The 3-year-old colt carried Rocco to his fourth of five victories on the program, which opened the 80-day Pimlico spring meet.

The total was a career best on one program for Rocco, one of Maryland's top riders since he moved to the state a little more than two years ago. "I've won six in a day before, but that was on two programs [riding day and night]," he said.

Success has been elusive recently for Alfano. Not long ago, he was one of the top trainers on the Maryland circuit. But his stable slipped from dominance, and Alfano wasn't even in the top 10 at the Laurel Race Course meet that ended Tuesday.

The last stakes event won by an Alfano runner was by Ringing in a Maryland Million race in September 1987. "Long time," said Alfano, who saddled one other winner on the program.

Horses showing speed on the outside, including Risk It, ruled the day. By the eighth race, jockey Andrea Seefeldt was well aware of that.

"That's why I stayed out there," Seefeldt said after winning aboard Nothing Bad, who broke from an outside post, then drew off in the turn with a sweeping move.

After winning in a remarkably similar fashion on Risk It, Rocco said, "I stayed outside all day."

Risk It won for just the second time in eight starts. He was farthest outside in a group of four front-runners early in the Mister Diz. As he steadily drew off, his pursuers tired, and several others began to rally. Smart Alec finished strongest, getting to within a half-length at the wire.

The winning six-furlong time of 1 minute, 13 1/5 seconds was over four seconds off the track mark (1:09). Rocco said that although the track was simply "too wet" and Seefeldt called it "so slow," both said there apparently was nothing inherently wrong with the surface.

"There's guys out there digging little ditches to help the water drain off," said Rocco. "But when all that water hits a horse in the face, they shy away and tend to lose their action."

The weather affected not only the racing surface, but the wagering handle, too. With only $1,264,217 bet, the handle was down 21 percent from last year's opener when the weather was sunny and the temperature 78 degrees.

NOTES: A field of eight to 10 is taking shape for Sunday's $175,000 Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. Racing secretary Larry Abbundi said King Mutesa, an easy winner of an allowance race at Aqueduct in his latest, is a likely Tesio shipper. The Baldksi colt, trained by Frank Alexander, figures to be second choice in the wagering to Haymaker. . . . Pimlico will simulcast two races from Gulfstream Park tomorrow: The $500,000 Florida Derby and $75,000 Deputy Minister Stakes. The seven-furlong Deputy Minister was added to the program when Unbridled and Housebuster were among 12 entered. Fly So Free is the heavy favorite in the Florida Derby. Seven will face him. . . . Delaware Park in Stanton, Del., opens its 150-day meeting tomorrow. Racing will be conducted on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays in March, with Mondays added in April and Friday twilight programs added in May. . . . A vote in the Senate Finance Committee on the twilight racing bill is expected next week. The bill met opposition at a hearing in Annapolis yesterday from a citizens' group representing the Pimlico neighborhood.

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