A mixed bag of winning favorites, upsets by long shots, Cinderella stories and a disqualification of a Bob Meyerhoff-owned horse marked the second running of Maryland's Spring Breeders' Challenge undercard.
Offspring of Cecil County stallion Two Punch, who dominated the first running a year ago with three wins in the five stakes, once again starred on the program.
"[The late] Bernie Bond used to say: 'Never buy a horse with four white feet,' " said trainer Graham Motion.
But that's exactly what he did two years ago for owners Gertrude and Skip Leviton. Motion's dad, bloodstock agent, Michael Motion, "spotted a yearling that caught his eye and suggested that I buy him," Leviton said. "I did for $15,000."
The horse turned out to be Gala Knockout, a son of Two Punch, who defeated his stablemate, Star Trace, by a half-length yesterday in the $60,000 Star De Naskra Stakes.
Another Two Punch offspring, 4-year-old filly Calipha, who had won her first stakes on the card last year, scored another impressive victory, winning the Geisha Handicap by 8 1/2 lengths. "She's better than she was last year," said trainer Bud Delp. The Nancy Bayard homebred will be pointed for the $200,000 Pimlico Distaff on Preakness Day. Delp said Kent Desormeaux indicated "he'd like to ride her in that race, even if he doesn't have a mount in the Preakness."
Long shots scored upsets in the Jennings Handicap and Caesar's Wish Stakes.
Tidal Surge challenged perpetual front-runner Ameri Valay for the lead in the Jennings and outgamed him by a neck under a heady ride by Jeff Carle. But Ameri Valay was impressive. He carried 10 more pounds than Tidal Surge and fought back to the wire. Joanne Hughes' Mary's Buckaroo showed he belonged in stakes company, finishing third. He missed the $60,000 first-prize money in a photo finish. Lloyd Brauninger, owner of Tidal Surge, is from Youngstown, Ohio. He also owns a string of 48 Arabian racehorses.
Owners Frank and Ginny Wright called their trainer, Robin Graham, yesterday morning and suggested she scratch their filly, Blue Sky Princess, from the Caesar's Wish Stakes.
"We thought she'd be outclassed," said Ginny Wright.
Meyerhoff's Special Broad was disqualified from first after lugging in and bumping third-place finisher Norstep, Bill Harris' filly who seems to always encounter some kind of trouble. That moved the Wrights' horse to first. It was Graham's first stakes winner.
The disqualification marked Meyerhoff's second on a Spring Breeders' card. Last year his Looming finished second in the Federico Tesio Stakes, but was placed out of the money after interfering with another horse.
Andrea Seefeldt, Meyerhoff's former stable jockey, attended the races yesterday and said she's taking a year's sabbatical from race riding. Seefeldt is turning some of Maryland's gamest old race geldings -- My Boy Arthur and Flyin' Norman -- as well as Isn't That Special -- into show hunters.