Even Stephens seemed mildly surprised, despite his prerace cockiness. "I was just going to put him in and see what happened," he said. Woody will find out IOW good his horse really is on April 18 in the Wood Memorial, when he faces Capote and Gulch again, this time going in eighth of a mile farther.
That was the distance of the Florida Derby, where the favorite also came up short. Bet Twice, the 3-5 choice off his win in the Fountain of Youth two weeks earlier, got boxed at the top of the stretch, and that turned the race in to a stirring three-horse scrap among Cryptoclearance, No More Flowers and Talinum (another member of Lukas's deep stable). Cryptoclearance, who had von the Everglades on Feb. 7 and run second to Talinum in the Flamingo on Feb. 28, came out of the 9 hole in the Florida Derby, ran wide the entire race and won by a head.
But his victory was more impressive than that narrow margin would indicate, because, in effect, he ran farther than the competition. Cryptoclearance was six horses wide on the second turn and eight wide at the head of the stretch, where he began to move on the leaders, No More Flowers and Talinum. The three colts battled to the wire, their jockeys whipping furiously, but it was Cryptoclearance, with Jose Santos in the irons, who was a step ahead at the finish.
Afterward, trainer Scotty Schulhofer said he thought Cryptoclearance would thrive on the 1¼-mile Kentucky Derby distance. "I think the longer they go, the better he'll like it," he said. Cryptoclearance will not race again until the Derby, because Schulhofer wants to be sure his horse is fresh for the big one. "He's like a kid learning to play baseball," he said. "You start him, say, in T-ball, and then he keeps moving up. Right now, he's beginning to play high school ball, and I hope by Derby time he might think about going to college."
Schulhofer has never had a Derby-caliber horse before. In fact, he has never even been to Louisville. "I'll have to show him around," says owner Phil Teinowitz, who bought the Fappiano colt for $190,000.
Nobody will have to show trainer Charlie Whittingham around Louisville. He owned that town last year, when he won his first Derby, with Ferdinand and Bill Shoemaker. Whittingham will revisit Churchill Downs this year with Temperate Sil and the Shoe, the decisive winners of the Santa Anita Derby, the last leg of Saturday's trilogy.
The Santa Anita was yet another upset. Masterful Advocate, the star of California racing this year, went off as the 2-5 favorite but was bumped at the start, failed to fire and finished second by 5½ lengths to the son of 1980 Belmont Stakes winner Temperence Hill. Shoemaker rode Temperate Sil in masterly fashion, laying just off the leader, Lookinforthebigone (yes, another Lukas colt), until the final turn. Sil went to the lead in the stretch and never looked back, winning in a sedate 1:49 on the fast track. "The press said he was a sprinter," the 73-year-old Whittingham said after winning his first Santa Anita Derby. "At least he can sprint a mile and an eighth. Now we'll see if he can sprint a mile and a quarter."
Temperate Sil will not race again before heading for Churchill Downs. "I'll do as I did with Ferdinand," said Whittingham. "I'll rest him until we go to Kentucky. He's had a few tough races, and he could use some time off. There's no use sending him to Louisville early. There's no use for anyone to get to a city early that's visited by two million and built for twenty thousand."
Masterful Advocate will probably race again, however. The $5,500 bargain-basement colt may make his next start in the Blue Grass Stakes in Lexington on April 23, then move on to Louisville. "We all expected Masterful Advocate to run better," said co-owner Dave Leveton after Saturday's race. "But our plans haven't changed much."
As for Temperate Sil, his primary owners are Lewis Figone and Richard Granzella, who both run garbage-collection companies in the Bay Area. Although he now owns his refuse business, Figone says he had to work his way up through the ranks, as it were. "I carried garbage for 12 years, and I still have the aches and pains to show for it," he said.