By John Manley
Niall O’Callaghan injected himself into the Triple Crown picture in a big way as Noble Ruler won the $100,000 Lecomte at New Orleans’ Fair Grounds to the tune of a $121.20 mutuel payoff. The three-year-old gelding had but a maiden victory to his credit from four career starts. After a slow beginning in the Lecomte, he rallied down the center of the track to nail Mighty by a neck at the finish.
"We went into this race to take a shot," said O’Callaghan, the gelding’s Cork-born and raised trainer. "I don’t think he’s what you’d call a brilliant horse. He’s just a hard knocker."
Jockey Larry Melancon noted that Noble Ruler didn’t make his job any easier in the starting gate.
"He broke bad," Melancon said. "He raised up in the gate right before it opened and he didn’t get out good."
Noble Ruler lagged the field past the stands and down the backside, before swinging into gear around the far turn. He came into the stretch seven-wide, then turned on the jets, getting to Mighty, the 8-5 favorite, just in time. The mile over a track labeled good went in a leisurely 1:39.11.
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Jim Tilton’s FSIM Racing Stable owns Noble Ruler. He was purchased as a weanling for $8,000. As the distances lengthen, the gelding’s sire line (he’s by Academy Award, a son of Secretariat) should serve him well. He broke his maiden in November at Churchill Downs.
The Deputy and his posse
Another Triple Crown threat emerged on the West Coast as The Deputy, foaled in Ireland, took the $100,000-added Santa Catalina Stakes (Grade II) by a length on Sunday. Facing five rivals, including the heavily favored Captain Steve, The Deputy (an Irish-bred) broke alertly and was allowed to take the lead by jockey Chris McCarron. Joined on the outside by High Yield entering the Santa Anita backside, The Deputy was kept under restraint by McCarron, who was awaiting Captain Steve’s challenge.
The Deputy and High Yield were still eyeing each other warily around the far turn, as it became apparent that Captain Steve didn’t have it in him. As they straightened into the lane, the leaders then sprinted for the wire, with The Deputy prevailing in an impressive effort. The winning time for a mile and a sixteenth was 1:43.04. The Deputy rewarded his backers with an $11.80 mutuel payoff.
The Deputy is owned by the partnership of Barber and Team Valor. Jenine Sahadi trains the Petardia colt. He now has three victories in seven career starts. He won his American debut three weeks ago in the Hill Rise Handicap at Santa Anita, and was winning his first race on the loam in the Santa Catalina. The Deputy’s breeder is John McEnery.
Sunshine Street’s first race under Neil Drysdale’s tutelage was a winning one, as the 5-year-old horse won an overnight purse at Santa Anita on Sunday. Sunshine Street stalked the pace, then led the field into the lane and drew off to win by two and one-half lengths. He got the 10 furlongs under Kent Desormeaux in 2:02.21. He paid $3.40 go win.
Sunshine Street races for Dubliner Pat Garvey, and spent the bulk of his career in Noel Meade’s yard. He should be a threat in grass stakes down the road.