Fit To Fly Wins $315,097 Texas Classic Derby

(Friday, November 29, 2002) - Saturday’s closing day program at Lone Star Park, headlined by the Grade 1 Texas Classic Futurity, the state’s first million-dollar horse race, has a tough act to follow. A crowd of 5,881 attended the North Texas racetrack Friday night and witnessed Fit To Fly post the biggest upset in the Grade 1, $315,097 Texas Classic Derby. Just two races later, champion mare Significant Speed edged two-time AQHA world champ Tailor Fit in the Grade 2, $50,000 Refrigerator Handicap to give jockey Roy Baldillez his record fifth win of the night.

Fit To Fly, a full brother to Tailor Fit, finally lived up to the high expectations of his bloodlines with a hard-fought neck victory over 9-5 favorite A Real Man in the Texas Classic Derby. Dash For Cash Derby winner First Regards was another neck back in third. The 3-year-old son of Strawfly Special out of the On A High mare Silk Skirt ran 440 yards on a fast track in :21.30, the third fastest of 10 editions of the race.

Jerry Lee Yoakum, tacking 124 pounds, rode the winner for trainer Jack Brooks, who recorded his third Grade 1 victory of the Lone Star Park meet. The legendary horsemen also trains First Regards and Dash For Cash Futurity winner Silvered Eyes.

Brooks swept both of Lone Star Park’s Grade 1 derbies for the second time. He first accomplished the feat in 1997 with champion Dashing Perfection, who still holds the :21.08 stakes and track record.

“I was really pleased with him,” Brooks said of California-bred Fit To Fly. “We thought all year that this colt would come up and run a big race. Jerry and I both thought down at Ruidoso that one of these days he’d sneak up and win a derby. Sure enough, he did.”

Fit To Fly was the second longest shot in the field of 10 at odds of 35-1 and paid $73.60 to win. It was only his third win in 18 starts. The $126,039 winner’s share of the purse boosted his earnings to $148,177 for owners Carol and William Smith of Claremore, Okla.

“This horse really has a big kick,” Brooks said. “If he can get away and find a place to run down the racetrack, he can really do some running. Sometimes, he can get into trouble and have nowhere to run. Today he had a place to run and that horse beside him (A Real Man) really made him run.”

“This horse made a big run about halfway down the racetrack,” Yoakum said. “He had another gear and just came rolling. He got away [from the starting gate] decent, but [A Real Man] had him pretty good…but he finally put it together tonight.”

Mr Mallard, Dashin For Penny, Pretty Boy Perry, High Strideing Hero, Party Man Can, Dashin Prince Henry and Gray Invasion completed the order of finish.

In the Refrigerator, Significant Speed and Tailor Fit dueled down the stretch in arguably the best race of the meet. In the end, the sometimes-skittish mare proved best with a head victory over Tailor Fit and seven other males. It was the 5-year-old’s second stakes win of the meet. Earlier she captured the 6666 Ranch Handicap after a second in the B.F. Phillips Jr. Handicap on opening night.

Significant Speed, owned by Gus Barakis’ Scarlett Hill Farm and trained by “Sleepy” Gilbreath, covered 440 yards in :21.47 and paid $5.40 to win as the favorite.

Two years ago, she won the Dash For Cash Derby at Lone Star Park during a campaign when she was crowned the 2000 champion 3-year-old filly. Overall, it was her 13th win in 31 career starts. The $28,500 winner’s share of the purse padded her bankroll to $516,345.

“This has to rank with one of the best races she’s ever run,” Barakis said. “She ran a super race this year at Ruidoso in the All American Gold Cup. I just told [Tailor Fit’s trainer] Janet Van Bebber that her old warrior ran one heck of a race tonight. I thought he put out a tremendous effort. This mare just did get by him. Both of them, I thought, kind of slipped and slipped a little early, but when they got a hold of that racetrack, they really came down there. They just wouldn’t be denied, either one of them.”

With the win, Significant Speed qualified to the $350,000 Championship at Sunland Park on Dec. 28.

For Baldillez, who carried 125 pounds aboard Significant Speed en route to victory, it was his fifth win of the night – a Fall Meeting of Champions record at Lone Star Park. Baldillez was one of seven jockeys to have recorded a four-win night (he did it three times). The record tally on Friday moved him atop the jockey standings in the track’s most competitive race for the riding title in history. Baldillez has 27 wins, followed by John Hamilton’s 26, Gilbert Ortiz’s 25 and Randy Wilson and Alvin Brossette’s 23.

“It’s not over ‘til it’s over,” Baldillez said.

Early on in the night, Bobby Cox’s Gone Celebrating was victorious in the $25,000 Texas Classic Derby Consolation for jockey Juan Vazquez and trainer John Buchanan.

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