Spectacular Bid concluded his Florida campaign with a 12-length victory in the Flamingto Stakes at Hialeah today. Despite the imposing margin, the colt's performance was his least impressive of the winter.
Jockey Ron Franklin, under scrutiny after his embarrassing ride in the Florida Derby, was pushing Spectacular Bid all the way as he ran away from seven nonentities. Yet the colt's time, 1:48 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles, hardly was one of a superhorse. It may provide a glimmer of hope for potential challengers in the Kentucky Derby six weeks from today.
Before the Flamingo, the only uncertainties concerned Franklin, who had not won a single race since the Florida Derby. On the way to the post, the cheers for Spectacular Bid were mingled with catcalls for Franklin.
But after Spectacular Bid broke cleanly, the jockey rode an adequate if not artful race. He had his mount hung out four horses wide as the field hit the first turn, but as the field straigtened away into the back streatch he was sitting just outside pacesetting Gallant Serenade.
With Franklin pumping, Spectacular Bid moved past the leader, who began to stagger after his early exertions. With Gallant Serenade dropping back and nobody else rallying, Spectacular Bid suddenly found himself eight lengths in front on the turn, and the Flamingo was over.
Under such circumstances, almost any jockey alive would have put his mount under wraps and coasted to the wire. Not franklin. He cracked the horse once early in the switch, then switched the whip to his left hand and hit him five more times. "He was just breezing," the jockey explained. "Sometimes he tends to loaf a little on the lead. So I hit him to keep his mind on running."
This is all right with trainer Bud Delp, who likes to see Spectacular Bid do to his competition what top-10 foot-ball coaches like to do to theirs. "If the horse wants to strut a litte, it's all right if Ronnie helps him," the trainer said.
The urging from Franklin did enable Spectacular Bid to add a couple superfluous lengths to his margin over runner-up Strike The Main.But Spectacular Bid still did not ruz dazzlingly fast, as he has in all his previous starts this winter. His victory was the slowest of the last four runnings of the Flamingo, and the time was not strictly the result of a slow racetrack.Half an hour earlier, a $35,000 claiming horse had covered the distance in 1:49 1/5, only four-fifths of a second slower than the nation's ranking 3-year-old.
Delp was unconcerned. "As long as the horse is good and came back good, I don't care about the time," he said.
Spectacular Bid's obvious superiority in the Flamingo field brought a number of plungers to Hialeah, eager to bet the colt to show and collect a virtually certain five cents on the dollar. They wagered $116,974 in the show pool.
The winner paid $2.10, $2.10 and $2.10 across the board, procured a $13.40 exacta payoff and a $49.20 trifecta with the second and third-place finishers, Strike The Main and Sir Ivor Again.
Spectacular Bid will leave Florida on Thursday and take his nine-race winning streak to Keeneland Rack Track in Lexington, Ky. There Delp will begin preparations for the Blue Grass Stakes on April 26, and for the Kentucky Derby May 5.