Distinctive Pro ran away from a field of the biggest-name 3-year-olds in America today. But his 4 1/2-length victory at Hialeah didn't necessarily have much bearing on next week's Flamingo Stakes or the Triple Crown races.
Possibly the most brilliant sprinter of his generation, Distinctive Pro was playing his own game in today's seven-furlong race. But his principal rivals, D'Accord and Timely Writer, both were using this allowance race as a tuneup for more important challenges to come. They finished second and sixth, respectively, and the trainers of both colts had to be satisfied with what they accomplished.
In fact, the only horse who was discredited today was last season's 2-year-old champion, Deputy Minister. Bandaged and sweaty, he faded to finish last in the nine-horse field.
If ever a race seemed made to order for one horse, this race was made for Distinctive Pro. A colt capable of a sub-22-second quarter- mile, he found a field devoid of other speed horses.
With jockey Jorge Velasquez rating him, he was able to coast through the first quarter in 23 2/5 and led by more than a length. After that, Velasquez said, "I knew they'd have trouble catching me." In fact, it would have been almost inconceivable that they could have caught him.
Distinctive Pro reached the half mile in a slow 46 seconds, with Deputy Minister stalking him. Then he started to accelerate and drew steadily away from the field, covering the seven furlongs in 1:22 1/5 and returning $4.60 to win. Deputy Minister collapsed as soon as the leader began to run in earnest. D'Accord, who had been within striking distance all the way, moved up on the rail to be second but never remotely threatened the winner.
"I was very satisfied with his effort," said D'Accord's jockey, Darrel McHargue. "I know what he has in him. Today we had to play the sprinter's game. The game is different when you have to go a mile and one eighth."
While McHargue was at least expending a bit of effort, jockey Jeffrey Fell's ride aboard Timely Writer was a classic prep. He made no effort to keep the stretch runner in contention early, and steered him five wide around the turn. In the stretch he finished under his own power to be sixth. The performance was a bit ambiguous, but he figures to run much better in the Flamingo on March 6.
There was nothing ambigious about Deputy Minister's dismal race, however. The colt had suffered an injury when he ran here three weeks ago, but trainer John Tammaro rushed him back into training in an ill-advised effort to get him ready for the Flamingo. The chances now seem remote that the colt will make any of the classic races.
The same can probably be said for his conqueror today. Even though he never has tried to run a distance, Distinctive Pro's pedigree, training and running style suggest he is a sprinter.