When Timely Writer lost the balloting for the 2-year-old championship last year, his trainer and owners tried to restrain themselves from protesting that an injustice had been done.
But today their horse gave an eloquent answer to the Eclipse Award voters. He ran away with the $250,000 Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah and established himself as an authentic contender for the 3-year-old classics.
Timely Writer scored a 3 1/2-length victory over New Discovery, with Le Danseur another 1 1/4 lengths back in third position, but his margin of victory does not begin to suggest the extent of his superiority. Breaking from post position 15 in a field of 16, he appeared to face an insuperable disadvantage, and he did have to lose ground on both turns. But by the time he entered the stretch, he had seized command of the race and was never threatened the rest of the way.
Although Timely Writer was the 5-to-2 favorite, there were plenty of reasons to doubt that he could run so well today. He had run in only one sprint this season to prepare him for the 1 1/8-mile test. And the post position would cause jockey Jeffrey Fell a multitude of problems.
When the gate opened, Fell couldn't let Timely Writer bide his time, as usual. Instead, he moved up into the middle of the pack and had to race four horses wide around the turn. Still, Fell said, the colt was tractable: "In the first half-mile, he relaxed well, and that was our main goal."
While Timely Writer was relaxing, speedster Tudor Demon was setting a swift pace, stalked by Victorian Line, the second choice in the wagering. As the field approached the stretch turn, various horses rushed into contention. Lejoli, the colt from Maryland, made an abortive move. Longshot Bold 'n Cold did, too, but was checked sharply and dropped out of contention.
But then Timely Writer started to accelerate around the turn and, Fell said, "I knew I had a lot of horse." As trainer Dominic Imprescia watched his horse start the move, he said, "I knew it was all over." And it was.
Timely Writer quickly opened a three-length lead, and nobody got closer. The winner covered the mile and one eighth in 1:49 3/5, time that was not especially distinguished on a track that was labeled "sloppy" but had been made very quick by the morning rains.
New Discovery and Le Danseur, who had been running 13th and 14th during the early stages of the races, passed tired horses to finish second and third. Royal Roberto, the highly regarded stretch runner, trailed the field early after breaking from the extreme outside post position, went very wide around the last turn and finished sixth.
Timely Writer paid $7.80, $5.20 and $4.20. New Discovery returned $11.20 and $7.80 and Le Danseur paid $6.80 to show.
An ill-bred colt who cost only $13,500 as a yearling, Timely Writer won $218,061 as a 2-year-old and captured the two most prestigious events for juvenile colts, the Hopeful Stakes and the Champagne Stakes. But he finished second in the Eclipse Award balloting to Deputy Minister, a rival he had trounced in their only meeting.
Francis Martin, one of two brothers from Boston who own the colt, complained, "There was a little politicking involved," but for the most part the Martins and trainer Imprescia tried to be sporting. Now they have had the last laugh. While Deputy Minister has disgraced himself in two performances this season and has been sidelined indefinitely, Timely Writer is on the road to Churchill Downs.