Two weeks ago, a colt named Papal Power dazzled the sparse crowd at Pimlico as he won a maiden race by a dozen lengths. Today he proved his brilliance to the whole racing world.
He ran away with the historic Hopeful Stakes and established himself -- for the time being, at least -- as the best 2-year-old in the United States. In the process, he spoiled the Cinderella story of the ill-bred Hilco Scamper, who had won five straight races until Papal Power ran him into the ground.
Hilco Scamper had displayed breathtaking speed in those races. He had run the first half-mile of a Hollywood Park stake in an unbelievable 43 3/5 seconds. So almost everybody at Saratoga figured he would open a big early lead. The only doubts about him were his ability to handle the sloppy track and the Hopeful's 6 1/2-furlong distance.
But when the gate opened, Papal Power outbroke this speedball. Hilco Scamper quickly gained the lead, but he wasn't shaking clear. Papal Power stayed within a length and drew abreast on the turn.
Hilco Scamper began to weaken, and Papal Power accelerated to a commanding lead as he turned for home. He drew away to a five-length victory over Danny's Keys, as Bullet Blade rallied to finish third. Hilco Scamper was seventh and Sovereign Don, the winner of three straight stakes races, was eighth. The winner covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:18 2/5.
Papal Power paid $16 to win. This probably is the last time for quite a while that bettors will ignore him. In a season in which the only impressive 2-year-olds have been fillies, he is a standout among the colts.
Stabled at Delaware Park and trained by Charlie Peoples, Papal Power made his racing debut at Pimlico on Aug. 1 and finished second. But he came back later in the meeting to beat virtually the same bunch of horses by 12 1/2 lengths, running the six furlongs in 1:10 2/5.
But neither Peoples nor owner Bayard Sharp was certain what they had -- until today.
"I had no idea about anything on this horse," Sharp said. "He (Peoples) kept him hidden from me all this time. I'm sure glad I found out about him this way."