Horses from Europe completed their sweep of Laurel's "International Turf Festival" yesterday, winning both $250,000 stakes for 2-year-olds.
Minstrel's Lassie led a one-two-three finish by French fillies in the Selima Stakes. Antigua, a colt from France, closed powerfully to beat 13 rivals in the Laurel Futurity.
Unlike Saturday's Washington, D.C. International, which was won by West Germany's Le Glorieux, these stakes were not meaningful U.S.-vs.-Europe confrontations. Because the Selima and the Futurity were contested on the turf for the first time, and good American 2-year-olds are rarely asked to run on the turf, the home forces were a weak group. There was not even a Grade III stakes horse among them.
The French didn't send their top juveniles to Laurel -- but they didn't have to. Their victories were classic examples of the European style of training and riding.
The three fillies in the Selima -- Minstrel's Lassie, Seattle Sangue and Miss Boniface -- had all run creditably against top 2-year-old males in France, and figured to dominate their five U.S. rivals. But when the gate opened, all three of their jockeys put their mounts under snug holds, and the three of them were in the rear of the field on the backstretch. The European game is accelerating in the stretch.
Seattle Sangue, the favorite, moved with authority to take the lead as she turned for home, and looked like a winner. But Minstrel's Lassie made her move from far back -- she had been last early -- and overhauled the leader to win by three-quarters of a length, even though jockey Freddie Head dropped his whip.
The winner paid $9.20, and Francophiles, who boxed the three foreign horses in the triple, collected $114.30 for $3.
Winning trainer Francois Boutin was escorted to the press box, and gave a classic display of continental reserve. If this had been an American horse winning a Grade I stake, the trainer would have been gushing about his prospects in next year's classics. But when Boutin was asked about the future of Minstrel's Lassie, he declared, "She will not go farther than a mile."
When it was pointed out that she had just closed powerfully to win at 1 1/16 miles, Boutin was unswayed. On European courses, he said, his filly is a miler at best.
None of the colts in the Futurity had stakes credentials comparable to those of the Selima fillies. Antigua hadn't even been able to win a maiden race in France, and had to go to West Germany to win a stakes. His winning time of 1:46 was two-fifths of a second slower than that of Minstrel's Lassie.
Jockey Cash Asmussen put Antigua under stout restraint in the early stages of the Futurity. Even though the leader, Kohen Witha K., was setting a slow pace -- a half-mile in :48 4/5 -- Asmussen still had a stranglehold on his mount. But when he turned Antigua loose in the stretch, he accelerated powerfully. In about a dozen strides he surged from fourth place to take command, and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Mister Modesty. He paid $10.20.
The only good news for the United States from the two races was that the country's balance of payments wasn't hurt by the results. Minstrel's Lassie is owned by Allen Paulson and Antigua is owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt -- both Americans who maintain racing stables on each side of the Atlantic.
In New York, Betty Lobelia, ridden by Ruben Hernandez, won the $75,000-added Miss Grillo Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the turf over Dangerous Type. Last Cause was third. Betty Lobelia ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:55.