-- Jockey Horacio Karamanos hired a new agent last Sunday and within a week Joe French had paid dividends, getting Karamanos the mount on Bending Strings, who galloped from last to first Saturday to win the Grade III $150,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup at Pimlico.
Bending Strings, trained at Belmont Park by Kiaran McLaughlin, had run in four straight Grade I stakes races in New York against far tougher 3-year-old fillies than she faced in the Safely Kept. Despite her second-place finish in the historic Test Stakes at Saratoga in July, Maryland bettors let Bending Strings go at odds of just under 4-1, third choice behind even-money favorite Smokey Glacken and Gilded Gold.
Well back at the start, Bending Strings angled off the rail on the turn, bulled her way into the clear at the top of the stretch and ran away to win by 21/4 lengths over Smokey Glacken, running six furlongs in a sharp 1 minute 10.11 seconds.
"At the quarter pole, I asked her and she had good action," Karamanos said in the winner's circle, his face caked with wet dirt. "She was full of run."
When the gate opened for the Safely Kept, Bending Strings looked badly outrun by the five other runners. Karamanos, however, in a short period of time, had done his homework on the horse.
McLaughlin remained in New York for the big race card at Belmont Park and French reached him at 9:30 a.m. to see if Karamanos could have the mount, which was listed as "open" in the racing program. Given the go-ahead, the agent turned around and called his new rider, who had just finished galloping horses at the Bowie Training Center.
Karamanos, a powerfully built 31-year-old rider from Buenos Aires, went to Pimlico, got on an Internet race replay Web site and watched Bending Strings's prior four races.
"Two races ago, she finished second with Pat Day, but she had trouble," Karamanos said, referring to the Test Stakes in which Bending Strings closed from 12th place to finish second. When Karamanos received a phone call a few hours before the race to discuss tactics -- he said he didn't know if it was McLaughlin or an assistant on the line -- he was told to take the horse back and make one run.
Coming off the turn, Smokey Glacken, who fought off challenges early, clung to a short lead and began drifting out. Bending Strings, meantime, had gathered momentum, swinging off the rail and looking for a seam to run through in the center of the track. Jockey Ryan Fogelsonger briefly attempted to hem Bending Strings in with Gilded Gold, but his horse was tired.
Also, Karamanos wanted to make an impression on a big-time New York trainer. "He got the best rider here," he said.
Racing Notes: Pimlico-based Abbondanza ran one-fifth of a second off the track record in a wire-to-wire victory in the $100,000 Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park. Trained by Tim Tullock and ridden by Eibar Coa, Abbondanza ran the six-furlong race in 1:08.
Top 3-year-old filly Ashado tuned up for the Breeders' Cup with a victory in the $250,000 Cotillion Handicap, running the 11/16-mile race in 1:413/5. . . .
Light Jig, a 4-year-old filly trained by Bobby Frankel, surged off the turn to easily win the Grade I $500,000 Yellow Ribbon at Santa Anita. Light Jig, ridden by Rene Douglas, won the 11/4-mile turf race in a time of 1:59.28.