Fans were treated to sparkling performances from a pair of promising juveniles on Saturday as Tampa Bay Downs opened its 87th season.
A crowd of 5,226, a 7.3 percent increase from the 2011 opener, enjoyed the action on a warm, sunny afternoon. The 10-race Lambholm South Cotillion Festival Day card was devoted entirely to 2-year-olds.
Purple Egg, a Kentucky-bred trained by Jane Cibelli, won the 28th running of the $75,000, six-furlong Inaugural Stakes in 1:09.93, shattering the former stakes mark of 1:10.89 set by Dream of Angels in 2007.
Three races later, Cor Cor staved off belated challenges from Vitameta and R Free Roll to win the 34th edition of the $75,000 Sandpiper Stakes by a half-length in 1:10.02, .31 seconds faster than Misty Rosette’s 2006 mark, for owners Steve Ballou, Harriet Waldron, Bob Ross and Ron Ballou and trainer Joan Scott.
Purple Egg, who was ridden by Roberto Alvarado, Jr., is 3-for-3 following his first stakes victory. The son of Lion Heart-Luminous Prize, by Prized, rallied through the stretch to defeat pacesetter and 1-2 favorite Brave Dave by a length.
Purple Egg, who paid $6.40 as the second wagering choice in the six-horse field, is owned by Goodwood Racing II, LLC.
Cibelli said Purple Egg will be pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 2, likely with another race in between. The Davis is at a mile-and-a-sixteenth.
“This is really going to be a two-turn horse, I believe,” Cibelli said. “Today was a very impressive performance – 1:09 on this racetrack – and I think he is the real deal.”
Purple Egg won drawing away even though Brave Dave, the winner of the Grade 3 Sapling at Monmouth in September, was allowed to set uncontested fractions of 23.07 seconds for the quarter-mile and 45.77 for the half.
“I was very nervous because I know how fast Brave Dave is,” said Cibelli. “Plus, (Purple Egg) was stuck wide on the turn, so it was a very impressive performance.”
Alvarado was equally impressed. “He broke nicely and relaxed right away, but he wanted to go after them getting to the turn,” Alvarado said. “He was pretty much on his own through the turn, but when I asked him for run entering the stretch he really reacted.
“He has a push-button gear that was really impressive. I would love to ride him back, anywhere, any time,” Alvarado said.
Purple Egg, who won his first two races at Monmouth and Parx Racing, was scratched from his first two scheduled races at Monmouth after unseating his jockey both times in the post parade. At that point, the decision was made to geld him.
“He scratched himself those two times, and we ended up gelding him because of that,” Cibelli said. “We knew he was very talented and didn’t want to geld him, but he wasn’t going to make it the way he was going.”
The victory increased Purple Egg’s lifetime earnings to $110,400. He was a $22,000 purchase at Keeneland as a yearling.
Cor Cor, the Sandpiper winner, also was a bargain at $42,000 in Ocala as a 2-year-old in June.
The daughter of Smoke Glacken-Babe’s Flair, by Capote, was picked out by Ballou’s 13-year-old daughter, Danielle, and named after his 16-year-old daughter Corri. Bloodstock agent Marette Farrell approved of Danielle’s choice and Cor Cor was sent to Scott, who saddled her for her first win in her first outing at Keeneland on Oct. 11.
After quick fractions of 21.95 for the quarter-mile and 44.40 for the half under winning jockey Scott Spieth, Scott was concerned about Cor Cor’s staying power. “I was a little worried she might be caught, but she hung on and I’m delighted,” Scott said. “She’s a rocket. You know she is going to do her thing out of the gate, so there is nothing you can do about it. She kept digging in through the stretch.”
Spieth came away visibly impressed after Cor Cor’s triumph. As the favorite, she paid $5.
“She could be any kind of good,” Spieth said. “She is so fast getting out of the gate and wants to run, not crazy fast but kind of controlled fast. I had to take ahold of her in the turn when she was wanting to change leads, but she settled again and I knew she would have another run when I asked. When they came to her late, I didn’t have to do much – she wasn’t going to let them by.”
–Tampa Bay Downs Publicity contributed to this report.
Purple Egg/Tom Cooley photo