Sunday, May 20, 2018
Sports

St. Pete Beach couple places Kid Cruz in Preakness

If Kid Cruz gets his nose to the finish line first today in the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, the snapshot will be etched forever in the minds of majority owners Steven Brandt and Rick Boylan of St. Pete Beach.

Then Brandt will reach into his pocket and pull out a keepsake that is so dear to his heart: a brochure with a photo of his mother, Shirley Brandt. She died Jan. 30 from pulmonary fibrosis at age 77.

"Rick made a pamphlet for her funeral service, and it has a nice picture of her," Brandt said. "In January when I told her about (Kid Cruz), she said, 'This is the big one. You're going to get in this Triple Crown, and you're going to win.'

"Maybe she's out there helping this horse, helping us. It's just that amazing prediction with this horse, and then she died."

Kid Cruz will be taking a major step up in class under jockey Julian Pimentel. Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome has been the focus at Old Hilltop, and the field includes Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend, who missed the Run for the Roses two weeks ago with an illness.

"I think California Chrome is a great horse," Brandt said. "I'm not a believer, though. He ran a great race (in the Kentucky Derby), and he got really lucky and had no trouble at all. The speed didn't materialize in the Derby. There's no way that's going to happen at the Preakness."

Brandt carried his mother's program when Kid Cruz gave him his first career stakes victory, a surreal last-to-first win in the $100,000 Private Terms on March 8 at Laurel Park (Md.), and again when the Kentucky-bred captured the $100,000 Federico Tesio on April 19 at Pimlico.

In the Private Terms, Laurel Park track announcer Dave Rodman estimated the late-running Kid Cruz was 25 lengths behind the leader on the backstretch.

"It still gives me chills to this day, because he dropped 20 to 25 lengths behind, and he just comes flying," Brandt said. "I thought, 'Mom, you were right with this horse.' "

Brandt, 56, and Boylan, 57, were married in 2010 in Washington, D.C., and run their horses under the banner of Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds, named after a St. Pete Beach island. They bought Kid Cruz for $50,000 in his second start as a maiden Nov. 22, a win at Aqueduct Racetrack in Jamaica, N.Y., where he made his first three starts. The race was a claiming race, where all the horses are for sale at a stipulated price. Original owner Black Swan Stable purchased Kid Cruz for $80,000 at the 2012 Keene­land yearling sale in Lexington, Ky., and made two offers to buy the colt back privately after the claim. Finally, Brandt and Boylan agreed to give Black Swan Stable an undisclosed minority interest.

This will be the first Triple Crown race for Brandt and Boylan. Plans to run Kid Cruz in the Kentucky Derby were squashed when a sore shoulder led to the 3-year-old being withdrawn from the Wood Memorial on April 5 at Aqueduct. He has three wins from five starts and $161,375 in earnings. The colt is named after New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.

Lemon Drop Kid, the sire to Kid Cruz, is partly responsible for the Triple Crown drought being at 36 years. He upset Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic in the 1999 Belmont Stakes at 29-1 odds. Kid Cruz was the second foal dropped by the unraced Tale of the Cat mare Layreebelle

Kid Cruz has another connection to Tampa Bay. His trainer is Linda Rice, whose father, Clyde Rice, has raced horses at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar and operates Indian Prairie Ranch, a thoroughbred training center in Anthony, near Ocala. Her uncle is the late Don Rice, an eight-time training champion at the Downs.

Rice, 50, is bidding to become the first female conditioner to win the 1 3/16th-mile race. Kid Cruz is her first Preakness starter and second in the Triple Crown series (Supervisor ran fifth in the 2003 Belmont Stakes).

"(Kid Cruz) doesn't have the speed figures that some of the other horses have run at this point," Rice said, "but I think he is headed in the right direction.

"If they do set up a fast pace in front of him, it should improve his chances. He's already won over the course. That's helpful. (Coming from behind) is his style, (and) they're a lot of fun. Of course, sometimes they're victims to a slow pace, and we're hoping to have a fast pace to run into in Maryland."

Brandt, a native of Frederick, Md., has owned about 30 horses, but hasn't raced at the Downs recently. He retired from Verizon after 27 years and does independent contracting. His itch for thoroughbreds began in earnest three decades ago while volunteering at Bowie Race Track, now a training center in Maryland.

Boylan has worked in politics for more than 20 years. The native of Bozeman, Mont., does consulting with the Democratic National Committee. Two weeks ago, Boylan worked on rules for the 2016 delegate selection process in Washington, D.C.

"(Horse racing) is really Steven's passion and has been for as long as I have known him," Boylan said. "He has been with me all of these years while I have followed my passion of being involved in politics. So I have this new journey that is Steven's passion."

Brandt relishes a shot at history.

"I've watched horse racing since I was 12," he said. "I've never known what it feels like to be at this level or to have a horse run in a race like this. If we do beat California Chrome, I would feel sorry for the connections. But that's what happens in horse racing. On any given day, the best horse doesn't always win."

   
Comments
Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

Rays hang on to beat Angels 5-3 behind Robertson slam, get back to .500

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Playing .500 ball is obviously no goal, and the Rays certainly know that.But given where they came from, that terrible 1-8 start that oozed into 3-12 and 4-13, climbing back to the respectability of .500 would be an accomplish...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

Rays journal: New pitching plan worked so well Romo starts again Sunday

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The first part of the Rays' new and unusual pitching plan worked so well Saturday, as game "opener" RHP Sergio Romo struck out the first three Angels hitters, that the Rays will do it again on Sunday.That's right. Romo will st...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay withstood Washington’s barrage

TAMPA — A two-goal lead was suddenly only one, and the Washington Capitals, having pulled their goalie, had a furious 96-second siege.Andrei Vasilevskiy made the last three of his 28 saves to preserve the Lightning's 3-2 victory Saturday in Gam...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

Lightning-Capitals: How Tampa Bay’s early surges carried the day

TAMPA — Dan Girardi knew where the puck was heading. It was heading to Alex Ovechkin for a one-timer on net, so Girardi did the only thing he could do. He blocked it.With his rump."It hit me right in the cheek," said Girardi, the Lightning defe...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 3-2 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Faster than Justify down the stretch at the Preakness, quicker than Harry and Meghan walked down the aisle at Windsor Castle, the Lightning jumped on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. No runaway gallop. No funny hats. Just ho...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

Lightning-Capitals: How Ryan Callahan and his linemates overwhelmed the Caps

TAMPA — They're called grinders. Pluggers. Checkers.They're lunch-pail guys. Like 9-to-5ers. They get up every day and go to work. They punch in and punch out for no glory or credit. But the business would fall apart without them.They're the fo...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Justify wins foggy Preakness, keeps Triple Crown bid alive

Justify wins foggy Preakness, keeps Triple Crown bid alive

BALTIMORE — Justify rounded the final turn and hit the top of the stretch winded but with the lead. The roar from the crowd was delayed, hushed by the thick fog that enveloped the track. When Justify emerged from the haze in view of the grandstand, t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

Lightning-Capitals: Quick strike, but not the quickest ever

TAMPA — Cedric Paquette needed only 19 seconds to put the Lightning on the scoreboard Saturday night, coming up with the second-fastest playoff goal in franchise history.The only goal faster? Tampa Bay's Adam Hall needed only 13 seconds to scor...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Rowdies tie in debut of new coach Neill Collins

St. PETERSBURG — Neill Collins, the former Rowdies defender who this week abruptly replaced Stuart Campbell as coach of the team, was a bit ambivalent about his debut, but he sure liked the way his club played in the second half of Saturda...
Updated: 6 hours ago
USF softball team’s season ends in Gainesville

USF softball team’s season ends in Gainesville

The USF softball team's season ended late Saturday in the Gainesville Regional with a 3-2 loss to Ohio State, its second NCAA Tournament loss to the Buckeyes in as many days.OSU (36-15) must defeat No. 2 overall national seed Florida (52-8) twice Sun...
Updated: 6 hours ago