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Sir Bear Springs Upset in Met Mile

May 29, 1999

NEW YORK (AP) _ Last fall, Sir Bear gave 62-year-old trainer Ralph Ziadie his first Grade I victory when he upset Coronado’s Quest to win the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct.

Saturday, the 6-year-old gelding returned to New York and, overlooked at 6-1, gave Ziadie his second Grade I victory, charging from off the pace to take the $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park by 1 3/4 lengths over longshot Crafty Friend.

Liberty Gold, another longshot with odds of 10-1, was third, followed by favored Affirmed Success, Lord Grillo, the 3-year-old Cat Thief, Lil’s Lad and Rock and Roll.

``This horse never gets any respect,″ said an emotional Ziadie, who is based at Calder racetrack in Florida. ``Any Grade I race means a lot to any trainer, whether it’s Wayne Lukas or me. I was a little nervous before the race, because we had a new jockey, but Johnny (Velazquez) rode him perfect, as if he’d ridden him every time before.″

Under Velazquez, who got the mount after Jerry Bailey elected to ride the Lukas-trained Cat Thief and Richard Migliore had already committed to Crafty Friend, Sir Bear broke well and then settled in sixth position on the outside as Lil’s Lad, Cat Thief and Affirmed Success sped through early fractions of :22.44 and :44.64.

Coming out of the far turn, Affirmed Success grabbed the lead but was unable to hold it for long as Crafty Friend rallied to take over approaching the eighth pole. But Sir Bear, who had moved into striking position between horses on the turn, was moving fastest of all on the outside and drew clear of the field in the final yards to hit the wire in 1:34.55 for the mile.

``Everything worked out perfectly,″ said Velazquez. ``He broke well and I took him back off the pace. He took some dirt in his face, but he was relaxed the whole time. They were moving (fast) up front, and he picked it up on the turn and began passing horses.

``It sounds pretty easy, right? But I was expecting a fast pace and it worked out good for me.″

Sir Bear, who extended his lifetime record to 15 victories in 44 starts, earned $300,000 for the win and boosted his bankroll to $1,362,160 for owner Barbara Smollin. He returned $14.60, $7.90 and $6.

Crafty Friend paid $22 and $12, while Liberty Gold, ridden by Jose Santos, paid $5.40 for show.

``I’m very disappointed,″ said Richard Schosberg, trainer of the beaten favorite. ``(Jockey Mike Smith) should have waited longer, but he got a little anxious.″

Ziadie said he was considering keeping Sir Bear in New York for the Brooklyn Handicap (June 12), a race he finished third in last year.

``He loves New York, I don’t know if it’s the weather or what,″ said Ziadie. ``But he’s also like vintage wine _ the older he gets, the better he gets.″

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