December 1, 2012
OLDSMAR — If Purple Egg and Swear Me In develop into stars of tomorrow, their connections can look back at this past Saturday. (12/01/12) Both 2-year-olds won and Purple Egg remained undefeated as he won his first stakes races with record-setting performances at Tampa Bay Downs during the track’s 87th season opener.
Purple Egg, a Kentucky-bred gelded son of Lion Heart and whose seven Goodwood Racing II owners include Downs vice president of marketing and publicity Margo Flynn, came from off the pace to win the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes. Purple Egg improved to 3-0 under trainer Jane Cibelli, founder of the Goodwood Racing II syndicate, which purchased him for $22,000 at a Keeneland (Ky.) yearling sale.
“I knew he was very talented,” Cibelli said. “Obviously, (2-year-olds) are very fragile. They’re equine athletes, just like football players. They (can) get hurt, so that’s always a big worry.
“The Gulfstream Park Derby is an option. If he’s good enough (after that) to run in the Sam F. Davis (Feb. 2), that’s where he’ll run.”
Ridden by Roberto Alvarado Jr., Purple Egg ($6.60) rallied in the six-horse field to wear down 1-2 favorite Brave Dave in deep stretch. Purple Egg won by one length and clocked 6 furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1 minute, 9.93 seconds, eclipsing Dream of Angels’ 1:10.89 in 2006.
“It’s great to see him move up in stakes company and rate well, come from off the pace and finish up strongly,” Flynn said.
Goodwood Racing II was perfect on the day, also winning with Swear Me In in a maiden special weight event, one of six maiden races on the card.
PURPLE EGG CRACKS MAIDEN RANKS IN STUNNING DEBUT
It wasn’t easy getting Purple Egg into the starting gate, but the 2-year-old proved on Thursday at Monmouth that he was worth the wait and the trouble. Conditioned by leading trainer Jane Cibelli, the Kentucky-bred son of Lion Heart out of the Prized mare Luminous Prize won a $40,000 maiden special weight by almost five lengths. In doing so, he overcame a speed duel in which the first spilt was run in :21 4/5, took complete control in the turn, and then shifted to another gear to draw off through the lane under Paco Lopez. It was a very impressive effort for a first time starter.
“I’m getting quite a few phone calls and texts from those showing interest in buying him,” said Cibelli while savoring the victory on Friday morning. “He’s got quite a following.”
Owned by the Goodwood Racing partnership, Purple Egg had been a bad actor. Twice before he was led to the starting gate, and twice he had to be scratched.
“The first time he went right up in the air and ran off,” Cibelli explained. “The next time I walked out there with him and even though he’d been schooled with the pony in the mornings, he acted like he wanted to kill him. It was horrible. He had both front feet over the pony and knocked the pony girl off. That kind of behavior only gets worse, so unfortunately, we had to geld him.”
That made all of the difference and it showed in his first start since the surgery.
“His race was very exciting. He always had a lot of potential. The first time I laid eyes on him on the track I liked the way he moved. I thought ‘my goodness, he’s got a stride’. You can see that he takes one stride for everyone else’s two,” said Cibelli.
Partner Sven Johnson had the opportunity to choose the horse’s unusual name.
“My wife, Sara Sawti, was pregnant when we were trying to think of one,” he said. “She was wearing a purple sweater at the time and looked like an egg, so there you have it.”
When Cibelli was told, her first reaction was, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. But Sven said that the best horse in the world (at that time) was Black Caviar and those are eggs, so why not?”
Johnson, who lives in Singapore with his wife, was on hand for Purple Egg’s debut and was ecstatic in the winner’s circle afterward. “I have horses racing in Singapore, New Zealand and now Monmouth. I used to cut school to come to the races here so standing right here with this horse is fantastic.”