AIKEN -- Not even the chilly weather was enough to cool off Ron Stevens' hot run at the 58th annual Aiken Trials on Saturday.
The trainer's horses won six of the seven races before an estimated crowd of 8,000 warmly dressed spectators, who picnicked and cheered despite the cool temperatures. The only race Ste vens' horses didn't win was one in which none were entered.
Toreador won the first trial run, which was a quarter-mile for 2-year-old maiden colts. Gold Mover took the second trial, which ran a quarter-mile for 2-year-old maiden fillies. Grapevine captured the third trial, also a quarter-mile for 2-year-old maidens.
Stevens' success continued in the half-mile races, which he earned winners with Princess Dehere in the fourth trial and Goldsmith in the fifth. Both runs were for 3-year-old maidens. After claiming victory in the fifth race with Goldsmith, Stevens breathed a sigh of relief.
"I was lucky enough to have some great owners provide me with some quality horses," Stevens said. "That also put a lot of pressure on me to win. But we've ran five, and won five, so the pressure's off now. The weather is actually perfect because horses like to run in cool weather."
The sixth trial, which was the only race Stevens didn't have a horse competing, drew the only controversy of the afternoon as Gala Bear's victory was disputed when the horse was accused of fouling runner-up Sir Rascal around the first turn. But the original call stood after officials reviewed the tape.
The day ended with another Stevens-trained horse taking victory as The Great Flora captured the seventh trial to seal a grand day for many who watched as the young horses experienced their first taste of competition.
"It's the first time a lot of these young horses have seen a crowd around," Stevens said. "You got to see some good speed today, but you didn't get to see it all."
Jockey Jose Mendez was the rider of the day as he captured five victories on the afternoon. Dogwood Stables also fared well with four of their horses running to victory. Cot Campbell of Dogwood Stables was especially pleased with Grapevine's win in the third trial.
"I just bought him in February, and he hadn't had any gate training so I didn't think he'd be ready today," Campbell said. "He didn't break terrifically, but he got himself organized and finished strong. Much of the credit goes to Ron Stevens and the work he did with getting him prepared so quickly."
First Trial, one-quarter mile, 2-year-olds
1. Toread. Cara Rubiano
3. Lift Up
Second Trial, one-quarter mile, 2-year-olds
1. Gold Mover (23.1 seconds), Ron Stevens (trainer), Chris Fiegen (jockey), Edward P. Stevens (owner)
3. Tap Dance
Third Trial, one-quarter mile, 2-year-olds
1. Grapevine (23.6 seconds), Ron Stevens (trainer), Jose Mendez (jockey), Dogwood Stables (owner)
Fourth Trial, one-half mile 3-year-olds
1. Princess Dehere (47.4 seconds), Ron Stevens (trainer), Jose Mendez (jockey), Rutledge Farm (owner).
2. Starr Mis
3. Always Dancing
Fifth Trial, one-half mile, 3-year-olds
1. Goldsmith (48 seconds), Ron Stevens (trainer), Jose Mendez (jockey), Dogwood Stables (owner)
3. Warning Light
SIXTH Trial, one-half mile, 3-year-olds
1. Gala Bear (47.4 seconds), DS Bostick (trainer), Mark McDougal (jockey), Atlantic Eight Racing & Michael Brown (owner).
2. Sir Rascal
3. Magic Merlin
Seventh Trial, one-half mile
1. The Great Flora (47.4 seconds), Ron Steven (trainer), Jose Mendez (jockey), Dogwood Stables (owner)
3. Garden Spot
Reach Patrick Green at (803) 648-1395.
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