O'Brien turns into master of surprise

Leo O'Brien has turned into the master of surprise of late. There was the boxcar mutuel price hung up by Pretty Boy Freud on Travers Day at Saratoga and last Friday it was Christopher Riegler's Eleni's Hope which won the seventh race at Aqueduct to the tune of $62.00 in the win slot. The 5-year-old mare has had a tendency to retire early in her races, but she got loose turning for home and motored on in under Abel Lezcano, winning by almost two lengths. This was a 1-turn mile at the $7,500 claiming tier.

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The folks from Coolmore also had a winner at Aqueduct at odds with which they're not usually associated. Despite only one previous outing (a fourth-place finish over the turf in mid-October at Belmont), Festive Spirit, trained by Todd Pletcher, was sent off at 8-1 in Wednesday's fifth race, a nine-furlong maiden special weight race on the main track. Festive Spirit, a 2-year-old son of Malibu Moon, pressed the early pace and then took command, drawing off to win by two lengths under Javier Castellano. He paid $19.60.

David and Marylyn Randal's Capetown Devil is now 2-for-2 in his brief racing career. The David Carroll trainee won Churchill Downs' fifth race, a starter allowance at a mile on the main track, last Wednesday. The hot-riding Corey Lanerie was aboard for the 4-length tally that returned $3.40 to win.

Owner Garrett Redmond and trainer Gerry Carwood celebrated the outcome of Saturday's sixth race at Churchill Downs, which was won by Our Eleanor. The 2-year-old filly had led briefly in her debut last month at Keeneland and was wheeled back against similar $50,000 maiden claiming stock here. This time, she came from off the pace under Brian Hernandez, Jr. and got up by just over a length to return $37.40 to win.

John Haran has been enduring a slow patch, but maybe Sunday's two wins at Hawthorne presage a turn in his fortunes. The Sligo owner-trainer sent out Screen Siren for a maiden-breaking score in the first race that produced a $13.60 win mutuel. He then captured the seventh race when Electric Boat came from far back to draw off to win by six lengths against second-level nickel claimers. This one paid $32.60. Inocencio Diego rode both winners.

Pat Gallagher has also had a slow time of things lately, so maybe last week's two victories at Hollywood Park are a harbinger of better things to come. He won Thursday's first race with Derrick Fisher's Panther's Claw, which had just missed in its previous try when dropped to the $20,000 maiden claiming level. The 3-year-old gelding, ridden by David Flores, left no doubt this time, winning by almost two lengths and paying $5.40.

Gallagher also copped another maiden claiming race, this time at the $30,000 level, in Saturday's seventh race with Bienstock, Mandabach and Winner's The Bien's Gift. Joe Talamo had the seat on this 2-year-old second-time starter, which proved best by two lengths and returned $4.80 to win.

Eoin Harty also produced a win in Thursday's seventh race at Hollywood with Darley Stable's Wallstreeter. This 3-year-old filly had been winless since breaking her maiden at Turf Paradise in October of last year, but she found six furlongs on the turf against first-level allowance foes agreeable, and she rallied under Joel Rosario to win by almost two lengths. She paid $13.60.