This Michael Jackson has thriller, too, a steeplechaser named Morley Street

October 11, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

M.C. Hammer owns a racehorse.

So does Michael Jackson.

"But I don't have a white glove. And, so far, I haven't had a facelift," a portly 54-year-old Englishman, who has the same name as the American pop star, quipped yesterday at Fair Hill race course.

The British Michael Jackson is a well-to-do horse owner, who makes money by importing paper from Scandanavia and selling it to British publishing companies. He spends money by owning seven racehorses and globe-trotting them around the world.

His best horse is a remarkable jumper named Morley Street.

The horse is regarded as such a class animal that he scared off any other European invaders, except American-owned Cheering

News, from running tomorrow in Fair Hill's premier race, the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.

Fair Hill, often times described as a mere country track, finds itself with an international star of considerable stature on its grounds. Earlier this year, Morley Street won England's prestigious Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Racing Festival and then missed by a nose in the Doncaster Cup, a Group 3 flat race similar to Pimlico's Dixie Handicap.

Morley Street will be the odds-on choice to win his second Breeders' Cup Steeplechase, taking on 11 other jumpers with decidedly inferior credentials.

"The only way we can beat him is if he runs a sub-par race," said Jonathan Sheppard, dean of America's steeplechase trainers, who will run four horses, including Yaw, the probable second choice.

Morley Street is listed as an 8-5 favorite "and I'd say those are rather generous odds," remarked Richard Pittman, the British commentator who will co-host the race for NBC "SportsWorld."

Morley Street already owns the stakes record, winning the Breeders' Cup race last year at Belmont Park in 4 minutes 53 1/5 seconds.

Chances are, he'll break the Fair Hill course record since the grass strip is firm. The record is 5 minutes 12 2/5 seconds, set by Jimmy Lorenzo when he won the Breeders' Cup race when it was last run at Fair Hill in 1988.

Jackson bought Morley Street as an unraced 3-year-old "to use as a promotion for my business, Salehurst Paper Co., which is located in London," he said. "We couldn't think of what to call him, so we named him after a street near Waterloo Station, not far from our office."

Morley Street is trained by Gerald "Toby" Balding and ridden by British jockey Jimmy Frost, a former stunt man who gave up working as an extra in English movies to ride steeplechasers.

"When Jimmy first came to me," Balding joked, "he had everything I look for in a jockey -- long legs and no brains. Of course, he has developed into a rider of uncanny ability."

The pair teamed up with longshot Little Polveir and won the world famous English Grand National in 1989.

Morley Street is remarkably consistent. He has run 24 times, won 15 races and had five seconds. His earnings stand at $551,299, making him one of steeplechasing's top money-winners.

The best of the American competitors appear to be BTC Sheppard-trained Yaw and Jimmy Lorenzo.

Yaw, a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, comes off three straight wins, including a pair of victories at Saratoga.

It is the first time the same horse has won both of Saratoga's premier jump races.

But his regular rider, Jonathan Smart, gave up the mount on Yaw to ride Jimmy Lorenzo, another Sheppard horse that won the Breeders' Cup race in 1988.

Jimmy Lorenzo was injured the following year and has not run in a jump race since 1989.

But Smart said yesterday Jimmy Lorenzo is better than ever. "He tuned up with a flat race win at Middleburg, Va., last weekend," he said. "He's a cool little horse. Yaw has a better record this year, but he's suspect to get the distance [of 2 5/8 miles]."

Smart, 28, is an incredible story. Two years ago he was almost killed in a freak training accident in Camden, S.C. His mount bolted and dove into a telephone pole. Smart fractured his skull, broke an arm and his collarbone, had a compound fracture in one leg, perforated his eardrum and did considerable nerve damage to his eyes. He required 12 operations, four to his eyes and four on his leg, to be able to ride again.

Last year he came back, finished second in the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase on Summer Colony, and has won 10 races this year.

There are seven races on tomorrow's Fair Hill card. Post time is 1 p.m. The Breeders' Cup Steeplechase is scheduled to go off at 2:30 p.m.

The race can be seen locally in a 20-minute segment televised between 5 and 6 p.m. on "SportsWorld" (Ch. 2).

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