Soviet Problem beats Calif. rival Cool Air in Laurel Dash

October 16, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Soviet Problem was shipped 3,000 miles from the Bay Area to meet her Southern California rival, Cool Air, on Maryland turf yesterday and didn't disappoint the bettors who backed her at ** 6-5 odds.

The fast filly from San Francisco overcame a slow start and abruptly accelerated in the stretch at Laurel Park to set a stakes record in the Laurel Dash, first of the weekend's four Turf Festival events.

At the wire, Soviet Problem held onto a 1 1/4 -length lead over a rallying Cool Air, running the six furlongs under jockey Chris McCarron in 1 minute, 9 seconds, fastest of the Dash's seven runnings.

Both horses, who had run identical times in different sprints at Hollywood Park last summer, were supposed to meet in a match race at Del Mar in August. However, Cool Air came down with a throat infection.

Instead, the match race, in the words of Soviet Problem's trainer, Greg Gilchrist, "kind of took place" at Laurel yesterday, although Cool Air was outrun and was not much of a threat to the winner.

Soviet Problem's worst enemy yesterday appeared to be herself.

"She gets anxious in the gate, and yesterday was the worst I've seen her," McCarron said. "She was really feisty. She kicked the starting gate hard, and when the latch sprung, she only had three feet on the ground. We were left by about a length. But it didn't take her long to get into the race. After a sixteenth of a mile, I had good position and thought I'd be OK."

Higher Strata, who had run for a $40,000 claiming tag at Laurel in July, set rapid fractions for the first half-mile, pressed by Belmont invader Roman Envoy. Once McCarron got Soviet Problem in gear in the stretch, she left the East Coast males behind.

Now her owners, John Harris and Don Valpredo, are considering supplementing her at a cost of $120,000 to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.

"But she's a California-bred and will probably go instead in the Cal Cup [California's version of the Maryland Million]," Harris said.

It was the filly's 14th victory in 17 starts and marked the 17th time she had been favored in a race. The filly earned $120,000 and increased her career winnings to $642,243.

Immediately after the race, Chris Antley on Cool Air challenged ,, McCarron to another meeting.

"It's tough in an 11-horse field,but we picked our way through," Antley said. "In addition to that, she was coming off of a little layoff. We just couldn't get to the winner. I told CJ [McCarron] pulling up, 'Let's get it on again with these two.' "

The Dash had a particularly strong following in California. Of the $611,562 that was bet on the race in five national simulcast locations, more than half of that was wagered at Santa Anita Park and Bay Meadows Race Course in California.

"I sat next to Mr. [Frank] Stronach [Cool Air's owner]," said Gilchrist, Soviet Problem's trainer, "and after we won, the first thing he did was get up, congratulate me and shake my hand."

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