Dixie Hero burns Ameri Valay

January 17, 1995|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Dixie Hero evened the score in a four-race stakes rivalry with Ameri Valay yesterday, receiving an unexpected assist from an obscure Canadian gelding, Yonge Castlefield, in the Native Dancer Handicap.

The front-running Ameri Valay runs his best races when he gets an uncontested lead and controls a leisurely pace.

Yesterday, Dixie Hero not only broke sharper than usual and forced Ameri Valay a length or two wide going into the first turn at Laurel Park, but then jockey Edgar Prado took Dixie Hero back off the pace and let Donnie Miller Jr., on long shot Yonge Castlefield, assume the role of spoiler.

Yonge Castlefield led for the first half mile, tiring Ameri Valay just enough to set up the race for Dixie Hero, who swept to the lead turning into the stretch.

Ameri Valay, carrying high weight of 122 pounds, dropped back and finished last as part of the 8-5 favored King Leatherbury entry, running his worst race since Leatherbury tried sprinting him in the Nov. 11 Challedon Stakes.

"That was the strategy: to hang him [Ameri Valay] out there and try to make him lose a length or two," said Charlie Peoples, trainer of Dixie Hero. "I give all the credit to Edgar [Prado]."

Ameri Valay defeated Dixie Hero in the Walter Haight and Congressional handicaps and now Dixie Hero has beaten the Elaine Bassford-owned runner in the Hail Emperor Stakes and Native Dancer Handicap. Dixie Hero earned $47,955 yesterday.

Both horses are likely to meet again in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 25.

It might not be a rivalry that ranks alongside Valley Crossing and Gala Spinaway, the last pair of older Maryland-bred horses that frequently faced each other in local stakes.

But it makes the Laurel handicap division a bit more interesting during the winter months.

Peoples, who occasionally takes a string to Florida for the winter, has stayed home at owner Bayard Sharp's training headquarters in Middletown, Del., in recent years. "The last time I went down there was in 1989 with Dixieland Brass," Peoples said, explaining that Sharp doesn't have any classic hopefuls among his current crop of 3-year-olds.

NOTES: For the second time in her past three starts, stakes-placed Citirainbow lost her action in the mud yesterday and was eased in the fourth race. The 3-year-old filly ran for the first time in the colors of Hal C. B. Clagett III, who recently acquired half of the runners owned by his father, Hal C. B. Clagett. . . . Woodberry Payne of Charlottesville, Va., has been elected president of the Virginia division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the horsemen's organization likely to represent Virginia owners and trainers once the proposed Colonial Downs is built near Richmond. . . . Representatives of the Maryland Racing Commission are scheduled to appear in Annapolis today before the House Ways and Means Committee to update lawmakers on the state of the industry.

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