Lite The Fuse wins thrilling sprint Meadow Monster second by a nose in De Francis

July 21, 1996|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Lite The Fuse prevailed by a nose after a breathtaking stretch battle yesterday at Laurel Park and became the first dual winner of the prestigious Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

Trained by former Marylander Dick Dutrow, Lite The Fuse out-dueled Meadow Monster during a frantic side-by-side sprint to the wire. The thrilling photo finish proved again that this $300,000 six-furlong dash is one of the top sprint races in the country.

Created in memory of Frank J. De Francis, widely credited with reviving Maryland horse racing in the 1980s, the race is the nation's richest sprint of the summer.

Glowing in the winner's circle, Dutrow, a native of Hagerstown, said: "These are my people. I'd rather win here than in New York."

He stood in the same spot one year ago after Lite The Fuse, whom he bred and owns, coasted to a two-length victory in the De Francis Dash. Yesterday's win was brutal by comparison, forcing jockey Julie Krone to ask Lite The Fuse for all his reserve fuel.

"What a horse! Wasn't he beautiful?" gushed Krone, who has ridden the 5-year-old in all but one of his 17 races. "'He just wants to win, win, win, and he gives his all, and you can't ask a horse for more than that."

Lite The Fuse paid $6.20 to win after streaking the three-quarters of a mile in 1 minute, 8 4/5 seconds, a mere four-fifths of a second off Fighting Notion's 1992 track record. The exacta with Meadow Monster paid $20.80, and the trifecta with Prospect Bay third returned $60.80.

When the gate sprang open on Laurel's sunny backstretch, releasing seven eager horses, four sprinted for the lead. They formed a four-wide charge, from the rail out: long-shot Heroic Pursuit, D. Wayne Lukas-trained Lord Carson, highly regarded but lightly raced Prospect Bay, and California invader Score Quick. All alone in fifth was Lite The Fuse. Meadow Monster was last.

As the horses blazed around the bend in pursuit of the early leaders, Lite The Fuse took the outside route and Meadow Monster the inside. They brushed straightening out for home, and then raced furiously, jockey Edgar Prado stinging Meadow Monster with a left-handed whip, and Krone slapping Lite The Fuse right-handed.

Although he raced a mere 13 days ago in Belmont Park's Tom Fool Handicap, Lite The Fuse displayed courage down the stretch and stuck his nose in front at the wire.

Not Surprising, last year's Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, did not threaten and finished fourth, passing three of the early leaders as they dropped back.

Dutrow said he was concerned bringing his horse back after such a brief layoff. But he planned on giving him six weeks off afterward, and, he said, "I like that 180 thou."

That was the winner's purse: $180,000. Lite The Fuse, victorious in nine of his 17 outings, has earned $989,076.

Dutrow recently sold a half-interest in Lite The Fuse to the Vinery breeding farm in Midway, Ky. Dutrow plans to campaign the horse until the end of the year -- stopping Oct. 26 at Woodbine xTC for the Breeders' Cup Sprint -- and then turn him over to Vinery for his second career as a stallion.

The Vinery's Ben Waldon Jr. described the muscular bay horse as having "the most remarkable shoulder and conformation of any racehorse we have brought in."

Lite The Fuse was the standout yesterday, a full, handsome horse who turned heads as he bounced into the paddock. And later in the winner's circle, he was the portrait of superiority.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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