Richie the Coach sets Laurel record in Congressional Handicap victory

November 24, 1996|By Kent Baker

If Richie the Coach gets loose on the lead early in a race, he is one tough horse to catch.

For the second straight outing, the gelding owned by Milton Higgins III had the pace to himself yesterday, and Algar -- try as he might -- couldn't challenge him.

So, Richie the Coach broke the Laurel Park track record for 1 1/4 miles by 1 3/5 seconds and beat second choice Algar by 6 1/2 lengths in the $75,000 Congressional Handicap.

The time was 1: 59 4/5 seconds after a sizzling 1: 10 3/5 effort at the six-furlong mark. Forry Cow How set the previous record of 2: 01 2/5 four years ago in the same stakes.

"I thought the fractions were awfully rapid," said trainer Donald Barr. "When I saw 1: 10 and 3 up there, I was worried."

Algar made a rush under Edgar Prado, closing within three lengths early in the stretch run, but Richie the Coach found another speed gear and pulled away.

Barr said he thought his horse "had a very good opportunity. The last race was sort of a prep for him." In his previous start three weeks earlier, Richie the Coach trounced a field of allowance runners by 10 lengths while going wire-to-wire.

His connections discovered the horse had a problem with ulcers after five straight nonwinning stakes efforts. A change of diet and some antacids alleviated that problem and Richie the Coach has been a terror since.

Winning jockey Omar Klinger said he had a hold on his mount "until the last quarter."

Top-weighted at 118 pounds in a field of seven, Richie the Coach won $45,000 for his owner and returned $4.40, $2.40 and $2.20 as favorite. Algar was second by 11 lengths over Perfect to a Tee and Kresa, shipped in from New York by trainer Nick Zito, finished fourth.

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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