Traitor goes in no-bet Ocala race today Colt makes 3-year debut after injury last month

March 24, 1997|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Starting late but hoping for the best, Mary Eppler will saddle Traitor today for his 3-year-old debut in a non-betting race in Ocala, Fla.

The race is the $100,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Championship Stakes at the Ocala Training Center. At 1 1/16 miles for horses that passed through the sale, it is not the preferred path to the Kentucky Derby.

But an accident Feb. 1 at Hialeah Park in Florida, when Traitor lunged into a railing after being spooked by another horse, set back the colt's training. A good effort today will land Traitor in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Park on April 12, Eppler said, and then, perhaps, in the Kentucky Derby on May 3.

"What can you do after the accident?" said Eppler, based at Pimlico but stabled this winter in Florida. "He has to play catch-up now."

Owned by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Traitor won the Grade I Futurity Stakes in September at Belmont Park. Despite this year's late start -- later than any other top Kentucky Derby hopeful -- he is still one of the top 10 contenders for the Derby.

His competition today is made to order for a horse working himself back into shape -- upstart 3-year-olds still trying to prove their worth as racehorses. Eppler chose this race instead of yesterday's Tampa Bay Derby.

"Nothing in here can beat him if he's ready to run," said Jay Friedman, an official of the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company.

NOTE: Salt It, a 3-year-old New York filly, won the $32,000 Wide Country Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths yesterday at Laurel. A Kentucky-bred daughter of Salt Lake, Salt It won the 1 1/8 -mile event in her first stakes start. C. H. Marquez Jr. rode the horse to a finish in 1 minute, 51 2/5 seconds.

Pub Date: 3/24/97

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