For the first time since last Aug. 31, jockey Frank Douglas rode in a competitive race yesterday as Pimlico Race Course opened its only meeting of 1998.
He didn't win -- didn't even come close -- but just having the chance was enough after a horrendous accident at Timonium put him in a life-threatening situation last summer.
"It's there. I still have it 100 percent," said the veteran after finishing seventh aboard Specialappointment in the seventh race, the first of his two mounts.
The other Douglas mount, Jiggy's Lightning in the 10th race, was eighth as the second choice in a 10-horse field.
"I feel good. I've got strength," he said. "Nothing felt strange at all. It was good to get that first horse in."
Douglas said his regimen has returned to normal -- working horses in the morning and riding in the afternoon.
"I'm on my own right now," he said. "I'll get an agent in a couple of weeks. I want to build some business first. It'll come."
He has one mount on today's card, then four tomorrow.
Specialappointment was the "kind of horse who only has one lick. He might get tired," Douglas said he was told by trainer Dr. Jim Casey. "He did."
In the feature race at yesterday's opener, Hair Spray came flying in the final eighth of a mile and scored a five-length victory in the $42,800 Smart Halo Stakes with the typical late rush of a horse trained by Dick Small.
"She relaxed nicely down the backstretch," said jockey Mark Johnson. "And when I asked her, she really punched in. I think she's a real nice one."
With the track covered by a new cushion that made the going deeper than normal, the relatively rapid pace set by Favored Rubia suited Hair Spray's running style.
Both Rubia and long shot Belles Champ, who finished in a dead heat for third, weakened somewhat while going : 23 and : 46 1/5 up front.
It was the third victory in four lifetime starts for Hair Spray, owned by Robert Meyerhoff and stabled in Louisiana this winter.
"Mr. Meyerhoff got the mare [Miss Legality] from Sonny Hine and her mother won the Black-Eyed Susan [in 1992]," Small said. "I feel she is a closing sprinter, but we will try her long at some point."
NOTES: Despite a one-day postponement caused by a power outage, wagering on Jim Beam Stakes day at Turfway Park totaled $9,425,904, including full-card simulcasting outlets across the country. Statewide attendance in Kentucky was a record 22,585. The overall handle for opening day at Pimlico was up nearly $500,000 from the corresponding card last year, but that can be attributed to the addition of more out-of-state simulcasting outlets. Attendance in Maryland was down by 1,800.
Pub Date: 4/02/98