Richard Schosberg heard all week that fellow trainer H. Allen Jerkens wasn't going to run Kelly Kip in tomorrow's Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel Park.
So Schosberg confidently entered Affirmed Success in the $300,000 six-furlong race, the second-richest sprint in the country. One month ago, Kelly Kip not only beat Affirmed Success by two lengths in the six-furlong Finger Lakes Breeders' Cup, but also set a track record.
"We were really looking forward to not running against him this time," Schosberg said yesterday from his barn at Belmont Park.
But at the last minute, after several big guns failed to enter, Jerkens threw Kelly Kip into the mix -- to the chagrin of every other trainer in the race.
"We prefer running in New York," said Jerkens, who had circled a stakes at Saratoga for Kelly Kip. "But the field [for the Dash] came up a little short. We decided to take a chance."
A chance? A winner of 10 of 21 races, the 4-year-old Kelly Kip has shattered three track records: six furlongs last month at Finger Lakes (1 minute 8 1/5 seconds), six furlongs in April at Aqueduct (1 minute 7 3/5 seconds) and five furlongs as a 2-year-old at Belmont Park (55 3/5 seconds).
"Kelly Kip can run with just about anybody in the world," Schosberg said.
He is the early 2-1 favorite to run better than his six challengers in the De Francis Dash. But Kelly Kip hasn't won twice in a row this year, despite being favored in six of his nine starts. He won four of the nine.
After Kelly Kip's victory last month at Finger Lakes, Jerkens was quoted in Thoroughbred Times as saying: "Kelly Kip hasn't been the soundest horse in the world, but we've kept him going."
Yesterday, Jerkens said Kelly Kip has tender knees. But that's no excuse, he said.
"We've never said he's a super horse," Jerkens said. "We never )) expected him to win them all."
Kelly Kip will carry 121 pounds in the De Francis Dash -- two pounds more than he did last month at Finger Lakes. Affirmed Success will tote 114 -- one pound less than at Finger Lakes.
Schosberg sees that as an advantage for Affirmed Success.
"It's only a sprint race," Schosberg said. "But every little bit helps."
When Schosberg began racing Affirmed Success last year, he figured he had a talented distance runner by Affirmed, winner of the Triple Crown in 1978.
Affirmed Success won his first three races. In his fourth, the 1 1/8 -mile Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, "he turned for home two lengths in front under a tight hold," Schosberg said. "No one was more surprised than me he didn't win the race."
Affirmed Success faded to third, four lengths behind the winner Awesome Again. In his next race, the 1 1/4 -mile Travers, Affirmed Success claimed an early lead but finished seventh, 17 1/4 lengths back.
Schosberg concluded that the gelding inherited his style from his dam, Towering Success, a sprinter.
"I didn't decide he was going to be a sprinter," Schosberg said. "He decided that himself. He's a very fast horse. But he can't carry his speed past a mile."
De Francis Dash
Where: Laurel Park
Distance: 6 furlongs
Pub Date: 7/17/98