Hair Spray's quick control gives rival fillies brush-off After placing 3rd 6 times, speedster wins at Laurel

November 08, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

All his horse's connections were at the Breeders' Cup and Keeneland sales in Kentucky, leaving jockey Jose Velez to fend for himself yesterday in the Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel Park.

And Velez did a nice job of steering Hair Spray to a 1 3/4 -length victory in the Grade III, $110,650 stakes to end a string of six straight third-place finishes by Robert Meyerhoff's filly.

Hair Spray ran in her usual fashion, lying in last before springing to life after four furlongs and closing with fury. Velez brought her six wide to pass the tiring front-runners and out-kick long-shot Expensive Issue to the wire.

She completed the six-furlong distance in 1 minute, 10 3/5 seconds and added $66,390 to her lifetime earnings.

A granddaughter of Skip Trial -- who sired Skip Away -- Hair Spray was the second choice in the betting and paid $9.40 to win.

"I've ridden her before," said Velez, who invaded from New Jersey for the mount. "There has always been lots of speed in her races, and the speed never stopped. Today was a different kind of race on a different kind of surface, and I figured she had a real good shot."

Owner Meyerhoff and trainer Richard Small were both out of town and missed Hair Spray's first win since April 18. Earlier in the week, Small expressed reservations about the race, wondering "if six furlongs is her best distance."

The even-money favorite, Cocney Lass, was never a real factor, finishing seventh.

Laurel's Breeders' Cup Day feature is named for the first Maryland-bred horse to win a Breeders' Cup race. Safely Kept took the 1990 Sprint and later won an Eclipse Award.

NOTES: Maryland set a wagering record for Breeders' Cup Day, handling $4,449,386 at state outlets. A post-time schedule devised by vice president Jim Mango gave bettors plenty of time to handicap both the live races and the Breeders' Cup card. More than 10,000 fans poured into Laurel with 10,000 more at simulcast sites.

Pub Date: 11/08/98

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