Dickinson's Da Hoss is one rare runner Cecil County trainer wins Mile with 1 prep in 2 years

November 08, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Michael Dickinson reached for the stars. When he lowered his arm he held the universe.

What Dickinson accomplished with Da Hoss yesterday in the Breeders' Cup Mile ranks with the greatest training feats in the sport. Dickinson prepared Da Hoss for the $1 million event with one race in two years. And he didn't really want to run him that time.

"This has been the most difficult training job of my career," said Dickinson, who trains at his Tapeta Farm near North East in Cecil County. "You don't know the time and hard work that has gone into this horse."

In 1996, Da Hoss won the Breeders' Cup Mile at Woodbine. In the two years since, the 6-year-old gelding has encountered numerous physical problems that kept him from the racetrack.

First at Fair Hill and then, since April, at his state-of-the-art training center in northeastern Maryland, Dickinson and his accomplished staff worked wonders with Da Hoss.

His performance yesterday rewarded their patience and persistence and even prompted some turf writers to wonder whether Dickinson might deserve the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer.

Tears flowed like champagne. Dickinson, his partner and companion Joan Wakefield and the horse's exercise rider, Jon Ferriday, couldn't contain their emotions.

"This is the most emotional day of my life, really," said Dickinson, a noted steeplechase trainer in his native England. "When Da Hoss won two years ago, that was the happiest day of my life. But today, this is the happiest day of my life."

With John Velazquez riding, the 11-1 Da Hoss raced sixth into the final turn. He charged four-wide around the bend and claimed the lead in the stretch. But the 15-1 Hawksley Hill, the California-based powerhouse who spent the first half of the race in last place, ranged up on the outside.

Hawksley Hill gained the lead and looked as if he might pull off to an easy victory. But Da Hoss battled back, surged forward and won by a head.

He returned $25.20 as the highest-priced winner in the seven Breeders' Cup races. The Da Hoss-Hawksley Hill exacta paid $377.80.

"This is really unbelievable," Velazquez said. "The other horse put a head and neck in front of mine. But my horse tried so hard. He just didn't want to get beat."

Dickinson said he would have preferred not racing Da Hoss at all before the Breeders' Cup. He was confident he had him fit from training on his Tapeta track with its secret ingredients and up-and-down runs.

Dickinson ran Da Hoss in an allowance race Oct. 11 at Colonial Downs so the selection committee that puts together Breeders' Cup races could see the horse, the trainer said. The panel named Da Hoss the first alternate. He got into the race only because one of the top 14 entrants withdrew.

"It's amazing to me Da Hoss was even in the race," said Art Preston, one of his owners. "I don't think any other trainer besides Michael could have gotten him here."

Dickinson credited his entire crew, especially Da Hoss' groom, Miguel Peidra.

Favorite Trick, the 1997 Horse of the Year turned turf runner, went off as the 5-2 favorite and rushed into the lead. He faded to eighth. Europe's top miler, Desert Prince, finished last.

"He got a big bump on the first corner, and he was not the same after that," said his jockey, Olivier Pelsier.

Juvenile: Edgar Prado traveled from Maryland to ride Aly's Alley in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile. The 2-year-old colt was not only 76-1, but he also started from the far 13 post.

Nevertheless, Prado rode him like a Hall of Famer, gaining favorable position despite the post, saving ground down the backstretch, splitting horses entering the homestretch and then challenging the leader at the wire.

But the leader, the 5-2 favorite Answer Lively, ridden by Jerry Bailey, held on to win the 1 1/16-mile race by a head in 1 minute xTC 44 seconds. The exacta paid $631.40, and Aly's Alley returned $40 to place and $12 to show.

"I got beat this far," said Prado, his fingers three inches apart.

The colt's trainer, the Kentucky-based John Tammaro, sponsored Prado when he first came to this country from Peru.

"He called me up and said, 'I finally got a horse good enough for you to ride,' " Prado said. "I tell you, we were in front two jumps after the wire."

No winner of the 14 previous Juveniles has ever won the Kentucky Derby. But Bobby Barnett, trainer of Answer Lively, said: "We'll take him to New Orleans for the winter. Hopefully we'll be right back here in the spring."

D. Wayne Lukas trained five of the 13 starters in the Juvenile. His horses finished third, eighth, ninth, 11th and last.

Juvenile Fillies: Bob Baffert saddled the one-two finishers in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies. The 4-5 favorite Silverbulletday held off the 4-1 second choice Excellent Meeting by a half-length.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Silverbulletday was the eighth winning favorite in the 15 Juvenile Fillies races. Pegram's Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but lost the Belmont in a photo finish.

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