Love of Laurel Park stirs Purple Passion Colt wins at favorite track, raising record to 12-for-19

Laurel notebook

November 22, 1998|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Purple Passion has won 12 of 19 lifetime starts, so he has the ability to run well on almost any track. But he seems to have a particular fondness for Laurel Park.

The son of Northern Raja proved that again yesterday, turning back a strong field of speedsters to score a length victory over long shot Jove Stone in the $75,000 Lite the Fuse Stakes, which is named for the two-time champion of Maryland's richest sprint race, the De Francis Dash.

Timed in 1 minute, 9 1/5 seconds over six furlongs, Purple Passion raised his career record to 4-for-5 at Laurel. His only loss was to Royal Haven -- who was recently retired from racing -- in last year's General George Handicap, when he stumbled early in the race.

"He really takes to this race track," said Donald Barr, who handles the Maryland segment of Purple Passion's training. "He's won at several other courses, but this one he really seems to like."

The scratch of two contenders, American Champ and King Roller, weakened the race somewhat, leaving six to compete for the $45,000 winner's share. But Barr wasn't upset to see American Champ out of the field because "when [trainer] Bobby Camac leaves, I always feel a lot better about it."

Camac still had Wire Me Collect, the 1997 winner of this stakes, with Edgar Prado aboard. The horse uncharacteristically burst out of the gate to challenge early pacesetter Wise Dusty for the lead.

"I was very surprised to see Wire Me Collect out there," said Barr.

Jockey Freddy Castillo kept Purple Passion placed wider and just behind solid fractions of 22 1/5 and 44 4/5 by Wise Dusty.

"He broke a step slow today," said Castillo. "But that didn't bother me. He doesn't need to be on the lead. We settled in third down the backstretch, and he very willingly challenged on the turn. When I asked him to go on, he did it with hardly an effort."

Purple Passion winters in Maryland, and Barr expected him to be here a little sooner. But owner Stella Kavazis wanted the colt to remain at Suffolk Downs for the New England championship, which he won.

Jove Stone passed the tiring pacesetters to gain second by a nose over Say Florida Sandy, who was rallying in tandem. But neither was a match for Purple Passion's drive to the wire.

The immediate plans for Purple Passion, now age 4, call for the same path he took last year: the Bowie Stakes on Dec. 12, followed by the Challedon Dec. 26. Long range, the target is the General George again in February.

"This horse has been getting better and better for the last month," said Castillo. "I'm looking forward to a very good winter with him down here."

Arthur Maniatis, who trains him in New England, wouldn't rule out adding distance races to Purple Passion's agenda. He won in Maryland at 1 1/8 miles last November.

"I think this horse will be around in some big races when he's six or seven," he said. "Those long ones just haven't come up yet in his career. I'd like to see him running for a while."

Trainer recovering

Trainer Richard Dutrow returned to his barn last week after an absence of almost two months because of cancer surgery and treatments.

"He's recovering very well," said his son Anthony, a trainer in his own right. "He's back in action and on the mend."

Holiday post times set

In addition to Thursday's early post time of 11: 05 a.m., Friday's program will be treated like a holiday, with first post set at 12: 15 p.m., 20 minutes earlier than normal.

Laurel has also announced a 12: 15 post for weekends and holidays and a 12: 35 start for weekdays through December.

Pony Pals meet

A meeting of the Pony Pals Kids' Club is scheduled today at Laurel. Children under 12 and their parents participate in a backstretch tour and entertainment at trackside later.

Pub Date: 11/22/98

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