`Music' in tune with Delaware 'Cap

3rd choice ends 4-race skid with 1 3/4-length triumph

July 26, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

STANTON, Del. -- Frank Stronach has been buying racetracks as if they were antique dollhouses.

The Canadian industrialist bought Santa Anita Park last year and completed a deal this summer to buy Gulfstream Park. Now he is apparently interested in Monmouth Park.

Why not Delaware Park? After his 4-year-old filly Tap to Music won the $502,400 Delaware Handicap yesterday at this revitalized track near Wilmington, Stronach might consider turning his gaze here.

Stronach did not attend the race for fillies and mares. He spent the day in his native Austria. But his primary trainer, Belmont Park-based Joe Orseno, and Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day basked in the intense heat of the winner's circle after Tap to Music defeated 12 challengers in this state's signature thoroughbred race.

"It's a lot of fun winning a race as prestigious as this," said Orseno, who trains 45 horses for Stronach.

Tap to Music, an oversized bay filly, had not won since last October. But Orseno and Day devised a strategy to break her four-race losing streak.

"We talked about her past races and her inability to finish," Day said. "We thought what we needed to do was conserve her just as long as we possibly could wherever she was comfortable. That's what we did."

Tap to Music raced comfortably in second until she straightened for home. And then, Day said, "I went ahead and put her to the task, and she came on to the wire running."

As the 9-2 third choice, Tap to Music finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Keeper Hill, the 5-2 favorite. Ridden by Edgar Prado, the 4-1 Unbridled Hope rallied for third.

Tap to Music paid $11.20 to win and headed a $47.60 exacta, $172.60 trifecta and $565.40 superfecta. French Braids, a 10-1 long shot, finished fourth. The winner's time for 1 1/4 miles was 2 minutes, 2 seconds.

Day also won two of the five stakes on the Delaware Handicap undercard: the $100,000 Endine Stakes with Hurricane Bertie and the $55,600 Stanton Stakes with L.B. On Tour.

Prado, the Maryland star headed to Saratoga, won the $53,000 Newark Stakes with Leave No Prints, whom Robert E. Gamber trains at Pimlico. The locally based Thunder Flash captured the $54,850 Diamond State Stakes.

In the afternoon's second-richest race, the $250,900 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes, North East Bound vanned in from Monmouth Park to upset the eight-horse field with a gate-to-wire victory at 22-1. The Michael Dickinson-trained Courtside finished second, and the 2-5 favorite Swamp third.

But the 62nd Delaware Handicap highlighted the day for the announced crowd of 12,278 and Tap to Music's beaming trainer Orseno and absentee owner, the one buying racetracks. As the celebration subsided, a telephone rang in the winner's circle.

"I hear my phone ringing in the background. It could be him," Orseno said, referring to Stronach. "I'm willing to go wherever he buys."

Belmont Park: Sophisticated Man scored a front-running, two-length victory in the Elmont, N.Y., track's closing day feature, the $54,150 Evan Shipman Handicap.

The 5-year-old, ridden by Aaron Gryder and carrying 122 pounds, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1: 43 3/5 to earn $32,490 for owner-breeder John Franks with his fourth win in seven starts this year.

Talavera was runner-up in the field of six, three-quarters of a length ahead of Smart Coupons.

The winner returned $6.60, $3.30 and $2.70.

Del Mar: Que Belle charged from last place to pull ahead in the last stride to defeat Bella Chiarra in the $111,300 Osunitas Handicap on Saturday night.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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