`Roma' in Tesio, McCarron's bid top fare

Dutrow, colt reunited, with Preakness possible

jockey shoots for 7,000

Horse Racing

April 21, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Under the care of Maryland trainer Tony Dutrow, Burning Roma proved last year that he was one of the best 2-year-olds in the country. Then a strange thing happened.

Burning Roma's owner, Harold Queen, took the colt away from Dutrow and brought him to Florida for the winter. Queen owns a home near Tampa Bay Downs.

There, Burning Roma trained and won two races, including the Tampa Bay Derby. Neither Dutrow nor anyone else from his Laurel Park barn laid eyes on Burning Roma for nearly five months.

Today, the bay colt races for Dutrow for the first time since finishing fourth Nov. 4 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Burning Roma is the likely favorite in the $200,000 Federico Tesio Stakes, the richest of five races on Maryland Spring Challenge day at Pimlico.

The Tesio for 3-year-olds features only five horses, but three are seeking berths in Triple Crown races: Burning Roma and Marciano in the Preakness, and Talk Is Money in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.

However, the day's most compelling story could ride upon the horses' backs. Chris McCarron, the Hall of Fame jockey who started his career in Maryland, returns from his base in California to ride four horses. McCarron, 46, needs three victories to become the seventh jockey to win 7,000 races.

Asked whether he'd like to reach that milestone at Pimlico, McCarron said: "I would love it. I love Maryland. I've got a huge soft spot in my heart for Maryland.

"And to do it on either Bud Delp's or Tony Dutrow's horse would be fantastic. I won so many races for Tony's father when I was there, and for Bud, too."

Richard Dutrow, Tony's father, was a leading trainer here when McCarron started riding in 1974. That year, he won 546 races, a national record that stood for 15 years. McCarron relocated to Southern California in 1978.

Today, he rides one horse for Grover "Bud" Delp (Include in the Jennings Handicap) and three for Tony Dutrow (Saratoga Games in the Star De Naskra Stakes, Case of the Blues in the Geisha Handicap and Burning Roma in the Tesio).

McCarron rode Burning Roma in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, when the colt's outside post position in a 14-horse field compromised his chances. He ran so well to finish fourth, two lengths behind Macho Uno and Point Given, the one-two finishers, that McCarron asked Dutrow to keep him in mind for future races.

But then Dutrow lost Burning Roma for the winter. When he was returned to the trainer March 29, the colt showed "signs of stress from two races in one month," Dutrow said, declining to elaborate.

He said he and his staff have worked to get Burning Roma back to peak form. He'd like to run him in the Preakness, depending on the colt's effort today and the competition he would face next month.

Burning Roma won't run in the Kentucky Derby no matter how well he runs in the Tesio, his owner says. That sits well with Dutrow, who believes the Derby is Point Given's race to lose.

"I think he's absolutely awesome," Dutrow said of the Thunder Gulch colt trained by Bob Baffert. "It's been a long time since I've seen anything like him. This is as close to a machine as I've seen since Spectacular Bid."

The Tesio will be televised on ESPN2 along with the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. The one-hour broadcast begins at 5 p.m. Post time for the Tesio is 5:08.

In the Lexington, D. Wayne Lukas sends out Turnberry Isle, the trainer's last chance for a Derby horse. Lukas has run a horse in every Derby since 1980. Also, Global Gait competes in the Lexington. Dutrow trained him at Laurel until his sale earlier this year took him to Baffert in California.

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