Disco Rico can make quick impression at Belmont

ON HORSE RACING

Horse Racing

October 07, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

For Disco Rico, this is the day.

Most of us in Maryland believe that the sprinter trained by Valora Testerman at Pimlico is one of the fastest horses in the country. Today, Disco Rico can prove it to everybody else.

He competes in the $250,000 Forest Hills Handicap, a Grade II stakes of six furlongs at Belmont Park. Like other horses racing this weekend around the country, Disco Rico will try to earn for himself and his connections a spot in the prestigious Breeders' Cup races Oct. 27 at Belmont.

Testerman, always aglow when talking about Disco, said that the speedy son of Citidancer doesn't have to prove anything to her. However, she said, he must win the Forest Hills to earn enough points to gain a berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"I think this horse is quality enough and wonderful enough to merit a shot," Testerman said.

Disco Rico, a 4-year-old, has won eight of 15 races. He has won six stakes, but only two have been graded, and both were Grade III. In one of those, the $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day, he turned in an electrifying performance.

But in his only race since - after a nearly three-month vacation - he suffered an adverse pre-race reaction to Lasix. His muscles contracted, and he had to be walked four hours before the race. Testerman nearly scratched him.

That was one month ago before the Paterson Handicap at the Meadowlands. In that race, Disco Rico bolted to the lead, as usual, but then tired badly at the finish. He held on for second in a three-horse race marred by scratches.

On Monday, Testerman and Disco Rico traveled to Belmont. She wanted him to get used to the surroundings.

"Disco started out like a stick of dynamite," Testerman said. "But after two days he settled into his routine. I'm feeling very good. The horse is training well. All systems are go."

Looking ahead

If Disco Rico conquers the Forest Hills, then he will join several other horses from Maryland in the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships.

Include will be front and center in the granddaddy of them all, the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic. Bud Delp, his trainer, said that Include's third-place finish nine days ago in the Meadowlands Cup did not discourage him.

Delp did not travel to the Meadowlands because of a medical appointment, but he watched the race on TV at Pimlico. He said that Include, in his first race in three months, fell victim to a "crawling" pace.

"He got a little tired," Delp said. "But now he's sitting on go. We're heading to the Breeders' Cup, and I think we have a legitimate shot."

Graham Motion, who trains Broken Vow, runner-up in the Meadowlands Cup, said that he would wait until next week - after watching Breeders' Cup hopefuls run on both coasts - before deciding on whether to send "Vow" to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

John Salzman, trainer of Xtra Heat, the amazing 3-year-old filly, said of the Breeders' Cup Sprint: "We're probably going to run."

Last weekend in the Sweet and Sassy Stakes at Delaware Park, Xtra Heat won by 11 1/2 lengths and earned a 121 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest for any horse this year.

John's Call, the gallant 10-year-old gelding, may be running for a berth in the Breeders' Cup Turf today at Keeneland. He competes in the $100,000 Sycamore Breeders' Cup, an ungraded stakes, 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Hurting the cause

If horse racing wants to grow and attract new fans - not to mention retaining current ones - it's got to do better than this.

Keeneland cut its takeout to 16 percent for all wagers at its current three-week meet. Purses exceed $600,000 per day, the highest in the country. This is premier racing at a premier track, the finest the sport has to offer.

However, the off-track betting system in New York City and the 10 tracks that make up the Mid-Atlantic Cooperative, including Pimlico and Laurel Park, won't be simulcasting Keeneland's races.

Why? The tracks would pay Keeneland 3 percent of money bet here for the right to simulcast its races. Before, when Keeneland's combined takeout was 18.5 percent, the Maryland network, after paying Keeneland its 3 percent, kept 15.5 percent for the track, horsemen, taxes, etc.

Now, with Keeneland's takeout at 16 percent, Maryland, after paying Keeneland its 3 percent, would keep only 13 percent.

The mid-Atlantic tracks, working together for added clout, figured that Keeneland, in essence, raised the price of its signal 2.5 percent. The coalition asked Keeneland to cut its 3 percent fee, but it refused. So the tracks decided not to take Keeneland's races.

Now, here in Maryland, where the Maryland Jockey Club raised its takeout last year to fund improvements that many doubt they'll ever see, bettors are prohibited from wagering on first-class races with the first-class takeout of 16 percent.

No wonder horse racing is in trouble.

MATCH series

The MATCH series ended its fifth season last weekend, and Janis Gerace, a trainer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, cleaned up. She collected $190,000 in bonuses after her 3-year-old sprinter, Sea of Green, whom she owns as well as trains, won the overall championship and his division. Gerace's Loaded Gun also won the 3-and-up sprint division.

Here are the top finishers in MATCH, with points in parentheses:

Overall: Sea of Green (54), Queue (43), Superduper Miss (37).

3-year-old sprint: Sea of Green (54), City Zip (30), Max Jones (11).

Fillies and mares 3-and-up long on turf: Queue (43), Colstar (22), Batique (19).

3-and-up long on turf: Key Lory (30), Lightning Paces (24), Runspastum (21).

3-and-up sprint: Loaded Gun (28), Disco Rico (26), Max's Pal (16).

Fillies and mares 3-and-up sprint: Superduper Miss (37), Xtra Heat (30), Big Bambu (26).

Jockeys: Harry Vega (69), Rick Wilson (66), Charles Lopez (46).

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