`Delaware' capitalizes in Dash

Exhausted pace-setters open way for a charge

Horse Racing

November 18, 2001|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

After Caller One dueled Xtra Heat into submission, Delaware Township charged from last to win the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash yesterday before 10,114 patrons at Laurel Park.

Sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, the New York-based Delaware Township scored his biggest win in his final race. The 5-year-old will be retired to stud with 11 victories in 21 starts and earnings of $996,950.

"We feel vindicated," said Ben Perkins Jr., trainer of Delaware Township. "We were so disappointed after the Breeders' Cup. We thought we had a real chance to win it."

In the Breeders' Cup Sprint three weeks ago at Belmont Park, Xtra Heat, the little filly from Maryland, showed the males her tail and led until the final strides. One trainer in particular, Jim Chapman, vowed not to let that happen again.

Chapman trains Caller One, the blazingly fast California gelding. Caller One had led at some point in all 16 of his races except one: the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He could not keep up with Xtra Heat.

So Chapman replaced jockey Corey Nakatani with David Flores, and in the paddock before yesterday's race, according to Flores, Chapman said: "Just let him run."

Caller One broke in front, but within a few strides Xtra Heat had passed him and led by a half length. With Harry Vega riding Xtra Heat patiently, Flores urged Caller One as if they were racing to a fire.

Caller One pursued Xtra Heat through a sizzling quarter-mile in 21.50 seconds and a blistering half-mile in 44.22 seconds. That allowed Jerry Bailey, the Hall of Fame jockey, to take Delaware Township back to last, swing him wide and then overtake the tiring pacesetters for a three-length victory.

Early Flyer charged from fifth for second. The gutsy filly, Xtra Heat, managed to hang on for third, while the aggressive Caller One finished next to last.

John Salzman, trainer of Xtra Heat, was irate after the race. As Flores conferred with Chapman, Caller One's trainer, Salzman and his son, John Jr., berated them. The Salzmans said Caller One couldn't outrun their filly so he "cooked" her. Flores and Chapman did not respond.

Later, Flores said: "Too bad about the filly. I was just doing my job. I just do what they say. Those were my instructions: `Just send him.'"

John Salzman refused to discuss the race with reporters. The veteran horseman bought Xtra Heat for $5,000 last year at a Timonium auction. The modestly bred 3-year-old has earned $1,241,150, winning 17 of 22 races.

Xtra Heat's second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint put her in contention for Eclipse awards as North America's top sprinter and 3-year-old filly. She needed to defeat males to remain a strong candidate for the sprinter's award. She remains a leading contender for year-end honors as the best 3-year-old filly.

Kona Gold, the 2-1 favorite in the Dash, finished a lackluster fourth. His trainer, Bruce Headley, said: "Everything went perfect. He just didn't fire. I think he's tired. Old age may be catching up to him."

Kona Gold, 7, is the reigning champion sprinter. After winning the Breeders' Cup Sprint last year he finished seventh this year. Headley said that he would turn out Kona Gold for three months in a half-acre paddock and decide later about racing him next year.

With a suicidal duel up front and a tired Kona Gold in mid-pack, Delaware Township snatched the glory. He was 10-1 in the Breeders' Cup, but 3-1 in the Dash, largely because of Bailey, his skillful jockey. Eibar Coa rode Delaware Township in the Sprint. Bailey rode the winner, Squirtle Squirt.

"Anytime you have a come-from-behind sprinter, you need two things to go your way," Bailey said. "You need pace, and you need a lack of traffic problems. It just stood to reason that with Caller One and Xtra Heat, you were going to have plenty of pace."

Perkins, the Belmont-based trainer, said Delaware Township runs better in smaller fields. For whatever reason, Perkins said, the horse dislikes crowds. He said that in the seven-horse Dash, with the country's top rider in charge, Delaware Township was right at home .

"I was pretty confident," Perkins said. "You kind of knew that after the last time [Breeders' Cup Sprint] they weren't going to let the filly go slow. This is just how I hoped things would work out."

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