Tapit proves age no object with trainer


Dickinson adds Futurity to laurels, looks to 2004

Laurel notebook

Horse Racing

November 16, 2003|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

With A Huevo, winner of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, Michael Dickinson affirmed his prowess with fragile, older horses.

With Tapit, he showed he can train a young one, too.

In only his second start, Tapit overpowered a formidable field and captured the Grade III, $100,000 Laurel Futurity by 4 3/4 lengths yesterday at Laurel Park.

For Dickinson, known as a trainer of older, turf horses, the victory was his fourth stakes win of the year with a 2-year-old.

Next year, when Tapit is 3, Dickinson hopes to be training a Kentucky Derby contender.

A son of Pulpit and the Unbridled mare Tap Your Heels, Tapit easily handled the 1 1/16 miles of the Laurel Futurity after finally breaking free of entrapment along the rail.

The gray colt broke awkwardly with his weight on his hind legs. He raced down the backstretch trapped behind and inside horses.

His eyes blinking as dirt hit him, Tapit tried to pull jockey Ramon Dominguez between horses. But Dominguez, afraid of Tapit possibly clipping heels with horses in front of him, jerked his mount back.

Finally, emerging from the final turn, Tapit barreled between horses, switched leads and powered to an impressive triumph.

Bettors overlooked his inexperience and sent him off as the even-money favorite. Polish Rifle finished second and Ghost Mountain third.

"It just shows what a class horse he is to overcome all those problems," Dickinson said.

Dickinson dedicated the race to Verne Winchell, who bought Tapit for $625,000 as a yearling last year at Keeneland. It was the last horse Winchell bought. He died two months later.

His son, Ron, who lives in Las Vegas, owns Tapit now. He also owns Cuvee, another outstanding 2-year-old who's won three stakes, including the Grade I Belmont Futurity.

Winchell's racing manager, David Fiske, said Tapit would not race again this year. The colt will spend the winter at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida in preparation of his 3-year-old campaign, Fiske said.

`Smooth' it was

Brothers Michael and Mario Pino, trainer and jockey, respectively, teamed with Smooth Maneuvers to win the Grade III, $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes.

The 3-year-old filly, whom the Delaware-based Michael Pino claimed in her first start for $25,000, outran the heavily favored Devotion Unbridled, trained by Bill Mott in New York, to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Graham, Richetta team

Richetta, a Maryland-bred 2-year-old filly, won her third stakes in five weeks, trouncing her competitors in the $100,000 Selima Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths.

Her owners, Milton P. Higgins III and Tom Bowman, credited her trainer, Robin Graham.

"Robin lives inside horses," Higgins said. "Robin trains their minds as well as their bodies. She understands when it's about the mind and when it's about the body.

"Robin and this filly got on the same page, and it's been like a Mozart duet ever since."

Gazillion scores

Now a star in New York, Edgar Prado returned to Maryland for De Francis Dash day and cashed in with Gazillion in the $75,000 Stefanita Stakes.

The 4-year-old filly survived a powerful wide charge by Bronze Abe to prevail by a head.

`Last' nose wins

Michael Gill's Last Intention edged Toccet in a dramatic stretch duel to capture the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes by a nose. Private Ryan, also owned by Gill, raced stride-for-stride with Toccet early.

Although Mark Shuman, trainer of both Gill horses, said Private Ryan was not intended to be a "rabbit," the early pressure on Toccet probably cost him the race. Still, he fought back after Last Intention passed him.

Total betting a record

A crowd of 12,068 attended the races at Laurel. Total betting, in and out of state, was $6,539,268, a record for De Francis Dash day. The race was first run in 1990.

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