FAIR HILL - Miserable weather put a damper on the 70th annual Memorial Day races at Fair Hill, but Footlights emerged as bright sunshine.
A downpour that made the sixth race almost invisible abated for the feature, and Footlights won a rousing stretch duel over Classic Gale, prevailing by a nose in the $30,000 Valentine Memorial.
Sent off as the even-money favorite in a field of seven fillies and mares, Footlights returned $4.20 to win and set up smallish exacta and trifecta payments with the two other top choices, Classic Gale and Almost There, who finished third.
"I thought she'd run well," said victorious trainer Jack Fisher, whose charges have now taken Fair Hill features in two consecutive years after a disqualification cost him a victory in 2002.
Five of the females were fresh from the May 8 race in Nashville, Tenn., a race won by Almost There by a length over Footlights, with Classic Gale another length behind.
"I had given her a race before that [a third in an allowance], and then she came back and did well at Nashville, but got a little tired," added Fisher, the National Steeplechase Association training leader with 12 wins.
It didn't hurt the daughter of Pleasant Tap out of Magnificent Baby that she received a generous weight allowance, carrying 139 pounds. Almost There toted 18 more and Classic Gale 15 more.
"She's a 4-year-old, and the others are older," Fisher said. Footlights was making only her third start over jumps after being purchased by Arcadia Stable and Fisher last winter.
In the James Stump Memorial, the novice timber race, Iron County Xmas remained unbeaten over timber with a third victory for trainer F.B. Miller Jr.
A day that is usually marked by merrymaking and picnicking was subdued from the beginning when less than two-thirds of the estimated 15,000 who usually attend the races showed with the skies cloudy and drizzling.
By the end of the program, the fans left could be counted in the hundreds as many departed after the mid-card deluge.
Two visiting foreign riders, Nastasja Volz of Germany and Bruno Be Vaubernier of France, won against their American counterparts in two flat races on the turf.