`Loves Me' opens it up with win in Twixt

5th victory in row on dirt comes in Pimlico feature

Horse Racing

August 01, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It's a short walk for He Loves Me from Barn D at Pimlico Race Course to the track where she plies her trade.

Once the Not For Love filly arrives, she makes sure she gets home quickly.

With regular Jozbin Santana in the saddle, He Loves Me almost toyed with eight rivals in the $100,000 Twixt Stakes yesterday, taking Pimlico's opening-day feature by 1 3/4 lengths for her fifth straight victory on dirt.

"There wasn't a whole lot of strategy," said winning trainer Richard Small. "We knew we had the best horse. She's improving and she might wind up in a race in New York."

The competition wasn't exactly chopped liver. Richetta was a terror last year, winning three stakes races, and Pour It On is a highly capable filly who captured the Maryland Juvenile Championship last December.

But He Loves Me methodically put them away through the stretch after Santana relaxed her early.

Richetta finished second, with Pour It On another length behind. The winning time was a leisurely 1:51.12 for 1 1/8 miles.

The victory was the fourth consecutive added-money win at Pimlico for Santana, who took the final three stakes of the spring meeting.

"Everything worked out perfectly," Santana said. "They were going a little bit slow, but she's the kind of horse you can put anywhere you want. At the half-mile pole, she started dragging me. Coming to the stretch, I started riding her to let her know we were in business and she took off. She was pretty much hand-ridden. I was just being a passenger."

Also owned by Small, who has trained such horses as Broad Brush, Concern and Valley Crossing, He Loves me comes along "once in a blue moon," said the trainer. "She's holding her weight and maybe picking up some. I think she has a future."

Trainer Robin Graham was pleased with the effort of Richetta, who won four of eight starts, including three stakes, last fall.

"That was a big improvement over her last couple of races," Graham said. "I'm not sure she really likes this surface because she hits herself and runs down a bit, something she only does on this track. But she finished very well and the effort was typical of her early career. She tried."

NOTE: John Passero, the track superintendent in Maryland for 18 years, has accepted a severance package from the Maryland Jockey Club and will not return.

"I've enjoyed my time here," Passero said. "I've had great relationships with the horsemen, the stewards, the press, like nowhere else I've ever been. I really don't have any plans at this time."

Nicknamed "Fast Track," he carried the title of vice president and was regarded as perhaps the best in the nation at his craft.

Passero would not elaborate on the reasons for his departure. Jamie Richardson is the new track superintendent.

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