`Battle' calmly wins Schapiro Memorial

Gelding sets track record on firm, new Laurel turf

Horse Racing

September 18, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Battle Chant looked nervous as he paraded the paddock. Sweat broke out on his neck, along the insides of his legs. He was so jittery his handlers didn't even try to get him back in his stall when the call came for riders up.

Jockey Ryan Fogelsonger hopped on as the horse did a sidestep on the path toward the Laurel Park racetrack. If you didn't know Battle Chant, you might have thought he was using up all his energy.

But after the 5-year-old gelding owned by Cheveley Park Farm in England won the $150,000 John D. Schapiro Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap in a track record 1 minute, 46 seconds, trainer H. Graham Motion revealed the truth.

"You should see him in the morning," said Motion, who has developed a reputation as a turf trainer and is being sent more and more European horses. "That was calm."

Calm - on some level - it turns out, is important in turf races like yesterday's 1 1/8 -mile handicap for 3-year-olds and up. And in that regard, Motion said, preparing the horse at the Fair Hill Training Center was key on Laurel's new turf course, which has turned firm with lack of rain.

"Dirt horses usually run close to the pace," Motion said. "But in turf races, the good horses lay back, waiting. It takes a calm horse to do that. At Fair Hill we're able to take time, go out to a field and get them to relax."

The race began with Baron Von Tap setting the pace before giving way, while Battle Chant settled in close, just off the pace in fourth, before taking the lead in the upper stretch.

"This horse is improving," said Fogelsonger, whose horse has won two of four starts this year. "He kept his momentum up and he only ran the final 3/16 of a mile. He had much, much more left."

Battle Chant ($4.80, $3.60 and $3.40) collected $90,000 of the purse. Jockey Steve Hamilton brought Dr. Kashnikow ($12.20, $7), also trained at Fair Hill, home second for $30,000 and said the pace was rugged.

"There hasn't been a horse to make up two lengths, let alone 10," he said, after rallying from seventh. "This guy put his heart into it."

Proud Man ($6.20), a veteran 7-year-old, finished third and earned $16,500, bringing his lifetime earnings to $981,813.

The favorite, Mr. O'Brien, finished next to last in the seven-horse field.

NOTES: Trainer King Leatherbury, 72, reached the 6,100-win mark yesterday when Deed to the Gate ($7.80) won the ninth race. ... The Maryland Racing Commission stewards suspended four jockeys for infractions in the first two weeks of the fall meeting. Eric Camacho, Richard Monterrey, Tracey Brown and Kelvin Serrano will each miss five live days for careless riding.

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