Looking Best, `Arch' win at Fair Hill Races

Md.-bred Guelph comes up short in feature

1 race canceled because of safety concerns

Horse Racing

May 28, 2006|By TODD KARPOVICH | TODD KARPOVICH,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FAIR HILL -- Two Maryland-bred horses had first-place finishes and another narrowly missed winning the feature event at the Fair Hill Races yesterday in front of 14,750.

Fair Hill in Cecil County was supposed to feature eight races with a total purse of $75,000, but the CCBF James Stump Memorial Novice Timber was canceled because officials with the National Steeplechase Association ruled the jumps were not structurally sound.

Jack Fisher, whose Maryland-bred horse, Looking Best, won the $15,000 Delaware Park Hurdle, said he hopes to put together a group of horsemen to meet with the state and discuss ways to make the necessary repairs. He also said that he would want Frank Hopkins Jr., race director of Fair Hill, to remain in control of the track and be directly involved in any renovations.

"I think the track itself is in reasonably good shape," Fisher said. "I think there is too much training that goes on here in the morning. It needs to remain a steeplechase course with one person in control of the grounds. The timber course needs to be rebuilt. The state has put a lot of money into this track. This used to the best facility in the country. It has kind of fallen on hard times, but I think it can be resurrected."

Even though the final race was canceled, Fair Hill had a handle of $168,506.

In addition to Looking Best, Maryland-bred horse ArchD'What won the Rodman W. Moorhead III Amateur Ladies Flat. Looking Best also picked up a $5,000 Maryland Million premium bonus for capturing the fifth race.

"That was another reason for running him here because it is now a $20,000 race instead of $15,000," Fisher said. "Our owner has had horses that slipped through that would have been good in the Maryland Million. It worked out well."

In the $30,000 Valentine Memorial Filly & Mare Hurdle Stakes, which was the feature race of the day, Isla Mujeres barely nudged Guelph, a Maryland-bred filly trained by Tom Voss who was a 4-5 favorite. Guelph won the NSA's Filly/Mare Championship last year.

Isla Mujeres' trainer, Paul Douglas Fout said: "We had a fresh horse and that made all of the difference. She is a nice horse and will only get better. She trained with all of the boys and gave them a hard time for the past five days."

Fair Hill has hosted racing since the 1930s and was home to the first six Breeders' Cup Steeplechase races. The track is also the home of injured Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Despite the NSA's concerns, most of the jockeys said they didn't have much of a problem on the track yesterday.

"The track was absolutely fine," said jockey Xavier Aizpuru, who won two races yesterday with Straight Path in the fourth race and with Looking Best in the fifth. "The ground was really firm. What can you do when you don't have any rain? It was as good as they could have had it."

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