Fast times, the breaking of a 19-year-old track record, some large payoffs and a long-shot winner of the Park Heights Handicap marked the return of live racing yesterday to Pimlico Race Course.
The track was so fast -- too fast and hard, according to some people -- that claimers were running six furlongs in 1 minute, 10 seconds and change, a couple of seconds faster than the norm. A 2-year-old filly, Season's Flair, shaved two-fifths of a second off the 5 1/2 -furlong mark of 1 minute, 4 seconds set by ultra-quick Luck Penny in 1976.
Jerry Robb, trainer of Season's Flair, was not at the track. He's in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at a 2-year-olds-in-training-sale, but just about everyone else in his stable was at Old Hilltop and aware of the filly's ability, even though she went off at generous 10-1 odds.
"We all bet her," said Robb's foreman, Daryl Graves. "We knew she could run. When we ran her the first time at Laurel [July 14], she was fit, but not dead racing fit."
In that race, Season's Flair set the pace, tired and finished third. "After that we scoped her and some mucus showed up," Graves said. "We got that cleared up and she was ready today."
Arnold Heft bought the filly, who is a New York-bred daughter of Secretariat's son, D'Accord, in a Florida auction and attempted to re-sell her this spring in a 2-year-old sale in Lexington, Ky.
"But right before the sale, she punctured an elbow and had to be withdrawn," Graves said. "There wasn't much else Mr. Heft could do but bring her home and run her himself."
Heft, who is attending the New York horse sales with Robb, might soon be joined there by Season's Flair, who is eligible for the rich New York-bred fund program.
In the Park Heights Handicap, 35-1 shot Irish Ivor pulled off a $72 upset over even-money favorite Clever Clever and made it look easy for owner-breeder Helen Kelley of Lanham with a three-length score.
Trainer Linda Albert credited jockey Juan Umana for the win. "He was patient, stayed in the back, waited for a hole to open up and then came running," Albert said.
The winner received a 7-pound weight break from Clever Clever. I'm An Old Fool finished third, followed by Canadian invader Brook of Knowledge.
NOTES: Preakness runner-up Oliver's Twist is back in training after his poor effort last month in the Ohio Derby and is being pointed for the Sept. 4 Pennsylvania Derby. . . . David Hayden, syndicate manager for the popular young Maryland stallion Polish Numbers, conducted an unusual draw yesterday in the Pimlico racing office. When one of the 40 shares in the horse became available for $60,000, 15 of the other shareholders in the syndicate wanted to buy it at that price. Hayden solicited trainer King Leatherbury to pull the number of the winning shareholder, whose name was not disclosed, from the track's entry box. Sources said yesterday that such large Kentucky outfits as Claiborne Farm have expressed an interest in purchasing the 8-year-old horse, who is America's leading freshman sire.