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Persistent Cormorant's Flight heads field for Fritchie


She has rallied from reactions to too much medication, an irregular heartbeat, a chip in her ankle, a slew of different training methods and a forgettable 4-year-old campaign.

Cormorant's Flight has been through a lot, but when they leave the gate in the Grade II, $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap today at Laurel Park, she will be among the horses to beat.

The 6-year-old mare, a study in persistence, has been made the 4-to-1 overnight favorite by track handicapper Clem Florio in a field dotted by high-quality invaders from elsewhere.

"She came out of her last race perfect," said trainer David Holstein. "I couldn't ask her to be working any better."

Cormorant's Flight has captured two straight stakes victories, the latest by six lengths in the 1 1/8 -mile Maryland Racing Writers Handicap over a sloppy track.

She is again looking like the runner who won three Maryland stakes in a row for Marathon Farm, then was given a shot at the Kentucky Oaks, the female equivalent of the Derby.

After setting the early fractions, she gave way in the Oaks and finished 10th . . . then didn't win again for 30 months.

As a 4-year-old, Cormorant's Flight made only six starts and was on the board once before being idled.

"We shipped her to Manor Equine, and they found a small chip in her ankle," said Harry Strobel, who manages Marathon Farm's operations for Peter Angelos. "Then she went to New Bolton [Center], and they found she had the 'thumps' [irregular heartbeat].

"She also had a problem with getting depleted from too much medication. We shipped her to Florida with Bill Donovan [Holstein was Donovan's assistant] and she began coming back."

Cormorant's Flight now works out with slow gallops and is given only small doses of Lasix, the anti-bleeding medication.

She has responded well to the handling of Holstein.

Angelos purchased Cormorant's Flight at a bargain-basement prize after buying her older sister, Lucky Suez, at a local sale. Cormorant's Flight was not bought in the sale, so he purchased her privately.

"I have a lot of faith in her," said Strobel. "She's never going to embarrass anyone. And she's feeling real good right now."

Holstein has faced adversity, coming back from an accident when a lead pony fell on him, breaking his back in five places, his hand and shoulder.

"I was out of the business for four years. Now I'm back looking for more horses," he said.

The opposition in the Fritchie includes top-weighted Morris Code, a Lost Code filly who has won three straight; highly regarded Traverse City, winner of a Grade III race at Aqueduct New Year's Day, and Evil's Pic, a California speedster trained by Bill Shoemaker.

NOTE: Live racing was canceled at Laurel yesterday, and no training was permitted on the track. The track crew took 8 inches of snow off the surface yesterday afternoon, and another removal is planned this morning. Track management plans to reopen today.

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