She can be temperamental and downright unruly, but when Lottsa Talc wants to run, she is a model of comportment.
Yesterday, Lottsa Talc was in a running mood and -- with a big assist from a bold move by jockey Frank Alvarado -- she came roaring from seventh place to a 1 1/2 -length victory over Up An Eighth in the $200,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park.
The $120,000 winner's share pushed the 6-year-old mare's lifetime earnings above $860,000 in her 50th start. Lottsa Talc now has 12 stakes triumphs.
"She's a New York girl. She's tough," trainer Tim Kelly said of the winner's personality. "She can be kind of fussy and peculiar. But on her best day, she is the best."
But it might not have happened quite the same had Alvarado, a regular on the New York circuit, not squeezed his mount through a tiny opening between Up An Eighth and pacesetter Culver City, who set some sizzling fractions.
When the gap appeared in the final furlong, Alvarado urged Lottsa Talc to the front and they were clearing the field at the wire.
"I put a little hold on her and waited for this little hole," said Alvarado. "I started to panic a little. If it didn't open, we were in big trouble. But when I saw it, I knew we could get through."
Top-weighted and probable favorite Chaposa Springs remained in Florida -- away from Maryland's wintry weather.
Just the kind Lottsa Talc is accustomed to in her home state where she has made all but four of her starts.
"We had an open gallop Wednesday in New York, then ponied her Thursday," said Kelly. "We walked the shed like everybody else and watched the snow Friday. She acted good here. It's her kind of weather."
The jockey change -- to Alvarado from Diane Nelson -- was a "committee decision" according to Kelly. "There were no hard feelings. Frankie lost her before when we rode Diane."
Up An Eighth is a Dick Small-trained horse in the care of assistant trainer Brenda Jordan. She responded strongly and led briefly in the stretch, but couldn't hold off the winner.
"She came off two bang-up wins and ran today just about like she did in those," said jockey Steve Hamilton.
The California invader of Bill Shoemaker, Evil's Pic, came willingly through the stretch to beat favored Morris Code by a neck for third. Traverse City was fifth, another head back, in her worst finish in 29 starts.
Culver City faded to sixth after running the quarter in 22 2/5, the half-mile in 45 and three quarters in 1:09 4/5.
Cormorant's Flight, the local mare who had won two straight stakes, never got into the race and finished 11th of 13.
Last year, Lottsa Talc came to Laurel late and wound up fifth in the Fritchie. Kelly learned from that experience.
"We came in on top of the race last year," he said. "This year we wanted to get her here early."
Kelly's father, Tom, was born in Pikesville and campaigned here. "He grew up in Maryland racing," said the son. "It's a great thrill for me just to stand here [in the winner's circle]."
It was the second Fritchie win for Kelly, who scored with Amy Be Good six years ago.
NOTE: A field of 13 headed by Florida invader Meadow Monster has been entered for tomorrow's Grade II $200,000 General George Handicap. Conspicuously missing is local star Foxie G, who would be coming back on short rest after winning the Hoover Stakes only two weeks ago. The second and third finishers in that race, Mary's Buckaroo and Cat Be Nimble, will try it. Meadow Monster will break from the No. 5 slot with Rick Wilson aboard. He has won three straight, the last two in handicaps at Gulfstream Park by a combined 12 1/2 lengths. Kent Desormeaux is named to ride Finder's Fortune and Joe Bravo will guide New York runner Hay Cody.