FAIR HILL -- Suspended a year ago for erratic jumping -- he bolted off course in his first start -- 7-year-old Melissa's Quickie improved to 2-for-2 in 1998 with a win yesterday in the $25,000 Miles Valentine Novice Stakes, the headliner on an eight-race steeplechase and flat card at the Fair Hill Races.
Racing near the back of the 11-horse field for the first half of the 2 1/4 -mile, 15-jump race, Melissa's Quickie and jockey Peter Walsh burst out of a pack approaching the final turn. The son of El Raggaas challenged Ivory's Pleasure at the 12th jump, and powered to a clear lead by the stretch.
The winner, who delighted long-shot players in the crowd of 16,127 with a $31.40 payoff, turned back a strong challenge from Commanders Palace to win by a half-length. Neruda was third.
Owner-trainer Bruno Favre, based at Bowie Training Center, credited experience with the change in his horse.
"We schooled him over show fences and other things to try to teach him how to jump," said Favre. "We stopped giving him [the anti-bleeding medication] Lasix, and I think that helped him. He was running well last year, but he was trying to run out at the fences."
Favre's wife, Leslie, who did much of the work with Melissa's Quickie, called the win an early present. She is due to have a baby Thursday and was supposed to spend yesterday quietly watching.
"I was hollering and riding along with him," she said. "He's rotten, but I love him. He was just green last year and he's more seasoned now."
Walsh was impressed.
"After I rode the horse the first time [a win April 18], I got off him and told Bruno I thought he was a nice horse," said Walsh, who rode just one horse yesterday (partly because of a hard fall eight days earlier at High Hope in Kentucky).
"He did all the work today and went right up there when the inside opened up down the back. And he was still going at the end."
Favre purchased the horse from Steve Ferguson for $6,500 in 1996. The $15,000 winner's check yesterday boosted the horse's 1997-98 bankroll to almost $26,000.
While Favre's steeplechase stable includes just one horse, defending National Steeplechase Association trainer Tom Voss counts close to 30 in his Monkton barn. Three won over jumps (and one on the flat) yesterday as Voss moved into a tie atop the 1998 NSA standings with 10 wins.
Pub Date: 5/26/98