H. Allen Jerkens, the Hall of Fame trainer, didn't want to send Kelly Kip to Laurel Park.
He had another race picked out at lovely Saratoga. And Jerkens prefers not to leave home.
But when several heavy hitters failed to enter the prestigious Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, David Rollinson, Laurel Park's stakes coordinator, talked Jerkens into entering Kelly Kip at the last minute.
Kelly Kip responded yesterday with a breathtaking performance before 6,807 fans at Laurel Park and a simulcast audience of thousands. He shattered the stakes record and nearly set a track record in winning the Grade II, six-furlong De Francis Dash by 1 3/4 lengths.
His time of 1 minute 8 2/5 seconds eclipsed by one-fifth second the stakes record established by Housebuster in 1991 and Montbrook in 1993. Kelly Kip nearly matched the track record of 1: 08 held since 1992 by Fighting Notion.
"Kelly Kip is probably the best sprinter in the country right now," said Richard Schosberg, trainer of the runner-up Affirmed Success. "Our horse ran the best race of his career. I just don't know what to do to beat this guy."
Kelly Kip, the 6-5 favorite, overcame pressure early and pressure late. He broke third behind Heckofaralph and Wise Dusty, then dispatched Wise Dusty on the way to the turn and Heckofaralph around the turn.
Affirmed Success, who lost crucial ground with an awkward break, surged aside Kelly Kip down the stretch. But Kelly Kip, with his jockey, Jean-Luc Samyn, whipping right-handed, spurted clear and passed under the wire the mid-year favorite to win the Eclipse Award as the nation's top sprinter.
"This has to elevate him to the top of the sprint division," said Chuck Simon, Jerkens' assistant trainer.
Jerkens remained at Belmont Park. Simon said Kelly Kip would get some time off and then probably try to win a Grade I race this fall at Belmont -- he has never won a Grade I -- and then the Breeders' Cup Sprint Nov. 7 at Churchill Downs.
Kelly Kip, a 4-year-old colt, earned his largest paycheck -- $180,000 of the $300,000 purse -- swelling his bankroll to $900,797. He has won half of his 22 races, and in three he set track records.
He might have set another yesterday, but Laurel Park's surface was a "little dull," Simon said.
The trainer of Affirmed Success concurred.
"These horses went 1: 08 [and 2/5]," Schosberg said, "and this is no 1: 08 track today."
The outcome validated bettors' wisdom as the pair of 2-1 second choices, Affirmed Success and Partner's Hero, ran second and third. The exacta paid $11.60, the trifecta $17.60. Kelly Kip returned $4.40 to win.
Simon said he and Samyn, the jockey, agreed on strategy: Let Heckofaralph and Wise Dusty blaze to the front, keep Kelly Kip relaxed behind them, and then shoot for the lead around the turn.
"He's a small horse, very agile and athletic," Simon said. "He runs the turns very well."
Added Samyn, describing the subsequent stretch run: "When I saw somebody coming close to me on the outside, that's when I asked him to run. And he really took off for me. Today, the way he ran, it was a superior race."
Afterward, Simon thanked the afternoon's unsung hero, Rollinson, the stakes coordinator.
"We were hustled into this race 100 percent -- no question about it," Simon said. "Let me thank the stakes coordinator for pushing us into it."
Although the De Francis Dash was the afternoon highlight -- and the highlight of summer racing in Maryland -- three other stakes graced yesterday's program at Laurel Park.
The outstanding 4-year-old filly Colonial Minstrel ran like the 2-5 favorite she was in romping to a 5 1/2 -length victory over J J'sdream in the $100,000, seven-furlong Straight Deal Breeders' Cup.
Trained by Mark Hennig at Belmont Park, Colonial Minstrel has won nine of 16 starts -- and six of her past seven.
"She was just out for a walk in the park," said her jockey, Pat Day, who also rode Partner's Hero in the Dash.
Trainer Ben Perkins Sr. won the two 5 1/2 -furlong stakes for 2-year-olds, the Primer and the Toddler, with horses stabled at Delaware Park: the colt Erlton, 1-5 in the Primer, and the filly Gold Plum, 5-2 in the Toddler.
NOTE: Peter Angelos's Jove Stone was scratched from the Dash because of a quarter crack in his left rear hoof discovered yesterday morning, said Dick Dutrow, the colt's trainer.
Pub Date: 7/19/98