Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Jazzy Spark, getting so perfect a journey that driver Roger Hammer said he couldn't have planned one better, broke Rosecroft Raceway's track record with a 1:58 2/5 mile in the first division of the William E. Miller Memorial Pace last night.
Jade Prince and Fulla Strikes, two of the nation's top 3-year-old colts and coholders of the word record for 2-year-olds, finished out of the money.
Nat Lobell, stablemate of Jade Prince and top-rated in this year's experimental ratings, held off J. J. 's Rio and Big Towner to win the second division in 1:59 1/5.
It was the first time two sub-two-minute miles had been paced on the same program at Rosecroft.
The result of the first division was a surprise for the Rosecroft crowd of 7,885. That Hammer reined Jazzy Spark was a surprise for the 31-year-old son-in-law of Jim Crane, the winner's owner's, trainer and regular driver.
Crane, who has been suffering from flu, warmed up his steed and decided he was not well enough to drive. So Hammer, scheduled to drive two horses later in the 10-race program, got the call.
Hammer usually trains his horses to race on the lead. But father-in-law Crane gave him explicit instructions not to do so against this caliber of competition.
"He would have killed me if I did," said Hammer.
So Hammer, breaking from the No. 2 post, found a hole behind Lady's Image. That game filly, a 10-to-1 shot, set up the race for Jazzy Spark by dueling Fulla Strikes for the lead and setting the early fractions of 29 2/5, 58 3/5 and 1:28 3/5.
The Final time was one-fifth second better than the track record set by Nickawampus Joe on closing night last year.
"I couldn't have planned a more perfect race for my horse if I'd drawn it on a blackboard," said Hammer.
Indeed, Fulla Strikes had all it could handle dueling Lady's Image for the lead on the outside and Jade Prince, which went off as second favorite to Fulla Strikes, experienced difficulty handling a half-mile track.
River Captain closed fast to finish second, a neck behind the winner. Lady's Image held on for third, almost two lengths farther back. Jade Prince finished fourth and Fulla Strikes fifth in the seven-horse dash.
Jazzy Spark returned $12.40, $5.40 and $4.20 in earning half of the $20,000 purse. Those winnings increased Jazzy Spark's lifetime earnings by almost 70 per cent.