Private Account, a much-talked-about colt since the first race of his career, finally lived up to his lofty reputation and his pedigree today. He won the prestigious Widener Handicap at Hialeah.
Rallying through the stretch on a sloppy track, Private Account scored by a nose over Lot O'Gold in the $151,500 stake. His chances had been considerably helped when the out-standing horse in the field, Belle's Gold, was scratched because of a foot infection.
Private Account is a son of the champion colt Damascus and the champion filly Numbered Account, and he sparked considerable excitement when he won his first three starts in New York last fall. But he never blossomed after that, and won only one inconsequential stakes race during his 3-year-old champaign.
Trainer Angel Penna brought him to Hialeah with high hopes this winter. Even though Private Account lost his first two starts, he showed enough in them to be made the 7-to-10 favorite today.
Instrument Landing and Silent Cal dueled for the lead in the early stages of the Widener, while Lot O'Gold sat third and Private Account fourth. On the far turn, jockey Don Brumfield made his move, sending Lot O'Gold inside the pacesetters to take a commanding lead. For a moment, at least, he seemed to have left the favorite for dead.
Private Account's rider, Jeffrey Fell, was admittedly worried. He was on the inside part of the track, which had been made deep by day-long rains, and he said, "I didn't want to be there." Brumfield was delighted by his position on the outside: "I thought I was on the best path," he said.
But as Brumfield swung Lot O'Gold to the middle of the track entering the stretch, Private Account saved ground and rallied strongly along the rail. He drew abreast with about six strides to go and held a narrow nose advantage at the wire.
Private Account covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:03 1/5. He paid $3.40 to win.
Penna should have been ecstatic after seeing his charge finally win a major race, but he wasn't. "I hate the weather," the trainer said. "I hate the sloppy track. I hate the way my horse ran on the worst spot on the track coming down the stretch. But he won and I am happy." CAPTION: Picture, Private Account with Jeff Fell up, makes stretch drive to win $151,500 Widener Handicap at Hialeah. Lot O'Gold was second and Rivalero finished third. AP