The colt Flaming Bridle, not content with being merely the most pertinently named entry in the field, proved he also was the quickest in winning the $75,000 Lite the Fuse Stakes yesterday at Laurel Park.
The 3-year-old son of Unbridled, winner of the 1990 Kentucky Derby, failed to live up to his breeding until the last few months. After winning just two of his first 23 starts, Flaming Bridle got quite hot and has four victories in his last six outings. In his last race at Philadelphia Park, his home track, Flaming Bridle broke the track record for seven furlongs with a time of 1 minute 20 3/5 seconds.
Flaming Bridle never had won a stakes before, however. So bettors weren't swayed by his recent string of solid performances; the 4-year-old Klabin's Gold, also a son of a Derby winner (Strike the Gold in 1991), went off as the favorite in the Lite the Fuse Stakes.
Despite the slight from the bettors, Flaming Bridle's jockey, Robert Colton, came to Laurel Park confident he would be aboard the best horse in the feature race. In handicapping the six-furlong sprint, Colton said he didn't see any challenger who could prevent his mount from getting to the front of the eight-horse pack.
But when the gates opened, Colton learned he would be getting a good fight from Chips Pride, the longest shot in the field at 23-1. Jockey Mario Pino carried Chips Pride to the early lead along the rail, leaving Flaming Bridle and Colton behind by a head after the opening quarter-mile.
"That horse [Chips Pride] surprised me, because going in I didn't see much early speed in this race," Colton said. "I thought we'd be on the lead by ourselves. We were going to try to shake everybody early, then steal the race."
When the field hit the turn, Chips Pride began losing some spunk, leaving Flaming Bridle in front by almost two lengths as they headed for home. Over the final furlong, Colton needed to perform only minor lead maintenance to get Flaming Bridle his first stakes victory, and the colt hit the wire 1 1/4 lengths ahead of the hard-closing Von Groovey. Klabin's Gold never looked precious, finishing fifth.
Flaming Bridle finished in 1:09 1/5 seconds and paid $9.00.
Colton gave credit for the win to his mount and trainer John Servis.
"John really turned this horse around," he said. "He's living up to his potential finally. In [training], everybody thought he was a super horse, but when he'd run he'd just hang on for a second or third. That's changed. He's destroying everybody now. He could be a lot of fun this winter."