01/10/2007 12:00AM

Another Delp horse as memorable as Bid

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PHILADELPHIA - When Bud Delp died, every story about his training legacy remembered his great work with Spectacular Bid. I remember him for his work with the sprinter Tiger Castle.

It was March 1978 at Pimlico, a few months before Bid would make his debut at the same track. Tiger Castle had run against the bias at Bowie. He was entered in a six-furlong stakes race at Pimlico, which was, during that period, a speedball's paradise.

I was still quite new to the game, but I knew this much. Tiger Castle was not going to be favored. And he was not going to lose. The bettors settled on closer John U to Berry as the favorite. While Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry was one of the great quarterback-receiver combos in NFL history, it was not going to help the deep closer John U to Berry win at Pimlico that day. Or, I fervently hoped, finish second.

My prime bet in those days was around $200, so I budgeted exactly that for Tiger Castle. But I wasn't terribly interested in turning the $200 into $600 if the 2-1 shot won the race. I wanted to gamble.

My memory is that were five others in the race. I did not like the favorite. And there was an intriguing longshot named Kohutek (remember the comet?).

I took the $200 and bet it all in exactas with Tiger Castle on top. I bet $20 on the favored exacta combination, which would have gotten my money back. I spread $80 out, but saved the other $100 for a one punch of Tiger Castle-Kohutek. It was paying around $60 as post time approached.

Tiger Castle, predictably, went right to the front and blew the field away. John U to Berry languished near the back. The rest of them were still sorting themselves out at the eighth pole when my comet emerged a clear second.

The Tiger Castle-Kohutek exacta paid $61.80. The $200 I bet on the race became $3,090. And I had the first score of my life. I was hanging with a bunch of friends who are still friends today. One of them, in fact, is among the most successful players in America. It was the first big score any of us had made. More have been made since then.

I was pretty sure I had figured out the secret to the game. I had for those 90 seconds. The intervening 29 years has proved that "the secret" is rather elusive. You find out that you don't really know what you think you know even when you are sure you know it.

One Sunday a few months later, I flew from Baltimore to Kennedy Airport to bet on Tiger Castle at Aqueduct. My luggage was the Daily Racing Form. My prime bet went up. It shouldn't have. Tiger Castle was well beaten.

Delp, I figured, was just a Maryland guy. It turned out I was wrong about that, too.

You can make any list of the greatest horses of all time and put them in any order, but you better have the Bid somewhere in the top five. The horse was that good.

Bud Delp proved he could leave Maryland and win all the big races. All he needed was the big horse. I will always contend that no horse ever had a greater year than Bid had in 1980 - Santa Anita, Hollywood, Arlington, Monmouth, Belmont, seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, track records, world records, his odds never higher than 3-10, never challenged, finished the year in a Woodward walkover.

Delp was great with cheap claimers. He could win on the way up or the way down. He used to claim them for $10,000, drop them to $3,000 after they got out of jail, and win by the length of the stretch, presumably with a big bet to make up the difference. I don't remember those horses ever losing, but everybody was scared to bet them anyway.

I was never scared to bet on Bud Delp. What the man did best was win races - short races, long races, cheap races, Triple Crown races, Timonium races, Churchill races.

And the race at Pimlico that I remember as if it were yesterday: Tiger Castle-Kohutek, $61.80. A day and a man you simply don't forget.PHILADELPHIA - When Bud Delp died, every story about his training legacy remembered his great work with Spectacular Bid. I remember him for his work with the sprinter Tiger Castle.

It was March 1978 at Pimlico, a few months before Bid would make his debut at the same track. Tiger Castle had run against the bias at Bowie. He was entered in a six-furlong stakes race at Pimlico, which was, during that period, a speedball's paradise.

I was still quite new to the game, but I knew this much. Tiger Castle was not going to be favored. And he was not going to lose. The bettors settled on closer John U to Berry as the favorite. While Johnny Unitas to Raymond Berry was one of the great quarterback-receiver combos in NFL history, it was not going to help the deep closer John U to Berry win at Pimlico that day. Or, I fervently hoped, finish second.

My prime bet in those days was around $200, so I budgeted exactly that for Tiger Castle. But I wasn't terribly interested in turning the $200 into $600 if the 2-1 shot won the race. I wanted to gamble.

My memory is that were five others in the race. I did not like the favorite. And there was an intriguing longshot named Kohutek (remember the comet?).

I took the $200 and bet it all in exactas with Tiger Castle on top. I bet $20 on the favored exacta combination, which would have gotten my money back. I spread $80 out, but saved the other $100 for a one punch of Tiger Castle-Kohutek. It was paying around $60 as post time approached.

Tiger Castle, predictably, went right to the front and blew the field away. John U to Berry languished near the back. The rest of them were still sorting themselves out at the eighth pole when my comet emerged a clear second.

The Tiger Castle-Kohutek exacta paid $61.80. The $200 I bet on the race became $3,090. And I had the first score of my life. I was hanging with a bunch of friends who are still friends today. One of them, in fact, is among the most successful players in America. It was the first big score any of us had made. More have been made since then.

I was pretty sure I had figured out the secret to the game. I had for those 90 seconds. The intervening 29 years has proved that "the secret" is rather elusive. You find out that you don't really know what you think you know even when you are sure you know it.

One Sunday a few months later, I flew from Baltimore to Kennedy Airport to bet on Tiger Castle at Aqueduct. My luggage was the Daily Racing Form. My prime bet went up. It shouldn't have. Tiger Castle was well beaten.

Delp, I figured, was just a Maryland guy. It turned out I was wrong about that, too.

You can make any list of the greatest horses of all time and put them in any order, but you better have the Bid somewhere in the top five. The horse was that good.

Bud Delp proved he could leave Maryland and win all the big races. All he needed was the big horse. I will always contend that no horse ever had a greater year than Bid had in 1980 - Santa Anita, Hollywood, Arlington, Monmouth, Belmont, seven furlongs to 1 1/4 miles, track records, world records, his odds never higher than 3-10, never challenged, finished the year in a Woodward walkover.

Delp was great with cheap claimers. He could win on the way up or the way down. He used to claim them for $10,000, drop them to $3,000 after they got out of jail, and win by the length of the stretch, presumably with a big bet to make up the difference. I don't remember those horses ever losing, but everybody was scared to bet them anyway.

I was never scared to bet on Bud Delp. What the man did best was win races - short races, long races, cheap races, Triple Crown races, Timonium races, Churchill races.

And the race at Pimlico that I remember as if it were yesterday: Tiger Castle-Kohutek, $61.80. A day and a man you simply don't forget.