07/18/2002 12:00AM

Christiansen hits the jackpot


STANTON, Del. - For more than 30 years now, Susan Christiansen has worked countless hours as the manager of Derby Hill Farm in Mt. Airy, Md. Her job entails the kind of back-breaking, all-encompassing, seven-days-a-week work that so often goes unnoticed and unrewarded in the Thoroughbred industry.

"Anything that needs to be done, that's what I do," said Christiansen. "I enjoy working. I always have."

In recent months, after many years of tireless efforts, Christiansen, 48, has hit the jackpot. She is the owner of a horse named Pass the Virtue, one of eight 3-year-old fillies who will run Saturday in the $250,000 Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park.

In her last start, won the $175,000 Susan's Girl Stakes at Delaware, earning $105,000 for her owner. From 11 career starts, Pass the Virtue has earned more than $182,000, far surpassing the $8,000 that Christiansen paid two summers ago for her at the Fasig-Tipton sales at Timonium, Md.

"I've raised a lot of horses here on the farm and bought a few for myself, but that's the most I've ever paid for a horse," Christiansen said Thursday from Derby Hill.

Pass the Virtue, a Virginia-bred by Slavic, has won her last four starts on dirt, the most recent being her 36-1 upset in the June 29 Susan's Girl. Leslie Glazier, a longtime Maryland horsewoman who owns Derby Hill, is the filly's trainer.

An uncommon work ethic is something that Christiansen learned long ago from Glazier, who arrives at her barn at the Bowie training center at 2:30 every morning.

"I've been with Leslie for so long that most people think I'm her daughter," said Christiansen, who grew up near Derby Hill, a 65-acre spread just east of the larger town of Frederick, Md.

Even with more than 30 horses living at Derby Hill, all the work falls to Glazier and Christiansen. "This is the fewest number of horses I can remember having here," said Christiansen. "A few years ago, we had over 100. Then, we had some other employees, but right now, it's just me and Les handling all the work."

The nearly endless list of farm duties includes feeding, cleaning, grooming, and transporting horses. "When we run one down at Charles Town, I'm usually the one who hops in the van and brings them back," said Christiansen. Her job also includes working with veterinarians, farriers, and fence-repair companies, and all other sorts of tasks.

"Les gets on the tractor to do the mowing," she said.

Having flown under racing's radar for so many years, Christiansen has taken her recent success in stride. "It's been fun, because you're going to go to work anyway," she said. "You work hard enough with the other horses that you'd better appreciate it when something like this is happening."

Winning the Susan's Girl was "very delightful," said Christiansen, although she and Glazier admit that winning the Delaware Oaks over the likes of Adoration and other graded stakes winners is more improbable.

"Frankly, I think I'm probably in over my head," Glazier said Thursday from Bowie. "But there's really no other place to run her, and she's doing good. They called me from Delaware and told me they were getting a short field - yeah, a short field of gorillas."

Regardless of what happens Saturday, Glazier and Christiansen will be back at work the next morning. Win or lose, they know no other way.

Delaware Handicap runners trickle in

With entries already having been drawn for the Delaware Handicap Sunday, all was quiet on the Delaware backside on Thursday, a regular dark day.

In Barn 16, designated as the stakes barn, Sam-Son Farm's duo of Catch the Ring and Mountain Angel arrived early Thursday. They were stabled a few stalls down from Starrer, who also will be part of the 10-horse field in the $600,000 Delaware Handicap.

The probable favorite in the Delaware Handicap, Summer Colony, was expected to arrive over the weekend from Belmont Park. Three other starters - Unrestrained, Critical Eye, and Two Item Limit - also are scheduled to ship from New York.

The Del Cap will be the focus of a live, one-hour telecast on ESPN2. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. Eastern, with the Delaware Handicap post set for 5:35. Randy Moss and Jeff Medders will be on hand to host the program.

Several other stakes will support the Del Cap on Sunday, led by the $250,000 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes. Other co-features are the $75,000 Light Hearted Stakes and two divisions of the Cape Henlopen Stakes.

Father-son Delaware scenario

Trainer Steve DiMauro, who will saddle Two Item Limit for the Delaware Handicap, has a particular appreciation for the race: His father, Stephen, won the race three times, with Krislin in 1974 and with Nastique in 1988-89.

"It would mean a lot to win," said DiMauro. "It's a race steeped in tradition, and a lot of nice fillies and mares have won it. I can remember back to the late 1960's and early 1970's, and those experiences have always been with me."

Two Item Limit currently is on an eight-race losing streak but will be ridden Sunday by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, whose only Delaware Handicap victory came 22 years ago aboard Heavenly Ade.

* Mike McCarthy does not have a mount in the Delaware Oaks and therefore has no chance to become the first jockey to win the race three consecutive times. McCarthy, whose five straight jockey titles (1996-2000) are a Delaware record, captured the 2000 running aboard Sincerely and in 2001 won on Zonk. The winningest jockey in Oaks history is the late Eddie Arcaro, who won in 1940, '41, '45, and '55.

* Daily Racing Form handicappers Mike Watchmaker and Kenny Peck will host a handicapping seminar at 10:30 Saturday. The track also is giving away Delaware Park baseball caps.