07/14/2008 12:00AM

Colt cut but mending after frightening incident


Trainer Lloyd Mason has heard the old expression that there are a million ways to lose a race and only one way to win one.

He doesn't know which number having the leader veer into the rail is, but he does know he's very lucky that Cross Fire is still in one piece after the 2-year-old colt ducked in sharply and somersaulted over the rail in Saturday's Solano County Juvenile Stakes at the Solano County Fair. Cross Fire's rider, David Lopez, also came out of the race uninjured.

"I don't know how he came out of it without being injured worse, but thank goodness both he and David are okay," Mason said.

Cross Fire and Frumious were battling head and head for the lead in the stretch of the 5 1/2-furlong race when Cross Fire ducked in.

"I think he was going to win," Mason said. "David said he still had plenty of horse, and he sensed the other colt was tiring."

Mason couldn't explain what happened, but he noted that Cross Fire had changed to his right lead just as Lopez hit him right-handed.

"That might have been confusing to the horse," he said.

As horrific as the accident looked, Cross Fire was not seriously injured.

"He got cut up pretty good," Mason said. "He had one deep puncture wound and scraped a lot of meat off his knee."

Mason took the gelding to the University of California at Davis, where he was being treated to prevent infection from his cuts.

Babs Moosa and Turbo Call finished first and second, with Frumious third.

Mule's star rising

Solano fans will see mule racing's latest star, Bar JF Hot Ticket, on Sunday. The 5-year-old mare will likely be facing two top mules that she beat at Pleasanton: Sarah Nelson, who has won 48 of 74 starts, and Smoking Joe, a winner of 30 races.

Trained by Ray Thomas, Bar JF Hot Ticket beat Sarah Nelson twice last year at Fairplex and wound up her 2007 campaign with a six-length victory at Fresno.

She dominated in her first start of 2008, beating Jet Fuel by 1 1/2 lengths despite starting slowly. Sarah Nelson wound up third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.

If you're a top mule, you're automatically compared to the legendary Black Ruby.

Is she the next Black Ruby?

"We hope so," said Thomas. "She's pretty good. She does everything right."

Explaining Bar JF Hot Ticket's success, Thomas seems to be describing many of the traits that made Black Ruby so special.

"She gallops like a horse instead of galloping like a mule," Thomas said. "She strides out all the time. She's not choppy like so many mules. And she wants to be the leader."

Thomas trains Bar JF Hot Ticket like a Thoroughbred. He has her break off with one stablemate, and has another mule breaking off in front of her so she will have someone to run down as she completes her work, since none of the other mules in his barn can stay with her long.

Danny Boag, who has ridden the best mules, including Black Ruby and her longtime rival Taz, won't compare Bar JF Hot Ticket to Black Ruby but says of the current crop of rivals, "By far, she's the best. She loves racing. Every time, she gives it all she's got. Nothing bothers her. Even if it's tight, she bulls her way right through."

Even though she doesn't break as sharply as Thomas and Boag would like, Bar JF Hot Ticket is usually in contention within two or three strides, said Boag.

"When she does get into stride, her stride is so long, it takes everybody else two strides to her one," the jockey said.

The cautious Thomas is leery about trying 660 yards, but Boag says the farther she goes the more she will win by.

Black Ruby still kicking

Black Ruby, 16, is still running, and she will run one or two races in her final year of competition, according to owners Sonny and Mary McPherson.

"She's doing good," McPherson said after Black Ruby came off the Solano track Sunday. "She likes being here at the track."

Black Ruby, who has 70 career victories, may race once at Santa Rosa if a race meeting her conditions fills, and she will make her final start at Ferndale.