09/03/2001 12:00AM

Columbus: Cash Cruise wins


COLUMBUS, Neb. - Cash Cruise won her first race of the year Sunday when she rallied from well off the pace to win the $8,185 Bill Callihan Handicap by a neck over Statsie's Charmer.

Sweet Fantastic, favored at 7-5, and Irish Flyer established a quick early pace as the pair dueled through fractions of 22.40 seconds and 46.40. Sweet Fantastic, coming off a two-month layoff, kicked clear on the far turn to open up a four-length lead leaving the eighth pole. But the final sixteenth proved too much as she shortened stride and faded to fifth.

Cash Cruise, owned by Larry Cascio, came rolling down the center of the track under Mark Luark to briefly move clear, then held off the late charge of Statsie's Charmer in 1:20.40 for the 6 1/2 furlongs over a fast track. Ridden by Jorge Collazo Jr., Statsie's Charmer rallied from last on the far turn and swung seven wide into the stretch.

Cash Cruise returned $18.40. Tizablaze rallied for third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Statsie's Charmer.