05/13/2002 12:00AM

Dark Fuse strategy pays off

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CALGARY, Alberta - Dark Fuse prevailed in a three-horse photo to capture Saturday's $40,000 President's Handicap.

The outcome actually was determined much earlier in the six-furlong race by decisions made by the winning rider, Rickey Walcott, and Stephan Heiler, aboard even-money favorite Dance Me Free.

Dark Fuse broke on top in the field of nine 3-year-olds and was immediately engaged by Dance Me Free on his outside in the run to the first turn.

Walcott, under instructions from trainer Ron Burrell, took back Dark Fuse to avoid being pinned down on the rail, where the going was much heavier.

Heiler found himself alone on the lead through the first turn and led the way down the backstretch through fractions of 23.20 and 46.80 seconds, while Walcott was content to sit a half-length behind and swung outside his foe entering the final turn.

Dark Fuse, who was a head in front at the eighth pole, edged away in deep stretch and had the better of Dark Fuse to his inside while another challenge was being mounted by Intact to his outside.

At the wire, Dark Fuse was a neck in front of Intact, with Dance Me Free another neck back in third. Dark Fuse completed the race in 1:12.60 and returned $17.70.

Sid Gray, trainer of Dance Me Free, refused to put any blame on Heiler. "I told Stephan to go on with it if he broke sharply - he was riding to instructions," said Gray.

The hard-luck horse in the President's was Intact, who was shuffled back at the break and left rider Richard Hamel no choice but to go three-wide turning for home.

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