08/15/2007 12:00AM

Dead Red's $143 upset win results in plenty to celebrate

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MIAMI - The feel good story of the week was Dead Red's victory in Saturday's $250,000 Turf Sprint Championship.

Not only did Dead Red, a former claimer and decided underdog, upset a strong field that included nationally ranked sprinter Mach Ride, he also gave trainer George Mikhalides his first stakes winner in the United States and jockey Ray Fuentes the first stakes win of his riding career. Dead Red paid $143.20 to win for his unlikely triumph in the Turf Sprint.

Mikhalides was born in Lebanon and enjoyed a successful 20-year career training horses in France, where he worked for the Buckram Oak Farm of the late Mahmoud Fustok. He came to the United States four years ago to continue his association with Buckram Oak. But Mikhalides was forced to cut ties with Buckram Oak after encountering immigration problems.

"I had to stop working to clear up all the paperwork involved with my green card, and once that was finally taken care of, I basically had to start from scratch when it came to my training career," Mikhalides said.

Mikhalides, 46, currently trains only a handful of horses. He added Dead Red to the barn in May 2006 when claiming the gelding for $16,000 out of his fourth career start. The son of Out of Place did not hit the board in eight subsequent tries, all on dirt, before ending his 3-year-old campaign prematurely due to foot problems late last summer.

"I basically claimed him because I believed in his pedigree for the turf, but couldn't get him on the grass right away, and then he developed some issues with his feet," said Mikhalides, whose best previous stakes experience was Classy Migration's second-place finish in the 2004 Carry Back. "But once we got those straightened out, and I finally got him on turf, he's improved with every race."

Dead Red finished third and fourth in a pair of overnight stakes here during the spring while not badly beaten by the best of the local division, including Lord Robyn and Nacascolo, two of his victims in the Turf Sprint Championship. He finally earned his first win for Mikhalides when stretching out to 7o1/2 furlongs on June 30 and rallying to a head victory against entry-level allowance company.

Dead Red benefited from a perfect trip in the Turf Sprint Championship, slipping through along the hedge around the turn before easing out and overtaking Mach Ride at midstretch en route to a 1 1/4-length triumph. Dead Red earned $148,000 for his first stakes victory after having banked just more than $44,000 in 19 previous starts.

"It's been hard getting started again," said Mikhalides. "When you leave a big stable like Buckram Oak and start out on your own, nobody believes in you. I can't say I expected to win the race on Saturday. But I thought if they went too fast up front and got a good trip, we might get lucky."

Croton Road scores in The Vid Stakes

One day after Dead Red moved to the upper echelon of the local turf sprint division, Croton Road laid claim to the top spot among the long-distance grass runners stabled in south Florida with a 2 3/4-length victory over Jet Propulsion in Sunday's The Vid Stakes. The win was the second straight for Croton Road, who dead-heated with Magic Mecke one month earlier in his prep for The Vid. Magic Mecke finished a well-beaten third Sunday.

Jet Propulsion, upset winner of the Grade 3 Miami Mile here during the opening week of the meet, ran well in defeat after being hard used in a suicidal pace battle with longshot Survicat. The top three finishers from the Vid could meet again in the $100,000 Carterista Handicap on Sept. 3.

Not Acclaim tops optional claimer

Four of the 10 races on Friday's card are allowance or optional claiming races, topped by a second-level optional claiming race scheduled for five furlongs on the grass.

Not Acclaim, who defeated Dead Red when finishing second in the Reappeal Stakes on May 12, will be favored in a field that includes British Attitude, World War, and All Hail Stormy.

The afternoon's eighth race, an entry-level allowance test for 2-year-old fillies, is headed by trainer Jose Pinchin's undefeated pair of Banga Ridge and De Jewel. Also in the race are Stardust Princess, R Salty Vet, and Cherokee Beauty.