01/24/2002 12:00AM

Del Mar Show: Mott's 'little bulldog'


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - For as long as Thoroughbreds have competed, racing men have admired horses short of stature but long on courage. At the sales ring, they always buy the big, good-looking individuals, and at the cocktail hour the good stories are almost always about the little colt that could.

The classic example is Northern Dancer, who was barely 15 hands at the withers but who stood a long drive gamely. He beat the 17-hand Hill Rise by a neck in the 1964 Kentucky Derby, which he won in a record time of two minutes. Many of the world's most prominent trainers did not give Northern Dancer a look because of his size, and he was offered as a yearling in Toronto for $25,000. But they all changed their opinions after Northern Dancer's successes in the classics.

This is the sesquipedalian approach to introduce Del Mar Show, a little guy who could run big in the $100,000 Ft. Lauderdale Handicap on the turf course at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. A 5-year-old Theatrical horse, he will be making his first start since he was injured last June.

"He is a little bulldog," trainer Billy Mott said. "There is a lot of grit to him. We ran him in Texas last summer, and he came out of the race with a sore back. It is suspected he pulled a muscle, but we're not sure. We gave him plenty of time, and now he seems in good order once again. He is out a mare named Prankstress. I trained a number of her foals. They were all small, and they all gave you everything they had."

Del Mar Show, always a useful horse, began to get good last winter in Florida. He won three races, two of them stakes at Hialeah, and then went to Canada for another stakes victory. It appeared he was ready to make a serious move in the division when he was injured in a stakes at Lone Star Park.

North East Bound, a close second in the recent Appleton Handicap here, and Galic Boy, winner of the Carey Memorial at Hawthorne last fall, appear to be the wagering strengths in the Fort Lauderdale. The 1 1/16-mile distance puts a premium on determination in the anticipated heavy traffic, and this is where Del Mar Show's gameness may come into play. He will be associated in this venture with Jerry Bailey, who adds several elements of his own.

Blue Burner showing promise

Trainer Mott, who had another outstanding season in the year 2001, may have a nice 3-year-old prospect. Blue Burner, a French Deputy colt owned by George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees, is 3 for 3. He won on opening day at Gulfstream and impressed observers with his talent and style. Mott plans to run him next in the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 16, and if the colt performs to expectations will bring him back in the Florida Derby four weeks later.

The Fountain of Youth is taking shape as one of the competitive gems of the meeting. Also expected to participate are Booklet and Harlan's Holiday, who finished a close one-two in the recent Holy Bull Stakes. Both are expected to improve in the Fountain of Youth.