06/01/2007 11:00PM

Delightful Kiss takes Ohio by surprise


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - Delightful Kiss got completely overlooked in the betting, but he was impossible to miss three-eighths of a mile from the finish of the Ohio Derby, a gray streak moving twice as fast as any other horse out on the track.

The big middle move proved plenty good, and Delightful Kiss, winning his first stakes race, went on to a 3o1/2-length victory over Moyer's Pond in the Grade 2, $300,000 derby. Late-running Reporting for Duty finished third, with odds-on favorite Cowtown Cat a non-threatening fourth.

Delightful Kiss, owned by 93-year-old Joseph Dreyfus's Hobeau Farms, is the only horse trained by Pete Anderson, a former jockey who won the 1964 Ohio Derby aboard National. Anderson, who rode Forego in the Kentucky Derby, is a good friend of Allen Jerkens, Hobeau's main trainer, and farm manager Craig Wheeler said it was Jerkens who asked Hobeau to give Anderson a 2-year-old to train.

Delightful Kiss has raced six times on turf, but his real ability lies on the main track. He beat Sightseeing and Chelokee in an entry-level allowance race in February at Gulfstream Park, then was a solid third behind Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby. Anderson and Hobeau would have run Delightful Kiss in the Kentucky Derby had the horse had enough graded stakes earnings, but Delightful Kiss missed out, and ran ninth in a turf stakes instead.

All of which helped make his win price of $51.80 Saturday, in the biggest race of Thistledown's season, somewhat shocking. Cowtown Cat had finished 20th in the Kentucky Derby, but took win money early and often, going off a surprisingly heavy favorite. Cowtown Cat settled in a decent spot on the backstretch, but jockey John Velazquez said "he wasn't there for me at the half-mile pole."

Forty Grams and Starbase set a solid pace, going the opening quarter-mile in 23.10 seconds and the half in 47.24, fractions that pleased Anderson, who cut a striking figure Saturday, his 4-feet-and-change frame adorned with an old-fashioned suit, wide tie, and a hat straight out of the 1940s.

"I was conscious of the 23 and 47," he said.

Anderson put his faith in the little-known Florida-based rider Jeffrey Sanchez, who coming into Saturday had ridden 13 winners all year. On a lesser horse, Sanchez's move might have been premature, but the stretch at Thistledown is short, and Delightful Kiss easily held clear second-place Moyer's Pond. His time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.36. Anderson mentioned the Iowa Derby as a possible upcoming race.