01/28/2002 12:00AM

An excuse to lose, yet he didn't


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - True grit.

Del Mar Show may be lacking in size but he's got all the courage and determination he'll ever need. His victory in Saturday's $100,000 Ft. Lauderdale Handicap on the turf course at Gulfstream Park was little short of inspirational, reflecting the qualities of the Thoroughbred racehorse that we have come to admire most.

Making his first start since an injury sent him to the sidelines last June 16, Del Mar Show, a 5-year-old horse by Theatrical, began the latest chapter of his colorful career with a good deal on his plate. It couldn't compare, however, to the trip he experienced in the Ft. Lauderdale, for which he was favored at 6-5.

During the run down the backstretch, Del Mar Show, racing on the inside, twice attempted to improve his position. Each time he was forced to check. He powered up around the turn, angled out for racing room, and was left with the daunting task of overhauling the leaders.

His resolution was obvious. He kept charging, moving ever closer, until he was able to snatch the victory by a neck from North East Bound. He simply refused to lose, and earned a well-deserved ovation from a crowd that seemed to have trouble believing what it just saw.

"I'm unhappy about the trip," said Del Mar Show's trainer, Bill Mott. "You can't imagine how rough a race it was, but Del Mar Show was spectacular. He should have been an easy winner. We were thinking of running next in the Canadian Turf Handicap on Feb. 23, but now he may need more time."

Filly with a future

A New Twist was a convincing winner of the recent Old Hat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and when she ran back Sunday in the $100,000 Forward Gal Stakes at seven furlongs, she was favored at 2-5. But she got caught up in a speed duel and had to settle for second. The winner, by more than three lengths, was Elizabeth Valando's homebred Take the Cake, by Fly So Free, at 22-1.

She shouldn't have been that price. She won her first two starts last fall, and trainer Carl Nafzger gave her a holiday. She returned to competition in the Old Hat but was fresh and needed the race.

"Take the Cake is going to be a nice filly," Nafzger said. "She's still quite green and immature. We don't know if she'll stay. Her style suggests she will, but she has to learn how to relax behind horses. Her next start will probably be the Davona Dale Stakes on Feb. 24."