10/17/2003 11:00PM

French Charmer comes through at Calder

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Jockey Chris DeCarlo had plenty of horse. He had French Charmer on a tight hold as the pair raced down the backstretch and around the far turn Saturday in the Flying Pidgeon Handicap at Calder. What he did not have was a place to run.

Trapped inside to the top of the stretch, DeCarlo found a spot for French Charmer as the pace-setting Drink a Toast drifted off the hedge turning for home. French Charmer burst through and drew away in the final furlong to win the $100,000 Flying Pidgeon by 1 1/4 lengths. Lost Appeal rallied late to edge Drink a Toast for second.

The result was expected. The most talented horse in the race, French Charmer had won three races in a row coming into the Flying Pidgeon and 5 of 8 since he was purchased privately about a year ago and turned over to the trainer Harry Benson. French Charmer hadn't raced since Aug. 2, when he pulled a muscle winning a stakes race in Maryland, and Benson was afraid his horse lacked complete fitness. But he was plenty tight to beat 11 rivals, running nine furlongs on "good" turf in 1:48.21.

French Charmer paid $4.40 to win.