07/20/2001 11:00PM

Hal's Hope benefits from rain

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MIAMI - A total of 21 horses entered Saturday's Carterista Handicap, forcing racing secretary Bob Umphrey to split the race into two divisions. He needn't have bothered.

Overnight rain forced management to switch the Carterista from the turf to the dirt, leaving a total of only 11 starters. A field of five ran in the opening division and six in the second split of the one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up.

The opening division became little more than a public workout for Hal's Hope, who was left the lone speed in the race as a result of the five late scratches. Jockey Roger Velez made the most of the tactical advantage, guiding Hal's Hope to an easy 3 3/4-length victory over Tahkodha Hills.

Hal's Hope set leisurely fractions of 24.23 seconds, 48.19, and 1.13.35, settled into the stretch with a comfortable advantage, and was never seriously menaced. He completed the mile in 1:39.38 over the fast track.

Tahkodha Hills saved ground while chasing Hal's Hope most of the way and was clearly second best. Silver Jet raced wide, moved into contention turning for home, but could not sustain the bid and took third. Simmer and the slow-starting Mahi rounded out the order of finish.

Hal's Hope paid $3.20 and earned $31,500 of the $52,000 purse.

"He's on his game right now," said Harold Rose, who owns trains and bred Hal's Hope. "In his last start we wanted to see if he would rate off the pace, but obviously he didn't like it. So today we let him go on the way he wants."

The second division was far more competitive. It was run over a sloppy track and in a driving rainstorm.

Out of Champagne, a wet-track specialist who would have been a longshot had the race been run on turf, outgamed the 3-5 Mr. Livingston following a stretch-long battle to win by a neck.

Sebastian Madrid, the rider of Mr. Livingston, alleged interference against the winner, but the objection was quickly dismissed.

Out of Champagne was ridden to victory by Angel Castillo and paid $7.60 after covering the mile in 1:40.47.