06/29/2001 11:00PM

License Fee fatally hurt in Molly Pitcher


OCEANPORT, N.J. - March Magic won the $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap after License Fee, the 4-5 favorite, suffered a fatal injury on the backstretch.

License Fee was stalking the pace of the 1 1/16-mile race when the injury occurred. Her jockey, Pat Day, jumped off her and narrowly missed serious injury when Hemline, ridden by Joe Bravo, just missed hitting him. License Fee was euthanized with a broken right front leg.

March Magic was inside of License Fee at the time of the incident and was not affected. She continued to stalk pacesetter Shine Again, took the lead in the stretch, and won by three lengths under Mike Luzzi. Vivid Sunset finished second and Shine Again faded to third. Fourth-place finisher Wittenberg clipped heels and stumbled on the first turn. The stewards posted an inquiry following the race but took no action.

Day, who was unhurt, said there was no indication of License Fee's impending injury.

"She warmed up well and was moving along fine when we went down," said Day. "I thought she was going to make a race of it. This filly has always been very sound in the past. I don't know exactly what happened."

March Magic, owned by Ralph Evans, returned $12.40 for the victory and finished in 1:43.79. She was wearing blinkers for the first time.

"When she breaks well, she runs her race," said trainer Richard Violette. "Today she got into the race going into the first turn, which I was happy to see. I don't know if the blinkers helped, but they didn't hurt."

"I think that two turns really helped her today," said Luzzi. "She took a hold of the bit into the first turn and ran great all the way to the wire. When License Fee broke down she was on my outside; it never bothered me. This was her ideal distance. Rick [Violette] is a great trainer who prepares them differently for each race, so I wouldn't say going longer down the road is out of the question."

A crowd of 15,501 attended the races Saturday.

Earlier in the card in the $75,000 Skip Away Stakes, Broken Vow cruised to an easy 5 3/4-length win under Ramon Dominguez despite a sluggish start.

Broken Vow stalked the leaders and took command on the far turn. He paid $3 as the favorite in the field of six. It was the second win of the day for Dominguez.

Broken Vow's previous two wins this year were in wire-to-wire fashion.

"He ran just the way we hoped he would," said winning trainer Graham Motion. "I was very happy to see the way he settled today behind horses. This was the right spot for him for several reasons. We have the Iselin in our minds for him. This gives him a race over the track. There are some races at Saratoga, but we're more inclined to point for the Iselin."

Rize set the pace on the rail through fractions of 23.67 seconds, 47.01, and 1:10.56, and held on for second. The defending Iselin champion, Rize probably won't have a rematch with Broken Vow in the 2001 version of the Iselin on Aug. 26.

"That race is a long way away, but I wouldn't look forward to facing him again," said Rize's trainer, Norman Pointer. "I can't beat that horse."

Mercaldo rallied into third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Rize. First Lieutenant was scratched from the race after spiking a fever overnight.