12/20/2003 1:00AM

Lion Heart works the polls

Email
Horsephotos
The undefeated Lion Heart wins the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity under Mike Smith by a widening 3 1/2 lengths.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Lion Heart put in his final bid for champion 2-year-old colt on Saturday by winning the Grade 1, $382,000 in a front-running performance that put trainer Patrick Biancone on the campaign trail as soon as Lion Heart crossed the wire.

"If it was only my vote, I would vote for him," Biancone said after Lion Heart ran his record to 3 for 3 with a 3 1/2-length victory over four rivals. "I'm not saying that because I train him. He's an exceptional, exceptional horse. I said before the race he needed to give an outstanding display. He did it."

The slightly built, but wickedly fast colt was making his first start around two turns, and he handled the assignment with maturity beyond his years. After breaking smartly, Lion Heart cruised into the first turn leading St Averil by two lengths. Lion Heart responded repeatedly to the commands of jockey Mike Smith, who gave Lion Heart a breather entering the far turn, then allowed him to bound clear anew at the top of the stretch.

Lion Heart ($3) clicked off fractions of 23.28 seconds, 46.56, and 1:10.65 for the first six furlongs. After allowing St Averil to get within one length of him midway around the turn, Lion Heart spurted away, then increased his lead through the stretch without ever feeling Smith's whip. He completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42.80.

St Averil, who had won his lone previous start, gamely held the place, finishing one length in front of That's an Outrage. Quiet Cash and Saint Afleet completed the order of finish.

Lion Heart, a son of Tale of the Cat, cost owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith $1.4 million at a 2-year-old-in-training auction earlier this year at Calder. Because of his slight size, Biancone was cautious preparing Lion Heart for racing. Lion Heart did not make his debut until the day before Action This Day captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

After winning his first start going six furlongs on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita, Lion Heart came back three weeks later and won the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue.

"Six furlongs, seven furlongs, mile and a sixteenth - same result," Biancone said. Biancone said Lion Heart would now be rested, and likely would have just one start before the Santa Anita Derby.