12/06/2003 1:00AM

Salty Romance cruises in Princess


VINTON, La. - Salty Romance, who was excluded from the $1 million Delta Jackpot, picked up a nice consolation prize Friday night when she cruised to a 5 1/4-length win as a strong favorite in the $250,000 Delta Princess.

The one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies was one of three undercard stakes supporting the Jackpot.

Salty Romance assumed command of the Delta Princess under Mike Smith soon after the start, setting fractions of 22.70 seconds for the opening quarter and 46.63 for the half-mile. In the stretch she increased her advantage under a hand ride, covering the distance in 1:39.17. By Salt Lake and out of the Affirmed mare Checkerspot, Salty Romance paid $4.20 to win.

"Today, it was easy," said Patrick Biancone, who trains Salty Romance. "She's a very, very talented horse, and when they are talented, it is easier. She won very easy last time and very easy today. We have strong hopes for her."

Salty Romance won her maiden at Hollywood Park on Nov. 15, covering six furlongs in a rapid 1:09.40. She made both her two-turn and stakes debut in the Delta Princess, and for her effort earned $150,000. Salty Romance has now won 2 of 3 starts and $178,440.

"She's going to get a little break now," Biancone said. "We have not really mapped anything out yet. We will bring her back in the spring."

Questionable Past, a 12-1 shot who had won all four of her dirt starts going into the Princess, rallied from well back to finish second, a length clear of 6-1 Turn to Lass in third. The $2 exacta paid $41.20, and the $2 trifecta paid $205.40.

Marshland: Dusty Spike scores at 19-1

Dusty Spike recaptured his best form in the $50,000 Marshland, rallying from last for a half-length win over Taxicat in the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds and upward. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third to Cat Genius.

Dusty Spike ($40) settled well behind pacesetter and favorite Cat Genius, then rallied strongly through the stretch of the two-turn race, covering the distance in 1:24.78. Luis Quinonez rode Dusty Spike for Raymond Deiter and trainer Mark Lee.

Dusty Spike won the $100,000 Omaha Handicap in July but finished an uncharacteristic sixth in his last start, the $35,000 Autumn Classic at Remington Park.

Golden Triangle: Alienated edges Miss Confusion

Alienated ($33.80) drove to a three-quarter-length win over Miss Confusion in the $50,000 Golden Triangle, a 6 1/2-furlong race for fillies and mares. It was another neck back in third to Cherylville Slew. Carlos Gonzalez rode the winner for trainer Cole Norman.