09/05/2008 12:00AM

Sandspit's people take traditional plunge


FORT ERIE, Ontario - The long-standing tradition for the winning connections of the Puss N Boots Cup continued last Monday as trainer Tony Alderson and jockey Eldridge Lindsay jumped into the infield lake for a refreshing dip after 9-year-old Sandspit came home in front in the 1 1/16-mile turf event.

The race was named after the gelding Puss N Boots, who veered off the track and plunged into the lake during a race here in 1961.

Sandspit, a local fan favorite, went off at 6-1 in the 10-horse field. Going into the far turn on the firm turf, the serious running began and Sandspit surged between rivals, caught longshots Spread the News (36-1) and Flat Rock (11-1) inside the eighth pole, and romped clear.

Smiling Jordan was up to split the two longshots and take the show spot, with Flat Rock second, setting off a $2,307.10 triactor. Spread the News ran on to finish fourth and complete a superfecta that provided a payoff of 8-3-6-all for $1,392.15.

The winning celebration was delayed momentarily as the stewards reviewed the action on the far turn following a claim of foul against the winner by rider Mike McMullen aboard Tyler's Jewel.

Alderson, who initially claimed Sandspit in 2002 for $5,000, was not surprised to see the old gelding back in the winner's circle.

"He had a serious backbone injury in 2007, and the recovery took time, but he is now back and trained exceptionally well coming into this race," said Alderson.

The winning rider, Lindsay, had stated emphatically before the race that if Sandspit did win he would not be joining in the celebrated leap into the lake.

But the enthusiasm of the fans and winning moment obviously got the better of him, and he not only jumped into the lake but also did his best impression of the Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps.

Asked to comment on the winning ride and the swim, Lindsay lightheartedly said, "No thanks. Last time I talked to a reporter I didn't win a race for three weeks."

The other highlight of the Labor Day card was the $27,500 Labatt Cup for fillies and mares on turf.

Nasty Fever, owned by Ivan Dalos and trained by Nick Gonzalez, was the odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile event, and jockey Martin Ramirez had the 4-year-old showing her heels to the field on the far turn after closing from the inside.

Those fans who wagered on Nasty Fever had their money looking safe and sound at the head of the stretch, but the strides of the winner noticeably shortened in the final furlong and rivals Rosie Regent and Son Sarria came on strong. Nasty Fever paid $3.30 and the exactor with 5-1 shot Rosie Regent brought back $12.60.

Top jockey sidelined by spill

Leading rider Chad Beckon will be off for a few weeks following an incident in last Saturday's eighth race. Leaving the gate, Beckon lost a stirrup, and in attempting to recover he fell from his mount, Piece of the Pie, near the half-mile pole.

Eddie Robinson, aboard favorite Athenais, the eventual winner and the trailing runner at the time, managed to dodge the fallen rider in a very close call.

Beckon has 63 wins at the meet and has all but wrapped up the jockey standings, as he is far ahead of runners up Rui Pimentel and David Garcia who have 44 and 43 wins, respectively.

"Things are looking better every day," said the recovering Beckon, "and I hope to be back riding in a couple of weeks if the trend continues."

* Keep an eye on apprentice Melanie Pinto, as she has been bringing home a number of winners of late with some good longshots in the mix.