10/20/2001 11:00PM

Scottish Halo takes Empire Classic


ELMONT, N.Y. - Even though Scottish Halo was good enough to win stakes at age 2, trainer Paul Rizzo always believed the colt would be better as he got older.

Rizzo's assessment proved correct as Scottish Halo won his richest race Sunday, rallying past Duplicitous in the final 100 yards to take the $250,000 Empire Classic Handicap by 1 3/4 lengths before 8,725 at Belmont Park. The Empire Classic was the featured event on the second day of the New York Showcase Fall Festival, which included seven stakes for New York-bred with purses totaling $1 million.

Duplicitous, who set the pace under Aaron Gryder, held second, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Saratoga Sunrise, who finished third in this race for the second straight year.

It was the second consecutive victory for Scottish Halo, a 4-year-old son of Jolie's Halo owned by John Oxley, who earlier this year won the Kentucky Derby with Monarchos.

Oxley and Rizzo tried to campaign Scottish Halo down the Triple Crown trail as a 3-year-old, but he was a non-factor in the Florida Derby and Arkansas Derby. Following a sixth-place finish in the Peter Pan here, Scottish Halo was given a year off.

After a fifth-place finish in an optional claiming event in May, Scottish Halo was diagnosed with a low blood count and was given another freshening. Since coming back, he has run three terrific races, winning twice and finishing second.

"I have an owner who had faith in this horse and who had faith in me,'' Rizzo said. "He gave us eight months to get this horse ready and not many owners would do that.''

Under Harry Vega, Scottish Halo settled into fifth position while Duplicitous ran uncontested through fractions of 24.14 seconds, 47.96 and 1:11.32. Scottish Halo was caught behind horses turning for home, found an opening leaving the three-sixteenths pole and was able to run down Duplicitous. Scottish Halo covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.16 and returned $5.60 as the favorite.

It was the sixth victory in 14 starts for Scottish Halo, who won the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity at 2. Rizzo said he may run Scottish Halo next against open company, but at a distance of ground. A possible spot could be the Queens County Handicap at 1 3/16-miles at Aqueduct on Dec. 1.

Maid of the Mist: Princess Dixie scores

Despite getting squeezed at the break and being floated five wide approaching the quarter pole, Princess Dixie rallied to win the $100,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Sunday Driver. It was another length back to Dancing Blues, who necked out Totally Selfish for third.

Princess Dixie entered the race with three consecutive second-place finishes to Shesastonecoldfox, who skipped the Maid of the Mist to run in next Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Without that rival, Princess Dixie, under Edgar Prado, was sent off the 6-5 favorite in the nine-horse field.

When the gates opened, Princess Dixie was slammed by Blue's Magee and Sunday Driver, and was pinched back to last. She was still seventh at the three-eighths pole, but only five lengths off the lead.

Prado had to take the circuitous route approaching the stretch, but had enough horse past pacesetter Totally Selfish approaching the eighth pole. Princess Dixie, a daughter of Dixie Brass owned by James Edwards and trained by James Bond, covered the mile in 1:39.74 and returned $4.70 to win.

Bond said it is likely that Princess Dixie would probably not run again this year.

Carrero breaks ankle

Victor Carrero, who is the third-leading rider at The Meadowlands and one of the top apprentices in the country, will be out two to three months after breaking his left ankle during a gate mishap Sunday at Belmont Park.

Carrero was aboard Showtime in the third race when that horse acted up in the ate and threw Carrero. Carrero was taken off the track on a stretcher and transported via ambulance to North Shore Hospital. He was fitted with a cast and was expected to have surgery on Monday.

Through limited opportunities, Carrero won six races during the Belmont fall meet. Carrero has his apprentice allowance until Feb. 28, 2002, but is likely to receive an extension due to this injury.