04/21/2002 11:00PM

Sportsman's: All hail Hail the Chief

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CICERO, Ill. - Hail the Chief set a fast pace on a dull racetrack, but still had plenty left and won the Grade 3, $200,000 National Jockey Club Handicap by 11 1/4 lengths.

On the surface, the result will look typical for a Sportsman's track that usually promotes inside speed. But Saturday, Sportsman's played fair and slow, and the 47.73-second half-mile split Hail the Chief set was very quick for a nine-furlong race.

Hail the Chief is the latest in a line of European horses imported to the U.S. that have panned out on dirt for trainer Niall O'Callaghan. Last year, Generous Rosi, a former European, finished second in a Grade 1 stakes. Now, Hail the Chief, who won on a dirt-like track several times in England for owner Peter Crane, may be headed toward the top of the handicap division.

Hail the Chief, who paid $7.40 to win and was timed in 1:51.72 over a fast track, easily beat E Z Glory, who won a blanket finish for second over Ubiquity, the narrow favorite, and Chicago Six, the NCJ winner last year.