11/15/2003 12:00AM

Tapit overcomes himself

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Tapit wins Saturday's Grade 3 Laurel Futurity by 4 3/4 lengths under jockey Ramon Dominguez.

LAUREL, Md. - Cuvee may have distance limitations, but owner Ron Winchell may have found another Kentucky Derby prospect on Saturday.

Tapit, a son of Pulpit, overcame a bit of rankness and rolled to a 4 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park. Polish Rifle, rallied for second by a half-length over Ghost Mountain.

The victory was the second in two starts for Tapit, who is trained by Michael Dickinson. Tapit won his maiden at Delaware Park in a two-turn, one-mile race.

In the Futurity, Dickinson instructed jockey Ramon Dominguez to get Tapit off the early pace, but after being bumped entering the first turn Tapit became too hard to handle. He was fighting the restraint of Dominguez down the backside while Ghost Mountain and Acclimate dueled through fractions of 24.19 seconds, 48.31, and 1:12.83.

Dominguez let Tapit move toward the leaders around the turn, found an opening entering the stretch, and Tapit simply overpowered Ghost Mountain approaching the eighth pole. Tapit covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.81 and returned $4 as the favorite.

"I wasn't going to be surprised if once I got out he was going to be flat,'' Dominguez said, "because that's what would have happened in most cases, with most horses. I was impressed with his acceleration once I got through. It's not like he relaxed early on and then he got things his way. Clearly, he had every chance to get beat today by being so rank. He just proved how much class he has.''

Dickinson dedicated the victory to Verne Winchell, who bought Tapit for $625,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September 2002. Winchell died two months later. His son, Ron, now runs the operation along with racing manager David Fiske.

The Winchells also own Cuvee, who has won the three stakes, including the Grade 1 Belmont Futurity. Cuvee finished last, however, as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He came out of that race with an ankle chip.

Ron Winchell said Tapit will not run again this year, and will winter in Florida at Palm Meadows, a training center in Boynton Beach.

Anne Arundel: 'Maneuvers' upsets

Locally based Smooth Maneuvers turned back a pace challenge from City Fire, then ran away from three New York shippers to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Anne Arundel Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 2 1/2 lengths.

Devotion Unbridled, the 3-5 favorite, settled for second, a neck in front of Alchemist, who finished a head in front of Retroactive. The second- through fourth-place finishers all shipped in from New York-based outfits.

Mario Pino rode the winner for his brother, trainer Michael Pino. Smooth Maneuvers, a daughter of Grindstone, covered the nine furlongs in 1:51.56 and returned $19.80 to win. Smooth Maneuvers is now 4 for 5 for the Nick Sanna Stables.

Michael Pino and the Sanna Stables claimed Smooth Maneuvers for $25,000 out of her first start at Delaware Park.

Hail Emperor: 'Intention' nips Toccet

Last Intention ($9), part of three-ply entry from owner Mike Gill and trainer Mark Shuman, won a stirring stretch drive with 4-5 favorite Toccet to win the $50,000 Hail Emperor Stakes by a nose. Toccet finished 7 1/4 lengths ahead of Quiet Gratitude.

Private Ryan, part of the entry, dueled with Toccet, under Jorge Chavez, through six furlongs in 1:11.25. Toccet put that one away, but couldn't hold off Last Intention, under Abel Castellano. Last Intention, a 4-year-old gelded son of End Sweep, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.90.

Shuman said it was not by design that Private Ryan dueled with Toccet. Shuman said Private Ryan just proved too strong for jockey Jozbin Santana.

Selima: Three straight for Richetta

Richetta ($6.60) successfully stretched out around two turns, putting away a pace challenge from Quiet Down before drawing off to a 6 1/2-length victory in the $100,000 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Tattinger Rose, away slowly, rallied for second, 7 1/4 lengths ahead of the previously undefeated Spectacular Moon.

Richetta, owned by Milton Higgins and Tom Bowman and trained by Robin Graham, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.76 under Rick Wilson.

Stefanita: Gazillion holds off 'Abe'

Gazillion, under Edgar Prado, tipped off the rail turning for home, split horses in midstretch, and held off Bronze Abe to win the $75,000 Stefanita Stakes by a head. It was 1 3/4 lengths back to Shiny Sheet in third. Wilzada, the 6-5 favorite, finished fourth.

Gazillion, owned by Lucy Kessler and trained by Hamilton Smith, covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.73 and returned $7 to win. Gazillion, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, is now 7 for 14 lifetime.