Fleet Dif Nails Leslie's Love in $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes at LSP

(June 26, 2004) - Texas-bred mare Fleeta Dif became a two-time stakes winner at the Lone Star Park meeting Saturday with a come-from-behind victory over heavy favorite Leslie's Love in the $50,000 Miller Lite Stakes for fillies and mares.

The Miller Lite was originally scheduled for five furlongs on turf, but track management was forced to switch the race to the main track due to scattered thunderstorms Saturday in Grand Prairie, Texas. The change to a surface rated "sloppy" was just what 80-year-old trainer Tom Warren ordered.

"On our way down here, it went to raining pretty good and I said, 'Ooh, look what the Lord has sent us,'" said Warren, a highly decorated World War II veteran turned 38-year horseman. Earlier in the week, the Weatherford, Texas resident, who bred and co-owns Fleeta Dif with his wife Patricia, hoped for rain because he was confident that Fleeta Dif would enjoy the "off" going. And she most certainly did.

"I told them, 'They're in trouble,'" quipped Warren. "Yes indeed, she likes the off track."

Fleeta Dif settled next-to-last in the field of eight shortly after the break and was positioned to the outside by jockey Rita Helton. As 3-5 favorite Leslie's Love dueled with Big Score and Princess Pancho with three-eighths of a mile to run, Helton asked Fleeta Dif for her late kick and the 5-year-old daughter of Hadif responded willingly.

"When she came around the turn on the outside and had clear running, and the rest of the horses were bunched up in there getting wet with that mud, I knew," Warren said.

Fleeta Dif drew even with Leslie's Love at the eighth pole and inched clear with a few hundred yards to go en route to a half-length triumph in :58.06. Big Score was another 2 ½ lengths behind in third.

"Her [speed figures] are way better on turf," reasoned Leslie's Love's jockey Gerard Melancon. "She tried hard. She saw [Leslie's Love] coming and she dug back in."

Nikki's Growl, Leona's Lies, Princess Pancho, Joyce Ann and Wacky Patty completed the order of finish.

Fleeta Dif, who paid $19.20 to win, earned $30,000 for the win and improved her ledger to five wins and $144,530 in 16 career starts. Her two victories this year both came at Lone Star Park. Last month, she prevailed by a neck to win the $50,000 JEH Stallion Station Stakes against fellow state-bred rivals. After, she tried open company in the $100,000 Valid Expectations Stakes on Memorial Day, but faded to fourth after battling for the lead through swift fractional splits.

Saturday's victory was a change in tactics. "She didn't break," Warren said.

"I was a little concerned about the mud hitting her in the face because she doesn't like it," Helton reasoned. "But once I got her to the outside, I knew I pretty much had it. When I reach and pick her up, she just takes off."

A year ago, Fleeta Dif finished sixth in the Miller Lite, but Warren discovered after the race that his homebred was battling ulcers. He ordered seven months of rest that did the mare good. Before her breakthrough score in the JEH, Fleeta Dif had three solid outings, hitting the board in two good allowance sprints and finishing third in the Willowbrook Stakes at Sam Houston.

The steady progress led Warren to wager $50 across the board on his pride and joy Saturday. The return on his $150 investment was a profit of $545 - pocket change compared to the $30,000 winner's share of the Miller Lite purse.

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