French Charmer Strikes Late in Flying Pidgeon

French Charmer, who has competed at seven different racetracks along the east coast in the past year, returned to Calder Race Course Saturday afternoon to take the $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap.

A winner of four of five races in 2003, including his last three starts, French Charmer was rated off the pace in the 1 1/8-mile turf contest by jockey Chris DeCarlo and made his move in deep stretch to win by 1 ¼ lengths over Lost Appeal.

Trained by Harry Benson, French Charmer was sent off as the favorite in the Flying Pidgeon. He covered the distance in 1:48 1/5 and paid $4.40, 3.20 and 3.40. Lost Appeal was a neck ahead of pacesetter Drink A Toast at the wire and returned $7.00 and 5.20. Longshot Drink A Toast paid $10.80 for the show.

"I'm just so happy to be here – at age 70," exclaimed Benson afterward.

"I cut the corner and it worked out, DeCarlo said. "There's times when you do that and you get caught, and then there's times it works out."

Bred in Kentucky by the famed Calumet Farm, French Charmer is owned by the partnership of Double S Stable, Ken Avanzino and Joe Sullivan.

(Chart, Equibase)