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Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, September 14, 2003

France named chairman and CEO of NASCAR

LOUDON, N.H. Bill France Jr. turned over control of NASCAR to his son Saturday, ending a three-decade run in which stock car racing expanded from its backroad roots to a multibillion dollar industry.

Brian France was appointed NASCAR's board chairman and chief executive.

The elder France will cut back on his daily business activities, but will remain co-vice chairman and an active member of the board of directors.

Jim France, the younger son of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., will also be co-vice chairman and remain executive vice president of the sanctioning body, series vice president Jim Hunter announced at New Hampshire International Speedway.

''Brian is well prepared to lead this sport and this company into the future,'' Bill France Jr. said in a statement. ''I am confident the future of NASCAR is in very capable hands.

''NASCAR is my life's work, and my father's before me; this decision is probably one of the most important ones I've made at NASCAR and I know it's the right decision.''

USOC clears compliance issues

DENVER The U.S. Olympic Committee cleared its reform plan with the IOC and will proceed with the changes even if no federal legislation is in place.

The USOC's board of directors will meet next month in Cleveland to vote on an in-house task force's restructuring plan. Legislation to change the USOC has been introduced in Washington, but it could be months before any bill passes.

USOC officials don't want to wait that long. If the proposal passes, the USOC plans to have most of the changes in place by the end of January.

''We can't wait anymore for someone to make the decision for us,'' said Frank Marshall, co-chair of the task force. ''I believe we need to make the changes ourselves and go forward with Athens coming up. We're all lame ducks right now.''

The task force has called for a drastic reduction in the size of its board of directors and stiffer ethics regulations in what would be the most sweeping changes in the USOC's 25-year history.

The board will vote on the reforms at a meeting Oct. 17-19.

A spokeswoman for Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell said he is still working on legislation to reform the USOC, but wouldn't weigh in on the USOC's plans at this time.

IOC officials had plenty to say after the task force's initial proposal in April.

The IOC raised concerns that the USOC's proposed structure would not conform to the Olympic charter, and met with members of the task force last week. After concessions by both sides, the IOC approved the USOC's plan on Friday.

''I think it's a pretty powerful statement if you have the U.S. athletes, the people who run the sports and then you have the IOC saying this is a pretty good plan,'' said Bob Ctvrtlik, an American member of the IOC member. ''I think it's at least something Congress will pay attention to.''

Frankel's Wild Spirit takes Ruffian Handicap

NEW YORK Wild Spirit started slow and finished strong to win the $300,000 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park on Saturday, and now trainer Bobby Frankel could have another star filly for the Breeders' Cup.

After breaking last from the No. 1 gate, Wild Spirit was moved outside by jockey Jerry Bailey and made her winning move around the final turn. The 4-year-old filly ran off with a 3 1/2-length victory over You, also trained by Frankel.

In winning her third race in four starts this year, Wild Spirit joins stablemate Sightseek as two of the top threats to Horse of the Year Azeri in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

''I'm fortunate to have three very good fillies,'' said Frankel. ''You ran a great race, but Wild Spirit ran super.''

Passing Shot, who surprised Wild Spirit by winning the Personal Ensign at Saratoga, was third, followed by Devon Rose, She's Got the Beat and Nonsuch Bay.

The Chilean-bred Wild Spirit covered the 1 1-16 miles in 1:41.23 and returned $3.10, $2.30 and $2.10.

In three other graded stakes on the card, During won the Jerome Handicap, Della Francesca took the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, and Bauhauser won the Floral Park Handicap.

Wild Spirit could make her next start in the Beldame at Belmont on Oct. 4 or the Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 5. After that, the filly's owners would have to pay $400,000 extra to enter her in the BC Distaff.

''We'll see what happens,'' said Frankel. ''If she wins for $750,000 (the Beldame), why would I need to go to the Breeders' Cup with her and put up all that money? I'll talk to the owners about it.''

In the Jerome, trainer Bob Baffert had a 3-year-old back in the winner's circle in During, who held off Tafaseel by three-quarters of a length. Favorite Pretty Wild was third in the field of nine.

Ridden by Jose Santos, During covered the mile in 1:36.32 and paid $15.20, $6.90 and $4.

In the Belmont BC Handicap, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino took time out from recruiting and ended up in the winner's circle with 4-year-old Della Francesca.

Sent off at 16-1, Della Francesca caught favorite Volponi at the eighth pole and pulled away for a 1 1/2-length win over Rouvres, with Volponi third in his first race on the turf in a year.

''I have no comment,'' said Volponi's trainer P.G. Johnson after his 2002 BC Classic winner ran his 2003 record to 0-for-6.

Della Francesca, owned by Pitino's Ol Memorial Stable, returned $34.60 for a $2 win bet, and is being pointed toward the Breeders' Cup Mile.

In the Floral Park Handicap, Bauhauser held off a late challenge by favorite Shine Again and won by three-quarters of a length.

Ridden by Richard Migliore, the 5-year-old gray mare bred in Argentina covered six furlongs in 1:10.84 and returned $13.20 to win.



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