LAUREL -- Run Spot shed her bridesmaid's tag by winning a three-horse photo in the $60,000 Conniver Handicap at Laurel Race Course yesterday.
The 6-year-old mare edged past Double Artemis, then withstood a late rush by McKilts to win the seven-furlong race for Maryland-bred fillies and mares.
"She's a capable filly," trainer Katy Voss said of the winner, "and she always tries her guts out."
Run Spot had won just four of 28 prior starts, but had finished second or third 17 times.
"This is her best distance," said Voss, "this and a mile. So I don't know what's next. Six furlongs is too short, and a mile and a sixteenth or an eighth is a little too long." On Thursday, Maryland racing shifts to Pimlico Race Course, where seven-furlong and one-mile races are not run.
Double Artemis led to deep stretch in the Conniver. Run Spot seemed to have put her away, but about 10 yards from the wire, Double Artemis surged back, and McKilts came flying on the outside. The first-to-second and second-to-third margins were both a nose.
Edgar Prado rode the winner. Joe Rocco rode top-weighted McKilts, who was making her first start since Nov. 22.
"She ran super," said Rocco. "Mert [trainer Mert Bailes] said she might be one work short of running her best, but she really kicked it in late."
Run Spot, third-longest shot in a field of eight, returned $19.80 to win.
* The Maryland stewards yesterday levied a $500 fine against jockey Mark Johnston for "failure to put forth every reasonable effort and/or exercise the greatest diligence" when riding Aw Hoss in Friday's third race.
Johnston failed to put Aw Hoss, the 2-1 favorite, to a hard drive until late in the race, in which he was caught in the final strides.
It is the second large fine that Johnston, 20, has received. Last July, he was fined $1,000 for a similar incident.
The $500 fine is the highest the stewards can levy without having to seek approval from the Maryland Racing Commission. RTC Chief steward Clinton Pitts Jr. said "several factors" persuaded the stewards not to fine Johnston $1,000 again.
To add to Johnston's woes, he began a seven-day suspension yesterday for another ride Friday in which his mount was disqualified from first.
NOTES: Leading rider Mike Luzzi and apprentice Charlie Fenwick III escaped serious injury in a second-race spill yesterday. . . . Filet d'Argent completed a terrific Laurel meeting yesterday. The 4-year-old gelding won the eighth race, giving him five wins, two seconds and a third in eight starts. . . . Saturday's Genuine Risk Stakes, won by Wide Country, was not a restricted race, as incorrectly reported in this space. . . . Eddie McMullen, who retires tomorrow as press box manager, presented the trophy to Run Spot's owner, John B. Merryman. McMullen trained Daring Step to win the 1971 Conniver. . . . Louis C. Serio of Laurel won $10,000 in the track's "King of Hill" promotion yesterday.