J.R.'s Horizon ran well enough last year to earn a Preakness berth. He didn't come close, as history will forever note, to winning his first stakes.
That came yesterday. The gelding that trainer Meredith "Mert" Bailes called "Little J.R." led for every step in the $125,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Pimlico Race Course, barely holding off an inside rally from favored Reputed Testamony.
The 4-year-old was ridden by Calixto Juarez, a 20-year-old apprentice who was also winning his first stakes.
"I could see the other horse coming," Juarez said of Reputed Testamony, "but that didn't matter much, because my horse tries hard all the time."
J.R.'s Horizon broke fastest from his No. 1 post, then turned back several challengers before Reputed Testamony began gaining steadily in the stretch. The winning margin was a nose.
Weight allowances for apprentices are waived in stakes races. Bailes said he chose Juarez to ride because "he had been riding him and doing a good job."
Andrea Seefeldt, on Reputed Testamony, said she might have won if traffic had been less severe in the final turn. "I couldn't shake loose because there were horses in front of me," she said.
J.R.'s Horizon finished ninth and last in the 1990 Preakness, and soon thereafter, he underwent a knee operation. He returned in January, but it took him seven starts before he won again. That was in his final race prior to the Campbell, with Juarez aboard.
The 75,000 winner's share lifted his earnings to $203,030. He ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 50 1/5 seconds over a muddy track and paid $17.40 to win.
NOTES: Trainer Jerry Robb and owner Arnold Heft escaped serious injury Saturday night in an automobile accident in which the car was totaled. They were returning to Maryland from Garden State Park in New Jersey, where their He Is Risen finished last. Yesterday, Robb saddled Little Bold John for a third-place finish in an allowance race at Delaware Park. The race was the first in over a year for Little Bold John.