Sometimes it's easy to tell when a long shot has won a horse race.
And as a Pimlico Race Course crowd gazed in stony silence as Rebuff entered the winner's circle yesterday, there was that feeling: How did this horse win?
"I thought he'd run better than the price he was," said owner John Merryman Sr.
What price was that? Try 60-1. Try the rank outsider in a field of 10 in the $57,700 Chieftain Handicap.
Rebuff, ridden by Calixto Juarez, rallied through the stretch to overtake Quick Call for a resounding, five-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. The victory was "a great wedding present" said trainer Frances Miller, who is engaged to the owner's son.
John Merryman Jr. served as the groom of Rebuff -- and he'll be the groom when he and Miller are married on June 29.
"Now I can afford the ring," Merryman said.
Rebuff, a 6-year-old gelding who had gained the bulk of his earnings on turf, enjoyed a profitable year in 1989, but he won just once in 10 starts in 1990 and had been dull while going 0-for-4 this year.
Juarez is an apprentice who has won just 14 races at the 69-day-old meet -- but two have come in stakes. He won the $125,000 John B. Campbell Handicap on J.R.'s Horizon in April.
"I took him outside after the first turn," Juarez said, "As soon as I asked in the stretch, he took off."
Rebuff paid $123 to win after finishing in 1 minute, 42 seconds on a very fast turf course. He ended a late Daily Double worth $235.60 and topped a $619 exacta.
It was not a good race for betting choices. Ligature, the 5-2 favorite, finished eighth, and Flaming Emperor and Little Bold John finished seventh and last, respectively, as the second and third choices.
NOTES: Merryman Sr. has owned all or part of Maryland stakes winners Due North, Smart 'n Quick and Run Spot. . . . Best Pal, fifth in the Preakness in his last start, faces five rivals today in the Silver Screen Handicap at Hollywood Park. Pat Valenzuela regains the mount. . . . Very early favorite for the 1992 Kentucky Derby: Lure, who broke the Belmont Park track record Thursday when going five furlongs in 56 1/5 seconds. Shug McGaughey trains the son of Danzig. . . . Maryland tracks' accepting commingled wagers from Delaware Park probably will not be a reality until September, according to Pimlico/Laurel vice president Tim Capp. It had been reported in this space last week that such an arrangement would begin in early July.