With half the race gone, Shine On High trudged through the mud as average as could be, fourth in a field of seven maidens in yesterday's fourth race at Pimlico Race Course.
The colt raced ahead of three, but behind three -- and $875,000 behind what owner Israel Cohen paid for him as a yearling.
It was an anxious moment for Dean Gaudet, the colt's trainer. But then, she said, "I've been anxious all day about this muddy track."
Suddenly, with only minor coaxing from jockey Jo Jo Ladner, the colt surged, and with a furlong remaining, Shine On High had the lead. He won by almost 10 lengths, giving his connections hope that, finally, their considerable investment in racing is reaping dividends.
"Whenever you pay a high price for a horse, you certainly hope it develops into a top one," said Gaudet. "That's the hope for every one."
Cohen, chairman of the Giant Food supermarket chain, shuns publicity concerning his sizable racing stable. On several occasions in recent years, he has bought the highest-priced horse from various sales, spending millions. What he paid for Shine On High might be close to the collective worth of the 78 other horses in yesterday's 10 live Pimlico races.
But success in the sport, for whatever reasons, has largely eluded he and Gaudet.
For Shine On High, a son of Roberto out of Shine High, Gaudet made a winning bid of $875,000 on Cohen's behalf at Saratoga in August 1989. The colt, now 3, did not make it to the races until yesterday; his size, and the usual minor problems of young horses, delayed his career.
Shine On High's clocking of 1 minute, 13 3/5 seconds for six furlongs over a muddy track was ordinary, but Gaudet was more concerned about how the experience would benefit Shine On High. Asked whether she considered scratching the colt, Gaudet said no, that the No. 1 post and soupy surface would give him a valuable lesson.
Victory in a maiden race, worth $9,300 to Cohen, does not a wild success story make. But at Gaudet's exclusive barn, which was built with Cohen's funds several years ago and which dwarfs the other stables at Laurel Race Course, more big-ticket blue bloods are waiting to be unleashed. Hope is where the heart is.
"We've got a few acting like they're starting to show promise," said Gaudet. "They act like they've got some talent."
NOTES: Jockey Frank Douglas escaped injury when Sir Hurricane, his mount in yesterday's first race, broke his right foreleg, throwing Douglas. The 4-year-old gelding was humanely FTC destroyed. . . . The sloppy track led to 14 late scratches. . . . Gilded Youth, ridden by Santos Chavez, rallied to win the $18,000 Pimlico feature. . . . Maryland horses finished 1-3 in the $78,100 Penn National Budweiser Breeders' Cup yesterday. Splendid Try, trained by Barclay Tagg, won by 1 1/4 lengths, with Starfield third. Marco Castaneda rode the winner. . . . Jockey Kent Desormeaux won his first stakes race since returning from an injury-forced layoff last month, scoring with Tropical Stephanie in the Valkyr Handicap at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., Saturday.