Double Booked entered the $75,000 Fort McHenry Handicap as one of the top turf horses in the nation, and his performance in yesterday's opening of the summer meeting at Laurel Race Course did nothing to tarnish that reputation.
Taking control of the race at the first turn, Double Booked -- ridden by Pat Day -- cruised to an easy, two-length victory in the one-mile race in 1 minute, 35 2/5 seconds.
"He's a very quick horse away from the starting gate -- a real easy horse to ride," said Day, whose only previous ride on the 6-year-old gelding was a Pimlico Race Course track record victory for the mile in the Early Times Dixie Handicap on May 17. "He has a sweet personality. I got to the lead by the time we got to the first turn and just relaxed."
The win was good for $45,000, which increased the 1991 earnings of Double Booked to $375,000.
A track record was about the only thing that Double Booked, who has won all five races he's run in 1991, didn't accomplish yesterday before the Fourth of July crowd of 10,969 (including Pimlico, attendance was 14,464). In his four previous outings, Double Booked had set track records in the Riggs Handicap (May 4, Pimlico), the Dixie Handicap, the Red Bank Handicap (June 2, Monmouth Park) and the New Hampshire Sweepstakes (June 15, Rockingham Park).
Double Booked was a little more than a second off the Laurel record of 1:34 run by Portsmouth in 1965.
Up until two hours before the first race, it was unclear whether Double Booked would even run yesterday. Earlier this week, owner Robert Gorham, who bought the horse as a 2-year-old, and trainer Linda Rice were concerned about the condition of the turf at Laurel.
"We inspected the track ourselves and, being it was opening day here, it was in good shape," said Rice, who walked over the grass at 11 a.m. "[We] knew that he would like it."
And Rice and Gorham wanted Double Booked to get another race in before the $500,000 Caesar's International Handicap, to be run on July 21 in Atlantic City. The 1 3/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will be the horse's longest of the year.
"He's a front-running horse, and his style is not suited to running to the second wire," Rice said. "But he would have went to the seven-eighths pole [yesterday]."
Yesterday's handle was $2,178,922 -- Laurel's second-highest opening day handle, second only to Jan. 2, 1989.