LAUREL -- Mario Pino is quite reserved, as even-tempered a jockey as you'll find.
So when Pino gave a fiery wave of his whip after winning the $54,500 Governor's Cup at Laurel Race Course yesterday, something was up.
"It gave me a thrill," the veteran rider said. "It gave me a little zing."
With an abundance of speed in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds, Pino figured the best strategy would be to settle Subtle Step -- at 13-1, the longest shot in a field of six -- then make one run. When the scheme paid off, Pino said, beaming: "I used my head this time. It really worked out for the best."
The victory was only the second in 11 races for Subtle Step, a Locust Hill Farm gelding whose only previous moments in the spotlight were dubious ones. He was the horse found tainted with a trace of cocaine last spring, a situation that led to a legal brouhaha involving trainer Charlie Hadry, a 40-year veteran whose record had been impeccable prior to the finding. Hadry was ordered to serve a 15-day suspension by the Maryland Racing Commission, but the case is under appeal in circuit court.
Woodsy, making his first start at a distance and in a turf race, led from the start yesterday, tracked closest by Fahrvegnuggen and Valley Crossing. Woodsy pulled away to a big lead in the early stretch before Subtle Step began an outside rally that carried him to a one-length triumph.
Subtle Step paid $29 to win after finishing in 1 minute, 41 seconds, on a firm course.
Victory in the Governor's Cup was the second in four years for Locust Hill and Hadry; Private Terms won the 1988 edition at Pimlico Race Course. In its glory years, the Governor's Cup was run at Bowie Race Course and won by such stars as Cox's Ridge, Nasty and Bold and Truly Bound.
It also was the second "Cup" won by a Locust Hill-Hadry horse in seven days. Last Sunday, Finder's Choice won the $71,300 Pennsylvania Governor's Cup at Penn National.
NOTES: With two other victories, Pino has assumed the lead in a jumbled Laurel jockeys' race. Pino has ridden 18 winners and leads Mike Luzzi (16), Jo Jo Ladner (15), Edgar Prado (14), Jacinto Vasquez (13) and Rick Wilson (13). . . . A steeplechase race has been added to the Sept. 8 Maryland Million program at Pimlico. The $50,000 Ryland Homes Maryland Steeplechase will be a handicap at about 2 1/16 miles over national fences.