LAUREL -- While their biggest threat was snarled in traffic, Mark Johnston and Fahrvegnuggen drove to victory yesterday at Laurel Race Course.
The finish of the $50,000 Japan Racing Association Handicap came down to whether Be Nimble could catch Fahrvegnuggen, the curiously named colt who had taken the lead in mid-stretch. But, "nothing really broke until the eighth-pole," said Mario Pino, who rode Be Nimble.
At 13-1, Fahrvegnuggen was the second-longest shot in a field of seven, but when he launched an outside surge past heavily favored Tribal Crown in the early stretch, the odds shifted in his favor. "Once I went past him, I think it took the heart out of him," said Johnston, a 1990 Eclipse Award winner who won his first stakes event in Maryland this year. And, although front-running Auggies Here was giving way grudgingly along the rail, this was the most significant aspect of the final yards: Be Nimble's frantic run, made between Auggies Here and Fahrvegnuggen, fell about 14 inches short.
"I thought I had him," said Pino. "That's the way it goes."
Fahrvegnuggen is so named because "he was a pleasurable riding experience when he was a young horse -- you know, like the car, 'It's a pleasurable driving experience,' " said Eddie Gaudet, who trains the 3-year-old colt on behalf of his wife, Linda.
The winner finished the 1 1/8 -mile race in 1 minute, 53 seconds, on a yielding turf course.
NOTES: Laurel post times change today with the shift to standard time. With a few exceptions, first post on weekends and holidays will be noon, and weekday programs will begin at 12:30 . . . . Apprentice rider Gilberto Delgado escaped serious injury when his mount, With The Grain, fell after clipping heels in yesterday's 12th race. The horse also appeared to be uninjured. . . . The Double Triple carry-over has inched its way to $120,375. . . . A well-matched group of older sprinters will contest today's $40,000-added Maryland City Handicap, the highlight of an 11-race card. . . . Grab the Green, ridden by Edgar Prado, finished fourth in yesterday's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Keeneland.