LAUREL -- Eugene Ford Sr. "stuck things out" after tragedy struck one of the most promising horses he ever owned. His faith in horse racing was rewarded yesterday with a triumph in one of Maryland's richest races for 2-year-olds.
More Paces won the $150,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship by nearly five lengths at Laurel Race Course, marking the first stakes victory for Ford, a Bethesda developer, since Major Lux blossomed into a force in the summer of 1990.
"He broke down in a workout one morning," Ford said of Major Lux, a rapidly improving 3-year-old coming off wins over the best of his Maryland-bred class. "He was getting better every day; we had a lot of hope for him. After that, I really thought about chucking it at one point."
More Paces, trained by veteran Bernie Bond, helped soothe Ford's memories of Major Lux. The colt waited just off the early pace in the 1 1/16-mile race for Maryland-bred 2-year-olds, then was guided to the outside by Alberto Delgado. Approaching the quarter-pole, he surged past favored Sticks and Bricks, then drew off.
Sweep of Daylight rallied for second, with Alsay another seven lengths back in third. Sticks and Bricks was a tired fourth.
"Bernie told me to get good position on the first turn, then get ahold of him and let him run his race," said Delgado. Indeed, the race developed perfectly for More Paces, a 10-1 shot, while Sticks and Bricks (7-5) was caught wide on the first turn after breaking from the No. 8 post in a field of nine.
"The post position might have cost me some ground," said Mike Luzzi, who rode the favorite. "I thought I had enough horse down the back side. The last five-sixteenths, I didn't have any horse. Empty."
More Paces, racing on the bleeder medication Lasix for the first time, won for the third time in nine starts. In his previous race, the seven-furlong Devil's Bag Stakes, the colt finished fourth behind Sticks and Bricks, beaten nearly 10 lengths.
"We found a while ago he wants to go long," said Bond. "He's a long-striding colt who gets all over himself if you rush him. We got him for $20,000 from Dr. [Bob] Leonard." Dr. Leonard bred the Thirty Eight Paces colt.
Had Sticks and Bricks won, he likely would have been voted top state-bred 2-year-old of the year. But with More Paces' upset, the voting among locally based turf writers could be close between More Paces and Coolin It, winner of three stakes, including the Maryland Nursery on Maryland Million day.
"I'd have to think he has a good chance now," Bond said of his colt.
NOTES: Fire Plug, a popular 8-year-old campaigner, went over the $700,000 earnings mark when winning for the 28th time in yesterday's ninth race. In 54 career starts, the remarkable gelding has finished worse than third only 5 times. . . . Edgar Prado rode 3 winners on the program, giving him 58 winners through 45 racing days. He trails leader Luzzi by 1. . . . Luramore and Suspect Terrain head a short field in today's Heavenly Cause Stakes. . . . Veteran jockey Gregg McCarron is named to ride 1 horse Tuesday. A return to the saddle would come about a month after he suffered a back injury in a Laurel spill. McCarron rides regularly for Bond. . . . Trainer Norman "Bootie" Johnson has been fined $500 after Sorta Wasso tested positive for an overage of Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory analgesic. The
gelding won the fourth race at Laurel Nov. 29.