LAUREL -- Owners Nick and Elaine Bassford won the $55,500 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Race Course.
But they also finished last.
The couple from Davidsonville ran two horses, each handled by different trainers.
Ameri Valay, from the King Leatherbury barn, loved the mud and won by a comfortable 3-length margin over a rallying Exit West.
Festive Feathers, trained by Ricky Sillaman, disliked the wet track and quickly dropped out of contention.
"Of course, we were hoping for a dead heat," Nick Bassford said.
Two weeks ago when Leatherbury saddled Wait For The Lady in the Squan Song Handicap and won his first stakes of the year, he predicted added-money victories for two recent claims, Makin' Money and Ameri Valay.
Makin' Money disappointed in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial last Saturday, finishing eleventh in a 12-horse field.
But Ameri Valay, a neat, well-balanced son of Carnivalay, lived up to expectations.
When expected pace-setter Pie In Your Eye was scratched from the line-up, America the Free inherited the role of front-runner, suprising his jockey Walter Guerra.
"I wasn't planning on being on the lead," Guerra said. "I don't know what happened [to the other speed horses], but I ended up out there. My horse tried, but it didn't seem like he was handling the track too well."
America The Free hung on for third after Ameri Valay, under Mike Luzzi, assumed command in the upper stretch and drew off.
Favored Coin Collector, breaking from an outside post, was parked four wide on the first turn and was outrun. "I had nothing at no point," his rider, Lillian "Mich" Kuykendall said. "I never got to settle him in a position. I had to ride him the whole way. And I don't think he could handle the mud."
Leatherbury said he will not nominate Ameri Valay to the Triple Crown, but will instead keep him in Maryland-bred company. His next start will be in the $75,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico April 4.
Nick Bassford said he had admired the colt for some time and had wanted to claim him earlier in his career. "But at that time, he was still owned by my neighbor, Hal Clagett, and I couldn't claim off him," Bassford said.
After trainer Leo Ambrogi claimed the horse for $16,000, ran him twice in allowance company, and then dropped him in for a $35,000 tag January 3, Bassford him.
Yesterday's race result means that Maryland is still grappling for some kind of representation in the upcoming Kentucky Derby.
None of the finishers in yesterday's race are Derby-bound. Possibilities still include Western Miner, who is scheduled to start in the Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct; Surely Six, who could go in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, and Dash for Dotty, currently in Florida and scheduled to race tomorrow in the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company Stakes at Ocala.
The Private Terms finish also thwarted the effort of the stable owned by Emilio and John Alecci stable to win its first stakes. They finished second with Exit West.
"Ameri Valay beat us nine lengths last time," John Alecci said. "But we were only beaten three lengths today. At least, we're getting closer."
NOTES: Even though Festive Feathers finished last in the Private Terms, trainer Ricky Sillaman's other good 3-year-old, Golden Phase, finished third in the Swift Stakes at Aqueduct yesterday. . . Silver Tango is shipping quite a distance to avoid another meeting with Wood So and Wide Country, who are expected to race today in the Conniver Handicap. Trainer Gary Capuano has vanned her to Turfway Park in Kentucky, where she runs today in the Marigold Stakes. The filly was well-beaten by Wood So and Wide Country in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap. . . . Hooliganisim has injured a tendon and will be sidelined for at least a couple of months. "He grabbed his tendon just playing in his stall," said trainer Fred Groves. "We are blistering the tendon, and will sonogram it in 30 days to see where we go from there. Right now, it doesn't appear that serious.". . . Joanna Tammaro, 16 year-old daughter of trainer John Tammaro III, broke an arm, her collarbone and a kneecap in a traffic accident 10 days ago. The that proved fatal to two of her classmates at Glenelg High School in Howard County. Tammaro said his daughter is on the school basketball team that on Friday won the regional championship. "She got to go the game and is feeling a lot better," said Tammaro, who trains 12 horses at Pimlico and three at Garden State Park.