Trainer Bud Delp doesn't scare easily.
But even he admitted he had a few anxious moments at the top of the stretch yesterday when his horse, Sunny Sunrise, looked as if he had lost the lead in the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Pimlico Race Course.
But the 5-year-old gelding, who was the 4-5 favorite in the seven-horse field, had something left and came on again under a vigorous hand ride by jockey Mike Smith to beat Valley Crossing by 1 1/4 lengths.
For a while, it looked as if Valley Crossing, the 4-1 second choice, had taken the lead after making what track announcer Dave Rodman termed "a monster move" on the final turn.
But the long-striding 4-year-old, who came from last place under Edgar Prado and began picking up horses on the backside, might have moved too soon. He caught Sunny Sunrise, but then couldn't get by him with a definitive rush.
"Sure, I was worried," Delp said. "I turned to Harry Meyerhoff [the horse's owner], who had binoculars, and asked him how our horse looked. He said, 'He's looking real good.' But it didn't look that way to me."
Smith, 26, the leading rider at Aqueduct, said Sunny Sunrise is hard to ride, "because he resents being hit by the whip. I think [at the top of the stretch] he was waiting for me to hit him. I was tempted, but I didn't. I shook the stick a little bit and he got back in the game."
Sunny Sunrise, who had spent the winter bouncing back and forth in stakes races between Florida and Maryland, ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 49 1/5 seconds, a fifth of a second faster than Little Bold John's stakes record set in 1989. In the previous 34 runnings, the Campbell had been run at 1 1/4 miles.
Makin Money, a 30-1 long shot who had been competing in claimers, rallied on the far outside and finished third.
The disappointment in the race was Gala Spinaway, the champion Maryland-bred and second high-weight at 116 pounds. He finished last after he bobbled at the start and was checked behind horses going into the first turn.
The Campbell finish reflected a Meyerhoff family exacta. Harry Meyerhoff owns Sunny Sunrise and his older brother, Bob, owns Valley Crossing.
The two brothers once operated a joint racing stable, but then split about 15 years ago. Each has had tremendous success.
Harry Meyerhoff, who buys his racing prospects as yearlings at the Kentucky auctions, raced Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Spectacular Bid.
Bob Meyerhoff prefers to breed his racing stock at his farm in Baltimore County and has raced such outstanding stakes horses as Broad Brush.
The two brothers don't consult each other about their horse operations, Harry Meyerhoff said, "But we did pass each other in the paddock and wished each other luck."
NOTES: Campbell Day at Pimlico produced at least one rare occurrence. Jack Bopst, a racing fan from Catonsville, found a money clip containing $840 in the parking lot on his way into the track. Instead of keeping the money, Bopst turned it over to track GM Jim Mango. Almost simultaneously, another fan reported losing the money, described the money clip to Mango and then reclaimed his cash. . . . Delp got his first Campbell victory yesterday. He was second 30 years ago in a division of the race with Pro Bidder, when the stakes was the highlight of the Bowie winter meet. . . . Trainer Charles Dewald turned 83 yesterday. He is the second-oldest active trainer in Maryland. Hall of Fame trainer Henry Clark is 87. . . . Pimlico will be closed next Sunday for Easter, but will race on Monday, April 20. . . . Pimlico-based Exit West finished fourth in the Garden State Stakes at Garden State Park Saturday, but had a legitimate excuse. The horse's saddle slipped coming out of the gate and jockey Tommy Turner spent most of the race holding onto the horse's neck. Exit West is owned by the Alecci family stable and will race next in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 25.