Pimlico Race Course management had hoped to attract champion Dance Smartly to the first running of the Pimlico Distaff.
But the filly's second-string stablemate, Wilderness Song, filled in quite nicely for her yesterday and won the $150,000 winner's share for Canadian owner Ernie Samuel of Sam-Son Farm.
The robust daughter of Wild Again was hard ridden by Craig Perret and held off Harbour Club by a neck. Wild Again carried 11 more pounds than the New York-based Harbour Club, who was the 6-5 favorite in the seven-horse field and was ridden by Belmont Park's top jockey, Julie Krone.
Perret had an uncomplicated ride yesterday.
Wilderness Song stalked early pace-setter Wait For The Lady, caught her between the half-mile and three-eighths mile poles, and then was hit 20 times in the stretch by Perret to hold off Harbour Club.
At the eighth pole, Wilderness Song drifted out a bit after Perret switched sticks and hit her left-handed, but she caused no interference with Harbour Club.
"I knew the outside horse [Wait For The Lady] had natural speed and decided to let him [rider Albert Delgado] go for the lead," Perret said. "I had Julie in sight, and when I saw her start to make her run, I made my run too."
Krone never could catch Wilderness Song and admitted she was just plain outrun.
Brilliant Brass, the Maryland-bred mare who had won three straight Pimlico stakes, made a bid in the stretch, but finished third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Harbour Club.
It was Sam-Son Farm's third stakes victory in three attempts at the current Pimlico meet and the second victory for Perret in Pimlico's three richest races.
Sam-Son had won the Riggs Handicap on May 2 with Rainbows For Life and then the Early Times Dixie Handicap on May 15 with Sky Classic. Including Wilderness Song's victory yesterday, Samuel has collected $285,000 from the three Maryland wins.
Perret, who finished second in the Preakness on Alydeed, had won the Pimlico Special on Strike the Gold.
Malcolm Pierce deputized for trainer Jim Day, the former Olympic gold medal Grand Prix rider who conditions Wilderness Song.
"We just decided three weeks ago to come to this race with Wilderness Song," Pierce said. "We had hoped to get Pat Day to ride, but he had a call in another race [on Alydavid in the $100,000 Stephen Foster Handicap yesterday at Churchill Downs, where he finished sixth]. Craig Perret was our second choice."
Pierce said Dance Smartly missed the race because she "is behind schedule this year, and didn't make her first start until last week [finishing second]."
He added that Wilderness Song has had a "mixed-up campaign" in three previous 1992 starts. She was favored in all three starts and only won one of them. Her spotty record was picked up by the Pimlico bettors, who sent her off the third choice despite a Grade I win last fall in the Spinster Stakes.
PD "But, now, I guess you'd say, she's back on track," Pierce said.