Sleek N Graceful goes distance in rare match race at Pimlico HORSE RACING

August 07, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

They weren't Sea Biscuit or War Admiral.

But an impromptu match race between claimers Sleek N Graceful and Ebonizer developed at Pimlico Race Course yesterday in the third race when the original 11-horse field scratched down to just two runners.

When a daylong downpour, rare this summer, soaked the course, management switched the three turf races, including the third race, to the main track, prompting the exodus of horseflesh.

Neither Mike Luzzi, aboard Sleek N Graceful nor Mario Pino, on Ebonizer, had ridden in a match race.

"I was told not to let the other horse get away from me," Luzzi said. That was no problem. Ebonizer stumbled coming out of the gate and pulled off a shoe. However, he recovered and raced to the lead. Pino said "I had to ride him the whole way. He kept slipping because of the [lost] shoe and that probably cost us the race."

After running as a pair for most of the nine furlongs, Luzzi and Sleek N Graceful prevailed by a nose.

"It was a weird race," Luzzi said. "I didn't have to worry about rating my horse, because no one was going to come from behind and catch me."

Only win betting was offered. Second choice Sleek N Graceful returned $4.

It was only the eighth time in the track's 123-year history that a two-horse race was staged at Pimlico. The last time was in 1986, when Meadow Dictator defeated Akusarre by 10 lengths. It was a similar situation. A field of eight scratched down to two because of sloppy track conditions.

The most famous Pimlico two-horse race occurred in 1938, when more than 40,000 fans watched Sea Biscuit upset Triple Crown winner, War Admiral, in one of the sport's most famous planned match races.

Winning trainer Eddie Gaudet said even though yesterday's race was unplanned and appeared early on the card "the whole grandstand seemed to be enthused. I don't know how many people came up to me afterward and said it was as good a race as they've ever seen."

NOTES: A total of 24 horses or nearly a third of the 79 animals entered on yesterday's card scratched. . . . Because of the small fields, the handle of $584,814 was the lowest for a live Maryland program this year. . . . Only four horses competed in the featured Cedar Key Stakes. Augustin Stable's Smart Jaune, destined to become a steeplechaser, won the 14-furlong race by a neck over 8-year-old Ogle. . . . Maryland will be represented in the $200,000 Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park today by the Dale Capuano-trained Honorable Flight. The 2-year-old, a winner at Laurel on July 15, is owned by Costas Triantafilos of Glen Arm and was purchased for $7,000 as a yearling last year at the Timonium sales. The Grade II Sapling will not be simulcast at any of the Maryland wagering outlets. Larry Reynolds is the jockey. . . . Track superintendent John Passero will walk the Pimlico turf course this morning and then decide if today's three grass races will remain on the turf. The featured Basil Hall Stakes is carded at five furlongs on the grass.

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