It wasn't Carry Back, but it was thrilling.
That's how one fan described the come-from-behind performance of the 3-year-old colt Looming yesterday.
After being nearly pulled up at the start, he made up about 25 lengths and won the $53,700 Private Terms Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
"Unbelievable," exclaimed jockey Andrea Seefeldt. "At the three-quarter pole, I didn't think I had a chance. But he kept trying. It takes him time to get in gear. At the quarter pole, we were going as quickly as we could to get to them."
The horse trailed so far behind that the rest of the five-horse field was in the stretch when Looming was just rounding the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile race.
At the eighth pole, he only had one horse, Richie The Coach, to beat. But Looming's swift acceleration moved him ahead of Justalittleshower by three-quarters of a length at the wire.
Owner Robert Meyerhoff said the race was almost as exciting as when his champion colt, Broad Brush, won the Santa Anita Handicap and Pennsylvania Derby in equally breath-taking fashion.
"Looming was so far behind that I thought he was hurt and Andrea was protecting him during the race," Meyerhoff said.
Looming's style is reminiscent of the 1961 Kentucky Derby winner, Carry Back, who made thrilling and late rallies, and Meyerhoff said he might consider running his horse in the Kentucky Derby, providing he wins his next start, the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 23.
But at Oaklawn Park, where another Meyerhoff 3-year-old, Concern, finished second yesterday in the $125,000 Rebel Stakes, trainer Dick Small said, "You've got to be realistic. There were nice horses in the race (the Private Terms), but not Derby types. Still, the attrition leading up to the Derby is phenomenal (among the contenders), and you never know what could happen."
Meyerhoff and Small finished third in the 1986 Kentucky Derby with Broad Brush, the sire of Looming and Concern. That race was won by Ferdinand. Both Looming and Concern are Triple Crown nominees. Concern will probably stay in Arkansas and could run next in the Arkansas Derby on April 23.
Favored Run Alden, who tired after hooking up in a mid-race speed duel with Gash, finished fourth yesterday and has been pulled out of consideration for the Preakness by his owner, Hal C.B. Clagett.
"I earned two medals in the war for charting a course and sticking to it, and I'm going to do that now," Clagett said. "He had to win this race for me to nominate him to the Triple Crown, and I meant it. We will start Run Alden in the Tesio. If he wins, and he's not eligible for the Preakness, I'll just say, 'Well, I regret it.' "
Trouble in the Private Terms occurred almost immediately at the start.
Wise Judgement broke through the gate before the race and had to be reloaded. Then he broke through again just as starter Jimmy Havens let the field go and he broke inward, side-swiping Looming and Justalittleshower.
"He dove in and took my space," said Seefeldt. She said Wise Judgement actually hit her horse.
"No question if we had won, we would have been taken down," said Dan Borislow, owner of Wise Judgement, who finished third. "But the two horses he bothered finished ahead of us."
Run Alden went to the lead and set a slow pace of 24 1/5 seconds for the first quarter under Allen Stacy, until he was joined by Edgar Prado on Gash. Gash made a run at Run Alden and the horses went the third quarter in 23 1/5 seconds, after completing the half in 47 2/5 seconds. "That cooked us and we didn't have anything left for the stretch," said Run Alden's trainer, Jerry Robb.
The Private Terms was the fourth straight victory for Looming, who ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1 minute, 44 1/5 seconds.
"This horse is genuine and honest," Small said. "It's obvious he wants to win, no matter what happens to him in a race or what the conditions are."