Pescagani easily takes Riggs

May 29, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Mark Johnston, who is experiencing his best season as a jockey since leading the nation's apprentices in 1990, won his seventh Maryland stakes race of the year yesterday when he guided Pescagani to a front-running victory in the $75,000 Riggs Handicap at Pimlico Race Course.

New York invader Jodi's The Best got the first call out of the gate in the bulky 14-horse field at 12 furlongs on the turf, but soon relinquished the lead to Pescagani.

After being pressed by Master Dreamer during the first half mile, Pescagani settled in stride and then demoralized the opposition when Johnston opened up a widening lead with him going into the final turn.

"That's the smartest thing he could do, letting the horse go at the 5/16ths pole," said winning trainer Barclay Tagg. "That's where he won the race."

The rest of the field was outrun, with local stayer Asserche making the strongest late bid of the stragglers. He finished second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Pescagani. Master Dreamer held on for third, followed by Petroski, a jumper prospect being readied by trainer Tom Voss for upcoming steeplechases at Laurel Race Course.

Last year's Riggs winner, Gary Gumbo, who was sent off a lukewarm 4.10-1 favorite, dropped out of contention and finished ninth.

It was the third career stakes victory for Pescagani, a 4-year-old son of Caveat, who had won the Sir Ivor Stakes and the Japan Racing Association Handicap at Laurel last year. The horse is owned by Vincent Drecchio's One Plus Two Stable.

Tagg said Pescagani relishes the firm going. He was nipped by Dancing Douglas in his prep for the Riggs on soft ground. Tagg, who spent the winter in Florida with the bulk of his string, has now won three 1994 stakes, including the Royal Palm Handicap at Hialeah Race Course with Social Retiree and the Searching Stakes at Pimlico last month with Circus Music.

By winning the Riggs, Johnston jumped to a one-win lead over Mario Pino in Maryland stakes wins.

Johnston, 23, has won three stakes so far for trainer King Leatherbury, including the William Donald Schaefer and Jennings handicaps on Taking Risks and the Maryland Racing Writers' Handicap with Buffels. His other stakes wins have come aboard Imah, Invincible Sue and Circus Music.

Edgar Prado, Larry Reynolds and Rick Wilson are tied for third. Each has won five Maryland stakes during the first five months of 1994.

NOTES: All Maryland wagering outlets will start simulcasting full cards from Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. today. . . . There will be no simulcasting at the Maryland off-track or inter-track sites on Wednesday, which will be a dark day. . . . Irish Forever has been made the early 6-5 choice in tomorrow's Hilltop Stakes, the Memorial Day feature at Pimlico. The race, which has a 5:15 p.m. post time, is the second event in the initial National Best Seven wager, which is a Pick-Seven wager, featuring seven stakes races televised in a one-hour format from a variety of tracks across the country.

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