Back-to-front rally beats Tabasco Cat in $3 million race Concern's Classic win is cause for Maryland celebration

November 06, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- For seven straight races, the Maryland-bred colt Concern had developed a frustrating reputation.

He finished second or third in some of America's greatest horse races but didn't win.

But with one explosive late run in the stretch at Churchill Downs yesterday, the horse once and for all shed his image as a loser.

Rallying six wide at the top of the stretch, Concern came from last place in a field of 14 and defeated Preakness winner Tabasco Cat by a neck in the $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic.

"I've ridden a lot of horses with power in the stretch, but none as strong as Concern," said jockey Jerry Bailey, who began to accelerate with the Robert Meyerhoff-owned colt after pushing him between faltering Devil His Due and struggling French runner Millkom on the final turn.

"This horse runs very hard every time, and if the race sets up right and I don't mess it up, he'll get there. We did have some problem in the far turn," Bailey said. "Mike Smith's horse [Devil His Due] was tiring and Cash Asmussen's [Millkom] drifted out. But Mike gave us a chance. He gave us room, and the rest is history."

Concern's trainer, Dick Small, attributed the victory to the horse's desire to win.

"He's not that gifted. He doesn't have brilliant speed," Small said. "But he's a plugger. He's consistent. He has that great acceleration in the stretch, and he knows where the wire is. He's relentless."

It was Bailey's third, and second straight, Classic victory. He won in 1991 at Churchill Downs with Black Tie Affair and last year at Santa Anita Park with 133-1 long shot Arcangues.

Concern's victory, in the first and only try in a Breeders' Cup race for Meyerhoff, of Baltimore County, was the climax of a successful Breeders' Cup day for horses with Maryland connections. De Francis Dash winner Cherokee Run started off the card by defeating Laurel Dash winner Soviet Problem by a head after a hard-fought stretch duel in the $1 million Sprint.

Then, Selima winner Stormy Blues, who is owned by Pikesville couple Harriet and David Finkelstein, rallied from 14 lengths off the pace and finished third in the Juvenile Fillies, 4 1/2 lengths behind winner Flanders and a half-length behind Serena's Song.

In the Mile, Maryland-bred Unfinished Symph led most of the way until he succumbed to the late charge of Barathea and Johann Quatz in the final furlong. Washington D.C. International winner Paradise Creek was third as the heavy choice in the $2 million Turf after his jockey, Pat Day, moved too soon with him and the horse failed to last at the 1 1/2 -mile distance.

On Friday, Bailey had expressed concern that the Churchill strip was favoring speed horses and would work adversely against Concern's customary late run. "But the surface changed. They didn't put much water on it, and it was cuppy," Bailey said.

Trainers of such losing favorites as Sky Beauty and Hollywood Wildcat in the Distaff attributed their losses to the surface. That race was won by 47-1 long shot Only Dreamer after the two favorites couldn't get untracked. Allen Jerkens, who trains Sky Beauty, as well as 11th-place Classic finisher Devil His Due, didn't like the condition of the strip, which also contributed to the losses of West Coast runners. Last year at Santa Anita, California horses won five of the seven Breeders' Cup races. This year, they were blanked. The bulk of victories on the dirt course went to East Coast runners. Europeans dominated on the grass, Barathea of England winning the Mile and Tikkanen, of France, the Turf.

Jerkens expressed amazement about Small's unorthodox plan of arriving less than 48 hours before the Classic with Concern. Small left his home base at Pimlico Race Course at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, arriving 10 1/2 hours later in Louisville with Concern, the last of the 91 Breeders' Cup entrants to arrive.

"Heck, I've been training my horses here for two weeks. Small arrives at the last minute and wins the big race," Jerkens said.

There have been great moments in Maryland horse racing history -- a Kentucky Derby victory by Kauai King, a Preakness win before the hometown folks by Deputed Testamony. But surely Concern's victory yesterday in America's richest horse race before a worldwide television audience ranks at or near the top.

The victory was the fruition of Meyerhoff's 20 years spent in selectively breeding thoroughbreds. Small added that it also represents "three or four lifetimes of my family spent in training them."

Both men attributed their success yesterday to their "terrific faith" in Broad Brush, the winningest Maryland-bred of all time, who Meyerhoff both bred and raced and is the sire of Concern.

Small, who trained the earner of $2.6 million, said Meyerhoff gave Broad Brush every opportunity at stud, buying some of the choicest mares in Kentucky to be bred to him, including Test Stakes winner Fara's Team, the dam of Concern, and then developing the offspring as runners.

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