Wanted by the Charlie Peoples stable: a cheap speed horse to exhaust the front-running Ameri Valay.
"That's what we need: a rabbit" was the comment overheard from a member of Peoples' outfit yesterday after Ameri Valay virtually stole his second straight running of the John B. Campbell Handicap and defeated the Peoples-trained Dixie Hero four lengths.
Ameri Valay is virtually unbeatable when he is uncontested on the lead, and that's exactly what he was yesterday in the $100,000 Pimlico feature.
Occasionally, Dixie Hero has been able to catch Ameri Valay by surprise and wrest the early lead from him. But yesterday, Edgar Prado elected to take back on Dixie Hero, and that meant trouble.
Mark Johnston was able to slow the early pace to a crawl with Ameri Valay and then had plenty of horse left to end up covering the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles in 1 minute, 54 3/5 seconds, 2 1/5 seconds off the track record, and a time good enough to win most Preaknesses.
"They must have scraped the rail, because the speed horses were winning today," said trainer King Leatherbury, who for that reason liked Ameri Valay best of his four-horse entry. The Leatherbury late runners -- Owned By Us, Gotcha Cornered and Bucknell -- had all won races over the winter at Laurel, but were left far behind yesterday.
"I thought I'd get more pressure, but it was such a long race, I think everybody else decided to save their horses," Johnston said.
Prado said that "I could have gone for the lead, but then I would have had nothing left."
"That's the trouble with Ameri Valay," said Albert Delgado, who used to ride the horse for Leatherbury and was aboard third-place finisher South Bend yesterday. "If you go with him, he can kill you. If you don't go with him, you can't catch up."
Even though Prado was outrun in the Campbell, he achieved a career milestone earlier on the card when he rode his 2,000th career winner aboard Dimetrius in the third race.
Prado, 27, accomplished the feat in nine years of riding in North America. He first rode in Florida after coming to the United States from Peru, and then rode in New England before moving to Maryland in 1989. Since then, he has been the state's leading rider three times (1991-93) and finished second last year to Johnston.
NOTES: The Santa Anita Derby, simulcast from Santa Anita Park, helped Maryland's eight-outlet betting network produce a $5 million wagering handle yesterday. Maryland bettors wagered $143,633 on the California race. . . . Buckingham Farm's Forry Cow How was scratched from the Campbell after trainer Ron Cartwright discovered some filling in one of the horse's ankles yesterday at Laurel Park. . . . Retama Park in San Antonio opened with a crowd of more than 29,000 yesterday, but wagering at the track totaled a disappointing $705,712. . . . A Rosecroft Raceway official said yesterday that Churchill Downs is showing interest in buying Maryland's two financially troubled harness tracks, Rosecroft and Delmarva Downs.