Favored The Vid overtook Pennine Ridge in the stretch and drew away to a three-length triumph yesterday in the $200,000 Early Times Dixie Handicap, the feature of the Pimlico undercard.
The anticipated east-west matchup between The Vid, who is based in Florida, and Blues Traveller, who's from California, never materialized in a race depleted by the scratches of three horses.
Blues Traveller finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Pennine Ridge, and was never in a contending position. He was the runner-up to Romarin in the first of a three-race series, the Early Times Classic on the Kentucky Derby program.
Jockey Jerry Bailey said the winner "went around one horse, then my horse looks like he's ducking in from something he sees in the grandstand. He seems to have a habit of looking around, but he doesn't duck in that much."
The Vid finished second in his last outing, a Grade III race at Hialeah, but trainer Martin Wolfson said he was "confident because I lost nine days training with him during the weeks before that race when they closed the main track at Calder. I missed two works with him."
Wolfson said he has ruled out the Early Times Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes card because The Vid is ineligible for bonus money.
Pennyhill Park cashes in
Pennyhill Park, returning from a six-month layoff, picked up the pieces from a stirring speed battle and won the $200,000 Pimlico Distaff by a head over Halo America.
The race matched local speedster Calipha, the Black-Eyed Susan winner in 1994, and Halo America, another burner from the Midwest.
Pat Day and Halo America ran some solid fractions, finishing six furlongs in 1:10 3/5. Calipha was right on her trail all the way around in the 1 1/8 -mile race, and it appeared they would battle to the wire.
But Pennyhill Park, ridden by Mike Smith, spurted from a stalking position in the final furlong to capture the $120,000 winner's share and increase her lifetime earnings above $635,000.
"This was an ambitious spot," said Roger Attfield, trainer of the winner. "But she had trained awfully well and worked in 26 (1:26 over 7 furlongs) Monday."
Smith said he was "kind of out of air" shortly after the race. "That is one real game mare we beat. Coming for home, I had no idea we would get up to the front. Frankly, we just got there."
Commanche Trail holds on
Smith came right back aboard D. Wayne Lukas-trained Commanche Trail and held off the fast-closing Goldminer's Dream by a head to take the $150,000 added Maryland Budweiser Breeders' Cup.
The jockey said the break from inside post was the key. "I was looking to get away good and he got away great, probably the best he has ever broke," said Smith. "Then he kept running although I stayed busy toward the end."
Lukas agreed. "When he got away that good, I felt pretty comfortable," he said.
Gary Stevens, who rode the runner-up, credited Smith for an outstanding ride, noting that he was "kept in tight, but not tight enough to take the number down or even to claim foul."
Goldminer's Dream has broken down twice and had a fractured leg as a 2-year-old. He has done well in allowance company, but never against tougher stakes horses.
Duel ends in dead heat
Mighty Magee and Star Trace staged a front-running duel in the $50,000 Baltimore Sun Sir Barton Stakes. It is still unresolved.
The two 3-year-olds finished in a dead heat for the victory in the 1 1/16-mile race named for the 1919 Triple Crown champion.
Star Trace, with Larry Reynolds up, appeared to take a slight lead, then had a slight misstep to lose his edge just after the eighth pole.
Mighty Magee, ridden by Chris McCarron, had the rail as they drove to the wire after setting a slow pace (24 1/5, 48 flat) throughout the race.
"I slowed it down on the front end and almost went to sleep," said McCarron. "I guess the guys behind me must have been asleep, too."
Reynolds said he thought he had won with Star Trace, a horse running around two turns for the first time.
"At the eighth pole, I tried to get him to change leads, but he wouldn't. Then he was laying in a little bit. Finally, in the last 70 yards, he switched leads," said Reynolds.
Trainer Graham Motion said running on the front wasn't the game plan for Star Trace "but it seems to be an advantage to be up close."
Mighty Magee's trainer, Leon Blusiewicz, lauded McCarron for his work and said he left it up to the jockey to determine the race strategy.
"I'm happy with a great ride," said Blusiewicz. "I had the horse ready and Chris rode the hair off him. He said he couldn't pull up until the five-eighths pole."