The race shaped up as wide-open, with seven horses having a shot to win.
But it finished formfully, with favored In Contention rallying from fifth to score a neck victory over the improving Viv in the $56,175 Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel Park yesterday.
Second choice Irish Cloud came from far back to claim third after shortening to the seven-furlong distance from an impressive performance at 1 1/8 miles.
The win was the fourth straight -- three of them in stakes -- for In Contention, a Devil's Bag colt who has competed at six tracks during his 10-race career. Only regular jockey Tony Black was on hand to speak for In Contention, who is owned by Noreen Carpenito and trained by Cynthia Reese.
"I decided with all the speed in there, to sit back and wait," said Black. "I had them in my sights, but I had to work a lot harder than I thought to get to the front.
"This is a very game animal and he knows his job. He thinks about it and his ears start twitching."
Running on Lasix for the first time, Viv was in the thick of contention for the entire seven furlongs and had the lead beyond mid-stretch.
A Houston colt owned by the Meyerhoffs and trained by Buddy Delp (the Spectacular Bid team), Viv broke his maiden only two weeks earlier with an eight-length romp but was sent off at 10-1 odds.
"Didn't he run great the first time [as a non-maiden]?" asked jockey Allen Stacy. "I think this horse ought to win next time out, but he just ran into a gorilla today."
Irish Cloud was not disgraced but might have needed more distance.
Jockey Mario Pino said the Preakness possibility "fired, but he was behind another horse. He ran a good race but just couldn't win."
The one-time star of the Maryland 3-year-old set, Count On Numbers, set the early fractions, then faded to finish a well-beaten fifth, eight lengths behind the winner.