Michael's Star wins Johnson Handicap Phil. Park horse out-duels Sunny Sunrise in stretch

Laurel notebook

February 25, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The race loomed as a blistering speed battle between Sunny Sunrise and Richie The Coach, with both trying to fend off Philadelphia Park invader Michael's Star at the end.

It never happened.

Sunny Sunrise upheld his end of the billing and Michael's Star came roaring through the stretch, but Richie The Coach never fired.

At the end of a two-horse hookup, Michael's Star had out-dueled Sunny Sunrise by half a length and won the $75,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap at Laurel Park yesterday.

It was a gritty performance by a horse coming off a two-month layoff because Sunny Sunrise wouldn't quit and actually regained the lead briefly after giving it up.

Winning trainer Guadalupe Preciado said Michael's Star's effort after the break wasn't surprising.

"He makes my job easy. You don't have to do anything real special with him," said Preciado. "It's not hard to train a good one."

Michael's Star laid off the surprisingly slow pace set by Sunny Sunrise, who was uncontested on the lead through six furlongs.

Jockey Edgar Prado moved him as they turned for home. "There was a lot of speed in this race, but it set up perfectly for my horse," he said. "I do have to give Sunny Sunrise [whose jockey, Jeff Carle, lost the whip] a lot of credit. He tries so hard."

Fireside Brass faded in the drive and finished a distant third, followed by long shot Arcentales.

Richie The Coach obviously felt the effects of coming back in six days from a victory at 1 5/16 miles and loped in next to last. He spotted six rivals from three to six pounds under the handicap conditions.

Part owner Jack Mondell said the Michael's Star team "wanted to try for a deeper surface [than at Aqueduct], and we thought this would be a good spot. We didn't get the track we wanted, but he didn't have a problem, anyway."

Mondell is confident the son of Risen Star can handle 1 1/2 miles easily and will search for a race at that distance next.

Heading for Annapolis

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis announced yesterday that several buses will leave his three race tracks Thursday morning to take people to the House of Delegates hearing on the Maryland Racing and Electronic Gaming Act in Annapolis.

He is urging his employees, horsemen and friends of racing to attend the hearing, which begins at 11 a.m.

House Bill 1380, which asks for the approval of slot machines at the tracks, will be discussed by the Ways and Means Committee of the House.

Buses will leave Laurel Park and the Bowie training center at 8:45 a.m. and from Pimlico at 8:30 a.m. They will depart from Annapolis for their respective destinations at 1:15 p.m.

To achieve as much support as possible, De Francis has shifted post time of Laurel's live racing to 2:30 p.m., although simulcasting will begin two hours earlier as usual.

The live card will be limited to seven races.

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