When last seen at Pimlico Race Course two years ago, Tejano Run was running a dull ninth in the Preakness and entering a period in which he was plagued by one injury or illness after another.
But he bounced back with a flourish, so trainer Kenny McPeek was ready for the worst yesterday when the chestnut got a leg tangled in a nylon rope at the track's stakes barn area.
"I was a nervous wreck," said McPeek. "Fortunately, I was holding him myself and it turned out to be very minor. Once he got untangled, everything was fine."
So, Tejano Run, rope burn and all, will be in a strong field of eight that competes tomorrow in the Grade I, $600,000 Pimlico Special for older horses.
The field is twice as large as last year's when the Dubai Cup in Saudi Arabia attracted many of the eligible horses, including Cigar.
West Coast star Gentlemen, the top weight at 122 pounds, is the overnight favorite followed by Isitingood, who set a world record JTC for a mile on the turf (1 minute, 32 seconds) at Santa Anita, Mt. Sassafras, Skip Away and Tejano Run.
It is a race replete with speed, most of it on the outside in Gentlemen and Skip Away, so McPeek's horse will need a serious pace to prevail.
"He needs pace to win. It's the kind of thing you can't control," said the trainer. "If it sets up for him, we'll be in good shape. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
Owner Roy K. Monroe put Tejano Run on the market last year, but did not receive what he considered a fair offer. So, he decided to continue his racing career.
The result has been four victories in his last eight starts after bouts with a chipped ankle, throat surgery, an abscessed foot, colic and a lung infection.
Tejano Run was certified for blinkers for the first time yesterday because McPeek thinks "they might keep him a little more focused."
Gentlemen won five straight on the West Coast before he finished third, beaten three lengths by Siphon, in the Santa Anita Handicap.
"He's a big, beautiful horse who likes to run loose on the lead," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Isitingood. "The way he was running a lot of people thought he was going to take Cigar's place."
Baffert reasons that the Special is wide open.
"All these horses have run races that nobody could beat on that day," he said. "So, it'll be whoever shows up."
Of his own ubiquitous entry, whose last 10 races have been at 10 tracks, Baffert said he is "always taking the back roads with him. Now, we'll try to the heavyweights and see what he's made of. We can always go back to the back roads."
Baffert said Isitingood usually runs well when he likes the track and "he loves this one."
Skip Away was the champion 3-year-old last year and Mt. Sassafras beat Skip Away and Tejano Run in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. The latter is best recalled for a race he didn't win -- when he finished fourth, less than a length away, at 101-to-1 odds in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
A sleeper could be Key of Luck, who finished second to Star Standard in last year's Special.
The only local entry is Dr. Banting, a non-winner for nearly a year after taking the ungraded Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel last June.
Farma Way set the track record of 1: 52 2/5 for the distance, 1 3/16 miles, in the 1991 Special. That could be threatened on a fast track tomorrow.
@Pimlico Special field
PP, Horse ............ Jockey ....... Trainer .......... Odds
Key Of Luck ..... Jerry Bailey ... K. McLaughlin ..... 8-1
2, Dr. Banting ..... Seth Martinez .. Charlie Hadry .... 30-1
3, Tejano Run ...... Pat Day ........ Kenny McPeek ...... 5-1
4, Secreto de Estado J. Pezua ....... Alfredo Callejas.. 50-1
5, Gentlemen ....... Gary Stevens ... Richard Mandella .. 2-1
6, Mt. Sassafras ... Edgar Prado .... Barbara Minsnail .. 4-1
7, Isitingood ...... David Flores ... Bob Baffert ....... 3-1
8, Skip Away ....... Shane Sellers .. Sonny Hine ........ 9-2
Pub Date: 5/09/97