His jockey and trainer say he's the best distance horse in Maryland. But bettors contemplating yesterday's Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap at Laurel Park were not convinced.
After installing Big Rut as the 5-2 second choice, they watched as the 5-year-old chestnut gelding roared three-wide around the far turn and won his 13th race in 25 starts. A $45,000 purchase as a 3-year-old, Big Rut has earned $331,786 for his owner, James W. Peters Jr.
A part-time resident of Virginia, Peters missed the race because he remained at his winter home in the Cayman Islands. But the trainer, Hamilton A. Smith, saddled Big Rut, and the jockey, Larry Reynolds, rode him in front of 5,652 on a sunny day at Laurel.
In the winner's circle, Reynolds said: "I think right now he's the best horse in Maryland -- the best route horse."
Echoed Smith: "He looks like he's the best horse around here now."
Big Rut will have to prove that again Feb. 28 in the St. Brendan Stakes, his probable next start, when he will likely meet Crosspatch for the first time.
After four impressive victories in four starts, the 4-year-old Crosspatch was scratched from yesterday's stakes after TTC drawing the 10 post, a disadvantageous position for a horse with limited experience and unlimited potential.
With Crosspatch on the sidelines and 2-1 favorite Algar failing to fire, the Harrison E. Johnson belonged to Big Rut. In the race named for the Maryland trainer killed in a plane crash in 1985, the consistent gelding ran 1 3/16 miles in 1 minute 55 4/5 seconds. He paid $7.60 to win.
"I've never trained a horse like this," Smith said. "He's so great to train, it's almost scary."
Six races before the stakes, an old favorite dusted off old tricks and showed he's not yet ready for the old horses' home. Nine-year-old Dash For Dotty, who finished eighth in the 1992 Preakness, stormed from last at even money to win a $5,000 claiming race.
Trainer D. Scott Posey claimed the horse for $25,000 in October 1996 for owner Ed Wilson of L.W.B.R. Stables. In his fourth start for his new connections, Dash For Dotty injured his front right ankle, underwent surgery to remove a bone chip and remained sidelined for one year.
Yesterday, he returned to the races and won his 78th start.
Pub Date: 2/08/98