Marciano delivered a knockout blow to five 3-year-old rivals to win the $50,000 Herat Stakes yesterday at Laurel Park.
Marciano, a gray-roan son of Two Punch, and jockey Mark Johnston cruised up outside the pacesetters approaching the far turn, then powered by to score a 9 1/4 -length victory over Unaccountedlea (second) and Dissident Shah (third).
The winner, who was the post-time favorite, paid $3.60. His winning time was 1 minute, 46 2/5 seconds for the 1-1/16 mile distance over a wet, fast strip. Marciano has finished first or second in each of his past six races.
Marciano is trained at Fair Hill Training Center by Tim Ritchey, who saddled three winners on yesterday's card.
Ritchey gave a leg up to apprentice rider Jeremy Rose, who won the fourth race aboard One Wild Lad and the fifth atop Brillig before handing the reins to Johnston in the feature race.
"The race set up just right," Johnston said. "He relaxed today. I had a ton of confidence going into the far turn. I was waiting to see how much Travis [Dunkelberger on Adios My Friend] had left, but my horse opened up with such ease, and I decided to ride him out.
"He got a lot out of this race, and it was encouraging to get the two turns after he lost last time. He may have gotten tired in that race [second in the Miracle Wood to Talk Is Money], but our different strategy suited him perfectly."
Said Ritchey: "I think the reason he was beaten in his last race was only because of the strategy. We've been working since then on making him run at horses in his workouts. He has such a fluid stride that he doesn't waste any energy. ... When Mark called on him, he showed the acceleration that he gets naturally. Not many Two Punch offspring can go long and now that we know he can get the distance, we'll map out a plan which may include the Private Terms [at Pimlico] or possibly some of the New York Kentucky Derby preps."
Rose finished in the money on six of seven mounts, with two wins and four second-place finishes. He has won nine races in his first two weeks at Laurel Park and has been in the money on 21 of 35 mounts.
NOTES: Laurel Park is open for simulcasting only today. Tomorrow is a dark day. Live racing resumes Wednesday with a 12:40 p.m. post. ... Starting Saturday, the first race post time will move to 1:10 p.m. daily and continue through the end of the Laurel winter meeting March 25. The 1:10 p.m. post time will be in effect during Pimlico's spring meeting as well, which starts March 28.