When you combine a fast racehorse with a patient owner, good things can happen. Trainer Dennis Manning can attest to this.
His lightly raced Key Lory led every step of the way to take the $100,000 Da Hoss Handicap yesterday at Pimlico. The victory improved Key Lory's turf record to 3-for-3 and increased his earnings to $334,000 for owner Mac Fehsenfeld of New Jersey. Not bad for a 7-year-old with a mere 20 starts.
"Only for the patience of Mr. Fehsenfeld is this horse where he is today," said Manning, 52. "It's certainly paid off now."
Key Lory, the 6-to-5 favorite in a field of 10, held off a late rally from Warrant, which got as close as three lengths at the end. Jockey Harry Vega put Key Lory in front right away, he was hardly bothered by early pressure from fourth-place finisher Lightning Paces, then maintained at least a three-length lead through the stretch.
He finished the race in 1 minute, 51.32 seconds and paid $4.40 to win.
Since switching to grass this summer, Key Lory has yet to trail in each of his three $100,000 races. The switch was suggested by Manning's assistant. The sudden success has Manning contemplating a shot in the Breeders' Cup, a far cry from 2000, when his often-injured speedster made just four starts and earned $13,830.
"He's taken to the grass like a duck to water," Manning said. "This horse just might run all day. Mr. Fehsenfeld told me, `Dennis, let's have some fun with this horse. You know he's going to have the lead, so it might be worth a try.' "
Key Lory was acquired by Fehsenfeld and Manning four years ago during the dispersal sale of Jack Kent Cooke's stable at Keeneland shortly after the death of the Washington Redskins owner. The son of Key to the Mint was purchased for $83,000 at age 3, and almost immediately suffered a series of ailments.
But with about 30 horses in training, Fehsenfeld could afford to be patient with his investment, one of his priciest acquisitions.
The victory by Key Lory kept Warrant out of the winner's circle, which could have produced some tension. Warrant is owned by William Rickman, the owner of Delaware Park and the investor who wanted to build a track in the Cumberland area last year.
But the 7-year-old finished second for Rickman and trainer Michael D'Angelo, a former assistant for the late Dick Dutrow.
"I really wanted to win this race for Dicky Dutrow," said D'Angelo, who wasn't accompanied by Rickman. "He always told me not [to] give up on 6- or 7-year-olds, and this horse makes me think of him. The next trick is to get Mr. Rickman to come here with me."
The victory secured Key Lory's claim to the MATCH Series title in the 3-year-old-and-up division for distance horses.
NOTES: Jockey Travis Dunkleberger had three victories yesterday, giving him 18 for the meeting. Dunkleberger was also disqualified from a second-place finish in the fourth race after being blamed for unseating Charles Forrest. The incident likely will cost Dunkleberger a riding suspension. ... Mark Johnston, second with 15 wins, was at Delaware Park yesterday, where he had a winning ride aboard Sassy Hound in the $100,000 Wilmington Handicap.