Legal Control battled foot problems and Preakness runner Malibu Moonshine in his most recent efforts and didn't fare well.
Both experiences were behind him yesterday and the son of Thunder Gulch returned to front-running form, holding off Monster Chaser and It's Time to Smile to win the $50,000 Deputed Testamony Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
With Luis Garcia replacing regular rider Jozbin Santana, Legal Control needed sound hooves to prevail by a head over Monster Chaser, who was a neck in front of It's Time to Smile.
"He grabbed a quarter, so we put a patch on it the last time he ran [a sixth in the Federico Tesio Stakes]. I thought he'd be OK, but he really wasn't," said trainer Richard Small.
"He was sound, but not quite himself, kind of tentative. We let his foot grow out and replaced the patch. That has worked out better."
Co-favored with Monster Chaser, Legal Control seized the initiative quickly from the rail before moving slightly off the inside. Monster Chaser angled into the rail under Richard Monterrey and forced the eventual winner to go all out, with It's Time to Smile pressing from the outside. Legal Control finished in 1:45.80 for the 1 1/16 miles.
"I knew no one was going to run with me in the first part, but they were going to run hard at the end," Garcia said. "My horse likes to wait on horses. When asked, he runs again."
The trophy was presented to Small by Bill Boniface, who trained Deputed Testamony to the Preakness winner's circle in 1983. He is the last Maryland-bred horse to win the Preakness.
Garcia gained the mount because Santana was taken to the hospital with an asthma attack before yesterday's racing.
"This horse is a real late foal," Small said of Legal Control, now 4-for-10 lifetime. "He's barely a 3-year-old and I got a little ahead of myself with him."
NOTES: With only today's program remaining in Pimlico's current stand, the race for the meet training title is going down to the wire. King Leatherbury scored once yesterday to pull into a second-place tie with Scott Lake with 13 winners. Dale Capuano, who has three entries today, leads with 14 in his quest for an 11th straight Pimlico title. ... One of 39 tracks to participate in yesterday's nationwide Alex's Lemonade Stands promotion, Pimlico raised $2,512 for the Pennsylvania-based charity after taking in $18,000 on Preakness Day. ... Aided by free pony rides for children and the Belmont Stakes, Pimlico drew 6,719 fans for its final Saturday. Another 5,642 attended the simulcast site at Laurel Park, bringing the live Maryland total to 12,361.