Last month, Benny the Bull had all his hooves could handle in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at New Jersey's Monmouth Park. Heavy rain had produced a slick and sloppy track, and the best sprinters in the world had gathered at the six-furlong course.
Benny finished fourth, nine furlongs behind Midnight Lute.
But yesterday at Laurel Park in the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, Benny turned the tables on Talent Search, who had finished third at the Breeders' Cup, and came from sixth place to win by 1 1/4 lengths on a fast track.
With jockey Edgar Prado on board, Benny beat Talent Search and third-place finisher Miraculous Miss, the only filly in the eight-horse field. It was Benny the Bull's first Grade I victory, and the 4-year-old paid $4.60.
Benny the Bull is trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., whose father, Dick, won the De Francis Dash twice with Lite the Fuse in 1995 and 1996.
An announced 11,807 turned out for the day billed as the Fall Festival of Racing and bet $3,991,327 on the 10-race card that included four stakes races.
For Prado, who dominated the Maryland circuit before moving his gear to New York in 1999, it was his first victory in the De Francis but his fourth win of the afternoon, and it brought the 40-year-old within 30 wins of 6,000.
Maryland-based jockey Mario Pino reached the 6,000 plateau this month and yesterday rode Miraculous Miss, who he said ran a "huge race against the boys."
As the light was fading, Benny the Bull, sired by Lucky Lionel and named for a character from the cartoon Dora the Explorer, patiently made up ground and put his nose in front for the first time at the sixteenth pole. He then pulled ahead as he closed on the finish line.
"Sometimes, I have to ride him very hard, but today, I didn't," Prado said. "He did it all on his own. I encouraged my horse, but I didn't really beat him up. I saved something for the end."
Benny the Bull covered the six furlongs on Laurel's main track in 1:09.86.
"Benny has been training better and better," said Mike Iavarone, co-president of IEAH Stables. "This is the way we expected him to run in the Breeders' Cup, but it was a sloppy day there and we were 20 lengths behind. It was too much for him to do. Today, Talent Search ran huge, but the pace he set helped us."
In fact, Iavarone and his three partners, Gregg James, whose daughter Ericka named Benny, Andrew Cohen and James Tagliaferri had entered Holly Time as a "rabbit" in the race, hoping the 4-year-old would improve Benny's pace.
Instead, Talent Search burst from the gate as if he was being chased, and Holly Time couldn't catch him. The only one who could was Benny the Bull.
In other races:
Prado earlier rode Stonerside Stable's Cowboy Cal to victory in the $125,000 Laurel Futurity for 2-year-olds on the turf.
"He had two moves today," Prado said. "He used one to get into position and the second one at the top of the stretch. And then his kick at the end was really strong."
This was only Cowboy Cal's third race, and both of his wins have come on the turf. He finished seventh on the dirt in his first start at Saratoga in August.
Cowboy Cal, a son of Giant's Causeway, is trained by Todd Pletcher, who was in California yesterday.
The colt paid $4.80 and covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.80, winning by 6 1/4 lengths over long shot Casanova Jack.
Bsharpsonata, a Pulpit offspring, bided her time around the backstretch and then fired down the front straight for a 1 1/4 -length victory over Grace and Power in the $125,000 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
"I hustled her to the rail out of the gate and then just let her settle down and find her stride," said Bsharpsonata's jockey, Eric Camacho.
"After that, it was just wait ... until we made our main move at the head of the stretch. She fired like she was shot out of a cannon."
Bsharpsonata paid $19.60 after covering the 1 1/16 miles turf course in 1:43.66.
"Sweet Mama!" trainer Tim Salzman said as he waited for the filly in the winner's circle.
Fire Hero won the $50,000 Maryland Million Starter handicap under the guidance of jockey Ramon Dominguez.
The son of Partner's Hero covered one mile in 1:39.63 and won by 4 3/4 lengths. He paid $3.
De Francis Dash
Purse $250,000, Stakes, 3YOs&up, 6 furlongs
1A Benny the Bull(Prado) $4.60 $2.40 $2.10
2 Talent Search(Fogelsonger) $3.00 $2.10
6 Miraculous Miss(Pino) $2.20
Time: 1:09.86. Daily Double (13-1) $12.60. Exacta (1-2), $12.80. Superfecta (1-2-6-4) $76.40. Trifecta (1-2-6) $38.20. Pic 3 (1-1/10/13-1) $43.80. Pic 4 (6-1-1/10/13-1) $1,055.80. Pic 6 (1-9/14-6-1-1/10/13-1) $6.80. Owner: IEAH Stables, G. James, Pegasus Holding Group Stables LLC, & A. I. Cohen. Trainer: Richard E. Dutrow Jr. Breeder: Tomoka Farms, Inc. Also-ran: Will He Shine, Saint Anddan, High Finance, Hi Time Scott, Holly Time. Total handle: $3,991,327.