Norman Asbjornson ran down front-runner Eighttofasttocatch to win the $125,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Stakes on Saturday at Laurel Park.
The 5-year-old, who was sent to post at 6-1 under Jeremy Rose for trainer Carlos Mancilla, earned his first stakes victory. Norman Asbjornson hinted at his potential in his previous start when he was elevated to second in the John B. Campbell Stakes last month after he was fouled by Service for Ten in the final furlong.
Mancilla is filling in for trainer Chris Grove, who is serving a suspension. Mancilla has been Grove's top assistant for 16 years.
"We thought he should have won that race, and we were confident coming into the race," said Mancilla, who also won Saturday's fifth race with Wry Me.
While Eighttofasttocatch, the race's two-time defending champion, opened a commanding lead, a lead that held up into the stretch, the winner was last at the start, last down the backstretch and last entering the far turn. Norman Asbjornson was closing relentlessly with a furlong to go and swept by to win going away, by 11/2 lengths.
Norman Asbjornson completed the nine furlong distance in 1 minute, 51.77 seconds. General George winner Javerre finished third, 21/4 lengths behind Eightofasttocatch.
"The thing I had going for me is I knew my horse could get the distance," said Rose, who was aboard for the first time. "To be honest, I didn't expect [Eighttofasttocatch] to open up that far. I didn't know if I gave my horse too much ground to make up, but he's a nice horse. He overcame me and got the job done."
The son of Real Quiet has six runner-up finishes in stakes races during his career, including the Gotham Stakes, and competed in both the Wood Memorial and the Preakness two years ago.
"He always tries and is very versatile," Mancilla said.
Norman Asbjornson paid $14.20 and improved to 5-for-20 lifetime with 13 on-the-board finishes for earnings of $403,350.
Koh I Noor, who had won four straight at Laurel since October, finished fourth as the 4-5 betting choice.
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