Wide Country favored in Pimlico Oaks


Stalker gave Fire Plug a 9 1/2 -length whipping yesterday, but Bob Camac still has plenty of firepower to salvage the weekend.

Fire Plug, trained by Camac, finished second in the $43,550 J. Edgar Hoover Handicap at Pimlico Race Course as the 7-10 favorite. Those are right about the odds that Wide Country, another Camac trainee, figures to be in the $200,000 Pimlico Oaks today.

The Pimlico surface was a sea of mud yesterday, and Fire Plug "didn't handle it too good," jockey Santos Chavez said. Chavez also rides Wide Country, who has never run on an off track.

"I guess we'll get a chance to see if she likes it," said Camac. Wide Country, a winner in seven of 10 starts, has five straight stakes victories entering the Oaks.

Stalker, a confirmed speed horse, "wasn't away as good as I'd have liked," said his rider, Rick Wilson. "But once he got going, he just drug me to the front."

Stalker, a 4-year-old, won for the seventh time in 18 starts and paid $10 to win.

The Pimlico Oaks will be followed on the 12-race program by a simulcast of the $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes from Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Richman is the 5-2 favorite to keep a remarkable streak intact for jockey Pat Day.

Day is 4-for-4 in the race, having won it last year aboard Summer Squall. Apollo, with Chris McCarron, is the 7-2 second choice in Turfway oddsmaker Mike Battaglia's morning line.

Summer Squall went on to post the best finish for a Jim Beam runner in the Kentucky Derby (second), then won the Preakness in his next start. Two others have been third in the Derby: At the Threshold (1984) and Broad Brush (1986).

ESPN's one-hour Jim Beam program begins at 4:30 p.m. Approximate post time is 5:12.

The Jim Beam is the weekend's top Triple Crown prep. Several Maryland-based sophomores will run in Garden State Park's $100,000 Cherry Hill Mile, which will be simulcast as the eighth race at Pimlico.

Other 3-year-old races are the Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs and the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

NOTES: There is no racing at Pimlico tomorrow because of the Easter holiday. The track will make up the date Monday with a 10-race program, the only scheduled Monday program of the month. . . . After the Hoover, Fire Plug was to be turned out for a well-deserved rest, Camac said. . . . The Pimlico Oaks was run 37 times until 1952, when it became the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. It was revived as the Pimlico Oaks two years ago. . . . Former Maryland regular Donnie Miller is scheduled to fly in from San Francisco to ride Ritchie Trail in the Oaks. . . . There's a solid chance Silver Tango will scratch from the Oaks if the nasty weather continues. . . . Mark Johnston rode four winners at Pimlico yesterday, including two for trainer King Leatherbury. . . . Jockey agent Steve Vaonakis said yesterday that he will be booking mounts for Jacinto Vasquez, who is scheduled to begin riding at Pimlico April 11. . . . Pimlico released the stakes schedule for the May 4-July 2 portion of its meeting. One notable revision: The Woodlawn Stakes, which had been held the day after the Kentucky Derby in recent years and had produced fringe candidates for the Preakness, has been moved to June 1. The race also had its purse lowered from $75,000 to $50,000.

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