Somehow, the script looks so familiar. Good horse avoids the big boys, skips the Triple Crown, goes hunting for mere $300,000 purses. And gets rich doing it.
It happened in 1979, when Smarten won virtually every Derby this side of Kentucky. He did it while Spectacular Bid was dominating his 3-year-old class in the Triple Crown and other rich events.
And it happened in 1987, when Lost Code avoided Alysheba and Bet Twice until late summer. Lost Code won derbies in Alabama, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota while giving the Maryland-based trainer Bill Donovan the thrill of a lifetime.
And today, Richman -- ignored during the recently ended 1991 Triple Crown chase -- goes for his third Derby victory of the year in the $300,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown Race Course near Cleveland.
The Ohio Derby will be simulcast to Pimlico and the Laurel intertrack outlet as part of a 12-race program.
Richman won the Louisiana Derby in March, then won the Illinois Derby on May 11, one week after Strike the Gold won the Kentucky Derby. A son of Bet Big, he is seeking his 10th victory from 16 career starts, and if he finishes as high as second, he will become racing's newest million-dollar earner.
The colt has been made a 3-2 morning-line favorite in the 1 1/8 -mile race. He will be ridden by Pat Day, who regains the mount from Jerry Bailey.
The Ohio Derby follows a simulcast of the New Hampshire Sweepstakes. The Rockingham Park turf event seems to boil down quickly to a contest between two streaky horses, Izvestia and Double Booked.
Izvestia, the Canadian Triple Crown winner in 1990, is unbeaten in five career starts on grass. Double Booked, meanwhile, has been especially hot recently, having set track records, including two at Pimlico, while winning his past three starts in front-running fashion.
The simulcasts will be preceded by the $50,000-added Chieftain Handicap for older runners. The 1 1/16-mile turf race has drawn a field of 11, with Flaming Emperor the likely favorite.
NOTES: Little Bold John, a Chieftain contender, is a two-time winner (1986 and 1988) of the race. A victory today would be his 26th stakes win and would allow him to regain leadership among active Maryland-bred earners. Safely Kept (just over $1.9 million) passed him last week. . . . Purses have been slashed for two of Laurel's Turf Festival events in October. The Selima Stakes and Laurel Futurity, both for 2-year-olds, have been reduced from $300,000 to $200,000 each. The $300,000 Laurel Dash, $250,000 All Along Stakes and $750,000 Budweiser International remain the same. . . . Through 68 racing days, trainers Dale Capuano and King Leatherbury remain tied atop the Pimlico trainers standings with 30 winners each. Behind them are Vinnie Blengs (28), and Richard Delp and Ben Perkins Jr. (22 each). . . . Fields of nine and 10 have been entered for the two steeplechase races to be run tomorrow as Pimlico's fourth and sixth races. . . . Thirteen were entered for tomorrow's $75,000 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park, to be simulcast to Pimlico/Laurel. . . . Trainer Mike Pino, puzzled by the recent morning workouts of 1990 Maryland-bred grass champion Ten Keys, is sending the gelding to the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania for an extensive examination. . . . Jockey Greg Hutton has hired Charles Penn as his agent, and Gordon Becraft is now booking mounts for Marco Castaneda.