'Spinaway' set to duel Valley Crossing McCarron to ride likely favorite in $75,000 Johnson Memorial


LAUREL -- Gregg McCarron hasn't ridden a race in nearly three weeks because of an injury.

But tomorrow he'll ride the likely favorite in a $75,000 stakes.

How did he come back so quickly?

"Ain't nothin' to it," he said.

McCarron, 43, returns today in the Laurel Race Course feature aboard a colt named Voyage Sixty.

But it's merely a prelude to his ride tomorrow on Gala Spinaway in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap.

The race, which drew a 12-horse field, renews the rivalry between Gala Spinaway, named champion Maryland-bred 3-year-old last year, and Valley Crossing. Each has beaten the other three times in stakes competition.

McCarron hurt his right ankle Feb. 8 when a maiden named Jessica's Turn stumbled coming out of the gate.

It was bad enough that McCarron fell off, but worse "when the filly stepped all over me," he said.

McCarron tore a ligament in the area that connects the calf muscle to the Achilles' tendon.

It has meant going to a rehabilitation clinic three days a week. "They would put heat on my ankle, then massage it and work on bending my foot, anything to keep it elastic," McCarron said. He would bicycle for up to 30 minutes and then jump up and down on his ankle "until I couldn't take it anymore," he said.

A week ago, McCarron started working out horses in the morning at Pimlico Race Course for trainers Bernie Bond and Henry Clark.

"Fitness-wise I'm fine. My wind has always been there. Mentally, I feel good," he said.

McCarron was on Gala Spinaway last Sunday at Pimlico when the colt worked five-eighths of a mile in 58 3/5 seconds; a few minutes later Andrea Seefeldt worked Valley Crossing in 58 2/5 seconds.

"Both horses were impressive," McCarron said. Gala Spinaway drew the rail in tomorrow's race and Valley Crossing the extreme outside.

McCarron predicts it's going to be quite a race. "I think they're the best two 4-year-olds around," he said. "But there are also 10 other horses to beat."

Both colts are nominated to take on the nation's best older horses May 9 in the Pimlico Special.

NOTES: A graduated tax has been added on to the amended off-track betting bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. Joe De Francis, operator of Laurel and Pimlico, said he is "concerned" about it. "It's a heavy and substantial tax," he said. "But I don't want to comment further until I've been able to analyze it.". . . The Pick 3 returns tomorrow on the fourth through sixth races. . . . Trainer Jim Murphy continued his hot streak by winning two races yesterday, including the feature with Mrs. Highness. . . . Pie In Your Eye will make his next start March 7 in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel, his trainer, Charlie Peoples, said yesterday. . . . Clem Florio, former handicapper with The Racing Times, is taking to the airwaves. On Tuesday he starts a daily radio show on WITH. Florio will make selections and analyze the races each day.

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