Craig Perret had a grander scheme in mind yesterday when he took off Allen Paulson's Cleone in the Damascus Handicap at Pimlico Race Course and opted to ride Canadian champion 3-year-old Peteski in the $750,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.
Instead New Jersey-based jockey Joe Bravo substituted for Perret at Old Hilltop and won the $113,650 turf race.
Even though Peteski finished third in Louisiana, Perret didn't fare too badly. His mount picked up $82,500 show money compared to the $68,190 Cleone earned for winning at Pimlico.
It was the third time Bravo picked up and won with a Maryland stakes mount this year. He had won the Geisha Handicap on Green Darlin and the Queen Empress Stakes on Premier Mombo.
Cleone, who has raced against and is just a notch below top national grass horses like Star of Cozzene and Lure, runs close to or on the pace. The mile distance of the Damascus suited him perfectly.
Yesterday, Tom Albertrani, assistant to Cleone's trainer Bill Mott, said he had expected Finder's Choice to go for the early lead instead of Square Cut, who drew the extreme outside post.
But Edgar Prado hustled Square Cut out in front early and held his position until joined by Bravo on Cleone on the backside.
Cleone took over going into the final turn and drew off in the stretch, easily holding off the late challenge of another New York-based invader, Adam Smith.
Square Cut held on for third. "He beat the locals, but couldn't handle the ship-ins," said Square Cut's trainer Joe Devereux.
The field for the Damascus had some wider implications. It was designed to be the last domestic prep for U.S. horses running in the Oct. 23 International Mile at Laurel.
Both Cleone and runner-up Adam Smith are expected to have a rematch in that race.
Maryland Moon and Finder's Choice, other International Mile nominees, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Mott, who was not present at Pimlico, trained Cleone's sire Theatrical, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf and was named champion grass horse in 1987.
MISCELLANEOUS: Today is the last day of live racing at Pimlico until next spring. Laurel opens for a long fall and winter meet on Tuesday. . . . Yesterday's $2 million-plus gross handle represented a 10-percent increase over a year ago. . . . Sellers at the Eastern Fall Yearling Sale at the Timonium Fairgrounds reported a big turnout of interested buyers yesterday who arrived early to inspect horses. The two-day sale gets under way today at 5 p.m.