A couple of minutes after Edgar Prado won the Congressional Handicap at Laurel Race Course yesterday, the 26-year-old jockey was on the phone to the stewards explaining why he shouldn't be disqualified.
It was not a great final day at Laurel for Prado, who was disqualified earlier on the card and could be suspended by the Laurel stewards after impeding Albert Delgado on Golan High in the fifth race with Pucker. Prado finished first, but was placed fifth after interfering with Delgado.
Prado switches his tack today to Aqueduct, where he is named on five mounts and is expected to compete throughout the winter. A Laurel suspension could hurt his New York debut.
But at least the stewards sided with Prado in the Congressional.
Steve Hamilton, the rider on runner-up Greatsilverfleet in the $75,000 stakes, claimed that Prado on Northern Launch had forced him into the rail going into the first turn of the 10-furlong race.
"What am I supposed to do? Stand up in the middle of the track? He [Hamilton] had plenty of room," Prado said.
The stewards agreed, and Northern Launch, a 4-year-old colt that once ran for an $8,500 claiming tag, had earned his first stakes victory.
It was the 15th stakes win of the year at a Maryland track for Prado, good enough to tie Mike Luzzi for the number of year-end stakes victories.
Prado finished in Maryland with another excellent year, although his prowess in stakes company didn't match 1991 when he won the Washington D.C. International on Leariva or 1992 when he won the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at Monmouth Park with Jolie's Halo and piloted Maryland-bred Horse of the Year Brilliant Brass in her numerous stakes triumphs.
Prado's best efforts came locally this year when he won three Maryland Million races and two Turf Festival events, including the Grade III Selima Stakes with Irish Forever and the Grade III Laurel Turf Cup on Square Cut.
Prado passed pacesetter Ameri Valay on the outside in the stretch of the Congressional, out-finishing Greatsilverfleet by 2 1/4 lengths. Ameri Valay was third. The 8-5 favorite, Forry Cow How, who carried high weight of 120 pounds, lodged a bid on the final turn, but flattened out in the stretch, finishing fifth.
The race could have been a definitive effort for Forry Cow How, who is being sought by Arab sheiks who want a proven distance runner to run at their track in Dubai. But it is uncertain how the outcome of the Congressional might affect a potential sale by owners Eddie and Binnie Houghton of Chestertown.
Northern Launch was bred by owner Joseph Keelty, of Baltimore, who races as the Dumbarton Stable.