Preakness-winning jockey Pat Day made a rare appearance in Maryland yesterday, but lost when Mark Johnston and his mount, Taking Risks, beat him by a nose in the Baltimore Budweiser Breeders' Cup at Laurel Race Course.
Day's stretch run on favored Conte Di Savoya came too late after the Kentucky horse initially held up the start for about a half minute and then broke last in the seven-horse field.
Day came from 13 lengths back, but couldn't catch Taking Risks, who took the lead in the upper stretch after passing leaders Majesty's Turn and Sunny Sunrise. Robert Meyerhoff's Frottage made his customary late run, but finished third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Conte Di Savoya.
Winning trainer King Leatherbury almost bypassed the Laurel stakes with Taking Risks, a horse he claimed for $20,000 last winter and has won three added-money races for Lakeville Stables.
Taking Risks had finished second at Churchill Downs two weeks ago in the Stephen Foster Handicap and was bound for the $250,000 Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap at Detroit Race Course on July 16. "But Detroit management claims they are losing too much money because of competition from nearby casinos and canceled the race," Leatherbury said. "Normally this was something I wouldn't do -- ship a horse to Kentucky in 100-degree heat and back again and then run him in two weeks. But there really was no other place to start him, and he was running off with his exercise rider in the mornings."
Because the horse has a history of breathing problems and needs to run on Lasix, Leatherbury said running the horse in New York stakes where the anti-bleeding medication is banned, is out of the question.
It was not a stellar afternoon for Day, who regularly rides in the Midwest and was making his first appearance in Maryland since winning the Preakness six weeks ago on Tabasco Cat. Day also failed to win on two mounts before Conte Di Savoya's losing effort in the Breeders' Cup race.
"Frankly, going into the first turn, I didn't think I had any chance to get any part of it [with Conte Di Savoya]," Day said. "This horse has never acted up with me behind the gate before, but 66TC understand he has a history of giving them a little trouble. He has a bad attitude early in races. He finally got it all together at about the half and started running. But the stretch here is a little short and he ran out of ground."
Taking Risks was the only member of the field not eligible for a $100,000 Breeders' Cup bonus offered in the race. Apparently the horse was not nominated to the program by his breeder, Elliot Kessler, as a youngster. That oversight cost Lakeville Stables a $60,000 purse incentive yesterday as well as a Breeders' Cup nominator's award for Kessler. The rest of the $40,000 Breeders' Cup purse supplement was split between the second- , third- and fourth-place finishers.
Yesterday's stakes victory was the ninth for Johnston in Maryland this year. He trails Maryland stakes leader, Mario Pino, by one added-money win.
NOTES: Laurel operator Joe De Francis said that business at state tracks and Poor Jimmy's, Maryland's off-track betting parlor near Elkton, will be jeopardized by the recent legalization of slot machines at Delaware Park and Dover Raceway. The slot machines are expected to be in operation at the two Delaware tracks by next summer. The Maryland Racing Commission has set up a committee to study the threat of casino gambling in nearby states. . . . Albert Delgado won his fourth Don MacBeth Fund foot race at Laurel yesterday, beating 11 other jockeys and one valet in the exhibition race used to help finance a fund for disabled riders. Jockey Jeff Carle finished second. . . . Maryland-based horses failed to win in out-of-state stakes competition yesterday. Irish Forever and Promiseville were second and fifth, respectively, in the Pucker Up Stakes at Arlington International Racecourse. Honorable Flight and Alleged Impression were fourth and sixth, respectively, in the Lamplighter Handicap at Monmouth Park. . . . Former Maryland jockey Mike Luzzi finished second to long-shot Turk Passer with his first ride on 1993 Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero, yesterday in the Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park. Favored Fraise was third.