It's been taken for granted that Pat Day will keep his mount on heavily favored Paradise Creek in Saturday's Washington D.C. International.
Now comes word that Chris McCarron will also be riding in Laurel's $600,000 Grade I turf stakes.
McCarron is scheduled to fly in from the West Coast on Saturday to ride the California filly Soviet Problem in the $200,000 Laurel Dash.
McCarron has also picked up the mount on the English-based runner Beneficial in the International.
McCarron's agent, Scotty McClellan, said he happened by trainer Neil Drysdale's barn at Santa Anita Park a couple of days ago and asked him if he had anything in the Maryland race.
" 'It just so happens I do,' he told me, 'and it's a pretty good horse,' " McClellan said. "It turns out an English trainer, Geoffrey Wragg, has Beneficial now, but right after the race, he is going to Neil's barn at Santa Anita. So Drysdale put us on the horse."
It will be the fourth time McCarron and Day have ridden in the International, but the first time that they have competed in the race against each other.
Neither has won the stakes.
Day came closest in 1986. He rode Rokeby Stable's Dance of Life and finished second by a neck to front-running Lieutenant's Lark.
McCarron has also been second, beaten a length aboard Yashgan in 1985 by Loblolly Stable's Vanlandingham.
On Saturday, Day has a far better chance for victory.
In the latest national poll, conducted by Thoroughbred Racing Communications, Paradise Creek ranks second to Holy Bull as America's top runner.
Day swept the Early Times Turf Triple aboard the 5-year-old horse this spring and was recently aboard him in a three-quarter length victory over Fanmore in the Arlington Million.
Beneficial, however, is no slouch. Although his only win this year came in a Group III stakes in Scotland in July, he was beaten a length by Hernando at Deauville in August in another Group III race.
Hernando finished a close second last Sunday to Carnegie in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Europe's richest stakes.
McCarron won't be staying around Laurel next Sunday for the All Along Stakes and Governor's Cup. He will either be in Kentucky, riding Paseana in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Race Course, or in Canada for the $1 million Rothmans Ltd. International.
West Coast 'match race'
Even if Beneficial can't handle Paradise Creek in the International, McCarron should have a pretty rapid trip around Laurel's turf course in the Dash on Soviet Problem.
The 4-year-old filly had never been out of California, but she arrived at Laurel on Thursday to train for a confrontation against another West Coast filly, Cool Air, who is trained by Gary Jones.
Back in July, both fillies won 5 1/2 -furlong stakes a day apart in the identical time of 1 minute, 1 3/5 seconds at Hollywood Park.
L An argument immediately broke out. Who is the fastest filly?
Both were due to start in a match race at Del Mar in August until Cool Air came down with a throat infection. Triple Hollywood Park stakes winner Mamselle Babette filled in for Cool Air, but was trounced 6 1/2 lengths by Soviet Problem.
Both fillies will meet for the first time at Laurel on Saturday.
"Laurel is just a name we've heard of," said Greg Gilchrist, the northern California horseman who trains Soviet Problem and arrives in town to join his horse on Tuesday. But he and Jones picked the Dash because of the scarcity of rich turf races for sprinters, even if it means flying their horses across the country to race.
Cool Air is expected to arrive at Laurel in mid-week.
McClellan said that not only is Soviet Problem quick early, "but she really pours it on in the second quarter and discourages the opposition. She starts to tire in the final quarter [of 6-furlong races], but usually by that time, she's too far in front to be caught."
Soviet Problem has won 13 of 16 lifetime starts and earned $522,243.
Cool Air has won 13 of 26 starts and $448,503.
The last time a West Coast filly or mare invaded Laurel for the Dash, she won. That was the Bill Shoemaker-trained Glen Kate, who won the Dash in 1992.
Va. decision on Wednesday
The wait is just about over.
After more than a year of site visits and hearings, the Virginia Racing Commission meets in Richmond on Wednesday to award the license to the one group that will be authorized to build the state's first pari-mutuel racetrack.
Rumors abound, but the five commissioners are apparently keeping their thoughts close to their vests.
"They haven't even taken a straw poll as far as I know," said the board's policy analyst, Bill Anderson.
However, Anderson said, he doesn't anticipate a long meeting Wednesday, indicating that the board is close to a consensus.
The track could be built at Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Richmond or Haymarket. The Maryland Jockey Club is affiliated with the Stansley Management Group's effort to build a track near Richmond and form an interstate thoroughbred circuit with Laurel/Pimlico.
All the groups have been involved in last-minute electioneering, petitioning the commissioners about the benefits of their locations and plans.
The jockey histories of Pat Day and Chris McCarron at the Washington D.C. International:
Pat Day Year .. .. .. Horse .. .. .. .. .. Finish
.. .. Paradise Creek .. .. .. .. ..
1989 .. .. Exclusive Partner.. .. .. 11th
.. .. Dance Of Life .. .. .. .. 2nd
1982 .. .. Pair Of Deuces .. .. .. ..8th
.. .. .. .. .. .. Chris McCarron
Year .. .. .. Horse .. .. .. .. .. Finish
1994 .. .. .. Beneficial .. .. .. .. ..
1991 .. .. .. Golden Pheasant.. .. .. 7th
1988 .. .. .. Skip Out Front .. .. .. 7th
1985 .. .. .. Yashgan.. .. .. .. .. ..2nd