Asserche noses out 'Dinner' in Turf Cup

Breeders' Cup Day has long been the target date for the star of trainer John Alecci's stable.

Asserche, the 6-year-old grass-loving gelding, won yesterday's Grade III $100,000 Laurel Turf Cup by a nose. It was a day when Maryland's live racing card provided an appetizer for 10,717 fans who packed Laurel Park for simulcast betting on the 11th Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs.


There were 4,269 at Pimlico. All told, Maryland's on- and-off-track betting sites attracted 17,688 patrons (not including restaurant sites). The track's betting handle reached $4,591,477, including $129,054 on the Breeders' Cup Pick Seven.

Owner-trainer Alecci had his biggest payday, a $60,000 winner's share.


"This one pays for the month all in one race," said Alecci, 37. The Baltimore native has a barn comprising mostly claimers except Asserche, who became a stakes horse only when introduced to turf. "He loves it the longer it gets. I just wish Dinner In Rio had gone to the Breeders' Cup instead. It sure would have made things easier."

Asserche displayed his regular devotion to long races on the grass, defeating Dinner in Rio by a nose in the 41st running of 1 1/2 -mile event. It was three lengths back to Spectacular Tide. Front-running Warning Glance, a turf winner on Maryland Million Day and in the Governor's Cup, was foiled in his hat-trick attempt and ran seventh of eight. Asserche paid $11.80 to win and keyed a $49.80 exacta.

Asserche became part of Alecci's stable three years ago on a $8,500 claim. He proved himself beyond that when Alecci put the son of Assert on the grass. Since that day, the gelding has won five of 26 starts on the grass and has earned much of his $395,000 on the infield.

"When we got him, we were just hoping he would pay for himself, like any other claim," Alecci said. "He's done more than that."

In addition, the Breeders' Cup provided a profitable twist for jockey Mark Johnston. With regular rider Edgar Prado at Churchill Downs to ride Maryland-based Western Echo in the Juvenile, Johnston got the mount on Asserche.

The result, a $6,000 commission for Johnston. For Prado, there was a sixth-place finish in the Juvenile.