Stewart Nickel seldom misses a race run by his filly, Smart n' Noble.
But yesterday, the Grateful Dead won out.
Being the devoted Deadhead that he is, Nickel skipped a trip to Laurel Park to see Smart n' Noble try to regain winning status in the Very Subtle Handicap and opted for a Grateful Dead concert at RFK Stadium.
Smart n' Noble didn't miss him a bit.
Under regular jockey, Mario Pino, the bay filly methodically picked off the front-runners and splashed to an easy 2 1/2 -length score over Cherokee Wonder on the sloppy track.
Because of recent rains, there were more scratches than entries in the $54,500 stakes, which was moved from the grass to the dirt course. The turf strip is due for a bit of rest. Grass racing won't resume until Thursday.
Smart n' Noble dominated the filly and mare division over the winter at Laurel, but recently had endured a couple of bad trips in the Pimlico Distaff, where she was boxed in, and the Garden State Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap, where she broke poorly and was outrun.
But yesterday, Pino said he was merely "a passenger" as the filly picked off the relatively moderate competition. Trainer Dick Delp said she goes next in the $75,000 Skipat Stakes at Laurel on July 16.
Although Nickel was absent, his mother, Pat, and brother, Steve, who are the horse's co-owners, were at Laurel to collect the $32,700 paycheck.
NOTE: Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito will be at the Timonium Fairgrounds today to judge the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association annual yearling show, which begins at 10 a.m.