Stuart Janney was on his way back to Baltimore from Maine, picked up a Daily Racing Form, saw the field for yesterday's Fort McHenry Handicap and said he thought, "Aw, shucks."
One of the finest fields of the summer was entered to run against his colt, Warning Glance, in Laurel Park's Fourth of July feature, including Kiri's Clown and Lassigny, graded stakes winners that are among the best turf runners in New York.
What's more, Kiri's Clown, fresh from a four-length score in the New Hampshire Sweepstakes, is a quality front-runner, who was expected to press Warning Glance for the lead and possibly set up the race for Lassigny, the Bill Mott-trained Group stakes winner from France that is just a shade under being a top horse.
So what happens?
It rains, the turf course turns to mush, Kiri's Clown hates the going, Lassigny is outrun and Janney's large, muscular chestnut colt wires the field.
The time for 1 1/4 miles was a predictably slow 2 minutes, 7 4/5 seconds in the bog-like conditions, but at no time was winning jockey Mark Johnston in danger of losing control of the race.
"This is how this horse likes to run best -- relaxed and on the lead," said Johnston, who kept him as far off the rail as possible. "I certainly wasn't worried about someone coming up on the inside of me. That's where it was deepest."
Lassigny did make a big move turning for home, but floundered in the soft going and finished third, passed in deep stretch by a rallying Glenbarra, who came up a half-length short of catching Warning Glance.
Some observers believed Kiri's Clown, who didn't make the lead and faded to eighth in the 11-horse field, might have broken down. He abruptly was pulled up by Mike Luzzi, the former Maryland jockey who is now among the top riders in New York, after the wire.
But Luzzi said the horse is OK. "He was just blowing hard, harder than when he has won races. The course was just too soft and cut up. I was surprised they ran two other races on it before the stakes and tore it up," he said. "But my horse will bounce back. He'll go to Saratoga and he'll run big."
This could be an eventful week for Janney. On Saturday, his filly, Conquistadoress, who is trained in New York by Shug McGaughey, might run in the Coaching Club America Oaks at Belmont Park. "But only if Serena's Song doesn't run, which is backstretch rumor going around Belmont," Janney said.
Conquistadoress was a well-beaten second to Serena's Song at Pimlico in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.
Janney, who is president of the Maryland Million, splits his stock between McGaughey in New York and Charlie Hadry at Laurel Park.
NOTES: Bill Furey, former chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission and well-known for his horse-playing skills, scored big yesterday, cashing the only winning ticket in the nation on the Pick 6 at Churchill Downs. The ticket was worth $83,000. During his stint as commission chairman, Furey is remembered for correctly selecting a Double Triple at Laurel worth $84,000. . . . Laurel management will remember the late Baltimore sportscaster Charley Eckman, who was an avid racing fan, with a moment of silence during tomorrow's card. . . . Jonathan Kiser, the 16-year-old jump rider who finished third in his first try in the Maryland Hunt Cup this spring, is spending the summer at Laurel, galloping horses for trainer Graham Motion. . . . Gov. Parris Glendening has yet to name a successor to John McDaniel as chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission. McDaniel's term ended July 1. Current commissioner Allan Levey, who headed "Republicans for Glendening" during the last election, is expected to get the job. . . . Martin Azola has been hired by track operator Joe De Francis to succeed Terence Casey as vice president in charge of facilities at Laurel/Pimlico.