Old age is not slowing down Rebuff.
When heavily backed speedster Warning Glance melted in mid-stretch after making a frenzied bid for the lead, Rebuff, a horse more than twice his age, came on under jockey Mario Pino with a late burst of power yesterday and won Laurel Park's $55,000 Chieftain Handicap.
Had it not been for a severe thunderstorm last weekend in the Delaware Valley, it's doubtful that the 10 year-old Rebuff, beaten a total of 23 3/4 lengths in his three previous 1995 outings, and Amy's Harold, yesterday's runner-up, would have been in the Chieftain lineup.
Both horses were scratched last Sunday at Delaware Park after a scheduled turf race there was switched to the main track.
HTC "I thought then that I might as well as go in the Chieftain," said Frances Merryman, trainer of the venerable gelding.
Merryman and her husband, John, are beginning to mark anniversaries and births with a victory by the old horse in the Laurel stakes. "Rebuff won this race in 1991 when John and I were married, and he won again yesterday right after the birth of our daughter, Barbara Ann," said Frances Merryman.
Since starting his career at 3, Rebuff has now won at least one race a year for eight consecutive seasons and has either won or placed in some of the state's important turf races.
Yesterday, Rebuff got up in time to defeat another closer, Amy's Harold, by 2 1/4 lengths.
"He's a little slow to get started in the spring because he races strictly on turf. But it seems that he looks younger each year," said owner Kitty Merryman, matriarch of Maryland's horse-training Merryman clan and mother-in-law of the winning trainer.
Yesterday's winning purse of $33,000 pushed Rebuff's career earnings over the $500,000 mark. He now has won 17 races from 77 starts and is likely to run next at Pimlico in the Find Handicap, a race he also won in 1991.
As for Warning Glance, who finished fifth as the 1-5 favorite, his trainer Charlie Hadry, is attributing the subpar effort to a poor start. Hadry was upset after the race, saying that it was the second time yesterday that the gate had opened too quickly before one of his horses had settled in and was standing properly at the start.
"My horse stumbled when he came out of the gate," Hadry said. "After that he had to run like heck to catch up [to pacesetter Redcall], and that was it."
NOTES: Jerry Bailey rode his second consecutive Test Stakes winner when he guided Chaposa Springs to a front-running 2 1/2 -length victory in the $150,000 sprint for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga. The two Maryland-owned horses in the race - Conquistadoress and Stormy Blues ' finished fourth and seventh, respectively.