Jim Binder, a truck driver from Bowie, took his 18-wheeler on a weekend run from Chicago to Tampa and missed an incredible journey of another sort.
Some of the best horses in Maryland were entered in the Challedon Stakes yesterday at Laurel Park. But after the seven furlongs were run in near record time, it was Binder's former claimer, Meadow Lad, that upset the field that included six stakes winners, including Goldminer's Dream, the state's best sprinter.
In the final yards, Meadow Lad let out a final burst of speed that carried him a half-length past "Goldminer" at the wire. The time of 1 minute, 22 seconds was three-fifths of a second off Tappiano's track mark, set in 1989 in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap, and was the fastest Challedon run in the last eight years at the seven-furlong distance.
"I thought the pace would be a little faster," said Mario Pino, who rode Meadow Lad. Canton River was the surprising pacesetter, pushed along by Fireside Brass. The pair of grays set moderate early quarter fractions of 23 1/5 and 46 seconds. Goldminer's Dream was relaxed, racing in third, about two lengths in front of Meadow Lad.
"We were in-hand down the backside," Pino added. "The other horse [Goldminer's Dream] looked good and I just stayed in behind him and followed him through."
Goldminer's Dream, the 9-5 favorite, opened a clear lead by the time the field reached the stretch, but the distance proved a bit too far for the horse who prefers six furlongs. Usually a battler to the end, "Goldminer" was vulnerable when Meadow Lad made his late bid.
Trainer Craig Nicholson claimed the winner for $13,500 seven months ago after he was struck by the horse's presence when he was stabled in his barn at the Bowie Training Center.
"I couldn't claim him when he was in my barn, but as soon as the people moved to Pimlico, they ran him for the same price, and I convinced Jim to take him," Nicholson said. "We were playing golf and Jim kept trying to convince me to go in halves with him. Now he's glad he's got the whole horse."
Meadow Lad has won five races and over $100,000 for Binder and, along with Maryland Million Classic winner Brilliant Patriot, has proved to be one of the year's best claims.
"I told Jim to try to stop in at Ocala [Fla.] and try to catch the race on simulcast," Nicholson said. "I just hope he did."
NOTE: The Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association is holding a new owners seminar at Laurel on Saturday. Participants must pre-register for the day-long talks and barn tours, which are conducted by leading local horsemen. To register or for more in formation, contact Ann Stilz, TOBA, P.O. Box 4367, Lexington, Ky. 40544 or phone (606) 276-2291 or fax (606) 276-2462.