If it'd been a ballgame, it would have been rained out.
The going was muddy. The chill sliced to the bone. Rain and wind had long since driven fans under cover.
But when the horses splashed down Laurel Park's stretch yesterday in the Endless Surprise Stakes, the romping colt with the winning stride sported the colors described simply as "Oriole orange black collar, Oriole orange bars on black sleeves, Oriole orange cap."
You expected to see Peter Angelos waving an orange towel from the owner's box. And you expected it all the more when you realized that Angelos, owner of the Orioles, also owned the triumphant horse carrying the jockey in the familiar orange and ,, black.
But Angelos was in Florida with the Orioles as Jove Stone, the longest shot in a five-horse field, presented his owner his second stakes victory in three weeks.
On March 7, the 3-year-old Spartan Cat, an outside contender for the Kentucky Derby, stormed from last to win the $50,000 Herat Stakes.
Yesterday, Jove Stone drove from off the muddy pace to capture the Endless Surprise, a six-furlong sprint worth $52,800 for horses 4 and older.
At 10-1, he returned $23.80 to win. That wouldn't wash Cal Ripken's socks, but the $79.20 exacta might. Manage a Buck, the 5-2 second choice, finished second. The 3-5 favorite, Original Gray, faded to fourth.
Harry Strovel, who manages Marathon Farms, which Angelos rents in Hunt Valley, said Angelos owns about 25 horses. Dick Dutrow, the veteran conditioner, trains 10 of them.
"Peter really enjoys this," Strovel said. "He gets involved, too. He picked this horse out himself."
Angelos spotted Jove Stone at the 1995 fall yearling sale at Timonium. That's like scouting a major-league prospect in junior high. Angelos bought the horse for a price Strovel can't remember -- "somewhere in the teens," he said, meaning between $13,000 and $20,000.
In 18 races, the 4-year-old Maryland-bred son of Northern Jove and Gemstone, a mare by Graustark, has finished first or second 13 times. This was his seventh win -- and first stakes victory -- increasing his earnings to $156,055.
Dutrow, who has trained Jove Stone since he turned 3, was surprised by the outcome. He was bringing the horse back after a seven-week layoff.
"The seven weeks concerned me," Dutrow said. "And naturally, when you're dealing with wet tracks like this, you never know.
"I thought I was a work short. But everything worked out fine. It was a pleasant surprise."
Rick Wilson, the jockey sporting orange and black, said fitness ,, wasn't an issue.
"I had to split horses," Wilson said. "He went right through there. I'm glad he didn't hesitate because the hole closed up real fast."
Jove Stone blew past Original Gray, the odds-on favorite who nearly matched Laurel's seven-furlong record on March 4. John J. Tammaro III, trainer of the 4-year-old Smarten colt, said the gray sprinter apparently showed the effects of a couple of days of missed training. Tammaro said a nick on a leg had become infected.
"I think I just didn't do enough with him," Tammaro said.
He is considering running Original Gray through the MATCH series this summer, he said. Eventually, he said, he'd like to try him again against the heavy-hitters. In the Grade II General George Handicap last month at Laurel, Original Gray finished seventh.
"There's still a lot to learn with this horse," Tammaro said. "His last race was good enough to win a Grade I. He ran that faster [by 1 2/5 seconds] than they ran the General George. But getting him to do that two, three times in a row, that's the hard part."
After winning his first three races (he missed his 2-year-old season and most of last year with a knee injury), Original Gray after six races is 4-1-0.
Kentucky Derby odds
(Before yesterday's races)
Horse Current Opening
Lil's Lad 6-1 25-1
Favorite Trick 7-1 15-1
Artax 8-1 40-1
Cape Town 8-1 50-1
Comic Strip 10-1 75-1
Orville N Wilbur's 12-1 60-1
Real Quiet 12-1 35-1
Event Of The Year 15-1 125-1
Halory Hunter 15-1 60-1
Coronado's Quest 18-1 20-1
Grand Slam 18-1 20-1
Indian Charlie 18-1 100-1
Pub Date: 3/22/98