The big question mark in the race, Big Rut, was a late scratch, giving Waited the inside post and the distinction of being the fastest horse in the field.
And the even-money favorite didn't disappoint in the $78,675 Native Dancer Handicap yesterday, leading every step of the way to score an easy, 7 3/4-length victory over Algar, the Maryland Million Classic winner, at Laurel Park.
Big Rut, the defending champion in this stake, had beaten many of his would-be rivals and had been working well coming up to the race. But his connections decided not to run him as post time approached.
So, Waited took the initiative and had plenty of kick remaining when Algar and jockey Mark Johnston (subbing for the suspended Edgar Prado) mounted a challenge midway through the 1 1/8-mile affair.
"There was no pace in this race, so once he broke I wanted to control it," said victorious jockey Alberto Delgado.
"Down the back side, I just waited for the other horse [Algar] to run up to us. When he did come to us at the three-eighths pole, I just let my horse out a notch."
Waited pulled away handily while Algar, the high weight at 118 pounds, was hard-pressed to hold second against the rallying Warrenpeace.
A son of Allen's Prospect, Waited finished the nine furlongs in 1: 49 2/5 over a track that was rated muddy because of intermittent rain.
Barbara Kees, part-owner and trainer of the gelding, said Waited lost his mother at birth and "Sherry [co-owner Sherry Rudolph] and I raised him on a bucket every three hours for the first three weeks.
"He's always looked pretty good, but he's also a bit of a brat."
Waited beat Algar when they last met in the Congressional Handicap Nov. 29, though losing by a head to Kentucky Derby-runner Concerto.
"I always believed he was talented," said Delgado. "It just took us a while to figure out what he likes. I knew I had the best horse in this race. Through the lane, he just demolished them."
The jockey is hoping Waited will be run in the prestigious Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park, but the colt more likely will be pointed to the John B. Campbell Handicap at Pimlico next spring.
NOTES: The Maryland Jockey Club is actively involved in the annual Horse Expo '99 at Timonium Race Course this weekend. The program includes Preakness glass giveaways, registration for Pony Pals and a jockey autograph and photo session from 6 to 8 p.m. today. Fans at both Laurel and Pimlico may enter a contest sponsored by Gulfstream Park to win a trip to the Super Bowl. One entry will be picked at each Maryland track to be placed among 25 finalists in Florida. Three winners will be drawn next weekend. Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis credited strong national and local advertising campaigns, favorable weather, a six-week break for Virginia racing and a healthy economy for the 2.4 percent increase in wagering at Maryland tracks last year. "The business seems to be picking up a little bit around the country," he said. Maryland handled nearly $460 million on live racing and simulcasts.
Pub Date: 1/10/99