The decision not to duck Catinca proved a sagacious one for Burning Daylight Farm yesterday.
Argentine-bred Passeggiata, half of the Virginia farm's entry, outgunned the 1-to-2 favorite in a stirring stretch battle and won the 47th edition of the Grade II, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap by a nose at Laurel Park.
The outcome was vindication for Burning Daylight and trainer A. Ferris Allen III after they lost the 1998 Fritchie by a head with Palette Knife, who finished fourth yesterday.
"I believe this is my first graded-stakes win," said Allen. "Seven-eighths [seven furlongs] seems to be just beautiful for her."
It was the fourth consecutive triumph for Passeggiata, a 6-year-old mare who had a mediocre career on grass, but, a la Cigar, has proved to be a terror on the main track.
Several factors worked in favor of the late-running Passeggiata, who was never far off an honest pace, was third after four furlongs, drew abreast of Catinca in mid-stretch, lost her share of the lead, then dug in to prevail after an extended duel.
Catinca, the Storm Cat filly with three graded wins in succession, had been idle since Nov. 27, resting in Florida, and she bobbled slightly at the start yesterday.
In addition, she spotted the winner 8 pounds as the 121-pound high weight.
Trainer John Kimmel was pleased with Catinca.
"I couldn't be upset with the effort she gave," said Kimmel. "Maybe not being out in three months had something to do with her getting beat, but my filly tried all the way to the wire. I have to take my hat off to the winner. She just got the better of us."
Winning rider Mario Pino was confident as they turned for home and looked to the side to see if he had any other company.
"I thought I was going to get by [Catinca] and maybe win by a half-length," said Pino. "I had dead aim on her and I was trying to see if anyone else was coming.
"I had pulled outside the speed, but I really couldn't get that other filly until the last 10 yards, when my horse started putting her head down. She dug down one little notch to get the nod. I love her."
Passeggiata finished the distance in a respectable 1 minute, 23 2/5 seconds to earn the primary share of $150,000 and increase her lifetime bankroll to nearly $400,000.
Long shot Nothing Special ran third ahead of Palette Knife, who will be retired and bred to Breeders' Cup Classic-winner Awesome Again, according to owner Art Watson. Second choice Biding Time set the early fractions, but faded to last.
Allen, who ranks third nationally in the trainers' standings, said Passeggiata was purchased privately from trainer Richard Cross, who had claimed her from Bob Baffert for $80,000.
Since her pedigree seemed to be suitable for turf, she was brought east because of an abundance of grass races.
But Passeggiata trained so well on dirt, she was switched. The rest is mostly victory.
"I was really hoping the mare [Palette Knife] could have won after just losing last year, but this is still very special," said Watson.
"I'll race her [Passeggiata] the rest of the year and then she'll join Palette Knife in the breeding shed."
NOTE: In the first race, jockey Mark Johnston scored the 2,000th victory of his career aboard Marvelous Millie, an 8-to-1 long shot.
Pub Date: 2/14/99