It turned out to be John's Call, who raced to a convincing, 3 3/4-length triumph over Grapeshot for his 11th lifetime victory.
"I didn't really know if he'd like the soft ground," said winning trainer Tom Voss. "It's not too often that you have an 8-year-old and can't say if they like it or not. But this horse has trained on various surfaces and never given me a reason he didn't like anything."
The 1 1/4-mile test set up ideally for John's Call, who settled in nicely behind pace-setting Rabi and Grapeshot for a mile, then unleashed his winning rally on the outside under jockey Steve Hamilton.
As the wire neared, John's Call was expanding the lead on Grapeshot, who was coming back only a week after taking the Grade III Laurel Dash at six furlongs.
"He's such an honest horse. I think he'd run over broken glass if he had to," Hamilton said. "It's unfortunate he got taken down [in the Sussex Handicap at Delaware Park on Sept. 6] because I thought he was the best horse that day."
John's Call, by Lord At War out of Calling Guest, has finished worse than third only four times in 28 career starts and has earned more than $360,000. Voss said his next start will probably in the Laurel Turf Cup on Veterans Day.
It was a game effort by Grapeshot, who continues to be sharp since returning from a two-year layoff in May. It was he who was placed first when John's Call was disqualified at Delaware.
Tommy Baker, Laurel Park-Pimlico racing secretary for the past seven years, will retire from that position Nov. 21.
"I've been at it long enough," Baker, 70, said yesterday. "It's time for somebody else to take over. I want to spend some time with my two grandchildren, play some golf and do a little traveling with my wife."
Baker has been around tracks for more than a half-century in virtually every capacity, including a stint as a jockey. A successor will likely be named within two weeks.
Score for nasal strips
The newly developed nasal strip for racehorses made a spectacular debut at Keeneland on Saturday when the first to wear one, Burrito, won at a $68.60 mutuel, as reported by the Daily Racing Form.
A 2-year-old daughter of Tabasco Cat, Burrito outfought Odds by three quarters of a length over seven furlongs.
Equine nasal strips are similar to the Breathe Right strips worn by human athletes to improve air flow. They are manufactured by the same company and cost about $10 each.
They are applied across the bridge of a horse's nose.
They are permissible in Kentucky, Florida and Oklahoma and will be allowed in New York starting this week.