Canadian trainer Alec Fehr is returning home with an armload of booty.
His four-month foray into the States has netted a pile of hard U.S. cash and about a dozen thoroughbreds. He capped his visit by taking the $75,000 John B. Campbell Handicap yesterday at Pimlico, as 5-year-old Salty Note made easy work of four rivals in the 1 3/16th-mile race.
"I'm shipping out on Monday," said Fehr, a 33-year-old claiming-game expert who had his 20-horse stable at Aqueduct this winter. "It's been a great trip. I have about 12 new horses that I'm taking home."
Included in that batch is 8-year-old Parental Pressure, who won a pair of stakes races in New York. Salty Note is one he brought with him. Claimed for $40,000 at Woodbine in November, Salty Note has three stakes victories and a pair of seconds since Fehr claimed him for Bruno Schickendanz.
One of those wins was the $75,000 St. Brenden Stakes at Laurel last month. It took a rugged ride from Mario Pino to prevail in that race by a nose.
Yesterday's trip was much easier. Pino stayed just off the pace of second-choice Leave It To Beezer, then dashed past on the rail to prevail in the race by 3 1/2 lengths in 1: 56.45.
"I knew him better since his first trip here," Pino said. "I was more confident and he ran even better. This horse has enough tactical speed to be close at this distance."
There was not much drama in the stretch run, as two scratches made the Campbell a five-horse field, including a 40-to-1 shot who ran last.
Leave It To Beezer, the 2-to-1 second choice, and Salty Note, a generous, 5-to-2 third choice, controlled the pace. The first quarter was covered by the pair in a modest 25.43, and the half-mile went in 50.4.
Still, the front-running duo were three lengths ahead of Over To You and favored Tarquinius, putting the closers in difficult position.
At the turn, Leave It To Beezer was unable to keep pace, as Pino and Salty Note made the third quarter-mile the fastest of the race (23.7).
"We had to run from last and that wasn't the place to be," said trainer Ferris Allen of third-place finisher Over To You.
The win by Salty Note continued a trend of out-of-town horses winning the Maryland stakes races. Pino said he felt fortunate to get the mount.
"If you're not a shipper, they beat you every time," Pino said. 'They're not coming here with bad horses and trying to get lucky. They want to win."
For Fehr, it was the perfect going-home present.