Trainer Tony Dutrow doesn't consider his 6-year-old mare, Rangeley Lady, a stakes horse; he just knows she's pretty fast.
So he entered her in Pimlico's Primonetta Stakes, which offers a generous $75,000 for female sprinters. Only 13 others were nominated, and just four showed up. Even more, none of Rangeley Lady's three foes could expose Rangeley Lady as the claimer she is.
It made for a lucrative afternoon for Dutrow, owner Larry Brafman and jockey Rick Wilson. As the 4-5 favorite, Rangeley Lady prevailed by a neck over fellow claimer Exclusive Eskimo to secure the $45,000 winner's share. They covered the six furlongs on a wet track in a slow 1: 13.3.
"When I was a kid, a stakes horse was a lot different than what a stakes horse is today," said Dutrow, son of the late Richard Dutrow, who guided a few dozen stakes winners. "I don't think of my horse as a stakes horse, and obviously, the ones behind us weren't either."
The inability to attract more horses into stakes fields has been an issue in Maryland recently. The lack of quality horses in the state has created either four-horse stakes fields or easy pickings for out-of-state horses.
"It's disappointing for the track, I'm sure," Dutrow said. "I don't have the answers. I'm just trying to get my horses to be as fast as possible."
Dutrow certainly has done that with Rangeley Lady. He claimed her for $25,000 in December and has won four of five, including the $50,000 Toes Knows Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies. She ran second in her last outing, a $65,000 claiming race.
Exclusive Eskimo, with Harry Vega aboard, looked like a winner from the start. The New York-based claimer, winless in her last 10 starts and still the 2-1 second choice in the Primonetta, maintained a length lead throughout the race. But her lead shrank in the stretch and she surrendered in last 40 yards.
Six lengths farther back was Northern Mist, who beat last-place Ragtime Doll by a neck.