The $75,000 Caesar's Wish Stakes wasn't the richest race yesterday on Maryland Spring Challenge Day at Pimlico. But no winner was more popular than Case of the Blues.
She is so small her exercise rider nicknamed her Sprinkles, after the toppings on ice cream. But Case of the Blues ran about as hard as a horse can run to win the 1 116-mile Caesar's Wish for 3-year-old Maryland-bred fillies.
"She's not as big as a peanut," said her jockey, Mark Johnston. "It's amazing where she gets her power."
A daughter of In Case and Musical Cure, Case of the Blues trailed the five-horse field into the backstretch. She passed one horse and then, entering the far turn, Johnston urged her. She began chasing the leaders and didn't stop until she caught the tenacious For Money at the wire.
"There's no way she's catching her," Johnston said. "But I said, 'Come on, Sprinkles, give me more.' And she gave me everything she had."
This was Case of the Blues' fourth straight victory and sixth in 13 races. Her trainer, Hamilton A. Smith, said she might run May 19 in the prestigious Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico.
"She's not very big, but she makes up for it with heart and determination," Smith said. "She's something special."
Crosspatch caps comeback
Crosspatch capped a rare comeback from a pulled suspensory ligament by winning the $100,000 Jennings Handicap by two overpowering lengths.
A 6-year-old son of Waquoit and Hatched, Crosspatch and rider Joseph Rocco settled into second for half of the 1 1/8 miles. He burst into the lead around the far turn and then sustained his superiority over a tough nine-horse field.
In the Grade III John B. Campbell Handicap last April at Pimlico, Crosspatch won by three lengths but injured a ligament in his right front leg. Horses rarely return to the races after such an injury, never mind win a stakes.
The gelding's owner, Frank A. Bonsal Jr., was patient and allowed Crosspatch time to heal. His trainer, Berkley W. Kern Jr., oversaw his comeback at the Bowie Training Center.
He ran Crosspatch in two sprint races at Laurel Park, both last month. Then, preparing for the longer Jennings, Kern worked Crosspatch harder in the morning.
"He's real hyper," Kern said. "I did enough with him in the morning to take that speed out of him."
But Kern took no credit for the victory.
"Forget me," Kern said. "It was a team effort. All I do is keep from screwing up."
A trainer for about a dozen years, Kern conditions five horses at Bowie. Crosspatch is the best he's had.
"All I get are backyard-breds," he said. "You don't see any Seattle Slews in my barn. All I get are Seattle Scums."
Unbridled Lady wins Geisha
Under a skillful ride by Mario Pino, Unbridled Lady won the $100,000 Geisha Handicap for her owner and breeder, Alan S. Kline.
Kline owns about 35 horses and a farm in Montgomery County. Of those, about 18 are broodmares. He produced Unbridled Lady by mating his mare, Assert Lady, who died last year, with the top Kentucky stallion Unbridled.
In the $60,000 Star de Naskra Stakes, the 3-year-old Basic Concern and her jockey, Johnston, prevailed in the six-furlong sprint with a powerful stretch run. Bred and owned by Robert E. Meyerhoff, Basic Concern represents the first victory for his sire, Concern.