John Servis has sent three horses into the track for stakes victories since New Year's Day, and yesterday Jason joined the winning trainer's act by saddling Tempest Fugit to a front-running score in the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap.
Postponed from the previous Sunday by the snowstorm that hit the state last weekend, the Campbell originally had an 11-horse field. It went to the post with only eight after the last-minute scratch of Quick Punch yesterday.
No one was happier than Jason Servis to see the speedy Quick Punch withdraw. Tempest Fugit's "best races are on the lead," Servis said. "He doesn't have to be there, but when he's on the front end, he's a terror."
Without being seriously pushed, Tempest Fugit took command with only long shot Quiet Gratitude within striking distance and maintained his superiority for the entire 1 1/8 miles to prevail by a length in 1 minute, 49 4/5 seconds over a drying track rated good.
"Once he got out front, nobody went to challenge him," said winning jockey Jose Caraballo. "So, we slowed it down and he was very relaxed. He just took it from there."
Jason Servis, who trains primarily for racing in New Jersey, New York and Delaware, nearly hit a major snag getting Tempest Fugit from Belmont Park to Laurel yesterday: The New Jersey Turnpike was closed to traffic because of fog. Traveling by van, Servis just beat the shutdown with the horse, who has endured some physical problems and an often nasty disposition to amass a bankroll in excess of $450,000 during a 30-race career.
"I've been tough with this horse. He's not that sound and he's a head case," Servis said. "He lost two days of training and when he came back he was out of control."
Tempest Fugit, a son of Unaccounted For out of Tin Oaks, has competed primarily in tough company. Servis claimed him for $75,000 in New York about a year ago.
"I told Jose that if he breaks good, go on with him," the trainer said. "I knew when they went [four furlongs] in :48, it would take an awfully tough one to get by him."
Sentimental and betting favorite P Day - trained by Charles Hadry, who has cancer and is resting at his Westminster farm - was never a factor, finishing seventh after losing a front shoe on the backstretch.
"He didn't seem to get a hold of the track too well," said P Day's jockey, Ryan Fogelsonger. "They went awfully slow out front for a race of this caliber, so that didn't help either when you get caught way back."
Lyracist, the 2002 Campbell champion, rallied for third.
NOTES: The running of the Campbell concluded the six-figure stakes races for Laurel's winter meet. Eight lesser stakes are scheduled before a 13-week run ends on March 30. Live racing returns to Pimlico Race Course three days later for the start of a 10-week stand headlined by the Preakness. ... The first "Rumble At The Races" amateur boxing card featured nine bouts at the track's Carriage Room. Teams from the Baltimore and Washington areas competed.