A New York-bred trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Well Fancied darted to the front at the start of the $200,000 General George Handicap and led every step to a length victory and an upset of 3-5 favorite Badge of Silver. Prado, who had ridden Well Fancied in his five previous races, stuck with the horse even though it was his only mount of the afternoon.
"He was ready to go," Prado said. "I'm very happy to be back again."
One of the top jockeys in the country, Prado dominated Maryland racing throughout the 1990s. As he rode Well Fancied into the winner's circle, patrons hollered, "Prado power!" and "You're welcome back in Maryland anytime, Edgar."
Dutrow, a New York-based trainer and brother of Tony Dutrow, a Maryland conditioner, said Prado breezed Well Fancied six days ago at the Palm Meadows training center near Gulfstream.
"Afterward he said, 'Rick, let me go ride him,' " Dutrow said. "We were very confident. If we hadn't been, we wouldn't have brought him here."
Bettors likely noticed the Prado angle as they bet Well Fancied down to 3-1. He was the second choice behind the highly regarded Badge of Silver, a Louisiana speedster trying to gain his footing among the elite older horses after two leg surgeries for cannon-bone fractures.
When the gates opened for the seven-furlong race, Well Fancied popped into the lead. Badge of Silver quickly followed and settled just outside one length back.
After cruising around the bend and turning for home, Well Fancied felt pressure from Badge of Silver - briefly. Well Fancied promptly kicked away toward the wire and then held off a late charge from Unforgettable Max, another New York horse.
Badge of Silver faded to fifth. He entered the race with a lofty reputation but with much still to prove. He was an exciting Kentucky Derby prospect a year ago, but a fractured cannon bone sidelined him for 10 months. He had also cracked the same bone as a 2-year-old.
"It felt as if he was going to give me what I wanted, but then he just ran a minimal race," said Robby Albarado, his jockey. "It just wasn't his day."
Well Fancied completed the seven-eighths of a mile in 1 minute, 22.49 seconds. He paid $8 to win and headed a $74.80 exacta with 15-1 Unforgettable Max. The trifecta with 9-1 Gators N Bears in third returned $399.20.
Gators N Bears led the home team with his 17th top-three finish in 19 starts for his Laurel trainer and owner, Leo Nechamkin II. The 4-year-old colt has won eight races. Rick Wilson rode him.
"Rick said he couldn't get through," Nechamkin said. "When he finally did, the horse kicked in, but it was too late."
This was the sixth stakes win for Well Fancied but the first in open company. The previous five were at Belmont Park against New York-breds. The gelding's biggest win before the General George was last fall in the $250,000 Empire Classic.
A crowd of 7,709 attended the Laurel races, and 9,250 came Saturday for the Barbara Fritchie and John B. Campbell handicaps. In the latter race, New York jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. pulled his mount to the inside as Evening Attire tried to sneak through a narrow gap along the rail.
Evening Attire slammed against the rail and nearly fell. The Laurel stewards suspended Arroyo, known for his aggressive style on and off the racetrack, for 15 days, three times the normal penalty for a riding infraction.
Yesterday, the stewards announced that Arroyo had accepted the penalty and would not appeal. He will begin serving the suspension Thursday, and it will last through March 11.