Mud-loving Native Heir won for the sixth time in the off-going Saturday, this time taking top honors in the $75,000 Ben Cohen Stakes at Pimlico.
Native Heir and jockey Rick Wilson had to be content to bide their time behind free running Baby Shark, who tore off in 21.42 and 44.67 for the first quarter and half-mile calls. That pace took its toll as Baby Shark shortened strides in deep stretch and Native Heir powered up outside. Native Heir and Wilson were in front with a sixteenth of a mile to go and crossed under the wire in 57.56 for the five panels. Baby Shark held off 11-10 favorite Sassy Hound for second.
Wilson said, "I didn't expect the outside horse to show that much speed, but when he did I thought to myself, 'he's got to come back'. My horse has some natural speed too so I just tried to be patient and wait to see if we closed the gap. I had a good shot from the eighth pole and this horse really finished well. (Trainer) Mark Shuman said this horse seems to like an off track and he really proved it today."
"It was almost comical the way Baby Shark shot out of the gate. They are all fast animals and he was way out in front," said Ben Feliciano Jr., who saddled both Baby Shark and Sassy Hound. "But I am a little disappointed because we thought Sassy would win the race. Baby Shark was forcing both Native Heir and Sassy Hound out and it might have cost us the win."
The win was the 26th of the spring meet and 55th victory of the year in Maryland for owner Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner.
Native Heir paid $5, $4 and $2.10. Baby Shark returned $5.60 and $2.10. Sassy Hound showed for $2.10.