(Edited Maryland Jockey Club report)
The expected showdown came to fruition when local favorite Ah Day wrested command early but was unable to hold off New York invader Silver Wagon, who charged by in deep stretch to capture the $300,000 grade II General George Breeders’ Cup Handicap, the Feb. 19 President's Day feature at Laurel Park.
Silver Wagon, a 6-year-old son of Wagon Limit, carried jockey Edgar Prado to victory in 1:23.13 for the seven furlong distance run over the main track. They beat Ah Day and Ryan Fogelsonger by 1 1/4 lengths, while longshot speedster Ryan’s For Real held on to be third.
The race unfolded with Ryan’s For Real charging to the lead, with Ah Day in close attendance in second. Ah Day hooked the leader and forged to the front entering the far turn. He kept that position the next-to-the-last call, when Prado brought Silver Wagon out of traffic, gave him his head and took command.
“He broke sharp and I was right behind the speed,” Prado said. “I was able to take him outside and you saw what he can do. I wanted to be three or four lengths off the lead and I was pretty comfortable with where I was. I was confident. He’s a nice horse. My horse has another gear.”
Silver Wagon is owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds and was saddled by Chip Dutrow for his brother Tony Dutrow, who was subbing for his other brother Richard, who is currently on suspension. While Richard Dutrow is vacationing Brazil, his runners captured both headline events during Laurel Park’s Winter SprintFest. Two days ago Oprah Winney held off another local star, Silmaril, to win the $300,000 grade II Barbara Fritchie Breeders’ Cup Handicap.
“They were aiming for this race since last year,” Chip Dutrow said. “Seven furlongs seems to be a very suitable distance for this horse. Coming off the 1-1/16 mile, we knew he was fit. He’s been tearing the barn down. He broke really sharp but going down the backside, I sensed that he was going to be pinned down inside. I told myself it’s all up to Prado now. He just sat there patiently and got outside at the top of the lane. I told my kids at the sixteenth pole that’s why you ride jockeys like Edgar Prado in these races. He really made a big difference today. To come back home where our whole family grew up and win both major stakes races. What a weekend!”
The Dutrow family grew up in Hagerstown. Dick Dutrow -- Richard, Tony and Chip’s father -- was one of the top trainers in the state during the 1970’s rivaling King Leatherbury (who conditions Ah Day), Bud Delp and John Tammaro for supremacy in Maryland.
Prado, who won Saturday's grade II San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita aboard Latent Heat, spent a decade dominating the Maryland colony, winning 24 riding titles at Laurel and Pimlico in the 1990’s.
“I spent 10 years here and it is nice to see all of my friends,” added Prado, who ranks 17th all-time with 5,807 career victories. “It is nice to have people still rooting for you. It makes it very special.”
The winner paid $3.80. The 4-6 exacta returned $14.40 and the 4-6-1 triple paid $87.80.
“He ran his eyeballs out,” said a Fogelsonger, who finished second in both grade II’s this weekend. “I am disappointed because he was awesome today. I wanted to sit behind runners but there was no pace so it was onto Plan B. Turning for home I thought we had it won but the winner is a big-time horse.”
“He put me in a perfect position at the three-eighths pole,” said Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux, who rode fourth place finisher Will He Shine, the 7-2 third choice, for Kentucky based conditioner Dale Romans. “The stage was set to outrun them but we couldn’t do it today.”
With $180,000 for the victory, Silver Wagon has now earned $979,193 during his 23-race career.