Overlooked at 7-1 odds, Legal Control tracked lone speedster Busy Prospect down the backstretch and into the turn, then wrested command at the top of the lane and powered to victory by 2-1/2 widening lengths over Monster Chaser in Friday's $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship at Pimlico.
Post time favorite Prideland muscled his way between horses but could not pass Monster Chaser and finished third. Lisaized, the only filly in the field of seven, had a hard time finding her place among the colts and geldings early but rallied to take fourth.
"I knew the speed was holding so I just let him take over through the first turn to see what was happening," said Jozbin Santana, who rode the colt. "I was laying in a perfect spot. Then at the top of the lane I asked him and he was really strong. He seems like he's going to be a nice horse."
Legal Control completed the 1 1/16 mile distance in 1:46.21. He paid $17.20 and keyed a $74.60 exacta and a $216.40 trifecta. The win was the sixth stakes victory of the year for trainer Richard Small.
Owned by Fitzhugh LLC, Legal Control was bred in Maryland by Robert Meyerhoff. The victory was the third in a row for the colt, who broke his maiden Nov. 12 and then won an optional claimer (not racing for a tag) Nov. 25.
"This is a really nice horse. I knew he had some fight in him after his last race," said the conditioner, who won races at a 27% clip at Pimlico and Laurel Park this year (35-of-129). "He was toast at the eighth pole and came back to win. That's when you know you have one who has a chance to move forward. They have to have that fight to compete at the top level."
Legal Control's sire sire Thunder Gulch
, was victorious in the 1995 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and was third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), while his dam, Miss Legality won the 1992 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. I), while his
"I'll probably take him to North Carolina and freshen him up a little, then try to pick a spot for him some time in early spring," added Small. "I'm not sure he's good enough to go chasing after the Derby preps at this point, but we'll see. I don't want to commit at this point in time. He's really maturing and he's as nice a mover as I have in my barn."
Santana, who rides first call for Small, picked up the mount when Ryan Fogelsonger took off because of soreness from a fall earlier in the week. The 25-year old won a career-best 131 races this year, including eight added money races at the major Maryland tracks, despite missing two months with a hairline fracture of his left leg and an infected spider bite.
"We thought Ryan was going to take off today and it worked out well," added Santana. "Earlier in my career I didn't work too much. Now I have kids and I have dedicated my life to this. I enjoy doing it and am looking forward to a great year."