The Jim Stable's Ah Day gained the lead heading into the far turn and was a convincing 5 1/2-length winner of the $121,500 Federico Tesio Stakes for 3-year-olds Saturday at rainy Pimlico.
Legendary 73-year-old trainer King Leatherbury conditions Ah Day, a gelded son of Malibu Moon
. It was the 6,131st career victory in Leatherbury's career. Last year Leatherbury won the 1 1/8-mile Tesio with Malibu Moonshine and sent that son of Malibu Moon to the 2005 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), where he finished eighth.
The big question was whether Ah Day could handle the distance. But in spite of the emphatic answer Saturday, Leatherbury indicated it was unlikely he would pay the $100,000 fee to supplement his star into the Preakness, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico on May 20.
Ah Day was wide on the first turn as while racing just off the pace set by Kona Blend (:23 3/5, :47 1/5) before gaining the lead while racing off the rail, then finished with enthusiasm under brisk urging from Ryan Fogelsonger.
Favored in the field of 10, Ah Day ($6.40, $4.20, $3.20) covered the nine furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:50.88. Vegas Play ($8.80, $5) finished second by 6 1/2 lengths. Putonyerdancinshuz ($5.20) arrived third.
Fogelsonger impressively marked his third win in six starts aboard the bay gelding. The victory, worth $75,000, was also Fogelsonger's third of the afternoon. As a team, Ah Day and Fogelsonger had won the Horatius Stakes at Laurel in early March and run second in the Private Terms Stakes that same month. The jockey has won the Tesio three times in the last four years, also reaching the winners' circle with Cherokee's Boy (2003) and Water Cannon (2004).
"There was always the question if he could go long," Fogelsonger said. "It was just a matter of getting him to relax and not let him use himself too much. I got off him after that monster allowance race and he felt even better today. He's honestly getting better every race. He's one of the nicest horses I've been on in a while. Look at the way he took off."
"I did feel if we had a big showing today, the time frame for the Sir Barton (on the Preakness undercard) would be just perfect," Leatherbury said. "I never really thought this was a good off track horse but he obviously handled it very well today. He's a much better horse than Malibu Moonshine."
Colby Cat finished fourth, followed by Scanlon's Song, Roamin Murphy, Our Peak, Kellers Church, Kona Blend and Sharps Island.