Favored Master Command gave trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Garrett Gomez their third stakes win at Pimlico Race Course Saturday with a 2 3/4-length score in the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap (gr. III).
It was the fourth win on the Pimlico card for Gomez.
Andromeda's Hero, who bid for the lead on the turn, was second, with 2004 dual Classic winner Funny Cide 4 3/4 lengths back in third. Master Command completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:49.42.
"He was in the gate really keyed up. He just took off like a rocket ship," Gomez said of the winner. "I kept looking to find out where Funny Cide was and he never came up on the outside. At the half, I wanted to sneak away, and my horse wouldn't help me, until (Andromeda's Hero) came alongside of him. When that happened he got real game. He actually got by us by a half length, but this horse is a fighter."
It was the first stakes win for Master Command, who returned $4.60, $2.80, and $2.20. Andromeda's Hero, ridden by Edgar Prado, paid $3.40 and $2.20 and Funny Cide returned $2.20. The exacta paid $15.60 and the trifecta $30.
The Schaefer win came within an hour of Pletcher winning the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park with Sunriver. Both Sunriver and Master Command are owned by Aaron and Marie Jones.
Earlier in the day at Pimlico, Pletcher and Gomez scored with High Cotton in the Sir Barton Stakes and with Friendly Island in the Emirates Airlines Maryland Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap (gr. III).
A chestnut son of A.P. Indy
, Master Command broke the quickest from his inside post and maintained that position along the rail to lead the field of six through early fractions of :22.80, 47.63, and 1:12.34.
Master Command and Andromeda's Hero turned the race into a match race as the field rounded the turn for home, with each matching strides down the straight before the winner pulled away near the sixteenth pole.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable, Master Command was produced from the Lord at War mare Lady Lochinvar.
The Schaefer win improved his career record to four wins from eight lifetime starts with earnings of $178,920.
Funny Cide, the 8-5 second choice in the field of six, did not show much response after a ground-saving trip under Richard Migliore, but rallied in the stretch to hold third by a neck over Play Bingo, who nosed Summer Book. Water Cannon trailed.
"The first eighth he was a little quiet," Migliore said of Funny Cide. "Then I tucked him in and he got really strong inside of horses. He pulled me up in behind them and I didn't have a place to go down the backstretch when he had a lot of run. I think he got a little discouraged."