Julian DeMarco and Richard Disano's North East Bound won a duel with Strategic Mission and then held off the closing drive of favored Brahms to win the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. IIT) on Keeneland's Good Friday card.
The winner, ridden by Jose Velez Jr. for trainer William Perry, equaled the stakes record of 1:34 2/5 and was just 1 1/5 seconds off the course standard of 1:33 3/5. A 5-year-old gelding by D'Accord, North East Bound paid $13.80, $4.80, and $4.00. Brahms paid $3.20 and $2.80 and Strategic Mission held on for third, returning $3.80.
Strategic Mission, winner of an optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park led North East Bound through early fractions of :23 2/5 and :46 2/5. North East Bound, sitting just off the leader, assumed the advantage entering the stretch. As North east Bound outdueled Strategic Mission, Brahms closed in a steady drive in the middle of the track, but was unable to catch the winner.
The victory was the first of the year in two starts for North East Bound, who was a well-beaten seventh in Captain Steve's Donn Handicap victory in early February. The Maker's Mark pushed North east Bound's earnings over the $1-million mark as he has won 11 of 26 career outings. Produced from the Far North mare North East Dancer, North East Bound was bred in Kentucky by co-owner DeMarco in partnership with Mr. and Mrs. Scott Ricker.