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Taqarub plays upsetter in the Maryland Sprint Handicap.
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Anne M. Eberhardt

Taqarub Pulls Off Md. Sprint Shocker

Goes wire to wire and pays $28.60 in the six-furlong Preakness Day race.

Shadwell Stable’s Taqarub took his Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) rivals wire to wire at Old Hilltop May 15, posting a 13-1 upset in the six-furlong race. With Eibar Coa aboard, Taqarub covered the distance in 1:10.02.

He carried co-highweight of 117 in the $100,000 Maryland Sprint, topping Roaring Lion by a length. It was a head back to 2009 Maryland Sprint winner Ravalo in third. Snapshot, the 2-1 favorite in the 10-horse field, finished fifth, a neck behind Lantana Mob. Not for Silver, the other runner in the field with 117 pounds, ran eighth.

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained Taqarub broke sharply from post 8 and carved out early fractions of :23.03 and :45.57 while catching some pressure from 20-1 shot Despite the Odds . Taqarub was able to open up a 1 1/2-length lead at the eighth pole after five furlongs in :57.53. His final eighth was run in :12.49.

“Actually I was kind of surprised that somebody wasn’t after him," Coa said. "There were a lot of horses with speed in here on paper. I got out there and waited for someone to come by me, but they never did. I wanted to be close, but I just kind of inherited the lead.”

Taqarub, a 4-year-old son of Aldebaran, is out of the Honor Grades mare Honor Bestowed. He was bred in Kentucky by Hank Snowden, Lynn Snowden, and John Phillips.

Taqarub paid $28.60, $15.60, and $9.80. An unlucky Roaring Lion, ridden on the inside by Javier Castellano, returned $7.20 and $5.20. Ravalo, with John Velazquez aboard, paid $4.80. The 8-3 exacta paid $252.40.

“I had a rough trip," Castellano said of the runner-up. "I was very tight all the way. I never had an opportunity. My goal was to put the horse on the lead, but in the beginning, the other jockey got the jump on me."

Taqarub was making only his third start since finishing a tiring sixth at Pimlico last Preakness Day in the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds. He returned Feb. 15 going a mile on the turf at Gulfstream, finishing 10th. Heading north to Keeneland and shortened up to a preferred sprint distance, he won going 6 1/2 furlongs over the Polytrack in a money allowance race.

Last year he was put on the Triple Crown trail after pulling away to an 81/4-length score in the six-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct. However in the nine-furlong Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) Taqarub faded in the stretch, finishing ninth, beaten 21 1/4 lengths by Quality Road . He returned to run second in the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) before his Hirsch Jacobs effort.

He has now won five of eight starts and has earned $232,437.

"Speed seems to be holding pretty well today," said Andrew St. Lawrence, McLaughlin's assistant. "I think it suits this horse. He’s a pretty talented animal. As a 2-year-old turning 3, he was very good on the dirt at Aqueduct, so we weren’t entirely surprised by this run today. The track helped him out.”

The Maryland Sprint winner is the first foal out of the winning mare Honored Bestowed. Honored Bestowed is out of the grade III winner Wings of Grace. Honored Bestowed is a half sister to Darby Dan farm dynamos Soaring Softly and Plenty of Grace. Soaring Softly was named champion turf female of 1999 and Plenty of Grace won five graded turf stakes including the grade I Yellow Ribbon Invitational Stakes in 1990.