Trainer Kenny McPeek, who sent out eventual Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Sarava to win the Sir Barton Stakes a year ago, repeated in the $125,000 Sir Barton Saturday with Best Minister.
Previously with only a maiden win to his credit, Best Minister charged to the lead in deep stretch under Edgar Prado and prevailed by by three widening lengths over During and Penobscot Bay.
Best Minister (Deputy Minister-Best of Memories) is owned by Philips Racing Partnership, who bred him in Kentucky. After needing five tries to break his maiden, the 3-year-old colt is now headed in the right direction, and crossed the $100,000 threshold in earnings with his Sir Barton score.
During broke alertly but was joined immediately by Prospect's Thunder early with Sky Soldier a tracking third. Prospect's Thunder and During traded turns on the lead of the 8 ½ furlong contest through demanding fractions of :22.92, :46.68, and 1:11.81.
Turning for home, Best Minister took full advantage of the pace on and fired passed the pacesetters to stop the timer in 1:43.96. He returned $8.40, $3.60, and $2.60. During stayed for second and paid $3.00 and $2.40. Penobscot Bay, a late-running third, was worth $2.60 to show.
"I was happy with the battle up ahead. I just wanted to sit behind and bide my time," said Prado. "I was very impressed with his win last time, and, as far as the Belmont goes, you never know until the very end."
McPeek was not at Pimlico Saturday. Assistant trainer Helen Pitts did not speculate on whether Best Minister would attempt to follow Sarava's path to the Belomont.
"This horse is still learning to play the game," she said. "But he learned a lot from this race, and he has been and is developing well."
"The horse ran great, and the race set up perfectly for us," said Ramon Dominguez, the rider of Penobscot Bay. "Laying last, we picked it up, kept it even, and ran good. I got quite excited turning for home, but we didn't have enough to catch the winner."
Gang, Desert Warrior, and Get Smarter were scratched.