Improving Marco Be Good Wins Scotts Highlander

Terra Racing Stable's Marco Be Good, the second-longest shot on the board at 12-1, won the $200,000 Scotts Highlander Stakes (Can-III) on the turf Sunday at Woodbine in near-record style.

The six-furlong Scotts Highlander was one of four added-money events on Queen's Plate day.

With apprentice Justin Stein in the irons, the gelded son of Bold n' Flashy took charge in the stretch and held off import Atticus Kristy, closing on the inside, by a half-length, getting the distance in a sizzling 1:07.87, just one fifth of a tick off the track record of 1:07 3/5 seconds, set by Spring Barley in 2001.

Marco Be Gold was positioned comfortably in third, about five lengths behind pacesetters Langfleur and Gamblers Slew, as the first quarter was ripped in :21.94. As the field turned into the long E.P. Taylor Turf Course stretch, Langfleur was still in front, after reaching the half in a blistering :44.49 seconds, but Marco Be Good was taking dead aim on the leader.

Sophia's Prince finished third, a half-length further back, while another invader, Man of Illusion, who went postward the 6-5 choice with Victor Espinoza up, never threatened, finishing fifth, almost three lengths in arrears.

Trained by John Ross, Marco Be Good had won two of three starts this year, but the former claimer was stepping way up while tackling graded stakes company on the lawn. His connections, though, had to await a claim of foul by jockey Simon Husbands, aboard Sophia's Prince, before the stewards made the result official.

"The horses in front of me were in front by quite a bit more than I thought," said Stein, who was celebrating his first stakes win at Woodbine. "But I was very happy with where I was sitting. At the head of the lane, he just fired."

Soaring Free, Canada's 2004 Horse of the Year and the defending two-time Scotts Highlander champion, was a morning scratch, reducing the field to seven.

"We never had a chance to run on a good, firm turf," Ross said. In Marco Be Good's two previous grass outings, both on soft turf, he finished out of the top three.

"I think that was part of the reason we wanted to give this horse a try in these kind of conditions. Even today, we were debating whether we should keep him in or take him out. We made the right decision. I just loved the way in the last two races he's come out with confidence. It came out today, too."

For the win, Marco Be Good picked up a pot of $120,000, pushing his career bankroll to over $330,000. He returned $27, $10, and $4.90, combining with Atticus Kristy ($4.10, $2.90) for a $111 exacta. Sophia's Prince ($3.70 to show) completed a trifecta worth $496.

Awesome Action, Man of Illusion, Gambler's Slew, and Langfleur completed the order.

(Chart, Equibase)