Cherokee's Boy and jockey Ryan Fogelsonger turned back a mild challenge from Penobscot Bay in the stretch and went on to an easy 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $150,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds at Pimlico.
A non-threatening fifth in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) April 5, the Maryland-bred son of Citidancer led every step of the way in the Tesio for trainer Gary Capuano, who said before the race that he'll point Cherokee's Boy toward the Preakness (gr. I) instead of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
Afterward, Capuano said he wasn't sure about the Preakness, either.
"I'm still not sure whether we're going to go or not ," he said. "He ran a big race today so we'll just kind of look at it. There's a chance. I know the boys (the owners) want to go. This horse is so honest and he really puts out every time. He's been running hard and traveling a lot. Only two weeks ago we ran in Chicago. I think it will be very important to see how the Derby goes, how fast they run, the quality of the horses and who's coming here for the Preakness. We really don't want to run just to say we ran, but if I think I have a legitimate chance to be one-two-three, then I'm sure we'll be there."
The winning time for 1 1/8-mile Tesio was 1:49 4/5.
"It is our dream (the Preakness), we would love for it to happen," said Dave Picarello, who co-owns the horse with Foard Wilgis. "Who knows? This is his track, he's three-for-three. No one else from the Derby will have run here. They'll come to our home turf and we'll give it a shot."
Cherokee's Boy made an easy lead through fractions of :24 1/5 for the opening quarter mile, :48 for the half and 1:12 2/5 for six furlongs. Penobscot Boy, who tracked the leader while four lengths back in second down the backstretch, put together a mild bid at the top of lane with jockey Ramon Dominguez, but drifted out badly under left hand whipping before straightening out and holding onto second by 3 3/4 lengths. High Water Mark and Mario Pino rallied along the inside for the show spot.
"The fractions were decent and when we turned for home I asked him to go and he ripped on and I knew they weren't going to catch him," Fogelsonger said. "I knew I had plenty left and I wanted to wait as long as I could because this is the furthest he's been so far. I could have asked whenever and he would given his all."
Favorite Gimmeawink, who went off at slightly lower 13-10 odds than did the winner, tracked in third while wide into the drive, but came up empty.
Owned by ZWP stable, who bred him, Cherokee's Boy earned $90,000 for the victory, his six in 12 outings. He pushed his career bankroll just over $400,000.
Cherokee's Boy paid $4.60, $2.60 and $2.20. Penobscot Bay returned $3 and $3.20. High Watermark paid $5.80. The $2 exacta was worth $14.40.