Susan Cooney-owned and -trained gelding Made Bail took the lead after a half-mile and held off late bids from four horses in the stretch, including 26-time stakes winner Ben's Cat in his 11-year-old debut, to capture the featured seventh race April 16 at Laurel Park.
Ben's Cat, racing for the first time since finishing last of six in the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap Oct. 22, was unable to find running room until the final furlong, when he surged along the inside under regular rider Trevor McCarthy.
The four-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, multiple grade 3 winner, and earner of more than $2.6 million was beaten just three-quarters of a length in his 61st start. He is bred, owned, and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner King Leatherbury, who hopes to use the race as a springboard to the Jim McKay Turf Sprint May 19 at Pimlico Race Course, a race he has won four straight years and five of the last six.
"He broke really sharp for me today and I expected that, just because he's been so sharp and coming off that layoff. He had a good trip. It's just a shame out of (post 1) it's kind of a disadvantage sometimes on grass," McCarthy said. "We just didn't get through until late, but I thought it definitely was a good performance by him. It will set him up really good for the Jim McKay.
"It's a shame he didn't get out a little sooner, because I really think he would have gotten the money today. He didn't get beat very far. He definitely had good run in the final furlong, and that was the most important thing. I just wanted to see him run a good race today, even if he got beat or didn't get through until late. I'm really happy with his performance. I just can't wait until the Jim McKay, because I think he'll run very good in that spot."
Made Bail, the longest shot in a field of seven at 23-1 for his first race since late November, ran 5 1/2 furlongs over the firm turf in 1:02.70 to finish a nose in front of filly Elusive Joni.
Grandiflora finished third by a head and it was a half-length back to narrow favorite winner Sonny Inspired, whose belated rally on the far outside got him to the wire a head in front of Ben's Cat in fifth. Triple Burner and Grand Old Game completed the field.