Richard's Boy—Rockingham Ranch's West Coast-based, California-bred gelding—encouraged his connections to send him overseas to take on some of the best turf sprinters in the world March 25 in the Al Quoz Sprint Sponsored By Azizi Developments (G1) in Dubai, and he gave a good account of himself.
The gray 5-year-old son of Idiot Proof finished fifth, 2 1/2 lengths behind winner The Right Man, in the $1 million race, but the six furlongs really wasn't his specialty. Even his game efforts in recent months in races down the Santa Anita Park hillside turf course—where he's placed in four straight stakes—just really aren't his best distance.
The five grassy furlongs of the Jim McKay, however, are just up his alley. He came into the Jim McKay with three wins from four starts at the distance on turf, with his only loss a second in another stakes at Del Mar.
In the Jim McKay, Richard's Boy went toe-to-toe with speedster Pay Any Price, who ran the first quarter in :21.93 as rains from a flash thunderstorm just began to hit the Baltimore racetrack. Turning for home the front-running pair continued to duel to the wire. With a furlong to run, Richard's Boy had a head in front. Pay Any Price continued to battle inside, but could not rally back and lost by a neck.
"He's a barn favorite," said winning trainer Peter Miller. "I'm so happy for the horse and the team. "They were the same people who went with him to Dubai. When I saw the rain start to come down, I thought it might affect the other horses, but would not affect him. He's a bulldog."
The globetrotting for Richard's Boy also might not be over.
"We're thinking of using this race as a prep for Royal Ascot," Miller said.
For Ben's Cat an eighth-place finished ended his streak of dominance in the Jim McKay. He won the race in 2011, ran fifth in 2012, then won four straight editions from 2013-16. On Friday, however, he was never really involved under jockey Trevor McCarthy and made mild gains from 11th to hit the wire eighth.
Bred, owned, and trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury, the 32-time winner has lost his last seven races and hasn't hit the board in his last four.
"It's a shame it started raining," McCarthy said. "It got a little slick, and he doesn't like the wet too much. We came away good and he was slipping a bit. I had to let him get his feet. We made a good run at the end when I asked him to. ... At age 11, for a horse to try to keep running the way he is—I'm happy with him.
After racing in Southern California and South Florida from October to April, the Sky Mesa filly returned to Maryland to win the one-mile Hilltop. The Graham Motion trainee is now undefeated in three starts in Maryland—she broke her maiden in her debut at Laurel Park in August and won the Selima Stakes, also at Laurel, in September—and is winless in five starts everywhere else.
"She's very game," Motion said. "I don't think Gulfstream was exactly her spot, but I give the owners a lot of credit. They wanted to run her in this spot."
Later in the card, Repole Stable homebred Clipthecouponannie rounded out the minor-stakes slate on the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) card with a sloppy-track win in the $100,000 Skipat Stakes. It was the second stakes win for the 4-year-old Uncle Mo filly trained by Todd Pletcher, but her first against open company. Her first was against New York-breds in the Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in February of 2016.