PJG Stable's multiple graded-stakes winning homebred Favorite Tale became racing's newest millionaire with a hard-fought 1 1/4-length victory over Struth in the $100,000 Dave's Friend Stakes Jan. 8 at Laurel Park.
The six-furlong Dave's Friend for 4-year-olds and up and the $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes for fillies and mares 4 and older going one mile, rescheduled from Dec. 30, marked the first stakes of the winter-spring meet that opened Sunday.
A 7-year-old son of Tale of the Cat , Favorite Tale fended off multiple stakes winner Struth from gate to wire to win in 1:08.93 over a fast main track. Great Stuff rallied for third, with 17-1 long shot Schivarelli another length back in fourth.
It was the first win for Favorite Tale since taking the Fabulous Strike Handicap in November of 2015, four weeks after finishing third behind Runhappy and Private Zone in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) at Keeneland.
Based at Parx Racing with trainer Guadalupe Preciado, and ridden Monday by Frankie Pennington, the gelding raced only once in 2016 and had three starts to end 2017, finishing second twice, beaten a half-length each time, in stakes.
"I'm very proud of him. It's been a long way back. He finally got it done. I'm very proud of the trainer and Frankie rode a great race, and we're finally glad to get it done," winning owner and breeder Paul Conaway said. "We bred the horse, we own the mare, so we've had him since he was born. He's very special to us. He's family."
Pennington allowed Favorite Tale to flash his speed early from post 6, taking nine rivals through an opening quarter-mile in :22.40 and a half in :44.73. Struth, coming off a dominant victory in the Howard Bender Memorial Stakes Dec. 9 at Laurel, contested the pace, the pair going five furlongs in :56.39.
The duo straightened for home together and set down for a battle to the finish that remained in doubt until Favorite Tale edged clear in the final sixteenth of a mile for his ninth lifetime victory, pushing his bankroll to $1,020,300 from 23 starts.
"When the horse came outside of me, (Favorite Tale) was game," Pennington said. "Once (Struth) came up to give him the challenge, that's what he waited for and he fought it out to the wire."
Among Favorite Tale's now five lifetime stakes wins are 2014 Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx and the 2015 Smile Sprint Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park. In addition to the Breeders' Cup, he also finished third in the 2015 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.
Favorite Tale was bred by Paul Conaway in Pennsylvania and is out of the grade 3-placed Grindstone mare Tricky Elaine, a half sister to Horse of the Year Favorite Trick.
"We'll see how he comes out of this race. We always point to the Breeders' Cup. It's a long way off from now, but we'll take it one race at a time," Conaway said. "We're just excited to get this win under our belt. We've been looking for it for a while, and I'm happy for him."
Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables, and The Elkstone Group's Bishop's Pond, a 6-year-old mare racing for just the third time on dirt, broke on top and never looked back for a front-running 5 1/4-length triumph in the Thirty Eight Go Go.
Sent off at odds of 7-2 in the field of nine, Bishop's Pond completed the mile in 1:36.13 for her first stakes victory in 24 lifetime starts and the first for jockey Rosario Montanez since moving his tack from New York to Maryland last month.
Bishop's Pond, a daughter of Curlin , made her first 20 starts on the turf before trainer Jason Servis put her on the dirt for a front-running allowance win at Delaware Park Sept. 11. She was fifth in the Beldame Stakes (G1) 19 days later and was back on the turf for her most recent start, the Nov. 25 Forever Together at Aqueduct Racetrack, also finishing fifth.
Montanez settled Bishop's Pond on the lead through fractions of :23.76 and :46.96, chased for the first half-mile by Tiz Rude and Chic Thrill. They maintained their advantage on the far turn as Street Surrender launched a wide bid and 2-1 favorite Crimson Frost came calling on the far outside.
Bishop's Pond responded, opening up on her rivals at the head of the stretch, finishing six furlongs in 1:11.63 and pulling clear under a hand ride. Longshots Sky Flower and Miss Inclusive closed to be second and third, respectively, separated by three-quarters of a length, followed by Tiz Rude, Indian Paint, Crimson Frost, Street Surrender, and Chic Thrill.
"When she broke out of there she broke out there so nice. I didn't want the lead but she got the lead easily and she was so relaxed," Montanez said. "When we turned for home, I tipped her out to the middle of the track and she drew away. I never hit her. I showed her the stick and she took off and she galloped out great. I couldn't ask for anything else."
Grade 1-placed Line of Best Fit, breaking from the far outside post, stumbled coming out of the gate and lost rider Julian Pimentel. Both emerged uninjured.
Bred by Mr. and Mrs. Richard Kaster in Kentucky, Bishop's Pond is out of the stakes winning More Than Ready mare More for Me. With the win, Bishop's Pond improved her record to 5-3-2 from starts and boosted her earnings to $316,527.