In spite of contesting just off a fast pace, New Farm's homebred Wildcat Heir had enough in the tank to hold off favored Midas Eyes by a neck in the $300,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) at Pimlico Saturday.
Ridden by Stewart Elliott for trainer Ben Perkins Jr., Wildcat Heir, a 4-year-old son of Forest Wildcat
, won his first graded stakes in the De Francis Dash, completing the six furlongs in 1:09 2/5 on a fast strip. Wildcat Heir was sent off at odds of 16-1.
Shake You Down, ridden by Mike Luzzi, was the pacesetter, but he hooked up with 80-1 shot Philadelphia Jim for fractions of :22 3/5, :45 2/5 and :57 1/5 as Wildcat Heir tracked closely in third on the outside. As the field squared away in the stretch, Wildcat Heir, battling between horses, pulled away from the pack and held off the late charge of Midas Eyes and Edgar Prado in the final strides.
Elliott had never been on Wildcat Heir, even in a workout.
"The horse, I'm told, likes to run outside, so I put him in perfect spot off the turn," Elliott said. "He switched leads at the eighth pole and was all out at the finish. We had just enough left to hold off (Midas Eyes)."
Midas Eyes, breaking from the inside post, was forwardly placed throughout before angling out in the stretch and closing sharply.
Clockstopper, who trailed the field for a half-mile, rallied while extremely wide for Jerry Bailey. They finished 1 1/2 lengths back in third with Gators N Bears and Javier Castellano fourth.
The much-traveled Wildcat Heir, never worse than second in 10 career starts, won for the fifth time. He finished in a dead heat for fourth in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) in his last start Oct. 8 at Keeneland, his only other graded stakes attempt this year. He finished 1 1/4 lengths behind De Francis foe Champali in the Phoenix.
"I was really happy with the outside post," Perkins said. "We'll just ring the field and that's what we did. His race at Keeneland was really strong. He just flattened out a little bit at the end.
"He's never run against these horses too much. Our plan was to let this kind go to the Breeders' Cup and just wait for them here."
This was the second De Francis Dash victory for Perkins, who also saddled Delaware Township to victory in 2001.
Owner Ben Perkins Sr. said, "This horse's hind leg has been broken twice. That's why he's so lightly raced. We plan to lay him up, get him ready and bring him back here for the General George."
Wildcat Heir nearly doubled his career earnings to $364,460 with the winner's share of $180,000.
He paid $34, $10 and $5.80. Midas Eyes returned $3.60 and $2.80 as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10. The exacta was $138.40. Clock Stopper's show was $2.80.
After Gators N Bears came Philadelphia Jim, A Huevo, Abbondanza, Champali, True Direction and Shake You Down.
Lion Tamer was scratched.
A total of $3,762,967 passed through the pari-mutuel windows on the 10-race card at Pimlico.