Just as the rain began pouring down in earnest, the starting gates opened for the 12th running of the Jim McKay Turf Sprint on Black-Eyed Susan day at Pimlico Race Course. A full field of 14 flew off the blocks, but in the final strides it was just Richard's Boy and Pay Any Price far in front of their rivals, battling through the wire.
Rockingham Ranch's Richard's Boy, who finished fifth in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March, then returned to his home base of California before this trip to Maryland, was well-prepared by trainer Peter Miller and was just best by a head at the finish. Ridden by Paco Lopez over the firm turf, the 5-year-old son of Idiot Proof covered five furlongs in 56.20 seconds.
“He's a barn favorite, Miller said. “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 other horses but would not affect him. He's a bulldog. We're thinking of using this race as a prep for Royal Ascot.”
Pay Any Price demonstrated remarkable gate speed to earn a length's advantage in the first 100 yards, flying through the first quarter in 21.93 seconds. Just behind that leader was the trio of Amelia's Wild Ride, Uncle Youdge, and Richard's Boy on the outside. Into the turn, Richard's Boy was able to approach the saddle cloth of Pay Any Price, and the leader dug back in gamely at the head of the lane.
Stride-for-stride, the two battled to the wire. A left-handed whack from Lopez sent Richard's Boy a step to the outside, away from Pay Any Price, and Lopez' quick correction had him changing back to his left lead in the final 70 yards. That lead change might just have been what Richard's Boy needed to get his head in front of Pay Any Price at the finish. Amelia's Wild Ride hung on to be third, and Take Cover made up ground late for fourth.
“I felt very comfortable,” Lopez reported. “And the trainer said on the phone, ‘Paco, whatever you want, you'll be in a good position. Second or third, the horse runs everywhere.' He's a very nice horse, a very tough horse. I was on the right horse in the race.”
Sentimental crowd favorite Ben's Cat, the 11-year-old who had won this race for five of the last six years, was unable to make his patented late run and finished eighth, apparently disliking the surface, according to jockey Trevor McCarthy.
“We broke well. 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 little bit. I had to let him get his feet. He made a good run at the end when I asked him too. He galloped out well, so I was happy with him. It just seems like these first couple of races, he's getting a bit unlucky. Age 11, for a horse to try, to keep running the way he is. I'm happy with him.”
Bred in California by Harold and Pamela Tillema, Richard's Boy recorded his very first graded stakes victory in the Jim McKay. Despite that, the gray gelding has earned better than $640,000 over his 22 race career, with a record of 9-6-2.
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