Michael Dubb's Sage Valley pressed the pace before bursting away to a convincing score in the $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (G3) at Pimlico Race Course.
Saddled by Rudy Rodriquez, the son of Discreet Cat left the gate as the narrow betting favorite at 2.30-1 in the six-furlong sprint on the main track. Hardened Wildcat, a very close second choice at 2.40-1, rallied to finish second, 2 ¼ lengths behind the winner. Laurie's Rocket took third.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Sage Valley ($6.60) ran the six furlongs in 1:10.51 while registering his fourth straight victory and second stakes in a row. He won the Mr Nasty Stakes at Aqueduct last November.
MARYLAND SPRINT HANDICAP QUOTES
Rudy Rodriguez (trainer, Sage Valley, winner) – “The race came up pretty tough. I was looking for a race in New York, but I'm glad I came to this one. He ran great. He's a nice horse; he's lightly raced. He's had some issues so we have to take our time with him and he'll perform. Johnny (Velazquez) rode him nicely.”
John Velazquez (jockey, Sage Valley, winner) – “We had a perfect post position and we had a perfect trip. I thought there was plenty of speed in the race and if I could sit just off the lead and make a run down the lane that would be perfect. He responded just the way a horse should.”
Chad Brown (trainer, Hardened Wildcat, 2nd) – “He was a little far behind, but that's him. He's a come-from-behind sprinter. He made his move. The winner was the best horse today. We were just second-best. He's a nice horse. We'll just get him back home and evaluate him and pick another nice spot. I was proud of the way the horse ran. I'm disappointed he didn't win, but he did run his race. He was just second-best.”
Javier Castellano (jockey, Hardened Wildcat, 2nd) – “The trainer told me to sit behind the speed duel and let him try and come from behind. I tried to cut the corner but I couldn't and lost a lot of ground on the final turn. I was just second-best today.”
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