A year ago Jonathan Sheppard had Ripon pointed perfectly for the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap.
"He had been beaten by very little - a nose, I think - in the Native Dancer race two weeks before, and everything looked perfect." the trainer noted. "Then the Maryland mutual clerks went on strike and the state was never run. That's something a horseman man never figures on happening."
Yesterday, when this year's Campbell was run at Bowie, Ripon got the money - at 13 to 1.
The 5-year-old gelding came from off the pace to score by a head over Resound with Gala Harry third, a neck behind the runner-up. On the Sly, the 1-2 favorite carrying high weight of 130 pounds, failed to fire and finished last in the field of eight.
Ripon paid $28.40 straight after completing the 1 1/4 miles "fast" track in 2:05. The 3-2 exacta was worth $145.40.
"I trained him up to the race in pretty much the same pattern I had last winter," Sheppard said. "This time around he won the Native Dancer, narrowly, and I thought it had him just right for the Campbell."
Ripon carried 113 pounds, mostly Jockey Kelley Castaneda - that means he was in receipt of 17 pounds from On The Sly, the 61st-ranked money winner in the history of thorough-bred racing with $687,293.
"Frankly, while I thought the 130 assigned On The Sly was realistic, in terms of what he had accomplished, it represented a couple of pounds more than I thought he'd have to carry," Sheppard said. "He'd earned that much weight, though. He got paid for it, with all the money he'd earned. He was the only established horse in the field."
Gala Harry set the early pace, prompted by Piped Aboard. The field bunched together closely moving to the far turn, where Ripon and Resound launched their bids on the outside.
Gregg McCarron asked On The Sly for a response at this point. On The Sly said no, thank you, and retreated from fifth to eighth.
"We were laying perfectly," McCarron said. "We had the winter trapped two or three times during the early running. Ripon was the horse we thought we had to beat, and we had him where we wanted him, down inside us, until things got serious.
"That's when I asked my horse to pick it (the pace) up. He never did. Ripon quickly got outside us - and he was gone."
Ripon may have been "gone", but he never really took off. Gala Harry held on gamely, on or near the lead (six furlongs in 1:14, the mile in 1:39 3/5, Ripon and Resound appeared to have Gala Harry measured at the top of the stretch, but they didn't get to the leader until deep inside the six-teenth pole.
Sheppard was pleased by his jockey's ride.
"Kelly followed instructions to the letter," Sheppard said.
"The one thing Ripon doesn't like is to have horses move from behind him on the outside of him. He'll pin his ears nearly every time if that happens. Kelly kept him clear on the outside."
Ripon is owned by George Strawbridge Jr. of the Strawbridge-Clothier clan. He and Sheppard are steeple-chase oriented. Ripon once was intended by Virginia breeder Raymond Guest to be an outstanding jumper.
"I think Mr. Guest was very high on him, then maybe soured on him a little after the horse disappointed him a couple of times," Sheppard said. "I was able to buy him from Pat Graham, Mr. Guest's trainer, for what was not a big price."
Ripon earned $73,255 of the $112,700 purse. A crowd of 18,213 bet $2,205,670 on the 10-race card, a record for Campbell Day.