In a race in which early position meant everything, Tijuana Taxi took the lead on the first turn and breezed to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 William E. Miller Memorial Pace last night at Rosecroft Raceway.
The crowd of 8,454 recognized how tough a trip Mostest Yankee would encounter from the No. 7 post position in the 11-horse field and made Tijuana Taxi the 4-to-5 favorite, with Mostest Yankee second pick at 9 to 5.
Tijuana Taxi, leaving from the No. 3 post, took the lead and the rail from longshot Pence Time going around the first turn and was timed in a good 1:59 1/5 for the mile on a cool night that usually prevents outstanding times.
J.J.'s Metro, driven by Joseph Greene, nipped Trapeze by a head for second place, as Mostest Yankee raced the entire mile on the outside and finished fifth.
Jim Miller, driving Tijuana Taxi for the Barr-M Stable of Canada, sent the 3-year-old bay colt to the first quarter in 29 seconds. Miller said he wanted to slow the pace, but Plat Du Jour made a move at the leader going into the second turn with Hall of Famer Stanley Dancer driving.
"I wanted to slow down the pace, but I didn't want Stanley to pass me because I know what his horse can do," Miller said.
So Miller took Tijuana Taxi past the half mile in 58 1/5 seconds, shaking off the challenge of Plat Du Jour as the demolition derby-sized field swung down the backstretch.
The race was basically over as Tijuana Taxi passed the three-quarter marker in 1:28 4/5 and victory seemed almost certain.
MostestYankee, with leading Rosecroft drive Wayne Smullin in the sulky, tried to leave from the No. 7 post. But he encountered traffic problems, never saw the rail and trailed most of the way before making an unsuccessful bid four wide down the backstretch.
"There were a couple of dead horses in front of me," Smullin said of the start of the race, "and I knew when they got in front of me, I was in trouble. Then there were too many dead horses between me and the eventual winner. You expect that with 11 horses and a bad post on a half-mile track.
"We were beaten by horses that would never beat this horse even up."
It was Tijuana Taxi's third victory in four starts this season and increased lifetime winnings for the son of Fulla Napoleon to almost $150,000.