Plugged Nickle prepared for his rematch with Genuine Risk by winning the Jim Dandy Stakes here today. But his performance hardly boosted his credentials for the upcoming Travers Stakes.
Making a comeback after his poor showing in the Kentucky Derby, Plugged Nickle had to struggle to score a neck victory over Current Legend, a 54-to-1 shot. His time of 1:49 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles was undistinguished.
And the colt needed some luck to win at all. While Current Legend sprinted to the front and opened a four-length lead, Plugged Nickle was biding his time.
"He was carrying all that weight (128 pounds)," Jeffrey Fell, his jockey, said, "so I didn't want to rush him."
Plugged Nickle found room to advance along the rail and moved into contention on the turn. As the field turned into the stretch and fanned out, a big hole opened and the favorite sailed through it. He took the lead in midstretch, but still didn't pull away.
Current Legend, carrying only 114 pounds, was coming back at him at the finish.
Herb Water finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Current Legend, and Sportful was fourth. The latter, a California invader, raced well after being carried six horses wide as the field fanned out.
Just three months ago, Plugged Nickle seemed to be the best of his generation. He came into the Kentucky Derby with a three-race winning streak, but turned in a dismal performance and finished seventh. He was relegated to instant obscurity as the winner, Genuine Risk, became American's darling.
The colt returned to competition two weeks ago and whipped older rivals in a seven-furlong stakes race at Belmont Park. After today's performance, trainer Tommy Kelly feels he is right on schedule.
"He likes this track and we thought he'd run well, which he did," the trainer said. "I was a little concerned about the weight but thought he'd overcome it. Our long-distance plan has been the Travers and it's good he's going into it with this good effort in him."