Sunny Winters, the second choice, held off a late challenge from favored Naskra's Breeze to score by more than a length under leading rider Donald Miller Jr. to win the Walter Haight Handicap yesterday at Laurel. It was another nine lengths back to Poor Dad in third.
Seven horses were entered in yesterday's $50,000-added race named for the late turf writer for The Washington Post, but only six came out of the starting gate when starter Eric Blind pushed the button.
Native Gunner, one of the longshots in the 1 1/8 mile affair, was not completely into the gate and a startled attendant held onto his reins until he could jump clear to avoid being trampled.
Jockey Danny Wright astride Native Gunner saw his mount was too far behind the field when clear of the starting gate and eased him.
"I knew that my horse had no chance," Wright said. "I feel sorry for the starter . . . it was just one of those things. I'm glad there was a refund."
Many fans left before it was announced that there would be a refund to holders of tickets on Native Gunner. Others were seen scurrying to find discarded tickets on the ground and on dining tables.
Sunny Winters ran the Haight distance in 1:50 over a fast racing strip and paid $5.20.