Jorge Velasquez steered Recusant through heavy traffic in the run to the first turn of the $144,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Bowie yesterday and saved ground until the stretch turn, when the 5-year-old pulled away to a six-length victory.
The winner, who provided Velasquez with his first victory in five attempts in the Campbell, earned $93,600 from Maryland's richest handicap and the biggest purse in Bowie's 69-year history.
Hail Emperor, ridden by Vincent Bracciale Jr., headed Appeal Approved, with jockey James Edwards, for second. Piling, Tim Tamber and Incubator were scratched.
Recusant carried the high weight of 119 pounds and was made the choice by the 13,171 fans at 2-to-1.
The Kentucky-bred son of His Majesty had been prepped in two races by his 25-year-old trainer, Michael Ball, in Florida. In the latter of those races, the horse finished eighth in Gulfstream Park's Donn Handicap, won by Deputy Minister.
Yesterday the dark bay broke in the middle of the 12-horse field and was skillfully handled while angling towards the rail. Meanwhile, Sunny Winters was breezing on the lead under Alberto Delgado until Velasquez decided to step up the tempo.
The pair was joined at the head of the stretch by Hail Emperor and Appeal Approved. For a few strides it appeared to be a close race until Velasquez tapped his mount from the right side.
The winner accelerated impressively and had a 2:05 3/5 clocking for the 1 1/4 miles over a fast but drying out racing strip. The time was more than two seconds slower than the track record of 2:03 2/5 set by another son of His Majesty, Majesty's World, in last year's Campbell.
"We're sure glad we came to Maryland," Ball said in the winner's circle. "We (Donamire Farm) bred Recusant and he turned in a big race today. We plan to send him to Oaklawn Park for the Oaklawn Handicap (April 15)."
Velasquez said, "We saved ground early but couldn't take any chances in a race as important as this and went after the lead early. Then I kept after my horse through the stretch."
The victory was the eighth of 32 lifetime starts for Recusant, whose earnings increased to $473,103. The winning mutuel was $6.60 and the 8-3 exacta returned $36.
Yesterday's crowd wagered $1,914,277 on the nine-race card.