It is safe to say that Bea Quality will never win a $100,000 race more easily than he did at Laurel Race Course yesterday.
The humbly bred gelding took an uncontested early lead and held it all the way to score a 1 1/2-length victory in the Maryland Juvenile Championship. The race strongly suggested that there are no real champions in the current generation of state-bred 2-year-olds.
Certainly, Bea Quality was a star of small magnitude coming into the race. The son of a stallion, Baederwood, who stands for a $500 stud fee, his major success had come at Charles Town, where he won a division of the Tri-State Futurity two weeks ago. But he had enough speed to dominate his eight rivals at Laurel from start to finish.
Bea Quality broke alertly, and when nobody else seemed to want the lead, jockey Greg Hutton was happy to take it. He opened a clear advantage as he covered the first quarter mile in a leisurely 23 3/5 seconds and the half mile in :47. (Half an hour later, rock-bottom claiming horses ran faster fractions.) So Bea Quality was still a strong horse when his rivals started making their moves.
Rain Shelter, part of the favored entry, rushed up three-wide on the turn and looked for a moment as if he might be a winner, but Bea Quality brushed up his challenge. Then Jay Bryan accelerated along the rail, but the leader pulled away from him, too. In the final furlong, Joyfull John was running strongest, but he could only cut the winner's advantage to 1 1/2 lengths. Jay Bryan was third, another 2 1/2 lengths behind.
Bea Quality covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43 4/5, mediocre time over the fast track. He paid $11.80 to win and earned $60,000 for his owners, Fred A. Greene Jr., Mrs. Thomas Aquilla and H. Steward Mitchell, who also trains him.
This was not only the first $100,000 victory for the owners, but also for Hutton. Unlike Bea Quality, however, the jockey probably has some other six-figure triumphs ahead of him. Hutton has emerged as one of the top riders in the state during the past year, and he faced a tough choice before yesterday's race.
He had the option to ride either Bea Quality or the promising, undefeated Jay Bryan, and in midweek he appreciated the irony of the situation. "Usually we're scrounging for a mount in a $100,000 race," Hutton. "Now I have two."
In the winner's circle yesterday he was relieved to say, "I guess we made the right choice."