I'm Splendid stumbled to a $141,645 payday yesterday at Laurel Race Course.
Unraced in two months and untried at more than six furlongs, I'm Splendid overcame a bad step leaving the starting gate and charged past 3-5 favorite Silent Account in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile, $246,070 Selima Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Jockey Vince Bracciale Jr. proved a qualified replacement for Angel Cordero Jr. Told by trainer Jimmy Toner to go for the early lead, Bracciale abandoned that plan when his mount started poorly. Instead of rushing I'm Splendid toward the leaders, Bracciale was content to remain in fifth.
Meanwhile, Donald Miller Jr. had North Of Danzig firing from the inside to lead locally based Cosmic Tiger by a length and Silent Account by 1 1/2 lengths.
North Of Danzig held the lead for three-eighths of a mile, before yielding to Cosmic Tiger, ridden by apprentice Martin Ramirez. Silent Account continued to press the leaders three-wide, and she began to reduce her slim deficit approaching the far turn.
With 3 1/2 furlongs to go, Silent Account drew abreast of Cosmic Tiger. As North Of Danzig began to falter along the rail and Nature's Way made a vain attempt to rally outside, Bracciale sent I'm Splendid between them and past, steadily gaining on the leaders.
Leaving the turn, Silent Account gained a one-length lead outside Cosmic Tiger, but it was brief. I'm Splendid rallied to catch her just before the eighth pole. The two horses bumped momentarily before I'm Splendid, urged by Bracciale's persistent, right-handed whipping, took the lead and pulled away to a 4 1/2-length victory, paying $16 to her backers in the crowd of 10,170. Silent Account defeated Cosmic Tiger by 2 1/2 lengths for second.
I'm Splendid was clocked in 1:43, one-fifth of a second off Dancealot's 1973 Selima record, and increased her career earnings to $216,640.
"I was surprised at how much she had left in the stretch," said Bracciale, Laurel's fifth-leading jockey with 11 victories. "She hadn't gone more than six furlongs, and she hadn't raced in a while, so I really didn't know what to expect."
I'm Splendid won her debut at Aqueduct by nearly eight lengths, missed a victory in Belmont's Astoria Stakes by a half length, then won Saratoga's Schuylerville Stakes in July by a nose. After that victory, however, she was not among the top three in two subsequent stakes, and Toner decided to rest her.
"After her win at Saratoga, I rushed her a bit," Toner said following yesterday's victory. "She's coming back good now."
I'm Splendid is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup, and Toner said he and owner Caesar Kimmel do not intend to pay the high supplemental entry fee.
Silent Account was favored off her wire-to-wire victory in Keeneland's Alcibiades Stakes two weeks ago, but trainer Allen Jerkens was concerned about a speed duel yesterday. The outcome legitimized his fears.
"I thought she had more left in her," said Robbie Davis, who rode 25-1 long shot Bounding Basque to victory in the $500,000 Meadowlands Cup later last night.
Two weeks ago yesterday, Davis lay frightened on a muddy Belmont race track after being involved in a two-horse spill. The other jockey, Jerry Bailey, suffered multiple injuries and is recovering in Florida.
"It was good to be here," Davis said.