On any ordinary Saturday, the $156,200 Baltimore Budweiser Breeders' Cup would have been the main course on Pimlico's racing card. But today, it was light fare, whetting the public appetite for the Preakness Stakes.
The 1 1/16-mile event featured I Am The Game, Maryland's 3-year-old champion of 1985. But in his second start this year (and first in Maryland since September), I Am The Game was left behind in the early stretch, as Salem Drive rallied to triumph by a neck over Little Bold John.
Salem Drive (4 to 1) trailed his eight opponents for the first seven furlongs before jockey Vince Bracciale Jr. began advancing him on the outside.
Midway through the final turn, 9-to-5 favorite I Am The Game forged to the lead between Willard Scott (8 to 1) and Jane's Dilemma (9 to 1), but it was short-lived. Donald Miller Jr. sent Little Bold John wide around the turn and into the lead, and Jorge Velasquez rallied Roo Art (7 to 2) into contention along the rail.
At the same time, Salem Drive was making up ground outside the leaders. He bore in slightly at the eighth-mile pole, but Bracciale promptly whipped him left-handed, straightened him, whipped him again and proceeded with a strong hand ride to edge Little Bold John in 1:44. Roo Art held on for third.
Alberto Delgado, I Am The Game's jockey, filed an objection against Miller, but it was not allowed.
It was the second stakes victory in a week for owner Virginia Payson and trainer Richard Lundy; Uptown Swell won the $100,000 Dixie Handicap here last Saturday.
Today's victory was worth $101,530, about $2,600 less than Salem Drive had earned in all of 1985.