Since Finder's Choice ran the fastest 6 1/2-furlong race ever at Laurel Race Course nearly four weeks ago, trainer Charlie Hadry has searched for an appropriate spot to race the Triple Crown nominee. He found it in today's $40,000-added Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel -- or so he thought.
With Laurel's racing surface reworked following last week's abnormally high temperatures, Laurel management temporarily has ceased running races out of the chutes. That decision caused the Dancing Count to be shortened from seven to six furlongs.
"I can't say I'm thrilled about that," said Hadry, who trains another undefeated Triple Crown hopeful, Private Terms. "We want to go further with these horses. We don't want to go backwards."
The Dancing Count appeared a likely progression for Finder's Choice. The 3-year-old colt had run six furlongs when he won his debut in the slop, then went 6 1/2 in a record 1:16, winning a strong allowance race by nearly seven lengths. Now, Hadry isn't certain how a six-furlong race fits into his long-range plan.
"It makes it tough when you plan something," Hadry said, "and then you have to change direction all of a sudden."
The Dancing Count features three stakes winners -- Gospel Note, Cameo Type and Michael Josh -- as well as Ocala Jet, a roan colt unbeaten in three starts.
Had the Dancing Count been run a day later, Hadry might not be so concerned; two races Sunday will begin from Laurel's backstretch chute, including the seven-furlong Conniver Handicap for fillies and mares. Also on Sunday, Sham Say is scheduled to seek her seventh consecutive victory against four other Maryland-bred 3-year-old fillies in the $50,000 Jameela Stakes.
Finder's Choice's second victory followed a pattern Hadry has used to win 27 percent of his races this Laurel meeting. The colt hadn't raced in two months but was exercised steadily and was fit enough to rally from next-to-last place to the lead in a span of three furlongs.
"There's one thing you learn as a trainer," Hadry said. "If you don't wait on horses, they'll make you wait. You just can't rush them along, and you have to have owners who don't mind waiting."
An unusual event took place yesterday at Laurel when Star Bohemia, ridden by Donald Miller Jr., was disqualified from second to fifth place for bumping his stablemate, British Diplomat, in the stretch.
Chief steward Clinton Pitts Jr. said he did not believe such a disqualification was unprecedented.