BALTIMORE, JUNE 9 -- After enduring Local Thriller's nightmarish travels in a recent stakes race, trainer Mert Bailes designed a less-eventful trip in the Lady Baltimore Handicap today at Pimlico. Local Thriller won the race with ease but on the way managed to give Bailes a few worries.
Carlos Barrera hustled Local Thriller from Post 3 in the $56,250 turf race, and she opened a clear lead over Double Bunctious, the 3-2 favorite. Local Thriller (3-1) was free of the harassment that plagued her in last month's Geisha Handicap but didn't make it easy on Barrera.
As she led six females through the backstretch, she took several missteps on the firm turf course, then jumped a path before the far turn.
Barrera got the mare back on stride quickly, and she began to pull away through the far turn. She led by almost five lengths turning into the stretch, when she began to drift away from the rail.
With that, she nearly allowed Saphaedra a chance to win. The gray filly stormed into second place late into the far turn but appeared no threat until Local Thriller started to waver. Barrera drove her aggressively, and Saphaedra got no closer than 1 1/2 lengths, the margin of victory. Cutlasee finished third, four lengths off the winner.
This was the race Bailes had waited for, piqued by Local Thriller's six-furlong romp last month in 1:09 4/5 -- three-fifths of a second off the Pimlico record. But in her subsequent start, Local Thriller became a marked mare, and a filly named Run Smartly took a shot at her.
In that race, the Geisha, Run Smartly went on a kamikaze mission of sorts, engaging in a wicked pace and carrying Local Thriller very wide into the clubhouse turn. Neither was a factor in the stretch, as Thirty Eight Go Go defied a speed/rail bias to win from last place.
Keen as he was to avert a repeat of those circumstances today, Bailes decided to try for the lead, especially after Barrera told him horses were kicking up clumps of sod during the previous turf race.
"I knew I had the legitimate speed if we wanted to use it," Bailes said. And so Local Thriller's third stakes victory was conceived.
She was clocked in 1:44 for 1 1/16 miles and brought Barrera closer to his 2,900th victory. She paid $9 and made $33,750 for John Korman Jr. of Mechanicsville, Va.
Armed with a filly who can handle any distance and surface, Bailes was left embracing thoughts of the seven-furlong My Juliet Handicap at Laurel on June 24. Belmont Betting Down at Laurel, Pimlico
Was this is a down year for the Belmont Stakes? A total of $370,116 was bet on the race at Pimlico and Laurel, compared with $617,205 last year.