BALTIMORE, JUNE 10 -- Finder's Choice got a new rider, a little medication and a changed racing surface in today's Chieftain Handicap at Pimlico. He also got bumped, but it didn't prevent his first victory in more than a year.
Finder's Choice emerged from a big squeeze at the head of the stretch and slowly took the lead, then outlasted Green Book and favored Dixie Dancer in a tight finish in the $59,450 race.
Once considered almost an equal to stablemate Private Terms in ability and looks, Finder's Choice had gone winless in six starts since May 1989, including a 20-length beating in last year's Chieftain. But with anti-bleeding medication within him, a firm turf course beneath him and Joe Rocco atop him, that streak changed in the course of 1 minute 43 2/5 seconds.
Finder's Choice had front-runners Dixie Dancer and Ligature well within his sights leaving the far turn, but found himself in a vise when he tried to slip between them. Ligature fell back along the rail, and Edgar Prado pulled outside-most Dixie Dancer to the right, whereby Finder's Choice resumed the charge.
He took a slight lead on Dixie Dancer with a sixteenth-mile to go, at which point Green Book -- owned and bred by Pimlico executives Tom and Bob Manfuso -- was making a bid on the far outside. Green Book's jockey, Jeff Lloyd, was back at Pimlico for the first time since transferring to Philadelphia Park last weekend, and the trip ended a neck short. Finder's Choice lasted to win by that, with Dixie Dancer another neck behind Green Book in third. Valay Maid in Hilltop Stakes
Three-time stakes winner Valay Maid is one of 12 fillies entered in Tuesday's $50,000-added Hilltop Stakes, which underscores Pimlico's closing-day program. Second to the brilliant Charon in last month's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, Valay Maid has yet to race on turf after winning five of eight on the dirt. . . .
Pimlico is closed Monday as Maryland racing returns to five-day weeks. . . .
Baltimore's AFL-CIO union members and their families had a big picnic in the Pimlico infield today, the crowd estimated at several thousand. The track ordinarily does not open the infield other than Preakness and Maryland Million Day, but Jim Mango, the track's director of operations, said the AFL-CIO outing could become an annual event.