Joe Rocco says McKilts runs best when she has a target, but the theory scarcely was proved yesterday. McKilts allowed Dance Colony a short lead in the Anne Arundel Handicap at Laurel, then spent the second half of the race with no horse in sight.
The $54,600 race was without a lot of speed, but Rocco was reluctant nonetheless to send McKilts to the front. He recalled his winning ride on her in the Maryland Oaks two months ago and said, "It was obvious she loved to run at horses." Yesterday, he kept his filly outside Dance Colony around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch.
McKilts powered past Dance Colony leaving the backstretch and seemed to lose no intensity thereafter. Well off the rail, she moved to a three-length lead before turning into the stretch.
By then, Trumpet's Blare had made a strong move from the back of the six-horse field and swept four-wide into the stretch with authority. McKilts, however, was five lengths ahead and showing no signs of weariness. Trumpet's Blare was four lengths back when McKilts passed the wire in 1:50 2/5 for 1 1/8 miles.
Trainer Mert Bailes said exercise rider Christine Hall had been trying to teach McKilts to switch leads -- the leg with which a horse begins its stride -- and yesterday they were repaid. McKilts moved to her right lead with just under a furlong to go.
"It's just like a boxer," Bailes said. "If you jab, jab, jab with the same hand the entire round you're gonna get tired. Some horses run on one lead all race, but if you can get 'em to change, it's to the horse's advantage."
A 3-year-old daughter of 1983 Preakness winner Deputed Testamony, McKilts won her fifth race in 11 tries and raised her earnings to nearly $170,000. She paid $6.40 with her third stakes victory.
Six lengths behind Trumpet's Blare came Secreto's Glory, who was a head in front of Baltic Chill, the 117-pound highweight.