By taking the lead early and never relinquishing it, the filly Intrigued sapped much of the mystery out of today's $50,000 Lady Dean Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Intrigued has won four of five career starts, including her last four. She has won on dirt and turf -- finishing first in both her races on grass -- and proven her ability to perform well regardless of who is in her saddle.
Edgar Prado was aboard Intrigued when she broke her maiden in April at Pimlico, but the perennial Maryland riding champion surrendered her reins to Mark Johnston last month to take what he had hoped would be a more lucrative ride at Lone Star Park in Texas.
Johnston rode the 3-year-old daughter of Lost at War to an easy victory in an allowance race at Pimlico, enticing trainer James Murphy to offer him the trip in the Lady Dean Stakes, her first against stakes company.
But Johnston opted instead to jump aboard Petunia, the morning line favorite trained by ABC Sports racing commentator Charlsie Cantey. It wasn't Cantey's celebrity that caused Johnston to make that call: He'd ridden Petunia, a highly regarded daughter of Lil E. Tee, into the winner's circle in four of her previous five starts, including victories in the $75,000 Tippett Stakes on the grass at Colonial Park in October and the $50,000 Blessing Angelica Stakes on the turf at Delaware Park just three weeks ago.
But Intrigued didn't wait long to punish Johnston for forsaking her. Coming out of the gates in the Lady Dean Stakes, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies, Intrigued bolted to the front from the inside post, and stuck close along the rail as 16-1 shot In a Blink tried to keep up. Johnston tried to bring Petunia up for an early challenge, but found his path blocked by the long shot.
Coming out of the final turn, Intrigued had opened up a four-length lead over Petunia. Though Prado brought her home with just a hand ride, she extended the lead to eight lengths by the wire.
Intrigued finished in 1 minute 49 4/5 seconds and paid $3.60.
"I was glad Mark picked the other filly, Prado said in the winner's circle, adding that he plans to stay in town the next time Intrigued runs.
Pimlico Notes: On Monday, the Maryland Jockey Club will release its plans to refurbish the Pimlico and Laurel Park compounds. The renovations were called for as part of a package from the Maryland legislature that provides $10 million in state money to bolster racing purses in exchange for the Jockey Club making repairs on Maryland's two aging thoroughbred tracks. Expected targets for the renewal projects are the indoor paddock and the stark, but storied, stakes barn on the backstretch.