The mare Proud Run survived a pace too fast for her trainer's liking while winning the $75,000 All Brandy Stakes at Laurel Park yesterday.
Katharine Merryman bred the 5-year-old daughter of Proud Truth before turning her over to trainer Richard Hendriks three years ago. Proud Run's career got off to a great start, with wins by at least 10 lengths in both of her 1996 starts. Things slowed down over the next several years and a combination of tough competition and tough luck kept Proud Run out of the winner's circle in 1999: She finished second or third in her five starts prior to the All Brandy Stakes.
But this was to be Proud Run's first trip on turf for the year. Hendriks admitted being bewildered, and more than a little put off, by the bettors' decision to send his entry off as their fourth choice at 6-1, pointing out that she had finished in the money in all but two of 10 starts on grass over her career, and that her lifetime earnings of more than $340,000 were substantially more than anybody else in the field of 13 Maryland-bred mares. Nevertheless, Earth to Jackie, with perennial riding champ Edgar Prado aboard, went off as the favorite.
"I'm not a bettor," Hendriks said. "But when I saw the odds on my horse, I went and bet on her. I couldn't believe the price I was getting."
The trainer's ire may have trickled down to his mare. When the gates opened in the 1 1/8-mile stake, Proud Run, though not normally prone to showing early speed, took off after expected pacesetter Absolutely Queenie and dueled through the first three-quarter mile in a blistering 1:09 4/5. At that point Hendriks, looking on from the grandstand, began questioning jockey Mark Johnston's wisdom, and doubting that the day would end happily.
"I see my horse on the lead on the backside, then I look at the board and see the time and I'm saying, `Mark, where are you going?' " Hendriks said.
But as things turned out, Hendriks didn't need to worry about Proud Run's stamina. The pace took a far heavier toll on others in the field, particularly Absolutely Queenie, who ran out of gas at the top of the stretch and quickly dropped to the back. That's where Prado asked Earth to Jackie, the 5-year-old mare, to make up a three-length deficit to Proud Run with one of her strong closing kicks.
But traffic along the rail stymied Prado's inside gambit, and though Earth to Jackie seemed game and capable, Proud Run's lead held up. At the wire, it was Proud Run by a length.
Proud Run finished in 1:46 2/5, or just two-fifths of a second off the track record set seven years ago by Finder's Choice, and paid $14.60.
"I knew we were going faster than I wanted to go," Johnston said. "But today, this horse was just possessed. I didn't want to discourage her by taking too much of a hold of her. And then in the lane coming home, I could tell she heard Edgar's horse, because I saw her ears prick up, like antennas searching for company. I knew then she had plenty of run in her, and she kept kicking for me."