The gelding Perfect to a Tee dawdled a bit down the stretch but still brought home a win in the $100,000 Congressional Handicap yesterday at Laurel Park.
Perfect to a Tee's ownership syndicate, the Nonsequitur Stable, is made up of four Washington lawyers, and was formed in 1994 after what managing partner Ellen Fredel describes as a "power breakfast" at the Mayflower Hotel.
A year later, the barristers claimed then 3-year-old Perfect to a Tee from trainer Tim Ritchey for a mere $14,500. The horse has since affirmed their judgment: With the win in the Congressional Handicap--his fourth victory in a row--Perfect to a Tee's career earnings have passed the $500,000 mark, with most of those dollars coming late in his career. Ritchey ran the horse as a sprinter, without much success. But trainer Linda Albert, who saddles all Nonsequitur Stable entries, gave Perfect to a Tee a chance to prove he could go long. Though a bowed tendon in 1996 forced him into the barn for a 1 1/2 years of recuperation, under Albert, Perfect to a Tee has grown fast beyond his years.
If it's possible for a horse to blossom as a 7-year-old, that's what Perfect to a Tee did in 1999, earning $324,818 for the year, and winning the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap on Preakness Day and last month's $200,000 Maryland Million Classic. Bettors figured Perfect to a Tee would run to form in the Congressional Handicap, making him the favorite in the field of eight with odds of just under 2-1.
With jockey Alcibiades Cortez aboard, Perfect to a Tee stayed out of trouble along the rail for the first mile of the 1 1/4-mile trip, and just off the pace set by Joe Rocco and his Kentucky-bred mount, Montana Dreamin'. At the mile marker, Cortez convinced Perfect to a Tee to sweep around the early leader on the outside. Cortez, feeling he had the best horse in the race, figured the race was over once he had reached the front. But Perfect to a Tee gave Montana Dreamin' another chance at the win, and appeared to briefly lose interest in winning as he angled toward the grandstand during the final furlong. The jockey blamed his mount's late lapse in concentration on the setting sun getting in his eyes. In any case, Cortez regained control of Perfect to a Tee in time to secure the victory.
"Maybe next time, we'll get him sunglasses," Cortez said after receiving a congratulatory kiss from Fredel.