When trainer John Robb scratched front-running gelding Quick Punch less than an hour before the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap yesterday, another trainer, Jason Servis, was elated.
With Quick Punch out, Servis's 6-year-old gelding Tempest Fugit figured to have complete control of the pace, and the trainer reminded jockey Jose Caraballo to get out on the lead. Riding the horse for the first time, Caraballo evenly unspooled three straight 24-second quarter miles and guided Tempest Fugit to a one-length victory over dogged long shot Quiet Gratitude.
"When that horse scratched, I said, 'Jose, this horse's best races are on the lead,' " Servis said. "I watched him ride at Delaware, and, boy, I think he's really underestimated."
The running of the Campbell finally completed Laurel's Winter Sprintfest weekend, which was postponed last weekend after the area's massive snowstorm.
Tempest Fugit has had a checkered career, at times showing signs of exceptional talent, but more often struggling through various injuries and making life miserable for his handlers with his ornery personality. Servis claimed Tempest Fugit for owner Dennis Drazin in April for $75,000 and has won three stakes with him.
"He's a head case and has hind-end problems, but nothing in the ankles and tendons," Servis said. "But he's terrible. When we lost two days of training [because of the bad weather], he was out of control."
Tempest Fugit ran the 11/8-mile Campbell in a sharp 1 minute 49.90 seconds.
None of the horses with powerful closing moves ever reached contention. Perhaps most disappointing was the performance of P Day, the gritty 8-year-old who went off as the favorite after back-to-back stakes victories over the track. After racing midpack most of the way, P Day dully came home in seventh.
The Campbell, won in the past by such top horses as Kelso, Broad Brush and Little Bold John, has declined in recent years, having lost its graded status in 1999.
Tempest Fugit was only eligible to win $45,000 because a quarter of the purse was reserved for Maryland breds. Still, he pushed his earnings to $446,912 in 30 lifetime races.
Racing Notes: The Servis family has dominated the stakes schedule at the Laurel Park winter meet. Brother John Servis has won three of the 13 stakes races offered since Jan. 1, including the $75,000 Racing Media Handicap on Saturday.