With his father home dying of cancer, Charles Hadry Jr. desperately wanted P Day to win the John B. Campbell Handicap on Feb. 23 at Laurel Park. The feisty 8-year-old horse had been trainer Charles Hadry Sr.'s pride and joy, one of the few things that got him excited in his final days.
P Day lost a shoe on the first turn and finished seventh in the Campbell, and the following day Hadry died at age 72. Yesterday, horse and son made amends as P Day returned to his top form, powering down the stretch to hold off Lyracist and win the $75,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial Handicap for older runners.
Fans around the winner's circle offered a rare display of applause when jockey Ryan Fogelsonger rode P Day in to get his picture taken. Hadry Jr. looked up to the sky and whispered, "Thank you."
"This is very special," said Hadry Jr., a former jockeys' agent who now assumes full control of his father's stable. "I wanted to win so bad the last time. All through my life my dad has tried to educate me. He said, 'You can't win 'em all.' I was more upset than he probably was. Today was an awesome performance. [P Day] is so special to me. I'll never forget this horse."
P Day has always displayed talent, but since returning to the Hadry barn last November after a sojourn with Scott Lake, he has become more consistent. Before the loss in the Campbell, P Day won the Challedon and Native Dancer stakes back-to-back, and the victory yesterday proved excuses after the last race were valid.
The Harrison Johnson began with speedy First Amendment gunning to the front and looking to control the pace for jockey Jeremy Rose. Favored New York shipper My Request lay close in second along the rail, and his rider, Mario Pino, sensed he needed to engage First Amendment before the free-running leader got bold.
My Request ambushed First Amendment and the two horses pulled nearly six lengths clear of the field despite a slow pace.
With three furlongs to go, First Amendment gained a clear lead and then faltered. P Day, meantime, raced in the clear in fourth place. Fogelsonger angled inside on the far turn and then turned him loose at the top of the stretch. Late-running Lyracist shot past a tiring My Request, hooked P Day in a stretch duel but couldn't get by, losing by a nose.
The winning time was a sharp 1 minute 49.42 seconds.
Racing Notes: Bowie-based Cherokee's Boy was withdrawn from today's Grade III $200,000 Gotham at Aqueduct by trainer Gary Capuano after drawing the No. 11 post position. . . . Trainer Tim Ritchey will run Laurel-based Gimmeawink, talented winner of the Miracle Wood Stakes on Feb. 8.