Governor's Pride used to be one of the fastest horses in the entire Mid-Atlantic. Winner of the 2001 Charles Town Dash, a 4 1/2-furlong race exclusively for speedballs, the gelded son of champion sprinter Housebuster also once held the Pimlico five-furlong track record.
Age and injury caught up to Governor's Pride the past two years, but this afternoon, at age 7, he rediscovered his youth, blazing to victory in the $50,000 Ben Cohen Stakes at Pimlico.
Governor's Pride finished last in a field of 10 as the favorite in his prior start, an allowance race at Charles Town. Before that, trainer Tim Ritchey exposed him to sale in a claiming race at Oaklawn Park. Between November 2002 and Feb. 7, Governor's Pride had run only one race because of a quarter crack in his left front hoof.
A turnaround against talented turf sprinters seemed unlikely, but Ritchey supplemented the horse into the race for $500 when two other races he was targeting failed to attract enough runners.
"After he ran one start last year, he popped a very severe quarter back in his foot. Instead of trying to nurse him through it, we decided the best thing to do would be to completely cut it out and turn him out and give his foot time to grow back," Ritchey said. "Today, he showed up, and when he's in front, he's tough to pass."
As soon as the gate opened, Governor's Pride went right to the front for jockey Joe Rocco Jr. Heavy favorite Take Achance On Me moved to his outside and the two dueled through torrid fractions, covering a half-mile 44.22 seconds.
When the horses reached the stretch, Rocco went to work on Governor's Pride, who refused to let Take Achance On Me go by, holding him off by a nose. At odds of nearly 25-1, Governor's Pride almost broke the track record, running the five-furlong turf race in 56.32 seconds. He returned $51.80 for a win bet and increased his lifetime earnings to $434,490 in 34 races.
In the winner's circle, Rocco remembered that his father, Joe Rocco Sr., used to ride Governor's Pride.
"He was a really nice horse," the jockey said. "My dad won a couple stakes on him. It must be about four years ago. He's been around forever."
Ritchey said he ran Governor's Pride in the claiming race in February to try to get the horse's confidence back. He won by 2 1/2 lengths, making the gamble worthwhile.
"He was an old horse coming off a layoff," Ritchey said. "A lot of horses, they get beat [and] they get that in their heads."
Asked about the last-place finish in Charles Town, Ritchey shrugged and said jockey Daniel Cora hadn't ridden the horse at all.
Racing Notes: Frank Hopkins Sr., a former member of the Maryland Racing Commission and a long-time breeder in the state at his Elberton Hill Farm in Darlington, died Wednesday at 79.
His gelding, Elberton, ran ninth in the Ben Cohen Stakes. Elberton won the 2001 Maryland Million Turf.