-- After a 20-race career in which he did little more than slide gradually into cheaper company, Yankee Wildcat got one last chance to be a good racehorse when owners Frank and Ginny Wright sent the 6-year-old gelding to the barn of trainer Tim Tullock.
Following an eight-month rest, Yankee Wildcat returned to the races for his new connections and set a track record June 4 at Pimlico, running five furlongs in 55.99 seconds. Saturday afternoon, he showed that the reclamation project is complete, blitzing a strong field of Maryland-bred turf sprinters to win the $75,000 Mister Diz Stakes, again at Pimlico.
While the final time of 58.75 seconds on a grass course labeled "good" was no threat to his own five-furlong record, Yankee Wildcat toyed with his opposition, beating favored Nortouch by 31/2 lengths. Two-time defending Mister Diz champion Ghostly Numbers finished last in the field of eight.
"I love the Mister Diz," Ginny Wright said in the winner's circle. She and her husband are backbone breeders in Maryland, and Yankee Wildcat was the third of their homebred runners to win the race.
"When this horse first went to Tim, he was destined to run in claiming races," Frank Wright said. "Tim and Mrs. Wright said, 'He's doing so good, let's put him in an allowance race.' "
Breaking from the inside post position, Yankee Wildcat needed to use his speed to get clear so the horses to his outside wouldn't box him in. Tullock sharpened the horse's speed Wednesday by putting him through a swift three-furlong workout in a fraction more than 35 seconds.
"If he gets away and secures the fence, its just a question whether he was good enough," Tullock said after the victory.
Jockey Enrique Jurado, riding Yankee Wildcat for the first time, got a clean start and the horse took off, leading by five lengths in the stretch. Nortouch, another runner who has recently turned around a dull career, rallied powerfully for second.
Yankee Wildcat won for the fifth time in 23 starts, pushing his earnings with the stakes victory to $135,168.
"This is a testament to the Maryland breeding program," Tullock said. "There were some salty horses in here. We're still alive, folks."
Racing Notes: Ameri Brilliance, who scratched out of the Mister Diz to run in the $85,000 West Virginia Legislature Chairman's Cup Handicap, broke the Mountaineer Park 41/2-furlong track record to win the race. Trained by Ben Feliciano Jr., the 5-year-old gelding scorched the course in 50.16 seconds. . . .
Surviving a torrid early pace that burned out pacesetter Yessirgeneralsir and Peace Rules, Roses in May hung on to beat favored Perfect Drift in a photo finish in the Grade I $750,000 Whitney Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at Saratoga. With his fourth straight victory, and first in Grade I company, Roses in May stamped himself as one of the top runners in the country. Ridden by Edgar Prado and trained by Dale Romans, Roses in May ran the 11/8-mile race in 1 minute 48.54 seconds.