Foufa's Warrior and Cherokee's Boy both ran in the Preakness Stakes in 2003, and only 11/4 lengths separated them at the finish line. Their performances were mere footnotes to the Funny Cide juggernaut that blew through Baltimore that day, but the former local stars hooked up at Pimlico again Saturday afternoon and engaged in a breathtaking stretch duel as Foufa's Warrior beat his old rival by a half-length to win the $75,000 Find Handicap.
"There were a couple others in the Preakness," trainer Larry Murray said in the winner's circle when reminded of Foufa's Warrior's seventh-place finish in the Preakness, just in front of Cherokee's Boy. "What was that other horse's name?"
The Find, switched from turf to dirt by new track superintendent Jamie Richardson 31/2 hours before the race because of threatening weather, is a long drop in class from the Preakness. Foufa's Warrior, though, needed a confidence builder.
The nicely bred 4-year-old gelding hadn't won a race since taking the Grade III Kent Breeders' Cup on the Delaware Park turf in July 2003.
"He hooked those tough ones as a 3-year-old and now we're going to keep him with the easy ones," Murray said. "When you have a 3-year-old and you're running against 3-year-olds, there's a lot of money out there."
Indeed, despite just two victories in 15 starts coming into the Find, Foufa's Warrior still had earned $344,008.
Taking the 11/8-mile race off the turf led four horses to scratch, leaving a field of five to run.
Cherokee's Boy, who has won two stakes races at Charles Town this summer, looked to be the lone speed horse in the race, and bettors hammered his odds down to 1-5.
Murray told jockey Steve Hamilton to attempt to stay within striking distance, and he kept in contact as Cherokee's Boy ran a manageable but honest half-mile in 48.37 seconds. On the far turn, Foufa's Warrior engaged Cherokee's Boy on the outside and the battle began.
"We gave the fans something to watch," said Ryan Fogelsonger, who rode Cherokee's Boy on the inside. "How much more exciting does it get, hooking up at the quarter pole and coming home head-and-head? Coming around the three-eighths pole, I saw Stevie on my outside and was kind of shocked because Foufa is normally way back and just getting ready to roll."
Foufa's Warrior crossed the finish line in a sharp 1 minute 50.11 seconds. Owners Howard and Sondra Bender, who dominated Maryland stakes racing the past two years, made a rare visit this year. Going into the race, their private trainer, Murray, had won just four of 68 starts.
"It's good to be back in the winner's circle," Sondra Bender said. "You think it's easy, but it's not. It's hard."
Racing Notes: They don't call Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens "The Giant Killer" for nothing. The man who twice knocked off Secretariat pulled off another shocker as Society Selection upset heavily favored Ashado to win the 124th running of the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga. Ashado, who had won the Kentucky Oaks and was undefeated in two starts at Saratoga, faded to third behind Stellar Jayne as Society Selection won the historic 11/4-mile race in 2:02.70.