Learning, an aptly named 3-year-old colt, gave jockey Horacio Karamanos all kinds of trouble Saturday before easing home first in the Humphrey S. Finney Stakes at Pimlico.
The gray homebred runner fought Karamanos when the rider tried to restrain him, and he started to look around in the stretch as if there were no other horses trying to run him down. In the end, innate talent and top-class breeding saw Learning through, and he won the 11/8-mile turf race for Maryland breds by three lengths.
"I don't know how the owner figured out how to name him so well, but he did," trainer Kevin Boniface said of owner-breeder Richard Granville. "He's still learning."
Boniface, like Learning, comes from a strong line. His father, Bill Boniface, trained 1983 Preakness Stakes winner Deputed Testamony. Learning was bred to be a stakes winner -- the first offspring of Northern Sting, who is a sister to major stakes winners Ops Smile, Icy Warning and Testing.
Learning won his first two starts in turf races at Pimlico and Delaware Park, then Boniface tried him in the $500,000 Kent Breeders' Cup on June 25 at Delaware, in which he finished seventh.
"I fed him to the wolves a little bit with that $500,000 stake," Boniface said.
In the Finney, Learning, the heavy favorite in the field of six, went right to the front and set crawling fractions over the deep and choppy turf course. After six furlongs in 1 minute 16.78 seconds, Sherbrooke Rye, who had prompted the pace, made a bid and was repelled. In the stretch, Easy Red tried to get to Learning but couldn't close ground and finished second.
Learning ran 1:56.66. The turf course, despite the heat, retained much of the water from a recent rain. In only the second day of racing, the course already appears chewed up.
"I was concerned with the 1:59 for a mile and an eighth [in a race] yesterday," Boniface said. "But as my dad said, time only means something if you're in jail."
Racing Notes: Pimlico carded four turf races on opening day Friday, and great chunks were flying from the course when the horses went around.
"The thing was in great shape yesterday before the races," said track superintendent Glen Kozak. "With a yielding turf course, you know what happens." . . .
Jockey Mark Rosenthal, who won 828 races in his career, finished third in his final race aboard Devil on the Moon in the ninth race. He is retiring to become a jockey's agent. . . .
Powerscourt, a 5-year-old based in England, survived an objection to win the prestigious 11/4-mile Grade I Arlington Million race at Arlington Park in 2:03.35.