-- Virginia Wright paused for a moment during the winner's circle ceremony after the stakes race at Pimlico on Saturday afternoon and wondered, "Who was Mister Diz anyway?"
Wright and her husband, Frank, longtime prominent breeders and owners from Hampstead, Md., ought to know by now. They won their fourth $50,000 Mister Diz Stakes when their 7-year-old gelding Yankee Wildcat ran down the blazingly fast Procreate in the stretch, finishing the five-furlong turf race for Maryland-bred 3-year-olds and up in 56.87 seconds, just a second off the track record.
Mister Diz, bred and owned by former Pimlico vice president Nathan Cohen, was a Maryland-bred champion four years in a row, from 1968 to 1971. That horse was named after a largely forgotten racetrack character named Frank Rosenfeld, whose nickname was Mister Diz.
Yankee Wildcat won the race last year, as well, but hadn't visited the winner's circle in four starts since. Trainer Tim Tullock needed to have him in top form to defeat the favored Procreate, who set the five-furlong world record on the turf in April at Gulfstream Park.
When the gate opened, Procreate, trained at Penn National by John Zimmerman, tore out and ran a quarter-mile in 21.33 seconds and a half in 44.29, rare times for Pimlico.
With the other six runners left behind, Yankee Wildcat stalked the front-runner on the outside, and with one furlong to go, he powered by and pulled away to win by 11/4 lengths.
"All I had to do is let the speed go," jockey Enrique Jurado said. "I had a lot of confidence in my horse. Tim told me he was ready."
Tullock said he was concerned entering the race about the condition of the Pimlico turf course, which has taken a beating in the brief nine-day mini-meet that ends Friday, the day before racing shifts to Timonium.
"We had a lot of rain yesterday, and [grass] was coming off in chunks in the earlier races," Tullock said.
The Wrights, who also won the Mister Diz with North Carroll in 1992 and Tyaskin in 1998, had only one misgiving after the race. "Unfortunately, he's not Maryland Million eligible," Virginia Wright said of Yankee Wildcat. While the gelding was bred in Maryland, his sire, Forest Wildcat, is based in Kentucky.
Still, Yankee Wildcat carried on a strong family tradition: He is a grandson of the Wright's top filly, Valay Maid, who won more than $600,000 and finished third in the 1990 Breeders' Cup, the race in which the brilliant Go for Wand tragically broke down in the stretch.
"This makes us very happy," Wright said.
Racing Notes: Undefeated but untested Sweet Symphony dramatically swept past leader Spun Sugar off the far turn and galloped to a commanding victory in the 125th running of the Grade I Alabama for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga.
In just her fourth career start -- and first in a stakes race -- Sweet Symphony ran the 11/4-mile race under Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey in 2 minutes 4.45 seconds. The daughter of top sire A.P. Indy belongs to New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and is trained by Bill Mott.