The only time Cherokee's Boy failed to pick up a check for his owners was in the 2003 Preakness Stakes, and this year, his fourth on the track, has been the horse's best yet.
On just seven days rest and stretching out from seven furlongs at Charles Town to 11/8 miles at Laurel Park, Cherokee's Boy ran easily behind horses for a half-mile before cruising out to the lead on the far turn and clobbering a small field yesterday in the $75,000 Jennings Handicap by 61/4 lengths.
The victory, his seventh in 12 starts this year, pushed Cherokee Boy's lifetime earnings to $969,886, in 40 career starts, and his owners vow to bring him back next year after a winter vacation in Florida to try and join the 15 other Maryland breds in the millionaires club.
"Sure we'd love to reach the million-dollar mark now, but he's earned the break," co-owner Dave Picarello said. "We are such small owners and to have a horse like this is a dream come true. Maybe he isn't going against the top-level horses each race but pretty close and he is always right there."
Trainer Gary Capuano has found perfect spots for Cherokee's Boy all year long, stealing the Grade III Salvatore Mile at Monmouth with a front-running victory in July and taking four other stakes races, including the Jennings. Capuano is serving a 30-day suspension for a drug violation in one of his horses at Charles Town, but his father, Phillip, had little trouble saddling the horse and turning him loose.
Gold Casing, who won the Northern Dancer Stakes for 3-year-olds on Nov. 12, dueled with Timetoshuffleoff through the first half-mile in 46.91 seconds. Cherokee's Boy, coming off a gate-to-wire victory in an allowance at Charles Town, was held off the pace by jockey Travis Dunkelberger. Before the horses even reached the far turn, Cherokee's Boy had reached the front and began to run away. He finished the race in a moderate time of 1 minute 52.49 seconds, but won with complete authority.
"I tried to take him back a little but and he doesn't want to settle," Dunkelberger said. "He's just an iron horse. To have that much horse is amazing."
Racing Notes: The two turf races on the card were run on the dirt, leading to 16 scratches. It's rare for tracks this far north to race on the grass into December, but Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto said Laurel Park will try to run turf races through next Saturday.
"Now we're at the mercy of the weather," said Raffetto, who has seen Laurel Park turn its business around since opening the new grass course this year. . . .
The Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association failed to meet a Dec. 1 deadline imposed by the state racing commission to come to terms on a deal for racing dates, stabling and other issues for 2006. The sides, however, continue negotiations and new commission chairman John McDaniel remains optimistic about a deal.
"I'm mildly optimistic," McDaniel said. "I think the commission has the ability to step in under a regulatory act that created the commission to do whatever we think as a body is in the best interest of racing in the state."
The commission meets next Dec. 13 at Laurel Park . . .
Jockey Ramon Dominguez rode the 2,500 winner of his career yesterday, guiding the Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old colt Saint Augustus to victory in the $100,000 What A Pleasure Stakes at Calder Race Course.