Beer Can Man a gritty winner of the Jim McKay Turf Sprint (Maryland Jockey Club)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
BALTIMORE— Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and Sterling Stables’ Grade 3 winner Beer Can Man, the lone also-eligible that drew into the field following four early scratches, forged a short lead in mid-stretch and held on for a neck victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint presented by Guinness Open Gate Brewery at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 18th running of the McKay, a five-furlong dash for 3-year-olds and up, was the sixth of 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.75 million in purses on a blockbuster 14-race program headlined by the 148th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Southern California-based Beer Can Man ($9) gave jockey Flavien Prat his second win of the day following Never Explain’s record-setting victory in the $200,000 Dinner Party (G3). Prat also won two stakes on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2) day program, the historic $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) with Rattle N Roll and $100,000 Hilltop with Aspray.
Beer Can Man also flirted with a track record, covering the distance in 55.56 seconds over a firm course. The mark of 55.30 was set by Firecrow in his 2021 McKay victory.
That’s Right, winner of the Turf Monster (G3) last fall at Parx, was eager in his first start since late October and was in front after going the first quarter of a mile in a sharp 21.63 seconds pushed by Nothing Better, a front-running winner of three of his last four starts including the 2022 Turf Sprint Championship at Aqueduct.
Nothing Better edged by a stubborn That’s Right in mid-stretch while Beer Can Man was gaining momentum on the far outside. The 5-year-old Can the Man gelding hooked up with Nothing Better for several strides and was able to stick his neck out at the line for his seventh career win.
It was 3 ½ lengths back to 2-1 favorite Coppola in third. Artemus Citylimits, Noble Emotion, That’s Right, Determined Kingdom and Breakthrough completed the order of finish. Uncle Ernie, Smokin’ Jay, Grateful Bred and Fore Harp were scratched.
Beer Can Man was making just his second start since February 2022, having run fifth by two lengths in a Keeneland allowance April 22 in his comeback. He won the one-mile Cecil B. DeMille (G3) in 2020 at Del Mar and was second in the 2021 Turf Monster and 2022 Joe Hernandez (G2) at Santa Anita, beaten a total of 1 ½ lengths.
The Jim McKay Turf Sprint pays homage to the late Hall of Fame broadcaster and Philadelphia native who considered Baltimore his home. McKay first gained notoriety as host of ABC’s ‘Wide World of Sports’ in 1961 and then wide acclaim as voice of the Olympics, winning 13 Emmy Awards and the Eclipse Award of Merit. He was instrumental in conceiving and launching the groundbreaking Maryland Million in 1986 and passed away in 2008 at 86.
$100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Quotes
Billy Koch, Founder and Managing Partner of Little Red Feather Racing (Beer Can Man, 1st): “You know, it’s funny because he broke so well and (Flavien) Prat had him in a perfect position. And, around the turn, he kind of idles and that’s like his thing. Once he re-engaged, I was like, ’Ok, we got ‘em.’ I had a lot of confidence in the horse. I think he needed the last race (fifth in allowance at Keeneland on April 22, which was his first start since Feb 20, 2022). Phil (trainer D’Amato) and his team did an amazing job.
“We have so many partners here and it’s a credit to them for the patience they exuded waiting for this horse to come back. He had a little injury that took him a long time to recover from. To come here on Preakness Day, on a big day, is really special. This is what horse racing is about; it’s why I love the game. I am so proud of the horse; it took a lot to come back from a layoff like that. It is just awesome. My day is made.
Winning Jockey Flavien Prat (Beer Can Man): “He was really sharp down the backside, jumped well out of there, was traveling super. When we got to the turn, he kind of dropped the bridle and I was a bit worried. But as soon as we got into the stretch he really leveled off and kept on running.
“He’s always showed talent. I think last time after a long layoff he was probably a bit rusty. Plus he was a bit fractious in the gate and we had to wait for him to be less fractious. So, it wasn’t the best comeback, but it was a good set up for this race.”