Firecrow blazes to $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint Win

May 15, 2021

5-Year-Old Gelding Sets New 5F Turf Record in 55.30 Seconds

BALTIMORE, Md. – Robert LaPenta and Harlow Stables’ Firecrow put his blazing speed on display Saturday at Pimlico Race Course, establishing a new course record in earning his first career stakes victory with a 9-1 upset in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint.

The 16th running of the McKay, a five-furlong dash for 3-year-olds and up, was the sixth of 10 stakes, six graded, worth $2.25 million in purses on a spectacular 14-race program headlined by the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Trained by Ron Moquett and ridden by Joel Rosario, Firecrow ($21.60) was making his 14th career start but just his third on the turf and first since November 2019. He had raced at Pimlico before, breaking his maiden in a six-furlong dirt sprint on the undercard of the 144th Preakness.

The Critical Way, the 8-5 favorite in a field of 13 coming off a third-place finish in the 5 ½-furlong Shakertown (G3) April 3 at Keeneland, rocketed from the gate and went straight to the lead but was quickly joined up front by Firecrow on his outside as they raced through fractions of 21.92 and 43.95 seconds. Under a hand ride from Rosario, Firecrow drew even in mid-stretch and got up in the final strides to win by neck.

Completed Pass, the 2019 Jim McKay winner who broke a step slow, rallied late for third, 1 ¼ lengths behind The Critical Way. Boldor was another 1 ¼ lengths back in fourth, while defending champion Hollis – who beat Completed Pass by a neck in 2020 – finished seventh.

The winning time of 55.30 seconds over a firm turf course broke the previous mark of 55.66 seconds let by 6-year-old Ageless on May 15, 2015 winning the 2016 The Very One. Later that day, American Pharoah would win the Preakness on his way to becoming the first Triple Crown champion since 1978.

Firecrow, a gelded 5-year-old son of Maclean’s Music, had only faced stakes company twice before, both this year on dirt. He was fifth by three lengths in the five-furlong Sam’s Town Jan. 4 at Delta Downs and fourth after setting the pace in the six-furlong Hot Springs March 13 at Oaklawn Park.

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

Winning Trainer Ron Moquett (Firecrow): “We were just waiting. We thought he was very good on the turf. But they don’t have any lawn at Oaklawn, and we weren’t shipping all the way to Fair Grounds from there when the purses are so much better at Oaklawn. And he’s capable on the dirt. We figured we’d get back around to it, and today was the day. It showed he belonged.”

“I knew we would be near the front end early. I was leaning heavily on Joel [Rosario] to do the rest, and I thought he did a great job.”

“Well, he’s a stakes-winner on turf now, so I guess [he’s better on] turf.”

“We’re tickled to death. We want to win these kinds of races on these kinds of days. It helps my owners. It helps my career. It helps the barn. We want to win big races on big days, and races that matter. Win percentage doesn’t mean anything if you can’t win the big ones.”

Winning Jockey Joel Rosario (Firecrow): “Ron [Moquett] told me he knows he’s fast, but we would have to see. He broke well out of the gate, I could’ve gone to the lead but with the other horse inside with a lot of speed too, I just decided to chill out for a little bit there and hopefully have something for the end and he did. It was very good.”

“[Post No. 11] did [concern me], but actually he broke so fast I was able to take a good position and it worked out.”

Trainer Jose Delgado (The Critical Way; 2nd): “We broke through the gate before the start. It probably cost us the race. But he ran his race. In a 13-horse field it takes a little time to load everyone in the gate. I think that cost us the race.”

Jockey Luis Saez (The Critical Way; 2nd): “I had a good trip. He broke running and he just got beat. He’s a good horse. I thought he was going to get there. I saw the other horse. He was in hand at the top of the stretch. We tried to get the jump on him, but in the end, we could not hold on. It’s tough. He gave me everything. He was trying hard. It happens. It’s the game.”

Maryland Jockey Club Press Release

Photo: Firecrow (Maryland Jockey Club)

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