Straight No Chaser rockets away in the Maryland Sprint (Maryland Jockey Club)
David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club
BALTIMORE— MyRacehorse’s Straight No Chaser broke running and never looked back, becoming a graded-stakes winner in record time with an eye-catching 7 ½-length triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) presented by Big Ass Fans at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 36th running of the six-furlong Sprint for 3-year-olds and up was the seventh 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.
Straight No Chaser ($5.20) crossed the wire in 1:08.27 over a fast main track, breaking the stakes record of 1:08.74 set by New York Central in 2019. The track record of 1:07.70 was established by Covfefe in her 2019 Miss Preakness (G3) victory.
It was the third win of the day for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who kicked off Saturday’s stakes action with a victory in the $100,000 Sir Barton aboard Arabian Lion. Velazquez previously won the Maryland Sprint in 2013 with Sage Valley and 2009 with Ravalo.
Based in California with trainer Dan Blacker, Straight No Chaser was quickest from the gate and, after being challenged for a few strides midway down the backstretch to his inside by Grade 3 winner Prevalence, pulled away to a clear lead as Grade 3 winner Wondrwherecraigis moved up to challenge in third.
Prevalence was still in range at the top of the stretch until Velazquez shook the reins and Straight No Chaser responded, opening up with ease and sprinting clear. Prevalence stayed up for second, a nose ahead of Nakatomi, who was 1 ½ lengths clear of fourth-place finisher Full Authority.
Grade 3 winner Willy Boi, Wondrwherecraigis, War Tocsin, multiple stakes winner Threes Over Deuces and Hello Hot Rod completed the order of finish. Al Loves Josie was scratched.
A 4-year-old bay son of Speightster, Straight No Chaser entered the Maryland Sprint off a front-running 7 ¼-length optional claiming allowance triumph April 1 at Oaklawn Park, also sprinting six furlongs, after opening 2023 running third as the favorite in the Palos Verdes (G3) Feb. 5 at Santa Anita.
It was the third career graded-stakes win for Blacker, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. In 2021 Blacker won the Frank Kilroe Mile (G1) and Thunder Road (G3) with Hit the Road.
$100,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) Quotes
Winning Trainer Dan Blacker (Straight No Chaser): “He’s always been a very talented horse, superior work horse. When we first got him in the barn, he was always very impressive. So, it’s really a relief to see him carry it into the afternoon.
“I think he probably ran a similar race to what he did last time, but obviously against better company today. I said, ‘If he runs the same race as last time, he’s going to be really tough.’ And thankfully he did. I’m just really thankful to MyRacehorse for the opportunity.
“In the last eight months he’s improved a lot mentally. He’s gotten much more mature, much more straightforward to be around. You can see he’s shipped for two races now and done really well. He’s just getting better, that’s the crazy thing. He’s a 4-year-old now. It just shows that sometimes with these horses you’ve just got to be a little patient. Luckily, we’ve got great owners who were allowing me to be patient and giving him time to mature. He’s really just peaking now.”
Winning Jockey John Velazquez (Straight No Chaser): “The break was awesome. I got told by the trainer, if one goes fast, you have to go a little bit faster. I just let him do what he wants to do. Pretty easy. That’s exactly how it feels.”
Trainer Brendan Walsh (Prevalence, 2nd): “He ran great. We’re delighted with him. He can be a little in and out and sometimes frustrating. We put the blinkers on today, shortened him up a little from what he had been running and it seemed to work. We ran into an absolute freak that won. He is a serious horse. His form has been very, very good up to now and he has an impeccable record so far. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with because he is a young horse. My horse is a fast horse, and he just ran him off his feet.”
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. (Prevalence, 2nd): “He broke good. The plan was to break forward with blinkers today. (Straight No Chaser) was freaky good. He ran away from me. My horse was responding in the stretch, and I just couldn’t make up any ground.”
Trainer Wesley Ward (Nakatomi, 3rd): “He ran great. He’s kind of turned into a deep-closer sprinter. He hooked into what looks like the Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, if they ran it here next week. That horse was unbeatable today. He ran phenomenal. My guy ran a really good, solid race. That’s how you win these big ones by being a longshot, is if him and another one hooked up there early, and the pace goes early, and we come running. That’s always been my plan with him. He’s kind of like a grinder. If you can get this style going you can win these big races if the pace up front heats up. I’m really proud of my horse today. He’s really a hard-trying guy. “
Jockey Tyler Gaffalione (Nakatomi, 3rd): “They sprinted away from us and weren’t really coming back. He ran his race, just too much to do. Hats off to the winner. He was very impressive last time, and he duplicated that performance today.”