Returning to the races after a six-month absence, the Flint Stites trainee broke alertly in the one mile test which was contested over the firm turf. With Jonathan Joyce at the controls, the Partner’s Hero offspring tracked pacesetter Crimson Comic down the backstretch, forged to the lead heading into the turn and galloped home safely from there.
The last time Pocket Patch saw action was in the Maryland Million Turf under Joyce, where he was an impressive winner at odds of 6-1.
“He responded well after the break,” said Stites. “He ran just a huge race in the Maryland Million and needed time. By the time it was ready to come back, the turf was over so we went ahead and gave him the winter off. He has really matured. A couple years ago he would have never been able to come off a layoff and performed like this.”
Stites and Joyce have combined for three wins this week, also reaching the winners circle in Thursday’s opener (Unwavering Hope, $6.60) and Friday’s fifth race (Calmafterthestorm, $40.20).
Stites said he would consult with McGill to determine whether to run Pocket Patch in the $200,000 Dixie Stakes (Grade 2) on the Preakness undercard in three weeks. Today’s score upped the six-year-old gelding’s record to five victories and five second place finishes in 21 starts with earnings of $237,860.
The upset, and another in the seventh race by 30-1 shot Simple Songs, helped trigger a $26,295.88 carryover in the .50 cent Pimlico Pick 5. At the beginning of the spring meet, Pimlico officials scrapped the Pick 6 in favor of a Pick 5 (races 5-9), with a reduced takeout of 18%.
RUSSELL RACKING UP VICTORIES IN FINALE
For the fifth time in the last six live racing days, jockey Sheldon Russell has been aboard the winner of the final race on the Pimlico card. This afternoon, the 23-year-old guided Beer Stien ($4.80) to a score on the turf.
During the streak, Pimlico’s leading rider has also reached the wire first with Hard Rockin (April 21, $11.40), Gold Tempest (April 22, $7.60), Press Club (April 23, $9.80) and Minnamara (April 29, $6.40).
Russell is not scheduled to ride in Sunday’s finale.