Three Diamond Farm's Private Tale hopped at the start and was last all the way to the far turn, but from there he was relentless in pursuit, weaving through traffic to win Monday's $125,000 Native Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park.
Mike Trombetta trains Private Tale, a 5-year-old son of Tale of the Cat, who completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1minute, 45.85 seconds. Front-runner Javerre held on to take second, while Adirondack King loomed large in the stretch but had to settle for third.
"I just thought we got a really good trip," said Sheldon Russell, who was aboard Private Tale for the first time. "He sort of leaped coming of the gate, and that's probably why I was so far back. They must have been going really fast because he wasn't fooling with me. He relaxed nicely and at the half-mile pole, he's just a grinder. I was just lucky we got up in time."
Private Tale ended 2012 with fourth-place finishes in Belmont's Bold Ruler Handicap and Gulfstream's Claiming Crown Jewel. He returned north in late December and started this year with a third-place finish in an optional claimer at Aqueduct.
"He had been getting close without getting it done," Trombetta said. "I really liked his consistency. He always gives it a good effort. He showed up today. We got away bad but they were in a hurry and we were the benefactor. On his best day he's on the board here today. I didn't know if we could get the win, but he is in a good place now."
The winner, who improved to 6-for-14 for earnings of $232,200, paid $16.
Sagamore Racing, home of Native Dancer, sponsored Monday's feature, and every runner in the field could trace his linage to the great stallion. Sagamore was represented by Tiger Walk, who finished fifth.
Eighttofasttocatch, a six-time stakes winner at Laurel Park, finished seventh.
Broad Rule takes Fire Plug
Broad Rule stalked the pace, was under a hard drive to reach the front and held on to win the $105,000 Fire Plug Stakes for older horses at Laurel.
Forrest Boyce (Garrison Forest) guided the Richard Small trainee to a neck victory in 1:11.60 for the six-furlong distance. Harbor Kid finished a gallant second with long-shot front-runner Flattering Andy third. Three of the four betting favorites (Immortal Eyes, Sportswriter and Wolfcamp) finished off the board. The winner paid $35.20 and topped a $173.60 exacta and $1,624 trifecta.
"It all fell into place today," Boyce said. "We were spotted right up there. I was going, 'Come on, wire,' at the 1/16 pole. He dug in and did good."
The son of Dixie Union was winless in 10 starts a year ago.
"It seems every time I get him in, the race is a little too strong," Small said. "Fourth or fifth, he always runs a real good race. Everything fell into place today. One of the favorites [Sportswriter] didn't get off too good — that probably didn't hurt any. Everything sort of went out the window when the gate opened."
Small indicated Broad Rule could run next in the Grade III $250,000 General George Handicap, a seven-furlong sprint at Laurel on Monday, Feb. 18.
"The horse is a handful to ship, so we would like to find something for him here, and I don't think seven furlongs is beyond him," Small said. "He has been remarkably consistent and he has some ability."
Broad Rule improved to 5-for-26 lifetime with earnings of $238,215.
Ortiz, Russell tied atop jockey standings
Apprentice Yomar Ortiz rode the winners of the first three races Monday afternoon to move into a tie atop the winter rankings with Russell. Both have 15 victories after 12 days of live racing.
The 21-year old Ortiz was victorious aboard Win Picture ($3.20-first), Sweet Yulianna ($3.60-second) and Bigleagueprospect ($5.60-third). Ortiz finished seventh in the 2012 fall standings.