Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
Patience is a virtue, and more often than not in horse racing, it is a requirement. Case in point, the winner of today’s 250,000 General George Handicap at Laurel Park, Bandbox.
Once upon a time, the now six-year-old son of Tapit was one of my favorites. He disappointed when a distant fourth to To Honor And Serve and Mucho Macho Man in the Remsen Stakes, but when he came back to win Laurel’s Private Terms the following spring, I declared him my Preakness dark horse. For a variety of reasons, things never seemed to work out for the Hillwood Stable LLC runner. I’ll let his trainer Rodney Jenkins tell the tale of the past three years…
“This horse has had problems all of his life,” said Jenkins. “He has run up on other horses and almost always had troubled trips and physical problems, like chipping his sesamoid and having suspensory problems but the horse came into the race beautifully.”
Beautifully indeed. Patience was finally rewarded with this very talented horse today. Behind a wall of horses on the far turn, you could just see that Xavier Perez had a ton of horse in the pretty grey. He circled the field widest of all and cruised right on by to an easy four-length victory over Tenango at odds of 13-1.
Finally a graded stakes win, and Bandbox did it in style. His first victory since that Private Terms win nearly three years ago came in a quarter-million dollar race that was all but decided at the eighth pole of the seven furlong race.
“Mr. Jenkins told me this race could set up really well for us today and it turned out just like that. He broke really well and I just kept him comfortable and kept him behind everyone as long as I could. I had so much horse underneath of me,” said Perez. “When we got near the top of the stretch I swung him to the outside and he just dragged me to the front.”
For Bandbox, the win was his fifth in 14 lifetime starts, including four stakes. The New York-bred was off 17 months after suffering a fractured sesamoid, and had only one start before today’s traditional holiday affair, finishing third in an optional claimer, less than three weeks ago.
“I have always dreamed of winning this race and today our dream came true,” said his happy trainer. “We don’t really have a plan for him after this race because our goal was to get the job done today.”
Once again I am thinking big for the impressive winner. Let’s see, three years ago I tabbed him as my Preakness dark horse. It was a race he never got a chance to run in. I might as well shoot for the moon and call him by Met Mile dark horse.
It might be a full three years later, but the talent is still there. Kudos to the masterful job done by Rodney Jenkins. Maybe now Bandbox can finally fulfill his racing destiny. After all, patience is a virtue.