05/21/2005 12:00AM

Dutrow claim recoups cost in Maryland BC

Willy o' the Valley (No. 8) takes to the lead in the stretch of the Maryland Breeders' Cup.

BALTIMORE - Occasionally a newly claimed horse pays for itself in just one race. But even Richard Dutrow Jr., one of the most successful trainers in North America for the last two years, was unfamiliar with anyone "getting out" right away on a $100,000 claim.

"I know I hadn't done it," he said.

Until Saturday, that is. Willy o' the Valley, a 4-year-old gelding whom Dutrow claimed for $100,000 on April 13, prevailed at first asking for his new connections when he surged to victory in the $189,000 on the Preakness undercard at Pimlico.

"We didn't even think about this race until a couple of weeks ago," said Dutrow, a Maryland native whose late father, Dick Dutrow, was a local training legend. "But it looked like the race wasn't coming up all that tough, and the horse was training so good, we figured, let's take a shot."

Willy o' the Valley, owned by IEAH Stables, got a great stalking trip under Edgar Prado. As three horses, including favored Gators N Bears, converged on the lead with a quarter-mile left in the six-furlong Maryland BC, Willy o' the Valley angled to the middle of the track, then passed that front-running pack and finished a length ahead of With Distinction.

Take Achance on Me was another neck back in third, while Gators N Bears finished another 3 1/4 lengths back in fourth in a field of eight older horses.

"I was able to get behind the speed and save some ground," said Prado. "When I swung outside, he really kicked it in."

Willy o' the Valley, a Kentucky-bred by Will's Way, returned $9.80 as third choice after finishing in 1:09.95 over a fast track.

Willy o' the Valley won that $100,000 claiming race at Keeneland by nearly three lengths. The Saturday victory came after a 38-day layoff and was worth $120,000 to IEAH Stables.

Dutrow, accompanied by his 10-year-old daughter Molly, said the victory was especially gratifying because it came on Preakness Day in his home state. "It's cool," he said. "We're happy."