12/26/2011 6:23PM

Fair Grounds: Al Muhtasib wires Diliberto Memorial Handicap

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Al Muhtasib scores a gate-to-wire victory in the Diliberto Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds.

Al Muhtasib fell behind and couldn’t catch up earlier this month in the Claiming Crown Jewel, finishing a well-beaten third, but Monday at Fair Grounds in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap it was Al Muhtasib who sent his rivals on a futile chase. Leading throughout a race rained off turf and contested over a sloppy main track, Al Muhtasib posted a comfortable victory under Rosie Napravnik, beating runner-up Strike Impact by more than a length in this $75,000 stakes race.

Al Muhtasib had missed the top three in the only grass race of his career, and when turf racing was abandoned Monday it surely boosted his chances. So did the race setup. Making a clear lead into the first turn, Al Muhtasib set sensible splits of 24.42 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.48 for the first half, while Strike Impact stalked on the outside. Around the far turn and past the three-furlong marker, co-favored Worldly tried to launch a wide bid, but his move quickly subsided and the race came down to the front-runners, with Al Muhtasib comfortably holding back resolute Strike Impact while clearly best. Pedrolino, trapped down at the fence the whole trip, finished third.

A 4-year-old Distorted Humor colt, Al Muhtasib was claimed two races ago for $35,000 by owner William Butler and trainer Mike Maker. Monday’s victory was his sixth from 15 starts. He paid $9.20 to win and was timed in 1:43.63 for 1 1/16 miles.