06/18/2005 12:00AM

Jefferson Cup: Rush Bay takes photo


This time, Rush Bay was on the right end of a photo finish. Under a cagey ride from Robby Albarado, Rush Bay held off Big Prairie by a neck to win the $220,400 , making amends for a tough beat in his last start, the Crown Royal American Turf.

Rush Bay, second choice in a field of seven 3-year-olds, returned $5.40 after finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.75 over a firm course. Gun Salute, the 8-5 favorite, finished another neck behind Big Prairie in third.

Winning trainer Tom Amoss said he was elated with the victory by Rush Bay, and not just because it helped to erase the painful memory of the nose loss to Rey de Cafe in the May 6 Crown Royal.

"The great thing is how much upside this horse has," said Amoss. Albarado and Amoss said Rush Bay eased himself up after surging to the lead leaving the eighth pole, and that permitted Big Prairie to make what appeared to be a threatening move in the final yards. Rush Bay, a Cozzene colt bred and owned by the Phoebe Ann Mueller Trust, was racing with blinkers off.

"He eased up with the blinkers, which cost us last time, and then he did it again today," said Amoss. "I would say he has a lot of potential."

Ground Control set the pace to the head of the stretch before being engulfed by his pursuers, with Rush Bay getting the best trip when cruising from sixth place to the front. Big Prairie, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, had a more eventful trip when he had to wait for running room for a critical part of the stretch drive.