04/30/2011 5:42PM

Pimlico: Pocket Patch fires off long layoff in Henry Clark

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Pocket Patch, making his first start since early October, wins his second straight stakes for jockey Jonathan Joyce and trainer Flint Stites in the Henry S. Clark.

Pocket Patch picked up right where he left off last October in Saturday’s $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Pimlico.

Racing for the first time since taking the $100,000 Maryland Million Turf nearly seven months ago, the 6-year-old Pocket Patch ($22.40) led a parade of longshots across the finish line in the one-mile turf race.

Settling comfortably in second just off the pace set by 25-1 longshot Crimson Comic, Pocket Patch responded when jockey Jonathan Joyce asked him to move, took a clear lead about midway on the final turn, and drew clear by 3 1/2 lengths while covering the distance in 1:40.04.

Safety Valve, an 11-1 shot stepping to stakes company after winning his last two starts of 2010, finished second with 12-1 shot Lonely Whistle completing a $2 trifecta that paid $2,001.

Baletti, a Grade 3 winner last season making his first start for new trainer Mike Pino, was caught wide going around both turns and finished fourth as the 7-5 favorite. Ben's Cat, unbeaten in three previous starts on turf - all in stakes - was in contention into the stretch, but faded to fifth as the 2-1 second choice.

It was the fifth win in 21 lifetime starts for Pocket Patch, whose owner and breeder, Charles McGill, said he always suspected the gelding was going to be a good turf runner because his half-brother, Cynics Beware, won the Maryland Million Turf in 2000 and his half-sister, Leebearski, was third in the 2003 Maryland Million Ladies.

“I always thought he’d be a good horse and he hasn’t disappointed me,” McGill said.

Trainer Flint Stites said he was not tempted to run back Pocket Patch quickly after his win at 6-1 in the Oct. 2 Maryland Million Turf.

“He needed some time after that race and by the time he was ready, turf season was over, so we just gave him the winter off,” Stites said. “He has really matured. A couple years ago he would have never been able to come off a layoff and performed like this.”

Stites said he would consult with McGill to determine whether to run Pocket Patch in the Grade 2, $200,000 Dixie Stakes on the Preakness undercard in three weeks.