04/14/2013 3:50PM

Pimlico: Spicer Cub's near-miss after two detours a YouTube hit

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
With jockey Xavier Perez hanging on as best he can after losing his irons, Spicer Cub winds up second by a nose despite taking two detours during the race.

A horse who bolted twice while racing on the lead and took a detour in between a parked starting gate and the outside rail at Pimlico has become something of an Internet sensation.

Even non-racing fans were clicking on YouTube to watch the replays of Saturday’s 11th race and the bizarre trip taken by Spicer Cub, a 4-year-old maiden gelding. By mid-afternoon on Sunday, the replay had been watched more than 13,000 times and there were plenty of comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Despite all his antics, which caused jockey Xavier Perez to lose his irons in midstretch, Spicer Cub somehow managed to nearly win the race, missing by a nose to Turbin in the 1 1/16-mile event for $25,000 maiden claimers.

Spicer Cub, the 2-1 third choice in a field of seven, owned a clear lead when he suddenly bolted for the first time midway on the far turn. Perez managed to straighten out his mount at the head of the stretch and Spicer Cub once again claimed the lead, only to bolt again, this time causing Perez to lose his irons. Spicer Cub, trained by Mary Eppler, then darted between the parked starting gate and the outside rail, but rallied strongly to the finish, barely missing what would have been a miraculous comeback victory.

“It was wild,” Perez said. “He didn’t give me any warning, especially the second time and went straight for the gate. My life went before my eyes for a few seconds. I was thinking about bailing but saw there was enough space between the gate and the rail to get through, so I grabbed his mane and hoped for the best. Once we cleared the gate he re-broke again and almost won the race. It was really close. In fact, Forest Boyce [the rider on Turbin] congratulated me after the wire.

“I have watched the replay many times with my fiancé and I still cannot believe what happened. I am grateful to be here,” added Perez, who has been a regular rider in Maryland since September 2011. “The guys in the room were impressed. When I came back to the jocks room it was funny because nothing bad happened but Mary Eppler was apologizing to me, but this is part of the business. I had ridden him three times before and he never did anything like that before. He is a nice, kind horse.” 

Eppler reported Sunday afternoon that Spicer Cub “is fine” with no nicks or cuts from his adventure.

Track announcer Dave Rodman, who has been calling races in Maryland since March 1991, said the wild ride involving “X Man” Perez and Spicer Cub was even more bizarre than the 2005 Preakness in which Afleet Alex went to knees and jockey Jeremy Rose nearly fell off, but the pair recovered to win and the 1999 Preakness Day undercard stakes that featured a man who ran onto the track and tried to punch the top-flight sprinter Artax.

“It was probably the wildest race I have ever called,” said Rodman, who managed to keep his composure and describe to his audience how Spicer Cub got back in contention despite his wacky detour. “It beats the Afleet Alex incident in the 2005 Preakness and tops the guy running on the track. All I could do was keep my eyes on the X-Man and Spicer Cub. I can’t believe he went through that hole between the outer rail and the gate. It was really something else. I really thought he was going to win the race. Xavier did an amazing job. It was certainly a gutsy ride.”