05/21/2011 2:42PM

Pimlico: Ventana survives duel, inquiry to take Maryland Sprint Handicap

Barbara D. Livingston
Ventana (5), ridden by Martin Garcia, holds off Immortal Eyes in the Maryland Sprint Handicap as Garcia's whip falls to the ground.

BALTIMORE – Ventana not only survived a fierce challenge from longshot Immortal Eyes to prevail by a neck following a stretch-long duel, but also a stewards’ inquiry and a jockey objection in capturing the Grade 3, $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap on the Preakness undercard Saturday at Pimlico.

Ventana, the favorite in a field of nine older horses, returned $5.20 after finishing six furlongs in 1:09.88 over a fast track.

With Martin Garcia riding, Ventana raced Delong Road into defeat, then was challenged from the outside by Immortal Eyes and jockey Travis Dunkelberger as the field straightened for home. In deep stretch, as the two raced alongside each other while well ahead of the others, Ventana came out slightly, bumping Immortal Eyes, and Garcia dropped his whip. The incident, however, was not enough to warrant a disqualification after the stewards had taken a long look.

Ventana “just barely came out,” said a relieved trainer Bob Baffert, and Garcia “grabbed him right away.”

Ventana is owned by the same connections that won the 2010 Preakness with Lookin At Lucky: Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman. A 5-year-old Kentucky-bred by Toccet, the horse now has won 4 of 19 starts, with his most recent triumph coming more than a year ago in the 2010 Portero Grande at his home track, Santa Anita.

China finished third, another 5 1/4 lengths back, and Nathan’s H Q was fourth.