Gussie Mae, a 6-year-old gelding who has made a career out of losing, avoided a record 86th consecutive loss Wednesday with a stunning 2 1/2-length victory.
The dark bay thoroughbred, who was abandoned by his sixth owner and bought as a pet by his current one, led wire to wire in a seven-furlong sprint at Atlantic City Race Course. He paid $20 to win in the claiming race for maidens.
"This is a relief," said owner Kandace Affa, who had said she didn't care if he ever won.
In 85 starts, Gussie Mae had finished second once and third five times for earnings of $9,082. But as the losing streak grew, so did the legend: He has become something of a cult favorite among regulars at Garden State Park, his favorite place to lose.
But he seemed determined to avoid the futility mark Wednesday despite odds of 9-to-1. He led by 1 1/2 lengths after three-eighths of a mile and by three lengths at the top of the homestretch.
He finished in 1:24 3/5, ahead of Such A Prospect.
"It's been a long time coming, but he did it," said trainer Robert Marchiano. "Seven-eighths of a mile, that's the difference. He's just been missing at 6 1/2 and 6. We knew that at seven-eighths of a mile, he'd be there."
Last month, Gussie Mae equaled the futility record for thoroughbreds with his 85th race without a win, tying Really A Tenor, a gray filly who lost 85 straight in a 102-race career that included one win, 11 seconds and 13 thirds. She was retired in 1991.
There have been worse horses.
Treboh Joe, a pacer at Pocono Downs, raced 247 times and won only once before he was retired last year.