Scratches took the field for the $148,500 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (gr. III) from eight to five, but they didn't derail a thrilling race down the lane between victorious odds-on favorite Last Gunfighter and San Pablo . (VIDEO)
Last Gunfighter, a 4-year-old son of First Samurai and a homebred racing for John D. Gunther, picked up his third graded stakes for the year and his seventh victory in eight starts since Oct. 12. The dark bay or brown colt is conditioned by hotter-than-hot trainer Chad Brown, who won two grade I stakes Aug. 17 in the Arlington Million and the Sword Dancer Stakes.
San Pablo, a 5-year-old by Jump Start
who races for Burning Sands Stable and was the 8-5 second choice, mixed it up early in the 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds and up at Monmouth Park
. He was only a neck behind Raging Daoust
down much of the backstretch with Margano
right at his shoulder. Raging Daoust took the field through the first half in :49.47 and a mile in 1:13.74.
Midway through the second turn, Last Gunfighter and Joe Bravo went wide and by the top of the stretch had hooked up with San Pablo, who was under Chris DeCarlo. With an eighth of a mile to go, San Pablo on the rail had a neck on Last Gunfighter. At the sixteenth pole, they were dead-even with Last Gunfighter digging in.
"They're head- to-head. They're nose-to-nose," said Monmouth Park track announcer Larry Collmus. "Neither will give in!"
But Last Gunfighter got a head on San Pablo at the wire, stopping the timer in 1:52.03. Jaguar Paw
was 5 1/2 lengths back in third.
"I was told in the paddock that he's a grinder, which played a big part in how I rode him," said Bravo, who was getting his first ride on Last Gunfighter. "With that information I knew I wasn't going to get that one quick punch, so I wound up moving at the three-eighths pole. He has a big, powerful stride, and he just kept coming and coming all the way to the wire."
Last Gunfighter paid $3.60, $2.20, and $2.10. San Pablo paid $2.80 and $2.40, while Jaguar Paw paid $2.80. With the heavyweights finishing 1-2, the $2 exacta paid $7.80, and the $2 trifecta paid $13.