Chief Havoc, enjoying a big tactical advantage over his three rivals, went gate to wire as the odds-on choice to capture the $147,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) July 4 at Betfair Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano for trainer Peter Miller and owner Paul Makin, Chief Havoc registered his first stakes win as he scored by 2 1/2 lengths over Tiz a Minister while timed in 1:50.17 for the 1 1/8-mile trip over the Cushion Track. Dice Flavor finished third in the Independence Day feature for 3-year-olds, with Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Java's War finishing last as the second choice.
Chief Havoc, coming off a sharp allowance score May 30, was the only front-runner in a field of deep closers and carried 114 pounds. He was making his first stakes appearance since running sixth in the Foxwoods Champagne (gr. I) at Belmont Park in his United States debut for Great Britain-based trainer Jeremy Noseda last October. He was transferred to Miller for the 2013 season after beginning his career with two starts in England.
Obviously a colt of quality, Miller said he would discuss the next move for Chief Havoc with Makin. He said he wants to "see if we want to look at some 3-year-old stakes or possibly the Pacific Classic (gr. I, Aug. 25 at Del Mar).''
Bred in Kentucky by Emory A. Hamilton, Chief Havoc was a $325,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase by Noseda, agent, from consignor Middlebrook Farm, agent. The chestnut colt is by Giant's Causeway out of the graded stakes-winning A.P Indy mare La Reina, a lifetime earner of $350,062. Chief Havoc is the the third winner from his dam's three foals to race, and her first black-type winner.
Anxious in the starting gate, Chief Havoc jumped away to an early advantage, beat back a challenge on the opening turn to his inside from Dice Flavor, and then took control. But instead of opening up by several lengths as expected, Bejarano was able to slow the pace, clipping off quarter mile fractions of :24.24, :48.65, and 1:13.19. Dice Flavor, ridden by Mike Smith, kept the front-runner within about one length, while 122-pound highweight Java's War and Tiz a Minister were also much closer than usual.
"I sent him away from the gate but before the first turn I felt a little pressure from the inside," Bejarano said. "I wasn't expecting that. When (Dice Flavor) tried to come between me and the rail, I was a little surprised. I had to ask him a little to make sure I was on the lead and back on the rail."
Leaving the far turn, Java's War made his bid under Julien Leparoux, squeezing between Dice Flavor and Chief Havoc, but the leader held fast to the lead. Chief Havoc opened up by two lengths in the drive and held safe the late-arriving Tiz a Minister, ridden by Corey Nakatani, through the final furlong under urging from Bejarano.
"By the six-furlong pole, I knew I had a lot of horse and could do whatever I want," Bejarano said. "Little by little I let him go and made sure to get him into position. In the stretch, I had a lot of horse left."
Miller confessed to some anxious moments.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it would be," he said after claiming his first victory in the Swaps. "I thought we'd be five in front. Next thing I know (Dice Flavor) is right inside us.(Bejarano) let him out a notch and then they all took runs at him. I would have done the same thing.
"He responded and finished up very strongly. I'm pleased with his effort."
Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) winner Tiz a Minister finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Dice Flavor, the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) victor for trainer Paddy Gallagher. Java's War, who backed up in the lane after being in tight quarters and drifting, was 1 1/4 lengths farther back.
Chief Havoc won for the third time in eight starts while doubling his earnings to $180,117. He broke his maiden on dirt at Santa Anita Park going 1 1/16 miles April 4 by 7 1/4 lengths.
The winner paid $2.80 and $2.10, topping a $9.60 exacta with Tiz a Minister, who returned $3.20 to place. There was no show wagering.