Unusual Suspect, guided by Canadian jockey Chantal Sutherland, overtook the leaders in upper stretch en route to a one-length win in the $73,500 Silveyville Stakes on opening day of the 118-day Golden Gate Fields winter/spring meet Dec. 26.
The victory was the first for Unusual Suspect in 11 starts in 2008.
Later on the program, jockey Russell Baze notched his 400th win of the year when he hustled Portland Storm to a two-length victory in the sixth race. It's the 12th time that North America's all-time winningest jockey has registered 400 victories in a year. No other jockey has won 400 races in a year more than three times.
Just four contested the 1 1/16-mile Silveyville on Golden Gate's Tapeta racing surface after a couple of scratches. Unusual Suspect was timed in a slow 1:47.36. Cover Magic, ridden by Adan Landeros, took second by one length over the 11-10 favorite Bamaha Breeze, with Chad Schvaneveldt aboard.
Bamaha Breeze, a winner of five of six starts coming into the Silveyville, took the lead immediately and dueled with Cover Magic through slow fractions of :26.17, :52.37, and 1:16.98. Unusual Suspect, positioned on the outside of the leaders while under a snug hold from Sutherland, launched his bid at the quarter pole to get the lead in the lane. The 4-year-old son of Unusual Heat finished willingly to maintain his advantage while under a drive in the final furlong.
"I think we've had him too far back lately," said Sutherland after riding her first race at Golden Gate Fields. "Today they were crawling, crawling, and I think he liked being up closer. He ran great."
Barry Abrams, who co-owns the dark bay colt with David and Dyan Abrams, is the winning trainer. Unusual Suspect, bred in California by David Abrams, improved his career record to 7-4-3 in 32 starts and increased his earnings to $562,592 with the $45,000 top prize. Unusual Suspect is out of Penpont, by Crested Wave.
Sent off as the third choice, Unusual Suspect carried 123 pounds to victory and paid $7 and $3. Cover Magic returned $2.80. the 4-2 exacta was worth $15.80. Bamaha Breeze finished two lengths in front of the trailer, Swift Demand. Pass the Heat, the morning line favorite, and My Summer Slew scratched.
Trainer William J. Morey Jr. reported that Pass the Heat was scratched due to an abscess in a foot.
"He came up with it after he worked (Dec. 20)," said Morey. "It finally popped this morning."