Centaur Farms’ homebred Gottcha Gold took command at the start and never looked back as he gamely hung on for a neck victory over 1-10 favorite Lawyer Ron in the $150,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Monmouth Park on Saturday.
Gottcha Gold, trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. and ridden by Chuck C. Lopez, clipped off fractions of :22 4/5, :45 2/5 and 1:09 1/5 over the fast main track, opening up a five-length advantage after a half-mile. The 4-year-old Coronado's Quest colt continued to enjoy a big lead in upper stretch before winning under vigorous hand urging in a stakes record 1:34 1/5 for one mile.
The winner, who just failed to last when he employed similar front-running tactics in the Frisk Me Now Stakes on May 28, was sent off the 10-1 fourth choice in the field of five, and paid $22.20, $3.20, and $2.10 across the board. Gottcah Gold carried 117 pounds to victory.
Lawyer Ron, a multiple graded stakes winner who carried top weight of 121 pounds, was sent off the overwhelming choice, but had to settle for second when his rally fell short under John Velazquez. He completed the $30.60 exacta and paid the minimum $2.10 and $2.10 while responsible for a minus show pool of $97,634. The favorite attracted a total of $464,509 in show wagers, from the total pool of $484,077.
Indy Wind, who ran down Gottcha Gold in the Frisk Me Now, closed for third, 8 1/2 lengths behind the first two, returning $2.10 to show.
Gottcha Gold shaded the previous Salvator Mile record of 1:34 2/5 set by Peanut Butter in 1991.
“Last time, he got away from Chuckie (jockey Chuck Lopez) a little bit early,” Plesa said, “but today he was able to settle down a little bit more. After a quarter, he was six to seven lengths slower than his last out, and the same at the half-mile pole. He did what he needed to do -- he took over right after the break.
"I wasn’t worried about Lawyer Ron catching him. I could see how well he was running in the stretch. But I was happy to see the wire come up when it did.”
Lopez, who won the Coronado’s Quest Stakes here last year aboard Gotcha Gold, said he was just a good passenger.
“I didn’t have to do anything but hang on,” Lopez said. “As opposed to the last time, when he drew an outside post and I had to hustle to get him to the lead, today he broke from the inside and was able to get out there pretty easily.
“In the stretch, I just kept on riding him. I didn’t see Lawyer Ron coming, and I wasn’t looking. I was just riding my horse all the way to the wire.”
Gottcha Gold earned $90,000 for the Salvator victory, bringing his career total to $307,420. The bay now has a 4-2-0 record in eight starts at Monmouth, and has won six of 21 overall.
Chucker and Take the Bluff trailed