Lazy F Ranch's lightly raced Chatain surged past heavily favored Sweetnorthernsaint in deep stretch to grab the lead and hold off an extremely game Sir Greeley to win the $100,000 Hal's Hope Handicap (gr. III) by a head in track record time at Gulfstream Park Saturday.
Sweetnorthernsaint, the 6-5 choice who ran second in the 2006 Preakness (gr. I), finished third in the one-mile event on the dirt, one length behind the first two.
The stalker Chatain, a 4-year-old colt by Forest Wildcat-Roujoleur, by Red Ransom, was making his stakes debut for trainer Angel Penna Jr., and just his fourth lifetime start.
Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, Chatain saved ground while racing in fourth behind a fast pace set by 50-1 shot Rexson's Rose. He rallied up on the outside of Sweetnorthernsaint, who assumed the lead mid-stretch under Ramon Dominguez, then won a desperation dash for the wire against Sir Greeley, the 5-2 second choice who fought impressively for John Velazquez but lost the head bob.
The final time, 1:33.87 broke the old mark of 1:34.05 set by Showing Up last year.
Chatain toted 115 pounds, three less than Sir Greeley and five fewer than the 120-pound co-top weights, Sweetnorthernsaint and Strong Contender, last year's Super Derby (gr. II) hero who was not a factor Saturday.
A $250,000 Fasig-Tipton sale at Saratoga in August 2004, the Kentucky-bred Chatain last raced at Meadowlands Oct. 19, winning a one-mile, 70-yard first-level allowance race by 10 lengths.
The bay Stonerside Stable-bred colt has three wins and one second and earnings of $107,730.
"After his first two races down here last winter, he had a lot of things go wrong – quarter cracks or running a temperature – it was one thing after another," said Penna, admitting he was surprised by the win.
"Hopefully, we’re past that now. In fact, he had a quarter crack in November before we got down here. I wanted to start him back in a one-turn race rather than two, and if there had been a ‘two other than’ allowance at a mile, I might have run there instead of this spot."
Penna, who purchased Chatain at Saratoga for Mrs. Martha Gerry, said he's pointing to the Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 3 at Gulfstream.
"Now we’ll have to see if he can bounce back well enough from this one to take that step up,” he said.
Rexson's Rose clipped off fractions of :23 2/5, :45 4/5 and 1:08 4/5 before tiring. Sweetnorthernsaint, who angled into second place before the race was half over, looked good in his first start since Nov. 11, but lacked a response when challenged by the first two finishers.
“I would have loved to have won it, but it was a quickly run race," said Michel Trombetta, trainer of Sweetnorthernsaint. "We had a big chance at the top of the stretch but we’re on the comeback trail here, and I’m all right with this."
He said the Florida-bred would be going to Sunshine Millions Classic Jan. 27.
The winner paid $17.80, $7.40, and $4. Sir Greeley returned $4.80 and $2.80. Sweetnorthernsaint was $2.40 to show.
Rehoboth finished fourth, followed by Strong Contender, Istan, Rexson's Rose, Edenwold, Carrots Only, and Indy Wind.
Yes Yes Yes, Ecclesiastic, and Big Lover scratched.