Aragorn tuned up for the NetJets' Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) in one month with a smart win as the overwhelming favorite in Saturday's $249,000 Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. II) on the turf at Santa Anita.
Corey Nakatani drove the Neil Drysdale-trained Aragorn to his fourth successive victory and over the $1 million mark in career earnings for owner and breeder Ballygallon Stud of Ireland. After assuming control on the far turn, Aragorn turned in an impressive effort under a vigorous hand ride, completing the distance in 1:32 1/5 - one second off the track record.
"It was a workmanlike performance," Drysdale said. "It was a very nice prep (for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs Nov. 4). We'll determine (later) when to ship him. We'll just try and get through this race first."
Aragorn tracked a fast pace set by Wild Buddy (:22 2/5, :45 4/5) on his own with Buckland Manor flanking on the outside and Courtnall racing at the rail. Nakatani tucked Aragorn in fourth down the backside just off the rail but had the leader well in his sight as they completed the run down the backstretch. Nakatani gave Aragorn a little nudge, and he smoothly collared the leaders on the outside at the head of the turn. The Irish-bred chestnut won under a vigorous hand ride after six furlongs in 1:09 1/5, opening up by more than two lengths in the lane and finishing in hand one length in front of Courtnall and jockey Patrick Valenzuela.
"He's just a tremendous animal," Nakatani said. "He went fast and was just under a hand ride today. You don't want to squeeze the lemon dry too soon. We were trying to get an easy win under his belt and make sure he was getting enough out of it at the same time. I think this was just about what he needed."
"It was an ideal trip," Drysdale agreed. "(Nakatani) never hit him or anything. It was an easy race for him. Corey could have waited a little longer, but I guess he had the horse. The horse did everything well. Corey had no instructions not to use the whip. That was his choice."
It was a half-length back to Lord Admiral and Alex Solis in the field of seven, with Buckland Manor a close fourth in his first start since March 31.
Since being out-finished by a length by the sidelined Charmo in the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) at Golden Gate Fields, Aragorn has been untouchable. The 4-year-old Giant's Causeway
colt previously reeled off convincing wins in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park May 29, Del Mar's 1 1/8-mile Eddie Read Handicap (gr. IT) July 16, and the one-mile Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) Aug. 26. He's won four of six in 2006 with two seconds. The victory was his sixth in 13 lifetime starts and boosted his earnings to $1,095,325.
Belinda Elizabeth Strudwick of Dublin, Ire., owns Ballygallon Stud.
Aragorn paid $2.40, $2.20, and $2.10. Courtnall returned $4.60 and $2.10. The Irish invader Lord Admiral was $2.10 to show in his first North American start.
"He ran huge, considering he was on the inside and Corey had the perfect trip," said trainer Craig Dollase, who saddled Courtnall.
Wild Buddy finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Buckland Manor. Salty Humor and That's an Outrage trailed. Apalachee Tiger scratched.