Greg's Gold, making his stakes debut for trainer David Hofmans, captured the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) as favored Pico Central faded to finish last at Del Mar Sunday.
With regular rider David Flores guiding the 4-year-old gelding, Greg's Gold found a seam at the rail and hit the front with a furlong to run, stopping the clock in a sizzling 1:08 while inching away to victory under urging. Kentucky shipper Battle Won, who assumed the lead after a half-mile in :43 3/5, finished a game second, 1 1/4 lengths behind Greg's Gold. Closer Taste of Paradise came on for third, two lengths farther back, while Pt's Grey Eagle also finished well to be fourth.
Pico Central, the 5-2 choice who won three grade I races in New York last year and was second in the voting for top American sprinter, broke well from his outside post. But as Areyoutalkintome set a blazing :21 2/5 opening quarter-mile pace, the 6-year-old fell back as the field made its way down the backstretch. He made a brief bid on the turn for jockey Mike Smith, who was aboard for the first time, but soon flattened out in the stretch, and Smith wrapped up early.
It was Pico Central's first start since he was defeated by Saratoga County in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) when fourth March 26, his only start this year.
"I thought Pico Central being off as long as he was might have softened him a little bit," Hofmans said. "And our horse had been training outstandingly for this race."
The California homebred Greg's Gold was coming off a three-length win over first-level allowance foes June 11 at Hollywood Park in a time of 1:08 1/5. With the win, he has hit the board in 11 of his 13 career starts, winning four times. The victory more than doubled the career earnings of the son of Lake George to $350,928 for owner/breeder William R. Boswell.
Greg's Gold stalked the leaders slightly off the rail, passed a rival coming off the turn, and got to the rail in the stretch. He was able to follow the fence all the way down the lane, getting through as the leader Battle Won gave way grudgingly.
Sent off at 8-1, Greg's Gold paid $19, $8.20, and $6. Third choice Battle Won, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, returned $5.60 and $4.40, rounding out a $69.40 exacta. Taste of Paradise, with Martin Pedroza aboard, was $9.80 to show. The trifecta paid $1,708.40.
After Pt's Grey Eagle came Top Commander, Areyoutalkintome, Stormin' Lyon, the 3-1 second choice Storm Wolf, and Pico Central.