Minnesota-bred Wally's Choice found his best stride in the stretch and drove past the leaders in the final sixteenth of a mile to win the $167,250 Oklahoma Derby (gr. III) at muddy Remington Park Sunday.
Making his graded stakes debut with Luis Quinonez aboard for trainer Michael Biehler, the 3-year-old Quick Cat gelding won by a length at odds of 33-1. Another longshot, 8-1 Golden Glen, ridden by Brian Hernandez, Jr., was 1 1/2 lengths clear of the favored Cryptograph, who finished third with Don Pettinger aboard.
The final time was 1:50 1/5 for the 1 1/8-mile race. Wally's Choice won for the second time in three starts on an off-track.
Wally's Choice was content to lag in last as Gamblin committed to the early pace with fractions of :22 2 and :45 4/5. Gamblin gave way to one of the favorites, Quintons Gold Rush, who led through six furlongs in 1:10 4/5. Neither pacesetter was around in the stretch, though, as Cryptograph, far back early, made his bid on the outside in upper stretch.
Cryptograph, the 8-5 choice in the field of 11, forged to the lead after completing the mile in 1:37 2/5 but wearied late as Golden Glen edged up along the inside to briefly reach the front. Wally's Choice, who ranged into contention entering the final turn but had to alter course and lost ground, closed with authority while wide with Quinonez to pull away at the end.
Wally's Choice was coming off a 3 1/4-length victory in the $25,000 Woodlands Derby, just his third start against open company in 12-race career. The winner of the restricted Minnesota Derby at Canterbury Park July 31 won for the seventh time. The victory, worth $100,350, pushed his career earnings to $228,090.
Curtis A. Sampson bred the winner and is part owner with Joyce and Wally McNeil. Wally's Choice's dam is L'Etoile Jolie (Commemorate).
Wally's Choice paid $69.80, $28.40 and $9.40. Golden Glen returned $9.20 and $4.60 and was part of a $604 exacta.. Cryptograph's show was $3.20.
Slew Slayer finished fourth, followed by Foreign Justice, Britt's Jules, Roarofvictory, Quintons Gold Rush, Gamblin, Commander Buck and Mr. Jester.