With an eye-catching move in mid-stretch, 3-year-old Mustanfar defeated older horses for the first time in his career, capturing the $150,000-added Sycamore Breeders' Cup (gr. IIIT) in fine style Saturday on the Keeneland turf course.
Ridden by Jose Santos for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner/breeder Shadwell Stable, Mustanfar, a chestnut son of Unbridled, rolled to a three-length win. The final time for the 1 1/2-mile Sycamore was 2:30 4/5 on a firm course.
"He's been a really nice horse and we've been waiting for this distance on the turf," said Rick Nichols, Shadwell's farm general manager. "He can run on any surface, he just needs the distance."
Unhurried as the field crawled through early fractions of :26, :51 2/5 and 1:16 1/5 behind pacesetting Grey Beard, Santos roused Mustanfar with a couple of taps at the top of the stretch after completing a mile in 1:41 3/5 and Mustanfar responded willingly to win under a firm hand ride.
"He was a little bit tough early but I just waited until the last quarter and he took off," Santos said.
Since McLaughlin switched him full time to the turf, Mustanfar has won or placed second in each of his last four starts, all in graded stakes company. He won for the fourth time in his 13-race career while pushin his earnings over the $350,000 mark.
Deputy Strike, with Mark Guidry aboard, was second by a length and Rochester and Pat Day wound up third. On the Course, who led at the quarter pole before being overtaken by Deputy Strike in the stretch, was fourth.
"When we turned for home and I took the lead and even 'til the three-sixteenths pole I felt pretty strong but the winner just came on late," Guidry said of Deputy Strike.
Rochester rallied mildly for third.
Denon, the 7-5 favorite ridden by Edgar Prado, enjoyed a ground-saving effort in his first start since the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) Dec. 14, but could not match the first three after edging to the front along the inside in mid-stretch. He finished fifth.
Mustanfar, the second choice in the field of nine, paid $7.80, $4.60 and $3.20. Deputy Strike returned $8.80 and $5. Rochester's show was $3.20.