Perfect Moon, a $4,700 yearling purchase, won his second consecutive graded stakes Sunday at Del Mar, capturing the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) for 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 length with a powerful stretch drive.
Trainer Mel Stute, who turned 76 Aug. 8, has made a career out of getting the most with cheaply-bred horses such as Snow Chief. He picked out Perfect Moon for his wife, Annabelle Stute and the Hat Ranch at Timonium, Md. in October.
The Maryland-bred bay gelding by Malibu Moon won the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) July 19 by 2 1/2 lengths with a stretch move similar to the one he displayed Sunday.
Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Perfect Moon raced a stalking third while within easy striking distance of front-running Capitano, ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., and Military Mandate, with Alex Solis astride. After solid fractions of :22 and :44 4/5, Valenzuela asked Perfect Moon to go after the leaders while three wide in the stretch and he responded to win in a drive. Capitano was second, 1 1/4 length ahead of third-place Military Mandate. The final time for the 6 1/2 furlongs was 1:16 4/5.
"He ran a great race," Valezuela said. "Mel is amazing. He keep getting these cheap horses and doing wonders with them. Imagine what he'd do if he got one of those million dollar horses. And he never gives me any instructions. He just says: 'Ride it the way it comes up.' That 's another reason I ride for him with such confidence. He believes in me."
Favorite Siphonizer, a $275,000 yearling purchase by B. Wayne Hughes, was fifth at 9-5. Ruler's Court, a $400,000 buy for Darley Stud Managament, finished fourth. The pair failed to persevere with the first three after moving as a team to threaten at the top of the stretch.
"I couldn't get out," said Julie Krone, who rode Siphonizer. "I couldn't get clear. If I had, I think I might have been right there."
Stute noted, "At the head of the stretch (Siphonizer) was making a move and my wife (co-owner Annabelle Stute) groaned but I told her I knew the horse would have something left, which he did. I do think the farther he goes the better he's going to be. He's improved really well over the past couple of months.
"He'll go in the better races if he keeps going good."
Perfect Moon, who made his debut in a two-furlong heat at Santa Anita March 20, has now three of seven lifetime with earnings of $183,870. He earned $90,000 for his victory Sunday.
Sent off at 7-2, Perfect Moon paid $.94.0, $4.40 and $3.40. Capitano, who broke his maiden in his debut at Hollywood Park July 5 at odds of 109-1, returned $7.60 and $5.20. Military Mandate, third in Del Mar's Graduation July 30, showed for $7. The $2 exacta was worth $84.60.
"He ran a huge race for a horse who just broke his maiden," Valdivia said of Capitano. "Huge. We got beat by a horse who just won the Hollywood Juvenile. There's no shame in that. My horse has a big future."