The gutty gelding Designed for Luck, who returned to competition last year after missing nearly 17 months with a fractured left rear hock, capped his improbable comeback with the first grade I stakes victory of his career in Monday's $456,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park.
Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, the 7-year-old chestnut by Rahy
hit the front at the top of the lane and powered through the stretch while repelling a game Singletary, who could not reach the winner and lost by 1 1/2 lengths. Tsigane rallied gamely through the lane after shifting off the rail and was beaten by a head for second. The final time, 1:32 4/5 on a firm turf course, was one-fifth of a second off the track record.
Designed for Luck was off quickly from his extreme outside post position in the field of nine and kept the pressure on front-running Glick through solid fractions of :23 2/5, :46 and 1:09. He seized the lead on Glick's outside as the field came out of the turn and proved best, inching away to a daylight lead and refusing to give ground as Singletary and Jose Valdivia Jr. mounted their charge.
"He finished strong, just outran them from the head of the stretch on home," said Valenzuela, who is due to begin a month-long suspension Tuesday. "This guy is some warrior."
Singletary, who was in a stalking position, came out to split rivals in the stretch and make a run at the leader.
"The other speed horse took back, and for horses like this to go 46-and-change, they were just galloping," Valdivia said. "I knew we were going to be in trouble just as soon as we hit the first turn, because my horse is not a push-button horse. He is a horse that I have to get going early, and I just didn't have the shot. So I was second best today, but I wouldn't trade places with my horse later on in the year."
Tsigane, ridden by David Flores, swung out from the near the fence in mid-stretch and rallied late, sweeping by 9-5 favorite Sweet Return in deep stretch.
Designed for Luck was never expected to return to racing after suffering his injury in the Explosive Bid Handicap (gr. IIT) in March 2002. But long months of patience and rehabilitation were paid off when the gelding returned to win the Live the Dream in September at Del Mar and the Oak Tree Mile the following month.
Owned by David and Holly Wilson and trained by Vladimir Cerin, Designed for Luck returned from his injury to win last fall's Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) at Santa Antia. He was seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) in his next start and had been winless in three starts this year.
"He's got the body of a 5-year-old because he missed all that time racing," Cerin said. "He's fresh. I'm very happy. I had a trip in mind and I knew Patrick was the one to do it. He had to get out of the gate from that outside post, merge in gradually and save ground. I told him, 'if we save ground going to the half-mile pole, he'll win.' And that's it."
Valenzuela also won the Shoemaker in 2002 with Ladies Din.
Valenzuela and his attorney, Donald Calabria, will be in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, seeking an injunction that would allow Valenzuela to ride Rock Hard Ten in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on Saturday.
The California Horse Racing Board ruled May 18 that Valenzuela couldn't ride in June, a decision that extends to all tracks in North America. He was suspended in January for failing to report for a mandatory drug test.
If Valenzuela doesn't receive a favorable ruling from the judge, he will not be allowed to ride until July 1.
In his last outing following a two-month break, Designed for Luck finished second as the favorite behind Leroidesanimaux, a Shoemaker scratch, in the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) Handicap May 1. He banked $282,000 for the victory now has won 10 of 26 lifetime starts with earnings of $915,500.
Cerin: "Just to be a part of this horse's career, as smart as he is, as hard as he tries ... if I knew as much about training as he did about racing, I'd be leading trainer every year. He's just a brilliant horse, from the intelligence standpoint. If you're willing to listen, he can teach you a lot. I feel just honored to be a part of his career."
Cerin claimed Designed for Luck in his second career start for $62,500.
Mr. and Mrs. John Mabee bred the winner, who is from the Green Dancer mare Fantastic Look.
Designed for Luck paid $13.80, $6.20 and $4.60 as the fourth choice. Singletary returned $5.40 and $4. Tsigane was $8 to show. The $2 exacta was worth $54.
King of Happiness finished fourth when outkicked in the lane, followed by Sweet Return, Dell Place, Glick and Momentum.