Favored Spanish Empire overtook Crafty Shaw in the stretch and held off a couple of late challenges to win the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park.
Ridden by Eddie Martin Jr. for trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Jubilee Stable, Cherry Martin and Twin Creeks Farm, the 4-year-old colt by Pleasant Colony prevailed by a length in a time of 1:43 2/5 for the 1 1/16-mile test for older horses. The winner carried 117 pounds to his first grades stakes victory.
The co-high weights in the eight-horse field at 122 pounds, Crafty Shaw, ridden by Timothy Doocy, and No Comprende, with Willie Martinez aboard, were second and third, respectively.
After battling Gimmeawink for the early lead, Spanish Empire settled in third just off the pace of Crafty Shaw, who shot through on the inside to set sharp fractions of :23, :46 2/5 and 1:10 3/5, and Gimmeawink.
On the turn for home, Gimmeawink began to fall back and No Comprende, who was hard rated behind the first three into the final turn, made his move on the outside. Spanish Empire, who put a head in front at the top of the stretch, and Crafty Shaw battled through the lane, Spanish Empire gaining the advantage only to be tackled on the outside by No Comprende. In deep stretch Spanish Empire pulled away from the challenge of No Comprende. Crafty Shaw came back along the inside to touch No Comprende, who hung a bit, out of the place spot by a neck.
Winner of the Louisiana Handicap Jan. 2 at Fair Grounds, Spanish Empire was nipped by Olmodavor in his next start, the Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) Feb. 10. In his most recent try, the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II), the dark bay finished seventh, beaten by 15 lengths by Peace Rules.
He has won five of 15 with three seconds and two thirds for career earnings of $237,714.
John R. Gaines Thoroughbreds and Twin Creeks Farm bred Spanish Empire, who is from the Hold Your Peace mare La Paz, in Kentucky.
The winner paid $5.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Crafty Shaw returned $3.40 and $2.80. No Comprende's show was $5.20. The two favorites, who both went off at odds of 9-5, combined for a $14.80 exacta.
Missme was fourth, followed by Ask the Lord, River Mountain Rd, Gimmeawink and Go Legs Go.