The tough 7-year-old gelding Sky Jack showed his resiliency Sunday, setting a track record of 1:33 at Emerald Downs while winning the $250,000 Longacres Mile Handicap (gr. III). He went over the $1 million mark in career earnings.
Ridden for the first time by Russell Baze in customary front-running fashion, the 2002 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner, cleared off in the stretch to win by 6 1/4 lengths as the 3-2 favorite in a field of 10.
Trained by Doug O'Neill for owner/breeder Ren-Mar Thoroughbreds of Rene and Margie Lambert, the California-bred Jaklin Klugman gelding capped a comeback from knee surgery performed a year ago, the second of his career. He has also returned from colic surgery twice.
Sunday, the popular Southern California competitor carried high weight of 123 pounds, spotting his rivals from two to nine pounds, while breaking the former track record of 1:33 1/5 set by Wild Wonder in 1998 and equaled by Edneator in 2000.
Sky Jack won for the 10th time in 18 starts while earning $137,500. That pushed his career total to $1,115,127.
A year ago, many thought his career might be over after he followed his Gold Cup victory with an 11th place showing in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar. After being diagnosed with a knee injury, he was sidelined following surgery until June, when he returned in a one-mile classified allowance test on the turf, finishing sixth. Switched to the main track on July 5, though, he signaled his readiness for Sunday's effort with a two-length score over classified allowance foes.
He vied for the lead early with Handy N Bold as they traveled in close attendance through an opening quarter of :22 1/5. Handy N Bold earned a head advantage on the back side as they completed the half in :44 2/5. Sky Jack resumed leading on the turn after six furlongs in 1:08 1/5 and hit the stretch five lengths ahead of the pack as his rival quickly fell back.
No one made a move on the winner down the lane as Poker Brad emerged from well back in the pack on the turn to get second, two lengths ahead of 24-1 shot Lord Nelson.
Sky Jack won his fourth graded stakes while returning $5, $3.40 and $3. Poker Brad returned $5.20 and $4.60. Lord Nelson's show was $8.60. The $2 exacta was worth $33.20.