Barbara Cesare's Second of June grabbed command on the far turn and drew away from favored Silver Wagon in the stretch to record a convincing 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park.
Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez for trainer William Cesare, the Florida-bred son of Louis Quatorze-Whow (by Spectacular Bid) covered the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:43 as the 5-2 second choice in a field of nine.
The Holy Bull is the first major race for 3-year-olds on the East Coast and a major stepping stone to the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 14.
Cesare, a former NFL player with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought Second of June at a bargain price of $7,500 in Ocala last season, but had thought of selling the colt.
``I turned down a pretty good offer to sell him,'' Cesare said. ``I'm sure glad I didn't.''
The winner of the What A Pleasure at Calder by five lengths in his last outing Dec. 13, Second of June has now won three in a row.
The dark bay colt was four wide around the first turn as El Prado Rob led through a contested opening quarter mile of :24, then settled off the pacesetter's outside through a half in :48 1/5 and six furlongs in 1:12 2/5. Second of June moved up three wide on the final turn to gain the lead and pulled away from El Prado Rob in the stretch while under pressure to hold off Silver Wagon in the final furlong.
The 8-5 favorite, Silver Wagon, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was close up early before settling back into fourth position down the backstretch. He rallied up four wide on the far turn and pressured the leaders nearing the eighth pole before drifting toward the rail when struck right-handed by Bailey. He gave way late. The two favorites had pulled far clear of the field at the end. Friends Lake edged El Prado Rob by a half-length for third place, but he was 12 3/4 lengths behind the winner.
Second of June defeated Silver Wagon, who won Saratoga's Hopeful (gr. I) last year, in the What A Pleasure by a decisive five-length margin. Second of June won for the fourth time in six career starts while increasing his career earnings to $174,800. Lambholm & E. Felcher bred the winner.
Second of June paid $7.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Silver Wagon returned $3 and $2.60. Friends Lake's show was $3. The $2 exacta was worth $18.20.
Smoocher ran fifth, followed by Tap Dancing, Hitthegroundrunnin, Caiman and Seneca Summer. Hopefortheroses scratched.