Predawn Raid was allowed to set a lonely pace and the Jorge Chavez-ridden gelding got brave in the stretch, stealing off to a 4 1/4-length victory at odds of 15-1 in the $100,000 Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) Saturday at Calder.
Eight-year-old Best of the Rest, in what was expected to be his final start, rallied to take second in the 1 1/8-mile contest by two lengths over Deeliteful Guy. The even-money favorite, Aeneas, finished fourth in the field of nine.
Chavez guided the gray Predawn Raid to the front and set modest fractions of :24, :49 1/5, 1:14 4/5, and 1:39 4/5 before speeding down the lane to finish in 1:52 2/5. It was the Kentucky-bred son of Sir Cat's first stakes appearance.
"He broke good and went to the lead," Chavez said. "I just shifted around a little bit and coming into the stretch he responded when I asked. It is a long stretch. He is a beautiful horse – he has a big heart."
Predawn Raid is a 4-year-old homebred owned by Mt. Joy Stables Inc. and trained by Bennie Stutts Jr. His third career victory, worth $60,000, pushed his lifetime earnings to $100,040.
"To tell you the truth, I tried to talk Brian (Burns, owner and breeder) out of running in this spot," Stutts said. "I'm conservative by nature and had a 'two other than' allowance picked out. Brian said, 'Go for it,' of the choice to run in the Fred Hooper instead. I'm 65 and this is the biggest race I've ever won.
"When he first came to me, all he had done was spring in his first four races. Goodness, he's 17.2 (hands), you could see he wanted to go long, and I also had him gelded."
Predawn Raid paid $32.80, 12.60, and 8.80; Best of the Rest returned $4.80 and 3.40; Deeliteful Guy paid $6.40 to show.