Peter Abruzzo's favored Ninebanks was all out to hold off a determined Surpise Halo by a neck in the $100,000 California Turf Championship Handicap at Bay Meadows Monday.
Ridden by Ron Warren Jr. for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Ninebanks, a 5-year-old bay gelding by Smokester had opened a 2 1/2-length lead in the stretch before the late-charging Surprise Halo, ridden by Joey Castro, launched his attack. Ten-year-old Native Desert, with Jason Lumpkins astride, was 2 1/2 lengths back in third. The final time for the one-mile turf event for California breds was 1:37 2/5.
Long Gone Con, the 2-1 second choice with Russell Baze aboard, was seventh in the eight-horse field after battling the pacesetting Obermeister into the final turn.
Ninebanks was well-placed in third behind the two front-runners and was in good position on the turn for home to make a three-wide move, assuming command in the stretch.
Ninebanks won his 10th race in 32 career tries while earning $51,700 for the victory. That improved his career total to 4587,093. Ninebanks is no stranger to winning close races. He won both the Golden Gate Budweiser Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIIT) on March 16 and the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) on April 26 each by a nose.
He paid $5.80, $3.40 and $3. Surprise Halo returned $5.80 and $3.80. Native Desert's show price was $3.40. The $2 exacta was worth $30.80.