Longshot Special Matter, with Tyler Baze aboard, captured the $150,000 Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr.IIIT) at 1 1/2 mile on the turf at Oak Tree Sunday.
One of only two horses in the field of five (Mountain Rage was scratched) to have won at the 12-furlong distance, Special Matter rated comfortably behind the slow fractions set by Alyzig (:48.92, 1:14.91, 1:41.15) and swung into action on the final turn. The 4-year-old River Special gelding got the first run on 3-5 favorite Nazirali and second choice Dance Dreamer, and ran off to about a two-length victory. Alyzig held off Dance Dreamer by a head for the place spot, with Nazirali a nose farther back in fourth.
The winning time was 2:28.47 on a firm course.
"I got him to relax after we got off the hill, and when I asked him, he kicked it in hard," Baze said. "I don't think I even uncocked my stick. I knew I had a really good shot coming in, because we finally found his right distance."
Special Matter had won his previous try at 1 1/2 mile on the turf by a neck at Santa Anita Oct. 14 against a $25,000 starter allowance field.
Rafael Becerra trains the Florida bred, who won for the fourth time in 16 starts. He's now 3-for-11 in 2002, with nine in-the-money showings. The $90,000 first-place purse increased Special Matter's career earnings to nearly $200,000.
Becerra claimed Special Matter for $12,500 on May 31. Since then, he has posted six consecutive in-the-money performances on the grass, all in starter allowance or optional claming company. This was his first attempt in a stakes race.
"I liked the bottom line on the sire (River Special-Riverman)," Becerra said when asked why he made the claim for owners Nancy Elder and Janice and George McClintock. "I thought he had a chance to run on and I had seen the horse one race before (on May 4) and liked the way he ran. He just looked good to me, that's all. The main thing is, he was sound."
Sent off at 9-1-, Special Matter paid $21.20, $8 and $6.40. Alyzig returned $7.69 and $8.80. Dance Dreamer paid $4.80. The $2 exacta was $136.80.