After trailing the field through the opening half-mile, Centennial Farms' King Cugat rallied while five wide on the second turn to win the $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap (gr. IIT) by a half-length Saturday at Belmont Park. Under the Jerry Bailey, the Bill Mott-trained son of Kingmambo completed the 1 3/8 miles in 2:10.62 on firm turf. The winning time marks the second-fastest running of the Bowling Green behind only With Approval's course record time of 2:10 1/5 in 1990.
"He was much more like his old self today," said Bailey. "They took the blinkers back off him, so I wasn't sure if he was going to drop back or not. But he laid in striking distance, and got the job done. He's just back to his old self. "
Slew Valley set the early pace while pressed by Night Patrol through a :47.52 half-mile and a mile in 1:34.47. At that point, King Cugat had one horse beat but was less than three lengths off the pace. King Cugat moved quickly to the lead at the top of the stretch, with Slew Valley battling to the wire to finish second, a half-length behind King Cugat. Man From Wicklow finished six lengths farther back in third, followed by State Shinto, Forbidden Apple, Boston Party, and Night Patrol.
"I was pleased enough with his race," Mott said. "The pace wasn't a big surprise to me, because everyone looks at it as a chance to make the lead. That was the way we decided to let King Cugat run today -- relaxed and from off the pace. He picked up all of his rivals, but I'm not sure this is his best distance. It was good enough to win. My first impression is that I would be willing to try a mile and a half toward the end of the year. Maybe this is the kind of horse that just does what he has to do."
King Cugat earned $90,000 for his third career grade II win, pushing his earnings past the $1-million mark. As a 3-year-old King Cugat won the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IIT), Arlington Classic Stakes (gr. IIT), and the Crown Royal American Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT). King Cugat is out of the Majestic Light mare Tricky Game and was bred in Kentucky by Dinwiddie Farm.
King Cugat paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.20 and led a $22.40 exacta. Slew Valley returned $6.80 and $4.70. Man From Wicklow was worth $4.10 to show.
Mott said the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million (gr. IT) would be the colt's next target. (Chart, Equibase