In spite of drifting out in the stretch, pacesetting Medallist, ridden by Jose Santos, got home in front in the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap (gr. III) by 1 3/4 lengths Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
The Robert N. Clay homebred, carrying 115 pounds, made it two stakes wins in a row, holding off Mister Fotis for the victory in a track record time of 1:15.62 for the 6 1/2-furlong event for older horses. Kela, the 119-pound high weight who was sent off at odds of even money in the field of six, finished a non-threatening third.
The 4-year-old son of Touch Gold
, trained by H. Allen Jerkens, led throughout through fractions of :22 3/5, :45 3/5 and 1:09 1/5 while opening by several lengths at the top of the stretch. Mister Fotis, who fell back after pressing the pace along the inside early, came on again for Jorge Chavez in the final furlong to make it close as Santos battled with Medallist to straighten out.
After Santos tapped him on the neck with his whip a couple of times, Medallist found his best stride again close to home to prevail.
"He's done that once in awhile," Jerkens said of Medallist 'stendency to drift. "He gets quarter cracks. I hope he doesn't have another one. I'd like to win a big race – a grade I with him like the Met Mile."
Forty Moves set the old 6 1/2-furlong Gulfstream mark of 1:15.82 on Jan. 28.
Medallist, a powerful winner of both the Withers (gr. III) and Dwyer (gr. II) for 3-year-olds last year, was coming off a 4 1/2-length victory in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder Race Course Dec. 18. He has now won five of his 11 lifetime starts with earnings of $351,375.
The 11-10 second choice, he paid $4.20, $3.60, and $2.10. Mister Fotis returned $7.80 and $2.20. Kela, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was outsprinted early and came on mildly in the lane, paying $2.10 to show.
Paradise Dancer, Nightmare Affair, and Vood trailed. Forest Danger scratched.