Stalker Closing Argument registered a game 1 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Holy Bull (gr. III) for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park, handing 3-5 favorite High Fly his first defeat Saturday.
Ridden by Cornelio Velasquez for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Marcia and Philip Cohen, Closing Argument hit the stretch in the middle of a three-way battle with Kansas City Boy and High Fly, prevailing in the 1 1/8-mile event in a time of 1:50. Kansas City Boy, the pacesetter ridden by Brice Blanc, edged High Fly, who had a difficult trip for Eddie Castro by a half-length for second.
"My trip was great. He broke good, put himself in a great position," Velasquez said. "At the half-mile pole he had to go and he responded. This is a very good horse."
High Fly was wide throughout and lost his action briefly after ducking in behind Kansas City Boy in the stretch duel.
Bred in Florida by France and Irwin Weiner, Closing Argument, a bay colt by Successful Appeal
-Mrs. Greeley (Mr. Greeley) was a $100,000 Ocala sales graduate in April.
Closing Argument broke his maiden first crack at Saratoga, then won at Delaware Park before returning to Florida in the fall to run third in the In Reality and second in the Jack Price at Calder. In his last start before the Holy Bull, he was second by 1 1/2 lengths to Texcess in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot in Louisiana. He improved his record to 3-2-1 in six lifetime starts with earnings of $511,984.
Kansas City Boy established the lead through fractions of :23, :46 3/5 and 1:11 2/5 as Closing Argument and Drum Major stalked. High Fly, who broke from the extreme outside, was caught four wide on the clubhouse turn and remained on the outside throughout.
"At least this answers the question about getting the distance," McLaughlin said of Closing Argument. "You don't worry about it, well, yeah you do worry about it, but I was pretty confident. Post position was a big factor. The favorite (High Fly) was hung wide the whole way and that's a pretty tough spot to be."
McLaughlin said he'll consider the UAE Derby (UAE-II) in Dubai March 26 for Closing Argument's next start.
"We're certainly disappointed to lose, but I still think he ran a very good race," said Bill White, trainer of High Fly, who had won his three previous starts by a combined 21 1/4 lengths. "He would have been second, but I guess he shied from the whip there at the end. I'd have to think that, eventually, with this two-turn race under his belt, he could move farther."
The third choice in the field of eight, Closing Argument paid $17.80, $7.60 and $2.80. Kansas City Boy returned $9.80 and $3.40. High Fly's show was $2.10.
Criminal Mind, Dearest Mon, Drum Major, and Hostile Witness were next. G P's Black Knight was pulled up in the stretch.