Offlee Wild Handles Slop in Excelsior Romp

Offlee Wild pulled away through the stretch for a 8 1/2-length victory over Rogue Agent in the $196,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) on Saturday at Aqueduct.

Rafael Bejarano was aboard as Offlee Wild completed the 1 1/8 miles in 1:50 2/5. The Excelsior was Offlee Wild's first start at Aqueduct and his first on an off-track.

Cuba was a half-length back to finish third in the field of six.

Racing over a sloppy track while carrying top weight of 121 pounds, the 5-year-old son of Wild Again earned $120,000 for AZ Azalea Stable with his fifth win in 16 career starts. He has won $668,825.

Offlee Wild, who captured last year's Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II), won for the first time in two starts in 2005. He was coming off a neck loss to Excelsior rival Coast Line in the John Campbell Breeders' Cup Handicap at Laurel Feb. 19.

"He ran really good today," winning trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. "In the (Campbell) Coast Line was inside and had the lead and we were chasing all the way. He was coming off a layoff in that race, too. I was real happy with how he took the mud coming back in his face today. He was just awesome in the stretch."

Offlee Wild returned $4.20, $2.90 and $2.20 as the favorite. Rogue Agent paid $4.60 and $3.10, and Cuba was $3.20.

Slop-loving Rogue Agent set the pace in the Excelsior of :24 2/5 :48 1/5 and 1:12 3/5 as second-choice Coast Line stalked a length behind on the outside. Bejarano kept Offlee Wild on a ground-saving trip until they straightened for home.

As Coast Line backed out, Bejarano switched his mount to the outside and Offlee Wild took to the open path to cruise to victory.

"My horse broke very good, but I didn't want to go to the front because I thought there were a couple of speed horses," Bejarano said. "He settled nicely for me, and I was very happy with our position. When I saw Coast Line challenge for the lead at the three-eighths pole, I asked my horse, too, and he really kicked on. He really felt good. I never whipped him."

Country Be Gold and Coast Line trailed. Diligent Gambler and Presidentialaffair were scratched.

(Chart, Equibase)

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