An impressive stretch burst made Castledale a grade I winner on the turf when he captured the $369,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) Monday at Hollywood Park.
Angled to the outside in the stretch run by Rene Douglas, Castledale swept past the front-runners Singletary and Whilly in upper stretch and outran King of Happiness on his inside to the wire for a half-length victory. The time, 1:33.17 on a firm course, was two-fifths off the track record.
Castledale won the 2004 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), but the 4-year-old Irish-bred son of Peintre Celebre had lost five in a row before waking up with a half-length victory in the San Francisco Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IIT) in his last start April 23 at Bay Meadows.
Castledale, who began his career in Ireland before transferring to the United States at the end of the 2003 season, won his American debut on the Hollywood Park turf in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT). He has won four of 11 starts on grass with just one out-of-the-money performance. At the one mile distance on the turf, the bay colt has won three of six races and never been off the board.
Jeff Mullins trains Castledale for owners Frank Lyons, a TVG analyst, and Greg Knee.
"He's had his foot problems, nothing major, but the grass is a little easier on him," Lyons said.
"I would have hated if something had happened to him and he never got a chance to prove what a good horse he really is," he said. "Otherwise everyone would have said he was a fluke in the Santa Anita Derby, that he was not that good of a horse ... but as you can see, he is a tremendously talented horse."
Breaking from the rail, Castledale got a dream run along the inside tracking the pacesetting Special Ring, who was unexpectedly tackled going into the clubhouse turn by 19-10 favorite Singletary. They clipped off fractions of :23 1/5 and :46 4/5. Special Ring, making his first start since Nov. 27, backed out of it on the far turn as Whilly took up the running on the inside of Singletary, completing six furlongs in 1:09 3/5. Castledale, moving easily on the inside, moved into contention as Whilly tired, angling four wide to the outside of Singletary in mid-stretch and inhaling last year's Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner.
King of Happiness, slipping through a hole along the inside for Corey Nakatani, hooked up with Castledale through the final furlong, but the little horse would not be denied.
"I don't see too many horses like this horse," Douglas said. "You can communicate with this horse. He should be a human. He's unbelievable. He stays in there, he watches horses. He's an absolute racehorse.
"He's funny to ride because he wants to play around sometimes. You'll notice he doesn't win by too far. I had a lot of horse today, so I waited as long as I could. Corey Nakatani had a lot of horse inside of me. I was hoping that my horse saw him. My horse did see him, and he just came back again. It was perfect."
"I thought for sure we were going to win it," Nakatani said of the runner-up. "Then I looked to my right and I saw Castledale there."
Fast and Furious, with Victor Espinoza aboard, rallied late for third, three lengths behind King of Happiness. Singletary, ridden by David Flores, faded to fourth.
Singletary, yet to win back-to-back races in his 19-race career, was coming off a sharp tally in the one-mile Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita April 9. Singletary dumped Flores from the saddle as they were returning to be unsaddled after the race but appeared to be okay after being brought under control.
"I'm okay," Flores said after walking back. "The horse stumbled as we were coming back and I landed right on top of the fence.
"But the horse was kind of aggressive (during the raceO, and I wanted to give him a little breather. But I never had a chance. I mean, they were running all the way."
Trainer Don Chatlos agreed.
"This is just not our race to win," he said. "He was too keen early. He was pulling Flores out of the saddle. The three horses that were running last finished one-two-three. We're not going to beat these horses running three-quarters in 1:09. But Castledale is a nice horse. He ran his race today."
Overall, Castledale owns a 5-5-1 record in 16 starts. The victory, worth $205,800, pushed his career bankroll to $840,423.
The fourth choice in the field of seven, Castledale paid $11.20, $6.60, and $4.20. King of Happiness, trained by Neil Drysdale for Maktoum Al Maktoum, returned $6.60 and $4.40 while completing a $56.60 exacta. The French-bred Fast and Furious, making his first start since a valiant second in the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) Nov. 28, was $4.40 to show.
After Singletary came Whilly, Buckland Manor, and Special Ring.