Races can hardly come any closer than Monday's featured event in the Texas Million series -- the $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) -- where four noses hit the wire together. After the dust had cleared, Supah Blitz was declared the winner and 11-10 favorite Lion Tamer was off the board.
The millionaire Supah Blitz, ridden by Jon Court, had a one-length lead in deep stretch as the 120-pound top weight Lion Tamer and Jerry Bailey gradually cut into the advantage along the inside. But on the far outside, Cryptograph and Don Pettinger, last in the field of 10 at the quarter pole, and just to his inside, Absent Friend, ridden by Roman Chapa, were closing rapidly with every stride.
Somehow, Supah Blitz was still in front at the wire. Cryptograph wound up second, with Absent Friend third, and hard-luck Lion Tamer fourth. Just a head separated the quartet in a heart-thumping finish.
"They came on both sides and were just pouncing on me in the final strides, but we held on with a nose in front," Court said. "He had to reach within himself and get that little extra to hold on to this race."
The final time was 1:41 4/5 for the 1 1/16-mile event.
Since being transferred to Doug O'Neill last summer, Supah Blitz has won four times in nine tries, including a grade II win in the Del Mar Breeders's Cup Handicap and another grade III triumph in the Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old Florida-bred horse by Mecke-Boots'n Jackie (Major Moran) was coming off a second-place finish in the Texas Mile (gr. III) on the Lone Star dirt April 30.
"I thought we got beat, to be honest with you," said O'Neill, who watched the race on television at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif. "When we drew the rail, we were a little bit squeamish because he's a horse who seems so much more comfortable being outside of horses. Jon did a fantastic job on saving ground on the first turn. He was just in a garden spot there midway down the backside where he was on his own and had those two horses as a target. We knew if he was near the front end turning for home, he'd give it his all. He's a real fighter in the heart of battle."
The victory, worth $180,000 to owners Black Saddle Stable, Kagele Brothers, Inc., and Mark Leib, improved the dark bay's earnings to $1,319,210.
Yessirgeneralsir, with pressure from High Strike Zone, set fractions of :23, :45 and 1:08 4/5 before giving way in the stretch. Supah Blitz was never far off the early leaders in third on the outside, taking over at the sixteenth pole after completing a mile in 1:34 4/5.
The second choice in the field of 10, Supah Blitz paid $7.20, $4.20, and $3.40. Cryptograph returned $7.60 and $5 as part of the $56 exacta. Absent Friend's show was $5.
After Lion Tamer came High Strike Zone, Wishingitwas, Snorter, Majestic Thief, Yessirgeneralsir, and Skip and Go.