Front-running Cindago left the former Triple Crown contenders Bob and John and 2-5 favorite Brother Derek behind when he won the $106,300 El Cajon at one mile for 3-year-olds by a half-length at Del Mar Saturday.
Bob and John hit the lead mid-stretch but could not hold on against the determined Cindago, who rallied back along the inside for Corey Nakatani to prevail under strong urging. Cindago, a $900,000 colt trained by John Sadler for owner Lea Searing's C R K Stable, had not raced since breaking his maiden in his second start at Santa Anita Dec. 26. The winning time was 1:36 2/5.
Sadler said he had hoped Cindago would develop into a top flight 3-year-old earlier this year, but he had a knee problem.
"We wanted to be in the big 3-year-old races here this year, so we skipped a condition and put him in a little steep today," Sadler said. "He's come back really well, and it looks like we should have a fun horse."
The bay colt by Indian Charlie
--Tupelo Belle (Turkoman) set quick fractions of :22 1/5, :45 3/5 and 1:10 2/5.
The Bob Baffert-trained Bob and John ground his way to the front by a half-length after rallying on the turn on the outside of Cindago and Brother Derek. But he drifted out under left-handed encouragement from jockey Victor Espinoza. He fell more than a length behind but was coming on again at the wire after Espinoza switched to the right hand. Winner of the Wood Memorial (gr. I) last spring, it was the first start for Bob and John since his eighth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 10.
"This is a horse of unlimited potential," Nakatani said of the winner. "They knew what they were doing when they bought him at the sale."
Espinoza was happy with Bob and John's performance.
"He made a strong move for me on the turn," he said. "It was a good comeback race for him. He'll do better off this."
Brother Derek, off since back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) in May, did not have the easiest of returns for trainer Dan Hendricks. He was a step slow getting away from the gate and pulled jockey Alex Solis to the leaders while stuck four wide on the clubhouse turn. He continued to prompt the pace to the far turn but fell back while racing between horses as they came off the bend. He finished a tired fourth.
"He got real tired," Hendricks said. "We're going to scope him to see if there's any blood. He just ran like he wasn't fit enough to do it. I can only blame myself for that. I thought he was fit enough because he had breezed so well and so easy on this track, but I must have been wrong."
Solis said he thought Brother Derek was too fresh early on. "He just got a little tired. I don't think it was anything more than that."
Fred Caudill bred the winner in Kentucky. Cindago earned $63,780 for his second win in three starts.
Cindago paid $10.80, $4 and $6.20. Bob and John returned $3.80 and $5.20. Da Stoops, who finished five lengths behind the runner-up, was $7.60 to show.
Mr. Katz trailed.