Bob and John Turns Back 'Saint in Lone Star Handicap

Stoneside Stable's determined Bob and John would not give way in the stretch run of the $388,000 Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) to win by a hard fought neck over odds-on choice Sweetnorthernsaint and give jockey Garrett Gomez a sweep of the three graded stakes at the muddy Grand Prairie, Texas, track Monday.

Gomez, who led all North American jockeys with $20.1 million in 2006, also won the Dallas turf Cup (gr. IIIT) with odds-on choice and Embossed and the Ouija Board Distaff Handicap (gr. IIIT) with the prohibitive choice Lady of Venice.

Despite rainy conditions, Saturday's on-track crowd of 16,196 at Lone Star Park was up 29.5% from last year's 12,508 and the largest Lone Star Million crowd since 17,362 attended in 2003.

Bob and John, owned by NFL Houston Texans owners Bob and Janice McNair, ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.02 over a surface labeled "sloppy." For the seventh time in the last eight days, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was hit by showers and thunderstorms.

The homebred Bob and John, a 4-year-old son of Seeking the Gold who is trained by Bob Baffert, returned to the winner's circle for the first time since taking last year's Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct, a victory that launched the dark bay colt on an unsuccessful quest for Triple Crown glory. Bob and John returned to action in 2007 with a second-place finish in the Texas Mile (gr. III) April 28 when he was a neck behind Silent Pleasure.

Silent Pleasure was a race-day scratch, so just four contested the Lone Star Handicap. Jonesboro set an easy pace and wasn't challenged through an opening quarter mile of :24 2/5. Bob and John crept closer as they went :48 2/5 for the half and vied between horses to gain a narrow advantage after six furlongs in 1:12 1/5.  Sweetnorthernsaint, racing on the outside throughout for Mario Pino after being difficult to load in the starting gate, engaged on the turn as well. Bob and John and Sweetnorthernsaint went on with it through the stretch as Jonesboro fell out of it, and Bob and John prevailed under strong handling after drifting out a bit mid-stretch.

"My horse was doing it so easy and at the half-mile pole, I eased up to the leader, and then just before we turned for home I said, 'Let's go,' and he ran well for us all the way down the lane," said New York-based Gomez, whose horses earned $486,000 on the day. "Both horses were fighting really hard through the stretch and this little horse does everything so well. He's got a big heart and he tries hard."

Both Pino and trainer Michael Trombetta said Sweetnorthernsaint fought hard.

"He ran well," Pino said. "I gave him a nudge around the turn and it was just the two of us at that point. The winner hung on nicely. Those are two nice horses."

"He tried hard," Trombetta echoed. "Both Bob and John and Sweetnorthernsaint proved they are good horses. We just came out on the losing end today."

Borel said the conditions might have bothered Jonesboro.

"I don't think he liked the mud," Borel said. "You can't control Mother Nature."

Baffert, who was inducted into Lone Star Park's Hall of Fame last month, collected his 13th stakes win at the track. He was unable to attend the race when his 2 1/2-year-old son Bode came down with a fever at their home in Southern California.

Monday's winning purse pushed Bob and John's earnings to just short of $1 million --  at $996,300 -- with a record of 5-3-3 in 14 starts. Bob and John, out of the Deputy Minister mare Minister's Melody, was bred in Kentucky.

He paid $4.80, $2.60 and $2.10. Sweetnorthernsaint, second to Master Command most recently in the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne Spril 21, returned $2.20 and $2.10. Jonesboro, 6 3/4 lengths behind the runner-up, was $2.10 to show. Real Dandy trailed throughout.

John Adger, president of the McNair's Stonerside Stable. "We knew he'd take to the sloppy track because the surface was similar to the way it was when he won the Wood Memorial."

Baffert indicated that Bob and John would likely be pointed to the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on June 30.

(Chart, Equibase)

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