Part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge series -- one of three "Win and You're In" races on the Del Mar card Aug. 19 -- the gray 6-year-old California-bred gelding earned a berth in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) with the O'Brien victory.
The Bill Boswell homebred Greg's Gold was an unlucky loser in his last start when defeated by In Summation by a desperate nose in the six-furlong Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) three weeks ago. He rallied wide from well off the pace that day when ridden for the first time by Victor Espinoza and just missed in a furious stretch battle.
With Espinoza back aboard, Greg's Gold bobbled a tad at the start, but stayed close on the outside of the pacesetting Bordonaro, who led the six-horse field through moderate fractions of :24 and :47 1/5. The son of Lake George cruised up effortlessly rounding the bend to put his head in front approaching the quarter pole. Without being asked, Greg's Gold left Bordonaro behind at the head of the stretch to open up a two-length advantage.
"He really wanted to go today," Espinoza said. "I had to take a big hold. But I didn't want to fight him too much. When we turned for home, I let him go and he really responded. He just opened up a couple like that (snaps fingers). I shook the whip at him and hit him one time left-handed, but he was doing plenty enough today."
Surf Cat, the even-money choice ridden by Alex Solis for trainer Bruce Headley, had stalked the front-runners in third from quite a distance behind, but got into gear in the stretch while racing off the rail. He closed gamely but could make only slight ground on the winner, who drifted in late under urging from Espinoza to win in 1:23 4/5. Greg's Gold carried 117 pounds, five fewer than the top-weighted Surf Cat.
"I was confident before the race because this horse loves this track," Hofmans said of the Polytrack. "He just glides over it. I loved it when he laid close to Bordonaro and blew him away. I think it was a big, big help to have a race over the track. "
Hofmans said Greg's Gold would probably run one more time before the Breeders' Cup Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. He suggested as possibilities the Phoenix Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Keeneland Oct. 6 or the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup (gr. I) at Oak Tree the following day. Both are at the Breeders' Cup Sprint distance of six furlongs. Like Del Mar, Keeneland races on Polytrack, while Santa Anita will be running for the first time on Cushion Track this fall.
Greg's Gold captured his first graded stakes since the 2005 Crosby. He went to the sidelines shortly after that with the tendon issue, returning with an allowance victory in February at Santa Anita. Since getting back to action, Greg's Gold has won three of six starts with two seconds for his patient connections. Lifetime, the consistent runner improved to 7-8-1 in 19 starts. He earned $180,000 with the win in the O'Brien and has banked $778,123 in his career.
The second choice in the short field, Greg's Gold paid $6, $2.60 and $2.40. The multiple grade II winner Surf Cat, making just his second start in nearly 15 months for Headley, returned $2.40 and $2.10. It was 5 1/2 lengths back to third-place finisher Soul City Slew, ridden by Julien Leparoux, who was $5 to show.
Publication, Absolute Glory and Bordonaro completed the order.
"He rated kind enough for me, but he just got done in by the track again," Richard Migliore said of the slumping Bordonaro, who ran third in the Crosby. "It's too bad. He's a better horse than this, but he just can't show it here."
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