Ridden by Alex Solis, the 2-5 choice After Market seized the lead in the stretch after rallying three wide on the final turn. He inched away to gain a one-length edge with a furlong to run, then responded to some late urging from Solis to defeat Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Runaway Dancer by three-quarters of a length. Spring House finished a nose behind in third. The final time, 2:13 on a firm and somewhat worn turf, was one second off the course mark.
The victory was the fourth in a row for After Market, who was coming off back-to-back grade I triumphs in the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park June 9 and the Eddie Read Handicap over the Del Mar course July 22. He had not previously raced longer than the 1 1/4 miles of the Whittingham.
The John Deere Turf, to be held at Monmouth Park Oct. 27, is at 1 1/2 miles.
John Shirreffs trains the homebred After Market for Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod. The 4-year-old Storm Cat colt is out of the Wygods' multiple grade I-winning Rahy mare Tranquility Lake.
"I thought it was great," Shirreffs said. "He was boxed in twice. He overcame a lot of traffic problems. I think Alex did a superior job.
"This horse is amazing. He just has it. The horse has been preparing well, training well. If you think about everything that can go wrong in a race, you won't sleep at night, so you have to think about what's going to go right in the race."
Shirreffs had scratched the dark bay colt from the Arlington Million (gr. IT) as the morning line favorite earlier this month when the ground came up softer than than the 4-year-old Storm Cat colt prefers.
"He got a little warm going to the gate, but overall he handled it OK," Solis said of his Del Mar return. "I rode him with confidence all the way. He's that kind of horse. He gives you confidence. We only had two weeks to get ready for this race. He had that ship to Chicago, then he had to come back and start over again for a different thing. But he handled it, and he handled it great. He's a great horse. There's no doubt about that."
After Market did not explode away from his rivals late the way he did in his prior three efforts. Runaway Dancer, who rallied from last in the seven-horse field for Aaron Gryder, and Spring House, with Joe Talamo aboard, were closing in until After Market responded to Solis to hold the challengers safe in the final strides. After Market carried high weight of 124 pounds, giving six to the 8-year-old gelding Runaway Dancer and nine to Spring House, who also ran third in Hollywood's Sunset.
"As far as the finish, he only does what he has to do to beat horses," Solis said. "He's one of those. He was waiting on something to come up and try him, but the wire came up first."
The winner gained a spot along the inside early and raced in a stalking position in third or fourth before angling out heading into the far turn. In a paceless lineup, second-choice Obrigado did his best running early, opening up by nearly four lengths while carving splits of :24 3/5, :48 1/5 and 1:12 3/5 for the first six furlongs. But the Neil Drysdale 4-year-old gelding faded quickly after that, as Brave Maestro took up the running and led the field into the stretch.
Runaway Dancer made a big move along the inside from mid-stretch but ran out of time.
"I'd built up his momentum and turning for home I hoped it would spread out and there'd be a spot for me to go," Gryder said of the runner-up. "But I had to wait and then drop him down on the inside. He really only got to cut it loose the last sixteenth of a mile. All things considered, he ran a gallant race. He's a neat old horse to ride."
The victory, worth $150,000, increased After Market's bankroll to $853,685. The colt began his career with four consecutive wins in the Bill Mott barn, then lost four straight before beginning his current four-race win streak.
After Market paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. Runaway Dancer returned $5.40 and $3.80. Spring House was $4.60 to show.
Toasted finished another nose behind in fourth. Atlando, Brave Maestro and Obrigado completed the order. Global Genius scratched.
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