Piloted by regular rider Frank Alvarado for trainer Steve Specht and owner Mike Willman, McCann's Mojave was winning for the first time since the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park Jan. 27. After the race Specht said that the 7-year-old California-bred would get an opportunity to defend his victory in the Millions Classic, which will be held at Santa Anita Jan. 26.
McCann's Mojave, headed on the outside inside the eighth pole, defeated Putmeinyourwill in a gritty stretch battle by a neck. He had to survive a wide trip around the first turn from his extreme outside post in the 1 1/8-mile test but managed to get a good stalking position on the backstretch. McCann's Mojave, after making a three-wide bid into the lane, took command in upper stretch and showed great resolve in turning back Putmeinyourwill, ridden by Roberto Gonzalez. Putmeinyourwill closed steadily to put his head in front but was outfought in the final strides. It was one length back to Hello Sunday, re-rallying after being forced to check at the eighth pole, who finished third for Joe Talamo.
Defending All American winner Buzzards Bay, the 7-5 favorite in the field of nine, faded after setting the pace for six furlongs and finished seventh on a foggy late afternoon. Fractions were :24.50, :48.43, and 1:12.34, with a final clocking of 1:50.04.
With only five starts, McCann's Mojave has been lightly raced this year. The victory, worth $90,000, was the 11th in 29 lifetime starts for the son of Memo out of the multiple stakes winner Joni U. Bar, by Nordic Prince. Willman, Santa Anita's publicity director, and Alix Nikki Hunt bred the bay horse, who has earned $1,346,555.
McCann's Mojave had just one outing since a last-place finish as the choice in the Berkeley Handicap (gr. III) on the old dirt track at Golden Gate June 2. That came in a fourth-place finish in Oak Tree's Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course at Santa Anita Oct. 27. McCann's Mojave was bumped at the eighth pole and lost by one length.
"He bled that day or he would have won by as far as a country boy can throw a green apple," Specht told HRTV. "He worked well the other day (on the Tapeta surface) and I expected a big race."
The winner paid $13.80, $7.40 and $4.20 Putmeinyourwill, seeking his third successive win for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, returned $10.60 and $4.60 while completing a healthy $102.20 exacta. Hello Sunday, supplemented to the race by trainer Bobby Frankel, was $3 to show.
Amazin Blue, Sir Gallovic, Wanna Runner, Buzzards Bay, My Creed, and Sharp Writer completed the order. Lang Field scratched.