With the victory, winning trainer Todd Pletcher broke the single-season record for purse earnings of $26,820,243 that he set last year.
Ridden by Garrett Gomez, The Leopard seized the lead nearing mid-stretch and was drawing away under urging from his main challenger, the late-running Indian Sun, and outkicked that rival to score a 2 1/4-length victory. He completed the one-mile test for 2-year-olds in 1:34.28.
Gomez, who recently broke Jerry Bailey's mark for stakes victories in a year, won his 72nd added money event of the year.
"He's got room for improvement because he’s still learning," Gomez said. "He's a big, old colt, got a little warm going to the gate. He's got a little of that warm blood in him, but he's a very talented little horse. I watched this horse in New York and I knew he could run."
Owned by Derrick Smith, Mrs. John Mangier, and Michael Tabor, The Leopard was purchased for $2.5-million at the Fasig-Tipton Two-Year-Old in Training sale in February. He is a son of Storm Cat, out of the Mr. Prospector mare Moon Safari. The dark bay or brown colt faded to seventh after pressing the pace in his last start, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at a water-logged Monmouth Park on Oct. 26. The result was quickly dismissed by his connections because of the course condition.
The Leopard earned his second victory in three turf starts and his third win overall in six outings. The victory, worth $71,800, increased his earnings to $173,700. The Leopard previously won the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park contesting the 1 1/16 mile-distance in his first start over a firm turf course on Sept. 29.
It was a big day for Pletcher, who was $554,982 short of his 2006 North American money-won record early this morning before he surpassed his own previous mark. With a pair of victories at Aqueduct, including Mini Sermon in the $150,000 Top Flight Handicap (gr. II), and two wins at Churchill Downs, including A.P. Arrow in the $500,000 Clark Handicap (gr. II), he entered the Generous $41,170 shy of the record. The victory by The Leopard eclipsed his '06 mark with a total of $26,850,873.
“It was a good day," Pletcher said by phone from Louisville. "It’s nice to break the record with some important wins. It’s been a great year for the whole team.”
Eagle Holdings bred The Leopard in Kentucky.
Gone Grand set the early pace at 48-1, taking the field along at a quick clip -- :22 2/5, :45 4/5 and 1:10 1/5 -- before Yes It's a Cat, ridden by Martin Pedroza, took over leaving the final turn. The Leopard, tracking in fifth for three-quarters, soon collared Yes It's a Cat on the outside. He responded when challenged by Indian Sun after getting the lead. The Irish-bred Meer Kat, making his U.S. debut for Ben Cecil, ran on for third, five lengths behind the winner.
“I was kind of surprised to see him sitting that far back coming out of the first turn but they were running crazy fractions, said Michael McCarthy, Pletcher's assistant. "It ended up working in his favor anyways."
McCarthy said The Leopard is a possible entry for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 22 on Cushion Track.
The Leopard paid $3.60, $2.80 and $2.40. Indian Sun, facing winners for the first time for trainer Dan Hendricks, returned $4.80 and $3.20 as the second choice. Meer Kat, ridden by Victor Espinoza, was $4.20 to show.
Spinning Sound, Robscarvic, Yes It's a Cat, D. Double You, Make Them Break and Gone Grand completed the order.
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