Ridden once again by Patrick Valenzuela for trainer Craig Dollase, El Gato Malo assumed command along the inside from Many Rivers coming into the stretch and cruised to a 4 1/4-length win as the 2-5 choice. Valenzuela merely showed El Gato Malo the whip in deep stretch. The winning time for one mile on Tapeta Footings was 1:37.62.
Purchased for $95,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's October sale as a yearling, the Kentucky-bred gelding is by El Corredor out of One Bad Cat, by Mountain Cat. He won his six-furlong maiden debut in eye-catching style by 5 1/2 lengths at Hollywood Park Nov. 18 in a time of 1:09 flat.
Dollase was pleased with the way El Gato Malo handled his first trip around two turns.
"We threw a lot at him today," he said. "The end result was what we looked for. That's the way he's been working, sitting behind horses and making a strong move by them. We'll look for something in mid-January, but we wouldn't preclude coming back here (for the Jan. 27 California Derby). I really like the Tapeta surface."
El Gato Malo raced within close striking distance of a slow pace (:24, :48 3/5, 1:13 1/5) established by Many Rivers, ridden by Russell Baze, and bid his time under confident handing into the final turn. He began his move along the inside leaving the three-eighths pole under only slight urging from Valenzuela.
"He broke sharp today," said Valenzuela. "He was a little bit on the bit but manageable. He relaxed once he got behind horses. At the three-eighths pole, Russell left a gap on the rail and I elected to take it. I knew it wasn't the best place to be but when you're on the best horse you can do it.
"He got right up there and from that point on he accelerated," continued Valenzuela. "I think he's a very good horse. I just showed him the stick today. I wonder what he'll do when I really get after him."
The winner paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. Bert's Law, ridden by Kyle Kaenel, finished second by a neck over Many Rivers, returning $5.40 and $3.80. Many Rivers was $3.20 to show.
Kenneth C. Roberts bred El Gato Malo.
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