Unhurried early in the one-turn mile for regular rider Cornelio Velasquez, Chatain circled most of his 10 rivals rounding the bend and never let up, getting the lead at the furlong pole and drawing off under urging by 2 1/2 lengths in spite of bumping with Actin Good in the stretch.
Trained by Angel Penna for owner Lazy F Ranch, the lightly raced Chatain, a 5-year-old Forest Wildcat horse, won for the sixth time in nine lifetime starts. The bay has a three-race winning streak that began in August and now boasts total earnings of $276,330.
Chatain won last year's Hal's Hope by a head over Sir Greeley in track record time, but that may not have been his best effort of 2007. He ran fourth, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths by 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) one month later.
“I think he's better than when he won this race last year," Velasquez said. "He runs nice all of the time.”
Stonerside Stable bred Chatain, who is out of the Red Ransom mare Roujoleur, in Kentucky.
Rexson's Rose, a 46-1 shot, led the Hal's Hope field through splits of :23 3/5, :46 3/5 and 1:11 15 as Chatain, the 7-5 favorite, languished near the back of the field. Chatain launched a four-wide bid on the turn but was not adversely affected by the overland journey, winning as much the best in a time of 1:36.39.
“He’s a very good horse, but frustrating too," Penna said. "He’s had problems with his feet, but also has been accident prone. The only time he was really able to put two races together was here last winter when he won the Hal’s Hope and ran a very good race in the Donn, but caught the best horse in the world, Invasor.
"It’s hard to plan too far ahead because of his various problems, but one possibility will be the mile race in Dubai," he said in reference to the Godolphin Mile in late March. "No more two-turn races,” he added, ruling out a return in the Donn.
Miner's Lamp, a 62-1 chance, rallied for second in the final sixteenth under jockey Junior Alvarado, finishing a half-length in front of Actin Good and Eibar Coa.
Timber Reserve, the 19-10 second choice making his first start since winning the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) in September, got a poor start from the rail and faded late, beating just one rival.
Chatain, coming off a minor stakes win at Meadowlands Nov. 3, paid $4.80, $3.40 and $2.80. Miner's Lamp, making his stakes debut for trainer Giuseppe Iadisernia, returned $39.40 and $18.80, completing a $2 exacta worth $149.60. Actin Good, winner of Monmouth's Pegasus (gr. III) before an eighth-place showing in the Fred Hooper Handicap (gr. III) at Calder Dec. 15, was $7 to show.
Yes He's the Man finished fourth, followed by Olympic, Dr Googles Boogles, Rexson's Rose, A.J. Melini, Pop Goes the Tiger, Timber Reserve and Elite Squadron. Commentator and Notgonagetemtoday scratched.
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