It was the first stakes victory on turf for the 4-year-old El Prado colt, who made his debut on grass for trainer Cam Gambolati last month in the Pete Axthelm Stakes at Calder Race Course, where he was a half-length behind winner Fearless Eagle.
In the one mile Appleton, which was open to older horses, Buffalo Man sat third at the rail behind pacesetter Jet Propulsion, and South African-bred Elusive Fort, who was towards the outside. Even as Prado moved Buffalo Man into second along the backside, Dennis Punches’ Jet Propulsion was still the one to beat, as he posted relatively easy fractions of :23.17 and :47.90. Croton Road and British Blue were also in contention.
At the top of the lane Jet Propulsion, with Javier Castellano aboard, was still running well, but Buffalo Man began his assault on the lead towards the outside. The Ontario-bred stuck a head in front with a half-furlong to go and extended his lead.
Elusive Fort, in contention the whole way, tried desperately to close under Rene Douglas, but was only able to get second. Host, likely making his final start before being sent to stud, rallied gamely from last, but was a head in back of Jet Propulsion for the third spot.
“The last time he just missed because I think he was kind of surprised to be on the turf, and they went so fast (early), he fell so far behind," Prado said. "Once he got his rhythm going and his feet underneath him he was flying. I’ve been working him every time since and every time I’ve liked him more and more. I think he’s found a home on the grass, and hopefully he can stay sound and continue to do well out there.”
Buffalo Man, bred by Adena Springs, has now won six of 11 lifetime starts, including four stakes events. Out of the Saratoga Six mare Perfect Six, he has earned more than $318,000. His last victory prior to the Appleton came Feb. 12 in the 1 1/16-mile OBS Championship Stakes at Ocala Training Center. After that, he was off until the Nov. 1 Wild Again Stakes at Aqueduct, where he was second behind C P West.
“He got the perfect trip, sitting behind the speed," Gambolati said. "He always trained good on the dirt and was doing well when he came back from an injury to finish second in the Wild Again, but then he displaced (palate) in the Discovery (Handicap, gr. III).
"We got down to Palm Meadows and got to work him on the turf. He handled it so well and went so smooth. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to go to turf with him. I’d say we’ll stay with the turf with him now.”
Going off as the 3-1 favorite, Buffalo Man returned $8.80, $4, $3. The exacta (1-8) with Elusive Fort was worth $74.60, while the trifecta (1-8-10) paid $665.40.
Brooklyn Boy was fifth, followed by Croton Road, Fearless Eagle, British Blue, Mysterious Peintre, and Terrfic Storm. Magic Mecke was scratched.