West Point Thoroughbreds’ El Gato Malo, making his first start on traditional dirt, made a dramatic move in late stretch to take the 400,000 Lone Star Derby (gr. III) (VIDEO) by a half-length May 10 at Lone Star Park.
Fourth at the top of the lane, El Gato Malo forced his way away from the rail under Rafael Bejarano, bumped with Texas Wildcatter, and then began his surge towards the leaders. He needed the entire final furlong to get past Leonides and pacesetter Samba Rooster.
El Gato Malo completed the 1 1/16-mile contest in 1:43.04. Leonides was second in the 13-horse field, a nose in front of Samba Rooster.
Trained by Craig Dollase, El Gato Malo was one of the early favorites for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) after taking the San Rafael (gr. III) by 6 1/4 lengths in January. But the son of El Corredor finished second in the March 1 Sham Stakes (gr. I) and fifth in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), and came up short on graded earnings. Bred in Kentucky by Kenneth Roberts, El Gato Malo was making his first start outside of California.
Samba Rooster, second in the April 19 Lexington Stakes (gr. II), broke to the early lead under Garrett Gomez. The son of Songandaprayer posted aggressive fractions of :22.98, :46.27, and 1:10.20. He was pressed the whole way by Leonides, with My Pal Charlie and Limestone Edge also close up. El Gto Malo was fifth through the backstretch.
The winner edged his way toward the outside as he came out of the final turn, and once finding room, began his assault on the front.
Going off as the favorite, the bay gelding paid $5.20, $3.80 and $2.80. The exacta (2-9) with Leonides returned $69. The trifecta (12-9-1A) was worth $168.40.
El Gato Malo, who is out of the Mountain Cat mare One Bad Cat, improved to 4-1-0 from six starts.
Leonides, also a California invader, was coming off a second-place finish in the six-furlong San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita March 29. The Lone Star was his first try more than six furlongs. The son of Richter Scale is trained by Vladimir Cerin.