Honest Man, winner of six of his last eight starts, earned his first stakes win for owners WinStar Farm and Fox Hill Farm, and trainer Larry Jones.
Gottcha Gold, pushed by Kiss the Kid, led the field to mid-stretch on the inside, where he gave way to the pressure. The charging Honest Man, ridden by Terry Thompson, took control over Kiss the Kid in the final furlong to win by 2 3/4 lengths. A belated bid by Grasshopper, who trailed the field after a half-mile with Robby Albarado aboard, netted the 3-2 choice the runner-up spot over Kiss the Kid by three-quarters of a length. The winning time in the 1 1/8-mile Iselin was 1:49.12.
"We got a great stalking trip," Thompson said. "It was a push-button ride and he really picked it up when I asked him with the left stick. He’s improving into a very nice horse.”
Gottcha Gold, the defending Iselin champion who finished fourth, outfought Actin Good and Kiss the Kid through quarter-mile fractions of :22 3/5, :46, and 1:10 1/5 for the opening six furlongs.
Honest Man came into the Iselin off a third-place finish in the Salvator Mile (gr. III) over the Monmouth main track, a race in which the 4-year-old Unbridled's Song colt stumbled at the start. In his only other stakes try, the dark bay ran fifth in the Maxxam Gold Cup Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park Jan. 26. Honest Man's sixth win in 10 lifetime starts was worth $180,000 and doubled his earnings to $360,800.
“It sure looks like the Salvator Mile set him up perfectly for this," Jones said. "I thought (Shopton Lane) would be out there pressing the early pace pretty good, but he scratched. I told Terry just to let him break and play it from there. He did everything right. We were able to stalk the early pace and go after the leaders turning for home."
Bred in Kentucky by Racehorse Management LLC, Honest Man was a $700,000 purchase at the 2005 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He is out of the Known Fact mare Oath.
Sent off as the second choice in the field of eight, Honest Man carried 117 pounds to the win, paying $8.20, $3.40, and $3. Grasshopper, favored after his recent third-place finish in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) last time for trainer Neil Howard, returned $2.40 and $2.40. Kiss the Kid, ridden by Daniel Centeno, was $4.40 to show.
"I thought today was going to be his day, but it wasn’t," Albarado said of the favorite. "He ran well, though, and is on track to getting back to his winning ways. He ran a good race.”
It was a neck back to Gottcha Gold, who was followed by Cuba, Actin Good, Five Steps and Pleasant Strike.
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