Arson Squad, making his first start on dirt since winning the 2007 Strub Stakes (gr. I), swept past Timber Reserve in the homestretch to win the $350,000 Meadowlands Cup (gr. II) (VIDEO) in New Jersey on the night of Oct. 3.
Recently transferred from his Southern California base with trainer Bruce Headley to Rick Dutrow Jr. by owner Jay Em Ess Stable, Arson Squad had failed to finish in the money in seven starts on synthetic tracks since his Strub victory.
Ridden by Edgar Prado, the 5-year-old Arson Squad defeated Anak Nakal by 2 1/2 lengths in the 1 1/8-mile Meadowlands Cup, which was clocked in 1:48.81.
Arson Squad, next to last, and Anak Nakal, trailing the field under Joe Bravo, were not involved early as Timber Reserve and Kent Desormeaux set a quick pace. Timber Reserve, flanked by 8-5 favorite Past the Point and Actin Good on his outside, carved fractions of :22.88, :45.91 and 1:10.12. Going into the far turn the back markers began to move up, with Prado threading his way between horses and Anak Nakal going to the outside.
Arson Squad, three wide on the outside of Timber Reserve and Past The Point in upper stretch, gradually wore down his rivals and drew clear in the final sixteenth of a mile under steady urging. Anak Nakal, who was pinched back at the break, rallied six wide into the stretch and finished strongly to nose the determined Timber Reserve for second.
It was a length back to Actin Good, who was followed by Past the Point, P V Lightening and True Resurgence. Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Da' Tara, who would have been part of the pace drill, was scratched by trainer Nick Zito in favor of the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park Oct. 5.
Facing the best handicap horses in Southern California, Arson Squad had enjoyed no success in the past 18 months while attempting distances from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/4 miles. In his last start, the dark bay gelded son of Brahms ran seventh in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien Handicap (gr. II) on the Del Mar Polytrack Aug. 24 at odds of 67-1.
At Meadowlands, he was sent off as the third choice, paying $10.80, $4.80 and $4. Anaka Nakal, winner of the Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II) last time out, returned $6.20 and $3.60, capping a $2 exacta worth $56. Timber Reserve was $3.20 to show.
Arson Squad, who won the Swaps Stakes (gr. II) as a 3-year-old, earned $210,000 for his sixth lifetime win in 19 starts and boosted his bankroll to $846,850. The winner, bred in Pennsylvania by E&D Enterprises, is out of the Green Dancer mare Majestic Fire.