Scorewithcater outfought Mine That Bird during a stretch-long duel to capture the $100,000 Borderland Derby by a neck at Sunland Park Feb. 28.
A $40,000 claim last fall by trainer Doug O'Neill for himself and Robert Master, Scorewithcater shipped to New Mexico from Southern California for his stakes debut. He was ridden to victory in his initial start on dirt by Michael Baze.
The Borderland, a 1 1/16-mile test for 3-year-olds, serves as the main local prep stakes for the $800,000 Sunland Derby March 29. The final time was a solid 1:43.96.
With Baze aboard him for the first time, Scorewithcater stalked a moderate pace from mid-pack. The chestnut colt made a bold move while five wide on the outside around the final turn to challenge Mine That Bird, who had taken the lead earlier on the turn after pressing the pacesetter Hoya for six furlongs. Quarter-mile fractions were :23.79, :48.03, and 1:11.82.
Scorewithcater got a narrow advantage nearing mid-stretch, but Mine That Bird, last year's Canadian champion 2-year-old who was ridden by Casey Lambert, battled back along the inside. The result was in doubt until the final strides when Scorewithcater inched away under strong urging from Baze.
Smokin' Legend, ridden by Jorge Espitia, finished third, 4 1/4 lengths behind the runner-up. Tiz Believing, favored Dumar, Hornung and Hoya followed.
Dumar, who was the 2-1 choice with a late betting move, closed from last while extremely wide on the final turn but ran out of steam in the stretch.
O’Neill has won the WinStar Derby (now the Sunland Derby) twice previously, with Excessivepleasure in 2003 and with Thor’s Echo in 2005.
Baze, a late substitute rider for Alonso Quinonez, said, “I was fortunate they picked me for the ride. We had a perfect trip throughout. My horse wanted to sit back and make one big run. I had a lot of horse the whole way. In the end, he was just teasing them.”
Scorewithcater has won four of five starts since his claim for $40,000 from trainer Brian Koriner at Hollywood Park on Nov. 20. The Kentucky-bred son of Even the Score --Runaway Cater, by Runaway Groom, was coming off a head victory over Unbridled Roman in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance heat on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride racing surface Jan. 29. All seven of Scorewithcater's previous starts came on Southern California synthetic tracks.
The victory, his fourth, was worth $40,000 and boosted Scorewithcater's lifetime earnings to $131,720.
Sent off as the second choice in the field of seven, Scorewithcater carried 120 pounds to victory and paid $6.60, $2.80, and $2.10. Mine That Bird, making his first start since running last of 12 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25, returned $4 and $2.80 in a game effort for new trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. Smokin' Legend was $6.40 to show in his stakes debut for trainer Dwain Grissom.
Infernal and Lefty Who scratched.