Kodiak Kowboy scored the first grade I victory of his career and became a millionaire in dramatic fashion, rallying late to edge the front-running Fabulous Strike by a head in the $300,000 Carter Handicap (VIDEO) April 4 at Aqueduct. It was the eighth win in 17 career starts for Kodiak Kowboy, who was Canada’s champion 2-year-old male in 2007.
Ridden by John Velazquez, Kodiak Kowboy covered the Carter’s seven furlongs in 1:22.47 in his second outing of 2009, improving on a second-place finish in the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes at Fair Grounds March 14. Prior to this year, the 4-year-old Posse colt had notched victories in five added-money events, including the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Bashford Manor (gr. III) Stakes in 2007, and the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. II) and the Sport Page Handicap (gr. III) in 2008.
“He makes you work for it, but he runs,” said Velazquez, following the Carter. “At the eighth pole, I was very confident, and when I got to the sixteenth pole, he started to slow down a little bit. I said, ‘Oh no, buddy, you’ve got to keep going.’ Then, he jumped a footprint near the wire, and I said, ‘My gosh!’ Once he got rolling on the turn, I knew I had a pretty good shot to win it.”
Kodiak Kowboy, whose career earnings rose to $1,035,558 with his $180,000 share of the Carter purse, is out of the Coronado’s Quest mare Kokadrie. He was bred in Kentucky by Hartwell Farm.
Hartwell, as agent, consigned Kodiak Kowboy to the 2005 Keeneland November breeding stock sale when the colt was a weanling. J.W. Singer purchased Kodiak Kowboy for $40,000. The following year, Dr. Tom Simon’s Vinery Stables bought the bay colt for $70,000 from Burleson Farms, agent, at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. August yearling sale.
Kodiak Kowboy, who races for Vinery and Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farm, is trained by Larry Jones. The colt was coupled in the Carter betting with Fox Hill Farm and Richard Brand’s Biker Boy, and the entry was sent off as the favorite.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Vinery general manager Tom Ludt. “He has got two grade IIs at Saratoga (the Special and the Amsterdam) and now a grade I here. He loves New York. We got a prep race into him at the Fair Grounds, and we aimed for this spot. Now we’re going to aim for another grade I at Saratoga (Forego, Sept. 5).”
Kodiak Kowboy has captured graded events at all three of the tracks operated by the New York Racing Association. In addition to his Saratoga and Aqueduct efforts, he picked up a graded victory at Belmont Park in the Sport Page.
Fabulous Strike, a grade I winner and the Carter’s second betting choice, gained the lead quickly after breaking third from the starting gate. Setting the pace on the rail while being pressed by Driven by Success, Fabulous Strike established brisk early fractions of :22.23 for the first quarter-mile and :44.52 for the half. Meanwhile, Kodiak Kowboy relaxed while galloping along next-to-last in the eight-horse field. He charged five-wide and caught Kodiak Kowboy just before the wire. It was two lengths back to Driven by Success in third.
“I had a great trip other than I got pressured pretty hard the whole way around, and we ended up going quicker than you want for this distance,” said Fabulous Strike’s jockey, Ramon Dominguez. “I was very proud of my horse; he ran hard, and he fought until the end. He just got outrun the last few strides.”
Biker Boy was fourth, followed by True Quality, Ah Day, Understatement, and 2008 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) winner Tale of Ekati , who had a troubled start and never threatened. Tale of Ekati was trying to become the second horse, following Congaree , to win all three of Aqueduct’s grade I events.
Kodiak Kowboy paid $5.80, $3.00, and $2.20 to his Carter backers, and Fabulous Strike returned $3.30 and $2.60 while Driven by Success paid $6.50. Fabulous Strike carried the top weight of 123 pounds, two to nine more than his rivals. Kodiak Kowboy had an assignment of 118.