Bourbon Bay, who had won the only prior 1 1/2-mile turf race during the Santa Anita meet, made it two-for-two when he romped home in the $150,000 San Luis Obispo Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) for his first stakes triumph Feb. 21.
With Rafael Bejarano aboard, the tracking Bourbon Bay reeled in pacesetter Sudden War in upper stretch and cruised to victory by 4 1/4 lengths, completing the 12 furlongs in 2:28.89 over a turf course rated "good" after overnight rain.
Purchased privately by David and Jill Heerensperger following a second-place finish in the 2008 Miller Lite Cradle Stakes as a juvenile at River Downs, Bourbon Bay had lost seven in a row for trainer Neil Drysdale before his 3 1/2-length victory in an optional claiming allowance heat at 12 furlongs Jan. 6 at Santa Anita.
The 4-year-old Sligo Bay gelding, a $1,700 Keeneland yearling buy in September 2007, had raced nine times prior to trying the distance that is quite apparently his best.
“When we purchased him, we purchased him with the idea that he’d be a mile and a half horse, so he’s lived up to it to date," Drysdale said. "He won well the other day, so it’s good. It looks like he’s improving. He had a lot of mucous and allergy problems as a 3-year-old, but he seems fine now.”
Bejarano wanted Bourbon Bay forwardly placed in a race that didn't figure to have much speed, and that's the way it worked out.
The Argentina-bred Sudden War, the second choice in the field of eight ridden by Alex Solis, went to the front, covering the first half-mile in :49.89 and six furlongs in 1:15.14. Bourbon Bay tracked about 1 1/2 lengths behind while racing off the rail. Also in the leading group were 2-1 favorite Dynamic Range, stalking at the rail, and Porfido, well-positioned to the outside. There was no change in that order after Sudden War completed an easy mile in 1:41.12 and 10 furlongs in 2:05.55.
But Bourbon Bay went on the attack leaving the turn and it became a two-horse race when Dynamic Range bobbled on the soft course, losing stride, and Porfido dropped back. Bourbon Bay, responding when asked by Bejarano with a left-handed crack of the whip, took command quickly and was by himself leaving mid-stretch. He won under a brisk hand ride in the final furlong as the tiring Sudden War was passed by the late-running Unusual Suspect in deep stretch.
"I was able to cover my horse up and stay nice and relaxed until the half-mile pole and then I asked him," Bejarano said. "With the fractions we had, you have to have a lot of horse (to catch the pacesetter), but when you’re on the best horse, it makes it easy. My horse has a really good turn of foot in the stretch.”
The winner carried 114 pounds, three fewer than the high-weighted Dynamic Range, and paid $9.60, $5.20 and $4.20 as the third choice in the field.
Unusual Suspect, ridden by Alonzo Quinonez, took second by 1 1/4 lengths, returning $10 and $6 and completing a $127 exacta, with Sudden War ($4.20) settling for third. Romp closed from the rear of the field in the final quarter-mile to finish fourth, followed by Obrigado, Porfido, Dynamic Range and Sir Dave. Troubletimesthree scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, Bourbon Bay ran his career record to 3-2-2 in 11 races and boosted his earnings to $209,424 with the winning purse of $90,000. The bay is out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Coral Necklace. He began his career with trainer Lowell Stevens at Ellis Park, where he broke his maiden in his second start in August 2008.