Fast-closing Richard's Kid saved ground all the way, sweeping by odds-on favorite Twirling Candy past mid-stretch to win Oak Tree's $250,000 Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Hollywood Park Oct. 2.
Alonso Quinonez drove Richard's Kid to a half-length victory at 8-1 odds over Crown of Thorns for owner Zabeel Racing International and trainer Bob Baffert. It was quite a day for Baffert, who won both the Indiana Derby (gr. II) with Lookin At Lucky and Indiana Oaks (gr. II) with Always a Princess earlier at Hoosier Park Racing and Casino.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Cushion Track test was 1:49.18.
The 1 1/8-mile Goodwood carried a Breeders' Cup "Win & You're In" designation for the $5 million Classic (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs. But Richard's Kid had already sewn up a berth when he won the Pacific Classic (gr. I) Aug. 28 at Del Mar for the second year in a row.
Five-year-old Richard's Kid, who was third in last year's Goodwood, ran sixth in the 2009 BC Classic at Santa Anita.
Goodwood pacesetter Crown of Thorns re-rallied in the stretch to claim second over the stalking Dakota Phone. Three-year-old Twirling Candy, the 3-5 favorite making his first start against older rivals, faded to fourth after opening a big lead at the head of the stretch.
Richard's Kid angled in after the break and raced at the back of the seven-horse field with Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Awesome Gem for the first six furlongs. Crown of Thorns took the early lead from Informed and showed the way through an opening quarter-mile in :23.96 and four furlongs in :47.97. Twirling Candy, pulling jockey Mike Smith from the start, then challenged on the outside early on the backstretch to vie with Crown of Thorns, taking a one-length advantage after six furlongs in 1:11.84.
Twirling Candy, winner of the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) in his most recent prior start, inched away from Crown of Thorns on the final turn and led by a couple of lengths as they reached the stretch. Richard's Kid, moving up on the inside on the turn, rallied under left-handed urging while sticking close to the rail. He was third at the eighth pole before bursting past Twirling Candy, who was clearly weakening in the final furlong.
Richard's Kid held sway in the final sixteenth as Crown of Thorns, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, bid three deep past the eighth pole and finished up encouragingly in his first route try since winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) as a 3-year-old in February 2008.
"That's the way he runs," Quinonez said of Richard's Kid closing style. "We were going to be last or second to last early. He doesn't have that kind of speed to be close and whenever he (is closer), he doesn't run good. So I just followed the instructions; let him break and let him find his stride. We were last, and I said well I'm just going to save ground. From there everything went good. I never had to move out, I stayed inside the whole way. I'll take it."
Crown of Thorns, runner-up by a nose in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), finished 2 1/2 lengths clear of Dakota Phone, with Patrick Valenzuela aboard.
"He had all the opportunity to win the race but (Richard’s Kid) came running really strong," Bejarano said of the runner-up. "I didn't really have much choice and after a half-mile I had to go after the leader. My horse kept running, but I couldn't keep up with the other horse."
Richard's Kid earned $150,000 for his ninth win in 27 lifetime starts, boosting his career earnings to $1,716,370. Fitzhugh bred the dark bay/brown horse by Lemon Drop Kid --Tough Broad, by Broad Brush, in Maryland.
"What a smart ride – saved ground all the way," enthused Mike Marlow, assistant to Baffert. "I think it was a winning ride just saving ground around the turn and riding on the fence.
Sent off as the third choice, Richard's Kid paid $18.60, $4.60, and $3.20 and keyed a $45 exacta. Crown of Thorns returned $3.40 and $3. Dakota Phone was $4.80 to show.
Then came Twirling Candy, Awesome Gem, Informed, and Crowded House.
"He was going pretty easy, but he was pulling," Smith said of Twirling Candy, who has provided a few glimpses of his potential in a brief career. "He never got into that comfortable rhythm that I wanted him to. I was hoping he'd drop the bit a little bit more, but he didn't. It hurt him at the end. But he still has room to improve."