Favored Champ Pegasus, ridden confidently by Joel Rosario, circled the field on the turn for home and charged home impressively to win Oak Tree's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes(gr. IT) in style by three-quarters of a length Oct. 3 at Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
The fast-developing Champ Pegasus, a lightly-raced 4-year-old son of Fusaichi Pegasus , won the Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) in his last start for trainer Richard Mandella and owners and breeders Diamond A Racing and Arturo Vargas.
Mandella said after the Clement Hirsch that he plans to enter Champ Pegasus in the $3 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 6.
"He's getting better every time," Rosario said of the winner. "I worked him the other morning and he went great, like he was really ready to go. He surprised me today the way he moved turning for home. They were going pretty slow and he can be a little tough, so I took a long hold the whole way and made sure he relaxed. I'm pretty excited about him."
Champ Pegasus covered 1 1/2 miles in 2:01.21 over firm turf.
Where's the Remote charged home from last a bit belatedly to get second with Mike Smith aboard. Bourbon Bay, off 5 1/2 months since winning three consecutive grade II marathon events at Santa Anita, ran well in his return to finish third.
Champ Pegasus broke his maiden at Santa Anita in April. Before tackling the Del Mar Handicap, he ran at Hollywood, winning an optional claiming race and finishing second in the Sunset Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his stakes debut July 18.
"He was a very immature colt growing up and, to be honest, he didn't show us much at 2 or early as a 3-year-old," Mandella said. "But when he came back this time (in the spring), he looked like the real deal."
Marlang, looking to duplicate his front-running win in the Sunset this summer, was in control early for Martin Garcia, leading by 2 1/2 lengths the first time down the stretch and maintaining a healthy advantage while clicking off soft fractions of :25.46, :49.89 and 1:14.19. Worth Repeating and Bourbon Bay, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, raced together in second and third with Falcon Rock stalking in fourth. Champ Pegasus, meanwhile, lagged in sixth in the eight-horse field.
Still in front at the quarter pole, Marlang came under pressure from Falcon Rock as Champ Pegasus began to wind up his move while about four paths wide rounding the final turn. Champ Pegasus still had five horses to beat as he straightened out for the drive, but he powered past masterfully under a couple of left-handed cracks of the whip from Rosario to open up a clear advantage in the final sixteenth of a mile. He won under a vigorous hand ride.
“He showed that (closing) style at Del Mar (when winning the Del Mar Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths) that he was kind of believing in himself to do it," Mandella said. "He just kind of keeps improving and getting better as we go. We’ll probably have to get a little bit better than this to win the Breeders’ Cup.”
Where's the Remote, in his stakes debut for trainer Mike Mitchell, also strode home impressively and was cutting into the lead before he ran out of time.
"He ran dynamite," Smith said of the runner-up. "He kind of lost his back end leaving there and it cost me position. Going that slow you want position. The winner had position on me and I think if we would have broke better it might have been the other way around. But he showed that he belongs, and that's a good thing."
It was a neck back to Bourbon Bay, who was a neck better than Marlang. Then came Falcon Rock, Unusual Suspect, Worth Repeating, and Buenos Dias.
“A little short for my horse," Neil Drysdale said of the distance for Bourbon Bay. "He’s a little bit fresh and then the other horse (Falcon Rock) got on his outside and started to move a little quick. He was coming on at the end and lost his right front shoe.”
Champ Pegasus improved his career line to 4-2-1 in eight races, all but one of his starts coming this year. He earned $150,000 for the victory, boosting his winnings to $358,520.
The winning bay colt is out of Salt Champ, by Salt Lake.
Champ Pegasus paid $5.40, $3.40 and $2.40 as the 17-10 choice. Where's the Remote, last at the eighth pole, returned $6.40 and $3.40 and completed a $37.60 exacta. Bourbon Bay paid $2.60.