Led by Essence of Dubai, Godolphin Racing's entry filled the exacta spots in Saturday's $250,000 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, giving Pulpit his first stakes winner as a sire.
Morning-line favorite Came Home was scratched due to some filling in his right-front leg. The wagering crowd then focused their attention on Godolphin's entry of Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham, who were sent off as the even-money favorites, and the Thoroughbred Corp.'s Ecstatic, the second-choice at just under 2-1.
Once the gates opened, Roman Dancer struck to the lead under pressure from the outside from Ecstatic Ibn Al Haitham. Essence of Dubai raced in fifth following a :47.84 half-mile as the top three positions remained unchanged. Essence of Dubai began to rally behind the leaders on the turn for home but needed racing room as those rivals formed a three-horse wall. Roman Dancer provided the room while bearing out at the top of the stretch, giving Alex Solis the rail and then some. Essence of Dubai charged home through the stretch to complete the one-mile race in 1:37.16 on a fast track, finishing three lengths clear of his stablemate.
"About the five-sixteenth pole, I started looking for a place to go," said Solis. "I stayed right in the middle because I didn't know how it everything was going to develop. At the quarter pole, I saw (Roman Dancer) going out and thought that was my chance to come through. He's a nice horse, he showed a lot of class today."
Roman Dancer finished third on the track but was disqualified to fourth for bumping Ecstatic repeatedly in the stretch, once nearly knocking the Bob Baffert trainee into the heels of Ibn Al Haitham. Ecstatic was awarded third. Tracemark and Villa Amalfi completed the order of finish.
"It was a rocky ride. ... I needed Officer today," quipped Baffert.
Essence of Dubai and Ibn Al Haitham paid $4, $3.80, and $2.40. Ecstatic returned $3.20 to show and completed the $1 exacta worth $4.
Essence of Dubai earned $150,000 for the win, his second in three starts. He is out of Epitome, by Summing, and was bred in Kentucky by Jonabell Farm Inc.
"We're definitely going to the Breeders' Cup (Juvenile)," said winning trainer Eoin Harty, a former Baffert assistant. "We'll send him a week before the race and give him one easy work over the track. His race at Del Mar (third by 10 1/2 lengths behind Officer in the Best Pal, gr. III) kind of blew my confidence in him. I said before I thought he was a little lost in a three-horse field. I always felt he was capable of much better. This race set up better for him, although you've got to admit, it wasn't exactly the toughest pre-Breeders' Cup prep in the nation. It feels great to beat the boss." (Chart, Equibase