Tres Borrachos snapped a losing streak that spanned more than two years when he rallied from between horses under Rafael Bejarano and swept past favored Kevlar Kid to capture the $200,000 San Diego Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar July 30 (VIDEO).
The victory over Del Mar's Polytrack means a guaranteed starting spot in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) for Tres Borrachos as part of the "Win and You're In" challenge series.
The veteran 6-year-old gelding, whose name means "Three Drunks" in Spanish, is now owned by George Hicker and was making his second start for trainer Marty Jones. Though he came into the race with just three wins from 30 lifetime starts, the son of Ecton Park led the San Diego field in earnings. Tres Borrachos, sent off at odds of 8-1, has now banked $760,257 in his career.
"He's just a nice old horse, a class horse," said Jones, who took over the training of Tres Borrachos from Beau Greely. Hicker purchased Tres Borrachos from a partnership that included John Greely IV and Phil Houchens, who bred him along with Robert Shapiro from the Peteski mare Pete's Fancy.
Dakota Phone won last year's San Diego for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and parlayed that into a 37-1 upset triumph in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs a few months later. This year's championships will also be held at Churchill Nov. 4-5.
Tres Borrachos, who was eighth in last year's San Diego, won the 2008 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) as a 3-year-old at Hollywood Park but had just one victory in 20 starts since.
His last trip to the winner's circle also came at Hollywood Park when he captured an optional claiming allowance race May 25, 2009. He had lost 13 in succession since then. In his only other race on Del Mar's Polytrack, the bay was 11th in the 2009 Pacific Classic (gr. I).
With Bejarano aboard him for the first time, Tres Borrachos clocked the 1 1/16-mile San Diego distance in a solid 1:42.71 to defeat the lukewarm 3-1 choice Kevlar Kid by 1 1/4 lengths. Late-running Spurrier rallied along the inside for third, a head behind Kevlar Kid.
A confirmed front-runner earlier in his career, Tres Borrachos has learned to rate. That ability served him well as he found a ground-saving spot under Rafael Bejarano while racing sixth in the eight-horse field for the opening half-mile.
Kevlar Kid, with Chantal Sutherland aboard, broke alertly from his rail post and soon opened up a commanding lead early over the sprinter Don Tito and second choice Golden Itiz. Kevlar Kid was four lengths clear on the backstretch and continued to show the way through the final turn as he clicked the timer in quarter-mile splits of :23.55, :47.25, and 1:12.36.
The field took closer order on the final turn as Sutherland appeared to give Kevlar Kid a breather rounding the bend. Kevlar Kid, who was making his stakes debut for trainer Carla Gaines, dug in gamely along the inside as the field spread out for the stretch run.
Tres Borrachos was racing in fifth in traffic near the rail on the turn but was angled out for room by Bejarano and they found themselves with a clear shot at the lead in upper stretch. Tres Borrachos, fourth at mid-stretch, flew home impressively under Bejarano's urging, collaring Kevlar Kid at the sixteenth pole and edging clear approaching the wire. He was timed in :06.04 for the final sixteenth.
“Oh, what a kick!" said an enthused Bejarano afterward. "They had been sending this horse (to the front) in his races. But Marty told me to wait and make one run. They were teaching him how to wait in his races. When I finally asked him to run, he just went."
Spurrier, racing well behind the field for much of the journey, made a strong bid at the rail for Joel Rosario and just missed getting by Kevlar Kid for second. Oilisblackgold ran evenly for fourth, followed by Don Tito, Aggie Engineer, Golden Itiz, and Uh Oh Bango, who was eased late.
"He hadn’t run really well on this surface in the past but we kind of changed his style a little bit today and that might have helped," Jones said of the winner.
Tres Borrachos had raced just once previously since last September, finishing third in a seven-furlong allowance race on Hollywood's Cushion Track June 10. Hicker purchased him after that race.
"I knew he was training well, but he's never liked it down here," noted Hicker, who heads an industrial real estate market firm named Cardinal Industrial and races with silks featuring a red cardinal on a white background. He is a former star basketball player at Syracuse University and was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks.
"Thank God, he showed his old class from a couple of years ago," Hicker added. "We're real excited about his future."
Could that include the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Aug. 28?
“We’ve definitely got to look at it the way he ran today,” Jones said.
Tres Borrachos paid $18.80, $8.20, and $5 and topped an $86.40 exacta. Kevlar Kid, who had a two-race winning streak for Class Racing Stable ended, returned $4.40 and $3.40. Spurrier paid $3.60 to show.
In Del Mar's Saturday feature race head-to-head match-up, Kevlar Kid defeated Golden Itiz and paid $3.80. The pool was $18,816.