Ridden by Joel Rosario in the one-mile test for 2-year-olds, 8-1 shot Stoney Fleece ran down pacesetter Handsome Mike in deep stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Trained by John Sadler for Gary and Cecil Barber, the California-bred Decarchy colt was clocked in a strong 1:34.77 on a firm course to remain unbeaten in two starts on grass.
The time matched that of Comma to the Top in last year's Generous, but was slightly off the stakes mark of 1:34.28 established by The Leopard in 2007.
Stoney Fleece was one of two entrants in the race for the Barber brothers, who claimed the bay for $40,000 out of his maiden debut win July 28 at Del Mar. The other, Senor Rain, bore out badly on the clubhouse turn and was pulled out of the race by jockey Martin Garcia.
Joseph T. Alvarez III bred Stoney Fleece, who is out of the Deputed Testamony mare Gold Fleece and originally sold for $1,200 at Barretts in January.
“His mother was very good on grass," Sadler said. "I ran her here a mile and an eighth in 1:45 4/5, and Toussaud beat her. So I have some familiarity with the family. The other (siblings) got sent to other trainers, but when this one was in for a tag, it was like an old friend/family thing. I really claimed him for grass and he’s two-for-two on turf."
Woodford Racing's Battle Force was made the solid choice in the field of nine off an impressive maiden-breaking victory at one mile on the turf at Santa Anita Nov. 4.
Motown Man, pressed hard by Handsome Mike, set a sizzling pace for the first half-mile (:22.45, :45.12) before Handsome Mike poked his head in front as they reached the quarter-pole in a swift 1:09.50. Handsome Mike, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, inched away from Motown Men in the stretch to lead by 1 1/2 lengths with a furlong to run, but he could not hold off Stoney Fleece, who was never far off the pace in fourth and got the lead in the final sixteenth of a mile under left-handed urging from Rosario.
“It was a perfect trip," Rosario said. "You couldn’t ask for anything better. I was just taking my time and hoped he had something when I asked him. He really likes the turf."
Battle Force, slow to begin for Mike Smith, angled out in the stretch and rallied from sixth but came up short.
Stoney Fleece was coming off a third-place finish in the California Cup Juvenile Oct. 29 at Santa Anita, his first start on dirt. Two weeks prior to that he won a first-level one-mile allowance heat on the Santa Anita turf.
"He’s a nice hard-knocking horse," Sadler said. "He won the starter (allowance) right away and he has never run a bad race. I wasn’t surprised he was in for a tag because he’s small. You know, you take a chance.
"I’d like to keep him on turf, but I won’t rule out some of the California-bred stakes coming up.”
Overall, Stoney Fleece has four wins in six starts and earnings of $156,680.
The winner carried 118 pounds and paid $19.60, $6, and $3.20 as the fourth choice. Handsome Mike returned $4.40 and $2.80 and completed a $69.80 exacta. The show price on Battle Force paid $2.60.