Daddy Nose Best, getting a great ground-saving trip from Julien Leparoux, won an all-out duel with Lucky Chappy to capture the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) by a nostril at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 18 (VIDEO) .
The terrific finish to the 1 1/8-mile test for 3-year-olds gave trainer Steve Asmussen back-to-back victories in Golden Gate's most prestigious race. Asmussen, who won last year's El Camino Real with Silver Medallion, has now won with both of his starters at the San Francisco Bay Area oval.
This was the first stakes win for Daddy Nose Best, owned by Bob and Cathy Zollars of Dallas, Texas.
Leparoux, the French native currently based in Florida, had never before competed at Golden Gate, but he negotiated the Tapeta main track like he'd been doing it all his career.
Daddy Nose Best was making his first start of the year after a busy juvenile campaign in which he won twice in eight starts. His last six races were on turf.
"We came here because of the added distance and his experience on turf which carries over to synthetic," said Darren Fleming, assistant to Asmussen. "Winning the race last year with Silver Medallion helped our decision."
Fleming said he was not sure what race is next for the winner.
The winning son of Scat Daddy , sent off as the third choice in the field of 10, completed the distance in 1:50.46. The time was less than a second off the Tapeta mark of 1:49.54 set by Delightful Kiss in 2008.
Out of the Thunder Gulch mare Follow Your Bliss, Daddy Nose Best was bred in Kentucky by Patricia Ann Elia Trust. The bay colt was a bargain purchase for $35,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.
Daddy Nose Best settled into fifth along the inside for Leparoux as 2-1 favorite Handsome Mike battled head-and-head for the early lead with 94-1 shot All Squared Away, carving fractions of :23.31, :47.57, and 1:12.28.
Leparoux deftly angled Daddy Nose Best out of trouble when they were briefly blocked rounding the final bend, splitting horses to eventually get the lead from Handsome Mike in the stretch. Lucky Chappy, meanwhile, was gathering momentum on the far outside for Alan Garcia, a New York-based rider handling Lucky Chappy for Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion.
The Irish-bred Lucky Chappy was last down the backstretch but circled the field rounding the far turn and charged home six paths wide to get his head in front of Daddy Nose Best at mid-stretch. There was nothing between the two shippers in the furious drive for the wire as Daddy Nose Best prevailed along the inside.
Leparoux said he didn't know if he won.
"It was too close to call," he said. "I was in the right position all the way around. It was nice to see the horse fight back (in the homestretch)."
Handsome Mike, ridden by Corey Nakatani for trainer Doug O'Neill, finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind the first two.
Daddy Nose Best was coming off a fifth-place finish in the one-mile Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 18. He was a troubled sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) last fall. His best previous stakes finish was a third in the Summer Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Woodbine last September.
"He's been getting better with time, and he's trained with a different mindset since his last race," Fleming said. "He's been showing us he wanted more ground, so we've had to wait for the races to catch up to him. I was a little concerned about the lack of room (on the turn) but like Julien always does, he got him through there."
Daddy Nose Best improved to 3-2-1 in nine starts with earnings of $133,623.
The winner paid $10.20, $5.40, $3.60. Lucky Chappy returned $4.60 and $2.80. The exacta was worth $38.80. Handsome Mike paid $2.80.
It was one length to fourth-place finisher Unveiled Heat. He was followed by California Derby winner Russian Greek and the filly Lady of Fifty, both trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Then came All Squared Away, Rockinarz Recruit, Senor Rain, and Cahill Chrome.