J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill have been known to take their chances, and their latest paid off when first-time starter Know More surged late to prevail in the $150,000 Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) Aug. 5 at Del Mar (VIDEO).
According to the Del Mar press office, the win by Know More is the only time a first-time starter has won a graded stakes there.
Know More, ridden by Garrett Gomez, rallied coming off the turn in the field of eight 2-year-olds, getting the better of Heir Kitty in the finals stages to post a half-length victory. The son of Lion Heart out of the Seattle Slew mare Seattle Qui went off at odds of 8-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong Polytrack test.
“Garrett was kind enough to come out and work him a couple of times and when he said he would take the mount for us that cinched it," O'Neill said of the decision to try Know More in a graded stakes first time out. “It exceeded our expectations. We were expecting him to put in a good effort, but you never expect something like this right out of the box."
Fillies trained by Peter Miller finished second and third, with Heir Kitty finishing ahead of stablemate Miss Empire by 1 1/4 lengths. The final time was 1:16.14.
Scherer Magic, the even-money favorite following his convincing win in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) July 14, was stuck between horses in traffic on the turn for home and never fired. He finished fifth.
“We got banged around early," jockey Joe Talamo said. "But then he never did quicken.”
Dennis O’Neill, bother of Doug O’Neill, purchased Know More at the Barretts' May 2-year-old sale for $210,000. The colt, consigned by Wavertree Stables, agent, was the sale’s second-highest-priced horse. Seattle Qui has produced two winners including grade II-placed stakes winner Classical Slew.
Joseph LaCombe Stables bred the bay colt in Kentucky. O'Neill previously won the Best Pal in 2008 with LaCombe's Azul Leon, who was placed first upon the disqualification of Kelly Leak.
Reddam and O'Neill were second to Creative Cause in last year's Best Pal with Triple Crown star I'll Have Another , who often overcame big odds during his fabulous 3-year-old campaign.
Know More earned $90,000 for his debut in the Best Pal, an important steppingstone to the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) Sept. 5.
Previously based at Betfair Hollywood Park, Know More has been at Del Mar since mid-July. He had two public workouts since then, both out of the gate. In the most recent effort, he drilled six furlongs in 1:14.
Know More broke alertly from the far outside post to be third behind Amarish and K Court. He soon dropped back in the field as Amarish took control while cutting quarter-mile fractions of :22.83 and :48.81. Heir Kitty, who stalked early before advancing into contention around the turn, was prepared to challenge the weakening front-runner in the lane. Know More also was coming on the far outside, looking like he was prepared to pounce as well.
Heir Kitty, ridden by David Flores, got the lead just past mid-stretch and dug in stubbornly as Know More slowly reeled her in. Know More drifted inward late but got the lead under left-handed urging from Gomez. He held on well as Heir Kitty kept battling to the wire. Miss Empire, ridden by Kevin Krigger, rallied belatedly for third over Heir of Storm. Then came Scherer Magic, Amarish, Moreno, and K Court.
“He’s been a work in progress in the mornings," said Gomez, who previously won the Best Pal with Lookin At Lucky in 2009. "He’s been on edge, especially mentally. He wouldn’t relax. He’d be too much into his game. So we’ve been working with him, between the ears, to slow him down. Get him to enjoy his work. I’ve worked him two or three times in the morning, working to get him to be more comfortable. Today, he did it right.
"He broke out of there good and he relaxed. When I asked him to move up on the backside, he did it just fine. Then he went to running. It takes a special kind of horse to do what he did. We just have to be hopeful that he’s all that we think he is.”
With Scherer Magic missing in the show pool, payoffs were unusual. Know More, carrying 117 pounds, returned $19.20, $8.80, and $9.80 as the fourth choice on the board. Heir Kitty paid $8 and $10.60. The exacta brought back a healthy $137.80. The show on 16-1 Miss Empire was worth $13.40.