A freshened Slim Shadey, given a two-month break since a disappointing effort in the Eddie Read Stakes (gr. IIT), showed his heels in the $150,000 John Henry Turf Championship (gr. IIT) Sept. 30 at Santa Anita Park (VIDEO).
In 94-degree heat, the 4-year-old British-bred gelding set fast fractions and came home in 1:59.17 for 1 1/4 miles on a very firm turf course to win by 2 1/4 lengths. The winning son of Val Royal, ridden by Garrett Gomez, was sent off at odds of 3-1 in the John Henry.
The race, previously the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship, was renamed by Santa Anita this year for one of California's all-time greats.
Turbo Compressor, shipping in from New York for trainer Todd Pletcher as the 3-2 favorite, closed ground through the stretch to get second, with late-running Interaction (Arg) taking third in a photo.
The win provided a measure of revenge for winning trainer Simon Callaghan and owner/breeder Phil Cunningham after Turbo Compressor defeated favored Slim Shadey in the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park July 7. Slim Shadey was fifth that day.
After the win, Callaghan said that he's planning on the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Nov. 3 for Slim Shadey's next start.
"He's shown that he's a very good horse today and we'll look forward to the Breeders' Cup now," he said.
Transferred from England to Southern California for the 2012 season, Slim Shadey has won three times in nine starts since, with all three victories coming at Santa Anita. Slim Shadey ended a five-race losing streak since capturing the San Marcos Stakes (gr. IIT) at the same 1 1/4-mile distance in February.
Turbo Compressor, almost always on the lead, was away third this time as Slim Shadey sped to an early advantage for Gomez and quickly opened up on his rivals. He extended his advantage to as many as eight lengths over the outsider Brushburn on the backstretch while clipping off swift fractions of :24.02, :46.92, and 1:10.53. Reaching the quarter pole in 1:34.44, Slim Shadey was still in command as Turbo Compressor, who had advanced into second, gradually cut into the margin rounding the final turn.
Slim Shadey, though, had more to give, maintaining a clear advantage while getting the final quarter in :24.73 to keep the favorite at bay.
"Simon wanted me to be laying close with him, if not, then just off the horse on the lead," Gomez said. "Today he was fresh and he really caught me unexpectedly. I never really expected him to be pulling me on the lead like that. I had trouble getting him to settle into a good stride. He kind of just pulled me around there and stretched me out pretty good, but he still finished well and that's a plus. We'll regroup and hopefully be ready for the Breeders' Cup."
The winner is out of Vino Veritas, by Chief's Crown.
This was a test spin for Turbo Compressor, who has already qualified for the Breeders' Cup Turf by virtue of his win in the United Nations. It was a nice rebound from his trailing effort last time in the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. IT) Aug. 18 at Saratoga Race Course.
"I actually thought he'd be a little bit closer, but the horse had no excuse," said Mike McCarthy, Pletcher's assistant. "He ran well."
Turbo Compressor held second by 1 1/2 lengths over Interaction, who closed from near the rear of the nine-horse pack to finish third with Victor Espinoza aboard. Grassy was a head behind him in fourth, followed by Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) winner Casino Host, Fire With Fire, Temple's Door, Bourbon Bay, and Brushburn.
Slim Shadey, fifth in the Eddie Read at Del Mar July 21, picked up his fourth lifetime win in 22 tries and boosted his earnings to $508,600. He has proven his ability at 10 furlongs with three victories in six tries. The question for the leggy dark bay approaching the Breeders' Cup Turf is how he will handle the extra quarter mile.
He carried 121 pounds, three fewer than the favorite, and paid $8.40, $3.80, and $3.40 as the second choice. Turbo Compressor, part of a $27.80 exacta, returned $3 and $3. Interaction was $4.80 to show.
Balladry was scratched after running in the Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I) Sept. 29.