The Lemon Drop Kid colt unleashed a strong outside rally in the stretch as the 6-5 choice and drew off to a 3 1/2-length win. He stamped himself at horse to watch for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), the second jewel of the Triple Crown, May 17 at the Baltimore track.
Kid Cruz was timed in 1:47.38 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track and improved his record to 3-1-0 from five career starts.
Kid Cruz was making only his third start for trainer Linda Rice, who claimed him for $50,000 for co-owner Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds out of a six-length romp at Aqueduct Racetrack Nov. 22. He entered the Tesio off a victory in his stakes debut in the Private Terms Stakes March 8 at Laurel Park, where he rallied from nearly 20 lengths back to win going away in his second start of the year.
"We were able to sit much closer today," said winning jockey Julian Pimentel. "He was running very easy and very comfortable. He asked me to run a little early on the backstretch, so I had to hold him a little bit. He got up really well, really strong. I think I could have won by more but I just bided my time. Once I asked him he was ready."
Oliver Zip and Mr. Rover dueled through slow early fractions (:24.76, :50.44, 1:16.39) with Kid Cruz stalking from fifth while three to four paths wide. Mr. Rover led Oliver Zip by just a head around the turn, where Kid Cruz picked up the pace for Pimentel. He was roused past the three-eighths pole and easily took charge past midstretch.
"I was a little worried that they were going to take this race from wire-to-wire, but there was enough pressure to weaken the leader late," said assistant trainer Marsha Barrs. "This horse really ran a terrific race even though we had to miss a work."