Ridden by Richard Eramia for trainer Tom Amoss, Grand Contender won by four lengths and achieved a notable double in becoming the third horse to capture the Lone Star Park Handicap and Texas Mile Stakes (gr. III) in back-to-back efforts.
The 6-year-old Strong Contender
gelding was a $20,000 claim in 2012 at Saratoga Race Course
by owner Maggi Moss. He won three of five races last year, including the Delta Mile Stakes in track record time.
From his four starts thus far this year, Grand Contender placed in both the Louisiana Handicap and Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots
, and won his two previous starts, the Borgata Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths at Delta Downs and then the Texas Mile by a half-length April 26.
After clocking fractions of :24.32, :47.90, and 1:11.82 through six furlongs in the Lone Star Park Handicap, Eramia pressed the button in upper stretch and Grand Contender drew off under strong left-handed urging.
F J Uncle Vic
chased from second about 1 1/2 lengths back early, but he was overtaken for the stretch run by multiple stakes winner Donoharm
, who moved five wide into contention on the far turn after racing near the back of the field. F J Uncle Vic held for third, 1 1/2 lengths back.
Grand Contender covered one mile in 1:37.30 for his ninth win from 23 career start. He has a career bankroll of $540,860.
The half brother to multiple graded stakes winner Twilight Eclipse
was bred in Kentucky by Epona Thoroughbreds out of the Twilight Agenda mare My Twilight Dancer.
Grand Contender, the 2-5 favorite, paid $2.80, $2.80 and $2,10. Donoharm brought $3 and $2.60 as the 3-1 second choice and F J Uncle Vic, as the longest shot in the field at 27-1 odds, paid $4 to show.