Big John B and Rafael Bejarano take the Cougar II.

Big John B and Rafael Bejarano take the Cougar II.

Benoit Photo

Big John B Rides Rail to Win Cougar II 'Cap

Turf specialist switched to dirt and won grade III event.

A switch in surfaces was no problem for Michael House's turf specialist Big John B in the $100,000 Cougar II Handicap (gr. III) July 24 at Del Mar.

Video: Cougar II H. (G3)

Despite only racing on dirt twice in his 32-race career prior to the Cougar II, the 6-year-old Hard Spun  gelding got an ideal rail trip on the final turn of the 1 1/2-mile race, shot to the lead in the stretch, and held off a late run by longshot Bailoutbobby to win by a half length.

The race marked Big John B's first start on dirt since January 2012, when he ran fourth in a maiden special weight event at Gulfstream Park. The Phil D'Amato trainee, who last won in the 2014 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT) last August, hit the wire in 2:31.62 on fast track. Favored Sky Kingdom , off at 6-5 in his third attempt to win the Cougar II, was 4 1/2 lengths back in third.

Big John B sat in last in the field of five as Bob Baffert-trained Cat Burglar shot out of the gate in the three-turn event and opened up a five length lead, with fractions of :24.69 and :48.73 through a half-mile. Sky Kingdom, another Baffert trainee, tracked in second and reached his stablemate's hip in the final turn, as the rest of the field advanced.

Cat Burglar hit a mile in 1:39.81, but was already fading, as Sky Kingdom took the lead on the final turn. But it didn't last, as Big John B snuck through on the inside with jockey Rafael Bejarano and blew by the favorite. Bailoutbobby went wide and all out to the wire under jockey Flavien Prat, but could not get past Big John B.

Lideris finished fourth, followed by Cat Burglar, to complete the order of finish. Point Piper and Solid Wager were scratched.

The winner paid $8.40, $4.80, and $3 across the board. Bailoutbobby brought $7.60 and $2.80. Sky Kingdom delivered $2.20 to show.

Bred in Florida by Brylynn Farm, out of the Doneraile Court mare Baldomera, Big John B now has a 13-5-4 record from 33 starts and $567,175 in earnings.