With a determined battle-back rail run in the stretch, David Jacobson's Stallwalkin' Dude captured his first stakes score in the $100,000 Diablo Stakes (VIDEO) at Belmont Park May 10, and spoiled the 2015 debut of Palace Malice in the process.
Off at 9-2 odds, the son of City Place led, with fractions of :22.63 and :45.61, lost the lead to challenger Clearly Now at the eighth pole, then rallied again on the inside with jockey Angel Cruz to prevail in the six-furlong test by a neck.
"He always responds in the end, and fights to the end and doesn't quit," Cruz said. "When I hit him left (handed), he keeps going. ... He's always a fighter never quits."
It was the 5-year-old gelding's fourth straight victory. The previous two wins were at allowance/optional claiming levels and the first was a $50,000 claiming race.
"He's unbelievable," said Jacobson, who also trains the gelding. "He's really proven himself to be a legitimate horse to be reckoned with coming into the spring and summer at Saratoga. I was expecting a much easier field, (but) when you have Palace Malice and Clearly Now, this race really deserved a (grade) next to it."
Palace Malice, the victor of the 2013 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) who went on to win four straight graded stakes during his 4-year-old campaign, closed from last in the five-horse field to finish 3 1/4 lengths back in third. The son of Curlin went off 4-5 odds, but hadn't raced at six furlongs before the Diablo and hadn't raced at a sprint distance since he broke his maiden at 6 1/2 furlongs in 2012.
"It was what we were expecting," said Palace Malice's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "He got outfooted early and seemed to close pretty well. He galloped out well, so hopefully we got what we needed out of him. We knew it wasn't ideal coming in, but the options we had were limited. Hopefully it moves him forward."
Stallwalkin' Dude finished off the six furlongs in 1:09.48 and paid $11, $4.10, and $2.30 across the board. Clearly Now delivered $3.60 and $2.40, while Palace Malice returned $2.10 to show.
The winner was bred in Florida by Maria Haire out of the Dare and Go mare Chelle Spendabuck. He now has a 11-1-3 record from 27 starts and has career earnings $370,352.
Doubledown Again was fourth, followed by Piquant, to complete the order of finish. Classic Salsa, Palace , and Tenango were scratched.