Off at 25-1, the 7-year-old Texas-bred gelding by Texas City rallied mightily with jockey Quincy Hamilton in the stretch with fellow closer Hip Four Sixtynine to catch pacesetter Rise Up in the final stages of the mile test. Texas Air finished three-quarters of a length in front of Hip Four Sixtynine—covering the mile in 1:37.51 on a dirt course rated fast—and Rise up was a neck back in third.
"It's a home Texas-bred. Let's hear it for Texas," said Rigali, who won his first graded stakes as an owner. "I can't be more grateful to (trainer) Allen (Milligan), and Quincy had a hell of a ride the first time on him. He fit him like a glove, came home—I've never been more happy in this business."
Texas Air sat in seventh, 7 1/2 lengths behind Rise Up, through the first quarter-mile in :23.16, then began advancing after a half-mile in :46.36 and moved up to fourth after six furlongs in 1:10.88. The gelding moved four-wide through the final turn, and then surged in the stretch.
"All I did was point him in the right direction," Hamilton said. "We got clear at the top of the stretch, and I knew I was really well-mounted and just brought it on home."
The upset winner paid $51.40, $16.80, and $7.80 across the board. Hip Four Sixtynine returned $7.80 and $5, and Rise Up delivered $4.20 to show. The $2 exacta paid $355.20 and the $2 trifecta brought $1,173.40.
Out of the Mizzen Mast mare Malaysian Air, Texas Air broke an 11-race losing streak in his last contest before the Texas Mile, an allowance/optional claiming even at Oaklawn Park. Last year, he was a far-back eighth in the Texas Mile and followed that performance with a sixth-place finish in the Lone Star Handicap (gr. III).
"He's just getting better with age—the older he gets, the better he gets," said Milligan, who also won his first graded stakes with the Texas Mile score. "Quincy rode him perfectly and did everything I asked him to."
Texas Air improved his record to 8-11-4 from 39 career starts and upped his earnings to $341,774 with the $110,000 winner's share.