Race Day, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, sat just off the pace set by Midnight Hawk from the start in a race that had little movement throughout. Race Day came into the 1 1/16-mile Razorback off of a third-place finish in the Fred Hooper Stakes (gr. III) Feb. 7 at Gulfstream Park.
In a field of six shortened by the scratch of I Got It All earlier Saturday afternoon, Midnight Hawk, ridden by Victor Espinoza for trainer Bob Baffert, grabbed the early lead on a good, sealed track and methodically set fractions of :23.87 for the opening quarter-mile, :48.26 for the half-mile, and 1:12.58 for six furlongs. Race Day was in no hurry to challenge the leader, with Carve and Tapiture further back in third and fourth, respectively.
Race Day, a 4-year-old colt by Tapit out of the More Than Ready mare Rebalite, hooked Midnight Hawk at the top of the stretch, but Midnight Hawk, to his inside, didn't give in. It wasn't until the late stages that Race Day got past the leader to win by a neck in 1:44.88 for the distance.
Carve, winner of the Fifth Season Stakes at Oaklawn in his previous start, and Tapiture, second in last year's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) in his last start, had nothing to offer in the lane. They were passed late by Golden Ticket , who finished third, 7 1/4 lengths behind Midnight Hawk. Carve was fourth, followed by Tapiture and Ride On Curlin .
Velazquez said Race Day, whom he rode in the Hooper and the previous race in which the colt won a second-level allowance race in Florida, needed some urging late.
"Last time there was a lot of pace at Gulfstream, but he didn't break well," Velazquez said. "He broke well today, but was a little rank on the first turn. When he came down the lane, he started waiting a little, so I got after him again, and he put up a good fight."
Race Day is the first horse owner Schera has had with Pletcher. Schera, who lives in Connecticut, makes his living in the hedge-fund business and brought eight friends with him to Arkansas.
"We all flew down; a bunch of friends came," Schera said. "We felt we had a good shot. The last race, he had a little bit of traffic problems, and we know he is a good horse."
Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said Midnight Hawk, despite defeat, showed improvement.
"He ran huge, and he ran straight, which makes us really happy because in a lot of his past races he has been very erratic," Barnes said. "We could not be happier with him and how well he did today."
Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode fifth-place finisher Tapiture, who carried high weight of 119 pounds for trainer Steve Asmussen, made no excuses.
"He just got tired," Santana said. "He was coming off a layoff and probably just needed this race."
Race Day returned $6.20, $4.80, and $3.60 across the board. Midnight Hawk, in from California, paid $6.80 and $4.40, while Golden Ticket was worth $5.60 to show. The $2 exacta returned $69 and the $1 trifecta $260.30.
Race Day, bred in Kentucky by James Miller, was purchased by his current owner for $285,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The colt now has four wins, a second, and two thirds in seven starts.