Rebounding from a troubled effort in the Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), favored Big Macher outfought a determined Rousing Sermon to score a game neck victory in the $100,000 Cary Grant Stakes (VIDEO) Nov. 23 at Del Mar.
The first two finishers battled each other on the front end from the start, neither leading by more than half a length. They were head-and-head from the three-eighths pole, with Big Macher, along the inside, gaining the advantage in deep stretch to produce a narrow win with Rafael Bejarano aboard.
It was one of four winners on the card for Bejarano, who also won the second, seventh, and ninth races. Bejarano had just one win at the Del Mar meet coming into Sunday's card.
Grade I winner Big Macher was the 7-5 pick in the seven-furlong test for California-breds, while Rousing Sermon, giving it everything he has with Elvis Trujillo aboard, was the longest shot in the field of six at odds of 16-1. Big Macher prevailed in a time of 1:21.81 going seven furlongs over the Polytrack surface, the same track over which he won the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) July 27.
Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams' homebred Rousing Sermon lost for the seventh straight time since capturing the On Trust Stakes at Hollywood Park at 7 1/2 furlongs last year. The On Trust was renamed the Cary Grant this year with the race moving to Del Mar.
This was the fourth win in seven tries this year for Big Macher, a former claiming horse who is trained by Richard Baltas for Tom Mansor and Tachycardia Stables. The 4-year-old gelding by Beau Genius was ninth in the BC Sprint Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park after stumbling badly at the start and trailing the field for a half-mile.
"It's vindication for the horse," said Baltas. "We didn't get to see him in the Breeders' Cup. He came back in three weeks and had to work today, it wasn't an easy race, but he showed what he's all about. He's that type of horse. In half of his races, he gets hooked and he doesn't give up. It's nice to have a horse like this. We're going to give him a little rest and get ready for the Santa Anita meet."
Rousing Sermon led the opening quarter mile of the Cary Grant in :23.03, with Big Macher poking his head in front after the half in :45.60. Rousing Sermon was back in front by a head as they reached the furlong mark in 1:09.46, but he could not match the winner in the last strides.
"He got away slow last time and it cost him," Bejarano said. "Today he broke really well and I was able to control the race. He's game and I didn't think (Rousing Sermon) was going to be able to beat me. He almost did, but I was able to save a little bit for the end."
Patriots Rule was a late-running third with Fernando Perez riding, 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. Red Outlaw, the slight second choice at 3-2, was third on the outside and in contention all the way around before weakening in the final furlong. He suffered his first career loss in seven races while finishing one length farther back in fourth. Magic Mark and Celebrity Status trailed.
Big Macher, who carried 124 pounds, five more than Rousing Sermon, improved his career line to 6-2-2 in 14 starts with earnings of $553,678. In addition to the Bing Crosby, he won the Potrero Grande (gr. II) and California Cup Sprint this year, and was a close second in the San Carlos (gr. II).
The bay gelding had been working well since the Breeders' Cup, most recently posting a five-furlong move in :59 flat from the gate Nov. 17 at Santa Anita.
The winner paid $4.80, $3, and $2.60, and topped a $54.80 exacta. An unlucky Rousing Sermon paid $8.80 and $5.60, while Patriots Rule returned $3.60.
"He tried so hard," Trujillo said of Rousing Sermon. "He's such a game horse and he ran really well. The winner was game, too."
Big Macher was claimed out of his first start as a maiden for $20,000 at Del Mar July 17, 2003 from Doubledown Stables and trainer Peter Miller. He was bred by Ballena Vista Farm out of the Kris S. mare Insight. He was originally a $10,000 purchase by Miller, agent, from consignor Sam Hendricks, agent, at the Barretts Equine Ltd. 2011 California Cup yearling sale.
Got Even and Soi Phet were scratched.